CUT WORMS

Despite a .300 batting average and a 63 mph curveball from the mound, Cut Worms’ Max Clarke was the black sheep of his baseball-centric, Midwestern family. He was drawn to the creative shadows, drawn to the basement 4-track and late nights in the art studio as much as he was the dugout. He had a born knack for conjuring warm sounds and fine images. His songs in particular crackle with the heat of a love-struck nostalgia: golden threads of storytelling, like visceral memories, woven together with a palpable Everly Brothers’ influence and 50s/60s naiveté. But the kid still has a pretty mean curve. Like one of his creative pillars David Lynch, Clarke’s songs and artwork are also curveballs with a curious underbelly.

A Cut Worms song may impress an innocent summer stroll across fields of tall grass and lavender — but there’s undoubtedly a severed ear out in there in the grass. Some unseen dark forces are always lurking at the edges of songs’ sunbursts. Bright, beautiful lap steel or a cheery harmonica accompaniment often belie an impending doom or crestfallen narrator.

Clarke didn’t necessarily seek out a life as fulltime musician. Before releasing music under the moniker of Cut Worms, Clarke went to school for illustration with the idea of a sensible career in graphic design, then took on a string of handy- man type odd jobs. Still, songwriting – that semi-secret practice Clarke had been cultivating since the age of 12 – kept gnawing at him. It was the only sort of work that didn’t feel like work. Plus, if there’s ever a time to do something as unreliable, unrealistic, and imprudent as throwing yourself wholly into music, might as well be done when you’re in your twenties.

A number of songs that make up his LP, Hollow Ground, bloomed from his time in Chicago during period of driven creativity. In particular, “Like Going Down Sideways” and “Don’t Want To Say Good-Bye” find new life on Hollow Ground, polished from their initial appearances on Cut Worms’ 2017 introductory Alien Sunset EP. Both still fizzle with a lo-fi 60s sound, but cleaned up, they gleam.

Michael Rault is a Toronto based singer, guitarist and songwriter fronting his own eponymously named band. A gifted multiinstrumentalist and arranger, his hooky blend of pop rock refracts an evolution of guitar based music through the ages. An era-defying mischievousness defines his synthesis of jukebox R’n’B, and acid psych as refracted through the experience of an adolescence spent idolizing the clever craftsmanship of the Beatles and the wiggy New Orleans textures of Dr. John in equal measure.

“On [Nothing Means] Nothing,’ the Burger Records signee dablles in neo-psychedelia through ambling guitar twangs and hazy, bittersweet vocals. ‘Everytime I try / I just can’t seem to get by,’ Rault croons dejectedly, the despair of his vocals standing in stark contrast to the sweetness of his background guitar strums.” — SPIN

$12-15

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