Friday, January 07, 2005

Wreckless Eric / Knitting Factory / Jan. 4, 2005

By Jason Gross

When it comes to unexpected comebacks, you'd be hard-pressed to beat the Pixies now in terms of box office returns, but a scrawny, mewling little Englishman who barely made an impression in the States back in the punk days at least gets lots of points for having tons of heart. Part of the Stiff Records roster with Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello and Ian Dury, Eric Goulden was probably the label's least-known act, missing out on fame, money or even infamy. The Wreckless One did craft strange, offbeat love songs that were only matched by the Buzzcocks at the time--except that Goulden was way funnier. After a few UK hits, his star burned out fairly quickly, doing the odd album when inspiration struck him or he found a sympathetic label, finally 'retiring' and running off to France for a while and fighting off a drinking problem emblematic of most rock stars.

Goulden couldn't keep away from his music though, recently putting out his first record in six years, Bungalow Hi. Brought out to the tri-state area to participate in Yo La Tengo's annual Hannukah shows, Wreckless E took the time to arrange a few solo dates after that. For his Knitting Factory show, he was truly solo, strumming an ancient, barely tuned guitar. "How many of you remember the first record you bought?" he asked up. "I bet you're embarrassed by it!" he taunted us. He was and he sang about it: one of Joe Meek's studio projects, The Tornados. It's obvious why he had to come back to music at some point as he detailed in another song his break-up with a girlfriend which meant that they had to split up their 33's and 45's (remember when those were around?). Heartbreak is one thing but losing your records? THAT really hurts...

Being a true showman, he did regale us with some oldies from his Stiff days, like "Reconnez Cherie," "Semaphore Signals" and his first record (which he said that he recorded in a shed), "The Whole Wide World." Perhaps not accustomed to a rapturous reception, he reluctantly returned for a one-song encore, explaining that "I never realized I even had a catalog. I thought it was just a bunch of songs." Cute, touching and bizarre, it all comes naturally from a guy who titled his biography "A Dysfunctional Success."