Oct. 24, 2006 - Issue #575: Wheat Board Under Fire
EDEN MUNRO / email@example.com
Even with the tribble-like proliferation of iPods and various other forms of on-the-go personal listening devices, music is still as dependent as ever on one’s surroundings. Whether you’re sitting in a blackened room alone with headphones, or leaping about at the front of a stage, your feelings will always be coloured by everything around you. So it was that I found myself making the long drive home last night, listening to the well-written and sweetly layered pop of Wood Pigeon’s Songbook.
The lengthily-titled opening track set the initial tone with its rolling harmonies, recalling the sound of the Byrds. Then “chorus of wolves,” provided the perfect pick-up for that moment when the car left downtown behind, gliding over the High Level Bridge. “ms stacey watson, stepney green” came next, filling in the distance over to Calgary Trail with a slow melody and some beautiful call and response singing. And that’s when construction brought traffic to a grinding halt, providing an ideal backdrop for the combination of a galloping snare and a languid banjo in “a sad country ballad for a tired superhero.”
By the time I’d made it through that snarl, only to find the only road into my neighborhood completely blocked off by construction on yet another new condo, I was utterly convinced of the awesomeness of this album. The fact that “death by ninja (a love song)” came on just then only confirmed this conclusion—and made me wish for a ninja to save me from having to repeat the journey again tonight.
ROSS MOROZ / firstname.lastname@example.org
Four songs into Dance Extreme, the first full-length release by local electro-junk rock quartet Uncle Outrage, the band’s trademark mélange of power-chorded guitars, squealing synths, carnival-esque organs and alternately punktastic and big beat-worthy drums part for two minutes of near-perfect pop. “Lonely Dancefloor” goes from its “Betterman”-style intro to thrashing, pop-punk riffage, adds an almost emo prechorus and some gothy electric piano, and finally arrives at an anthemic, fist-pumping chorus, frontman Nils Ad Avis screaming “why won’t you dance with me?” as the rest of the group bash along. The track recalls the very best components of elements as disparate as electrotrash, grunge, ’90s skate-punk, post-millenial emo-pop and probably half a dozen other influences I can’t hear because I’m either too young or too old. Is it schizophrenic? Sure. Does it rock? Fuck yeah.
Unfortunately, this formula of naïve post-modern pastiche, applied liberally to the rest of the album, never works quite as well as on the aforementioned floor-filler. While there is the odd standout (the slinky, Downward Spiral-style “Circuit 2 Circuit 3” and forebodingly sexy “Cave,” for instance), too much of Dance Extreme—especially the second half—sounds like noisy, self-indulgent filler.
Taken together, the entire album really deserves nothing more than an “okay;” however, I’m going to spot these kids a freebie and just pretend this 13-track full-length is actually an EP made up only of the first six tracks—and that, my friends, totally rocks.
BRYAN BIRTLES / email@example.com
Vancouver’s Deadcats, billed as Canada’s original psychobillys, start their newest album off with the sound of a motor revving, and the high octane performance only builds from there. Straddling between surf, country, rockabilly and balls-out punk rock, the Deadcats bring a big bad attitude to everything they do.
The Deadcats have spent the last 10 years trying to progress past what they refer to as the “rockabilly sound perfected in 1956.” While many bands in the genre blindly stick to their guns and attempt to recreate what Sam Phillips started down in Memphis, the Deadcats expand their horizons with outside influences like the ones I mentioned, pushing the genre forward. From the opening strains of their first single, “Peggy Suicide,” right to the end of the album, the band gives rockabilly fans what they want and so much more. It’s all here: scary futuristic imagery, death-themed songs, slapback echo and even two Link Wray covers.
The only thing the band could work on would be their graphic design. The poor quality of the cover and insides takes away from the raw power of what’s on the disc itself.
The Deadcats play The Sidetrack on Oct 27; make sure you check it out. Anyone who’s anyone—anyone with a pompadour and/or a polka dot dress that is—will be there.
The Awkward Stage
Heaven is for easy girls
ALEX KONYE / firstname.lastname@example.org
Going by the album art, it looks as if this guy went grey obsessing over his girl troubles. There’s nothing wrong with that; we can all relate. Or maybe it’s the inevitable feeling that the sensitive people of the world are dying inside a lot faster than physicists had first predicted. Any way you slice it, the Awkward Stage wraps up the themes of love, hate, loss and elephants in a nice pop bow.
The present we get is an album of trumpeting, pianos and heartfelt singing. The music sounds like a cross between the New Pornographers and Clinic, kinda toned down like when the guy on the mixing board quite literally says “you’re at a nine, and we need you at a four.” There are a couple of great duets with an unknown girl, whose voice is so much crisper than Feist’s.
There’s a proper roller-coaster attitude to the pacing of the album: the songs get you worked up for a bit then mellow off to let you recover; then they zoom off again into a nice mid-pace, foot-tapping ode to anorexia nervosa. Good fun cool pop!
The Heavy Petters
Smell the Glove
Freaky Flow Recordings
CAROLYN NIKODYM / email@example.com
I have to admit that when I saw the “Freaky Flow Presents” heading off the Heavy Petters’ debut album, Smell the Glove, I was pretty intrigued. Having seen Toronto d ‘n’ b master Freaky Flow (aka Steve Roman) spin on numerous occasions, I’d probably get behind anything the guy was dealing.
Now I know that one cannot live by drum and bass alone, but the album’s opening track “Start the Fire,” with its early Morcheeba stylings, took me by surprise. It was a pleasant surprise, however, as I let Lisa Swain’s vocal wash over me and through the second track like a warm and fuzzy blanket. The next track, with Bandit providing rhymes, starts to take the record in what I’ll call a hip-hop-lite direction. But then track six, “My Style,” is this hardcore d ‘n’ b offering—of the sort that you’d expect from a Freaky Flow show—which then falls into the pop ballad “Say You’re Sorry.”
I can’t say that any of these styles are completely incongruent with each other but the album’s multiple-personality is more of a disorder than a coherent order. Which is kind of baffling, since Freaky Flow was the producer, and he’s got nothing if he don’t got the flow. Seriously, your iPod on shuffle gives you a less jarring mix up of tunes than this album. Individually, most of the tracks are definitely finely crafted, but it loses marks for presentation—unless, of course, you put it onto your iPod and let it do the mix.
Electric Gypsyland 2
ALEX KONYE / firstname.lastname@example.org
The only thing better than Gypsy music is Gypsy music remixed with an electronic twist. This stuff is apparently very big—bigger than big—in the Balkans, though North American audiences might find it a little grating. The music is exotic, but weird, and would be an exceedingly good match for any project for the absurd adventures of Borat or some bad dancing like that Numa Numa fat kid.
Hmm. Gypsy music. What does that sound like? Hurdy Gurdy, cimbalom, clarinet and fiddle, keening away in a diatonic scale, all mashed together by post, last, post-rockers Animal Collective. Yeah. That seems to fit.
There are no translations for the lyrics, though. This is immensely disappointing, because you could be listening to the plight of a displaced and down-trodden people who’d like to be called “Roma,” or you could be hearing directions to the greatest little whorehouse in Ljubljana. Guess we’ll never know.
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