Dave Rave is a Canadian musical institution. There at the beginning of the country’s own punk awakening in the late 1970s, leading man in Hamilton’s new wave Shakers, and key to the second round of success for Teenage Head in the mid-1980s. But unlike many other CanCon veterans of that era, he’s refuses to rest on his laurels just churning out nostalgia. Indeed, the past seven years have seen the release of five solid poprock albums and an EP, as well as other more jazzy and/or folkie single and albums.
All the essential elements are in evidence on the remarkable, chock full of should-be hits, 2011 release Live With What You Know. It’s got the tempo changes of a great McCartney album, switching from the melodic rocking of “Anne-Marie” and “Rain Song” to the more mellow acoustic-inflected “You’re Going to London” and “Rows and Rows.” Great songs are in abundance here but I have to single out exquisite low key hooks embedded in “One of Kind” and “All of the Love You Can Handle.”
From there it’s a poprock odyssey over the next few albums, as Rave continues demonstrate his impressive songwriting chops with some killer bands. 2014’s Ashtray Makeup takes the formula in a more straight-up rocking direction but still leaning strong on melody, as is clear from opening track “St Paul” and the Lou Reed-ish “Here She Comes.” 2015’s Sweet American Music is another winner, particularly the melodically discordant “Pullman, Washington” and the Nick Lowe-ish “You Take What’s Yours.” 2016’s Radio Rave channels a very Canadian Merseybeat vibe on the wonderful “Love” or mid-1960s Americana of “Slow.” I love shimmering guitar lines on “Satellite Treason” and the little bit country, little bit rock and roll sound of “Not Right Now” from the 2017 EP Indicator. Not letting up, Rave returned just months ago with All Night Raves. Here I would single out the jangly “Don’t Be Scared” and the early Joe Jackson sound of “Life of a Superstar.”
What impresses me about Dave Rave is his ability keep producing dynamic new records full of hooky original material. Clearly, he’s not done creatively. He’s got more to give. Let’s make that giving mutual with a trip to Dave’s bandcamp page. And get your wallet out.
Before the I started this blog I already had a huge stack of material I’d been gathering for over a year or so – great stuff that deserves a wide audience, songs you might have missed. So today we go back to the vaults to ensure that rock and roll never forgets.
Andy Reed is a member of that immensely talented group, the Verve Pipe. Not only have they put out a load of great albums, including some for children (which is much harder to do well than most people think), the band has spawned of host of great solo projects. Reed’s band An American Underdog has one album, 2011’s Always On the Run, which is chock full of poprock gems like the carefree, hooky “I’ll Miss You Girl” and crunchy “Nothing I Can Do.” Also, check out Reed’s killer solo version of Elvis Costello’s “Crimes of Paris.” He takes just a bit of the edge off the Costello version and ups the pop quotient – lovely!
Like so many talented musicians of his generation, Adam Merrin has made his career by mostly placing his music in TV shows rather than releasing albums under his own name. But the two that have emerged, 2007’s Have One and 2009’s Have Another One, are delightful low key pop excursions. “Our Love is True” opens with a catchy guitar hook before leaning more on keyboards to drive the song while “Fallen for You” builds to a super chorus. “This is How You Are” has a great total sonic ambience, mellow but unrelenting.
This is How You AreOur Love is True
Canadian Dave Rave keeps churning out great poprock. From a pretty stunning beginning playing on Teenage Head’s boppy single “Let’s Shake” back in 1980, Rave has branched out with a host of different solo projects over the years. Pick any period and you’ll find some great material. “All of the Love You Can Handle” is from his 2010 album Live with What You Know and what I like here is the strong vocal, just ever so slightly reminiscent of the Moody Blues in their more poprock period. This one will get in your head one night and fail to check out the next morning.
Reviewers often mention Summer Fiction and the Beach Boys in the same breath. Sure I guess its there in the same way that every artist with a wash of breathy background vocals and hints of 1960s melody is another bastard child of Brian Wilson. But I hear something much more original in Summer Fiction’s dialectical synthesis of 1960s influences. For instance, there is mordantly sad quality to the vocal style that contrasts the peppy upbeat harpsichord of “Chandeliers” that is pleasantly jarring. You know this guy is the broody poet type but, like Morrissey before him, he just has to juice the depressing lyrics with far out jangly guitars and hooks. I also love the quiet intensity of “Throw Your Arms Around Me” and the easy swing of “By the Sea” from the 2010 debut album. 2015’s Himalaya ups the jangle factor on tracks like “On and On” and the clearly Smithsian-influenced “Perfume Paper.”
What is it with Sweden these days? For a long time it seemed ABBA was it in terms of musical exports – now a flood of great acts are hitting the beach like a new invading force. The Genuine Fakes have a cute cover of Frozen’s “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” as well as a number of holiday tunes but these songs obscure their more serious material. “I Want to be a Stranger” is a good example, at times low key, at others killing it with strong hooks, great poprock vocals, and a groovy organ and guitars.I Wanna be a Stranger
The Honeydogs have all the markings of a classic rock and roll outfit – think Tom Petty and Heartbreakers or even the Replacements. Adam Levy writes everyman songs that are relate-able. There are too many choices from the catalogue I could make but I really like “Too Close to the Sun” from 2006’s Amygdala: the solid acoustic guitar backing, cool organ, tight vocals. This is poprock magic, a really perfect single. “Losing Transmissions” from 2001’s Here’s Luck is pretty special too in a more rock and roll vein. Check out their recent release Love and Cannibalism for more of same.
Over to the wet coast for Seattle’s Ransom and the Subset. This band’s 2014 album No Time to Lose deserves to be a big hit, the whole thing is solid and eminently enjoyable. Their love of Fountains of Wayne comes through but in a subtle way, for instance on tracks like “Questions” and “When Will I See You.” But the standout track is the amazing “Anna,” a single so perfectly sculpted into shape it screams AM radio hit.