THE SHEEP­DOGS

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT -

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.

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