Monday, 17 February 2014

The Electric Revival - Pirate Radio (album review)

The last show I saw was Corrosion of Conformity in December 2012, the last one before that must have been about five or six years earlier.  Aside from hating crowds and still feeling the burn of dozens of awful performances, I just don’t feel much like going out in public in my old age.  Did I mention I hate crowds?  However, discovering that one of the best classic / hard / stoner rock bands in the world is operating right under your nose ought to be enough to drag anybody out of doors, including this curmudgeon, and so it was.  To my mind, local band La Chinga is a must-see.  I made a kind of resolution to see them any chance I get and waited patiently for them to play one of my nights off work.  I didn’t have long to wait as that night ended up being Saturday February 15.

Before the show however, I just had to look into the opening band, The Electric Revival because I’d never heard of them before.  I hoped that if they were good enough to share the stage with La Chinga, then they’d be good enough for me.  Fortunately, they were.  In fact, they’re better than ‘good enough’, I’ve been digging the hell out of these dudes.  It took about 10 seconds of this video before I realized these guys were awesome and downloaded the album immediately from itunes.  I have my regrets in life, but grabbing 'Pirate Radio' isn't one of them.

The Electric Revival is a power trio from Calgary, Alberta, a revelation of energy, instrumental wizardry and facial hair.  Their latest album ‘Pirate Radio’ was self-released last summer but was recently re-launched by Cruzar Media who are helping to put a little added muscle behind the promotion of it.  The Electric Revival plays a punked-up style of bluesy rock n roll which shares a little something in common with ‘De Stijl’ or ‘White Blood Cells’ era White Stripes.  But the story is bigger and heavier than that.  This is classic rock cranked up with fiery eyed focus, old time blues with a rocket strapped to its ass.

It’s not all head down riff mongering though.  There’s a quiet side to the band too.  The band pretty much lays it all on the line on opening track “Got To Be”.  The song starts off with a killer riff, gigantic and stony, just the way you like it, before it gears down a notch for the verse wherein is revealed the falsetto croon of vocalist / guitarist Ian Dillon, a voice which belies his mountain man look and large presence.  Tearing down for the verse the band builds back up again to peak on the chorus.  As a vocalist, Dillon is damn near hysterical, not screaming exactly but occupying a thin space adjacent to.  In short, this is a band that understands dynamics and how to manipulate them.  That ‘quiet side to the band’ consists largely of marshalling forces for the next big throw down, which is always right around the bend.

The next pair of cuts “Poison Apple” and “Hell Hath No Fury” carries over the momentum built up on the opening track, and charges full speed ahead without so much as a pause for breath.  By this point the excitement reaches fever pitch.  Demolition derby tempos stumble into syncopated choruses and it’s a thing of beauty.  Hooks are second nature to Electric Revival, there isn’t a single track on this album that doesn’t pay off with a big, memorable moment.  “Jean Anne” is propelled by a killer groove courtesy of bassist Daniel Toews then flattened out and crushed by a double time shift and raucous riff during the chorus.  That's how this band rolls.

Without a doubt, the big showstopping number is closing track (and live closing number) “See That My Grave Be Kept Clean”.  This is the most dynamic song of them all.  If you missed the video on the Hour of Power you can watch it below.  It’s an exciting song that rises and falls with a huge central riff.  Make this one or "Got To Be" your introduction to the band.

It all comes from the blues.  If you look back historically, most of the legendary bands started out playing blues standards before expanding on the formulae to reach Olympian heights of rock n roll.  How does a band go from “I Can’t Quit You Baby” to “Kashmir”?  Because it’s all in there, all in the blues, it just takes a little digging around to find it.  Electric Revival are such diggers. 

Though it’s a rock n roll cliché to say the album doesn’t even do the band justice and they are a must-see live band, it holds true in the case of Electric Revival.  Live, Toews is like a force of nature, a staggering whirlwind of flying hair and low end grooves.  Drummer Dallas Lobb is the closest thing to a real-life Animal I’ve seen in a rock band, a burl-infested blast, one would think madness itself is approaching from all sides and he must fend it off from his stationary position.  Frontman Ian Dillon is the eye of the storm, the genius behind the fury.  The spirit of experimentation and constant digging is on him, like grass and mud stains.

It turns out the itunes download of the album only tells two thirds of the story.  After the show I was given a copy of the album on CD which features about 20 minutes worth of hidden tracks which count down in between songs.  The extra material doesn’t feel tacked on either.  Take the fully-fleshed out uptempo rocker “Of This Darkness” for example, which plays between “Underground Queen” and the hyper-bluesy “I Will Kill You”.  This isn’t throwaway material, in fact, once you’ve heard the full hour long version of the album, it’s hard to go back to the stripped down itunes version.  The 40 minute version of the album is 10 tracks of no nonsense songwriting and keeps a wicked pace, but the bonus material showcases the depths of the band’s ideas from theramin induced space sounds to full songs, the impact of the album as a whole is only strengthened.

For Paranoid readers in Canada, I highly recommend seeing the band live on their current cross-country ‘Skeletour’.  Most of the shows are on party nights (weekends), and while the BC leg of the tour is over, they’ve still got a long ways to travel.  Come on out and see them because they put on a great show.  Check out the upcoming dates:

February 21 – CALGARY (Broken City)
February 22 – INNISFAIL (The Zoo)
February 28 – SASKATOON (Rock Bottom)
March 1 – WINNIPEG (The Zoo)
March 3 – TORONTO (Cadillac Lounge)
March 4 – TORONTO (The Piston)
March 5 – MONTREAL (Caf Chaos)
March 6 – OTTAWA (Avant Garde Bar)
March 7 – TORONTO (The Central)
March 8 – TORONTO (Cherry Cola’s)

Highlights include: "Got To Be" and "See That My Grave Be Kept Clean"

Rating: 4.5/5

1). Got To Be (3:43)
2). Poison Apple (3:22)
3). Hell Hath no Fury (3:06)
4). Jean Anne (2:37)
5). Underground Queen (3:44)
6). I Will Kill You (4:55)
7). St. James Infirmary (3:12)
8). Change of Season (2:08)
9). The Hero (3:19)
10). See That My Grave Be Kept Clean (8:19)
Total Run Time: 38:21 / CD version 59:56

From: Calgary, Alberta

Genre: Hard Rock, Blues

Reminds me of: Black Crowes, Dixie Witch, Infernal Overdrive, La Chinga, Satan's Satyrs, The White Stripes

Release Date: February 14, 2014

The Electric Revival on facebook

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