While Canadian band Hot Hot Heat continues to win over fans and critics in America, and strengthen their hold on the ever-fickle title of It Band of the Moment in the UK, a little band from Toronto is quickly showing there’s room for more than one group of Canadian post-punk revivalists. Tangiers isn’t the usual band we’ve come to expect from Canada these days; Canada’s musical exports as of late have largely been indie supergroups (The New Pornographers, Broken Social Scene), annoying hard rock clones (Nickelback, our Lady Peace), annoying teen singers (Avril Lavigne, Lillix), or even worse, annoying thirtysomething divas (Shania Twain, Celine Dion). Well, they’re here to change all that. Tangiers’ music is nothing but simple, choppy, high-energy rock ‘n’ roll music, sweat-soaked tunes that ooze sex. That’s right, Canadians are fully capable of making white hot, sexy rock.
Hailing from Toronto, it’s a good time for Tangiers to make people take notice of their music. The band’s sound combines the high-energy Rolling Stones guitar riffs that The Hives excel at. They might have The Strokes’ sport coat/shag hairdo/skinny tie schtick down pat, but unlike The Strokes’ obsession with Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground, Tangiers seem to pay homage to The Buzzcocks, Marco Moniz’s stuttering beats mimicking the drumming of John Maher, and singer/guitarist Josh Reichmann’s voice often resembling that of Pete Shelley. Throw in a contemporary, hyperkinetic garage rock feel similar to The Mooney Suzuki for good measure, and you’ve got one of the coolest Canadian debut albums to come out in the past year.
With 13 songs in a little over half an hour, not a minute is wasted on Hot New Spirits, the band careening from song to song, like a not-so-soused version of The Libertines. The frenzied pace of “Red Stone Rocks” opens the album, with Reichmann spewing indecipherable lyrics, like a New Wave version of Mick Jagger. “Keep the Living Bodies Warm”, a phenomenal rock tune that easily ranks among the best singles of 2003 so far, matches the energy of The Hives’ “Hate to Say I Told You So”, but veers off into a slick harmonica solo that nails that Stones sound better than their Swedish counterparts. Both “Here Come the Pieces” and “Return to the Ship” (which boasts some cool organ added over the guitars) are blatant Buzzcocks rip-offs, but it’s done so well, you have to just smile and enjoy it all, as “Return to the Ship” concludes with a catchy “ooh-ooh” vocal harmony. The wicked “Ca Va Cool” incorporates the punk sound of The Clash, while “One Thousand Hands” (dig those handclaps . . . cute) has Reichmann spouting some oddly nautical sounding lyrics in a voice that resembles Elvis Costello circa 1977.
Like The Libertines and The Datsuns, there’s nothing really original going on with Tangiers. However, unlike The Libertines, Tangiers sounds like they can handle their booze, and unlike The Datsuns, they manage to keep things sounding relatively fresh over an entire album. The album comes to a brilliant conclusion on the last four songs, as the cheeky “Eyes Shut”, the ska-punk infused “Kiss My Lips”, the roaring, aggressive “Broken Leaf”, and the stuttering “Situation” (S-s-s-s-situation/F-f-f-fight!”) brings the festivities to a boisterous close.
Hot New Spirits has already been a big college radio hit in Canada this past spring, with an extended run at the top of the national college album chart, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to duplicate that feat in America. Tangiers is a band with a big future; they might not have a chic Manhattan prettyboy as a frontman, they don’t have the massive big label hype like corporate rock frauds The Vines, and they don’t have the NME proclaiming them as the latest saviors of rock ‘n’ roll, but unlike many of their peers, they have the songwriting skill, as well as enough musical chops to knock you off your feet. This album deserves to be big.