2am Wakeup Call (Waxploitation)
Former Nine Inch Nails drummer Chris Vrenna is mostly known for production and remix work for U2, David Bowie, Smashing Pumpkins, Lords of Acid, Vast, and Rob Zombie. Vrenna calls Tweaker his “quasi-solo project.” 2am Wakeup Call is the follow-up to his 2001 debut, The Attraction of All Things Uncertain.
2am… is a concept album based on dreams, nightmares, and insomnia: Anything and everything that keeps us up at night. Vrenna, and co-conspirator Clint Walsh (formerly of Jack Off Jill) drew inspiration for the project from the time when the world is fast asleep: A time when Vrenna’s wife suffers insomnia, bolting awake every night at the same time (2am).
I was prepared for the same programmed noises that characterized Tweaker’s debut, but then Vrenna pulled the rug out from under my ears. In these songs, he reveals a more skillful arrangement that exploits the best of his collaborations with varied guest performers Robert Smith (The Cure), Johnny Marr (ex-The Smiths), wunderkind Jonathan Bates (aka Mellowdrone), musician/actor Will Oldham, Hamilton Leithauser (The Walkmen), Nick Young (1/2 of the Young brothers who form 2/3 of the group A.I. that also happens to feature Pablo Manzarek, son of The Doors’ Ray Manzarek), David Sylvian (Japan), and Jennifer Charles (Elysian Fields). Each collaborator was asked “What keeps you up at night? What do you dream about?” The result was each singer’s interpretation of their answers in lyrical form. Vrenna took great pains to include live drums, acoustic guitar, piano, and glockenspiel, capturing an emotional, organic performance.
2am… is a masterful work, an incredible array of layers and textures that takes a third, a fifth, and a 20th listen to catch. But the listen is worth it.