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Wayne Rogers - Constant Displacement

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Artist: Wayne Rogers

Album: Constant Displacement

Label: Drag City

Review date: Aug. 21, 2003

Major Star

Originally released as a limited-edition LP in 1997, Constant Displacement has not aged at all. Put this next to, say, Comets on Fire, and something like the opening "Far" will sound quite at home. It crashes in like a fuzzbox tidal wave, with layers of guitars and distorted vocals ready to knock you down. "Dead & Rising" demonstrates just why MTV's so-called rock revival sounds so tired: it's just not this much fun.

Rogers should be familiar (though he may well not be, and there's the pity) from his work with Magic Hour, Major Stars, Crystalized Movements, and his role as half of the Twisted Village empire. Guitar god to the underground psych scene, his grasp of distortion and its role in creating the perfect tone for any given guitar lead should be the basis for a documentary film.

The chiming guitars and plaintive vocals of "Oh (Ah)" make it a song which wouldn't sound out of place on a long-lost Magic Hour album, and "Lives" is similar thanks to its uplifting vocals and guitar-led melody. The joyful schizophrenia at play on this album is demonstrated by what comes next, the stomp-and-grind "Dead & Rising" with its hoarsely shouted vocals and warbled, tortured guitar lead, calling out for air guitar in the worst way.

Let us not ignore the pop sensibilities, as they say, evident in songs like "Everything's Real." That the hummable lyrics give way to crashing power chords and a nightmare of tolling bells is just a bonus. Then there's "Something in the Air," a cover song (of Thunderclap Newman? Okay, Wayne, whatever) sporting rough yet heartfelt vocals and one of those ultra-compressed, perfect Rogers guitar solos.

"Wonder" is rock'n'roll the way it's supposed to be, and a song that most of today's garage kiddies should school themselves with. The power and passion are refreshing indeed. Later, check out the combination of pretty chiming and sheer fun during the lead break in "There" not to mention the catchy overall melody. And the energy of the careening, typhoon-borne guitars in "As of Yesterday" concludes the album's journey in fine style, as a repeating chord and tremolo-fed lead fade into the night.

Apparently the songs that make up Constant Displacement weren't originally planned for release, but instead as experiments and outlets for Rogers. I have a feeling that the sheer fun and freewheeling here is tied directly to the freedom that accompanies recording for oneself. That the results are joyous and not self-indulgent, however, owes everything to the talent and vision of the artist. Bravo.

By Mason Jones

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