Novillero: Aim Right for the Holes in Their Lives

David Bernard

Leave it to a band of Canadians to create one of the most literate, catchy pop records of the year. Dust of your hippest pair of reading glasses and most vintage pair of dancing shoes; you'll need them both.


Aim Right for the Holes in Their Lives

Label: Mint
US Release Date: 2005-06-07
UK Release Date: 2005-08-08
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate

Let me go ahead and create an abridged list of Novillero's influences before I get too far into the review. It'll save us time later. They sound like/are similar to/have been influenced by the following: XTC, Elvis Costello, Chicago, Teenage Fanclub, Billy Joel, the Beatles, the Who, etc. In an Arcade Fire Funeral-tinged moved, they even end their album with a female lead singer after 11 tracks of guy vocals. So Aim Right for the Holes in their Lives must be horrendous, right? Billy Joel!? Chicago!!? Piano!!!? Horns!!!!? Sometimes bratty vocals!!!!!? Actually the elements come together quite nicely. Maybe it's the socialism and health care system coupled with the frigid temperatures, but the Canadians (these guys and the New Pornographers are all the evidence you need, really) have been churning out the most refreshing pop music in the world.

Pop-rock music rarely weaves its namesake styles effectively. Pop music overrides rock music most often and turns it into a wimpy mush. Or bands are too concerned with rocking out and they forget the importance of hooks and wit. Novillero don't have that problem. The hooks are plentiful, the arrangements are varied, the melodies are memorable and immediate, and the horns are tastefully implemented.

Quite refreshingly, the lyrics are excellent. "Laissez-Faire System" could be the first song to make me nostalgic for Mr. McCann's high school Free Enterprise course and his Adam Smith lectures. Lead singer Rod Slaughter laments: "The laissez-faire system is not quite working out". Later he wittily poses no solution: "My ass is quite used to sitting on fences". In "The Hypothesist", the namesake character is misunderstood: "People would often call him paranoid / He'd say 'cautious is a better word'". Grant Johnson, who sings and wrote the lyrics for two tracks, is equally capable of throwing together some excellent phrases: "Knocked a pane of glass out of my front window / That broke against the ground two stories below / To return to sand again". Most rock stars probably don't even know that glass is made of sand. Aim closes with a duet in which Slaughter and guest female vocalist Keri McTighe discuss their broken relationship in terms of a car ride: "Restless in mind, static in form / Creating things we can hold onto / Despite some infractions I might have made / I care for you". Tragically, they don't want the ride to end because they know they'll be forced to confront their problem. Instead, they decide they should pull over so they never have to return home. It feels as if I'm analyzing a short story, and that's a compliment.

Even more refreshing than good lyrics is the fact that the music is good, too. The album opens with a quartet of nearly flawless songs showcasing the band's wide variety of sound-alikes. Aim moves from jittery rock-pop, to piano-based pop-rock (complete with a hushed chorus you can snap along to), to AM radio power pop, to straight ahead pop music with Chicago-style horn fills. The reason that the opening tracks are so amazing is the variety among the songs, in addition to the variety of the sounds within them. They are all pop-based, but the instrumentation within the songs' sections keeps the tunes continually surprising.

Outside of the first four songs, the title track is the most oddly appealing. When compared to the bulk of the album, it's less straightforward and less instantaneous, but its oddness is part of the allure. "Aptitude" is simply another excellent song. "Let's Pull Over Here" is the biggest departure for the band sonically, and one of its most beautiful songs. McTighe allows her gentle voice to carry the pain and heartbreak of the lyrics as the melody peaks softly with a confession/revelation.

With so many highlights, it remains difficult to criticize the more mediocre tracks because they would sound amazing on other releases when sandwiched between other mediocre tracks. An album rich with perfection can have a minor slip-up every once and a while. In this case, I suppose I can excuse those instances.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.