Cotton Mather – Wild Kingdom
After listening to the latest from Cotton Mather, Wild Kingdom, it occurs to me that Robert Harrison has become a modern day David Byrne. That is to say, Harrison creates songs that appeal to both the hips and the head. A collection of quirky pop songs with real depth, Wild Kingdom is the second in a series of releases based on readings from the Chinese book of wisdom or I Ching. Part one, Death of the Cool, was perhaps the best album of 2016.
Wild Kingdom is a more than worthy follow up to Death of the Cool. Harrison does not proselytize nor does he choose to interpret I Ching readings. He seems to have merely used it as an impetus for his new songs. After all, it helps to have some meaningful starting point when one wishes to write. The I Ching is Harrison’s and it makes for a very interesting backdrop.
The opening track, “The Cotton Mather Pledge”, is a real rocker with a chorus that exclaims “It’s rock n roll!”. The death rattle of “High Society” is another highlight and an interesting counterpoint to some of the light, melodic guitar pop to come. “Hijinks Dad”, a song that references Hexagram 56 from the I Ching, has a bounce and infectious melody that makes it an immediate favorite. “Better Than A Hit” is quirky in the same way early, John Cale produced Squeeze songs were. And while lyrically nothing like a Chris Dilford composition, Robert Harrison’s vocal inflections kinda-sorta remind me a bit of early Tillbrook on this track.
On Wild Kingdom, Cotton Mather and Robert Harrison saved the best for last, in my opinion. “I Volunteer” has a Motown feel to it that also congers up memories of Elvis Costello’s Get Happy LP. If Dick Clark were still around, this would be the track he’d choose for the American Bandstand’s Rate a Record. It’s got a great beat and you can dance to it.
Cotton Mather Wild Kingdom is one of my early favorites of 2017. You can get Cotton Mather Wild Kingdom in digital form at Amazon or get the physical CD through Kool Kat Musik.