Friday, June 30, 2006

Noise From The Great White North

Seeing as tomorrow is Canada Day, I thought I'd put together a little list of some of my favorite albums of yesteryear made by Canadian artists. Since all best-of lists are biased on behalf of the list maker, I will fully admit that this list is biased in accordance to my tastes as they were over the last dozen or so years. Nothing on this list was released after 1999, so there is a complete absence of any newer hype-worthy Canadian bands (ie: The Arcade Fire, Death From Above 1979, Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown, etc.). In the end, this isn't so much a best-of list as a retrospective of five good Canadian-made albums that really don't get any play these days.

Moxy Früvous Bargainville (1994)
In the early 90s, every busker in Ontario must have been dreaming of making it big. Thanks to the grass roots success of Barenaked Ladies, Moxy Früvous went from the street corner to centre stage with their debut album Bargainville. When it first came out, I loved it for its comedic elements, songs like King of Spain, Spiderman and My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors. But, seeing as I'm a such a big fan of the Beach Boys (Pet Sounds > Sgt. Pepper's), I can't help but love the harmonies on this album. What makes this album still enjoyable today is that a lot of the leftist political messages still ring true. The environment is still in danger, blue collar work is still rough and there is still war in the middle east. Songs like Stuck in the 90s, with the line "buy a new gameboy for the fun and the fashion," are even more appropriate today than they were twelve years ago.
Download: River Valley, Stuck in the 90s, The Drinking Song, Gulf War Song

Burnt Black Nervous Wreck (1996)
The girl I went to my high school prom with introduced me to this great Halifax-via-Yarmouth band. They had a heavy sound with some alternately haunting and screamy vocals. It was no surprise to me that the lead singer would go on to work with bands like Wintersleep and Kary, as well as have a half dozen other bands of his own (ie: The Trephines, The Remains of Brian Borcherdt and Holy Fuck). I remember trying to get my hands on a copy of this album for years. I even wrote the band, only to be surprised some weeks later with a long, hand-written letter and some stickers. I would eventually come to acquire this CD from a pawn shop in Fredericton, NB. While it remains criminally out of print, this album is a cornerstone of what would become the Halifax sound of later years.
Download (if you can): Purpose Served, Leaving You, Coming of Estrus

B.T.K. Birth Through Knowledge (1998)
While this album of white-boy rap stylings isn't quite on par with the other albums on this list, it should be noted that it is still a good album. BTK came and went from the Canadian music scene faster than......well, it was just fast. Ask anyone today about BTK and they will immediately think your talking about an American serial killer. Nobody remembers the great video for Peppyrock featuring all those puppets and Sesame Street parodies. But that's the way it goes. You have one moderately successful track with a clever video to back it up and then you're forgotten before the year is over.
Download: Peppyrock, Superchile

Gob How Far Shallow Takes You (1999)
This was the last good Gob album. After this, Gob traded skate punk for the oh-so-lucrative pop punk sound, with albums like The World According to Gob and Foot in Mouth Disease. I almost got to see Gob once in concert when I was in University, but it ended up that I had to go the opera instead (seriously). This album can almost be considered the last album to be spawned from the punk revival of the mid-90s (read: Green Day, The Offspring). After this, popular punk became pop punk (read: Sum 41, Good Charlotte, Simple Plan). Thankfully, this last blast of credibility from Gob still sounds good today.
Download: On These Days..., Beauville, What To Do

Eric's Trip Forever Again (1995)
I only started listening to Eric's Trip a few years ago, but I have since become obsessed with the band. I have shelled out some serious cash for their vinyl singles and I'm planning on making the pilgrimmage to Sackville, NB in August for their reunion show. This album is probably my favorite of all the band's records. From start to finish, it's an indie rock extravaganza. Rick White was a genius when it came to making lo-fi recordings. The album sounds as if it were lovingly cobbled from various archival recordings that could have been easily lost to the ages. It's really a shame that Eric's Trip isn't more well known. Despite having been the first Canadian band signed to Sub Pop (a tradition continued even today by bands like Wolf Parade), many of their albums are either out of print or are simply overlooked by record stores. Do yourself a favor and seek out a copy of this album.
Download: New Love, Girlfriend, Always There, View Master

So, kids, that's it for your history lesson. I have a big day of drinking and fireworks ahead of me tomorrow, so this will have to tide you over for a while.

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