Sometimes, you want to listen to a straight-forward rock record about broken relationships. And, with Leave It All Out There, singer/songwriter Peter Searcy delivers.
The album, out now on Louisville imprint Eastwood Records, presents the listener with seven tried-and-true musical vignettes about the mechanics of ending a romance. It’s not a song cycle, per se, not in the truest sense of the word, but, instead, a series of windows onto personal calamity. And, autobiographical or not, it happens to rock. Searcy, whose highly familiar means of belting out a tune has led bands like Squirrel Bait and Big Wheel, has a great handle on the material and presentation, peppering songs with great little vocal inflections and pristine pop lines like “She sucks the words off candy hearts/ And leaves them speechless in the dark,” the record’s opening couplet.
The most glowing moment on the record, though, might be the single “Better Lie,” where an addictive-as-candy chorus hook is accented by a high-in-the-mix, wailing guitar line. Searcy uses that guitar-line trick more than a handful of times on the record, the sustained single notes bending out a kind of harmony, and it sounds invigorating rather than predictable. Seven songs? Too short, my friend!
The record will appeal to fans of Frank Black (at his least angular) and Bob Mould, angry young men who morphed into seasoned songwriters during solo outings. (The Mould comparison is particularly apt, as Searcy’s Squirrel Bait got a big boost in the awareness department for its first record back in the mid-80s thanks to a Husker Du shout-out.) Searcy also shares his delivery, in a sense, with another punk-veteran-turned-rock-songwriter: Paul Westerberg. Again, this is capital-R Rock, with distorted, clangy and crunchy guitars and big, big choruses, not the textural punk of Squirrel Bait, but Searcy has been delivering it during a solo record dating back more than 10 years now and he clearly knows the terrain.
But, then there are the lyrics. They’re not poetry, sure sure, but Searcy has a way of playing with plain language and making it work on his behalf. So, we get “I don’t want to pull the Band-Aid any slower” and “There’s a sign that’s says cash for gold/ They can have my time but they can’t take my soul.” It’s more of a functional breed of lyricism than an illuminating one but, in the context of again, a big-R Rock record, it works and works well.
Near the record’s close is another gem, “Liar’s Lullaby,” where organ and punchy guitars line the verse and Searcy, who recently moved to Georgia, occasionally flashes his Louisville credentials. (He sings the word “deemed” as “dimmed” in that warm Lull-ville fashion.) The choruses on that song are big and rafter-shaking but the thing that sells it is the organ and Searcy’s delivery. That delivery is what keeps Leave It All Out There from being a kind of college-rock retread and instead standing out as a release worthy of attention by aficionados of big refrains.