Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sterling Witt – Satyagraha

Rock and roll hasn’t died by a long shot and one of its many cousins, punk rock music, has fertile ground in these modern times to make the same incendiary impression that has long defined the form. Classifying Sterling Witt, however, as a punk rocker alone is a grievous mistake. Much of this album has an almost singer/songwriter bent, albeit filtered through muscular guitar work and raw, open-wound production work, but these sonic elements never change the fact that much of Witt’s songwriting is engaged with complex themes and thorny philosophical issues that Witt admirably boils down to their essence. The thirteen songs on his fifth full length studio effort Satyagraha gain much from their presentation – the aforementioned production virtues and the physical music – but the burning heart of these songs is Witt’s actual voice and the imposingly intelligent lyrical content that is also brash, street smart, and unafraid. "Perception Deception” starts Satyagraha with an excellent illustration of the musical and lyric excellence dominating the release. It also introduces listeners to the album’s predominant theme of what exactly is truth and who do we hear it from in this modern life. Witt never frames things pretentiously. Instead, these tough subjects are explored with carefully chosen language that somehow manages to shrink their implications into a comprehensible and abbreviated form. “Who Do You Listen To?” continues the theme with an impressive musical performance that finds Witt and his two musical compatriots weaving their way through some challenging tempo changes that never leave them undone or unable to connect with the listener. Witt avoids a lot of the heavy-handedness so common to these sorts of lyrics from other writers – he has a point and makes it with little, if any, excess baggage.  

“Let Love Out” begins with great gentleness, befitting the song’s title, but soon segues into some more fire breathing guitar work that finds the melody quickly and never lets go. Witt is a master of juxtaposing his smart, sometimes denunciatory lyrical content with well-conceived melodies, but the contrast is flipped here with the positive message of the song strongly contrasting the gritty musical attack. On the other hands, “Just So You Know” is one of the angrier tracks on the album both musically and lyrically, but even when the songwriting mood darkens, melody remains the first priority. “Safe to Say” is, arguably, the purest punk moment on the album and easily the peak of Witt’s rage against the modern world, but his aim finds its target and, despite the short running time and fierce musical attack, this remains a coherent track from beginning to end.  

“I Love You More Every Day” is a fantastic power rock number with strong commercial attributes thanks to the ever-present melody and unity of its guitar work. Everything that goes on in these songs flows off of his guitar and never disappoints. There is a solid social and personal message in Satyagraha’s songs, but the musical content wins listeners over at every turn. If you are a fan of intelligent punk rock with balls to spare, this album won’t disappoint.  

9 out of 10 stars.

David Shouse

1 comment:

  1. Good review! Although Satyagraha has thirteen songs not eleven as stated in article: "The eleven songs on his fifth full length studio effort Satyagraha"

    Satyagraha Track List:
    1.Perception Deception
    2. Love Me To Death
    3. Who Do You Listen To?
    4. Spiritual Revolution
    5. Let Love Out
    6. Make It
    7. Just So You Know
    8. Safe To Say
    9. The Answer
    10. Where In The World
    11. I Love You More Everyday
    12. Just War
    13. Labor