Back in 2011, The Canoes
released their debut album, Roger
, which was, according to their Bandcamp
, “[r]ecorded in our house, 1100 Garnett in Evanston, IL, while we snacked hard.” The Garnett block of Evanston—the city Northwestern University calls home—has a reputation as a hub for students living off-campus and naturally is where many parties are on any given weekend. Flash forward to 2012 with the release of The Canoes’ latest LP, Slim Century
, and the lead track, “Drinking Underage,” couldn’t have a more fitting name or lyrics: “If one thing won’t ever get old/It’s drinking underage.”
is like The Canoes’ members—Sam Durkes, Rory MacPhail, Alex Teller, and Elliott Teller—looking out the window of 1100 Garnett at the neighborhood buzzing with college kids meandering to beery celebrations on a Saturday night, and feeling torn between youthful indiscretion and the pressure to be adults.
This is what makes Slim Century
a great listen—the genre isn’t easily definable, but it falls somewhere between indie folk and straightforward American rock, and it’s tinged with a sense of wonder and nostalgia. Yet the band’s growth since Roger is readily evident—their sound is more polished, louder, and bolder in their lyrical maturity. Take one of the best tracks, the folky, Bob Dylan-esque piano ballad “Kid Brother,” in which lead guitarist/vocalist Elliott Teller croons with a hint of sadness, “Someone tell my brother tonight/That if he waits too long, then he’s only gonna grow up.”
Equally present with the theme of getting older is the fading glory of America. Slim Century
presents songs that deal with selling out for desk jobs (“Drinking Underage”), the boredom of suburbia (“Are You Going to Indiana?”), the loss of blue-collar jobs (“Construction Sites”), and the modern political arena (“TV’s for Every Home”). However, the most intriguing track is the rollicking “Voting Man,” keyed by gentle acoustic guitar strumming and a back-and-forth, conversational vocal style. “Voting Man” blurs the line between two “angry men,” one the grandfather of the narrator and the other a politician—both don’t really know what they’re talking about. (The grandfather: “Goddamn I’m glad, with a cold one in my hand/Always remember I’m a voting man.” The politician: “[T]he planet wasn’t hotter/Actually was kind of cold” and “Hope and liberty ain’t what they used to be/Always remember you can vote for me.”)
Using these ideas, Slim Century
characterizes the United States as an aging prizefighter, immersed in past glory and unable to see the reality of perhaps not being the best. With the political undertones and folk inclinations, The Canoes’ new album is reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen’s more subtle, less militant social commentaries.
The Canoes’ instrumentation on Slim Century
remains stripped down—punchy garage rock power chords, simple rock ‘n’ roll riffs, simple drum beats, simple bass lines—letting the band’s vocal prowess and ambitious lyrical themes shine.
Purchase Slim Century on vinyl or digitally right now at The Canoes' Bandcamp.
9:00 p.m. Thursday, November 29.
The Empty Bottle
, 1035 N. Western Ave.
___________________________________________________________________ By Killian Young \ comments