Thursday, July 3, 2008
If it didn't sound kind of lame, I would describe Matt Mays as kind of the "unknown star" of the Halifax music scene (and yes, I know he's from Dartmouth, but that's just how I roll). I don't mean to say that he's completely unknown, but considering what the former Guthrie has accomplished in a fairly short time (plenty of airplay for Cocaine Cowgirl, ECMA wins, appearance on Conan, etc.), he has a fairly low national profile compared to someone like Plaskett. Well Matt and El Torpedo are planning to change that with the release of their new album Terminal Romance, which drops next week.
Speaking of profile raising, the press blurb that accompanied this album mentions that it was "Tracked in England with producer Chris Tsangarides (Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, The Tragically Hip), mixed in Vancouver with Mike Fraser (AC/DC) and mastered by the legendary Bob Ludwig (Rolling Stones, Rush, Bruce Springsteen)", while also mentioning that Mays & Co. will be spending a large portion of July touring Canada with Kid Rock. I don't mean to take a Dulymus on the Kid Rock, I mean he's been down for quite some time, and there's certainly nothing wrong with getting your album done by those who've worked with the heavyweights. But I will admit to be a little concernicus that perhaps Mays was in search of a Nickleback moment to help him break through.
After spending some time with the album, I'm relieved that my fears were unfounded. Although it's a little glossier than the Torpedo's self-titled debut, which had a more obvious alt-country influence, this album still retains the grit and longing one associates with that genre. The songs certainly deal with subject matter familiar to that territory: lost love and making one's own way in a world that frowns on taking such a tract.
But with that being said, and although most people will likely try and shoehorn this album into that country-influenced, Americana space based on Mays' work up until this point, I think album this feels more like a modern rock record. In fact, only a couple songs really have a tangible country influence (Shining Eyes, Long Since Gone), but what's wrong with that? Considering everyone and their cool dad is taking a swing at making Americana, a solid rock record is welcome in my books.
In fact solid is a good way to describe Terminal Romance. To me, it doesn't have one song that'll blow your (ghetto)socks off, but what it has is eleven quality songs which is something many albums we get don't have, and that certainly increases the chances of me re-playing this album after this review goes up. Digital Eyes is kind of a mid-tempo, unassuming rocker with a title that is a smidge cheesy and a faint hint of electro vocals near the end. I don't think I paid this song much attention on my first pass through the album, but it might actually be my favorite now. The riff-heavy Tall Trees is the first single from the album, and it serves as a good introduction to the somewhat heftier sound this album offers.
The bass, handclaps, and the way Matt delivers the opening line on Rock Ranger Record ("Your boyfriend's a dick, so we gotta go, listen to some songs on my stereo") give the song a Ramones-eque swagger that is kind of hard to resist. I can't lie though, any song that starts with "Your boyfriend's a dick, so we gotta go" is pretty hard to resist. Fun song. The epic, seven minute-plus title track has a piano heavy intro that is pretty AM radio friendly, but the band eventually comes in to add some weight to this tale of long distance un-requited love. When Northern Belle kicked in, I thought I must've loaded Sports onto the ole Zune, and there's really nothing wrong with that in my humble (first concert I remember, Huey Lewis & The News at the Metrocentre. I brought binoculars. That place holds like 9000 people. I was hyped). One thing I will say for this album is that the titles aren't doing it any favours, as Laser-Guided Love is also a little painful, but the song's enjoyable THX-like synths and guitar combo help it overcome that handicap.
To sum this all up, I think you should buy this record. It's the kind of record that should be purchased: it's packaged well, it's put out by a label that's putting in plenty of work down here, it's being promoted pretty well, and also (if this still matters) - it's good. What more do you need? Let's go friend, make it happen.
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