SoulMotor’s album “Wrong Place at the Right Time” is a studied, skillful blending of time-tested themes. One part hedonistic strip club fodder, one part sludge-drenched metal fugue and one part classic rock homage, the album is then dipped in a candy coating of pulp fiction and biker babes.
Certain tropes never get old and have been carried down the lineage of human lore; the desperado anti-hero, the desperate damsel in distress, the two-timing woman, and the deal gone bad. From Morgana Le Fay to Robin Hood, Dick Tracy to “Kill Bill,” these prototypical arcs have been melted down and rewritten thousands of times. So it is with SoulMotor’s album, boiling those archetypes down into their simplest elements and including an additive of alcohol-and-drug-fueled hijinx. The entire affect lends the album a cinematic feel, as though watching a sordid story unfold in loosely connected chapters, not wholly different from Life of Agony’s classic concept album “River Runs Red,” but without the benefit (handicap?) of exposition between cuts. (By the way, Keith Caputo is a woman now? Well, good luck to her, then. Whatever makes her happy.)
Given all that (the cinematic stuff, not the Caputo stuff,) it probably comes as very little surprise that SoulMotor’s singer/songwriter Darin Wood is also the prime mover at Trash Film Orgy Productions. His video for single “Down in Mexico” (NSFW) is an embodiment of everything discussed in the previous paragraph. Clearly, that kind of wind-swept southwestern burning is what Wood and company are going for with SoulMotor.
As a vocalist, Wood has the same kind of disaffected authority as Eddie Vedder, except, you know, he’s intelligible (parenthetically, I really want to re-track Pearl Jam’s “Alive” with Chewbacca roars for vocals and see if anyone notices. Someone get on this.) His voice carries conviction without consequence, which only serves to further lend the album the desired feeling of detached nonchalance.
From a musical standpoint, influences vary, but the principle ingredients seem to be Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath, spun through a dark filter and then infused with a façade of Monster Magnet’s stonerism and Soundgarden’s grunge metal.
While “Down in Mexico” and “Spun Out” are the spiny, gnarled backbone of “Wrong Place at the Right Time,” the music never again quite matches the grizzled excess of those songs. There are songs like the soiled soul of “Candy-O,” or the down-beat heavy “Burn Down the Disco,” which flash glimpses of the same black-tooth grin mentality that colors the album’s intent. However, too many of the bloated cuts in the middle are generic and liable to be skipped to get to the four or five gems.
The finishing cut is the title track, and it rocks hard with the dusty, almost country-infused sleaze rock idiom that shines through so well during parts of “Wrong Place at the Right Time.”
SoulMotor’s effort has a number of things going for it, but it also has a fair share of tracks that range between blasé and shoulder-shrugging. The good cuts, combined with the near flawless presentation and well-executed theme make this worth a spin, but be advised it may be a rental and not a purchase.