AFTER two decades fighting the good fight, local politicallycharged thrash-punk quartet Propagandhi is still swinging and connecting.
Failed States just might be the heaviest, fastest album of its 20year career, proving that getting older doesn’t mean you have to get slower.
Things don’t start that way, though. Opening number Note to Self rides a shifting mid-tempo groove and continually threatens to bust loose for nearly six minutes with the tension building throughout until the release when the speed-punk-meets-thrash metal blast of the title track kicks in.
From there the 12-track album rarely lets up as the band showcases everything it can do from bassist-vocalist Todd Kowalski’s old-school hardcore blitzkrieg of Rattan Cane and Hadron Collision to the intensely furious blast of the 65-second Status Update, a track featuring some of the album’s most frantic guitar work on an album filled with speedy solos, riffs and complex proggish diversions.
As relentless as it all is, the band doesn’t forget about melody and even throws in some light touches along the way — both can be found on Things I Like, a list of items, people and scenarios vocalist-guitarist Chris Hannah enjoys ranging from dark planetariums to Cinderella stories.
Now bring on the album release show. ½ HIRSUTE Saskatoon-bred band The Sheepdogs have gone from strength to strength over the course of their reasonably short career and their premier major label album should keep them in beer, crackers and peanut butter for a while yet. Their recent Rolling Stone magazine cover shot probably didn’t hurt their notoriety, but their set produced by Pat Carney (Black Keys) is a winner in its own right from start to finish.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to hear the ’Dogs influences here; we’re talking ’70s bands here, folks, and lots of them. Sounds ranging from the Allman Brothers Band, Traffic, Harry Nilsson, T. Rex, and early Humble Pie are skillfully woven into the songs. It speaks to the talent of the Canuck quartet members that they pull it all off without sounding like adamant copyists.
Singer/guitarist Ewan Currie’s voice gets the job done without too much fanfare, and perhaps the only thing that would prevent this band from becoming world dominators is his lack of real vocal fire on a few tracks. From Saskatoon to the world stage? With an album this strong, it could happen. ½ THE men in this band have been around the block. Singer-guitarist Britt Daniels usually stars in Spoon; Dan Boeckner helped lead Wolf Parade; and drummer Sam Brown holds the beat down in New Bomb Turks. So the “supergroup” label gets thrown around a lot. No matter what you call it, this smeary confab is sensational.
Together less than a year, the Divine Fits have crafted a deep and delicious record of New Wave flashbacks and slabs of torn-up post-punk. It’s all really retro, but there’s plenty that’s fresh about a record that saunters from the saucy keyboarddriven preening of My Love Is Real to the starry, stringy campfire rock of Civilian Stripes.
It just gets more seductive from there, with the album’s 11 tracks all shot through with vocal swagger and trippy keys — from start to finish, A Thing Called Divine Fits flows from one smartly crafted piece to another
A confident debut befitting of whatever it means to be an “indie supergroup.” WHEN it comes to world music there are a ton of worthy musical combos to consider. Take for example eclectic Vancouverbased quintet Delhi 2 Dublin. The band has built a career around its Celtic-cum-bhangra bop and its latest album, the impressive Turn Up the Stereo, makes a case for its entry into a distinctly choice cabal.
Many of the tunes here could be comfortably termed “dance” music, but it’s the bands’ reliance on interesting and inspirationally unique beats that pushes this record into a special category. The use of culturally correct instruments (sitar, dhol, tabla) only adds to the joy in the grooves here instead of bouncing the listener away with too many unfamiliar tonal scales. Singer Sanjay Seran has an ap- pealing voice that isn’t entirely inimitable, but in this uplifting, quasi-political context it works perfectly. Earworms abound and it won’t be long before you’re humming the chorus to the bubbly Love Is the Hero or blurting Turn Up the Stereo over and over to your frightened cat.
A welcome breath of global fresh air and absolutely worth turning up even louder. CONVENTIONAL wisdom holds that domestic contentment is the enemy of great songs. Important and resonant records, some say, come from conflict, internal or external. There are those who say, however, that love songs are the backbone of all memorable popular music.
Either way, however, Havoc and Bright Lights ultimately falls a bit short of delivering the great-songs part of the equation.
The first half offers the possibility that this might be a truly superior pop album, but the disc seems to run out of steam at about the halfway mark, though. By the time the unexceptional rockers Spiral and Numb turn up, the rush of harmonies that introduce the hooks have become an irritating formula. To make matters worse, the melodies fall by the wayside at about the same time.
Edge of Evolution closes the album with musings about the evolution of consciousness. But as Morissette sings “We’re ready to push envelopes into full-blown consciousness,” it’s only too clear that, musically at least, no envelopes have been pushed at all. ALTHOUGH it was his technofueled 12-inch singles such as Audion and Jabberjaw that brought the Texas/Michigan native into the spotlight, it has been Matthew Dear’s exploration of electronic pop that has GUITARIST Pat Metheny chose well in using Chris Potter for his first guitar/tenor saxophone outing since 80/81 with Michael Brecker and Dewey Redman.
Potter — on tenor and soprano saxes and bass clarinet — is an adept soloist who likes to challenge listeners and an accompanist who helps Metheny ramp up the music on the nine-tune recording that kicks off with the delightful, Spanish-tinged New Year.
Longtime Metheny collaborator Antonio Sanchez (drums) and newcomer Ben Williams (bass) help make the recording another gem in the guitarist’s long discography. ½ demonstrated his diversity as a producer since 2003’s Leave Luck to Heaven.
On his fifth album, Beams, Dear continues to dig deeper into his influences, dabbling in simple bass chords on the most straightforward rock cut he has done, Earthforms, singing “take a trip on something else” on the slow burning Fighting is Futile and channeling the Talking Heads on Up & Out and David Lynch on the 4/4 friendly Get The Rhythm Right. Dear has a supple sense of rhythm and texture that he coaxes out of an array of old gear, pedals and instruments, drawing from the past, while pushing his sounds towards the future. His lyrical themes aren’t as dark as previous work and he seems more comfortable in his writing, but on Do The Right Thing, when he sings, “My heart, it weighs about a ton in flames, pouring down from the sun to the ground in mistakes,” you get the sense Dear isn’t just writing about abstract ideas about life and regret.