Since his major label debut, the groundbreaking Salesmen and Racists, Ike Reilly has been making punk/folk/blues influenced rock ’n’ roll records that lean heavily on stories of outsiders with keen details and broad strokes that insinuate a crack in the American dream. Reilly’s band, The Assassination, has been called one of the best live bands in America, and the body of recorded work they’ve turned out has been poetic, rebellious, wholly original, and critically acclaimed.
Still, Reilly and co-producer Phil Karnats (Secret Machines, Tripping Daisy, Polyphonic Spree) felt that Reilly’s best takes had never been recorded. The lucidity and rhythm of Reilly’s performances that Karnats had witnessed in hotel rooms, backstage, and on tour buses had never been captured. “I wanted to create a setting where lil’ Ike could sing and play guitar at the same time, with the band in the same room... no headphones and minimal isolation,” says Karnats. “There's always been a freshness to playing the songs together that's hard to harness when recording in the more common, modern, sense where you do rhythm tracks first, then overdubs and vocals last. This time, Ike did his thing and we developed the arrangements based on his vocal approach, cadence, phrasing, intensity and all that. I think, in the end, we ended up with some killer songs that have a strangely unique, slightly off-center, vibe.” The resulting album, Crooked Love, is Reilly’s seventh studio album and comes out May 18, 2018 on Rock Ridge Music.
From the apocalyptic playfulness of “Missile Site,” to the weary let’s-get-it-on abandon of “Don’t Turn Your Back on Friday Night,” to the escapist urgency of “Boltcutter Again,” to the gnarly, percolating groove drip of “Clean Blood Blues,” Crooked Love shows how Reilly has landed himself squarely in the raw, emotional zeitgeist of the times. “Chasing that timeless feel in a time like 2018 can be a tall order but we did it,” Reilly admits. “Nobody sounds like this… musically or sonically. It’s fucking authentic. I never made a record before that sounds like this.”
Indeed, this collection of succinct, tight-but-loose songs reflects the continuing evolution of Reilly’s ever-visceral wordsmithing, as married with a Murderer’s Row of backing tracks forged out of the intuitive interplay of his longstanding Assassination bandmates — guitarist Karnats, bassist Peter Cimbalo, drummer David Cottini, and guitarist/ keyboardist Adam Krier. Not to mention the input of a few special guests, too, including guitarist Tommy O’Donnell, pianist Ed Tinley, and saxophonists Mars Williams and Bill Overton, as well as family legacies Mickey Reilly on vocals and Peter John Cimbalo on drums.
One reason said vibe was so perfectly met on Crooked Love is how its content was ultimately born out of the core band’s innate reaction to the material before them. “The ability to not overplay is everything,” Reilly feels. “It’s something that’s hard to do, but these guys I play with — they know what they’re doing. They hear my songs, they interpret and color them… not with musical clichés but with interesting parts that help distinguish my songs from the run-of-the-mill singer/songwriter shit you hear. They’re the best players, no showboat bullshit, and our collective musical knowledge and taste has evolved, for better or worse, in the same direction.”
One Crooked song that Reilly feels is the lynchpin to the record is “Been Let Down,” which moves from shuffle to backstab in the blip of a heartbeat. “We had a loose structure to ‘Been Let Down,’ but nothing written in stone, no exact measures to the instrumental parts,” Reilly says. “I had words but mostly images that I was gonna fit into spaces… no exact lengths to choruses. On the surface it’s got a John Lee Hooker vibe, but slightly tweaked. We were all in the same room no headphones or any of that shit, and really all I could hear was the rhythm section and myself. When we listened to the playback I was blown away. It was so off-kilter, really fucking fresh. The guitar and keyboard parts worked in and around my harp and vocal like we had charts. I was blown away by this take and the beauty of the recording.”
The album’s opener, “Livin’ in the Wrong Time,” also evokes a certain kind of “real feel,” with a cool, steely tone and a psychotically festive sonic twist during its ear-grabbing solo section. “I had this melody for a horn part that I just sang during the instrumental section, so that I wouldn’t forget it,” Reilly recounts. “Phil really deconstructed or distorted my vocal with some gizmo that had a tube in it, and Adam doubled the melody with a ratty keyboard. It’s a really urgent sound — it’s disarming and catchy.” Reilly concludes with a hearty chuckle, “That part always leads me to break into some kind of perverse dance! It seems to makes everyone who hears it want to do something kind of strange and jerky, like some kind of weird shuffle.”
What that track also shows is how much Crooked Love shares the timeless quality that records that stand the test of time are able to evoke. “I’ve always been trying to get that timeless sense all along, but I think this record actually does do that,” Reilly concedes. “I know I’ve fallen into the modern trap a couple of times in my recordings and with some of my lyrics maybe being a little too in the moment at times, but I hope I’ve been able to achieve something else with the direction and attitude of this one.”
Walking that fine line between being topical and universal is another goal Reilly wanted to attain with this album. “I’m not sure if all the songs reflect what’s going on right now,” Reilly says. “You know, Trump’s insane behavior, racism and classism out in the open, a new nuclear threat, the planet’s demise. The songs were written under the shadow of all of that, but most people still just need and want love, affection, sex, and the simple pleasures of human contact. I have optimism for society and for its survival, though I am pretty fatalistic in the sense of, ‘This is what it is. It’s right here, it’s right now, and this is it.’ That can either drive you crazy or motivate you to squeeze every last drop out of it, you know?”
We know it well, in fact, for Crooked Love is as haunting and straight-shooting into the heart as anything you’ll hear this year. And that’s also how you know you’re living in the right time.
Ike Reilly – Vocals, Guitar, Harp • Peter Cimbalo – Bass, Percussion • David Cottini – Drums, Percussion, Vocals
Phil Karnats – Guitar • Tommy O’Donnell - Guitar • Adam Krier – Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
SELECTED PRESS for crooked love
"...another batch of smart, literate songs... from a wordsmith who's always a few steps ahead. ...Reilly's a guy who pulls raw material from thin air and weaves it into something that speaks to and often elevates the human spirit. At his best, he transforms the mundane into the profound, the stain on the floor into the sublime metaphor." - PopMatters.com
"The album stands as a testament to our troubled times, with Reilly’s gritty, straightforward approach to rock and roll and songwriting coming across like a voice of reason. Musically, Reilly and his band aren’t afraid to take chances as they go outside of their comfort zone to whip up a groove sound that draws from blues, garage rock, and Southern boogie. At times he channels the likes of the Black Keys, while other moments it’s Bob Dylan and more of a 60s-tinged psych rock sound. There’s an honesty and a bluntness to many songs on the album, and you get the sense that the songwriter is singing from the heart as he shares everything from the deeply personal to the deeply political." - Glide Magazine
"...he’s spent his sweltering nights cultivating a cache of classics that would make most songwriters turn green with envy. For the last two decades he’s been one of the most consistent voices in rock and roll... On his latest album, Crooked Love, Ike and his band let loose and ended up making a record full of great songs that’s as much fun as anything they’ve done."
"Ike crafts lyrically intricate songs that demand attention, but he really just wants to blow the walls down with loud rock music. The Ike Reilly Assassination is a bluesy rock band with a folk singer's heart... with lyrics as striking as they are searing. The songs burst with personality, cynicism, big ideas and small details alike, and enough political rage to start a movement. Now more than ever, Ike's music is a much needed thing." - Paste | Daytrotter
"Turns out Ike Reilly is exactly the gravelly voice that we need in these troubled times. ... his particular style -- in turns angry, sardonic and occasionally self-flagellating -- seems custom made for the times we’re living in. Lyrically the songs are cutting and darkly hilarious, while musically they’re rollicking and alive, full of alt-rock fervor and hearty acoustic strumming set off by twangy rockabilly licks." - Quincy Patriot-Ledger
Born On Fire PRESS
"In my view, he's one of the best American songwriters of the last 10 years, both in delivery and lyrics. It's, like, part Springsteen, part Replacements. And we grew up in the same hometown, Libertyville, Illinois, where Adam Jones of Tool and Marlon Brando came from as well [laughs]. There must be something in the water there, for a suburb known principally for its Buick dealership."
"The Ike Reilly Assassination is oft compared with old school outfits like Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones and even Dylan, but those are your dad’s bands, and Ike frankly blows their current manifestations out of the water. If you found that too hard to swallow, then I challenge you to a Rock Off. Play a recent release from those guys, followed by BORN ON FIRE, and see which seems the most kick-ass." read more
- Blurt Magazine (5 stars)
"To say this is exciting, unpredictable, idiosyncratic American rock and roll is not to do it justice. Established cult Reilly fans might know what to expect, but even they will be thrilled with the sheer dynamic gusto and rollicking groove he unleashes. It’s pure, unaffected and raw, adjectives that have always described Reilly and result in this explosive album, the culmination of his extensive years in the trenches." read more
- American Songwriter (4 out of 5 stars)
"Born on Fire is an eleven track ode to a time when rock and roll was rock and roll. Actually, not “time,” but “times.” Ike Reilly has crafted an album that weaves in and out of the great epochs of rock, seamlessly weaves, I should add. And, while doing so, Born on Fire resists the urge to transcend 2015 in an “our music was better than your music” obnoxious lecturing way; Reilly manages to ground his music in the here and now – there’s a healthy bit of rustbelt gritty, grimy, realistic outlook on life to go with the grins." read more
- No Depression
“He sounds like a slacker, but there’s a hidden ambition in Reilly’s bohemian bar-room poetry. He’s trying to wrap his arms around the whole damn thing: hope, anger, love, death, dissolution, sex; mundanity and transcendence, dreams and defeat...Reilly’s most recent influences are older than I am, and I’m closer to 30 than 20. But Christ, who cares? It all sounds really good. The songs are catchy as hell, and the lyrics are dark and funny, big-hearted and well observed, sad and sweet. That ought to be enough.”
“...whipsmart lyrics, prankster attitude, Beckish beats, barbed wire guitars, and a literate sense of melancholy...His words, like his personae, shift, bob, weave, from sage to fool to jester to street corner prophet.” - Boston Phoenix