Monday, December 1, 2014
Ladies and gentlemen, Napalmpom!
The good news for me is that riff rock is alive and well and thriving in the great city of Calgary. Is it a coincidence that The Flames have been winning ever since Napalmpom released an album? I think not! If Napalmpom are sometimes mistaken for a parody band, it's perhaps because they don't take themselves very seriously. They have a funny name and write epic rock n' roll songs about such topics as Greg Ginn's sweater and Nick Cave's ill-fated Gladiator 2 screenplay. But just because a band likes to joke doesn't mean it is a joke. And I can assure you that these fellas are completely serious about rocking. Having established themselves as one of Calgary's most beloved live bands, they're now poised for world domination with a debut LP that's chock full of arena-ready anthems. They refer to The Unconditional Love Of Napalmpom as "nine love letters to the history of rock & roll". And with a sound described as "MC5 bombast with Thin Lizzy dual guitarmonies, AC/DC showmanship, hooks only The Exploding Hearts could write and the down-to-earthedness of early Black Flag", this is definitely a band that swings for the fences. In the way it celebrates all things that rock, The Unconditional Love is a throwback to a time when kids plastered their bedroom walls with rock posters and flocked to packed stadiums to witness their musical heroes in all their deafening glory. I can't help but like a band that isn't kidding when it cites Boston as an influence.
While I naturally relate to Napalmpom on a kindred spirit level, it's also important to consider that these guys are exceptionally talented. Shawn Petsche and Craig Evans are a powerhouse guitar tandem in that Gorham/Robertson and Young/Young mold - firing out enough killer riffs and awesome solos to fuel a full night of air guitar heroics. PJ Lavergne definitely has the pipes and personality to front a bigtime hard rock band, and that rhythm section is tighter than the lid on a pickle jar. Calgary scene legend Lorrie Matheson (Fire Engine Red, National Dust) produced The Unconditional Love and really gets credit for pushing the band to make a debut album it could be proud of. Matheson and the band went to great lengths to capture a truly massive sound - and the result is a record that practically begs you to crank up the volume. Bookended by the natural show-starter "Guided By Volume" and the farewell/theme song "Napalmpom National Anthem", this set of songs does somewhat approximate the feel of a live rock n' roll event. And if these tracks are any indication, Napalmpom surely puts on one hell of a show! Running the gamut from '70s arena sing-alongs ("Get With Me") to Thin Lizzy-ish power balladry ("Feint Of Heart") to thumping Detroit rock ferocity ("Seamstress") to full-on stoner thunder ("Ashes Ashes"), this is an album that rocks hard but also rolls with the best of 'em. I'd like to rate it a ten out of ten, but it seems more appropriate to give it an 11 out of 11.
Napalmpom has made a rock n' roll record that's largely about rock n' roll. Such a concept will only seem silly if you're not a true believer in the power and glory of rock n' roll. When I think about today's music scene and what might be missing from it, full-blown rocking out is pretty high on the list. If more bands had their own theme songs and wrote lyrics about "riding a riff so good it caused a train to derail in Calgary", surely the world would be a better place. Or least a way more fun place. Blast this album at the loudest possible volume. And if someone walks in on you air-drumming like a maniac, don't even think about stopping!