Looking back at the last few albums that I’ve reviewed it struck me that maybe there was something missing. Don’t get me wrong these have been records are are all somewhere on the spectrum from great to utterly essential. Nevertheless, if I were to listen to them all back to back in an evening I get the feeling that there was something else that would need to be added. It was only when I returned to listening to the new album by Canadians ‘The Switching Yard’ that I realised what this absence was… some plain and simple right at yer music… no fiddling or twiddling… no concepts or cathedrals of meaning… just some great rock and roll played with heart and soul.
The Switching Yard are from Saskatoon in Saskatchewan and, if you think that sounds familiar, well the band contains members of Psych Insight favourites Shooting Guns and Radiation Flowers. And, well, if that’s not a recommendation I don’t know what it.
Anyway, like the album itself, let’s stop messing around and get on with it. Album opener ‘Space Fuckin’ is all of eleven second long… but long enough to let you know what to expect before segueing into ‘Champagne Action’ with its punchy blues-tinged riff and MC5 vocal this just hammers through the nonsense, yet with some subtle reverb underneath the rhythm section reminding you that there’s depth here too. This theme continues with ‘Hard Luck’ with it’s Stoogian undertones combining with laser focussed melodies which seem destined to surely put anyone in a good mood. I feel so at home with angst-ridden music but sometimes it’s just great to escape to the riff-laden uplands and soak in some music that seems to exist to make you feel good. Just feel that beautiful guitar progression… yeah man!
After that the more zoned out feeling of ‘Behind The Gates’ it great for just kicking back to. I can just imagine sitting at the end of the day with a beer and just chilling out to this mother. The vocal is just on the right side of plaintiff and the repeato riff gradually gets into your brain as other parts of the track take you off into places that are contemplative without insisting that you engage in any psychological self examination (as has been the case with some of the other great music I’ve reviewed lately). This just sits there in a way that I really like, yet at no point does is fall into the banal…
Just before turning over to side two ‘Space Fuckin II’ nicely brings the first set to an end, a half minute delve into the unknown adding character before we’re off again with ‘Hank It’s Midnight’ on side two. This one just screams ‘get up and dance you motherfucker!’ with its heavy and totally solid sound (the track that you can most hear Shooting Guns in here). It’s just so upbeat in a way that’s neither trite nor light… yes it’s bordering on the poppy for me… but hell what wrong with that… it’s just so… enthusiastic is the word. Brilliant!
Which brings us to ‘Class Act’. Rarely has a track been so well named. This is the absolute personification of zoned out rock music. Seriously I could listen to this on repeat for days and never…NEVER… get tired of it. Like the rest of the album there’s something very easy about it, but this kinda belies what’s going on here because this is so well played and angles just right to install itself under your skin… while being just heavy enough to keep your attention. I love this track… a lot!
Last up is ‘Burnt Wick’ which takes us off piste just a bit with it’s screaming guitars and rolling vocals. By now I’m feeling ready to take on all comers and this gives me just the vehicle to really dig in deep and let it all go with its fuzz-laden riffs and blues flourishes… it’s like heading off into a wobbly animated tunnel because it’s there and it looks like it might be a freaky experience… totally wild!
I normally do a nice long paragraph here summing up the qualities of the album, here I’ll just say this…
Play this album and tell me what’s not to like. [period]