Home Read Albums Of The Week: Broken Gold | Wild Eyes

Albums Of The Week: Broken Gold | Wild Eyes

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Ian MacDougall has lived many musical lives. The Texas native spent his 20s and 30s playing guitar in the popular Denton act The Riverboat Gamblers, was a member of Band Of Horses for five years (including performing on their 2022 album Things Are Great), and has toured the world with the Gamblers and as a hired gun for several notable punk bands.

However, for the past 15 years, the most distilled version of his musical vision has been Broken Gold, an act that sees him turning down the distortion and stretching out as a songwriter to carefully craft a sound that has more in common with Hüsker Dü than Discharge. After releasing a handful of EPs and live recordings, the band have just released their second album Wild Eyes, a collection of songs that transcend categorization and showcase what a versatile and evolved musician MacDougall has become over the past two decades as he performed everywhere from punk squats to festival mainstages. The constant is the honesty and vulnerability in both MacDougall’s DIY ethics and approach to music, facts that are laid bare on every note of Wild Eyes.

“A lot of these songs were written when I was playing in Band Of Horses; Ben (Bridwell) and I were working on demos and when we parted ways I was like ‘Well, I have all these songs,’ ” MacDougall explains. “Broken Gold was always something that I could only spend time doing when I was off from a touring job and at home — and suddenly I had a year where I could finally really focus on getting an album together after putting out a string of EPs.”

Photo by Dave Creaney.

MacDougall, currently based in Austin, was able to solidify the new lineup for the band — bassist Bobby Daniel (Alejandro Escovedo), guitarist Ben Lance (Mountain Time) and drummer Sam Rich (Del-Vipers, Black Books) — as well as Grammy-winning producer Stuart Sikes (White Stripes, Walkmen), who manned the mixing board for these sessions. “I was nervous because initially I’d only booked two days in the studio and I thought maybe we’d get two or three songs done and we knocked out the first six and really focused on those from the get-go. From there I basically started just writing songs, and some songs like Bad Days were written right before they were recorded.”

The natural chemistry of the band and lack of stress-inducing deadlines are evident in the carefree nature of the recording, which showcases the members’ technical skill while still giving the songs plenty of space to breathe. (The album’s sonic power was also aided from a stellar mastering job by Howie Weinberg, who also mastered Nirvana’s landmark 1991 album Nevermind.) From the Westerbergian infectiousness of Clouds to the expertly arranged ballad Looking Up (which, along with Bad Days, features vocals from Escovedo) and guitar grandeur of Be There Now, Wild Eyes sees MacDougall moving forward musically as he takes a more expansive view of the experiences that brought him to this point in his life.

That said, you don’t have to have worked a part-time job bartending on the weekends in order to relate to the sentiment of songs like Spiraling. “That song is about the way that as musicians, we have to find so many other ways to make ends meet,” he explains. That sentiment is also present on Fault, which sees MacDougall opening with the couplet: “Feeling like the living dead / The dream had died within my head.” Much of Wild Eyes is about how that dream isn’t always as glamorous as it seems, but if you look hard enough there is a beauty in the mundanity of it all.

Photo by Dave Creaney.

While previous Broken Gold fan favorites like Turning Blue don’t sound too far removed from the songs on Wild Eyes, listening to the album as a whole there is a sense that these songs are coming from a different perspective than MacDougall has written from in the past. The stakes feel higher and with the gain backed off, there is a vulnerability to these songs that instantly gives the listener a feeling of familiarity.

“With this record, I really felt like I needed to prove something,” MacDougall explains. “I feel like I had a lot to go back and write about the last decade of my life that I hadn’t done in the past. I also wanted to really invest in myself since I’m the main songwriter and singer for this band, which is a different role than I’ve had in a lot of previous projects. I was so busy being in other bands or working for other bands that I had no chance to catch up with myself for a long time.”

That sense of self-inquiry lies at the root of Wild Eyes — and is what makes it such a powerful artistic statement. It may not sound exactly like MacDougall’s previous projects, but there’s nothing contrived or half-realized on Wild Eyes. In a world of viral singles, it’s a cohesive album that could only be created by someone who has dedicated his life to making art in an unfiltered and authentic way.”