Over the past couple of years, I’ve reviewed a few releases from Bendigo Fletcher. I’ve sung the praises of their knack for sweet melancholy sweet compositions and how they’re the perfect representation of their hometown of Louisville. There’s an indescribable something about this band that just feels comforting. It could be the swirling acoustic guitars or the endearing, slightly off-kilter harmonies, or the general sense of nostalgia. Whatever it is, I like it. When I found out Soul Step Records was putting out Consensual Wisdom on vinyl, I jumped at the opportunity to review it.
Going by the releases I covered before, I was expecting a small collection of folk-pop jams in a trim little package. But I was only half right. On the surface, Consensual Wisdom is a simple folk record. Acoustic or clean electric guitar, minimalist rhythm sections, and not many plot twists. But the closer I listened, the more layers I discovered. Even in that, those layers are subtle and in an emotional sense.
“Soul Factory” opens the record with tongue firmly in cheek. Ryan Anderson clumsily strums a complex love song with an almost smitten charm. Things evolve on “Green Murder”. The same acoustic guitar now flavored with a Big Star-esque phase effect while the lyrics paint a portrait and lush romance they joked about on the song before. It’s with this track the subtle layers become apparent. From the make-shift choir back up vocals to the electric bass guitar dropping in an out when the melody needs it most. It becomes apparent, Consensual Wisdom is actually an experimental record.
“Cormac” showcases Kentucky bluegrass, church hymns, and classic Appalachian all in under 2 minutes before pouring into the next song. “Morning Room Blue” features a surprising Jimi Hendrix influences guitar and the closest thing the record gets to R&B. The last 2 tracks the soaring “To The Red River” and tastefully psychedelic “Wonderfully Bizarre”, would are the icing on the cake after my favorite track on the record, “Pinhead Boy”.
The fever-dream lyrics reference everything from learning to moonwalk, falling asleep in the car, to making out behind a food truck. From any other band, this track would make zero sense, but this is Bendigo Fletcher in their element. It’s almost as if they’re cherry-picking the most trivial elements of growing up. But when you blend them with satisfying (albeit unpredictable) chord changes and raw production, “Pinhead Boy” is the most accurate depiction of falling in love, breaking your heart, and growing up in any song I’ve ever heard.
And it’s in that where the aforementioned indescribable something comes into play. I honestly don’t have any other way to describe this band or record. The very second Side B ended, I knew I experienced a record we will be discussing years from now. A classic album from a band we’re going to be listening to for a long time.
Consensual Wisdom is available on limited edition vinyl exclusively from Soul Step Records.