In 2009, based on the strength of one song, Christian Hansen & the Autistics became huge in their hometown of Edmonton. But as it turns out, Hansen is not a one trick pony, and while “Cocaine Trade” remains his most beloved song to date, he and the Autistics showed that they’ve got the stuff with their debut album, Power Leopard.
“Cocaine Trade” is a demonstration of the two things Hansen does best—it’s got insanely catchy instrumentals and witty songwriting. The beat is best described as tropical, produced by synthesizers, with the occasional bit of horns. And then there’s the lyrics, like the bridge: “I used to dance/Thought I was dancing for peace/I used to dance/I thought the music was sweet/It was just ’cause the drugs matched the beat.” The song has found new relevance in Toronto since the end of 2013, after the habits of a certain mayor went public.
Of course there’s so much more to this album to explore. “Pump It” and “How I’m Livin'” are fairly whimsical songs. The former combines synth, guitar and bass for a song about a guy who takes pleasure in all the small things: “surfing the net and defecating.” The latter is of two minds, one about a guy that probably few would enjoy spending with, and another that comes to life by a guest verse from Edmonton rapper The Joe.
“Calypso Hippo” and “Father Ray” both take rather controversial subjects and change them into something unrecognizable. “Calypso Hippo” takes another tropical beat, this time masking lyrics about selling children before it gets even worse with the last two lines. “Father Ray” is written from the point of view of someone abused by a priest but who becomes confused on how he feels about it.
Hansen also loves to write about douchebags, starting with the “It’s just my luck/That all the hipsters like the dance music,” and then expanding into “Churchill Square,” a song about a shitty New Year’s Eve filled with people showing off their new tattoos and people who say they’ll go to their friend’s show, then probably not doing so. “You Me Him & Us” is a synth-heavy trip through the head of a guy who’s having second thoughts about a threesome.
Amid his irreverence, though, Hansen does tackle more serious topics with surprising emotional poignancy. That comes near the end of the record starting with “Kierkegaard,” a song about a man who starts off sounding depressed but later becomes suicidal. Then there’s the song with a dance-party track but oddly touching lyrics, “High School’s Over.” As Hansen explained recently at a show in Toronto, it was inspired by a boy he knew in school named Matt Howard, whom he never heard from again. There’s an extra meaningful set of lines with “We were brothers, or was it lovers?/But that’s over, stay on your side of the screen.”
Power Leopard would go on to be the first of many excellent releases from Hansen, from Swans to C’Mon Arizona to the more recent Small Fry. Long may he reign.
Top Tracks: “Cocaine Trade”; “You Me Him & Us”; “Kierkegaard”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) +*swoop*