The Little Wretches release new LP

The decades-long career of Pittsburgh’s Little Wretches comes into play in their new album Undesirables and Anarchists. Not very many bands can claim the longevity and binding lyrics like this band can – and the man behind the lyrics and at the helm is Robert Wagner. Ferocious with his guitar, the lyrical content on the 12-tracks balance the line between inward poems and tall tales. Craving some good honey-dipped guitar riffs and punk-like delivery? Look no further than Undesirables and Anarchists.


Zig zagging the listener through a myriad of themes and symbolism, Wagner fetches songs that are heavily guitar driven. In the opening track, “Silence (Has Made A Liar Out Of Me)” the punchy guitar opens the listener to a horizon stretched with Wagner’s every-man voice. He might just be Pittsburgh’s version of Bruce Springsteen. The fluidity in his lyrics aren’t the same on the surface, but after a few listens, the doors seem to creek wider and wider. He sings from the heart and in songs like “I Rather Would go” he scatters a common phrase. At first he sounds askew. If you grow up in the shadow, he sings with pride and a life lesson learned. He sounds more frenzied in this track, more on a mission.

In the song “Morning” Wagner sounds more virtuous. He’s vulnerable. I was beguiled, dreams never so wild, he aches. The guitar crunches under his voice, like the snow under boots on a winter’s day. There are a bit bright pops – like synth keys. The guitar arrangement and bass shapes create a nod to the R.E.M. sound. The rumbling percussion and fast-tempo guitar continues with the catchy “Who Is America”. The guitar hook is just as memorable, taking a cue from Modern English (“Melt With You”) this song is hard to hold on…it just goes! The drum work really catches fire, and the tap-along guitar sparks. You’re up in the morning and down in the dirt, you’re five minutes late and they don’t want to hear it, Wagner sings. When he draws out the who in the chorus, it’s eerily infectious.


Serving as an intermission, “Someday” features looping harmonies of Wagner and a female vocalist, Rosa Colucci. It’s quick, but head turning. Then, the bass-heavy “All Of My Friends” is a bit of tall tale and finally features the line all of my friends are on lists of undesirables and anarchists, giving the listener an extra reason to cheer for discovering the album’s title source. It’s a fun track, and the guitar pops with folk heavy riffs. In the wah-wah-wah guitar kicker “Ballad of Johnny Blowtorch” Wagner sings of a legend. You want to be me, he sings with a bit more angst. Finally, in a spaghetti-western guitar toned ballad, “Running (Was The Only Thing To Do), a Colucci (the band calls her Rosa Rocks) closes out the album. I wasn’t made of steel….running was the only thing to do, so I ran, she sings. Her voice is like a marigold and scarlet – fire and ice. She sings with sensitivity and can belt it out like it’s her last night on stage. That’s the thing about Undesirables and Anarchists – these songs are the Little Wretches giving it their all.

Michael Rand

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