Sunday, October 3, 2010

Steel City Trawler - Luke Doucet & the White Falcon

Steel City Trawler

Luke Doucet & the White Falcon
Six Shooter Records.

SCQ Rating: 73%

“It’s strange,” Doucet admitted in a recent interview with “I still sometimes wake up and go: ‘How the fuck did I end up in Hamilton?’” Now there’s a sentiment I can immediately relate to, having lived my own spontaneous, month-by-month existence in our nation’s notorious Steel Town. Sometimes it’s easier to question my time in Hamilton than to remember the reasons that delivered me, no differently than how its garish cityscape of industrial towers and thick smog disguise the many charms that lay just beyond view. Steel Town Trawler, a joint project between Toronto ex-pat Luke Doucet and cartoonist David Collier, embraces this conflicted romance with Hamilton through blue-collar tunes and a comic protagonist who’s battling to find sanctuary in a troubled town.

For the musical end of Steel Town Trawler, Luke Doucet carves expert impressions into songs of the Hamilton experience. Borrowing from the classic-rock riffs that continue to terrorize the working-man’s radio (y’know: Bachman Turner Overdrive, Ted Nugent, etc.), ‘Love and a Steady Hand’ boasts some familiar percussive prowess (courtesy of Sloan’s Andrew Scott, who produces) whereas anthem-for-a-girl ‘Dirty, Dirty Blonde’ swaggers like a minor summer hit. Doucet’s artistic longing joins the greater proletarian anguish, glorifying the underappreciated on ‘Thinking People’ and empathizing their hardworking principles over the thorny blues-rock of ‘You Gotta Get It’. “Everything I own I slaved for it / and everywhere I been I traveled so far / everyone I love they love me in turn / and every time I crash I burn,” Doucet intones, and his gritty musicianship meets the muse head-on. The White Falcon’s guitar-licks can border on raunchy and Doucet’s lyrics can show vulnerability – sometimes, as shown by ‘Hey Now’, on the same track – but Steel City Trawler rarely drifts too far from its Can-con centre-of-gravity. In the odd case of 'The Ballad of Ian Curtis' (replete with new-wave leanings), it’s an unexpected, unprovoked delight.

David Collier’s graphic novella, bundled and doubling as a lyrics-book, is equally enjoyable to rummage through, capturing the city’s downtrodden feel while investigating some of its beautiful escapes. As with Collier’s chronicle Hamilton Sketchbook, his new tale Lo in Steel City documents the artistic struggle for integrity and, of course, financial survival within Hamilton’s downtown core. Corporate buildings hang “for lease” signs and filth litters the crowded streets. And yet there’s a field where the city dump once was, the Bruce Trail on Hamilton Mountain, and a selection of great music-buying locations (Cheapies and, my favourite, Dr. Disc). Steel Town Trawler is an album full of fun and familiar rock-and-roll jams but it’s Doucet’s subject matter that elevates this record beyond commonplace classic-rock fodder.

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