Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect, as well as giving a brief overview of the music itself. We’re taking a look at all six of the Vic Chesnutt reissues recently released on New West Records, one at a time. For part three of the series, we’re looking at Chesnutt’s 1993 album ‘Drunk’
When faced with the imminent creation of his third album, Vic Chesnutt clearly decided the best course of action was to continue the trend of stylistic growth set by his previous two efforts and to go in a new direction with the album that became 1993’s ‘Drunk’. Where ‘Little’ was stripped back and tender and ‘West Of Rome’ was deeply textured and ambitious, ‘Drunk’ scaled back the eccentricities to some degree and focused on a tauter, more rock-centric sound that favoured propulsive riffs and studious drums over the ebbing inflections of earlier work. It’s a shift in tone perhaps best represented by album opener ‘Sleeping Man’ – energetic and deeply immediate it’s about as close to a singalong as Chesnutt ever got; so much so that it stands as the only song in his whole career deemed catchy enough to be released as a 7″ single. While the shift in pace worked well – the snarling aggro of the title track was a highlight of the album – Chesnutt wisely mixed more typical material into the album.
The gorgeous ‘Supernatural’ ranks amongst his most beautifully understated material, a lyrically intriguing and deeply melodic beauty of a song that, alongside the eerie grace of ‘One Of Many’, only gains impact from the stark contrast in which they sit next to the album’s more rambunctious material. Although perhaps not quite the outright classic that ‘West Of Rome’ remains, ‘Drunk’ is certainly a worthy follow-up and another reliably idiosyncratic entry into Chesnutt’s discography.
Like most the other releases in New West Records 2017 reissue series, ‘Drunk’ is based on the 2004 CD re-release from the same label. That means that not only is audio remastered but that the album includes a remarkably generous 13 bonus tracks, bringing the runtime up from just shy of 40 minutes to a little over 70. The remaster on the album is fantastic and really brings a sense of clarity and auditory precision to it. Throughout the record, individual instruments pop and shimmer in the mix – the bass on ‘Sleeping Man’ jumps out of the mix with a metallic zing and the ghostly guitars of ‘Supernatural’ murmur with unworldly ease.
The pressing itself is excellent and really lives up to the quality of the album’s sonics. There’s no surface noise here and no flaws on our copy at all – not even the odd pop or crackle. Like the other reissues in the series, ‘Drunk’s LPs have solidity and weight behind them, weighing in at around 180g. While the weight of the pressing doesn’t directly affect sound quality, there’s no denying that there’s something very satisfying about the tangible weight of a heavy LP and they’re typically less prone to static than lighter LPs – although to a some degree that’s dependent upon how well they’re pressed and stored. Either way, the discs here look great and sound just as good, also sitting nice and flat on the platter during playback.
The packaging and presentation on this 2017 reissue of ‘Drunk’ is sumptuous – a clear labour-of-love from those involved. The album’s visual presentation is eye-catching and clean, with the album art well printed onto a nice quality sleeve. One possible point of contention is the decision to use the reissue cover art – the original pressing of ‘Drunk’ featured different art to the one seen here (first found on the 2004 CD reissue) and, whilst some purists may argue the merits of keeping the original art in tact, we think the reissue sleeve is actually a far better and more striking image – so for that alone, full marks go to the label for opting to choose the more interesting cover. The spine and labels keep up the good show with a thematically appropriate vivid red colour scheme which looks great and gives the whole package a vibrant visual flair.
Also included is a nice quality fold out insert featuring not only lyrics to the full album – bonus cuts included – but a short essay on the album from Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye, as well as some imposing imagery relating to the album including an early, mooted album cover. Bonus points also go to the label for including good quality polylined inner sleeves with this release rather than the cheaper paper ones often found on new reissues.
‘Drunk’ is another exuberantly individualistic album from Vic Chesnutt; it’s as wildly unpredictable and frequently exhilarating as his career was as a whole – and this New West Records reissue provides a great platform to hear the album. Both LPs sound great, the bonus tracks are very worthwhile (a particular standout is Chesnutt’s rendition of the Bob Dylan’s highly underrated ‘I Dreamed I Saw Saint Augustine’) and the visual presentation ties the package together very well indeed.