Talent is breaking out all over and it is relentlessly resynthesizing decades of poprock influences in these contributions, from slacker pop to repurposed 1960s-influenced singles to rehabilitated punk-infused melodies and rock and roll.
Variously described as ‘lesbian garage rock’ or ‘Sackville stoner chicks,’ East Coast-cum-Windsor, Ontario duo Partner actually defy easy categorization. Early songs like “Personal Weekend” and “Hot Knives” were rough, often hilarious, and definitely garage-y. So knock me down when I got wind of their just-released, super slick new record, In Search of Lost Time. This thing is a monster of exquisite playing, deft hooks, and whip-smart wordplay. I don’t even want to select a couple of songs to feature, it’s just too painful trying to choose! “Everybody Knows” is the first single, an obvious choice, and it’s a winner, chock full of great imagery of clueless stoners shopping their brains out in an oh-so straight world. But that would be obvious, wouldn’t it? I prefer to go with the songs that really highlight the duo’s musical subtlety and hooks. Like “Gross Secret,” a mellow number with a nice slow-burn guitar solo. “Angels from Ontario” sounds a bit like a certain kind of off Broadway musical number, before it takes off mid-tune. “Play the Field” and “Creature in the Sun” both have swell melodies while “Remember This” features a knock out guitar solo. There is something decidedly nineties about the overall sound, very Weezer in places, but the vocal blend of the two singers is totally unique. This whole record really is something special.
After featuring the Lund Bros. amazing back catalogue in August, imagine my delight to discover a new solo recording from chief songwriter and vocalist Chris Lund. Great Event Syndrome is self-produced and home-recorded, though you’d never know it from the Abbey Road-like production values. Content-wise the record is maximum ear candy with Lund slipping in all sorts of nods and winks to that classic mid-1960s British Invasion rock and roll sound. It’s all on display on the single-worthy “Tell Me,” from the chunky guitar hooks, to vocals that shift from sounding very Cheap Trick-Robin Zander early on, to something like Rush’s Geddy Lee in a mellow mood, to ever-so-Beatles on the stretched out ‘tonight-t-t-t’ in the chorus. Love the wobbly synth that crops up all over the tune. “What’s Her Name” is another highlight for me, showcasing Lund’s careful attention to vocal arrangements. Though the knee-jerk critics’ reaction is to connect Lund’s style with the Beatles (and on songwriting that is definitely true), vocally he reminds me a lot of Alan Clarke of the Hollies and the harmonies associated with that band. Also check out “The Juice,” where nice acoustic guitar picking combines with some 1960s American west coast vocal stylings to belie the song’s serious subject matter. And this just scratches the surface of this great album. Tell MeWhat’s Her Name?The Juice
The Safes follow a familiar trajectory in band development, from raucus rock and roll origins to a more refined sound as we get closer to the present. “Deception” from 2006’s Well Well Well showcases the fun, almost live feel of their early work. But fast forward to the 2013-16 period and the sound has shifted to more melody and harmony on tracks like “Live Life Like You Want to Live” with its almost plaintive single note piano solo. The basic elements are actually all still there, they’ve just been rejigged in importance, as can be seen from the great rock and roll guitar intro to “I Would Love You,” which also features a distinctive keyboard solo, this time on organ. Which brings us to the present and The Safes’ fabulous new record Tasty Waves. Sounding like a more punky version of Apples in Stereo, the band aces the first single and opening track “Hometown” with its chiming guitar and swinging hookiness. Here comes a serious ear worm infection! The whole album is pretty strong, though I’d single out “Streets and Sanitation” for special mention with its insistent strummy-ness, rumbly lead line and nice horn motifs.
Take some of the 1960s more melodic rock and roll and combine that with a 1990s punk esthetic and you might have Together PANGEA. 2014’s Badilac reinterpreted the Yardbirds’ pop sensibilities as if they were a garage rock act and the results were amazing on the title track and songs like “Offer” and “No Way Out.” Now they’re back with Bulls and Roosters and the creative reinvention of the 1960s continues, this time brilliantly mining Memphis soul on their swinging “Money On It,” though the ragged vocals stamps the tune as suitably garaged-up. Or things seem familiar with the in-your-face punky style on “Better Find Out” until the chorus explodes melodically like a Young Rascals’ single on speed. Run don’t walk to get tickets to these guys. Your dancing shoes will thank you.
Partner, Chris Lund, The Safes and Together PANGEA are never going to take the world by storm without your help, by which I mean your money. Check out their sites and seriously consider contributing to their ongoing musical reproduction.