Open the door to Henry Wagons’ first solo album and who knows what awaits you. Expecting Company? is a microcosmic look at relationships shaped as a series of duets on themes all too human: desire, death and pestilence. As frontman extraordinaire to Six Shooter Records’ Aussie import Wagons, Henry Wagons brings the same swagger, panache, and Elvis-sized charisma to Expecting Company? with a twist: the album features an international list of stellar guests, including Alison Mosshart (The Kills, The Dead Weather) and Six Shooter’s own Jenn Grant.
The songs were written after coming home, sick, injured, “delirious with a bad fever and maimed due to a light bulb exploding in my hand,” Henry says. Resisting the urge to recover in bed, Henry harnessed “the twisted voices” in his head and wrote these songs instead. “They came from a different place, so they required some different voices,” he explains. “Having multiple voices in a song holds a certain power. They can represent a unique synergy and oneness, or have a certain schizophrenia or oppositional battle.”
Expecting Company? is a mad anthropologist’s exploration of the human condition, from the opening track, a tale of infestation and intrusion (“Unwelcome Company”) to the gallows humour of “A Hangman’s Work Is Never Done.” Where ultimate good meets ultimate evil (“I’m In Love With Mary Magdalene”), and the past comes to life in the retro otherworldliness of “Give Things A Chance To Mend,” Expecting Company? is equal parts macabre and beatific.
Henry recorded most of the release in his personal studio, self-producing and playing most of the instruments. He visited London to record Alison Mosshart’s vocal at her house (the location that inspired the opening cut, Unwelcome Company); he met Jenn Grant while touring Canada; and he travelled to Brisbane to work with Robert Forster. The Go-Betweens great had previously praised Wagons in the pages of The Monthly, describing how he plays “the straight a little crooked and the crooked a little straight.”
Expecting Company? also includes a surprising reprise of the final track, “Marylou Two” from Wagons’ Rumble, Shake and Tumble, released by Six Shooter Records in 2011. Here, in the final moments of Expecting Company?, Henry finds himself “back at home, all alone.”
It won’t be what you expect.