If asked, I don’t think Mike O’Neill would ever admit to being an elder statesman of East Coast rock n’ roll. I mean, he still happily plays the same clubs, but when you hear the career spanning Wild Lines, you can’t help but embrace the depth of his talent.
This record, technically, took four years to get just right but it was a lifetime in the making. I realize how sensational that statement is, but there’s no other way to accurately describe the output. O’Neill refused to rush the writing or recording, and when asked why he simply replied, “because it had to be the best one yet.”
Wild Lines is a mature beast, one that speaks quietly but confidently. O’Neill and his all-star backing band offer stupendous pop hooks that haven’t been stolen from an older brother’s record collection or a popular sound. No, these melodies have been developed through a lifetime of experience and appreciation. O’Neill helped define the Halifax Pop Explosion sound years ago as a part of The Inbreds and reminded us it was OK to get loud when he and a collection of musical vets formed The Lodge, but even with that pedigree and catalog, the professionalism of Wild Lines is shocking.
Wild Lines is defined by perfectly paced hints of paisley psychedelia, airy 70′s pop and propulsive guitar riffs, but it’s O’Neill’s sharp pen that transforms the syrupy collection of pop nuggets into a lasting experience. Whether he’s documenting a strange dream, childhood nostalgia and getting older, Mike’s lyrics are straightforward and powerful, without ever becoming flowery.
I connect with so many moments on Wild Lines, especially as I get older and take stock of my life. When he offers advice to the younger crowd on “Tidy Up” (“It’s not enough to do what your told/no one tells you when your tired and old”) or takes a pause and effortlessly transports us to our childhood on “Don’t Forget to Breath”, you realize O’Neill isn’t trying to rekindle the recklessness of youth. This record isn’t about the freedom of unlimited potential, it’s about the benefits of growing up and still loving who you are and what you do.
Musicians should learn from O’Neill’s dedication and perseverance. So often pop music is vapid and soulless but Mike puts everything he has into his work and the simple admission he offers up on “Overtime” should resonate with everyone, and make them question why they do what they do. “You can say it didn’t matter, but it matters to me.” If it doesn’t, you need to reevaluate your current place of employment, your relationships and why you get out of bed each and every day.
MP3:: Mike O’Neill - Henry