[18 December 2006]
For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out what people meant when they described music as sounding really “Canadian”. Nowadays, any sort of negative connotation there has been replaced by the phenomenon of hipsters clamoring over everything coming out of Montreal. Before that, though, there were veteran bands like the Tragically Hip, Sloan, and Blue Rodeo that made up this ellusive “Canadian” sound. Their record sales history suggested you really had to be local to appreciate them—or local to have even heard of them most of the time. It’s the sort of timeless music that the guys at university campus bars think sounds really good after chugging back some Labatt Ice. Matt Mays & El Torpedo fall into this category. They’re all more than capable musicians playing very listenable, friendly roots-rock music that will definitely provide satisfying background music to your Friday night at the bar, but it will also almost immediately be forgotten the minute you take the album off. The songs on their self-titled US debut bleed together to make the record feel a bit like one long, predictable jam session, which doesn’t necessarily make a bad album, but it does make for one that never leaves any sort of real impression. The band’s bio tries to make comparisons to early Tom Petty, but I’m reminded more of fellow Canadian Tom Cochrane in his “Life Is a Highway” days. “Cocaine Cowgirl” was a big hit on Canadian radio and features the band’s typical big guitar riffs, rolling drum fills, and raw-rock vocals, though I suspect no one south of the border knows that.