Paul Lawton garnered plenty of attention recently for his role as the guy behind the Slagging Off Tumblr account, which took some fairly weighty shots at the Canadian music industry. Lawton ensured that industry folk would look a little closer at Lawton’s now expansive role in Canadian music: he’s played with trash punkers Myelin Sheaths, runs the increasingly productive and vital label Mammoth Cave, and now serves as the creative force behind garage gurus The Ketamines.
There’s an air of sarcasm and frustration to Lawton’s online presence, which means that anyone who became initiated with Ketamines by spinning Spaced Out, their debut LP, wouldn’t have been surprised. At times sounding too rushed and making attempts to sound complicated just for the sake of distraction, Spaced Out was intriguing at best.
You Can’t Serve Two Masters, the follow-up, is a much more focused and entertaining release, suggesting that Lawton, who was also a Ph.D student at the University of Calgary, is keen on progression with Ketamines instead of simply stirring up trouble. Full of succinct, pop-influenced garage-psych, You Can’t Serve Two Masters moves quickly and goes for the gut with great results.
What stands out on You Can’t Serve Two Masters, is the execution: great hooks are left alone to work their magic, most notably on the intoxicating title track and the bouncy “Lawncare”. It’s not simplistic, however: as the members of Ketamines are allowed room to find their own footing, You Can’t Serve Two Masters reveals itself in layers. “So Clean” is a perfect marriage of a scuzzy hook, while still employing sunny undertones. The spacey stomp of “Don’t Stop” is is as close to anything on Spaced Out, but even then it’s a fun enough listen that no one will get too bogged down in.
“Spaceships” even showcases a sensitive, humiliated side, something of a rarity in a genre known for cocksure callousness. But Lawton and Ketamines have always explored dichotomies, and You Can’t Serve Two Masters is no different. “Thank Me Forever” continues in exposing Lawton’s sweet side, an indication that we truly won’t know what will come next from the band.
You Can’t Serve Two Masters is one of the better psych listens of the year; its ability to surprise is so engaging that it reminds us never to judge a book by its cover. Or not to assume one’s vision is so narrow and limiting.