Monday, October 26, 2009
Cold Toads - Friendo
Bart Records / Myspace
SCQ Rating: 75%
My first listen to Cold Toads instinctively brought to mind slow walks from crowded school buses and trying to find a natural stride along cold backstreets, snowtops crowding the curbs. It’s like I’m in middle-school again, pretending to understand Pearl Jam and Nirvana while at school but once I was off the bus, my old Panasonic Shockwave was rocking homemade mixes by local Sonic Unyon artists like The New Grand and early Treble Charger. Hearing the sounds of true Canadian indie should probably bring me back to those ever-so-awkward, early teens but, instead, Friendo reestablishes the feel of winter-sick, Canadian basement recordings that I can now fully appreciate.
Moreover, a record like Cold Toads is a rare find as it manages to satiate my love of American Analog Set and early Sonic Youth all at once. The basic set-up (Henry on drums, Michael on guitar/vocals and Nicole on guitar/vocals) provides a mellow DIY aesthetic reminiscent of that defunct Texan group’s home-recorded work, which turns tracks like ‘Liner’ and ‘Callers’ into pure comfort music. In my opinion, this Calgary-based trio could’ve wandered into the sunset with such a laid-back sound but Friendo ain’t no one-trick pony. Mixing their lo-fi rock with an art-rock approach to dissonance, Cold Toads baby-steps further from my ideal lounge-about-the-couch-on-Saturday-night music with each successive track, and becomes a statement of intent. From the breezy tempo and de-tuned guitar noodling that evokes - but should hardly be restricted to - Sonic Youth, ‘Oversees’ carries a casual momentum that opens into distorted bliss while ‘Sibley’ finds the trio falling through that rabbit hole with heavier percussion and inaudible, across-the-room vocals. Brief and contained like a case of momentary insanity, Friendo resume composure for perhaps the best track, ‘Young Fellows’ which combines their implausible influences into something raw yet well-rounded. Allowing their heavier side to rumble loomingly along its fringes, Friendo commit memorable vocal hooks and some rather heroic guitar chords to ‘Young Fellows’, ending the mini-album on a high note.
Discovering Friendo takes on additional coolness when considering how bloody hard they are to find. Working exclusively with the cassette format (on that note, check out how ‘Hailey-Omen’ knowingly cuts in and out like a mixtape you’ve recorded over a thousand times), Cold Toads is making me long for the days when I had that Panasonic Shockwave clipped embarrassingly to my belt. On second thought, maybe I’ll stick to the MP3 code it comes with after all…