Walt McClements gets direct on his new Lonesome Leash EP, "I Am No Captain."

Photo of Walt McClements as Lonesome Leash

Walt McClements clearly has a restless streak, and one musical project is never enough. He has been a part of Hurray for the Riff Raff, and he put Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship? on hiatus and left the Panorama Jazz Band to join Minneapolis' Dark Dark Dark. He is currently committed to that band, but it hasn't stopped him from releasing a new EP under the name Lonesome Leash, and he plays a CD-release show for I Am No Captain tonight at the AllWays Lounge.

I hear this as McClements' punk rock record, aggressive as a matter of course starting with an extended feedback solo that leads to the accordion and looped percussion-based "Riddle." Throughout, the abrasive texture of his accordion is emphasized as he saws out chords with the relentlessness of Johnny Ramone. That doesn't mean that McClements has forsaken the theatricality of his music, nor has he left behind the waltzes, tangos and less rock 'n' roll musical forms, but like Quintron - whose work I Am No Captain brings to mind - he strips it all down to the crucial elements until it's wonderfully direct.

As punk as it is, the EP avoids the musical monotone punk can slip into. Instruments and parts filter into and out of songs to add richness and impact. In the jittery "Pelican," McClements sings that "this place is poisoning your days" before adding a high, droning keyboard? horn? feedback? to swell the drama of the chorus and the bridge to an ecstatic crescendo before returning to the riff.

Despite all of the aggression, I still hear McClements' central concern in I Am No Captain. His songs always play for me like the dance band at the edge of moment when everything's about to go to shit, and his primary lyrical concern is to connect with one person before it all goes down. The title track articulates the sense of being out of control, and in such a world, he focuses on the micro, not the macro, "They'll fade away / because we don't need them / or they'll fade away / because we don't want them anymore," he sings. It's a romantic vision - the against-all-hope importance of the individual - and McClements gift is make those songs connect that sentiment today with all the eras in the past when people have felt the same.