“Civilian” is defined by one moment, at 2:34 where the guitar overtakes the song, slowly building and erupting with a distorted intensity and furled playing. Couple this with the harsh, whip-like snare hits and the almost choral feel to the vocals pushed back in the mix as the “ohs” fill out the song and you complete the wall of sound that demands you treat the work as the epic, passionate journey that it is. This trip starts off softly, with vocalist Jenn Wasner’s voice gliding over a simple guitar line. The song gains momentum with the pounding drums which enter about half-way though the song. Each step builds and builds, filling the song out with keyboards and more layers of distortion. And such a full, rich sound from just two members.
Wye Oak is Jenn Wasner, who tackles vocals and guitar, and Andy Stack who fills out the rest of the band on keyboards and drums. Live performances see no change in this lineup, as Andy Stack does the unimaginable, drumming with just one hand while his other plays a keyboard that provides the bass and keyboard accompaniments for each song. While one armed drumming may have been previously dominated by Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen (who lost his arm in an accident), Andy Stack certainly provides an able challenger and perhaps the only challenger in this exclusive field. It is hard to comprehend and express the level of talent needed to focus the brain on these two different tasks, drum beats and keyboard pieces that would provide difficult by themselves.
After their show at the 40 Watt supporting Okkervil River, I had the opportunity to talk to Mr. Stack, asking him how he fulfilled his dual role in the band and whether he was inundated with Def Leppard drummer questions. He laughed, most likely out of politeness and humbly responded, “I’ve just been working on it for a while now.” The band also turned up in Georgia again later in the year, this time at the Tabernacle in support of Explosions in the Sky, where they turned in another great performance, staying true to the sound of their album while maintaining that special feeling of such a small band, two friends just rocking out together in their basement. At their shows, Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys try and maintain this special feeling, but it just isn’t the same when they have to call out their auxiliary band members for sections of the show or suffer from an empty sound devoid of bass and keyboards. Anyways, enjoy “Civilian” off Wye Oak’s third LP by the same name.