Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Album Review: Blue Rodeo - The Things We Left Behind

What happens when you take The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main St. and extract the sex and the drugs from it? You end up with the dad-friendly, Canadian country/rock band Blue Rodeo’s latest double-album release, The Things We Left Behind. The album is about as ambitious and successful as it gets for a band twenty-five years deep into their career. Disc one opens up triumphantly with the one-two punch of “All The Things That Are Left Behind” which features huge, dominating drums, softened only by gentle strings, and rounded out by an anthemic chorus. The band then picks up the speed with the fast-paced, country shuffle of “One More Night”. Disc one is rounded out nicely by “Sheba” the obvious choice for a radio-friendly single, as well as the most Stones like number on this disc. While the first disc is certainly an enjoyable listen filled with some accessible rockers and piano-driven ballads, disc two is where the band actually hits their stride. I can’t help but hear more of The Stones (this time “Torn and Frayed”), as disc two opens with “Don’t Let The Darkness In Your Head”. The band’s psychedelic rock influences finally shine through as Blue Rodeo let loose on the second, more experimental half of disc two. The slow, jazzy break during “Wasted” sounds as though Traffic was jamming with a freshly moondanced Van Morrison, and segues beautifully into the haunted, country-ballad of “You Said”. Lead singer Jim Cuddy has clearly been listening to a lot of Roger Waters as his plaintive, whisper-like vocals peak through the mellow track. The album comes full circle, ending just as triumphantly as it began with the ten minute, acid-soaked “Venus Rising”. The group loses all inhibitions, jamming with gooey, distorted guitars which are contrasted against beautiful, acoustic piano driven verses. The words on “Venus Rising” are a bit under-thought however, with lyrics such as “If you could learn how to play that guitar, you sure could go far”, but the band more than makes up for it with their instrumental virtuosity. Ultimately, a sixteen song, double-disc album is an undeniably ambitious affair for most bands, at any point in their careers. As a result, it comes as no surprise that The Things We Left Behind feels a bit like a band in a mid-life crisis. The boys in Blue Rodeo were dreaming of a Porsche, but instead came home in a Volkswagen.

3.5/5 stars
Blue Rodeo - The Things We Left Behind will be released on November 10, 2009

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