Little Wretches is a Pittsburgh rock band founded by frontman and chief songwriter Robert Wagner. In the 1980’s/90s the band were at the forefront of the Pittsburgh underground music scene. They went through various line up changes across their lengthy career, starting out as a folk/punk duo then over time developing into the rock band that became hugely popular in the Pittsburgh scene. A third incarnation of the group recorded two albums together and they eventually disbanded in the late 1990’s.
This song, The Ballad Of Johnny Blowtorch, is taken from the 2001 album
Undesirables & Anarchists, which Robert Wagner has only recently released after it having been locked away in the archives for twenty years. The track is a blazing piece of rock ‘n roll, fueled by a raging wall of electric guitars and pounding drums.
Wagner has the authentic, distinctive voice necessary for rock, giving a vocal performance full of verve and attitude. Equally spirited is the music behind him channeling the fierce energy of the punk era bands like The Ramones with the gritty guitar sound of the great garage bands like The Velvet Underground and The Stooges, the former a noted influence on theirs.
Based around a simple but very effective low end guitar riff, it develops into a sonic juggernaut with strummed acoustic guitar and, towards the end, piano filling out the sound perfectly. The dynamics, backing harmonies and the call & response vocals on the final verse all add to the addictive nature of the song that remains compelling from the first second to the last.
Overall, this is an incendiary rock track full of passion that has been released from the band’s archives, much to our gain. Robert Wagner is a gem of a songwriter, fusing punk spirit with rock ‘n roll sass and cool. The result is a hugely enjoyable Little Wretches classic that should be treasured forever now that it’s been unearthed.
VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10
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