I breathed a tremendous sigh of relief this week as I savoured the Indie 88 stream while getting ready for the day job. “Real music,” I declared to myself. I’d essentially abandoned radio years ago, unable to stomach the sound-alikes compromising their unique voices to sell.
This notion of what is real and sincere resonates within Toronto band The Real. A band brimming with music engineers, one would expect nothing less than a polished sound. Another First Step delivers solid production evocative of the clean rock mix of the late 80’s/early 90’s, a standout in an industry that seems taken with intentional distortion and crowding the ears with layers.
The band lists several key players in the alt-rock scene as influences, which unfolds in an acoustic-kissed rock sound with elements of classic rock guitar structure. I’m reluctant to use the word ‘retro’, lest it be misconstrued, but it truly fits The Real: not knowing better, one might believe the album to be from another era. For someone who loves her older tracks, it’s no detriment, but for those with a post-Y2K appreciation of the genre, it will likely be a surprise. Those who recall pre-Silver Moist (“Sweet Electric Child”) will agree that “Becks” radiates the same spirited rock-dance vibe, and indeed, the track’s a standout on the album. Also of note is lead track “All Or Nothing”, which veers into more anthemic territory, but manages to walk the line between earnest and overwrought with clever care.
In keeping with their sound, The Real opts for more sparse and direct songwriting, confessional in nature. While this certainly works well for them on several tracks, the lack of material with rich metaphor or a difference of perspective (i.e., telling a story from the role of observer) creates a sameness dissonance for the listener. Several songs blur into one in my skull on repeated listening, and while they’re all crafted with clear love and passion beneath the surface, I’d prefer the band put their collective talent to work on more experimental melodies.
A band with strong potential, Another First Step is precisely that: a beginning of a journey.
Highlights: “Becks”; “All Or Nothing”; “Piece Of Mind”
Final Grade: B
Learn more about The Real at their official home online.