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Wrapped Around My Middle Finger

Livewire / Cargo (2012)
Rating: 9/10

Every once in a blue moon, a songwriter comes along – in whatever genre – that just blows you away and yet, leaves you scratching your head in bemusement at the fact they’ve not garnered more attention. Donnie Vie is one such talent; the ever-changing frontman who since the 1980s has lead the sugary delights of glam rock band Enuff Z’Nuff, a combo whose songs were so good they remained lost on millions of people.

Along with his sidekick Chip Z’Nuff, Donnie Vie has formed a partnership that has often been described as something akin to the heavy metal Beatles. Yes folks, these guys are that good – really.

Alas, Enuff Z’Nuff’s records have drifted by like candy floss in the wind, never really making an impact while countless less talented bands seem to sell by the bucket load, although isn’t that always the way.

Wrapped Around My Middle Finger is Vie’s third full-length solo outing after Just Enough (2003) and Extra Strength (2007; a predominantly acoustic reworking of Enuff Z’Nuff’s 1991 Strength opus), and what a belter it is. Despite all the trials and tribulations of a rock ’n’ roll lifestyle Vie is able to write classic tune after classic tune – the sort of songs that were made for stadiums, and yet which rarely made even the smallest of venues. You can hear the soul in that voice which is part John Lennon (The Beatles), part Elvis Costello and part Robin Zander (Cheap Trick). Floaty, flaky, shaky and sugary are the only words I can use to describe Vie’s charismatic croon as he weaves his magical web throughout 11 dreamy tracks, only occasionally drifting into the metal realm, such as on the opening title track with its heavyweight glam rock riff and warm-hearted rolling chorus.

Vie’s voice is so pop-infected, bouncy and bubbly, so joyous and pleasing, and yet the next strewn with heartbreak and sorrow as he warbles his way through a selection of numbers with hooks that you just wonder how come they were never written years before – even though in the back of your mind, you’re sure you’ve heard it somewhere before.

Donnie Vie is a rock ’n’ roll star able to write songs with such ease, and the choruses time and time again roll out of the speakers like marbles across the floor. The breezy ‘Wunderland’ with its Alice In Wonderland-inspired lyrics and summery harmonies really touches the soul, but it’s his ode to wife Lisa, on the predictably titled, er… ‘Lisa’ that’ll have Beatles fans frothing at the mouth as Vie and his three-piece band rattle off a riff that reeks of the Fab Four’s classic ‘I Feel Fine’. It’s cheeky in its mimicry, yet infallible in its ability to make one high.

The modest yet wondrous tracks keep coming, with Vie saving the biggest melody for ‘Now Ya Know’, which features hair metal god Kip Winger. It’s a massive track that could surely be an accidental number one, if given the right promotion; Winger growls his way through the opening segment as if we were back in the 80s, but his rough-edged vocals are contradicted by Vie’s Joe Elliot (Def Leppard) styled barks before we enter the uplifting and unexpectedly joyous chorus as the two cheer “Blowing through your stereo, songs we sang a long long time ago, now ya know” over a Beatles-esque summery sway. Magical.

There aren’t many songwriters in this day and age who can be termed a genius, but Vie is one of those exceptional talents who, despite lack of wealth, has soldiered on through the years and produced staggering songs that deserve to stand the test of time. Those who mock such a compliment only have to hear songs such as the bubblegum stomp of ‘Flames Of Love’ or the tear-jerking ‘Forever’ from his debut opus to know just how good this guy is.

The least you can do is show this guy some support, because Donnie Vie is a one off, despite his influences which he’s happy to wear on the sleeve of one of his polka-dot shirts. Pick any track of the 11 on offer and just slowly drift off downstream, because this is as good as rock music gets.

Neil Arnold

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