90s Canadian Rock.
June 6, 2008 § Leave a comment
So I’m kind of stuck in the past, the considerably recent past, but still the past. I’m a bit of an oddity in my age group, because when I was 10 and everyone else my age was listening to The Spice Girls and Puff Daddy (yes I remember when he was still called that), I was paying attention to my older sister’s stereo which blasted out the greats of 90s Canadian rock. Tonight my friend, who happens to be even more of a musical oddity than myself, and I were getting nostalgic with “do you remember [insert band]?” and then, “oh yeah! What happened to them?” Naturally, I decided to find out, or at least look up videos and music.
One of my favourite finds was that Pluto is giving away their entire discography for free through their myspace blog. What a thing of beauty. They were really a source of good old fun upbeat pop rock. Even if you don’t know them, they’re worth checking out. I personally like “Goodbye Girl” and “When She Was Happy” of their singles.
Does anyone remember that incredibly cheesy song “Moola Moola”? It was a minor hit by Jordy Birch. Someone made a homebrew video to the song on youtube. Anyway, before Jordy Birch discovered he could make cheesy songs by ditching the band and buying ProTools, he rocked out in Pure, another awesome Vancouver band. The contrast between “Moola Moola” and a song like, “Anna is a Speed Freak” is shocking. The latter’s video apparently offended the stuffed shirts at MuchMusic back in the day and was thus banned, whilst the former sounds like weed smoking goulash of Sugar Ray and Smash Mouth, ugh.
I think one of the more successful bands of the era was Treble Charger. For years they released fan favourites like “Red” and “Ever She Flows”, upon the release of their breakthrough album Wide Awake Bored, fans were confronted with a mixture of the old style and something a bit more “rockish”. Some liked it, I personally enjoy the album, (“American Psycho” is a piece of powerpop genius) but by the time 2002’s Detox was released, they had alienated most of their fans. To me, they sounded like Sum 41’s older brother, and hey, if you like that, well, all the power to you, but the rest of us thought it was crap.
What is it about the 2000s that provoked the death of good bands?
I have a good exception though, in fact, one of my desert island albums; Platinum Again by Zuckerbaby, released in 2000, made big promises in its title and delivered. Every track is pure catchy pop rock joy, and the band had certainly evolved beyond their 98 self-titled release, which did feature some excellent purely pop tracks, but this album is past that. I bought it when I was 12 and I still listen to it. How many people can say that about CDs they bought when they were 12? I think they’ve recently reformed too, actually.
Among the bands I recall spinning in my sister’s stereo, Age of Electric stand out. They were an interesting combination of heavier rock riffs with poppy melodies and Todd Kerns’ rough-edged voice. Every now and then the local rock station still plays “Ugly” or “Remote Control” amongst the current rubbish coming out of most Canadian bands.
From the decaying temple of AOE, rose Limblifter, featuring the Dahl brothers from the band. Limblifter seems to show up every now and then with a revolving door of members, Ryan Dahl remains the only consistent member, with his melodies that are addictive and catchy like cocaine and STDs (except more pleasant), his distinctive whiny but musical vocals and ever-changing hair colour. The other Dahl brother, Kurt Dahle has gone on to drum for The New Pornographers, a non-90s band, but one that carries on some of the soul of the Canadian 90s sound, albeit losing a lot of the simple instrumentation in exchange for synthesizers, but good nonetheless.
As I was saying about bands that go bad once the year 2000 hits, I think Econoline Crush is the perfect example of this phenomena. One of the first CDs I ever bought was The Devil You Know, which is this razor-sharp combination of alternative rock meets industrial, with pop ethics. That was 1998. Come the year 2001, they released Brand New History and it’s a pale imitation of its predecessor. Now singer, Trevor Hurst has gone on to ruin himself further by creating a terrible band called Hurst and Econoline Crush have reformed in ’07 and it’s just a sad mess, touring with (of all bands) Three Days Grace. Fortunately, The Devil You Know is still an untouchable relic.
Probably one of the saddest things to happen in Canadian music was when Our Lady Peace’s Raine Maida married Chantal Kreviazuk, as the band went from awesome to boring and I’m attributing the fault to Kreviazuk because the timing is right. Clumsy was a brilliant album, and Happiness…Is Not a Fish That You Can Catch was quite decent, but a significant step down from the previous album and then 2000s came. I’ve been shaking my head since. The downward spiral of OLP has embarrassingly continued on. I honestly do not understand how they’ve become more famous. I guess the masses prefer trite lyrics and wishy-washy compositions. Suit yourself.
Few of these bands existed outside of the 90s, which is a shame and Vancouver’s music scene is a bit lacklustre these days, but in the rest of Canada there’s still the ever-reliable, Sloan. Sloan is the Chevy truck of music; they’re not fancy, but they’re solid and never let you down either. What’s lovely is that they’re releasing another album on June 9th. Those guys just keep going, I tell you. By the sounds of it, from the few songs posted on their myspace (sadly the source for music exposure these days), it’s going to be another excellent release.
Finally, honourable mention goes to solo artist, Emm Gryner (gotta have at least one woman on the list) and her major label debut, Public which I think can best be described as Britpop done by a Canadian, in that it’s definitely influenced by the English and what was coming out of the country at the time, but with more humble aims and toned down, a very Canadian attitude, really. She still makes great music, but Public is definitely my favourite of her releases. Hell, even David Bowie likes her and she toured with him at one point. Bowie knows.
I know I missed plenty of notable and excellent bands from the era, but I think this is a good start.
For The Love of YouTube:
“Don’t Wreck It” by Age of Electric (the album version is best, if you can get it)
“When She Was Happy” by Pluto
“Ariel Vs. Lotus” by Limblifter
“Anna is a Speed Freak” by Pure
“Red” by Treble Charger
“People of the Sky” by Sloan (their discography is so extensive, I can’t even begin to list off videos)
“Automatic Flowers” by Our Lady Peace
“Andromeda” by Zuckerbaby (there’s nothing posted from their second album, but if you can find it check it out, definitely.)
“All That You Are” by Econoline Crush (It seems the cool video for “Sparkle and Shine” was removed, and all the other videos of them on YouTube aren’t from the 90s.)
“Hello Aquarius” by Emm Gryner (There doesn’t appear to be any music videos on YouTube, so here’s a live clip. The best source of her songs is her website. Unfortunately, clips from Public aren’t on there because it was her only major label release and I guess she doesn’t have the rights.)
Some other songs from the time:
“Downtime” by The Gandharvas
“Weightless” by See Spot Run
“One More Astronaut” by I Mother Earth