April 23, 2014

The Trews Still Have it, and Then Some

The Trews self titled cd cover

Sometimes the anticipation and lead up to a new album from one of your favourite artists outshines the end result… but not in the case of the new self titled release by The Trews!

Funded completely by fans through the band’s Pledge Music campaign, The Trews took a risk – not the risk of the campaign not making it’s monetary goal (that was reached well ahead of the deadline), but the chance of those most heavily invested in the album (the fans) not liking the end result. The risk paid off. This album is solid classic Trews sound with a healthy dose of grit, freshness, and sparkle.

Rise in the Wake is the lead off track and is heavy, organic Trews sound with loud guitars and smashing drums, courtesy of John Angus MacDonald and Sean Dalton respectively. The song gets your adrenaline shooting through the roof at the start, and bodes well for the rest of the album. Colin MacDonald’s vocals are noticeably stronger than in their previous album, especially in the chorus where the notes are held longer and fuller. Love how the instrumentals end suddenly but MacDonald’s vocals carry on for a few more bars at the top of his range – gives the song a last push of oomph.

Age of Miracles starts with MacDonald’s vocals right up front, it’s a softer song that opener Rise in the Wake, but softer doesn’t mean less ‘anything’. Toes are still tapping and this song is going to be one of those that fans sing along to in a live setting. Love how MacDonald’s vocals are again highlighted in spots with no backing instrumentals: “I swear I’ll get my shit together… waiting for the day …. I’ll never be the be all end all, but that opinion counts for fuck all.”  This song is a mix of Ying and Yang, this and that, what if’s… “living in the age of miracles, got science, got faith, living in the age of miracles.” Not many writers could incorporate ‘metaphysical’ into a song and have it come off as natural and unobtrusive. The backing vocals just make the song more poignant.

First thing that is most noticeable about Permanent Love  is the boppy keyboards and military style drum beat – somewhat reminiscent of early grunge era Collective Soul. That feeling disappears as song as the guitar cuts in and MacDonald starts singing. The song has an odd hesitant quality to the verses, but he chorus adds depth to the overall song and the lyrics are deep, heart felt, sentimental, and tender. MacDonald sings in a little lower range for this song and it suits the song beautifully.

Kicking it back up a notch, The Sentimentalist features a wicked bass line from Jack Syperke that’s distinct throughout the song – kind of like the heart beat of the track.. the song has been described by brothers MacDonald as three different pieces that ended up melded together.. and the does indeed shift tempos throughout. Backing vocals are courtesy of the fans that pledged the privilege of being forever part of The Trews record, and it suits the song’s ending notes wonderfully.

65 Roses is a song the band wrote in honour of their long time agent Paul Gourlie who passed away from Cystic Fibrosis last May. 65 Roses refers to what many parents with afflicted children tell they they have, as most can’t pronounce the disease’s name. It’s a fitting tribute to a friend telling the story of knowing him and losing him, with words full of love and admiration.

What’s Fair is Fair is the first single from the album, and we did a full in-depth review of it when it first hit airwaves. The song was picked up by Rock Radio and is getting good spins and feedback.

Where There’s Love opens with a killer guitar solo from John Angus MacDonald, heard off ‘in the distance’ and not the foreground, Sean Dalton’s drums suddenly jump in with a staccato tempo that sets the tone for the entire song. Colin MacDonald’s vocals match that staccato in short crisp bursts, “so what if this is all there is all there is? Where’s there’s love, there is life.” A song of questioning one’s existence to some degree. MacDonald’s guitar stays in the background throughout and this gives the song an ethereal quality of floating in limitless space with no constraints. This is one of our favourite tracks on the album. Just so different and compelling.

In the Morning is the first real ballad on the album and we love it!  Cello in the intro is layered upon itself into this swirling mist of sound. Colin MacDonald sings the song in a deeper octave than usual, sounding quite good. A female backing vocal adds to the layering effect, and suddenly it’s a surprise to hear Serena Ryder singing vocals alone – the voice is unmistakeable even if you aren’t familiar with her name. MacDonald and Ryder sound really good together..their voices blend in a soothing pleasing harmony with no rough patches.

New King brings us back to the hard rock edge with killer guitar, bass and drums all competing with MacDonald’s vocals for prominence but it all flows together beautifully. Gang vocals in the chorus (pledge fans?) and a wickedly awesome guitar solo  kinda 70’s Led Zep style (we need more of those!) keep the song rocking all the way through. This song live is going to be loud!

Living the Dream brings thoughts of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and the Beatles are known to be a big influence on The Trews (as well as U2). Softer song, slower tempo with heavier guitars makes this hard to pin down as a ballad – it really isn’t. The vocals are some of the clearest on the album. Somewhat auto biographical? This song could easily be MacDonald reminiscing about his life on the road and on stage: “I can’t say that it hasn’t gone my way… baby its lonely living the dream – I’m still trying to find my way.” Cello ends the song as MacDonald’s vocals fade out.. again very St Pepper-ish and quite effective.

Under the Sun – love love the drums! Dalton reigns supreme in this song. This is definitely the gem of the album. “Country of the glowing hearts and patrons of the arts, help me out.. star spangled madness, united sadness, count me out, under the sun, who are the lucky ones, under the sun.” … “you are the lucky one.”  MacDonald’s vocals blend with a chorus of voices near the song’s end, and it seems fitting and poignant that MacDonald’s last ‘hey’ is how the song, and album, ends.

This album has something for everyone, whether you’re a die hard rocking loud Trews fan or prefer the softer side of the band. The songs range in subjects from love to politics to observations on life in general, and there is enough variation to hold interest for eleven tracks but it’s not choppy mishmash of songs.. each flows into the next seamlessly. The Trews are in their 10th year as a band and it shows.. more exploratory with sounds and vocals, more comfortable with their skill set, and still not resting on their past accolades and successes.. still hungry. The album is a reflection of that.

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