Is Torn Hawk (a.k.a. Luke Wyatt) serious? This is a fair question of a producer who has given us tracks like "Put That Crotchless Thing on and Save My Life," and now, an album with an equally ridiculous name, Let's Cry and Do Pushups at the Same Time. There is a theme of corroded masculinity at the heart of Wyatt's work, both as a video artist and apparent body sculptor. In images, he often subverts his good looks with a bit of VHS glitch. On Let's Cry, he attempts to do something similar with his music, imbuing what is essentially melodic post rock with some busted percussion and slightly outsider moves.
This should be Wyatt's moment. Coming to a kind of underground prominence with his 12"s for L.I.E.S., he became the hypnagogic pop auteur of Ron Morelli's roster, and his video work has been equally impressive, often coming off as hilarious, sad, and nostalgic, all at the same time. The resulting groundswell of recognition prompted Mexican Summer to pull out its checkbook, and now, Let's Cry has arrived. The LP strips away a bit of the lo-fi grime of his previous releases, although Wyatt's ideas don't always hold up to the increase in clarity.
Where earlier efforts, such as "Tarifa" from his debut 12", offered mutant Balearic grooves, Wyatt has since become obsessed with somewhat aimless guitar solos. Opener "I'm Flexible" recalls The Books' polite avant-electronica, only Wyatt has slathered the track with major-chord guitar ambling. However, not all of his guitar work here runs the risk of falling into cloying, Explosions in the Sky territory; "Return to Pec Deck" finds Wyatt dropping a purposefully out-of-tune synth line under an omnipresent pretty, chorused guitar. It's an excellent track, one that hits its rhythm with an excellent synth lead, keeping things propulsive with an ingenious, syncopated outro.
The best material here, such as the wobbly John Carpenter jammer "Under Wolf Rule," seems well suited for the cliched "movie of the week" scene where a loner hero motorbikes off into a mirage of desert blacktop. The leads on "Afterprom" are similarly visual, evoking youthful ennui while sounding like a bizarre version of New Order. Speaking of Factory, Wyatt's guitar squalls are often compared to the work of Vini Reilly, a reserved player whose solos on Durutti Column records are always subtle and tasteful. Torn Hawk can play like that, and has in the past, but too often, Let's Cry sounds like freeform jamming over a fucked-up drum loop.
Let's Cry, like all Torn Hawk releases, is a glimpse into a singular world informed by VHS detritus, Krautrock, and post-punk formatives. It's modern outsider pop from a dude who's obsessed with the visual language of '80s action movies, but is also seemingly aware of the diminishing value of the masculine ideal (as laid out in Susan Faludi's 1999 book Stiffed). The music, too, is brash yet sensitive, but much of Let's Cry is neither out there nor polished enough to completely work. There's no question that Torn Hawk is carving his own, art-damaged lane, but unfortunately, Let's Cry is not the defining statement of his aesthetic.