If it’s possible to be both uplifting and cerebral in a song without coming off cerebral in style, Chris McCooey has figured it out for “Well Well,” one of the star tracks in his new album Missing Pieces. Although accompanied by six other songs that speak volumes about his skillset, “Well Well” is an identity piece that reps what its parent LP is all about aesthetically and sonically. Big guitars, simple concepts, and unexplored emotional outlets find a place to call home here, and alternative aficionados are rewarded for their curiosity with one killer record from top to bottom.
There’s a lot of introspective thought in Missing Pieces, but it manifests in such a way that never repels listeners with personal commentary so much as it attracts us with relatable observations. You can’t ignore the sardonic lyrical charms of “Just Like You,” “Bigger Than the Both of Us,” and the brilliant “On My Way Back Home,” and no matter how you interpret the tracklist as a complete piece, the overall theme is one of consistent antipathy towards the status quo in contemporary rock. McCooey just doesn’t care about mainstream limits of flamboyancy or indulgence, and his extroverted attitude in this album reflects as much.
The charging guitars we find in songs like “Home to Me” and some of the more instrumentally adventurous listens in Missing Pieces make the personality of the record as a whole stand out from the competition, and you needn’t take more than a cursory examination of the popular indie rock output this winter to see what I mean.
This is a player who puts a lot of stock in the classic appeal of a potent riff and, perhaps more importantly, the sizzle a good amp can introduce to a mix, and his is sadly a standard I don’t hear enough of in alternative rock on any level anymore.
“Home to Me,” “Raise the Roof,” and “So Complicated” make more sense as straightforward numbers than they ever would in a more elaborate construct, as their diverse make-up is worn by McCooey so flawlessly in this singular setting. He’s pushing a lot of experimentation in our direction, but because of the continuity his overwhelming presence creates from one song to the next, everything sounds like it belongs here, presented in one package as opposed to scattered across a slew of different releases.
Chris McCooey is a rock singer/songwriter of the greatest tradition the genre has ever known, and if this narrative was shaky for any critics out there ahead of Missing Pieces, it shouldn’t be upon its release this month. It’s made me envious of those who have been following his development since day one, but at this juncture of his career, I think he’s onto something groundbreaking and worthy of international attention. There aren’t many players left like McCooey, but those who are should take note of the threat his one-of-a-kind style is going to present towards anyone failing to pull their weight in the studio from here on out.