Hope & Ruin
Bumstead Productions, 2010
REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/20/2012
Sometimes it takes me awhile.
The Trews’ publicist sent me this disc about nine months ago. The fact that it was still in the “to-be-reviewed” stack last week is significant; it means this album survived maybe six rounds of ruthless culling-and-tossing without being eliminated from review contention. I heard something in these guys, again and again—and now, with sincere apologies to the band for my tardiness, it’s time to talk about it.
The Trews are a Canadian quartet—Colin Macdonald (vocals/guitar), brother John-Angus Macdonald (guitar/vocals), cousin Sean Dalton (drums/vocals) and friend Jack Syperek (bass/vocals)—who’ve built a solid reputation north of the border. Two gold records and ten Top 10 singles in Canada tells you something, too; these guys know what they’re doing.
Hope & Ruin showcases a band whose natural state is rocking a packed nightclub: twin guitars playing exuberant riffs, gang backing vocals backing an urgent lead voice, heavy rhythms that move your feet and set your head to bobbing. Opener “Misery Loves Company” inevitably reminds of the Gin Blossoms with its fuel-injected guitars, relentless attack, and downbeat lyric.
“One On One” takes in immediate left turn, though, featuring a complex acoustic riff set off by a muted electric that surges only for a quick slide solo in the third minute. This one is all melody and a nice one at that, and features a memorable outro chant: “One by one / Every heart is a loaded gun.”
And then we’re back, as “People Of The Deer” comes in full-on with a heavy, distorted, rather Zeppelinesque riff. Really, who the Trews remind me of the most here is another indie band I reviewed a few years back, The Tom Collins. And then the see-saw falls again, as “Stay With Me” slows things down again. This time, though, the cadence of the lyric doesn’t seem to match up with the music; there’s something off-kilter here.
The title track rights the ship with a ringing rocker that again reminds of the Gin Blossoms with its elegiac tone, chiming guitars, rich harmony vocals, and steady, appealing build. From there you get a passel of entertaining rockers (“The World I Know,” “I’ll Find Someone Who Will”), a pair of fairly intense midtempo tunes (“If You Wanna Start Again,” “Burned”) and the occasional ballad (the slightly awkward “Dreaming Man” and superb closer “You Gotta Let Me In”).
These 12 tunes showcase a band that knows its way around a melody but is perfectly capable of putting the pedal to the floor when the moment calls for it. Performer Magazine called The Trews “without a doubt, the greatest rock band of their generation.” A tad hyperbolic, perhaps, but I can’t blame the writer for getting caught up in the moment. A band like The Trews—talented, heartfelt, and brimming with a rippling energy—will do that to you. I’m glad my moment came around at last.