How Could We Lose When We're So Sincere? We don't think you can.
With musical influences that enhance original songs, the new Anthony Worden and the Illiterati album "How Could We Lose When We're So Sincere?" is prime fall listening for the musically literate and honest fan.
The standard question for songwriters/musicians is "Who are your influences?" Sure, it's a predictable question, but as listeners we really are interested in the process of creation and what might have gone into that process.
When I hosted a live performance by Iowa City's Anthony Worden and the Illiterati a couple of years ago on IPR's Studio One, Worden singled out Lou Reed as an influence. That fact provided some insight into Worden's music, as did the seeming nod to Elvis Costello in the opening riff of the band's song "The Slightest Notion."
My enjoyment of music is somehow enhanced by hearing the influence of some other band or artist skillfully blended into something brand new. Similarly, I also enjoy a revelatory cover song, such as Worden's slow psych version of Gerry Rafferty's "Right Down the Line" which came out earlier this year.
There aren't any covers on the new Anthony Worden and the Illiterati album, "How Can We Lose When We're So Sincere?" And the record isn't stuffed to the gills with spot-the-influence homages, either. But there are some fun examples of exuberant influence blending.
Take the song "My Exploding Plastic Heart is Sweeter Than Reason." There's a musical phrase very reminiscent of the chorus of "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone," a song recorded most famously by The Monkees in 1966 (and a fine version by the Sex Pistols in 1979.) Plus some doo-wop vocals, screaming a la Little Richard or James Brown, lyrics sung in the manner of Ian Curtis of Joy Division, bits of Yellow Submarine-like British speech, and probably more.
Another album highlight is "Lost in the Fog of War." I love the steady snare beat that grabs your ears right from the get-go. In fact, the entire drum sound on this track is just great. It sounds to me like Prince is lurking around the edges of this song.
"How Long" is a funky horn-driven track with some tasty keyboard work by Avery Moss that leaves one wanting more. Elly Hofmaier (Penny Peach) is the featured vocalist on this one. She's also impressive on the full-on rocker "Execution." That song highlights some welcome guitar playing from Anthony Worden.
For contrast, "Nothing More" and "Sad Stories" strike me as having a 1970s "adult contemporary" vibe, with the latter featuring some nice horn parts including some trumpet and baritone sax.
"So Many People" is a keyboard-driven slow ballad. I also like the faster keyboard-driven "Jean," a track with some Elvis Costello (back again) in its DNA.
The influences are fun, but ultimately you just need good songs, and that's what you get on "How Can We Lose When We're So Sincere." It feels like Anthony Worden and the Illiterati are gathering momentum right now, and I'm already looking forward to what comes next!
There are limited editions of the new record for sale on vinyl, and you can download it on Bandcampor stream on your platform of choice.