The Lodge: Take That Devil
Take That Devil
[Gooseberry Records; 2009]
I saw The Lodge a couple weeks ago at Gus’ Pub and what really struck me about these four older guys was that even before they got onstage, I knew which one Mike O’Neil was. Yes, the legendary Mike O’Neil of Inbreds fame, still active in his hometown of Halifax, I knew it was him after one look at this wiry middle-aged man with blazing blue eyes. I thought to myself, “This man is a rock star, born and bred.”
With former members of The Superfriendz, Neuseiland and Thrush Hermit onboard, The Lodge is pretty stacked in terms of Halifax indie-cred. But unfortunately, indie-cred doesn’t necessarily translate into good music, and as is the case with many other so-called supergroups, having too many established cooks in The Lodge’s kitchen results in a lack of direction, or at least during lesser parts of Take That Devil, one that’s worthwhile.
That’s not to say that they don’t cook something great up every now and then. “Thaw Me Out” and “She’s A Lightbulb” showcase O’Neil cooing beautifully about salvation over jangly-guitars. The choppy Robert Quine style-chords during the verses of the album’s most single-ready song, “Forget The Silence”, gives way to a dark romance-tinged chorus that always seems to end too quickly. The song ends with post-punk melodica: still the most apocalyptic-sounding instrument when used in the right context.
While O’Neil’s personality provides the band with its key distinguishing feature, in faster songs like “World In Me” and “They’re Watching You”, the band depend on it too much and act as more of a backup band than an actual band band, providing him with simple, steady verses to sing his sometimes-great-sometimes-not poetry over before bursting into big, catchy choruses. These songs feel too obvious in their by-the-numbers construction and lack cohesion as a result of it.
Adding to this problem is the album’s thin mix and rudimentary production. Though the thin sound is likely a result of cheap recording, it doesn’t excuse the lack of any attempt to overcome (or perhaps embrace) that fact. Every instrument is given equal placement throughout the record as if it was more important to make sure everyone was happy that they could be heard than it was to make the songs sound their best. And O’Neil’s vocals simply scream out for some minor adornment; reverb, double-tracking, echo, something. It’s not that they sound bad, it’s simply that O’Neil’s thin vocals don’t fit into the mix the way they’re supposed to, particularly on an already thin-sounding record. By comparison, fellow thin-voiced Haligonian Joel Plaskett uses all of the above suggestions (and backup vocal accompaniment) to phenomenal effect on his excellent recent album, Three.
Within Halifax’s encouraging music scene, Take That Devil won’t disappoint fans of the band’s personnel. Outside of it however, is a different story. The Lodge simply don’t manage to accomplish enough on Take That Devil to justify attention being given to it from those unfamiliar with the names involved.
Tags: The Lodge