Office Culture - A Life of Crime
out November 1, 2019
Listening to Office Culture’s 'A Life of Crime' is like walking into a beloved old bar in a neighborhood where you no longer live: the staff welcomes you warmly, the drinks are just as strong, but the place feels haunted somehow—and you can’t tell if the familiar old faces are the ghosts, or if you are. On the surface, it’s easy to slot Winston Cook-Wilson into the canon of songwriters like Donald Fagen, Warren Zevon, maybe even early Tom Waits: sardonic sometimes but not unsentimental, crafting scenes of rainy nights in the city and giving life to the lonely lovers and goodhearted scoundrels who populate them. Listen closer and you may detect hints of Joni Mitchell: in the jazz-inflected chords and melodies that flow like conversations, the way a personal detail might widen into a universal observation within the scope of a line. Go even deeper and you’ll find a deep devotion to classic song form, inherited from early-20th-century pop standards. Taken all together, the music combines the most impressionistic strains of American songwriting with the most carefully structured.
This description may be leading you to an image of a man alone at the piano, spinning out stories all evening, but that’s only half the picture. Office Culture the band—which features Ian Wayne on guitar and keyboards, Pat Kelly on drums, and Charlie Kaplan on bass—creates a sonic world that’s as rich and enveloping as the narratives themselves, drawing from the immaculate surfaces of ‘70s and ‘80s soft rock, the quiet intensity of Talk Talk, the chilly expanses of ECM jazz. In 2019, these sounds are pretty familiar to good record collectors, but they’ve never been combined in quite this way, or married to a set of songs so affecting and incisive. In 'A Life of Crime,' the party’s always winding down, “the balloons are clinging to the floor,” but you find yourself wanting to stay. There’s an ex-lover across the room who might be persuaded to rekindle the old flame, or at least humor you for a while. And in your lost and besotted current state, the sad songs playing over the speakers are the most beautiful music in the world.
-Andy Cush, friend of Office Culture