The Goodnight Loving - "Doesn't Shake Me" (The Goodnight Loving Supper Club)
Over the course of three very good LPs, Milwaukee’s Goodnight Loving has honed a bucolic, wistful version of boom-chika garage rock. Heavy on twang, the relatively young band has set itself apart from the more traditionally punk-oriented groups that it shares labels and stages with. And though some incremental changes have occurred in the Goodnight Loving’s sound from Cemetery Trails to their self-titled third full-length, listeners more or less have known what to expect from them, even if it doesn’t quite sound like the rest of the Dusty Medical roster.
Supper Club, however, marks a sizable transition in sound and style, not to mention a shift to the Dirtnap label. Of course, that doesn’t mean they’ve released an Ergs records (thank God), rather the genre influences that have always enhanced and given shape to the band’s distinctive aesthetic — country twang, of course, but also surf, folk, R&B, and hints of darker spaghetti western-style atmospherics — have now come to fore and anchor its sound.
A crisply produced album (call it slick if you need to) with a clever packaging design that plays off the title, Supper Club is certainly the Goodnight Loving’s most elaborate and fully conceived album to date. And while it’s possible to imagine fans who appreciated the band’s rowdier punk aspects a little turned off, Supper Club makes perfect sense if you’ve been listening closely. “Bike + Stick,” for example, is vintage Goodnight Loving, all fast romance and heartbreak set to jangling guitars and a pulsing classic-country train beat. Certainly tunes such as “Deep Black Pool,” a slinky, Link Wray-vamping instrumental; the Stonsey mid-tempo groover “Addicted to Debt”; and the swirling, organ-heavy “Grandpa Died” show a band in transition, it feels like the members know where they want go and are confidently driving the van in that new direction.
Since its inception, the Goodnight Loving has excelled at upbeat, super hooky, backyard-BBQ party songs; songs that evoke, at least for me, what’s memorable about being young and having the whole world in front of you. Youthful nostalgia, however, always has a dark, bittersweet undercurrent to it: Youth fades, and while growing up and growing old doesn’t have to be sad, only a fool would tell you things always stay the same. I’ve always recognized and appreciated that specific sort of melancholy in the Goodnight Loving’s tunes, just as I’ve always heard and appreciate the myriad of roots styles bubbling beneath that rock. On Supper Club, both have come to the fore and made for a smart, catchy and occasionally bold record suggests that when a band starts to “mature,” it can be pretty rewarding for both the artist and the audience.