Reviews:: Parkas Put Your Head in the Lion's Mouth

As rain changes to sun and the mountains finally creep out from behind the four month cover of clouds, I find myself looking back into my collection for some classic Canadian rock. No tricks, just licks. Windows rolled down, slapping the steering wheel slightly off time; that’s the sounds that fill my summer drives. Luckily, the new Parkas record - Put Your Head in the Lion’s Mouth - arrived just in time. With the help of Dale Morningstar (who’s helped turn the dials for some of the Canadian artists whose music represents the spirit of the citizens of this country of ours – Gord Downie, Great Lake Swimmers), the Parkas have created an album of straight-ahead rockers with just enough folk and punk rock energy to keep you moving.

The Parkas don’t care what you think of their musical choices. They don’t add seventeen layers to a track. They don’t transition randomly in the middle of a hook. They don’t write songs that you have to take months to digest before you finally “appreciate” the greatness. Thirty-seconds into Filthy Rich Kids, you are nodding along to the jangled guitar noodles, embracing the familiar comfort of the vocals. By the time the xylophone and backing vocals come in and the tempo shifts, you probably didn’t even notice you were stomping your foot along to the pulsing drums. If you can stop yourself from shouting along with the chorus of Toronto Enough Tonight, you are more of a man than I. The bass drum hits you with a kick. The guitar work is clever, but not indulgent. It’s a rock song. Nothing more, nothing less and in today’s indie scene, that’s not something you can say all that often.

I have to admit, the band loses me a bit on the You And What Army?. With the keys and anthemish, soaring chorus, I can’t help but picture the song starting with someone yelling – “Send him home in a body bag!” followed by the band playing with clips of Ralph Macchio doing his thing on a screen in the background.

But they quickly get back on track, and the rest of the album is solid. The folk tinged melody of Margaret Atwood almost makes me forget how much I hate the author. A gentle picked riff really let’s you focus on the dueling vocals (with help from Susanna Henderson). I love that the band avoids the trap of over analyzing their song writing. Clichés that bog down a lot of rock acts fly by unnoticed. Repeating “only the good die young now” could come off as (at best) childish or (at worst) over reaching, but without the frills and gimmicks, the guitars push you through and the vocals fit. I found myself simply enjoying the sounds, not dissecting every syllable.

The band dips into the punk rock realm on the tasty Lenin and McCarthy. Big drums, sing shout backing vocals and some nice axe work are melded together and the reggae/ska outro finishes the track off nicely. The glammed out keys that start A Change Of Heart could throw you off if they weren’t mixed with a bouncy, elastic band bass riff and power drums. Instead, they just add a new wrinkle to draw you in.

This is the type of record that avoids any type of pretension and simply wants to rock your socks off (and who doesn’t want that?). I know driving on a sunny Saturday morning, Put Your Head in the Lion’s Mouth is going to be a disc I reach for.

MP3:: Margaret Atwood
MP3:: Toronto Enough Tonight

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