(All Album Reviews by Reginod)
Where do you go, if you're Wigwam circa 1976? Nuclear Nightclub has certainly been an artistic success, but unfortunately not a commercial breakthrough. Times are definitely changing and perhaps record companies are not as accommodating to progressive rock as they were only two or three years ago. The band’s under-the-radar and tragically under-rated response was The Lucky Golden Stripes And Starpose. Sadly it would be the last Wigwam album released through Virgin Records.
Change had always been a constant for Wigwam anyway. The early lineup featuring Nikke Nikamo and Mats Huldén had quickly given way to the era of Pekka Pohjola, and lengthy meditations by keyboardist Jukka Gustavson. After their departure, vocalist Jim Pembroke joined forces with guitarist Pekka Rechardt and the band’s music headed in a different direction. Pembroke’s penchant for sweetly lyrical, Beatle-esque songwriting paired well with Rechardt’s knack for spacey rock chords and blues-inflected soloing. Bassist and producer-in-general Måns Groundstroem had worked with Blues Section and Tasavallan Presidentti and, while his bass work was not as “busy” as Pohjola’s, he had deep, unique feel for the lower frequencies. Ronnie Österberg’s drums as always completed the foundation for Pembroke and Rechardt’s creations, and Hessu Hietanen’s keyboards helped tastefully color the new Wigwam soundscape with little or none of the solo excursions common during Gustavson’s tenure.
Jim Pembroke, perhaps one of rock’s most ridiculously undervalued singer-songwriter-lyricists, turned in some of his finest efforts in service to TLGSAS. "Sane Again" abruptly establishes a more brooding presence than was the norm on Nuclear Nightclub: “Maggot race wild goose chase Doggod who to blame/Tapdance in the gutter, going down the drain/Money greed chicken-feed lose and call it gain/Grand to feel sane again.” Musically it is a moderately slow-paced bit, with a nice but brief instrumental section followed by a spoken-word collage, in Latin, prior to the last verse and wrap-up.
As a contrast, "International Disaster" throws the listener an immediate curve. A happy little rock tune by compositional design, Pembroke warns of calamity at the height of selfish prosperity: “And they'll be flyin' in the Concorde and rollin' in the gutter/Calcutta and Singapore/Price of silver dropping so do yer Christmas shopping/Before you lose the chance the score.”
With the band grooving and filling space together, "Timedance" provides a brief instrumental interlude and mood-setter for the exquisite "Colossus," which was as good as anything on NN, and fairly begs for Pohjola's adventurous bass playing. As it was recorded, Groundstroem and Hietanen painted a wonderful sonic background for Rechardt’s rich chord constructs. Lyrically Pembroke uses a quasi-historical context, perhaps as a tool to protest a more modern war: “Crusaders were returning from their journeys to the east/left the bamboo temples burning in the name of hope and peace/and it's welcome home Colossus good to see you're doing swell/wave the banner proclamation Quasimodo ring the bell!”
A lonely guitar fade-in introduces the infectious "Eddie And The Boys." This should and could have been an FM album-radio staple at the time, had it been given sufficient exposure. It almost has an early Steely Dan feel, and Rechardt showcases some of his best soloing.
The second side kicks off with the album's title cut, and like "Colossus" it was a multi-part tune. Pembroke sings several verses (more cool lyrics: "Closing down the social termination/The season's at it's end final grades/No more rugby tips or sailing sing-songs/Membership to life for history fades.") before Rechardt takes over, soaring and searing his way through an instrumental section punctuated by Groundstroem's rumbling, punching bass.
With its faster pace and rhythmic muted guitar riffing, “June May Be Too Late” was another Pembroke showcase, an infectious cut, but apparently unfit for radio. It precedes “Never Turn You In,” one of the great lost rock songs, and an excellent piece in every respect. With unique European soul, Pembroke is on again: “Saint Peter heard the cockerels crows/Denied he knew and the tears cut rows/Upon his cheeks and fell down to the ground/Mothers cried and children wailed/As Jesus hung on the cross impaled/And the Heavens split and filled the world with sound/Pontius Pilate gave a sigh Washed his hands and let 'em dry/He would never turn you in.”
Akin to “International Disaster“ as a brief tragic comedy, “In A Nutshell” closes out the album with more happy misery: “Me, my shell and our tree will grow/To the heights of the Himalow/Now that certain light fills my life, you know/I will never give away my Shell/that keeps me apart from Hell.” Pembroke was never more quote-worthy.
For established diehards it is essential, but I’d stop short of characterizing this album as a proper introduction to the world of Wigwam. It is the yin to Nuclear Nightclub’s yang, a more desolate, paranoid and quirky affair. The Lucky Golden Stripes And Starpose is not a perfect album, but it might actually have a better shelf life than its predecessor.