Issue #89: Everything Is A Lot by Will Wood And The Tapeworms

October 30, 2017

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Everything Is A Lot by Will Wood And The Tapeworms
Released On May 20, 2015

This Week’s Selection Chosen By Catherine Dempsey

The first time I saw Will Wood And The Tapeworms perform, I felt like I was in danger. No, really. I was scared for my life. In this tiny art gallery space in New Jersey, I made the mistake of standing front and center as The Tapeworms got through their set, violently crashing through songs, jumping around with force, and their instruments flying through the air like a nasty freak show. I was absolutely terrified. Multiple times I had to back away before getting hit in the face with a bass guitar or one of Will Wood’s accessories.

I’m making this sound like a bad thing, but in all honesty, it was one of the most exciting, daunting, hilarious, and magical live performances I had ever seen. I still talk about it whenever I get the chance. I remember the show vividly, even though at the time, I was completely clueless to this amazing band and had never heard of them before (let alone their songs, albums, or names). I recall hearing the beginning of “Chemical Overreaction / Compound Fracture” and thinking to myself, “God, thank you for blessing me with this sound.”

I hadn’t heard anything quite like Will Wood And The Tapeworms, and getting an introduction as strong and aggressive as that first live show has changed my life in many ways. They are menacing and dark, with an edge of glamour and flair. Seeing the Jersey band absolutely kill it (so closely to my face, for that matter) was astounding, and I immediately went home to Yonkers knowing I needed to learn more about them.

Will Wood and his music has become my latest focus. I find the band’s music extremely intimidating. I was intimidated by Leftover Crack and Choking Victim when I first heard them too (but that probably had more to do with their lyrics about school shootings). I felt this way the first time I tried to listen to Everything Is A Lot in full. It was dense with emotion, wrought with layers of absolutely beautifully crafted instrumentals, and built on the back of a front man who appeared to know a hell of a lot more about the future in more ways than one, with his painted third eye and intriguing spoken word interludes in between songs. More so, he was a DIY careerist musician. And I thought that was bold as hell.

I would soon find out, after becoming a supporter / journalist / mediocre-publicist-who-followed-the-band-around, that Will Wood can indeed see into the future. That is to say, he can see the big picture of what his music is meant to do. How it is meant to capture the minds of the people who listen to it (and get it). He is a careerist in the vein of being one of the most passionate, hardworking, and dedicated people I’ve had the fortune of meeting. I respect him as a musician as much as I would respect anyone who didn’t buy their way into the industry with a team of people working for them. He’s doing this thing with all hands on deck when they’re not pressed firmly to a keyboard.

Will Wood, despite his young age and somewhat recent goings on in his Jersey scene, writes some of the most elaborate and soul-ascending music I’ve ever heard. From the band’s chaotic landings in “6up 5Oh Cop-Out (Pro/Con)” (which is what would play in my head if I ever got myself arrested) to the macabre angelic ballads such as “Jimmy Mushrooms’ Last Drink: Bedtime In Wayne, NJ,” I’ve found myself in psychotic bliss. Everything Is A Lot changed the way I looked at my own life. It made me sit and think about what was important to me. My dreams, aspirations, fears, and naiveties all were summed up into the lyrics and music of this unbelievable album that I couldn’t stop playing on repeat. And it was unlike anything I had ever heard before.

What’s most exciting is that this is a band that has hardly left the state of New Jersey, and it makes me so stoked to imagine and eventually see how far they can go to the outer stretches of the world one year, five years, ten years down the line. What’s so special about this band is that I know in my heart of hearts that they are going to leave that tiny state and show off what they can do on a grand scale. And whatever happens, I’m gonna be singing along to “Skeleton Appreciation Day In Vestal, NY (Bones).”

Catherine Dempsey (@coffincutieee)
Emo Kid Seeking Hardcore Band

Surreal and macabre design. Puzzling and sensational execution.

Well, if you didn’t have anything to listen to on Halloween, you sure do now. Everything Is A Lot is a dark, yet whimsical journey filled with lively instrumentation and flavorful song writing. The old-timey vibe of “Skeleton Appreciation Day In Vestal, NY (Bones)” and “Front Street” puts us right in the middle of a wild west saloon on Halloween night. The spooky sounds continue on “Red Moon,” which for some strange reason makes me think of The Penguin’s devilish collection of carnival goons in Batman Returns. Can you see the dancing monkey? The point is that this is music that we don’t hear every day, and I’m glad it’s now on my radar. The standout record for me is “Jimmy Mushrooms’ Last Drink: Bedtime In Wayne, NJ.” I love the juxtaposition of sounds and lyrics here. The lighthearted instrumentation has all the trappings of a classic Jimmy Buffet record, but the ominous lyrics take us in the opposite direction. You’d never catch Buffet singing lines like “I’ll tell you what, I’m not afraid to die / I’m more afraid of what might happen first / Either way it’s not like we’ll get out alive / I can’t say that I know which one is worse.” I certainly commend Will Wood And The Tapeworms for taking so many risks on this record, daring to sound like nobody else, and completely committing to a sound that is their own.

Kellen “J. Clyde” Ford (@jclyde757)
Steadfast Hip-Hop Historian & Creator

Once, sitting on my porch after another failed day in a long line of abysmally failed days, I took another drink of whiskey and contemplated the annoying condo being built next door. It glowed in the streetlight, and I hated it for the incessant jackhammering it meant all the next day, the next every day for the next damn forever. Sometimes at rock bottom, like when you truly go down spelunking into a part of your misery you didn’t even register before, there’s this shining moment of dizzying light, this little bouncing ball of hysteria that flashes like a hyena’s eyes in your darkness. Climbing the fence was easy, even with a glass in my hand, but that pure giddiness I felt going up the ladder mimics the off-kilter hilarity of “6up 5Oh Cop-Out (Pro/Con),” the opening track of Everything Is A Lot. A Disney movie? A woman laughing on a rickety plywood floor at 2AM? Doesn’t matter, because the feeling is the same — untethered, unencumbered joy at having no consequences that matter anymore. Every track on this album stands free from social niceties; why hold back, this album begs, immersed so fully in the emotions the band lays bare over and over with a twisted smile, eyes wide open? Sing along, invites the album, with anthems like “White Knuckle Jerk (Where Do You Get Off?),” throwing out lines like “where do you get off / being so goddamned beautiful” into a too-quiet night to echo down the street. Catch your breath with “Cover This Song (A Little Bit Mine),” an almost sweet interlude while you think about how pretty the night is now covered in red and blue. Sure, sure you say to the officers who patiently wait for you to climb down three floors in slippy vintage heels – the night has to end, the careening carousel must eventually blink its lights off one by one, the album powers down in “Everything Is A Lot.” as you explain you just wanted to see up that high, and for once it seems like they understand as they walk you home.

Laura Burroughs (@_thetwors)
Jestful Musical Erudite

This album is a lot to take in. So, indulge me for a minute here and try to imagine a dystopian world where you find yourself being chased home from the bar by a Hellish Honky Tonk band. You’re scared, you’re confused, and you think you just might be losing your mind, but don’t you dare try to fight them, my friends. For Will Wood has the power and presence of something other-worldly. No mere mortal could stand a chance against the mad maestro himself! So just strap on those dancing shoes and get ready to get weird with Will Wood And The Tapeworms’ 2015 release, Everything Is A Lot. When I first had the pleasure of listening to this album, I was bombarded (in the best way) by the first track, “6up 5Oh Cop-Out (Pro/Con).” What a rush! Like sliding headfirst in to the cabaret from Hell, Will packs a serious sense shattering punch to the gut in to three minutes and forty-five seconds of some of the most impressive instrumentals I’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to. Perfectly discordant and full of theatrics, Will Wood And The Tapeworms are every spooky theatre kid’s dream band. Will has such a knack for delivery and performance that when you listen to this album, you could close your eyes and feel him right in front of you. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of theatrics in music. For me, the farthest I can get in to it is Alice Cooper, but there is something transcendent about this band and record. They are so damn good at what they do that it doesn’t matter if it’s your thing it — it grows inside you like a… tapeworm. What an apt name.

Erin Calvert (@erinpcalvert)
Elder Goth In The Making

Everything Is A Lot is an album that thrives on theatricality in every sense. Frontman Will Wood’s vocal delivery ranges from a whisper to a shout and every emotion in between, the Sufjan-Stevens circa Michigan-and-Illinois song titles are filled with wordplay, double entendres, and evocative tales, the lyrics are filled with rhyme and puns and references, and there’s often sounds of an audience present (someone amusingly says “fuck this” at the end of “Cover This Song (A Little Bit Mine).” It’s a lot, to say the least. But when you have songs like “Front Street,” you can get away with a lot. It’s an absolute showstopper of a tune, a fiery tour de force led by Will Wood’s manic, mercurial vocal performance that builds to a huge, half-time, chanting, stomping climax. It’s the culmination of every good thing Will Wood And The Tapeworms do, a charismatic, dramatic, overwhelming song that drags the listener along for the ride whether they like it or not. Not every song has the same irresistible magnetism, but when the songs hit, they hit hard. One can only imagine a live performance.

David Munro (@david_c_munro)
Idiosyncratic Avant-Garde Wanderer

This record’s dizzying sense of direction is anchored by Will Wood’s immense prescence as a vocalist & frontman, something that comes through even on a studio recording.

Skeletons and bones and holding breath by graveyards… freaky as all get-out cover art… could it be that our dear editor had Halloween on the brain when he scheduled Will Wood And The Tapeworms for this week? Bravo, I say. Bravo. But there are more personal reasons this album feels timely. For one thing, I’m currently on a steroid medication to treat an “angry” (as the pharmacist put it) case of poison ivy, and the side effects include a jitteriness that makes my insides feel like Lewis Black’s hands during one of his old Daily Show segments. Add in the fact that it’s been a rainy Sunday — the whole family cooped up inside, driving each other crazy, one kid refusing to nap, the other meowing like a cat for two hours straight — and you have what is either the most or least ideal situation for listening to Everything Is A Lot, because right now, everything is a lot. And that’s just what I heard when I pressed play and added “6up 5Oh Cop-Out (Pro/Con)” into the pressurized household craziness — a sound that instantly overwhelms with sirens and drums, and that’s before the big and brash barrelhouse two-step kicks in. Just talking about it makes me want to take a deep breath. But it’s all in good fun, and Everything Is A Lot does give you opportunities to pause, with relatively downbeat songs like “Lysergide Daydream” (truly “a place to get away from it all”) and more stripped-down arrangements, like in “¡Aikido! (Neurotic/Erotic)” and “Skeleton Appreciation Day In Vestal, NY (Bones).” The latter in particular has an off-kilter sweetness that really sticks with you. Though it’s hard to recognize in the moment, as do weekends like these.

Davy Jones (@youhearthat)
Idealistic Seeker Of Neoteric Sounds

When Catherine first told me she was excited that her pick was going to be the album of the week leading into Halloween, I had gotten it into my head to expect something in the vein of the Misfits. She said nothing of the sort to actually imply this, but for me, once the wind starts to pick up and the highest the temperature ever reaches is ’77, it’s the perfect, and quite frankly, only, time to listen to horror punk. Anyway, I was slightly taken aback when I hit play and heard the hints of a piano underneath the sounds of a cop siren in “6up 5Oh Cop-Out (Pro/Con),” but immediately after I thought “Oh yeah, this makes sense.” Everything Is A Lot doesn’t conjure up images of demons and monsters like the album art led me to believe, but the songs do detail the horrors of our everyday personal lives, or at least mine. “Skeleton Appreciation Day In Vestal, NY (Bones)” brings up skeletons in the most literal way, but I also hear it as a metaphor for tackling the difficulties of opening up and letting people see your insides- something that a friend of mine has been dealing with lately. “¡Aikido! (Neurotic/Erotic)” is the opposite problem: being too open about your feelings for someone to the point of worrying that you’re exposing yourself too much… an unenviable position that I recently found myself in. It’s incredible timing that this album came into my life when it did, and I’m all the happier for it. The theatricality of it all did make me wonder why I was just listening to studio recordings of the band rather than seeing them live, but, as of this writing, they weren’t playing any shows nearby or far away, so I guess that’s a valid excuse.

Dustin Gates (@cmoncheermeup)
Relapsed Pop Culture Junkie

This album is definitely a journey. Unaware to the band before this, I had no idea what to expect here, and it certainly had a lot of twists and turns for me. The opening notes of the first song “6up 5Oh Cop-Out (Pro/Con)” reminded me of some old time-y 1940’s jazz music, which also carry throughout some of the other songs on the album. I found myself snapping my fingers and tapping my feet along to that jazzy rhythm from time to time. I found it very eclectic (in a good way!) in the sense that there is actually quite a bit of variety in this album. As I said, it has that jazz element, but there is a bit of rock every now and then and the lead vocals are very interesting, ranging from raspy screams to softer, more ballad-y type songs (like the fourth track “¡Aikido! (Neurotic/Erotic)“). The lyrics are also appealing here. I found that underneath the upbeat musical elements, the words had a powerful meaning, with one of the lines that really stuck being from the album opener: “Only one thing comes to those who wait / It’s never too late to embrace your fate.” Strong message, and it just really rings true for me especially because of recent events in my own life. The album is also well balanced, in that for every fast paced song, there are a couple to slow things down and give the listener a breather before the next couple speed the pace up again. Great album overall with a few tracks even making their way onto my own personal playlist.

Chelsea Kostrey (@chelseakostrey)
Retrophile & Festival Enthusiast

Hidden behind all the twists and turns of the album is the songwriting power Will Wood holds, something that makes the bizarre feel just as appealing as the norm.

From almost the very first moment of the album, it has been clear that this was an excellent choice for the issue that comes out the day before Halloween. The imagery, the vocal tone, even the instrumentation point to the creepiest carnival there ever was. Which is why it was a surprise to me to get to Track 4, “¡Aikido! (Neurotic/Erotic),” and find the first signs that something a little less manic was going on here. There are other moments of sanity (if you can call a song about an obsession “sane”) on the album but this is the first and it sets the tone for future oases. I like how necessary the dark, seemingly unhinged parts of this album are to highlight the more composed, beautiful sections of subdued insanity.

James Anderson (@unabashedjames)
Devoted Docent Of Musical Concepts

It’s probably an appropriate time to tell you, on the day before Halloween, that I do not like things that are scary and/or creepy. I’ve watched every episode of Key & Peele, but haven’t seen Get Out. It the book or movie — forget about it! I don’t like creepy music either — the imagery in metal gives me nightmares. I would never have found Will Wood And The Tapeworms, because lyrics like “bones, bones, bones / let me see your bones” (“Skeleton Appreciation Day In Vestal, NY (Bones)“) are not something I would gravitate to. And Everything is A Lot is a lot for me — the music sounds like if Gogol Bordello, a group of circus freaks, and their crazy drunk friends scored a horror movie. The lyrics can be dark and sadistic. But it’s also a whole lot of fun! The entire record mostly feels like a giant party you desperately want to attend, but haven’t been invited to. Listening to this record is so entertaining but I couldn’t help but feel like I would rather be at the concert, dancing like a fool after three gin and tonics (hey, I’m 38, clear alcohol only). Dancing with strangers, singing along, and sharing this one experience with them. I do think Everything Is A Lot has a lot of energy inside of it, and I’m dying to listen to “White Knuckle Jerk (Where Do You Get Off?)” (sample lyrics: “where do you get off being so goddamn beautiful?”) while getting ready for a night out. I haven’t necessarily gotten over any fears through this record, but I had a really good fucking time, and I invite you to do the same and join the party. I’m the one wearing the tiny hat.

Melissa Koch (@bunnycaper)
Mediocre Runner, Aspiring Celebrity DJ

Right from the start, I found myself in a wild game of hot and cold with Everything Is A Lot. The instrumental introduction had some snappy drums, slick saxophone, old fashioned honky-tonk quality piano, and police sirens that created quite the mystery film noir atmosphere — even during the last 10 second pre-lyrical vocals where the tempo increased and screaming ensued. After that first utterance of sung words however, the hot curiosity turned cold because that lead vocal just clashed with the smooth and cohesive scene the opening section had carved out in my head. It was too quirky, too mischievous for brooding film noir caper; like it escaped from a nearby animated film (which might be up your alley). Yet I continued onward in the track listing, hopeful for a change in pace and though slow to take hold, plenty of cool factor managed to shine through here, despite being mixed among various vocal styles that were all over the place. The major point of enjoyable consistency on Everything Is A Lot comes from that description at the top, sans any singing. The upright, old school, honky tonk piano sound moves from track to track. Then, as the album goes on, the scene cultivated by the ivories shifts from dark mysteries to flickers of NOLA lights with the addition of jazzed up oboe (“Front Street“), and a sultry legato flute (“White Knuckle Jerk (Where Do You Get Off?)“). “Red Moon” provides a hefty pile of promise and enjoyment, as the piano takes a slightly more subtle role and its notes roll down to the lower octaves for a fair bit of time. The overall swing and energy of the track — with prominent guitar in the hook and admittedly, also the slurring movement of the vocals — feels at times, very much like older, classic Muse, perhaps circa Black Holes And Revelations. It’s hard to say I like a record like this with enthusiasm. Nevertheless, there are more than enough components that make up Everything Is A Lot that I can’t find the album all that close to the “one and done” column either.

Kira Grunenberg (@shadowmelody1)
Prolific Sonic Scribe & Unifier

I wish I could say I had the foresight to schedule this one right before Halloween, but happenstance had me covered here, giving my colleagues plenty to ponder over with the dark holiday fast approaching. Me? My mind drifted more to the surreal side of things, which definitely does have its place in the canon of Halloween, but often seems relegated to some weird corner as the pockets of jump scares, monsters, and serial killers continue to grow, dominating the area. The imagery, song titles, genre skips, and manic vocals; it all felt like surrealism was in style again for the fifty minute run-time, but maybe not the kind you would think. Move your glance away from Pixies’ Un Chien Andalou obsession and try to focus more on the eccentrics of Captain Beefheart, both in sound, style, and construction. Sure, it’s not exactly rock exploring free jazz like His Magic Band made famous, but it definitely feels feverish, spontaneous, and experimental like the best of their work. Will Wood’s voice itself fits at home too in that comparison, though clearly with more aplomb and polish that shifts the focus from music to words at times, even if the music is endlessly fascinating. Best of all though is Will Wood dipping into the norm at times with more normal (or as close to normal as Will Wood can get) offerings that not only break up the pace, but make the rabbit hole journeys even more bizarre and jarring. Here’s someone who can write a straight-up indie earworm (“¡Aikido! (Neurotic/Erotic)“) yet seems much more content in the land of the abstract (“Thermodynamic Lawyer, ESQ, G.F.D.“). Like a generic scene in a David Lynch movie, it makes you wonder how the abnormal fits in with the normal, and just what message is intended. Their Bandcamp page lists the record as “13 tracks about sex, drugs, love and law enforcement,” which seems like it might be fitting for some moments, while completely contrarian for others, basically leaving you with more questions than answers like any truly great surrealist piece.

Doug Nunnally (@musicdoug)
Garrulous Aural Braggart

Next Week’s Selection:
Modern Pressure by Daniel Romano
Chosen By Guest Contributor Angelica Garcia

Off Your Radar Newsletter

Editor: Doug Nunnally

Contributors: James Anderson, Laura Burroughs, Erin Calvert, Catherine Dempsey, Kellen “J. Clyde” Ford, Dustin Gates, Kira Grunenberg, Davy Jones, Melissa Koch, Chelsea Kostrey, David Munro, Drew Necci, & Jeremy Shatan

Logo By Matt Klimas


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