It’s Grayowl Point’s third annual Throwback Week! The blog is once again looking back at older Canadian albums and connecting them to the musical present. This year, albums released in 2012 or earlier qualify to be examined for Throwback Week. See our past throwback reviews here.
Duotang’s The Bright Side is getting the nod for this Throwback week in advance of the Winnipeg outfit’s long-withheld fourth release. And the truth is, even back in 2001, Duotang were a band beset by the challenges of apathy, changing interpersonal dynamics, and good old fashioned fatigue.
The band’s ability to shake off the sophomore-stage doldrums and have fun with their process for the first time in a long time led to a kicking-into-gear moment that brought forth The Bright Side.
This was a proper comeback record, a vigorous 14-track entity that showed Rod Slaughter and Sean Allum retaining elements of their early fascination with mod-pop and blending them with harder edged New Wave and proto-punk riffs delivered through bare-bones bass, keys and drums. These elements wrapped themselves around Slaughter’s notebook-filling lyricism to create something not unlike what we would today call pop-punk, minus a few coats of gloss.
The snark and high-gain amp-kicking attitude of The Bright Side plays against the type of weirdly heart-on-sleeve vocal delivery made famous by Rivers Cuomo: at once earnest and nebbishy, yet searing with grandiose ideas and sharp-edged emotional baggage. The band’s vulnerabilities are haloed, as it were, by turns highlighted and hidden, by the angular attack of their instrumentation. Where other entrants to this idiosyncratic sphere, such as San Diego mumblemathpoppers Pinback, were defined by their restrained volume and introspective, shoegazing style, Duotang showed that they were unafraid to meet “alternative” at the gate with guns blazing.
Though it was not the type of record to land with a huge splash in the Canadian market, The Bright Side certainly laid down roots for the Canadian “alternative” identity — former collaborator Rusty Matyas went on to work with Imaginary Cities and The Sheepdogs, for example. As a new generation has taken up the alt-rock mantle, morphing the definition of the word, Duotang are ready to reunite for the upcoming New Occupation fifteen years on from The Bright Side’s release, eager to bring some of their characteristically puzzle-edged style back to the fore. In the meantime, this album provides a compellingly zestful, if at times odd, refresher course.
Top Tracks: “Words of Simon,” “Are We Still Aligned?,” “Rise and Fall of the G.O.B.C”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) + *Swoop*