Let’s face it, among the myriad genres Canadian bands tackle, very few tackle the area of klezmer and gypsy punk. There are a few names established in the scene, like Geoff Berner and Lemon Bucket Orkestra, so hearing of other acts in this sparse field is always a good thing.
Of course, Tower of Dudes are not new players. Make Your Own Culture is the band’s third full-length. It sees the band exploring the album’s title as a grand theme, and its message is something that many should take to heart.
The theme is hammered in explicitly with the title track, which is also the opener. Amid a flurry of accordion and some frenetic guitar playing, the lyrics pertain to just doing whatever shit you want—don’t wait for popular culture to validate it. Like one of the lines: “Don’t like Christmas? Don’t celebrate.” It’s simple.
From there, the band delivers on its wordy self description as a “East meets West gypsy punk accordion rock band,” with a pleasing mix of instrumentals throughout. The accordion is particularly prevalent throughout, though does quiet down when it needs to, like in the mellow album closer “Morning” or “Pretty Special,” a number that absolutely skewers people who think they’re unique. “Oh yeah, you think you’re pretty special/You’re just the same as the rest of us,” the song says as a refrain.
For those looking for something with a bit more oomph, look at songs like “Dum” or “10000 Hours.” The latter in particular is one of the album’s highest points—it starts out like a funeral dirge, before unexpectedly speeding up. The energy increases as there’s a repeated back and forth. “It’s my life’s work” meets an immediate response of “It’s a vanity project!” and as the responses continue, both parties begin basically screaming at each other. And really, that’s what art is, isn’t it?
“Party (Like You Used To Could)” is also worth a mention as a song version of a reality check—it’s a reminder that we’ll all get old, and a line like “The fire within you has turned to dust” nails it even more.
Make Your Own Culture strikes an interesting balance between unbridled enthusiasm and deep cynicism, and the message one ultimately walks away with after hearing this short but potent album will likely be different on each listen.
Top Tracks: “We Never Learn Anything”; “10000 Hours”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)