Fifteen minutes is a long time for a band to cram a lot of dumb ideas into one track, and when that happens, it’s usually a sport to come up with adjectives to describe the results (“bloated”, “pompous”, “unnecessary”).
Then there’s “Philadelphia,” the center point of Japanese quintet WINO’s fourth album, Everlast. The track is something of an anomaly for the band, the least of which is the lack of vocals.
WINO specializes in melody-friendly, Beatles-inspired alternative rock. Most of the band’s songs last as long as four to six minutes — one to three minutes beyond the standard three — but they’re usually dependable for delivering the basic tennets of a textbook pop song.
“Philadelphia”, on the other hand, rocks harder than anything on the album, perhaps even in WINO’s entire repetoire. Even more surprising is the restraint with which WINO exercises on the track.
Instead of dividing the track into movements or belaboring it with millions of riffs, “Philadelphia” takes a simple verse-bridge-chorus, builds to a climax, breaks down and repeats.
Just when it seems the song has reached its conclusion, the band bursts in with a wall of distortion more characteristic of Mogwai or mono. Rather than fade out or build to another coda, “Philadelphia” abruptly stops at the 15-minute mark.
“Philadelphia” reveals a fury and a daring the hook-friendly WINO has never really flaunted. With the news of the band’s dissolution in November 2002, the track almost comes across as too little, too late.
Still, the subsequent tracks on Everlast take on a whole new context after that epic display of virtuosity. WINO wisely places the simple, acoustic-strummer “Chelsea Girl” after “Philadelphia” to reign in the momentum of the album.
The fake arena sing-along at the end of “Not Alone” feels a bit contrived, but “Forever Young” grounds the album back on melody, while “Go Straight Song!” hurtles it to a pumping conclusion.
The first half of Everlast contains much of its catchier material.
“Love Is Here” offers up the same rock balladry as “Taiyoo wa Yoru mo Kagayaku” from WINO’s Dirge No. 9 album. The title track feels like the hit single it never was, while “Jesus” possesses the kind of extroverted introspection indicative of its title.
But it’s “Philadelphia” which casts a large shadow over Everlast. Without it, the album would have been a shade of WINO’s brilliant 1999 debut Useless Music. With it, Everlast shows how well the band can paint within the lines of its previous work — and how much better it would sound blurring them.