November 7, 2016

LP: Lonely Parade - No Shade

Lonely Parade's No Shade offers a new experience upon every listen.

I’ve been told one of the laziest forms of music criticism is to take two bands that sound like they could be a band's influences and claim they’re some sort of fusion, as if it could all be reduced to simply “Band X + Band Y = Band Z.” While I’m inclined to disagree with this position and have frequently employed this equation, I’ll admit there are times when such a formula just doesn’t do the band justice. One such example can be heard on Lonely Parade’s recent album No Shade. It’s true that I could claim that the Ontario-based trio faintly resemble Sleater-Kinney circa The Woods, or Sonic Youth circa Dirty, or perhaps I could draw from the deep well of other post-punk bands that their off-kilter grooves call to mind. Hell, I could probably force a comparison between their multi-vocal-tracked “Johnny Utah” and The Velvet Underground’s “The Murder Mystery,” if I felt like pushing it. But it’s a futile effort; it doesn’t capture the alternating crunch and clang of the guitars, the snaking bass lines and the skittering drum beats that always seem to take a left turn when you least expect it, keeping you on your toes (in more than one sense). Somewhere along the line, Lonely Parade have stumbled on that Holy Grail of indie rock: Their Own Sound.

If there’s one thing that will draw you into this album, it’s how much careful listeners are rewarded by the little details of No Shade. Witness the guitar build up on “Window” until it resembles something like the howling winds of a hurricane. Notice how effortlessly the band shifts from slickness to grunginess to outright dissonance on “Duck Hunt." Throughout the LP, the band subtly reminds you exactly how tight they are, how well they work together as what can feel like a single unit which is nevertheless composed of three unique and noticeable parts. The funkier sections of “Chicken Wing” bring new life to the instrumental that could otherwise have seemed an obvious weak point on the album. And the swing breakdown (complete with walking bass line and bluesy guitar) on “Girl,” non-sequitur it may be, functions as a great raspberry in the face of those who would see the popular music underground as static, stubborn non-musicians. 

Of course, with so much focus on their impressive musicianship, one might be worried that Lonely Parade has gone the way of many an ambitious band, focusing so much on playing well they forget to, y’know, write actual songs with actual lyrics. Rest assured, this fear is quickly dispelled as even a cursory listen is likely to pick up a healthy dose of wit and cleverly articulated alienation. “Write me a shitty pop song, will you be my only friend?” the final song, “No AM” asks. The response? “Absolutely not!” Elsewhere, “Family Reunion” mocks an uncle doling out unsolicited advice and a grandfather who seems to be tirelessly recounting his glory days to anyone within range. The lyrics often seem to tackle a sort of small-town loneliness in a decidedly non-Springsteenian way, opting instead for cheap, off-the-cuff one-liners that prove their value on repeated listening. “I was born here, and I’ll die here too,” laments the first lines of “Bro,” but there’s no majestic muscle-car escape from rural boredom; instead, we get the hilarious alternation in the chorus of “Boring slowly / Boring really fast." “Duck Hunt” is more anxious; “I feel so out of place, back home on the coast again / Everyone I’ve met in this place is in a cult and it freaks me out.” The album’s best song, however, is somewhat paradoxical. “Newfoundland” features a beautiful lyrical metaphor (accompanied by an equally beautiful guitar riff) for a lost love whose image becomes confused with nostalgic yearning for a certain coastal region. And at the same time, the climactic chorus eschews words altogether, erupting in a shout that rises in pitch and intensity each time. It’s almost unfair; it almost feels like they’re baiting the listener for an emotional response. Yet this is exactly what the best pop music does, and we can test whether it’s truly brilliant by replaying it to see if we’re thrilled anew each time we hear it. I, for one, firmly believe Lonely Parade has passed the test.


Listen to Lonely Parade on bandcamp.

Kurt Grunsky is an English undergraduate student currently located in Ottawa. He plays in Ottawa bands BB Cream and High Talk and writes sporadically on pop music and culture