I won’t drag this out. Cape Breton’s ‘The Town Heroes’ are hookier than a Shelburne longliner; their 2014 album ‘Sunday Movies’ hauled in an impressive five Music Nova Scotia Awards and three East Coast Music Awards. Their third and newest album, ‘Please, Everyone’ fills some pretty big shoes.
Admittedly, there might be an irrational bias here: I’ve been hooked on this album since seeing the video for their song ‘New York City’, and it’s not even on this album. It just casually strolled into my news feed one afternoon, and nonchalantly blew my mind. Then to later discover that this commercially viable band, the likes of which might rival even the great Joel Plaskett, were from the East Coast? It was like the heavens opened, and rained down sweet, joyous, radio-play on my ears.
There is something distinctly Canadian about them that might have given them away: some telltale characteristic that inevitably marks anything produced north of 40°. Perhaps it’s an inherently polite sense of self-consciousness that could have just as easily belonged to any number of late ’90s Canadian bands. The Town Heroes might have appeared on MuchMusic back when Much still did that sort of thing. They might have been mistaken for the Barenaked Ladies, if BNL had gotten really good at putting together rock anthems. As Mike Ryan warbles away in a falsetto reminiscent of Ed Robertson, it’s a reminder that they’re filling a niche that hasn’t been filled in a very long time.
But let’s talk about just how hard it is to accomplish that. In aspiring to the heights of rockstardom there’s a narrow path to follow. On one side you risk esotericism. Celebrate your weird. You get you. Your friends maybe get you, but beyond that your relatability exponentially diminishes. On the other side, you play it safe. You’re universally relatable, but boring. Go ahead and count the number of East Coast bands that have achieved mainstream status versus all the bands that fell into the other two categories.
Ironically, that’s exactly what Mike Ryan and Bruce Gillis are trying to avoid with ‘Please, Everyone’. Drawing inspiration from George Orwell’s ‘1984‘ the album serves as a warning against conformity, following the masses of sheeple, and advocates maybe not quite checking out of the system, but at least glancing up from time to time. Still, it’s been fifteen years, and hundreds of books since I last read ‘1984’, and if it weren’t for song titles like ‘Thought Police’ and a lyric video that bluntly smacks us over the head, I might not have noticed.
‘Right before your eyes your soul is drying up and you don’t know / your mind has turned to wires and greed / cut you up, and sparks you bleed’
And that’s okay. The option to delve deeper is there, but there’s no question that you can rock out to this album without doing a book report. We aren’t gazing at our shoes, or theirs. I might not have had any interest in visiting New York ever, but somehow The Town Heroes, in their typical fashion, made the prospect sound fun and exciting. With ‘Please, Everyone’ they’ve made the idea of revisiting ‘1984’ seem appealing. They’re nailing that dangerous middle ground that makes mainstream rock good, with a promise of a lot more.
For more information visit www.thetownheroes.com