Apostle of Hustle is a passel of musicians led by Andrew Whiteman, who became familiar with large, mixing-bowl music as the guitarist for Broken Social Scene. An introductory caveat: I can’t stand BSS. I find them dull, uncentered, and ponderous. I also wasn’t a big fan of Apostleï¿½s first release, Folkloric Feel, which had a few good singles but didn’t hold together for me as a record. In fact, I’ve all but forgotten the vast majority of previous Apostle/BSS stuff I’ve heard in the past.
But someone I respect suggested strongly that I check out National Anthem of Nowhere, and even gave me a copy to listen to. So I did.
Not optimistic, I skipped right to the title track, figuring it would be the biggest gun on the record and if it didn’t grab me, nothing would. When “Anthem” began, it was instantly clear to me why the band named their album after this song. Although the vocal mix is a little too fuzzy for my liking, the music here is fantastic. Oasis-like explosions of guitar over a chugga-chugga rhythm track, and a chorus that becomes a chant by the end. Okay, I’m already liking this better than Folkloric Feel.
As the rest of the album unfolds, I become more impressed. Much like BSS, Apostle blends atmospheric guitar with more focused riffs, giving the form-without-structure feel of jazz or improvisation. “The Naked and Alone” is a catchy, quirky pop song with vocals that are constantly shifting. “Chances Are” is not a cover but an original, with a swirling chorus, exciting climax, and an abrupt ending that actually left me wanting a fade out. And “My Sword Hand’s Anger,” the first single as I understand it, is nothing short of brilliant. Then thereï¿½s the Cuban flavor of songs half in Spanish, like “Fast Pony for Victor Jara,” which give a sense of the greater world to an album that is already big on variety. When it slows down, like on “NoNoNo,” the album does not hold together nearly as well. Whiteman is far better at composing grand drama than he soft intimacy.