Nightcrawler is the third release from Pete Yorn and the supposed conclusion of a theme Yorn began with his 2001 debut, Musicforthemorningafter, and continued with 2003’s Day I Forget. Musicforthemorningafter was bright-eyed enthusiasm masked with feel-good hooks and earnest sensibility. Day I Forget was a man growing, learning his craft and constructing meaty, subtle variations on a carefully constructed expansion of sound. It would only make sense that this day’s experience would lead to conclusion come night.
It seems justified to expect that Yorn would marry the buoyancy of his debut with a more understated structure to push his musical boundaries a step further. And certain moments of Nightcrawler epitomize where Yorn foreshadowed his own evolution. Opener “Vampyre” is the finest minute of Yorn’s career. The track begins with spare, strummed guitar and a fragile, almost unrecognizable vocal that erupts into a bloody caterwaul by song end. “Policies” builds walls of layered noise upon a busy guitar riff and echoed vocals. Lyrically, the track tackles the transformation from the confusion of youth into an informed, intelligent and independent mind. “The Man,” a folk-influenced duet between Yorn and Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, uses a pleasant and surprisingly subtle male/female vocal harmony to illustrate the unfulfilled and ambiguous longing of young love.
Yorn is at his best when he allows himself the space to transform the emotion of youth into something more grownup. His wavering vulnerability is coupled with confidence, which ultimately leads to the expression of fully realized emotion. If only these moments were not so infrequent throughout Nightcrawler. The glimpses of joy are often overshadowed by vapid, half-rate reinterpretations of his back catalog. The Butch Walker-produced “Alive” features a contrived flat chorus around verses of inane musing. “For Us,” “Georgie Boy,” and “Ice Age” could be Musicforthemorningafter B-sides. “Undercover” and Warren Zevon cover “Splendid Isolation” are dead weight; both songs are years old, previously released and fail to expand Yorn’s theme.
Ultimately, Nightcrawler cannot be seen as a success in concluding the morning-day-night evolution. It may be because the album was conceived over three years and recorded with no fewer than four producers. The album lacks the central focus that defined Yorn’s earlier work, at times feeling like a grab-bag of style and sound. Nightcrawler contains six of the strongest songs Yorn’s ever penned, but without a precise core, the album lacks definition.
Band: http://www.peteyorn.com/Audio: http://www.myspace.com/peteyorn