And The Hits Just Keep On Comin': November 2007

And The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

A Music Journal Collective Effort

Monday, November 26, 2007

Kevin Drew
Spirit If...

Canadian Indie darling Kevin Drew, bandleader of Broken
Social Scene, offered the first taste of his solo fruits in ‘Spirit
If…’ in late September of 2007. For all of the chaos,
controversy and cacophony that ebbs and flows from the
very core of this ‘super-group’, and that which music critics
love to either salivate or whine over, I believe that despite
a few over-the-toppities, KD has something slickly original
to lend to the ears of his listeners here. The daunting, organic
opening track, Farewell to the Pressure Kids, starts as a
somber mellotron appetizer that breaks its belt into a
whimsical catastrophe of carousel-esque sounds, guitars,
reverb and percussion. It’s almost if KD, himself, is saying
farewell to the pressure of big band life, record executives
and the corporate music scene while delving into something

‘Well the pressure kids…they own ashphalt, they won’t roll the die..’.

Despite driveling on himself from time to time, with his
constant stream of consciousness lyrical flow, Drew focuses
well on the two things he loves to write about most: sex and
society. ‘Lucky Ones’ is probably one of the most well
constructed songs that I have heard in years. The simple
opening of a distant, ringing guitar blends perfectly with a
Justin Peroff straight-gunning drum track. In true Kevin
Drew bleeding heart-artist style, lyrical sonnetry, he spills
his guts about the tension of loving someone he is close to:
‘All of your words came down like your spies/Trickled
through the morphine and tried to make a crime/I don’t
expect to suggest that we’re through/You know I can live
without you if you do…’

Aside from a few shiners, though, this album is not a
standout achievement by any stretch. Kevin Drew’s
constant clinging to a teenage era is accented by his constant
musical hero-worship of J Mascis who personally lends
his signature guitar tone to the album single ‘Backed Out
On The…’ The song itself actually lacks originality and almost
sounds like something Mascis himself would have released
in 1991 as a Dinosaur Jr. b-side. Overall, though, ‘Spirit If…’
still begs you to spin it more and more as you let it play
longer in your system. In the end, the good still outweighs
the mediocre and this album sounds different sonically
than most contemporary musical acts of today.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


After a four years album release hiatus, the Weakerthans are back
with more of their splatter-crunch-pop-guitar driven creations to
keep the waiters satisified with their newest offering Reunion Tour.
Being an indie listener, scoundrel and semi music snob, I’ve always
tried to find bands and sounds that identify the dynamic of the
confused, the bereft and the penultimate confusion of this youthful
Canadian independent music generation. After a first listening to
the Weakerthans first major release (following their fist self-release
of Fallow), Left And Leaving in 2000, I was hooked into the
introspective appeal of John K. Samson’s writing style.

Everything from the oddly detailed, stream of consciousness
lyrics of "Everything Must Go" to the chunky, distorted guitar
picking on "Aside", to the hypnotic glow and soothing tones of
"My Favourite Chords" told me that the Weakerthans were
going to be a force to be reckoned with and they were going
to be making music the way they wanted to for quite some time.

Today, that notion proves to be true as 2007 marks their fifth
major and fourth full-length album release. In Reunion Tour,
we find the band hammering away at similar themes (that
usually feature their not-so-fond native city of Winnipeg and
its average-joe habitants), but in the framing of a different
structure. Boasting their most ambient sound to date, guitarist
Stephen Carroll told Uptown magazine this album features
"lots of ambient stuff, tape loops, and some more keyboard
than before". The experimentation bodes heavy from the
opening, swirling guitarish-keyboard loop of the first track
and single from the album, "Civil Twilight".

The Weakerthans, though, are not only about a certain guitar
sound or eclectic instrumentation (although they are known
for transforming odd household items into instruments later
recorded on to songs) as Samson’s ever-intelligent lyricism
shows an infinitesimal grasp of the English language. Samson
has been known to create characters who appear and
re-appear in and out his songs like faces in a recurring dream.
This can be seen in the track "Plea from a Cat Named
Virtue" on the 2003 album Reconstruction Site that relays
the mind ramblings of a shut-in housecat who seeks to find
ways to help her depressed human master. And wouldn’t
you know it, the curious cat actually reappears, in true
Samson style, in the Reunion Tour song
"Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure".

Though the album has been dubbed thus far by many zines as
forgettable or more of the same, I think it would be unwise to
label it as such without dissecting the raw simplicity and
staying power of a band like the Weakerthans. Most indie
musicians and acts of today have a hard enough time getting
a gig on a Monday night. Amazingly enough though, after not
releasing anything for four years, lyricist Samson somehow
keeps the fan base of the Weakerthans satisfied. His songs
always poke at a brooding darkness of the human condition
but always with the faintest hint of hope, and his band does
an incredible job of crafting hooks and bridges around his
writings. Yes, the themes are similar and sometimes you
think you’ve heard the songs on a previous album. But
ultimately, the listeners and true fans of acts like the
Weakerthans are willing to wait because they know the
substance of the creation will be that much greater.

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