Will Marsh – a.k.a. Gold Connections – will in all likelihood be always linked to Car Seat Headrest’s Will Toledo because they are good friends and Toledo produced Marsh’s fantastic debut – and one 2017’s best – EP, Gold Connections. Marsh isn’t the first and won’t be the last person to be linked to a more popular artist. Natalie Prass sang backup for Jenny Lewis. Mikal Cronin is a long-time, Ty Segall collaborator. Both, however, have carved out outstanding solo careers and slowly established their own niche. Marsh, likewise, is carving out his own legacy, and his debut album, Popular Fiction, is the next chapter.
Popular Fiction is akin to an audio tome of rock history. Through the LP’s 46-minute duration, Marsh weaves through five decades of rock ‘n roll, channeling some of the genre’s most influential bands and more contemporary trailblazers. Four of the album’s songs were originally on the EP, but they are given makeovers to fit within Marsh’s lesson and musical journey. The rollicking “Isabel”, for instance, is transformed into a Wilco-esque track. Like the great Chicago band, Marsh delivers his best impersonations of Jeff Tweedy with his emotive vocals and desperate lyrics and of Nels Cline with his pensive-turn-scorching guitar arrangement. The title track “Popular Fiction”, meanwhile, is turned into an oft-kilter indie-rock number akin to Modest Mouse.
Even the EP’s highlight, “New Religion”, is given new life, once again in a Modest Mouse style. It’s more urgent, more desperate, and cleaner in the production. The new product allows Marsh’s frustration with the world to ring more clearly. His words, as such, pack a bigger punch.
“Better sing a new religion.
Better find a new mystery to seek
Cause we are tired and we are weary.
And I’ve been searching this scene for something real,
And I can’t take another week.”
Of the new songs, Marsh is at his best when he looks to the ’60s and ’70s for inspiration. A young Rolling Stones echoes on the fantastic “Bad Intentions”, and Marsh’s vocals even possess a Mick Jagger-like twangy swagger. Hints of Dylan and Springsteen are heard in his lyrics, as he recounts the trials and tribulations of growing up and the mistakes made.
Opener “Icarus” is an old-school, slow-building, southern-rock epic. Its feverish climax features Marsh hollering, “Get back to rock ‘n roll”, over top the cataclysmic crush of the dueling guitar. The urgency in his voice and the music reflect the growing violence and the arms race occurring within America. Consequently, we all will suffer the same fate as the Greek demi-god. The melodic blues-rocker, “Again Alive”, is another Stones-esque tune, specifically reminiscent of the legends’ great album, Exile on Main St.
Marsh goes a bit out of the box on the epic “Plague 8”. The song is a kaleidoscope of rock, bridging the sounds and influences of the past and present. At times, the track, particularly during the chorus, echoes of Don McLean’s classic, “American Pie”. Then there are moments where Marsh sounds like Tom Petty. The conclusion, however, is the Gold Connections that we were first introduced to back in January 2017. A young man who howled with the emotional fury of Kurt Cobain and the angst of Thurston Moore in their youth. A young man who made us believe that rock is still alive and in very good hands. With Popular Fiction, Marsh proves he deserves to be recognized as the future of rock ‘n roll.
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