Tue, Aug 12, 2014.
The Arkells are headed to this year's Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival in September, ready to present tunes from their just-released third album, High Noon. It will be one of the first performances in Canada since last week's album release, as the group is currently touring Europe, with festival dates in Germany, The Netherlands and England. That's a long way from Hamilton's grungy downtown mall Jackson Square, which the group named their first album for, or Arkell Street in the city, where they used to rehearse. It shows how quickly they've blossomed into one of the country's premiere rock acts, thanks to relentless touring, fun live shows, and a solid run of singles and albums.
With an energetic front man in Max Kerman, The Arkells know how to make big, fun music. They've always had a bit of a pop side, and they embrace even more of it here, clean and bright songs that could have come from 70's and 80's groups. Hey Kids starts like an old Elton John piano-pumper, then goes into a glossy chorus straight off a Hall and Oates album. Single 11:11 is a classic boy-girl hook-up tune, with the fad over the lucky time inspiring the chorus: "You made a wish at 11:11, I held your hips at 12:34." '
There's still lots of edge to the album as well, and opener Fake Money takes a swipe at corporate culture, the people who believe that winning is everything, and collecting the most money is how you do it: "Remember it's nothing but fake money/and you're some cowboy at High Noon/You're playing a board game in a board room." Cynical Bastards is a shout-out for Hamilton, and a shot at the people who don't like the famous rough edges of the city: "Those Oakville moms, they stick up their nose/Those Burlington dads keep their daughters at home." By cloaking it in big pop, The Arkells keep a feel-good and high-spirited sound right through High Noon.
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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).