Cheerleading The New Odds!
Today is the release date for Cheerleader, a new record by a newish band called The New Odds, which as the name totally gives away, is three quarters of the Vancouver nineties band Odds with a new guitarist named Murray (which in his wake is now officially a very rock and roll name).
Comrades in Rock: Meet The New Odds
(l to r: Doug Elliott, Pat Steward, Murray Atkinson, Craig Northey)
I am sure some of you knew of the Odds music (heck some of you, like myself, know them personally!) in Canada they had hits like “Someone Who’s Cool”, “Love Is the Subject”, “Eat My Brain”, “The Truth Untold” and “Make You Mad”. Well, they’ve been dormant since 1999 and in the interim, three of the band members Craig Northey, Doug Elliott and Pat Steward have all continued to support each others projects. A while back, these three started writing new songs that sort of fit the Odds sound requirements. Pat and Doug had been playing with Murray Atkinson, (a younger guy by about ten years who had recently won the Seeds contest, a talent contest put on by Vancouver rock station The Fox) and he was invited to add some chordage and solo-age to the sound. Barenaked Ladies invited them to rock at their Ships & Dip concert cruise, and they hastily called it The New Odds (with a nod to Spinal Tap’s New Originals). The name has stuck, although I noticed that they’ve recently started using the shorter TNO (like BTO) on their communiques and road cases.
Back in the Nineties, when a Bush was running to replace a Clinton and not the other way around, Odds were my favourite band that wasn’t my own. When I first heard their album Neopolitan, a little after it came out in 1991, I superficially compared them to my friend Matthew Sweet, since both of them were signed to Zoo Entertainment and they both liked power pop tinged rock songs with real world lyrics and a lot of compression on the vocals, but they were totally different bands and by the time of Bedbugs, and the sledgehammer crunch of “It Falls Apart”, I was sold for good. Around that time, my friend Kevin had a party and the Odds were there, Craig and I got talking and we haven’t stopped since. They made more albums, Good Weird Feeling and Nest, and then, just as the first Clinton was handing off the Whitehouse to the second Bush, it was over. Craig put out some solo work that I have also been a fan of, and I even got to play with Northey, Elliott and Steward in a session for our friend Blair Packham in Vancouver a few years back (the song, which I wrote with Blair, is called “Mr Bitter” and it’s on Blair’s Could’ve Been King CD)
As “comebacks” go, what makes Cheerleader interesting and exciting for me is that while they do indeed recapture their trademark harmonies, crashing guitars, sinewy bass lines and thunderous drum fills (Pat’s nickname should be “Hot Pocket”) they break NEW ground as well. Fans of the first Odds will immediately identify that sound in “Breakthrough”, “My Happy Place” and the Who-ish “Write It In Lightning.” But there’s a bunch of newer stylistic flavours in songs like “Leader’s of the Undersea World” that pits a reggae motif against a straight up rock gallup, or lopers like “Come To L.A.” with its Memphisy horns and Beck-like casual vocals against what sound like slack tuned guitars. It’s a VIBE man!. For me, though, a couple of highlights are in some of the newer spacier tunes. “Getting My Attention” tells a suburban story of graffiti vandalism and the futility of misdirected teenage rage over a calm and open groove that features guitars leaving spaces between the chords, spaces to think, spaces to play in, spaces to spray slogans in lime green spray over. “Always Breaking Heart” is an awesome, almost country-ish ballad about the liquid state of emotional imbalance. “River Is Cried” has a chorus that would make Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo cry. But my favourite moment on the album is the beautifully pragmatic romance (uh huh) of “Feel Like This All The Time” which tells the universal dirty secret of small town ambivalence, bordering on contempt, for one’s home town. I personally know what he’s talking about in couplets like “To melt the ice / There’s sand and salt / To rust the cars, and stain the asphalt / Past the franchise chicken joint / Out beyond the vanishing point / The best thing about this place is the sky….”
Have you ever felt that way? This ain’t no John Mellencamp.
Don’t know if you can get Cheerleader in the USA yet, but its available online, internationally I think, here.
Let me be among the first to lead the cheer, welcome home (such as it is) to the New Odds.