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Tweaker - 2 A.M. Wakeup Call Print E-mail
Tuesday, 20 April 2004


2 A.M. Wakeup Call
format: 16-bit Stereo CD
label: Waxploitation/Imusic
release year: 2004
performance: 8
sound 8
reviewed by: Dan MacIntosh

Image Tweaker is the artist name that Chris Vrenna (a founding member of the pioneering Nine Inch Nails) has recorded under for the past two albums. His 2 A.M. Wakeup Call project contains a whole lot of the same edgy synth and guitar sounds that originally earned Nine Inch Nails so much respect in the alternative music community. With its long list of guest vocalists, however, there’s also a whole lot more aural variety to it than ever there was with NIN’s oftentimes-limiting anger fest releases.

Some of these singer names are even bigger than Tweaker himself, such as Robert Smith (of The Cure), who adds a slight Elvis-like swagger to his usual whine on “Truth.” But he also fills this contribution with that familiar lyrical irony of his, with lines like, “The truth is, I’m lying again.” A more surprising guest inclusion here is Will Oldham, who is best known for making downtrodden music. But his track “Ruby” features big and loud guitars, which are quite out of character for him.

The relative unknowns on this release are equally compelling, however. “It’s Still Happening” features Hamilton Leifthauser (of The Walkman) on vocals. Leifthauser has a desperate yet soulful vocal presence on a track that matches heavy guitar with equally heavy synth grooves. Nick Young (of A.I.) is featured on “Sleepwalking Away.” This cut begins with a ping-ponging keyboard line and a slightly dance bass guitar groove before going into a straight guitar rock chorus. Jennifer Charles (of Elysian Fields) sings “Crude Sunlight,” giving it a sultry yet sad vocal. It starts with a marching drum sound before muted keyboards come in, which creates an overall woozy effect. “Worse Than Yesterday” is dirgelike, with a hesitant vocal and prominent piano part. It also has big backing vocals on its chorus. Its lead vocalist is Mellowdrone, who sings this with a distinctly Bowie-esque quality. “Movement of Fear” is a Tones On Tail cover. It is slow and quiet, with a breathy and creepy vocal, and presumably features the singing of Vrenna himself. Its mix has a sort of Gothic circus quality to it.

Although this is very much a song-based release, it nonetheless also includes a bevy of instrumentals. “Cauterized” is driven by electric guitar and freaky electronic sounds; “The House I Grew Up In” is introduced by a recorded horn version of the national anthem, laid over the sounds of sirens and police helicopters. It then evolves into a guitar strum thing, along with subtle synth backing. Later, drums kick in and chiming keyboards are added to the mix. The track “2 A.M” greatly contrasts with the rest of this disc, due to its finger-picked acoustic guitar over washes of synth and electric guitar.

Vrenna may no longer be collaborating with Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails, but this album is evidence that he still knows how to create compelling late-night creepy music.

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