John Wesley, “a way you’ll never be”

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If life were just, John Wesley would be more famous.  I’m not talking about the theologian, who is overshadowed by his brother Charles, just because Chuck wrote some hymns – I’m talking about John Wesley, the guitarist, vocalist, and song writer who is best known for being the sideman guitarist/vocalist for Porcupine Tree’s biggest tours.  Carrying lead guitar and backing vocal duties for Porcupine Tree, is of course, no small feat, and definitely something worthy of highlight, but it is truly a shame that Wesley has not enjoyed more acclaim for his solo albums.

Wesley self-released five albums prior to releasing Disconnect through InsideOut in 2014.  Disconnect didn’t present itself as adhering to many of progressive rock’s conventions, but was a collection of good songs, and it was nice to have his original music produced to a higher degree than his previous albums.

Wesley’s new album, a way you’ll never be, shares many characteristics with Disconnect, but surpasses it in most regards.

a way you’ll never be successfully mixes progressive elements with heavy alt-rock in a collection of songs that are both accessible and interesting enough to withstand repeated listening.  The album opens with “by the light of the sun”, a song based on a heavily distorted riff that reaches its climax at what is one of Wesley’s best guitar solos on record.  While it is not completely out of the progressive rock realm to have heavy guitars or to reference alternative rock as much as classical and jazz music, a way you’ll never be more openly embraces riff-based rock than one expects on an InsideOut release.  But, it works.  Wesley manages the balance between accessible and complex nicely in this album, and the songs hit at a more visceral level than is common to the genre.

The title track to the album comes second, and at just over seven minutes, is one of the highlights of the album and it demonstrates the above-described mélange of style as well as any track on the album.  The song has a true hook in the chorus, but works its way through several musical themes en route to the extended instrumental outro.

Wesley has long had a keen sense for melancholy (as an aside, my all-time favorite Porcupine Tree moment are his vocals in the live version of Half-Light), and a way you’ll never be, demonstrates that as well.  Particularly poignant is “the silence in coffee”, a depiction of the end of a relationship, which includes the lyric:

All that’s been given up, and given in

Whittled us down

Dragged us across the ashes of could’ve been, shoulda done.

There’s no release, here’s where we stand.

The lines scan well musically, and his delivery packs a considerable emotional punch.

In short, John Wesley has delivered his most fulfilling solo album with this release, and it is one that I will be having in regular rotation for some time.

Buy John Wesley’s brilliant solo album here, or find it on his Bandcamp here.

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