Currently tearing up my music player of choice is Joel Plaskett's new disc Ashtray Rock. Released last week via Maple music, the new long-player finds Joel back again with The Emergency (Dave Marsh and Chris Pennell) after a short hiatus on 2005's La De Da.
And it is good to have the band back. While Joel is sill the principle songwriter if you look at Joel's post-Thrush Hermit work you'll find that his more boisterous and rocking side is linked intricately with the appearance of the Emergency band.
Such is the case of Ashtray Rock. The album, a rock musical of sorts, is a 13-song story about a young group of friends. Nameless and earnest in their teen-aged glory. Pretty Girl finds herself at the top of the love triangle between two members of the band. Though she doesn't seek it, their affections drive a rift between each other and eventually breaks up the band. She moves away and the boys are left miserable and alone.
Not many artists nearing in their late twenties could pull this one off convincingly. Joel's an obvious exception. From the early days when Joel, skinny and barely pubescent, started Thrush Hermit to now, Joel's boyish charm has always gone a long way to understating his actual age. In person he can give off a slight Eddie Haskel vibe which is appropriate considering his, at times, sugary brand of songwriting is the kind of anthemic stuff the kids really go for. This big kid too.
On first listen I was struck by how different the album initially sounded from previous Joel efforts. This probably has something to do with Gordie Johnson (ex-Big Sugar) enjoying producer credit. He also plays lap steel on the record, as well as adding some strings and synth. Not all change is good, but in this case it really works.
Drunk Teenagers is one of those glorious anthems that instantly grabs you. It's about, surprise, surprise, drunk teenagers, as fitting in with the story. Enjoy the shout-outs to Halifax and some of its less notable landmarks. It's bit tongue in cheek as well, if not a bit mischievous.
I heard Joel do Fashionable People back around Christmas time. I wasn't too impressed with the track. It was irritating then but now less than irritable on record. Much to my surprise I really enjoy it.
Joel is doing a cross Canada tour starting in May. Head to his website for all the dates and for a few more tracks from the album stream.
The Joel Plaskett Emergency - Drunk Teenagers mp3
The Joel Plaskett Emergency - Fashionable People mp3
Purchase the album