Of no real surprise, it's hard to make it in Portland. Perhaps only Brooklyn rivals the Rose City in terms of musical anti-myopia. Yet, the opposite side of that unapologetically sharp sword is named inspiration, and the Wanteds know full well how not to get cut. The three-piece act is hot off its upcoming sophomore release, Failure Looks So Good, a cauldron of crisp, well-behaved grunge and loose-cannon lyrics. Captain Tommy Harrington chimes from the gut, liable to nearly overpower the band in a way Charlie Campbell once did for Pond.
Admitting that it's tougher at home than on the road, Harrington is fond of his scenario. "It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking nobody is going to notice you," he says. "Touring always has a funny way of connecting you with lots and lots of new people who dig your music while also reminding you of how great you have it at home." "Pretty plush" is the phrase he prefers in capturing Portland.
Harrington is a student of Dave Grohl's professorial influence, someone he finds resilient and truly admirable. And like any good pupils, the Wanteds reflect those that paved the landscape before them, sounding hauntingly Foo Fighters-esque on the robust and ringing new track, "Ladysmith." The album at large is an exercise in naked implicitness, recorded on 2-inch tape with little to no afterthought or overdubs. "All we wanted was to record these songs very quickly, raw energy and all," Harrington says.
Perhaps the most respectable trait of the Wanteds is the audible realization evident in their playing. Onetime worriers over the lack of electro in their sound—something Harrington sees as a municipal trend—the lads have settled into a groove that's both an homage to early '90s rock and lust-ridden songwriting. There's an assuredness that comes along with bassist Ryan Mullen and drummer Adam Mack that Harrington lacked when the band was just him.
Sept. 19 marks the band's CD release show, and next month the trio will embark on a concentrated, week-and-a-half-long West Coast tour. They'll step outside the musically overeducated Portland bubble, turn a few heads, but come crawling back. Because, as Harrington says, this city is tightly knit and challenging. Precisely what a self-described "little, unhip" band needs.
The Wanteds play Friday, Sept. 19, at Mount Tabor Legacy.