written by Lee Clifford
I have never watched an episode of Canadian Idol in my life.
So imagine my surprise this summer on a hot, muggy night in Toronto when a young man with an acoustic guitar blew me away with his modern rock sound, only to later tell me “well, I was on Canadian Idol a few years back…”.
Fast forward to December 7, 2010 and I get my greedy little hands on this artist’s latest album. The stereotype with Idol alumni are that their albums will either be vocal-ornamentally heavy bubble gum pop, or Daughtry; but this artist has broken those restraints and has shown not only why he stands out, but that he has evolved into a rocker that Canadian music sorely needs.
The artist is Rex Goudie, the album is One Hundred Pages Later, and I’ve been waiting for months to hear this album. Instead of my usual “listen first, review later” style, we’re doing this track by track, so it will be a bit long I’m sure, but I’m going to give you my thorough feelings as I listen to this album for the first time.
The album opens with a rocky acoustic track titled Comin’ Back for Good, which reminds me of Joel Plaskett with Jeff Martin’s tuning, which is more than okay with me. You know when you’re at a party and someone finds an acoustic guitar and plays this amazing song you’ve never heard of before? That’s this song; simple and stripped down but still feels great to listen to and begins the album with vitality and sends a clear message of what the listener is in for.
Track two is a rock ballade titled Undone which makes me want to go digging for my old Wallflowers CD after I’m done with this review. The album is now beginning to pick up into a solid rock feel with chunky guitars and slick riffs with a progression that will have any toe tapping
The rock continues to build in the rock ballade, Save My Life. We posted this song acoustically a few months back, but hearing this tune with a full band and vocal harmonies is an entirely new experience. The polished, final studio product screams “first single”, I’m seeing a music video in my head without even meaning to; this tune would be one of those songs that just feels right to drive to with such a solid beat, strong progression and just a full feeling… screw it I’m going to put the CD in my deck and go for a drive around the block.
Okay I’m back, and I was right. Moving on…
Quarantine is up next. Remember the Jeff Martin reference earlier? This tune has it in spades as a catchy sitar is riffing under Rex’s vocals and the chunking power chords are awesome; I want to make a comment about how this feels like if The Tea Party rocked out more on Edges of Twilight, but I’m sure that would receive more backlash than intended, so I’ll just leave it at this song is awesome with a very unique twist that sets it out from the rest of the album.
Burn it Down, also known as my prediction as the official breakup song for 2011. Deep, honest and painful lyrics proclaim heartbreak and anger. This song has an honest feel to it that’s equally heartbreaking and beautiful, as it’s a pain most of us can relate to. I had the opportunity to catch Rex perform this tune on the streets of Toronto this summer so check it out if you want, and if you think this tune’s awesome just imagine how great it sounds with the studio polish and chilling vocal harmonies that the album version brings to the table.
Burn it Down is a tough track to follow, which may hinder Giving it All, the rock track that follows the broken-hearted ballade. Giving it All is a solid, by the numbers rock tune with a lot of drive and a great progression. It still has some of the melancholy feel of Burn it Down, but it’s clearly the image of pulling oneself out of their lowest point. It’s a strong and brave piece that tastefully follows such a sorrowful and honest tune.
Adios Amigo has turned the dial into full rock mode with this pop rock tune. This song really shows the amount of work that has gone into this album as it’s a rock tune that could have easily become an audible mess but instead has such a refined and polished feel to it; tunes like this one make the listener gain an appreciation for the art of not just making music, but making the music sound so professional; put this song on the U.S. charts with acts like Lifehouse and this song would be right at home.
Kiss Me Once pulls down the rock a bit and we’re back to a cleaner, more acoustic feeling rock tune. The bouncing, country-esque bassline puts some variety into this tune that will set it apart from the rest of the album. The comment I made before about that guy at the party with an acoustic guitar stands with this song, only now the guy has a friend or two that have joined him and the final product is a southern rock style progression with mellow crooning of love lost and found.
Get Out of My Head goes back to the rock and actually reminds me a lot of my friends Cure Gravity. Yes, I just linked another band in Rex’s album review, but hearing this tune has me jonesing badly to see these acts play a gig together now. This song is Rock 101: aggressive percussion, slick guitar work, driving bass and all topped off with wailing vocals. The staccato hook of this tune will have anyone’s head bobbing, I hope some of those other Canadian bands out there who are direly in need of a refresher on how rock is supposed to sound will get to hear this tune, I love it.
We’re in the hone stretch with Won’t Have to Wait. Chilling strings greet the listener under a sadly ringing guitar and lyrics not as morose as Burn it Down, but still pretty honest and pain-filled. In a twist, this tune features a duet with female vocalist Valerie Stanois I believe her name is. The tune does feel a little short despite clocking in at just a bit under four minutes, I guess time does fly when it’s a good time. This is a very strong rock duet, it doesn’t scream “single” like a lot of the other tracks on this album, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good track by any means.
Six Months in a Leaky Boat brings back some of that delicious Joel Plaskett sound from the opening of this album, with a dash of Sam Roberts added to it. This song is textbook Canadiana with a few synths tastefully added. A poppy acoustic feel and a grooving bassline and that vocal style that is so trademark of true Canadian music icons. At about two minutes the track throws down a little synth ho-down that makes the tune just even more fun and then transitions right back into the Canadian rock. This track is a memorable finish to this very strong Canadian album.
One Hundred Pages Later just feels good to listen to. It is very much an album about growing up, living, loving and losing, but it also has a bold “there’s always tomorrow” attitude about it. The lyrics are honest and relevant and the instrumentation proves that Rex will not be shackled into the stereotypical sound expected of Idol alumni. There are no weak tracks on this album, yes there are some that stick out more than others such as Save My Life, Adios Amigo and the spine-chilling Burn it Down, but that doesn’t mean any of the other tracks are bad by any means, they just have a very big shadow being cast by those strong tracks.
One Hundred Pages Later sells for a cool $9.99 in iTunes, so go grab this album and support an artist that has all the potential to be one of the next icons of Canadian rock; worst case scenario you can learn some of these songs on guitar and play them at parties, chances are you won’t go home alone after.