A decade after his last album, Graham Wright finds comfort in straight talk and finding the silver lining in everything.
Let me tell you, ten years ago I was pumped to read that Graham Wright’s solo album Shirts vs. Skins was going to be the first in a planned trilogy of albums. I loved the album’s short, sweet songs and the quirkiness of his lyrics. But then the promised two albums … never came. I’d look him up every now and then, but I would find nothing. As it turns out, Wright had a bunch of songs, but he quickly abandoned them when he would come across music by other acts that he felt were far superior to his. But there’s nothing like the endless stretch of pandemic time to reflect on those feelings of inferiority and realize they’re normal when making art.
Wright realized he had nothing to lose, and now The Cost of Doing Business is out in the world. The songs are longer than those on Shirts vs. Skins, but Wright finds a new clarity in his lyrics, and he is ably assisted by Adam Hindle and Tokyo Police Club bandmate Dave Monks to round out his sound. Even though the first song is about no one giving a shit about most music and the last song is about his death, Wright still finds reasons to be hopeful and to find beauty and warmth. After all, Wright has gone on record multiple times to say he likes Nickelback and that people should stop pretending they hate them.
Wright addresses the aforementioned inferiority complex in the rocking “Hot Damn!” Where he previously felt bad hearing “better” music than his, now he’s “all about it.” On “Sub Pop,” a song presumably about being in Tokyo Police Club, he acknowledges he never signed to one of the “cool” labels or got a Best New Music designation on Pitchfork, but being in the band was still well worth his time. The gentle piano backing up closer “Have One on Me” makes Wright’s honest words more poignant as he recounts what his wishes are for what should happen when he dies. He still hopes his friends will have good times, but he’s sorry he can’t be there with them. This could be overly saccharine, but Wright doesn’t try to milk the song for every possible teardrop.
Elsewhere, Wright has multiple songs bout women but is uninterested in writing songs that blame the women for everything. “Bridget” is a fun song about two people making an “if we’re not married by 40…” kind of romantic pact that is then torpedoed when Wright realizes he fucked it up. “Flashes (Hey Amen)” tells the tale of brief relationships, with the women ending them with withering burns like “Some loves are like album cuts/This one’s more like a B-side.” Wright hopes for the best for a past love in “Something Sweet,” a 90s-alt-rock ballad where he keeps his ego in check: “I’m not saying she dreams of me/But I hope she dreams of something sweet.”
The album title comes from Wright’s penchant for cutting to the chase in “A Bargain at Twice the Price.” He imagines owning a bar where he can kick out all the other customers and comfort his friends when they’re having a bad time, and he gives simple advice to his struggling friends: “You know you win some, you lose some/And it gets heavy sometimes/It’s the cost of doing business/And it’s a bargain at twice the price.” There’s a lot more joy to find in life when you look past the heartbreak. Wright is sentimental without being cloying, and I think we all need a friend like Wright in our lives.