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The Deadly Snakes

Porcella

(Paper Bag; US: 4 Oct 2005; UK: Available as import)

Any band that can sustain a degree of longevity is usually levied with some heavy expectations. For the most part, the judgments boil down to two opposing perspectives. There’s the status quo camp that’ll raise all hell when said band changes their direction, however slightly. On the other side of the fence there’s folks who scorn and scoff at those who don’t revamp their entire sound with each passing album. With music fans, familiarity seems to breed devotion as much as contempt. But really, whether you adhere to Ecclesiastes or the Byrds, seasons are bound to change.


Definitely, the Deadly Snakes are a changed band. It’s almost been a decade since they were hatched in the basements and donut shops of Toronto’s west side. They aren’t teenagers anymore but somehow they’ve managed to sustain their raucous essence. Along with that youthful abandon, on their new classic, they actually embrace their ageing process as well (unlike some of their heroes—sorry Keith). Their latest album is just as raw as anything they’ve put to wax, but this meat is seasoned with foreign salts. Porcella is seared with defied expectations, but still pangs of previous albums. Forgive the foodisms, but once you listen to the album you’ll be thinking with your stomach as well.


Porcella is so flooded with tales of contemporary culture’s cravings, it might as well have been titled Appetite For Destruction (or maybe the The Spaghetti Incident). And I’m almost tempted to dub the Snakes, sincerity’s answer to Guns N’ Roses, but I won’t. Still, this is a dangerous album considering its dearth of resolution and its rejection of easy. It’s messy, jumbled, and murky. It exists in the crevices of contradiction. Unlike a lot of today’s music that is hell bent on making statements and crying rally, the Deadly Snakes just poke around the mess and tell something of what washed up on the gutter shore. The filth is damned compelling and despite the disarray, there is no lack of urgency in the delivery


When you’ve got two songwriters/vocalists as determined as Age of Danger and Andre Ethier, there’s bound to be contradiction. But it’s that characteristic incongruity that separates this album from mediocrity. Each song swerves violently from the last, which to wearied ears might translate as lazy or plagiaristic. However, Porcella‘s discord is the source of its brilliance and the reason why it’ll prove enduring. When two of the best songs on the album were penned by the drummer and the trumpet player (“Sissy Blues” and “Oh Lord, My Heart”, respectively), when three singers provide leads to one song (“Let It All Go”), and when a so-called garage band includes three acoustic guitars on a tune (“Gore Veil”), it’s got to be some sort of mad genius flowing through this chaos. It’s got to be that the Deadly Snakes have made a record for the ages, a record that refuses to play monochrome.


Porcella has hunger on its breath. Both musically and lyrically, the Deadly Snakes neither sate themselves by playing it safe, nor do they let their ambition bury their roots. This album is a feat of sincere growth. Frank yet artful, humbly confrontational, its hold on such contradictions allows the band room for exploration without veering into overindulgence. So if you think Bob Dylan was right to pick up the electric guitar, you might similarly approve of the Deadly Snakes appetite for change. That’s no easy comparison, but on Porcella this band nearly lives up to it.

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By Thomas Patterson
22 May 2003
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