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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Back to the Well? One Man's Opinion of the New Blue Rodeo Album

Until recently, and for over two decades, when someone asked me who may favorite band was, I would quickly, easily and with conviction state "Blue Rodeo".  Their pop-laden alt-country sound, dynamite lyrics and top-shelf harmonies were the closest thing to "my sound" that I could think of (despite the fact that the various bands I've been in only sometimes unleashed a similar sound amidst aggressive forays into punk and metal, but that's another post).  However, much like an old BC cedar tree that is still tall and strong but starting to show the ravages of age, Blue Rodeo's recent efforts, while still decent, have caused me to ponder when asked about my favorite band.  Now when asked, thoughts of the Old 97's, Son Volt, the Clash, and the Pogues compete with Blue Rodeo for the title.

Against that back drop, and as I always faithfully do, I picked up the new Blue Rodeo album on its release day.  I had just heard the rantings of an unremembered CBC critic suggesting that this "may be their best album" and my interest was piqued to say the least.  I also found it interesting that the band had been suggesting that the album was intended to be heard on vinyl.  While I knew that it would be impossible for the band to ever again reach the opus that was "Five Days In July", I was optimistic that this album would exceed the band's recent efforts.  In that, I'm afraid, I was wrong.

Don't get me wrong, this double-album set of songs is perfectly good.  A well-crafted set of songs that is ambitious and well-played and I think was intended to serve as something ther than "just another Blue Rodeo album".  In some respects they succeeded - the album's opener, "All The Things That Are Left Behind" and all of its late-60's/early 70's-inspired tripiness, is certainly ambitious and sounds a lot like Lenny Kravitz and certainly unlike much of what the band has done before.  Ambition is a funny thing though.  While I always appreciate new musical directions and find efforts to pursue them admirable, the direction and its appeal is often lost on me.  As I said, I like Blue Rodeo's sound and while you can't make the same album over and over, I like the basic formula.  Sure, I appreciate tweaks here and there, but much of this album sounds morose, downtrodden and somewhat numbing.  There are exceptions though - "Venus Rising" is a great and somewhat unorthodox song, although it does remind one of "Rage" from a few albums back, which incidentally is not a bad thing as that too is a great one.  "One More Night" is also a good track and features Jim Cuddy taking his voice in new directions, supported by a rather funked up Glenn Milchem drum beat.  "Never Look Back" is a standout track, as is "Arizona Dust", although both sound like good old Blue Rodeo and may be criticized by some as being too much that way.

As an aside, if you want to grab this album or some of its tracks, do so at I-Tunes and while you're there, grab the special I-Tunes videos entitled "The Woodshed Sessions" and an accoustic version of "Never Look Back" that will blow your mind.

To sum things up, this is a decent record, but not one of the band's, or 2009's, best (those lists are en route).  Blue Rodeo never really disappoints and one last thing - I like their style - particularly Greg Keelor's haggered, laid-back vibe which lends itself more to to present-day Randy Bachman than to the scrawny, polished Hollywood set that we see a legion of musicians scrambling to be a part of.  I was scrambling for a Brittany Murphy parable here, but my head must be weathered by Christmas cheer and now I learn that Pete Doherty has AGAIN been picked up for heroin possession a day after a drunk driving charge.  Surely a guy could work that in too?!? Maybe not.  Over and out.

Posted by Knox Harrington on December 22, 2009 | Permalink


What is with the every few month hero worship reinstallments for one the crappiest Canadian bands that ever existed?
Marc Emery post of many types make sense blue rodeo doesn't because they only played to prosper.
They are categorgized as entertainment, and even that is a highly questionable lable.

Blue Rodeo in its hay day didn't deserve all the attention Knox Bonerton gives them long past the point of most people remembering them. I Saw them on their way up, and on their way down in a small club environment and they never stopped being boring, lacking, shite. No main stream competition because of radio politics ,and a public who are easily forced to like pop music through replaying it over and over, is why they had any success at all.
Buying the new Blue Rodeo album could only be disappointing because you cannot re-live the past, the second lowest form of living.
The lowest form of living is comeback records under the guise of "doin it for the fans" or that doesn't make clear the real reason. Call it what it is an attempt to have others feed them for doing what amounts to nothing.

Posted by: Merrill Nisker | 2009-12-22 9:56:35 PM


...thankfully no Canadian content laws on the superhwyinterwebnets...

“Some of my finest hours have been spent on the back of my veranda, smoking hemp and observing as far as the eye can see.” - Thomas Jefferson,

Posted by: Free Marc Emery | 2009-12-23 3:06:37 AM

merrill- If they're so crappy, why did so many people buy their albums?

Posted by: dp | 2009-12-23 10:22:32 AM

merrill- If they're so crappy, why did so many people buy their albums?

Posted by: dp | 2009-12-23 10:22:32 AM

Did i not explain it clear enough stupid , radio politics, little else to choose from on the "Pop" airwaves, and forced appeal through constant replaying is why your insignificat brain liked them. If you had other choices and you weren't such a domesticated dud, it would have hurt your ears to listen to them and you would have searched for more appealing music, but that is if you weren't such a musical DUD.
Blue rodeo acheived very mediocre success, this is why they are out of money and taking on odd jobs to make ends meet.

Posted by: Peaches | 2009-12-23 10:32:32 AM

If you had a million bands to choose from Blue rodeo wouldn't crack the top 10,000, what that say about how good they are ( Fallacy)

Posted by: Cuddy Crap | 2009-12-23 10:34:06 AM

Hey crap, do the math, that still puts them in the top 10%.

Posted by: dp | 2009-12-23 11:48:34 AM

Peaches Rocks, Radio Sucks.

Stay in school cuz it's the best.

Posted by: The Teaches of Peaches | 2009-12-23 12:23:22 PM

I don't like Blue Rodeo but they are infinity better than Nickelback. In fact just about anything is better than Nickelback. Nickelback not surprisingly are from Alberta.

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-12-23 12:48:28 PM

Peaches - where did you get the information that they're hurting for cash? Just curious. You must be a personal friend of the band members and know their financial status. Of course.... How stupid am I?

Posted by: Annonymous1 | 2009-12-23 1:02:16 PM

Nickleback definitely are the fathers of the "alt rock" mediocrity we are subjected to today.

I liked Tremolo by Blue Rodeo though.

Posted by: shel | 2009-12-23 4:51:20 PM

There's an FM station in Calgary that advertises itself as being 100% Nickleback free. Sort of amusing, I guess. There's always an entertainer who everyone claims to hate, yet they still sell millions of albums. Look at Donny Osmond, and Michael Jackson.

Posted by: dp | 2009-12-24 12:04:58 PM

Wow. Such a keen wit. "Knox Bonerton". God, I admire you.

Posted by: Knox Harrington | 2009-12-27 6:11:39 PM

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