West End Motel is back with a new single, titled “New Wave Kid,” a wistful song that frontman Tom Cheshire calls the group’s “positive jam for dark times.”
In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I released West End Motel’s first 7-inch via Ponce de Leon Records back in 2008; a four-song EP featuring “Oh I’m On My Way” and “There’s Gotta Be More To This Life” b/w “Under My Skin” and “Women Come and Go.”
Really, though, West End Motel is a much different band these days from what it was back then, and it has been for a good long while. In the beginning, Tom Cheshire and Brent Hinds played and recorded as a wooly and red-eyed pair of poets, songwriters, and troubadours suspended in the aspic of Atlanta when the sun goes down—a derelict version of the city that no longer exists.
Hinds brought to the project a lifetime of experience playing parties, house shows, and stages large and small in bands such as hardcore outfit Four Hour Fogger, spectral surf rockers Fiend Without A Face, and the almighty Mastodon. Cheshire was the Atlanta by-way-of-Queens, New York statesman of punk rock singing the Rent Boys and All Night Drug Prowling Wolves’ songs about love and brotherhood, penned on whiskey-soaked napkins.
West End Motel, however, was something different. Their weird and tender acoustic songs—as though they were discovering their sound during loose, late-night recording sessions—found both Hinds and Cheshire bearing their hearts and souls in disarmingly unguarded sentiments. The vocal and guitar melodies teemed with beauty, depression, elation, and wisdom gained from hitting rock bottom and pulling yourself back up to face the sun one more time.
Since releasing that original 7-inch, the group has released three albums, toggling between major label offshoots with 2011’s Don’t Shiver, You’re A Winner (Rocket Science Ventures) and 2012’s Only Time Can Tell (Alternative Distribution Alliance) before taking matters into their own hands and self-releasing 2017’s Bad With Names, Good With Faces. The group’s personnel has expanded as well, incorporating Hinds’ Fiend Without A Face cohorts—bass player Stiff Penalty and drummer Troy King, along with a few other players.
As the story goes, “New Wave Kid” was born when Cheshire and Ben Thrower went into Audio Oasis in Bristol, Tennessee with producer Matt Smile. Cheshire sang and Thrower crafted the song’s rhythms and melodies on an acoustic guitar. They sent the song to Jeff Bakos in Atlanta where Stiff Penalty added bass and King added drums. Will Raines added majestic keys from his home in Brooklyn. Then they sent it to West End Sound where Tom Tapley recorded Hinds and Brian Kincheloe’s guitar parts, and Ben Davis’ saxophone and bells.
The result is a sterling trip down memory lane rising from layers of lush pub rock melodies and what is, perhaps, the most evocative vocal delivery of Cheshire’s career.
“New Wave Kid” is a catchy number that’s branded with intoxicating musical motions that crystallize all of West End Motel’s influences—Pogues-esque punk and rock ‘n’ roll, The Band’s roughly-hewn stride, power pop, and blue-eyed soul—into a stylish hybrid that’s tailored to Cheshire’s husky voice, which telegraphs so much of the band’s character.
The song is part of a larger work in progress. The plan is to drop a new single at the beginning of each month for the next six months. After that, they’ll turn around the fourth proper West End Motel full-length album. In the meantime, “New Wave Kid” feels like a watershed moment for the group’s ever-growing movement from ramshackle magic to a deliberate and stylish sound and vision.