Review – “Renovation Ruin” – High Five

renovation-ruinreviewed by Michael Thomas

Oh, how I missed Matt LeGroulx’s labyrinthine song titles. They’re a mainstay of his work, no matter what kind of songs he’s writing. Over his prolific musical period as Expwy, he covered a range of styles, ending on the fuzzy-rock exclamation point of Deep Joy. He showed that he can make a damn fine country album as Kenny Tuckey, and with a frankly all-star lineup in High Five, he shows he can handle jazz, too.

If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you could probably guess that a lineup including Ian Jarvis, Daniel Gelinas and Einar Jullum is very exciting, and including Montreal jazz mainstay Ali Levy, this lineup is nothing but aces.

So now we get to Renovation Ruin, perhaps one of the densest albums LeGroulx has created so far. With Jullum and Jarvis on “basses,” Levy and Gelinas on drums and LeGroulx handling vocals, guitars and sax, there’s an undeniable musical richness. In some cases, these instruments create a harmonious whole, but it’s always the most thrilling when they play against each other. In the beginning of album closer “Fake out the champ and his vascular balance,” we get a pronounced introduction to each instrument. The two basses play just slightly out of sync to get your head spinning, the basses glide in, and LeGroulx tops it off with some psychedelic guitar.

Identifying each instrumental part makes for a challenge. In album highlight “September holds it bandolier and its mutiny headear” (try saying that five times fast) the instruments combine to create a Radiohead-y sense of gloom, but then, as though a winter spell has ended and spring is rushing in, the melody seems to bloom into something happy. In “Save the shining nightclub sun,” LeGroulx gets close to a singalong chorus with phrases like “Turn the clock back to one” as dueling basses mesh with strong trumpet.

LeGroulx’s lyrics are a huge collection of zen koans and I reckon it’ll take at least a dozen listens to interpret their meaning. Over the shimmering guitar of “Concentrate and weep,” LeGroulx begins the song with these words: “I dismounted my socks on discount equinox.” In “Run into the glimmer room,” he sings of “Eating nectarines withered by warlords.” In the aforementioned “September holds…” the words “Scandanavian tattoo” closely follow “holiday cheer.”

Renovation Ruin is pleasure whether you’re looking for complex jazz-meets-rock structures or ponder-worthy lyrics or both.

Top Tracks: “Taking out the trash”; “September holds its bandolier and its mutiny headear”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) +*swoop*

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