If there is one place where rock fans can find solace, it is Canada. No joke. Canadians continually surprise critics and fans in the United States by keeping rock alive and exhibiting less of an interest in the glossy pop that dominates record sales and tour revenues in the United States. The problem is that Canadian artists have often found it difficult to cross the border and sell as many records as their American rock counterparts. While underrated bands like Our Lady Peace can sell out 15,000-seat arenas in Canada, they often play only small clubs in the States. Finger Eleven, Moist and Treble Charger also experience loyal national followings in Canada but have trouble making fans below the border.
Joydrop, whose infectious and well-produced new LP Viberate does their country proud by combining simple hooks with snappy drums and big guitars, is hoping to find success here in the United States. Having played over 300 North American shows since their 1999 debut, Metasexual, the band has honed a unique blend of guitars and melodies that are upbeat and fun despite the dark lyrical underpinnings of lost trust and self-doubt.
Lead singer Tara Slone releases her pain and frustration over a poor relationship on most of the record. Her unique vocal style adds honesty and sensibility to the music on Viberate, which ranges from aggressive rock tracks to mid-tempo ballads. The rest of the band exhibits a strong hold of their respective instruments and the entire record sounds tight, focused and self-aware.
For the infectious first single “Sometimes Wanna Die,” the group combines the hooks of The Go Go’s with a wall of guitars and an upbeat melody. Although the music may be derivative, it sounds fresh and vibrant. Despite the joyful tone of this track, the lyrics indicate deep relational pain as Tara Slone sings “I still wish that I could hold you/I sometimes want to die.”
Ironically, despite the sensitive nature of this record and its revelations of pain and loneliness, the album kicks off with a track called “Thick Skin,” which is undoubtedly the most aggressive track on the record. A soft guitar/keyboard intro leads into a hard, distorted piece of guitar work that cools off just in time to let Slone sing her opening bit of “You love/you trust/you’re good/you’ll do what you’re told.” Rolling bass and tight drums keep the song moving before Slone ends the verse with a declaration of her mental armor.
By the intensity of her voice on the rising, Zepplin-esque pre-chorus of “American Dreamgirl,” Slone makes it clear that she finds disgust with the American dreamgirl image. Later in the song Slone continues her rant with “Surrounded by the world that made us/plastic and wanted/subscribing to your airbrushed magazines/filled with American dreamgirls.”
The simple song structure and well-mixed guitars lead the song into its brilliant ending of a simple guitar solo on top of a driving beat. It may be a simple piece of music, but the end of this song catches the group in a moment of total cohesion. The piece is driving and an excellent listen.
The vulnerable side of Joydrop comes through on “Swan Song,” with its soft nature and equally-soft lyrics. Under the guitars of Thomas Payne, Slone sings “Don’t you wish that we could do this one over/maybe get it right/maybe just hold on,” and throughout the track she almost seems to be singing her own thoughts to herself in a several-minute moment of reflection. The track balances the attack of a track like “Thick Skin” very well and thus makes the album a more diverse and enjoyable collection of music.
The honest tone in the voice of Tara Slone and the musical strength of her band makes Joydrop one of Canada’s strongest new acts and their hook-laden music makes them a potential success in the United States. Viberate does just that — it opens with a bang on “Thick Skin” and vilifies the “American Dreamgirl” before making four-chord magic with “Sometimes Wanna Die” and opening up on a track like “Swan Song.” The rest of the twelve-song collection is equally as catchy despite the move towards more mid-tempo tracks on the latter half of the album. By album’s end, Joydrop have pumped a little fresh air into the smog-covered world of pop rock; and for that, Canada can be proud.