Monday, November 16, 2009

Neanderthal Cell Phone - The Sorrys

Neanderthal Cell Phone

The Sorrys
Gooseberry Records.

SCQ Rating: 75%

Since their debut The Last Clear Thought Before You Fall Backwards, The Sorrys have garnered a reputation for being east-coast Canada’s answer to The Hold Steady. Although subject to deep investigation and far from damning, this connection between the Brooklyn success-story and our Halifax-based quartet isn’t without its merits. Both acts revel in rock riffs of past decades (Hold Steady’s love of Springsteen back when the Boss let the E-Street band play, The Sorrys’ aura of early 90s indie-rock) and both outfits are reaching their creative peaks a solid age category older than the majority of trendy rockers.

While this comparison may haunt The Sorrys’ like a long, intimidating shadow, its message is transparently positive: The Sorrys are an awesome bar-band and one of Canada’s best kept secrets. Look no further than Neanderthal Cell Phone for exhibits A through J if you need further convincing, as these ten new tracks boast a confident mix of aggressive bar anthems and loitering, after-hour reflections. The opening couplet, ‘Achievement Races’ and ‘Roses’, best represents this range, as post-grunge distortion surrenders to bouncy guitar chords and Trevor Millett’s casual but earnest vocals before sliding into the latter’s sidewalk-scuffled love song. Splitting their focus between Pavement-style slacker-riffs (‘Poppy’) and mid-90s radio-rock (‘Articulate’), Neanderthal Cell Phone showcases where Millett, Richard Herbert (bass guitars), Jim Cameron (guitars) and Steve Baur (percussion) get their inspiration and what they’re able to craft with ample doses of guitar and energy.

As believable as this record works in the guise of an upbeat, crowd-friendly rock collection, some of The Sorrys’ most interesting tracks converge on their sophomore’s slightly experimental back-end. If ‘Vital Signs’ is the album’s best slow song, matching Millett’s curious yet memorable lyrics with warm violins, ‘Carbonated Carnations’ must be the most hard-edged with serrated electric guitars and grumbled, half-spoken vocals. The band’s widening scope nearly becomes bipolar on the peculiar closing track ‘Devils Won’t Wait’, which builds an awkward momentum on distortion loops and repeated phrases. It’s a bizarre song, not only in how it’s assembled but also in how its off-kilter melody creeps into the listener’s head.

How fitting then, that even in Neanderthal Cell Phone’s most head-turning instances, these songs remain catchy and addictive. Maybe that’s The Sorrys’ best comparative point with The Hold Steady so far; as assuredly as those Brooklyn rockers make thrilling songs about overdoses and murder, The Sorrys render every letdown or heartbreak its own cause for celebration. If that isn’t a talent worth booking in every venue across Canada this winter, I don’t know what is.

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