Last fall, I was attending a small show in Newmarket, ON in support of a friend’s band. I hadn’t heard of any of the other acts playing that night. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. As I apathetically watched the third band of the night set up, I certainly wasn’t instilled any confidence. This was visually one of the most disjointed groups I had ever seen; from the hipstery-looking bassist, to the acid-washed guitarist, to the quiet, unassuming front man who looked like an early 90’s Rivers Cuomo circa Blue Album, I was questioning my choice to stay indoors. Little did I know, I was about to witness one of the most memorable performances I’d ever have the pleasure of viewing in my 27 years on this rock. And rocked I was. Shortly after beginning, Bare Claws singer/guitarist Brandon Barraclough transformed, becoming the Hyde to his former Jekyll. It’s a shame Stephen Hawking was not in attendance that night, as I’m sure he would have been just as thrilled to witness the physical anomaly that unfolded on stage that night, with more energy being spewed out of a human than one could potentially hold. With such an exciting, memorable live show, it was a guarantee that I would pick up their self-titled debut album. This type of scenario always brings up a looming question though: will the album live up to the performance?
In a short answer… no. But this does not mean this is not a competent album. In fact, competent is the perfect word to describe it. It’s quite clear over the span of the 12 tracks that these are four musicians who know their stuff. Drummer Derek Macdiarmid does a fantastic job at handling the different tempos and time signatures used throughout, as well as skillfully building up and breaking down the sonic dynamics incorporated in most songs (see “Contemporary Issues”). Bassist Michael Fong does a great job at keeping things groovin’ and movin’ behind the tasteful licks and leads of lead guitarist Dan Loughrin. One can’t help but get the feeling everyone involved has had higher education and learning in musical theory and studies. The songs are, for the most part, beautifully crafted and composed. Doing a great job at engaging the listener, they tend to up the ante by the final chorus, particularly in “A Beautiful Woman”. Where the album really succeeds however is in Brandon Barraclough’s vocals. Moments like the beginning verse of “2113”, to the cathartic chorus of “B.A.B.Y.I.M.A.L.I.A.R.”, to the final resolute outro of “Feelin’ Fine”, really go to show the range of emotion capable from this seemingly modest man.
It is also wonderfully engineered and mixed, with the many vast and different accompanying instruments, musicians, and vocalists used throughout being crystal-clear audible. In fact, the only time the album fails to deliver in the production department is the handful of sound clips scattered around. Some moments, they are easily heard, and stand to offer a refreshing moment of relief before the next track. Other times, however, they are borderline inaudible, and seem to disrupt the flow. The same could be said for the instrumental interlude “Twean Piks”, which much like the title, leaves you hoping it was something else more familiar.
So while it may not have captured the lightning in a bottle that their live show provides, Bare Claws does serve to conveniently acquaint the listener with their creatively constructed alternative/indie/rock jams. Much like Nirvana’s Nevermind, its slick production is sure to be an entertaining listen, but if you want the full raw thrill, buy yourself a concert ticket.
For all features on Bare Claws, click here.
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Review by David Huzyk | @David_TGT