Nightcrawler Label: Columbia/Red Ink Records
Touted as the third in a career-opening trilogy and preceded by the fabulous debut Musicforthemorningafter and equally-worthy Day I Forgot, Pete Yorn’s Nightcrawler drops with high expectations, and for very good reason. Yorn’s immensely talented knack for crooning the perfect power-pop song (see “Life on a Chain” and “Come Back Home”) had critics dubbing him the next Bruce Springsteen while still in his early 20s, no mere coincidence since he hails from south Jersey. But Nightcrawler falls flat, plain and simple, proof of how difficult this singer/songwriter/producer business really is.
It could be argued that dumping R. Walt Vincent, who had such a vital hand in creating the first two records, in favor of a revolving door of producers and collaborators did little to benefit Yorn. For the first time in his brief yet glowing pursuit he delivers a handful of disposable songs. Listless and drab bombs like "Same Thing" and "Broken Bottle" suck most the life out of this record. "The Man," a twangy, mandolin-soaked exercise in harmonizing with Dixie Chicks Natalie Maines and Martie Maguire, is at least interesting, but it doesn't rescue Nightcrawler from its rut. Butch Walker and Dave Grohl can't even save Yorn here, although "For Us," with Grohl pounding the skins, is the closest thing to a legitimate rock n' roll moment.
A well-done cover of Warren Zevon’s “Splendid Isolation” is tucked in the second half of the disc, amongst otherwise mediocre mid-tempo entries like “Alive” (which is anything but) and “Bandstand in the Sky,” a regular in his live shows for years. “Ice Age” won’t help him shake the “Pete Yawn” tag either, and “Georgie Boy” sounds like something that escaped a New Order album.
Does it seem like these songs are all over the place? Well, they are. After repeated listens it gets more challenging to categorize the sum of Nightcrawler. It’s as if Yorn opted for experimentation over content, which is okay unless your goal is a three-part rock opera. In the end, had these first three Yorn discs been released in reverse order, with Nightcrawler as the debut, it might seem a better outing. The grading curve is so steep for Yorn, however, because his past work warrants it. It’s his own fault: we know he can do much better.