Wheat are a three piece from Massachusetts with a chequered history behind them. Albums such as Hope And Adams and Mederios were lo-fi masterpieces designed to sit snugly next to bands such as Sebadoh and Sparklehorse in the CD rack. Basically, if you wanted a good mope you could do a lot worse than Wheat.
Hope And Adams made a lot of people sit up and take notice of the band and they were signed to Nude Records (former home of Suede of course) in 2000. Unfortunately, Nude folded shortly afterwards leaving Wheat somewhat in limbo.
Four years on, and Wheat are now with Aware/Columbia Records, making Per Second Per Second Per Second their major label debut. Quite honestly, it’s difficult to believe that it’s the same band. Gone is the lo-fi production and melancholic air, to be replaced by upbeat, college rock style tracks presided over by Mercury Rev/Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann. It’s kind of like Radiohead in reverse in fact.
While this new approach will inevitably lose them some hardcore fans, it would be a mistake to shout �sell-out’. Fridmann sparkles his usual magic on the album, and keeps their experimental side just about intact. Tracks such as I Met A Girl and Closer To Mercury are quirky little pop classics which are just crying out to be heard by a wider audience.
Unlike Liz Phair‘s recent capitulation to the mainstream though, Wheat don’t sacrifice what made them great in the first place. The aforementioned I Met A Girl in particular is so catchy it hurts. The acoustic opening paves the way for a truly great chorus that’s reminiscent of Weezer in one of their happier moods. Vocalist Scott Levesque has an strong voice with elements of fragility that ensures the band don’t crossover too much into Hootie And The Blowfish territory.
While most of Per Second is more cheery and upbeat than Wheat’s previous offerings, they haven’t forgotten their roots either. They’re at their best when they keep things simple, such as the deliciously mournful Go Call The Cops or Hey So Long (Ohio), both of which are poignant ballads which should placate their original fanbase.
Although there are some tracks here which sail close to blandness and an ill-advised poppy rendition of their finest moment Don’t I Hold You as a bonus track, Per Second is an excellent introduction to a fine band. While they may lose a fair amount of their original fans, the faithful will be more than pleased.