Did any Attackerfans grow up with Canadian rock?
I’m not talking Rush. I’m talking Canadian indie rock and, more specifically, East Coast Canadian indie rock from Halifax, Nova Scotia (aka Heaven). Growing up near the border* gave me access to all that shit and, man, was I in love.
When I graduated high school I took all the money my sweet, loving relatives and family friends gave me to start life on right foot, rented an apartment in Halifax for a month and packed my car to head North(ish). I volunteered at my favorite record label, murderrecords, and fell head over ass for the city and the people in it. Not only that, I got to hang out with the bands (!!!!!!!!!!!). I also met my friend Stephanie whose band, The Stolen Minks, will be playing with Spencer and Rory (aka The Surge) in DC next month. Details to come.
One of the bands on the label was Thrush Hermit. Like a lot of great Canadian bands, they never really broke through in the US and, like a lot of those bands, they were fantastic. (Spencer’s friend Max had a great quote about their song "North Dakota" having "the best AC/DC riff that AC/DC didn’t write.") The band split up in 1999 which sucked but also gave us the solo careers of a few great musicians. We’re going to focus on Mr. Joel Plaskett.
His first solo album came out in 1999. After that album, Plaskett picked up a backing band thus creating The Joel Plaskett Emergency. They’ve put out three albums together with Plaskett opting to do another quick solo effort in 2005. Every album is distinctively a Plaskett album but no two sound the same. There’s no mapped out trajectory. There’s no consistent or traceable movement towards any kind of genre or sound. It’s just a body of work, each piece lending depth and context to the others.
The Emergency is amazing. I love them. But it’s Plaskett’s solo work that I listen to most. One of his musical heroes is Bruce Springsteen and like Springsteen he’s found a way to speak to his listeners by telling stories you’re sure you’ve heard before but never tire of. Plaskett can write a narrative that plays out like a home movie, complete with atmospheric descriptions and subjects that are familiar but never mundane. Listen to "Light of the Moon." If you don’t see God when the drums kick in, frankly, it’ll be your own fault. And that’s not all. The man can also write some catchy-as-fuck bar anthems.
Plaskett’s sort of become Halifax’s favorite son and is finally getting the widespread notoriety he deserves. The other edge of that sword is that his shows are beginning to be infected by fratty crowds and drunk, sing-along douchebags but c’est la vie. Even the greatest bands on earth have meathead fans. There’s just some music that has so much truth and appeal that it rises up from the cracks and almost no one is untouched by it.
You ever watch someone do the thing they were born to do? That’s seeing Joel Plaskett live. I saw him play again last time I was in Halifax when he did a show with the Symphony Nova Scotia. I was struck (several times over) by his growth and depth as a musician. Also, I got to sit next to Cliff Gibb, Thrush Hermit drummer and Nicest Guy in the World (!!!!!!!!!). While I sat there in the theater I realized I have spent over half of my life listening to Plaskett’s music and, if I’m lucky, he’s just getting started.
*The current exchange rate between the U.S. and Canadian dollar annoys the shit out of me. I used to live like fucking royalty when I visited that place. Now I’m living like a Canadian.