Band of the Day

2012.07.17

Goodnight Loving

Exuberant, hook-heavy power-pop with punk spirit and an Americana heart
I am fish, never known the land. Didn't look, took the hook, now I'm in the pan.
lyrics from The Pan

Goodnight Loving are a band from Milwaukee, WI named after a cattle-running trail from the 1860’s that extends from Texas to Wyoming. The group combines folk-rock, country, garage rock, blues, and other influences to create their unique brand of music. The group was formed in 2003 as an acoustic side project by Zach Byrne (vocals, guitar) and Andy Kavanaugh, two local musicians whose bands often collaborated together. Eventually the group became an electric five-piece with the addition of Andrew Harris (guitar, bass, vocals) Colin Swinney (guitar, bass, vocals) and most recently Ryan Adams (drums). The group’s critically acclaimed debut album Cemetery Trails was released in 2006 on Baddlepoat Music. Their second LP Crooked Lake was released in 2007 and was followed shortly after by the band’s self-titled third album in early 2008. In early 2009, Zach Byrne left the Goodnight Loving, before the group’s fourth album The Goodnight Loving Supper Club, which was released by Dirtnap Records in 2010.

In 2010, not long after the release of their fourth album, Milwaukee’s the Goodnight Loving broke up. They left behind a discography underappreciated in its time, albums marked by infectious melodies, rootsy songcraft and punk rock energy. But if the band’s aim was to go out on top as unsung heroes of the neo-garage pantheon, well, they couldn’t have done much better than with the album The Goodnight Loving Supper Club. In a briskly-paced 36 minutes, the group delivers a swan song that, with any justice, will get dug up years from now and hailed as one of the great overlooked indie records of the aughts. Evolving from its origins as a two-man acoustic project, GNL—that’s the fan-approved acronym—came up in the Midwestern punk scene despite having a much more pronounced pop and folk sensibility than many of its peers. By Supper Club, the band had tightened into a lean, countrified power-pop machine. Even as it matured, the band never lost its sense of fun. Opening with the Western swing of “Ain’t It Weird,” Supper Club puts the band’s love of American roots music at the fore: the guitars twang, the rhythms gallop, the pedal steel twinkles. Alt-country this is not, however. You won’t find lyrics about the Dust Bowl, but you will get the occasional surrealist fantasy: “Summer Dream” describes an altercation with an apparently alcoholic bobcat hoarding 37,000 cans of beer in its den, while “Bike + Stick” features such passages as, “She gave me a shoe that did not exist/So I gave her a bike that was really a stick.” Although the album shows the band is capable of going dark—the foreboding instrumental “Dark Black Pool” intimidates like Link Wray’s “Rumble,” and the opening chords of “Grandpa Died” mimic “House of the Rising Sun”—GNL is really as its best when things are bright and clever: “The Pan” tumbles forward like a runaway mine cart, with a surfy chorus comparing mankind to naïve fish just waiting to get hooked; “Earworm” is a meta-humorous commentary on annoyingly addictive songs that itself becomes incredibly addictive, minus the annoying part. Speaking of addictive, the highlight of the album is “Doesn’t Shake Me,” an exuberant three-minute gem in the “I Fought the Law” mode that, in a more perfect part of the universe, is the hit that transformed the Goodnight Loving into one of the biggest bands in the country.