Leaving Silver City
25 years ago, the music of Graham Hunt would’ve been utterly inescapable, not that you’d be complaining. The first solo album by the Midnight Reruns front-man represents a student of power pop’s storied history fully ascending to mastery, capturing the pure magic of its greatest era with its clever and endlessly quotable lyrics, sweet vocal melodies, frequently massive anthemic sound, and a playful, adventurous spirit that sees him deal in everything from shoegaze to acoustic balladry to blistering punk rock within the time-span of 28 ceaselessly entertaining minutes.
Kicking off with “13 Places”, Hunt immediately grabs the listeners with a cozy, steady, gentle, chiming guitar melody punctuated by cymbal-oriented percussion before entering with the soft vocals of “Wake up Saaaaaaaaaam / We’ve got a lot of things to do today / So make a list and don’t forget one / Don’t gotta finish, just make headway”. These lyrics are indicative of many of thematic elements at play on Leaving Silver City, which hint at an attitude opposed to the idea that Hunt needs to rush towards an imaginary idea of perfection while still actively striving to become a little better each day. This is cemented further by the album’s two most unstoppable vocal hooks: “Every person is a fresh start” (“Every Person”) and “Can’t slow down when slow is my natural pace” (“Natural Pace”). The former song deals with the topic of struggling to not let awkward or poor relationships convince you to shut yourself off from people as a whole, acknowledging the fact you might dig yourself into a hole with a person or just not vibe with them in general (even those with whom you share mutual friends, as the song points out), but each new person is an opportunity to re-invent yourself as the person you strive to be, to learn from your mistakes and make new impressions. The latter sees Hunt ruminate on reaching the point where the people he knew early in his life are starting to die more frequently (a heavy topic to be sure) and the wake-up-call it represents. However, rather than letting it whip him up in a frenzy to cram in as much ‘living’ as he can before an inevitable crash, he resolves to acknowledge that he makes progress slowly, that this is okay, but that he needs to keep that slow pace steady and not allow himself to completely stagnate. On the whole, Leaving Silver City is all about new beginnings and moving forward in life. The album title itself is a reference to Hunt’s move from Milwaukee to Chicago, and between this and the fact that this is Hunt’s first solo record, there are many real-life new starts attached to it.
While songs like “Every Person”, “Natural Pace”, and “Impersonal Favor” are all about enormous singalong choruses and loud as hell guitars, Hunt still makes several efforts to mix things up on the album. “Kendall’s Gonna Love It” (whose title sounds like a dead-ringer for a Material Issue track) largely sees Hunt’s vocals smothered in a sugary coating of fuzz before peaking out at high volume during the choruses, “Night Breeze” is a mostly acoustic ballad and is immediately followed by the frantic and witty 51-second “Select All”, which brings to mind Parquet Courts, and “Small Town Zoo” (whose title sounds like a dead-ringer for a Dramarama track) features a guitar tone that boarders on noise rock and echoed yelps and screams.
Leaving Silver City is an utter joy and one of the strongest cases for pop as an art form you’ll find. This stands shoulder to shoulder with albums such as International Pop Overthrow, Cinéma vérité, Frosting on the Beater, and It’s a Shame About Ray as a genre classic and one can only hope that it, in time, achieves the recognition it so desperately deserves.
Favorite tracks: “Every Person”, “Natural Pace”, “Impersonal Favor”
Cassettes are currently sold out (we’ll update this should a second press happen (we’ve got our copy but Forged Artifacts, make it happen)), but you can purchase Graham Hunt’s Leaving Silver City digital here.