A quick Canadian 90s alt-rock test, readers. Hands up if you remember any or all of the following: Jeff Burrows; Edwin; Mike Turner; Amir Epstein. If you’re like me, at least three of those rang clear bells of recognition. Such is the pedigree of the band Crash Karma, whose second album Rock Musique Deluxe drops tomorrow.
The late 90s and early 2000s were a delicious time for the Canadian rock scene. Moist, The Tea Party, Finger Eleven (pre-selling out), Our Lady Peace… Many a good memory was had by all at Edgefest (back when it had some actual edge to it) or Summersault. Vocalist Edwin remembers those times too, noting in their press release, “I know there’s still a lot of rock fans out there. I don’t think rock is dead. I think it will always make a revival in some form. And if we can have a part in that revival, in making it front and centre a little bit, I would be greatly honoured.”
In listening to their sophomore effort, I wouldn’t go so far as to state that Crash Karma is the second coming of pure, Canadian rock. It certainly is a step in the right direction, though.
The album kicks off with generic pap that is unfortunately forgettable, aside from Burrows’ usual brand of frenetic drumming. Verse-chorus-verse lyrics lacking real substance meet “I’m getting old” melancholy on opener “Appetite For Life”, while lead single “Tomorrow” is crafted perfectly for the junk food rock that radio currently peddles. It’s third track “Man On Trial” that begins to show the band’s true promise, delivering funk-laced riffs reminiscent of Edwin’s solo album Another Spin Around The Sun (a classic disc, even now). The tale of a man who’s broken and struggling to embrace that new chance at love is relatable, sincere and energized by the sound. “Everything” delivers a grungey anti-hero’s lament in the vein of old hit “It’s Been A While”, with just a little more oomph, and it’s the extra flair of the pre-chorus that delivers a track a step ahead of the mainstream game.
Track by track, it’s the same story with this album: when everyone is on point, Crash Karma explodes; when one element (usually the lyrics) falls apart, the band fizzles out.
It’s frustrating for me, because Edwin’s vocals are as fresh as ever and Jeff Burrows is still a drumming god to be reckoned with. But no amount of instrumental prowess can save juvenile lyrics like “That boy, he finds a job and saves all his pay/He wants to buy a gun and end it today/He realizes life can be really tough.” For every “Leave Her Alone” (an ominous warning to an abusive man), there’s a “What Ever Happened” to bring the album back down to the very thing the band seeks to criticize. A great version of generic rock is still generic in the end, and therein lies the problem with Rock Musique Deluxe.
Is the album worth a listen? The personnel alone deserve the 42-minute running time the standard edition clocks at. I’m hard-pressed to suggest that most of it will stand out above the crowd. A few diamonds in the rough sparkle with promise; on the next outing, I’d like to see a true wordsmith help steer Crash Karma lyrically to shore.
Highlights: “Man On Trial”; “Leave Her Alone”; Tonight”
Final Grade: B-
Visit Crash Karma on the web at their official site.