By Beneath Augusta
Something must be happening in Canada these days. From the nation that brought us such luminaries as Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, and the miserable Alanis Morisette, the country that sits atop the United States of America is quietly out-doing their southern neighbour for quality musical exports.
First came Godspeed (that makes three reviews where I've name checked them - surely that's a record?!) then another massive musical ensemble called Broken Social Scene hit these shores, then along came A Northern Chorus and now, Mellonova and Beneath Augusta hit my CD player.
This CD is actually a Mellonova post breakup best of collection for the most part, with a new demo from Beneath Augusta tacked on the end. Seems like a pretty random thing to do you might say, but as with Audioslave and more recently The Mars Volta, Beneath Augusta is actually Mellonova, minus its original rhythm section.
Much like Canada's other musical gifts, this is experimental, dreamy post (ish) rock. Instead of wailing instrumentals however, it is perfectly crafted pop songs, but played through gorgeously reverberated guitars and crashing drums. Think Interpol after a copious marijuana intake or Elbow on Valium and you're almost there. In parts dark and paranoid, in others it's playful, joyful and very laidback.
It's hard to find a standout track from the album, because they're all so good. They seem to meld together in a way that the best kind of music does, intersecting and blending in with one another to create an awesome listening experience. The first track 'Hideeho', with its uplifting guitar work and restless energy, featured in an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, which allowed them to make a second EP from 20th Century Fox's royalty cheque alone. 'Cleaning The Stairs' is as morbidly fascinating as Ms. Summers is in the TV show, with its softly set dynamics and its murky, seedy sound.
Two tracks that stick out somewhat are 'Ground Down' and 'Ocotillo', two brilliantly pulverising instrumental freak- outs. The former being a claustrophobic and dark jam, reminiscent of Radiohead circa before-Kid A-but-after-OK Computer, and the latter being a jazz- infused riot, with that driving 'Where I End And You Begin'- esque drumming, and an outro that is guaranteed to have your head nodding.
The Mellonova tracks were all recorded and released between the period of 2000- 2003, and it's hard to tell that such beautifully crafted music was only recorded in a space of three years. They officially released two EPs and one album ('Slightly Happy'), and it's a shame they didn't do any more, because if this were anything to go by, they would have been giants. Hey, aren't they from Canada too? Anyway...
"I tend to be interested in good bands that sneak in the back door without getting a lot of attention" says lead singer and principle songwriter Mike Brennan. I think he just said it all. The dazzling array of melodic, starry- eyed songs on this record is amazing, all of them featuring that kind of rose tinted reminiscence that's par for the course as far as dreamy pop is concerned. I think Canada must be the biggest consumer of delay pedals in the world, and as usual, they are on show on this album.
The new Beneath Augusta track is a gem. Beautiful melodies weave in and out of each other, and the subtle guitar riffs and phrases all compliment each other like aristocrats at a Ferero Rocher party. It's superb, and it's not too drenched in either arty pretension or simplistic arrangements, which makes for a beautiful and sublime song.
As with everything, the good things in life are always in the place where you'd least expect it. In this case, a country once described by Marge Simpson as being "so clean and bland" is the home of some the most enjoyable and interesting new music currently being produced.