Any band that can make rock music that includes banjos is really, really fine by me, and that’s just what Lethbridge, Alta.-based The Utilities do.
Their record label, Esper Records (started by Jesse Northey) has been releasing consistently good music based out of Lethbridge, first with The Record Holder, and the Utilities look to be carrying on the torch well.
One strength the band has is in lead singer Joel Stretch (who sounds like a superhero with that name), whose roots-esque vocals add an extra bit of flavour to the often-catchy instrumentals of Flint.
The album is introduced quite smoothly with “Your Complex.” The picking of acoustic guitar is complemented by drums and Stretch’s vocals. There’s also some kickass harmonica between verses. Just as it ends, “Eyesopen/Eyesclosed,” one of the album’s strongest tracks, picks up without missing a beat. The track is complex (and I always love the complex tracks), consisting of two melodies. The first half of the song is louder than usual, and the impression I got was what Radiohead might sound like if they played roots music. The second half becomes a little more poppy but no less enjoyable.
“Guilt Free Living” shows off the band’s lyrical capability in addition to some heavier electric guitar. “Eyelids” definitely comes across as more sad, and also features some awesome banjo.
Another album highlight was “June 30, 2011.” The date obviously has some significance to the band, though I’m not sure what. Anyhow, the song is probably the catchiest of all of the album’s songs, an upbeat number of a romantic nature. The chorus describes the narrator needing a camera (to take pictures of pictures so he can know his sweetheart better than she knows herself) and an easel (so he can paint her a picture of herself, making her see how beautiful he is and letting him love her more than he loves himself).
“For Winter” is a song that somehow manages to sound like a rock song even with a fairly prominent banjo.
This is a solid collection of songs and the flint has definitely ignited a spark, so to speak. You can grab Flint from Bandcamp.
Top Tracks: “Eyesopen/Eyesclosed”; “June 30, 2011”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)