Craig Dermody, the brains behind Scott and Charlene’s Wedding, has been quite busy for the past year. Any Port in Any Storm marks the garage rocker’s third release in less than year, following up an LP named Para Vista Social Club and an EP named Two Weeks. The sheer volume of material Dermody’s released lately is impressive, yet I’m beginning to fear diminishing returns. The latest from Scott and Charlene’s Wedding falls in line with Two Weeks: it possesses few glaring problems, yet the general unremarkable quality of some of the songs stands out as its weakness.
From the beginning, Dermody’s influences are pronounced. The sound of Pavement and Sebadoh pervade much of this record, and Dermody makes his adoration for these stylistic forebears clear from the first track. On “Junk Shop” he throws raw vocals over a guitar-laden background. This opener works in that it sets a perfect pace, casual enough to seem like a loose jam, but tight enough to sound controlled and concise. Unfortunately, “Lesbian Wife” feels messy by comparison. Although Dermody isn’t necessarily striving for sharp, next-level lyricism, the phrasing just feels stilted and takes away from an otherwise pretty song. “Keep on keepin’ on,” sings Dermody, “is my favorite song. That’s what I do, even when I’m wrong.” It’s a fine sentiment, but the clumsiness takes away from what he’s attempting to achieve emotionally. “1993,” makes frequent allusions to the 1993 NBA Finals. I guess such an esoteric reference shouldn’t come as a surprise from a musical project named after a wedding on a soap opera that happened in 1987, and the reference here works well. Much of the album deals in fairly straightforward epiphanies: the Bulls winning the championships in 1993 showed Dermody that anything was possible, New York is confusing, it’s time to stop drinking, etc. Such a casual tone shows that Dermody isn’t trying too hard, yet a little more depth and subtlety could have given these songs more emotional resonance.
Dermody hits a tonal sweet spot on “Wild Heart,” the album’s closer. Dermody doesn’t need to be commanding to come across as sincerely lovelorn, imbuing the song with strong songwriting and an emotional vocal performance. The strings only make it more full and haunting. “Wild Heart” leaves Dermody with a nice direction in which to point his next next release, and testifies to his talent ‒ even if it isn’t always on full display across Any Port in Any Storm’s eleven tracks.