Calling Clark Kent

Re-introducing the mild-mannered Will Gattis
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  August 26, 2010

beat1_willgattis_main
SONGWRITING ANTI-HERO Will Gattis.
It's definitely been too long since we've heard from Will Gattis, the piano-player and singer-songwriter who showed himself to be a young voice to be reckoned with on 2005's Dullard. Smart, funny, and charmingly dorky, Gattis got pegged as a bit of a Ben Folds knock-off, but that didn't mean people didn't like it.

Five years later, Gattis is a more-refined version of that previous self on his new four-song EP, Gattis (also the name of his current trio). Engineered by Jim Begley at the Studio, the record is crisp and powerful, full of big choruses that punctuate witty verses that never fail to tell interesting stories. And while four songs might seem meager after five years off, in this case it's appropriate. With each tune such a hearty meal to consume, and the piano such a distinctive central instrument that can lead to songs sounding alike, it makes good sense for Gattis to dole out his songs in small, tight bunches.

God, they're tight. You can tell he's been wood-shedding the hell out of these songs, filling in loads of nuanced finishing touches. The alternate backing verse by Kate Driver in "You and Me" is a dreamy counterpoint to the precise realities of life: "We wrote our vows on the bathroom wall/In the Denny's next to city hall/Now raise a drink/I think this could end well." Sometimes it's just a single note, like the cymbal hit from Tim Webber that closes the a capella coda to the "No Rain"-flavored "Lily," or the bit of triangle that punctuates the opening bouncing chords of "Christopher."

There are whistle breaks and lots of nonsense-nah-nahs and all-stops that last a beat and a half, and Gattis seems to have a delivery to match them all, with piercing falsettos, extended croons, and clipped phrasing right out of They Might Be Giants.

The song that brings the house down is "Metropolis," which you've definitely heard if you've seen Gattis live. It's his showpiece, and for good reason. Positing that Clark Kent is the hero, that Superman's death would just be a reason to find "somebody new to be dependent on," it's an endearing ode to the underdog and an excellent indictment of those sitting around waiting for saving: "The day that Jesus died/Slapped on a cross and crucified/Did god feel a sense of fatherly pride/Or do you think he cried?"

Churning through darkened chords, and the idea that Kent offed himself, Gattis somehow manages to mix his gravity with levity, creating a powerful urge to sing along. What better super power for a songwriting anti-hero?

Sam Pfeifle can be reached at sam_pfeifle@yahoo.com.

GATTIS | Released by Gattis | with Div Kid | at the Big Easy, in Portland | Aug 27 | www.willgattis.com

  Topics: CD Reviews , Entertainment, Music, They Might Be Giants,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY SAM PFEIFLE
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   ONCE, TWICE...SOLD!  |  October 01, 2014
    Imagine if bands could only ever play their own songs. What a drag. It would sure as hell make it harder to hook up at a wedding.  
  •   SPOSE DEEPLY OFFENDED BY MAINE GOP'S SUGGESTION OF DEPRAVITY  |  October 01, 2014
    In a press release last Friday, the Maine GOP makes the suggestion that a Spose lyric contained in a Knack Factory video “suggests Senator Collins performs graphic sexual acts.” Nothing could be further from the truth.  
  •   JASON'S CHEMICAL ROMANCE  |  September 19, 2014
    The mind can wander here. It’s good for lawnmowing or woodstacking or, maybe later in the year, shoveling the driveway. Just like it’s a fit for drinking and carousing with friends and maybe shaking your ass a little bit later in the night.
  •   CRUEL INTENTIONS  |  September 12, 2014
    Portland music scene release dates for the fall.
  •   MIND OVER MIND  |  September 04, 2014
    As a string band, Dark Hollow Bottling Company were an awfully good rock band. Much of that spirit continues in Dark Hollow singer Greg Klein’s new project, GK and the Right of Way.

 See all articles by: SAM PFEIFLE