Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman – [Album]

Thursday, 09 October 2008

Fans confused by the guitarist’s first solo record will be gratified when they discover that, for The Fabled City, Tom Morello has steeled himself and put his own name on the front cover in addition to his anonymous nom de folk, The Nightwatchman, That single act implies that the guitarist is brave enough in these songs to stand up behind them, be counted and face any arrows that might get thrown in the direction of his music.

That spirit manifests immediately in the music too – from the launch of the Neil Young-ian title track, there is an edge in Morello’s voice that was absent from his Nightwatchman debut, One Man Revolution and with it comes a renewed sense of urgency as well as a heightened craft.

This time backed by full-band instrumentation (largely provided by producer Brendan O’Brien), Morello makes the most of the increased size and the intrinsic possibility of it by stretching his compositional ambition. While songs including “Midnight In The City Of Destruction,” “Gone Like Rain” and “Rise To Power” all hearken back to the image of the lone player against all odds that Morello cultivated on his debut, tracks like “Whatever It Takes,” “The Lights Are On In Spidertown,” the title track and “Saint Isabelle” incorporate new sounds (Celtic, churning vaudeville and even an acoustic permutation of Morello’s anthemia, RATM-developed rock among others) and, in so doing, hits listeners like the hardest wake-up call they’ve ever received. At the center of it all is Morello’s bottomless,  Leonard Cohen-esque baritone and O’Brien’s production sets the songs here up much like Cohen’s as well; no matter which angle or direction the music might take, that baritone is the immovable anchor for it as well as its’ imposing master.

If proof is requisite that Morello’s voice has that kind of power, one need look no further than at how much or how little any guests on the record factor in. On “Lazarus On Down,” for example, System Of A Down front man Serj Tankian offers his services on the mic but contents himself with only speaking up occasionally around the fringes and nothing more under Morello’s watch. Cowboy renegade Shooter Jennings does the same on “The Iron Wheel” and thus removes all doubt that, in this fabled city, Tom Morello is the man in charge and the fastest gun – And no one gets in or gets out without his say-so.

Because of those things, The Fabled City  marks an excellent progression for Tom Morello; while his One Man Revolution found the guitarist breeze onto the scene alone with no name and nothing more than an armful of really good songs with which to make an impression, with The Fabled City Morello sets up shop and gets comfortable. This is the album that will make a mark for the guitarist on a much larger scale than One Man Revolution; this is the album that sets him apart and establishes him as a force to be reckoned with.


Nightwatchman Official Homepage
Nightwatchman Myspace

The Fabled City is out now. Buy it on Amazon.

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