Monday, January 16, 2006

These are the people in my neighbourhood, Pt. 2.
How the Tiger Got Lionized is the first album from the team of Super Robertson (scene kingpin and Supper Show impresario) and Simian Special (whom I know as Roadbed’s last drummer, but is a man of many musical projects), who’ve merged their talents to form SUPERSIMIAN! A couple of good Canadian guys making good Canadian music with a lineage from Neil Young to the Rheostatics and beyond. And, because my Canada is in the Commonwealth, I’d throw XTC into the cluster of references too. How the Tiger… is an aimable, spontaneous (spontamiable?) record, loaded with detailed arrangements and variation ’tween songs. There are a lot of vocals on this album—neither of these chaps is afraid of a microphone—which lends it a density that took me a few listens to penetrate and appreciate what was going on. Fortunately their vocal talents are more than a match for their extroversion. Sim’s a huge talent, with a voice that ranges from a direct, folksy tone to a falsetto that soars into the big sky. Super’s the king of rhythm and feel, able to wrest music from the most mundane phrase…not that the lyrics of SUPERSIMIAN are in any way banal. They’re rather brilliant, actually—filled with character sketches, natural phenomena, and local references. There’s even a tune about hockey for the ultimate toque ’n’ block-heater appeal. Favourite songs would be the Crazy Horse charge of “Bill Von Bacon Tell,” the barely contained abandon of “70s Rock at the Railway” (I’d like to hear this bashed out live sometime), and the amazing “Provincial,” a song I remember from the last few Roadbed gigs I saw, captured on this album in a live recording that trades a few duff notes for an incredible atmosphere. Magic. In fact, the band lineup on this song includes guitarist Shockk (whose latest release I will write about soon), making it a Roadbed reunion of sorts. The inclusion of a version of “Sun Rises,” last heard on Roadbed’s Last Dance at the Shock Centre, re-emphasizes the connection to Super and Sim’s previous band. Graced by Sim’s fantastic graphic design, How the Tiger Got Lionized captures some harmonious heroism from a pair of unstoppable characters.

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