Music Reviews
Cut Worms

Cut Worms Cut Worms

( Jagjaguwar) Rating - 8/10

Nearly three years after releasing their beautiful and sprawling double album Nobody Lives Here Anymore, Cut Worms (the project of Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Max Clarke) returns with another collection of sunny pop songs steeped deep in classic rock tradition (sweet harmonies, simple melodies, touches of folk and country spun into the arrangments.) What makes this album stand out is how much more scaled-back everything feels. For the recording process, Clarke opted for a more homegrown approach, foregoing big studios or big-name producers and instead turning to friends and collaborators for help. Cut Worms feels even looser because of it with the songs giving off a kind of carefree spirit. It's an equally beautiful album in its own right and, despite its compact nature, it doesn't feel rushed nor does it sacrifice the qualities that made Nobody Lives Here Anymore so good either.

Clarke continues to pull from the 60s rock playbook with the folk/country influence heavily present on Don't Fade Out, where Brian and Michael D’Addario of the Lemon Twigs add piano and bass. The result is a twangy pop gem that could fit comfortably on some 60s compilation just as easily as it could stand on its own in a modern sense. Outside of that, Clarke further mines the simple sweetness of 60s rock and pop on the gorgeous organ-drenched Take It and Smile and Ballad of the Texas King, with its touches of brass, organ, and lap pedal steel guitar invoking the cross- section of pop and folk.

Though social commentary occasionally creeps into the lyrics (Take it and Smile, Too Bad), Clarke mostly focuses on the struggles of love. On the hazy doo-wop of I'll Never Make It, he sings "I'll never make it/My eyes can’t see without you/I'll never make it/My mind can’t think without you" as if his life depended on it, and on Living Inside, he struggles with finding the confidence to approach someone that has caught his eye. It's the sweet simplicity that makes Cut Worms work so well in the absence of the character-driven stories that colored Nobody Lives Here Anymore. Trading them out for good old-fashioned love songs and playing to his strengths, Clarke has created another enjoyable Cut Worms album and one that is worth repeated listens.