B.A. Johnston’s newest release, Gremlins 3 is his 11th studio album, recorded in Nova Scotia with Saint John rockers, Reagan’s Rayguns backing six tracks. Johnston, who is known for his raucous shows from coast to coast, sticks to what he knows on this album. Despite little change stylistically, Johnston always seems to find fresh new material. His country-punk sound fits right in at your favourite bar or your friend’s kitchen party and the lyrics are relatable on a national level.
As Canadians, we’ve all experienced those late-night donair cravings from “I Need Donair Sauce”. “Cheap Suds” encapsulates the experience of going to the liquor store while broke and settling for the cheapest beer possible – No shame, we’ve all been there. Johnston’s songs capture parts of the Canadian identity that The Tragically Hip or The Guess Who never could or would.
Gremlins 3 is a full sensory experience, much like a guided meditation lead by some guru from Hamilton who may or may not be chugging a few beers while your eyes are closed. As you wonder why the hell you would ever pay for such a sketchy experience your mind drifts. For me, I’m transported to my parents’ basement bar circa 1998. I can smell tobacco and wood smoke while I hear booming laughter over the clinking of Moosehead bottles. Everything is tinted yellow – perhaps it’s the color of nostalgia or maybe it’s just from the cigarette smoke. It’s the same bar where I secretly took my first drink at age 12 from a mickey of Polar Ice then drunkenly stuck my finger down my throat to puke it up because I was convinced my father would somehow sense the vodka sloshing in my stomach when he came home.
Relatable songs tend to belong more to listeners than to those who write them. While Johnston sings of his own experiences, we attribute them to ours. When he sings “Dave Says No Drinking In The Backseat”, we’re all convinced this song is about driving to that one backwoods cabin party with our own friends. As we listen to these tracks, we connect and acknowledge that these memories that we think belong to just us and our small town beginnings are actually what we share with one another as Canadians.
As our great nation becomes subtly, but increasingly more Americanized, B.A. Johnston is keeping our Canadian identity alive, one song at a time. The best way to preserve culture is to participate in it. So grab some buds and some brews and listen to Gremlins 3, out March 3rd.