The Wonder Years

Wish hopes maturity and idealism better youth and angst.

Just when it seemed childlike idealism went down with John Denver's plane, up from the cold sea pops Paul Senick, splashing and hugging a twelve-string guitar. Senick, the lead singer and lyricist for the area rock band Wish, would probably rather say that he arose from the bottom of his "well of wishes," a synonym he uses for the depths of the soul. "We must constantly visit that well in each of us, or else we begin to grow old inside sooner than the outside and will feel death long before it comes," the NASA jet engine designer admonishes on his web page.

Growing old inside doesn't seem to worry Senick. The 32-year-old at first was queasy about competing in an industry dominated by post-adolescents. He read an ominous magazine article that promised doom for rock musicians over age 29 shooting for the big time.

"People have to hone their skills so much before a company is willing to take a chance on them," says Senick. "I've been playing in coffeeshops since I was eighteen. The other guys in the band have been playing in bands for ten years."

Wish is a hybrid of two successful Cleveland bands, the Advocates and the View. Senick, drummer James Brittain, bass player Pete Ponomarenko, keyboard/rhythm guitar player Sal Dolce, and lead guitarist Brent Nero have had their fill of waiting for a record deal and aren't making any more compromises. Their finely crafted, fourteen-song CD is already out in 25 stores, which demonstrates their determination.

"Everything about the way this is set up is to give us a chance nationally," Senick says matter-of-factly. "The guys in this band want to take it as far as we can, but we still need that break."

The CD is packaged Russell Stover-style: There's at least one taste for everyone. To improve its chances, the band took almost everything that ever worked and put it on the disc. "We're less concerned with creating a new sound for the twenty-first century, but we'd be willing to take as many risks as our direction carries us. Our focus is in writing good songs, and if they end up sounding like Nine Inch Nails or Marilyn Manson we'll go with that. I was happy that the Wallflowers were embraced well because they're the kind of band we are."

A fan of VH1's Storytellers series, Senick identifies with the narrative lyric traditions of Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, and Billy Joel. "I think songwriters should draw from their own personal experience. People connect more to a song when they know the story behind it. But I'm sure the masters can get a hit song out of anything."

Senick juggles so many styles so naturally, you really don't want him to pick just one. The eclectic mix sometimes threw some of the band members off, so guest musicians were brought in. Jeff Harmon of Superkreme and the Jehova Waitresses filled in on the bouncy, Neil Young-style ballad "Raise a Glass." "James plays these complex, Genesis-type rhythms. He's also a big fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane's Addiction. 'Raise a Glass' was too straightforward for him; he didn't want to play it," Senick says with a laugh.

The CD is concept-oriented. The first side, "Societal Screams," confronts current events in the contemplative, morality-guided style of U2. It tackles subjects like the Oklahoma City bombing, the fall of communism and apartheid, and Tiananmen Square. The second side, "Love Cycle," takes listeners through the evolution of an affair, from the newfound passion of "Firedance" to the desolation of "Fool's Light." An idealist, Senick offers some hope in the last track, "New Beginning." More revealing is the first song, "Yodeler Bites the Dust," recorded in a punchy hour of the morning and embodied by the spirit of the late Denver. "We wanted something to distinguish us," says Senick.

Wish CD Release Party. Friday, November 27, Phantasy Nite Club, 11802 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216-228-6300.

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