Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Increase the Sweetness - The Golden Seals

Increase the Sweetness

The Golden Seals
Zunior Records.

SCQ Rating: 75%

A persistent beat backs Dave Merritt on his third Golden Seals effort as though the band is collectively pushing through the artifice and calculated image of independent music’s current glory days. The straightforwardness of that steady percussion, solidified further by rumbling guitar and vocal harmonies that recall early Sloan, provides an instant attraction that makes ‘Kick It’ exceedingly rare given the influx of bands aping after chin-stroking complexity.

Make no mistake: the Golden Seals seem disinterested in being your next smoke-in-the-armchair sort of band, as Increase the Sweetness takes its own prescription for immediate guitar licks, memorable hi-fi pop hooks and some knowing winks along the way. “We could use some education, we could use some thought control,” sings Merritt, giving some humour to highlight ‘The Year Things Fell Apart’’s soft laments. Merritt doesn’t pine for any of Pink Floyd’s ambition, preferring melodic arrangements and identifiable songwriting that pursues a timeless quality reminiscent of Tom Petty, The Cars and, yeah, a lot of Sloan. So clean and uncluttered are these tracks that ‘Woke Up Laughing’ initially feels bizarre with its electronic textures and padded organ; it follows the same less-is-more strategy and eventually feels at home despite bearing a completely separate palette.

A few more left turns would’ve arguably benefited Increase the Sweetness, not only because the record’s already a lean nine tracks but because Merritt, whose work has been covered by a wealth of artists from Sarah Harmer to the Rheostatics, has a proficient resume for shifting gears. The variety Golden Seals lack on this outing doesn’t diminish the strength of their focus and Increase the Sweetness stands firmly as one of the more irresistible choices for carefree, summery guitar rock.

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