[17 January 2008]
For reasons unknown—and probably not worth losing a lot of sleep over—a good number of contemporary music groups have found some unusual humor in referencing worldly locations that have nothing to do with their own charted origins. Take for example the instrumental experimenters within Architecture in Helsinki. Formed in the down-under city of Melbourne, Australia, the band has as much to do with the Finnish capital as a square peg and a round hole. Following suite are the Strokes-infused garage rockers Tokyo Police Club, which find their home based out of Newmarket, Ontario. Of course the worst offender is probably the 29-piece chorus pop ensemble I’m From Barcelona, who all hail Jonkoping, Sweden.
Joining the ranks of these geographically confused performers are the Canadians, a five-piece collective born and raised in Verona, Italy. Led by vocalist/guitarist Duccio Simbeni, and accompanied by guitarist Michele Nicoli, bassist Massimo Fiorio, keyboardist Vittorio Pozzato, and drummer Christian Corso, these foreign visitants have made a solid stateside arrival with their debut album A Sky With No Stars.
Though released under the Varese-based indie label Ghost Records, A Sky With No Stars does not sound like a record made by a bunch of native Italians. It draws heavily from the sunny, harmonizing influence of Beach Boys and combines that with a wall of power chord fuzz. Utilizing melodic hooks that come across like some lost Rivers Cuomo arrangement, the Canadians’ wade comfortably deep in the West Coast waters of the happy sounding/sad song dichotomy.
Perhaps the best example of the Canadians’ California idolizing is presented with their first single, “Summer Teenage Girl”. Evoking the memory of a season’s lost love, the song is an anthemic version of a sweet ‘60s pop ditty. With a lyrical nod to one of the most beloved songs conjured by Brian Wilson (“I fell down into you discovering new vibrations”), Simbeni’s voice, alongside the band’s balanced guitar crunch, successfully recreate the illusion of the sun and surf. As major-to-minor chord changes and harmonizing “la-la’s” wedge themselves in the mix, the Canadians pay homage without morphing into a tribute band.
For all their references to the Pacific shoreline and the supposedly insurmountable amount of fun that comes with such a glamorous environment—particularly in songs like “15th of August” and “Find Out Our 60s”—the majority of the Canadians thematic focus concentrates on their own inability to really feel included. Playing the role of the geeks that just can’t hold onto the girl regardless of their Death Cab for Cutie levels of sensitivity, the Canadians keep their collective chin up by listening to their favorite albums, remembering the good times, and writing songs entitled, “Last Revenge of the Nerds”. With unabashed loser chic looking for aide from Marty McFly, the Goonies, and anyone with a pocket protector, the band carries the Dungeons and Dragons torch from Weezer’s “In the Garage”.
While it seems a little unorthodox for a bunch of Italians to call themselves Canadians, playing music that sounds right out of California, there’s not a whole lot to scoff at when they manage to pull off a debut that is so unyielding and well rounded. Looking to make their first Stateside appearance at this spring’s SXSW Festival, Austin, Texas will be the closest the band has ever been to their true geographic inspiration. One would think it would only be appropriate for them to make a little side trip to the Pacific shore.