Album Review: New Occupation
Stomp Records (2016)
Hopping on the nostalgia bandwagon, Winnipeg mod-rockers, Duotang, are readying for their first cross-Canada tour in years in support of their latest record, New Occupation, a catchy, energetic album 15 years in the making.
The duo, as legend has it, were discovered at a Winnipeg music festival in 1995 by Peter Jenner, the infamous producer who managed Pink Floyd, The Clash and Billy Bragg.
Duotang cashed in on the popularity of Britpop in the 90s, being heavily influenced by the mod movement headed by The Kinks and The Jam, with their first two albums reaching the top of the Canadian college charts.
Their latest effort picks up where 2001’s The Bright Side left off, with singer Rod Slaughter’s signature bass lines and Sean Allum’s drums providing the heartbeat of the album.
The tempo is clearly in the driver’s seat on New Occupation. Slaughter’s vocal style is strong but pitchy, and his lyrics are almost laughably cliché, but the tight pulse of the bass and drums keep the listener humming along.
The strongest efforts on New Occupation are those that really embrace their mod influences. The flashbacks to the alternative sound of the í90s is what drags the record down the most.
The í60s-style organ on “Karma Needs to Come Around” and horn section on “That’s What Keeps Us Alive” are a suitable nod to their touring mates and mentors, The English Beat. And, frankly, they would have done well to incorporate both into more tracks on the album.
The lyrics are cringe-worthy and just… bad. It’s hard to remember that they’ve been written by someone who has spent the last 15 years working in real estate development, and not by an angsty teenager who just discovered his first copy of Adbusters.
“Bastard Five” relies heavily on the overused Stand By Me formula that was already overdone in the í90s by musicians like Everlast and The Offspring, proving that sometimes nostalgia is best left alone.
The damn-the-man vibe is there too, but the lyrics read as if classic Manic Street Preachers anthems were given the CBC sitcom treatment.
Never is the Canadianizing of the album more apparent than on “The Happening,” with a sound so similar to that of their fellow Winnipeggers, The Weakerthans that I actually pulled out my iPod to make sure I hadn’t accidentally set it to shuffle.
Despite their lyrical transgressions, the album manages to be super catchy. I may be rolling my eyes, but I’m singing along, especially to “Nostalgia’s a Vice,” the album’s opener, and the mod-driven “The Mentors.”
I guess if nostalgia is a vice, it’s my guilty pleasure.