[Updated] Michael Patrick Welch wrote our December cover story on Ratty Scurvics, and he thought the back half of In Time sounded like classic rock. I’d suggest a slight variation on that, that it sounds like what people wish classic rock sounded like. The big rock guitars have power, but they remain harsher, leaner, and less bulky than their ‘70s brethren. Scurvics’ hooks in those songs are big and immediate, but he doesn’t level the forest until the hook is the only thing standing. A lot that people like about classic rock can be heard in In Time, but one won’t be mistaken for the other.
Unlike classic rock, Scurvics and producer John Porter don’t clearly prioritize the guitar and voice above everything else. Instead, there’s a more punk, egalitarian vibe in the mix, so Scurvics’ voice is mixed lower—not equal to the other instruments, but not clearly in front of them either. Textures that define mood and brass blasts that create energy take their turns in the spotlight, creating a sonic world more than a backing track for a thought.
In Time is unequivocally theatrical, but I can’t put the narrative together if there is one. For me, though, that’s to Scurvics’ benefit. A clear, definite story limits the songs, how much they can say and how they relate to each other. Here, there’s a strong sense of hope and desperation, desire and fear, joy and anxiety—all common emotions that allow these songs to speak outside the confines of a narrative (if one exists) and give his songs a place in New Orleans today as much as any fictional or historical setting.
In ways, In Time is a marvel coming from someone who played as a one-man band in that he orchestrates and arranges a rich musical palate well. There are few solo breaks or instrumental spaces in these songs—possibly a product of one-man band time as well—and with all the high-intensity musical, vocal and lyrical drama, some space would be nice. The wordless tracks—particularly the lovely “Organarily”—are welcome because they provide an element of respite in addition to their other charms, but some space in the songs themselves would give them additional definition.
In Time is an album with big emotions and big performances. Guest vocalist Meschiya Lake holds her own among a fanfare of horns when commanding “Touch it Now,” and Scurvics sings “Isn’t it Sweet?” as if the title thought were a precious revelation. At every level In Time is high-intensity stuff, and it’s clearly the product of a thought-out vision. Despite the cover art, it’s a warm, human place that merits further exploration.
Updated January 5, 4:33 p.m.
In Time was released on Upperninth Records, not Rookery Records as initially reported. The text has been changed to reflect the correction.