I’m sick of Canada. I’m tired of hearing about their state-funded schools, National Health, and their music. Canada has the nerve to fund the arts in their country, including partial support of a large number of bands -- Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade, Broken Social Scene, The Stars, The New Pornographers, Destroyer, to name a few -- all of whom produce a unique, quirky brand of music on their own, or on small independent labels -- which are funded by the state. It kills me.
With the full-length debut Parc Avenue(named for the street in Montreal where all the band members live), this three-piece, consisting of guitarist/vocalists Warren Spicer and Nic Basque and drummer/vocalist Matthew Woodley, has produced a refreshing, eclectic and oddball collection of songs, enlisting help from over a dozen musicians and vocalists, among them Arcade Fire violinist Sarah Neufeld. (Neufeld, Spicer, Basque and Woodley went to music school together, learning various instruments, musical theory, etc.)
Others have labeled the band “jammy” or compared them to Queen. Well, they may be a little bit jammy, but their influences are many, and they're used in thin slices, ranging from ’70s psychedelic rock to Fleetwood Mac (as in the excellent, riff-driven pop of “Good Friend”) to Ray Davies/Kinks to David Bowie to Devendra Banhart to The Polyphonic Spree (check out the chorus parts in bright opening cut, “Bye Bye Bye”). But as stated, these are “slices,” eccentric elements sprinkled about, as with the Animal Collective's use of world music elements (especially music from South Asia and the Pacific Islands).
What makes Parc Avenue so unique is the shifting textures within songs and the fact that no two tracks are alike. “Sea Shanty” shimmers with a Ray Davies croon and strumming guitar, as if recreating the melancholic feel of Face to Face, then it takes a ’70s country turn, creating bizarre musical juxtapositions like something off of Pavement’s Wowie Zowie, only to gracefully return to its beginning. And it works. “Mercy” pushes forth with a Go-Team!-like zeal, including the cheerleader-esque backing vocals, only to give way to a electric guitar wail ending like a Neil Young dirge. The record's oddest song, “Keep It Real,” begins with a Big Brother and the Holding Company guitar opening, backed by a cacophony of horns, settling into a strumming acoustic guitar, keyboard and a lone vocal reminiscent of early Bowie.
Overall, Plants and Animals display their wide musical influences in arrangements with a youthful exuberance. The music never goes quite over-the-top, and the results are often stunning, surprising and ambitious. Chalk another one up for those darn Canadians.