Friday, November 16, 2012

Record review: The Canoes - 'Slim Century'

By Adam Bonich

Listening to The Canoes' new album, Slim Century, I’m taken back to an innocent time in the '90s when I didn’t even know bands like this existed. Why? Oh I don’t know, perhaps I was still spinning Michael Jackson’s Dangerous like a goob, or enduring endless replays of Pearl Jam’s Ten. Then again, maybe I was just too distracted by my desire to get high and crank some Tool as I drove (we called it “tooling” around) down neighborhood streets. “Yes officer, I get that I was only going 5 mph, but like -- I mean, have you even heard Aenima?” Indeed, it was mostly a journey from pop into grunge into metal and psych-rock, for me. Americana? Folk? Indie-rock? These things never really fell on my radar. I was idyllically ignorant -- perfectly content to think of Neutral Milk Hotel as “that one Wilco album” for the rest of my life. Sure, it was kind of sad, but everything in it’s own time correct? I’m cool now, right? Tap-tap -- Is this thing on?

The Canoes didn’t exist in the '90s, although their style absolutely harkens back to that time. Sounding like one part Neutral Milk Hotel, one part Pavement, and topped with a fresh pony keg of Sam Adams Lager -- I see that I wasn’t quite ready for them then. But guess what y’all? I totally am now (Adorns plaid button-down, sips Pabst). 

Slim Century is unquestionably an endearing rock album and one that a more mature person might come to appreciate. Okay yes, that’s borderline ironic given the sometimes child-like nature of their lyrics and melodies. And yet, between the lines lies a certain intricacy -- a certain complexity to the song-imagery that moves ones mind to hither and thither -- to then reflect and behold the warm aspects of some considerably vague self-recollection; like bearing witness to your past through the warped lens of an empty beer bottle.

In a more immediate sense, the songs are just plain old catchy and fun. Yeah, it feels two or three songs too long, and maybe I did start to question the elusive source fueling their bar-back twang-iness (I’m onto you, Mid-western dude who doth inhabit Southern affectations). Whatever... If the tunes are good? I ain’t hard to please.

Track-wise, the one-two-punch of “Drinking underage” and “Giving Up The Ghost” are obvious highlights, while the poignant brother-ode (Bro-de?) “Kid Brother” sounds like a gem from the melodic-school of Adam Duritz. Meanwhile, “Voting Man” may very well stand as the “tour de force” of Slim Century. This catchy folk-narrative finds The Canoes hitting their power-peak, using just the right amount of jangle and down-home goodness to warm our hearts for all of winter.

Truth: Slim Century is an impressive collection of songs. Pay attention to this band. Dare: Let’s do this.

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