March 23, 2020
THE WANTS SHARE “ALUMINUM” VIDEO | DEBUT LP CONTAINER OUT NOW VIA COUNCIL RECORDS
“Both of their singles to date provide more angular hooks than a butchers’ convention, but more importantly the trio – which includes two members of Brooklyn art-pop wizards BODEGA – aren’t afraid to speak out about what singer Madison Velding-VanDam calls “the reification of unfettered capitalism.” Which is to say, if you like your post-punk brooding and intellectual, The Wants might just steal your heart. In emotional terms, we mean. Not for retail at that butchers’ convention.”
“There is definitely some some Gang of Four in what The Wants do, but it’s more of a modern approach: sleek and synthetic, dark and danceable, poppy but paranoid.”
– Brooklyn Vegan
“The band channel new wave’s darker quarters, with nods to Depeche Mode or a strutting, dancefloor version of Nine Inch Nails; its video, meanwhile, melds stylised cinematic touches with more than a few nipple shots.”
“Channelling a modern Ian Curtis-esque vocal, which presides over driving –yet minimal – synths, The Want’s post-punk sound in new single “Fear My Society” creates a foreboding underbelly to the track’s exploration of human flaws. There is an air of almost uncomfortable realism embedded within; it doesn’t matter from which walk of life you’re from, there is no escape from failure.”
– The Line of Best Fit
“Madison Velding-VanDam’s vocals are wry and bemused, but with an underlying sense of pain. Likewise, the songs are nervous, jittery, and terse. But this tightly-wound construction also gives them an energy that is infectious—and often danceable. Discounting a handful of cacophonic instrumentals and interludes, Container is a compact, concise package of seven songs. As with many of the best debut albums, nearly all those songs sound like they could be singles.”
“The Wants hail from New York’s subterranean music scene, three musicians bonded by their experience on the fringes. Rooted in the city’s post-punk heritage, the band’s music hinges on that caustic relationship between clipped guitar lines and broken drum machines. Austere yet precise art-pop, you could name reference points such as Bush Tetras, Talking Heads, Liquid Liquid, or even Bodega (with whom they share a guitarist).”
Container opens with a cacophony of deconstructed and broken wave forms, organic samples manipulated to simulate something mechanical, unidentifiable sounds twisting on themselves until, startlingly, from zero to sixty, the full band abruptly blasts in. Container is all forward momentum, even in its quieter moments there is a feeling of restless stirring, guiding the listener through dark alley-ways towards the singles that are more traditionally written within the canon of mainstream pop sensibility and songwriting.
The Wants’ new single “The Motor”, in its original instrumental form, has garnered an overwhelming response live—the audience all seemed to whip out their phones simultaneously to capture the climactic danceable, though dissonant, cacophony, as frontman Madison Velding-VanDam twists upside down like a viscous yogi and fires his guitar in the air vertically. The song was inspired by an epiphany Velding-VanDam had for the spoken word element, while rewatching his favorite movie introduction David Lynch’s “Lost Highway” — a racing pavement level road reveals only white dotted lines shrouded in darkness and David Bowie croons his sinister 90s industrial art rock masterpiece “I’m Deranged”. The lyrics start with Elle’s quiet request to the band, “let’s go fast,” before they kick into high gear and unstoppable locomotion.The final mood is somewhere between Cybotron’s “Cosmic Cars”, Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn”, and Nine Inch Nails “Closer”. “The Motor” was the final song to be completed of their upcoming debut LP Container.
Thematically, the record is a cryptic-yet-decodable rumination on contemporary America — the new America where Boomers and Gen Z struggle to reconcile disparate world views, while Gen X’ers and millennials feel like awkward middle-children hinging these old and new worlds together. In spite of their clear American roots, The Wants feel at home within the latest movement of post-Brexit UK bands, as Velding-VanDam utilizes the urgency of Sprechgesang (talk singing) on title-track “Container” and off-kilter late-album standout “Nuclear Party”, to disarming effect, with a Dr. Strangelove reference of tricksy parody, entertaining the idea of the powerful gleeful in their oppressive tendencies. In these tracks, we feel Velding-VanDam’s duality of personas swing from earnestly romantic to the unsettlingly deadpan echoing a generation of sociopathic vulnerability.
The ideas of money and fame are markedly absent on The Wants’ Container, as the album is continually aggrandizing of the small and often unnoticed moments of the in between and unclear, the almost achingly obvious, yet obtuse, in our everyday. The Container album artwork synthesizes these themes in a way that is at once on-the-nose, while the directness weaves the layers of complexity, as the tin can is an everyday element of the ‘home’, our container of consumer products, brought to us across the ocean in shipping containers … ‘materialism’ meets ‘practicalism’ and these persistent and flawed aspects of the American dream converge. The new Americana that is challenging and obtuse, but within it we still recognize our old symbols, like cars, motorcycles, tin cans, vinyl countertops, strip malls, motels attached to strip joints along the highway. The media excess, sound and vision saturation of post-internet culture fuse with the icons and traditions of Americana on “Container” as The Wants’ morph and re-contextualized the displaced in the de-industrialized Midwest with those displaced and deemed unworthy of economic and political representation in contemporary urban metropolis. All these components are essential in weaving the album’s a complex and confounding narrative that reflects contemporary and expansive American geography and culture.
Container was recorded and produced by Madison Velding-VanDam and Jason Gates at HANJIN, their shipping container converted to studio in a Chinese factory parking lot, as well as respective home studios, The Wants slowly drafted the record over three years, starting with their more post-punk ideas and slowly mutating to include their more adventurous interests in techno, experimental electronic, and ambient music. The process was one of constantly reimagining a tracks’ potential, generally leaving the melody and lyrics — or the core song as it could be played on an acoustic guitar — in tact, weaving new ideas in and around the initial structures. That the album’s polished sound was captured in the band member’s respective bedrooms and rehearsal space is a testament to their attention to detail: Velding-VanDam is a seasoned bedroom pop auteur, and Gates has a wealth of studio experience (Debbie Harry, Angelo Badalamenti, Lykke Li, My Morning Jacket). They recruited pop and hip-hop engineer Jeremy Cimino (J. Cole, Pharrel) for his ability to give their rock instrumentation a fuller sound that explicitly differentiates it from the ubiquity of more genre-abiding contemporary indie recordings.
The Wants’ visuals have been a collaboration between Philadelphia born photographer Madison Carroll and Madison Velding-VanDam — aptly naming their partnership the “Madisons”. On “Fear My Society” and “The Motor”, both videos were shot in Detroit, MI, where Velding-VanDam spent his formative years. He was compelled to go there and film after a recent visit to Detroit’s Zug Island, an industrial park and coal mine right on the edge of the Detroit river. Departing from New York, he and photographer Madison Carroll spent time along Highway 80, between the Northeast and Midwest urban centers, drawn to these landscapes where vast expanses of land surrounding stretches of rest stops and motor inns were speckled with glowing houses in the eerily silent early hours of the morning. The isolation and economic dissolution of the midwest felt more genuinely relatable to native Velding-VanDam’s core than the gentrified hyper curated outer world of New York city. Carroll obsessive attention to detailed composition, predominantly in domestic spaces, and expertise with her medium format camera, scanning her own negatives, a skill honed as an intern for world renowned documentary photographer Mary Ellen Mark.