Looking at the cover, it looks like a man who is caught up with a lot of different things, wanting to take on a number of tasks, including raising/watching a child, and is unsure of what will happen next. There are truths to this illustration, as the disaster that you see in cartoon form is a fantastic one, thus the name Fantastic Disaster, a music project from the mind of one Robert Wagner. Over the last four years, Portland, Oregon residents have known him as a podcaster, internet broadcaster, and writer, among other things. I’ll be honest, there have been times where I wondered if some of those musical interludes he’d play from time to time were his creations, including the commercial for the bail bonds people in Vancouver, Washington who would tell listeners to watch out when bending for the soap. Maybe it wasn’t him but it doesn’t matter. Wagner has been quiet since the winter of 2013, all while dropping hints of a music project to come, and now it’s here for everyone to hear.
Fantastic Disaster is a 5-song EP featuring a healthy amount of Wagner’s musical influences, and he does play everything on it and on top of that, he sings. I’ve heard his voice countless times in his podcasts and while he had occasionally dropped references of melody to his voice, it was different hearing him in this context but it sounds great. Upon first listen, I was hearing him play in a hard rock/heavy metal fashion, ripping out some nice riffs and showing his capabilities. When the EP reached song #2, “Unamerican”, I start hearing a few punk references, and thus showing a true rock’n’roll spirit. That holds true in the balls out “I Got Angry, I Went Bald”, which starts in a furious fashion and I can imagine him in a one-piece black jumpsuit with a lightning bolt on his guitar strap, as he reflects on certain moments in his life, leading to the reaffirmation that the over anxious pre-teen/teenage kid is now an older man.
Up until the last song, the EP has a celebratory “fuck you” attitude to everything, including himself, although “I Got Angry, I Went Bald” starts to look at things from a different perspective. With “Slow It Down”, the lyrics take on a more supportive role towards a woman who seems to be in a rush to drink and party, as the response to it is to take it easy and not take for granted what exists today, for it will not be there tomorrow.
On the vocal side, I hear elements of everyone from Mike Ness of Social Distortion to Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, and even Pat DiNizio (The Smithereens), Dan Baird (Georgia Satellites), and… dare I say it, Ted Nugent. Nugent has never shied away from that wicked howl, and Wagner will get into a similar primal urgency to get his point across, and it suits the songs very well. From the outside, and to get into a bit of vinyl-speak here, these five songs would seem perfect on a 7″ EP one would buy at a record store for about $5. The tracks are direct and to the point, no time for dramatics, he goes into the storyline and out in less than three minutes, then runs towards the next story that’s already on its way. Fantastic Disaster may or may not be about a life-so-far that is currently in a bit of chaotic calm, but it could be another outlet of Wagner’s for him to say “this is me, wounds and all, accept it or move out of the way.”
(You can purchase Fantastic Disaster from iTunes, or through the Amazon link below.)