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Pop/Rock - Released February 10, 2009 | Capitol Records

Wall of Voodoo's second full-length album, Call of the West, was a noticeably more approachable work than their debut, Dark Continent, and it even scored a fluke hit single, "Mexican Radio," a loopy little number about puzzled American tourists that's easily the catchiest thing on the album. But while Wall of Voodoo's textures had gotten a bit less abrasive with time, the band's oddball minor-key approach was still a long way from synth pop, and frontman Stan Ridgway's songs were Americana at it's darkest and least forgiving, full of tales of ordinary folks with little in the way of hopes or dreams, getting by on illusions that seem more like a willful denial of the truth the closer you get to them. There's a quiet tragedy in the ruined suburbanites of "Lost Weekend" and the emotionally stranded working stiff of "Factory," and the title song, which follows some Middle American sad sack as he chases a vague and hopeless dream in California, is as close as pop music has gotten to capturing the bitter chaos of the final chapter of Nathaniel West's The Day of the Locust. In other words, anyone who bought Call of the West figuring it would feature another nine off-kilter pop tunes like "Mexican Radio" probably recoiled in horror by the time they got to the end of side two. But there's an intelligence and wounded compassion in the album's gallery of lost souls, and there's enough bite in the music that it remains satisfying two decades on. Call of the West is that rare example of a new wave band scoring a fluke success with what was also their most satisfying album. ~ Mark Deming
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 10, 2009 | Capitol Records

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Pop/Rock - Released February 10, 2009 | Capitol Records

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Pop/Rock - Released February 10, 2009 | Capitol Records

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Pop/Rock - Released February 10, 2009 | I.R.S. Records

Wall of Voodoo's Seven Days in Sammystown was the work of a radically different band than the one that gave the world "Mexican Radio" and its classic parent album Call of the West just a few years earlier. This was the first album by the post-Stan Ridgway lineup, and featured a new lead singer in Andy Prieboy, as well as a more conventional (but first-rate) drummer named Ned Leukhardt in place of drum-machines-and-pots-and-pans player Joe Nanini. Rounding out the new lineup were returning Call of the West-era members Marc Moreland (guitars) and Chas T. Gray (keyboards), along with Marc's brother Bruce Moreland (bass), who had played with the band in the early years. Unfortunately, by choosing to stick with the band name Wall of Voodoo, certain expectations were set up about how the record would sound -- Nanini and especially Ridgway were very distinctive performers -- and Seven Days in Sammystown often fails to deliver on these expectations. The album does get off to a memorable start with "Far Side of Crazy," a disturbing examination of an unrepentant serial killer (and a song that rather surprisingly became a minor hit in Australia). But after that, it's an uneven ride, as the band either tries too hard to deliver Ridgway-esque pulp-fiction inspired narratives that end up sounding somewhat self-conscious ("This Business of Love," "Big City"), or else Ian Broudie's production becomes a little too slick and ruins the intended dark mood. There are a few highlights, though, particularly Prieboy's frantic rant "Room With a View"; a reverent re-interpretation of the classic miners' lament "Dark as a Dungeon"; and the kitschy but touching "(Don't Spill My) Courage," the story of a paraplegic who refuses to use his religious faith as a crutch. Also, for longtime Wall of Voodoo fans, underappreciated guitarist Marc Moreland is allowed to step to the fore on several cuts and show off his skill at both old-style Western picking and modern electronic dissonance and distortion. If Wall of Voodoo had decided to change their name and reinvent themselves as a "new" band, Seven Days in Sammystown might have been considered their promising, if flawed, debut. Sadly, however, the band decided to stick with the Wall of Voodoo brand name -- meaning that Seven Days in Sammystown wound up as merely a minor artifact in the Wall of Voodoo catalog. ~ Rudyard Kennedy
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Rock - Released November 15, 2011 | Concord Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 10, 2009 | Capitol Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 10, 2009 | Capitol Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 10, 2009 | Capitol Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 10, 2009 | Capitol Records

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Pop/Rock - Released February 10, 2009 | Capitol Records

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Pop/Rock - Released February 10, 2009 | Capitol Records

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Pop/Rock - Released February 10, 2009 | I.R.S. Records

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Pop/Rock - Released February 10, 2009 | I.R.S. Records

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Rock - Released July 24, 2006 | Ryko - Rhino

The Index Masters chronicles the early years of Wall of Voodoo, digitizing the group's debut self-titled EP, The Morricone Themes (appearing here under a different title), from their Ring of Fire 12", and nine live tracks from the same concert at which The Morricone Themes was recorded. The live recordings from 1979 include songs that later appeared on Dark Continent, as well as a very early performance of "Tomorrow" from Call of the West. The package includes lyrics to the first six tracks, an early concert review, and a thorough reproduction of the EP's original artwork. A couple of the live tracks ("End of an Era" and "Invisible Man") are particularly interesting because they are compositions that have not otherwise been released. The Index Masters is a collector's dream, but a little uneven despite the presence of their classic version of "Ring of Fire." ~ Greg Adams