As aggressive a self-promoter as this critic has ever encountered, Brett Wilder, who records under that name as well as the Brettster, portrays himself on his MySpace pages (www.myspace.com/brettwildermusic and www.myspace.com/welovethebrettster) as a burgeoning underground/Internet phenomenon (“More than 700,000 music plays… more than 25,000 ‘pay-for’ downloads… all for an ‘unsigned’ artist? We must be doing something right!”) with a fascinating back story that’s part Jewel and part Kerouac: He allegedly ran away from home in Alaska at age 15 and hitchhiked across the country, busking on street corners and chronicling his travels in songs recorded on his laptop along the way, until he finally landed in Chicago.
With his adenoidal singing and enthusiastic if rudimentary acoustic guitar, occasionally adorned with a few canned laptop instrumental sounds, the Brettster comes off as a junior-high imitation/parody of Bright Eyes. “The children don’t remember the color of the sky now/The children don’t remember the ocean is a distance/The children don’t see reality/The children see everything virtually,” the artist sings. “Whoa, whoa, what’s the world coming to/I don’t wanna be just another number/I don’t wanna be a part of the system!” In fact, songs such as “What’s the World Comin To” and the more pop-oriented “Boy Meets Girl Meets Girl” play like a “Spinal Tap” or “Mighty Wind”-level satire of emo earnestness, and I’m not at all convinced that the whole thing isn’t a “Rock, Rot and Rule”-worthy put-on.
If it is a joke, it’s an elaborate one—there are a dozen songs streaming from the two Web pages, and more available for download from CDbaby.com—and it’s nothing short of brilliant. If Wilder is in fact the real deal, well, he’d really be better off playing it as a joke. If you’re motivated enough to investigate, the Brettster claims he’ll be playing for free on the street at Giddings Plaza in Lincoln Square every Saturday and Sunday morning through the end of June—with “autographed copies of his debut album available for $10.”