Not actually a songwriter called Charles, but a supergroup from Chicago, Illinois, Charlie Reed assembled around the music of former Uh Bones member, Luke Trimble, on the dissolution of his previous band. What began as a solo project went through something of an enforced revolution when Luke returned home to find his house burgled, his music gear taken and his demo tapes for the debut Charlie Reed record lost. It changed everything as Luke was forced to ask for help from those around him, “the physical reality of losing my stuff became this emotional metaphor for starting over in every way“. Now a seven-strong collective, and something of a who’s who of the Chicago scene, Charlie Reed contains members of the likes of Twin Peaks, Spread Joy and Diviño Niño. The band’s debut album, Eddy, is out tomorrow via Earth Libraries, and you can stream the entire record here today.
Although not written to explore a particular topic, on looking back over Eddy, Luke began to see something emerge, “I wrote the songs intuitively based on what I was feeling and experiencing over several years. But after putting the album together, I saw big themes of love, loss, and fear, all with this underlying anxiety that I feel all the time. I guess I’m trying to tell the story of what that’s like“. The record’s title references the Eddy currents present in fluid dynamics, swirling vortexes deviating away from the passage of movement, which Luke likens to his own experience, “getting stuck in cyclical thoughts and habits, but still participating and being an element in the vast ocean of life“.
If Eddy’s themes are of feeling stuck in old habits, the approach to making the record was entirely different, Luke worked with a variety of producers and allowed his bandmates the space to express themselves within his musical boundaries, “I had a lot of vision for the album and gave general guidance but allowed people a lot of freedom“.
The resultant album feels suitably wistful, take the opening track, Hold On. As it builds around deliciously slow-motion guitars it could soundtrack the end of an apocalyptic movie, our hero staring out acceptingly from his porch as the world he knows burns in front of his eyes, even if in reality it’s a song about a breakup and wanting to shed the weight it was laying on Luke’s back. The band have spoken of the record existing in, “that sweet spot of nostalgia for something that never existed”, an oddly comfortable place to spend a little while, even if you know you can’t stay long. For example, there’s the beautiful simplicity of Your Hair Is Nice, bringing to mind Jonathan Wilson, as it seems to hark back to the Laurel Canyon sound of the 60s and 70s, all easy vocals and luxurious instrumental swells.
A particular favourite of mine is Saving Up, it brings to mind the likes of Lionlimb or Michael Nau, as it seems to combine big-city cynicism and a rich country-inspired soundtrack, the reverberating guitars hitting straight to my love of all things twangy. Lyrically, the track paints a picture of someone who’s lived a good life, doing their best but can only conclude that nothing is waiting for them at the end of it, “I’m walking into my own grave, very slowly at a fair pace, took the time to have a good life along the way but not enough to ever get saved”. The track is made even better by the contrasting, but equally excellent, next track, All Again, which is a simple stripped-back number, like Neil Young at his most heartbreakingly sedate, as Luke sings of how he’d, “do it all again just for you”.
In being forced to rip it up and start again, Charlie Reed seem to have stumbled onto something special, a coming together of creative spirits, to make a whole greater than the sum of its part. Like the titular Eddy, this record might go against the prevailing wind, yet it sounds all the better for following its own path.