Newmarket, ON’s The Fiscals continue a now well-entrenched tradition of lyrical, guitar-driven pop rock of a particularly Canadian style on their Mirror Test EP, following somewhat in the footsteps of bands like Zeus and Hollerado (both of whom they’ve shared stages with in the past,) or those of sunny West Coast rockers Said The Whale.
Opener “Bad Disease” is an archetypal fun rock arrangement, driven by its energetic chorus, toothy chords and slick soloing chops. The overt 90s vibes are balanced by skillful melodic turns in the verses: it’s a hybrid of millennial guitar rock styles that thrives on exuberance, but it feels somewhat derivative of a bevy of alt-radio predecessors.
“Oriole” and “Strangers” both present the band’s more nuanced side, with better balance between the vocals and the arrangement and a more dynamic songwriting style. Both songs display savvy stylistic contrasts, boosted by tight mixes with great balance and just the right amount of sheen, creating genuine excitement and motion. Rolling chords give way to sudden bursts of edge and energy, and the earnest, plaintive vocals shift from lightly twang-inflected smooth rock to trebly tight pop-punk tones. These songs plant the Fiscals squarely in a more modern alt-rock space, distinctly youthful though not immature.
“Mirror Test” closes on a slightly angstier note with “Case In Point,” which aims for a harder-edged sound and more overtly loud-quiet-loud structure. The song’s verses show promise, but the choruses feel a bit left over from an approximation of Blink 182’s latter-day catalogue. An inspired section of sizzling instrumental riffage lights up the middle of the song, but, like its other bookending track, it again feels like it’s composed of elements from modern indie/Can-rock up-and-comers you’ve come to know well in years past.
If the Fiscals continue focusing on refining and exhibiting their more distinct elements of style and voice as exhibited on this EP, they ought to certainly look forward to making a greater mark on the Canadian alternative scene!
Top Tracks: “Oriole,” “Strangers”
Rating: Young Hoot (Decent)