Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
On his solo debut, Provider, Bry Webb (The Constantines) has stripped his music bare, reflecting upon past life and acknowledging his new responsibilities to his family. Webb’s knack for purging the sentimentality out of these seemingly trite topics of conversation is most commendable. His voice gives him his agency; unpolished, unpretentious, and understanding, his singing style is somber and heavy, like Leonard Cohen’s but with a bit more bark to it.
“Zebra” is a fine example of Webb’s image crafting and vocal ability. The way in which he can lilt back and forth between rough and soft lines, interjecting with a yell here and there, coupled with lyrics depicting a birth in an operating room and abstracts like zebras on the moon and man’s inabilities, lends credit to Webb’s talent for poesy. “Zebra”, like many of the songs on the album – “Asa” and “Persistent Spirit” in particular – focuses on the new pages of Webb’s life, his coming to terms with fatherhood and domesticity.
The other half of Webb’s Provider ethos deals with the ending pages of Webb’s earlier life. “Ex-Punks” is the pinnacle of this idea, and gives a much needed pump of energy to this otherwise reserved, slow time affair. Webb’s style is still much intact with who he was as a frontman for The Constantines, but his solo effort is stripped bare in comparison to the heavy rhythm art-punk that the band popularized. Though his hard-living days are behind him, Webb seems to acknowledge and respect who he was while still moving on. The final song “Viva”, seems to put his heart to verse with the last lines, “Viva the wild dog, long live the low-life, fallen daughters, and bastard sons.”