Heartland rock flirts shamelessly with the unvarnished edges of the alternative ethos in Love, Lust & Other Wreckage, the brand new full length album from none other than Pennsylvanian hotshot John Vento. For those who aren’t aware, Vento’s spent time fronting such energetic units as The Businessmen and Nied’s Hotel Band, but it’s his solo career that has made the biggest mark on the collective American underground. Love, Lust & Other Wreckage sees him elevating his songwriting to the next stage within his creative evolution, and with that change comes a new litany of textures, melodies and hooks that are as provocative to the mind as they are the ears.
I found the second half of this record to be a lot more focused and cutting than the first, but in no way do I mean to suggest that the album is lopsided in the least. There’s two sides to Love, Lust & Other Wreckage; the straight acoustic album rock that takes on various faces with “Humble Way,” “Follow Your Heart,” “I’ll Be Still,” “Rainbows & Lightning” and to a lesser degree “Eye Candy,” and there’s the freeform melodic folk rock of “A Good Life Made,” “Baby Blues” and the startlingly fresh “Just Don’t Care.” Vento purges everything here, and delivers his music organically in every instance.
When we think of the term “abstract” in the context of music, we’re more inclined to think of experimentalists that go well beyond the parameters of pop music and have little, if any, consideration for tonality. But in the case of “Well Yeah Maybe,” “Let Me Down Easy,” and especially “I Hope I Don’t Fall in Love with You,” it would seem dismissive, to me at least, of Vento’s wildly original melding of styles in these songs not to dub them abstract rock. They don’t fall in line with the work of his contemporaries – they live and die by their own very unique artistic code.
There’s a lot of playful pop melodies underneath the rustic strings that frame “Only Love Stays Alive,” “With You” and even “Let Me Down Easy,” but I like the fact that Vento didn’t overexpose them in the finished product. “Only Love Stays Alive,” bar none, features such a beefy melody that it’s terribly difficult not to listen to the song on repeat once its main hook sinks into your brain. “Humble Way” has so much pickup in the intro that Vento didn’t need to add a bridge or even a chorus; that riff stands on its own just fine.
“I’ll Be Still” ends Love, Lust & Other Wreckage on a painfully real, emotionally-charged note, and as the music fades away and we’re left with only silence and time to think about what we’ve just heard in the last thirteen tracks, the melodies engrained within the countless acoustic guitars and tortured cries for comfort take on a life of their own. This album, from its beginning to its end, gets in your head and stays there, triggering different thoughts and emotions depending on who happens to be listening to it. It’s engaging to put it mildly, and a heck of a way for Vento to enter 2019.