It's been two years since Schooner's last release, the Duck Kee Sessions, and that EP represented the last vestige of the band's original lineup. Their newest material, which comes as part of a limited-edition 12" split 45 with fellow Chapel Hill, NC musician Wesley Wolfe, sees frontman Reid Johnson joined by Maria Albani (Organos, ex-Pleasant), whose first appearance with Schooner followed the band's second full-length back in 2007, and newcomer Joshua Carpenter (Floating Action).
"Terrorized Mind" is Schooner's grand unveiling, a complement to Wolfe's equally new track, "Crying/Laughing." The former is, despite the absence of three early band members and the downscaling from a four- to a three-piece, quintessential Schooner: doo-wop vocal harmonies, bittersweet lyrics ("until there is peace on your terrorized mind / ...let there be moments of light that you can't help but find,"), and halcyon-age rock with flourishes of distortion and feedback. Far more energetic, Wolfe's "Crying/Laughing" is a screaming, sparkly, three-minute slice of power pop.
In addition to the new tracks, the 12" split features a pair of mutual covers. Wolfe takes on "Indian Sunburn," one of the most beautiful songs in the Schooner repertoire, and adds the heft of electric guitars and the force of more pronounced drums to what's largely a muted acoustic ballad about aging and decay. It's not a revelatory reinvention in the way that, say, Jawbox covered Cole Porter's "I've Got You Under My Skin," but it works -- for the most part, that is, given that the mood of the song rests on its fragility.
Albani sings (slightly new territory for Schooner) on "Locked In." The song (from Wolfe's 2010 Storage LP) hinges on the refrain, "I only want good things for you," more like a mantra of deliberate self-deception than an expression of selfless well-wishing. Schooner's rendition retains the distortion/acoustic interplay of Wolfe's original, with more emphasis on the distortion than the acoustic. They extend the original by more than a minute by drifting toward the close on a sea of reverb and pedal effects.
Given the relative strength of this 12", it's little surprise that the limited-edition, lathe-cut vinyl sold out in -- if you'll pardon the pun -- record time. Fortunately, it's still available as a FLAC/MP3 digital download.