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The Winks


(Oh! Records / The Castle In the Clouds; US: 30 Sep 2010; UK: 30 Sep 2010)


If Lewis Carroll had come of age in the 1960s, started a band instead of writing books, and taken copious amounts of bad acid he might have come up with something that sounds like arty Montreal psych-rockers The Winks., who are not to be confused with the similarly named punk group out of Austin, Texas. Buoyed by the childlike squeal of cellist/vocalist Tyr Jami, who comes across like a latter day version of Mary Margaret O’Hara, and Todd Macdonald’s more soothing vocal approach, The Winks can be easily categorized as part of the genre I like to call WTF. Believe me, it doesn’t get much weirder than the group’s latest disc Twilights, which sometimes breaks into eardrum-melting guitar sprawl and lyrics that are, at the best of times, pure gibberish.

Recorded for what appears to be a pair of bedroom labels, the project has the feel of a homemade mix CD, with cover art that appears to have been run through both a typewriter and a color laser printer. The packaging underscores the underground feel of this recording, which clearly exists on its own plane of being. With eclectic musicianship at the fore – mandolins rub up against melodicas and analog synths, though not necessarily at the same time – a first listen might convince the listener that this record ranks up there with Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music as one of the worst long players ever made. You know, sheer weirdness for the sake of weirdness. Or a trip down the rabbit hole that’s not worth taking. However, the album does grow on you upon repeat listens. While it’s perhaps a little too experimental for its own good at times with its shifting, off-kilter time signatures and melodies, Twilights offers a sense of whimsy and playfulness you’re not going to find in the mainstream. You will come to appreciate the group’s audacity at making music that sounds quite unlike what’s out there, that’s for sure. If you like your music freaky and garish, by all means trek far, far off the beaten path and check this band out. The Winks are the type of band that the term “acquired taste” was invented for, and are not for the faint of heart.


Zachary Houle is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He has been a Pushcart Prize nominee for his short fiction, and the recipient of a writing arts grant from the City of Ottawa. He has had journalism published in SPIN magazine, The National Post (Canada), Canadian Business, and more. He also reviews books for

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