Thu, Oct 10, 2013.
Sometimes playing in a minimalist configuration, just a couple of musicians, is an exercise in stripping back the sound, getting simple and direct. For Halifax's The Town Heroes, it's the opposite; they are showing just how full two guys can sound, live and in the studio. In fact, Mike Ryan (guitar, vocals) and Bruce Gillis (drums) do such a grand job at it, you never think about the numbers. Instead, it's crunch and pop, that wonderful blend that's been the hallmark of Halifax since the early 90's. In the Heroes' case, Ryan's vocals handle the tuneful melodies, his guitar takes the distorted chords, and Gillis pushes everything along, filling in where Ryan isn't.
Lead track New York City is a fun, quick (1'47") and quirky trip to the Big Apple, little guys with big eyes, ready to take on the world. Berlin Wall is heavier, a deep metal thump over pounding drums. Laser Eyes gets a little ghostly, but keeps the big riffing from Ryan. They can get quieter though; Cambridge even has hand-claps, back-up vocals, and a soft lead vocal. And Bulletproof is full of moody moments, only occasionally shot through by jabs of guitar, and rolling, deep drums.
The deeper you go into the album, the more examples you find where the pair aren't simply relying on volume to get them through. Ryan's a confident vocalist who can go into soft passages and let the lyrics and vocal emotion take over. Gillis has a delicate touch when needed, some nifty little stick tricks, and the ability to come in around the words. The Town Heroes don't seem like they're trying to get a sound with the two-piece approach. Instead, it's that they already had enough of it with just the two.
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).