The Beaches

#770: Encore!

GETTING MORE TALE #770: Encore!

I’ve been avoiding downtown Kitchener for the last couple years.  All that construction (five years’ worth) installing our new light-rail transit system…it’s been hellacious.  But that construction is now over, and the LRT train (called the ION) is running every 15 minutes.  Only two years behind schedule!  And guess where one of the stops is?  Right by legendary record store Encore Records.  Perfect!  No need to worry about parking.

Mrs. LeBrain and I hopped on a bus to the mall, and a few minutes later the train pulled in.  Using the free Wi-fi, I live-streamed myself making goofy faces on our new train.  The ride was quiet and fast since it only stopped a handful of times.  These new trains are lovely!  Now that they are finally running, I can see that the headaches will be worth it.  Clean and quick – I’d use the ION again.  It’s a shame but there are still people who hate the train so much that they would actually like to spend taxpayer money on ripping up the tracks!  What a waste that would be.  Let’s give this LRT a fair shake.

We disembarked the train at the City Hall stop, only a brief walk from Encore.  Not only was this my first ride on the train, but also my first visit to Encore since they moved from their old Queen St. location.  The new store, though not wheelchair accessible, seemed bigger and cleaner.  Old pal Al “The” King was there, happily still slinging the rock for us patrons.

We chatted a bit.  Al really enjoyed working at Encore.  There was a guy that I trained at my old Record Store about 15 years ago.  He left shortly after to work at Encore, and he’s still there!  When you find a place you enjoy working, I guess you stay!

Time to go look at music….

It didn’t take long for me to exceed my budget for the day.  First snag was from the new release rack:  The Beaches’ excellent new EP The Professional, $9.99.  A great recording; it will be getting a few spins this summer.  Next:  the used CD racks.  Plenty of stock as usual.  I came looking for old Styx, but there was no used Styx that I needed.  Instead I grabbed three Scorpions remasters:  World Wide Live (with DVD), Savage Amusement (with DVD), and Animal Magnetism.  $20 each.

Whoops!  I already owned Animal Magnetism.  No big deal; looks like some lucky person will be getting a free copy from me.  I really have to keep track of reissues better.  This is happening more and more frequently as my collection grows.

I still wanted some more classic Styx.  I’ve been playing my Styx albums repeatedly.  I needed some more classics to throw in the shuffle, so I moved on to the new CD racks.  There I picked up Pieces of Eight and Crystal Ball.  $9.99 each.  One by one and I’ll get them all.

Continuing through the racks of new stock, I spied two Kick Axe remasters by Rock Candy.  I’ve wanted both these albums for a long time:  Vices and Welcome to the Club, $22.99 each.  I’ve spun through both twice and was impressed with both the music and liner notes.  What an underrated singer George Criston is.  This sparked more Kick Axe purchases later on Discogs and Amazon.  The third album, Rock the World, is coming in the form of another Rock Candy remaster.  And thanks to the excellent liner notes inside Vices, I also tracked down some early Kick Axe on Discogs.  Debut single “Week-End Ride” / “One More Time” from 1981 is inbound!  Also coming, from the same year, is a compilation LP called Playboy Street Rock.  Kick Axe have a live track on that called “Reality is the Nightmare”.  It’s going to be cool hearing those early songs, which had a different singer.

It’s funny about Kick Axe.  One of the first buttons I ever bought for my jacket was Vices.  It only took close to 40 years to finally get the album.

Finally we closed the Encore trip with some vinyl.  A lovely reissue of Alice Cooper’s Zipper Catches Skin, on clear “black smoke” vinyl.  It looks and sounds great, and now I finally have all the Alice Cooper studio albums.

We bid farewell to Al and headed home again on the ION.  Now that the train is up and running, I do believe I’ll be making Encore a fairly regular weekend stop.

5/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: The Beaches – Late Show (2017)

THE BEACHES – Late Show (2017 Universal)

Don’t waste your summer without visiting The Beaches.

With influences from the Go-Gos through alternative and surf rock, The Beaches have found an intoxicating sound perfect for summer partying.  Their debut long player Late Show is chock full of fun, energetic and catchy songs.  A couple of hit singles (“Money” and “T-Shirt”) are storming the charts, and a Juno win this year has raised their profile considerably.  Armed with an album produced by members of Metric, it is now their time.

Singer/bassist Jordan Miller is the lynchpin.  She can wail but tends to keep it subtle.  The songs swing from slinky to punk.  The Beaches are at their best when delivering sheer hooks caked in attitude.  That’s what made “Money” such a perfect single.  The simple, understated guitar hook works its way into your brain, and it’s topped with a punchy chorus.  The Beaches can write songs.  Most are credited to the four band members.  Some bands are afraid to showcase candy-coated hooks, but The Beaches have the confidence for it.  The hooks are paired with biting rock guitars, keeping the edges sharp.  They never let the pacing slip, and they keep things fun.  It’s right there in the lyrics to “T-Shirt”:  “Don’t take me so serious.  I just like to make a fuss.”

There are plenty of tunes that pack the goods.  “Gold” has a knack for sticking.  Even the slower tunes like “Highway 6” and “Back of My Heart” have an unexpected catchiness. “Keeper” is a like a blast from the late 80s, and “Sweet Life” is a jolt of caffeine at the end.

Get some Beaches into your life.

3.5/5 stars

#664: Heading to The Beaches

GETTING MORE TALE #664: Heading to The Beaches

I’m exposed to a lot of music through the radio.  I am lucky enough to hear roughly seven hours of radio at work every day.  I feel a bit like Milton from the classic movie Office Space.  “I was told that I could listen to the radio at a reasonable volume from nine to eleven.”

I just celebrated my 10 years at my job.  There was always a bit of a battle between staff and receptionists over the radio.  You see, everybody’s desk phone gets the radio piped in from the same station.  It was also the “on hold” music for incoming callers.  When I first started, the station was Chym FM.  That was a downstep from my prior job at United Rentals, who had Dave FM and all the rock and roll that entailed.  But soon enough, my current job switched the station to Dave, after several complaints about the repeat repeat repeat of Chym.

This went back and forth, back and forth, between Dave and Chym.  Some clients who were on hold would tell me, “I was really enjoying your AC/DC there.”  The receptionist really hated Dave, though.  One afternoon she switched us over to a new country station.  (That ended swiftly!)   Eventually I determined the best course of action was for me to turn off my phone radio, and just bring in my own.  So that’s what I did and for the last many years I’ve had my own radio tuned to Dave.  I’m happy that this small luxury is accommodated.  Rock and roll ain’t noise pollution.

Dave introduced me to many bands that I love today.   The Arkells, Monster Truck, Greta Van Fleet and July Talk are just a few from the last couple years.  I’m really grateful I get to hear great music every day.  The good bands more than make up for the Nickelback, Three Days Grace, My Darkest Days, and other assorted shit they’re forced to play.

The other day, a younger guy at work named Leo came up to me and asked, “Have you heard of the band The Beaches?”

“No,” I answered immediately.  “Let me Google them.”

I pulled them up, had a look at the four women that make up the band, and read a few blurbs.  “Undertook a tour in 2011 opening for Allstar Weekend” was the line that jumped out, and I said simply, “Yeah, they suck.”  Leo laughed that I could know such a thing in 60 seconds of Googling but my judgement had been declared.

I continued reading.  “Album was produced by Emily Haines and James Shaw of Metric.”  Metric?  Hey, they’re cool.  They probably wouldn’t produce shit.  I approached Leo and told him of my new research.  I re-opened the case of The Beaches.

Time goes by.  A song comes on the radio.  “Here’s ‘Money’, by The Beaches, on Dave Rocks,” said Craig.

Holy shit, The Beaches on Dave Rocks?  I put down my pen and listened.  It was a song I already knew and liked, but couldn’t remember who it was by.  I assumed the singer of “Money” was a guy.  Somebody with a high voice, like the guy from Royal Blood, maybe.  It turns out, I already liked The Beaches.  A band that I declared “sucked” after looking at a Wikipedia page.

Well, fuck me!

That should teach me about judging bands by appearances (a lesson I should have learned decades ago).  Double dumb-ass on me.  I didn’t even guess the gender of the singer correctly, while declaring that they sucked, also while already liking their single.  Triple dumb-ass on me!

So who are The Beaches anyway?  Toronto sisters Jordan and Kylie Miller are on lead vocals/bass and guitars respectively.  They were joined by friend Eliza Enman-McDaniel on drums, and a guitarist named Megan Fitchett.  They formed a teen pop rock band called Done With Dolls (a pretty cool name for an all-girl teen pop band) and it was actually they, not The Beaches, who toured with Allstar Weekend.  This early Done With Dolls incarnation does not resemble the band they transitioned to.  In 2013 Fitchett left and they took on double threat Leandra Earl (guitars/keyboards).  They evolved into a sleeker garage rock band.  Their image became cooler with a 60s and 70s-inspired evolution.  Yet they still have bite.

Check out that irresistibly simple guitar riff. The backing keyboards of Leandra Earl give it some depth, and then the chorus jumps right out. With tunes this good, Jordan Miller won’t have to worry about making money. It’s gonna happen.

Unlike my crush on Avril Lavigne 15 years ago, nobody can accuse me of liking The Beaches just because they’re attractive.  Turns out, I liked them when I thought they were dudes.

The title track to their debut LP Late Show is real punk rock, via Debbie Harry and the Go-Gos.  It alleviates any question that these girls will kick your ass.  They will indeed, and you will like it.  It really is easy to like these energetic tunes.

Don’t be surprised if you hear more about The Beaches as summer approaches. Their music sounds like a good fit for summer action, whether in your car or at a party. The buzz is building. They were nominated for Breakthrough Group of the Year for the 2018 Juno awards, taking place this Sunday (March 25). Keep your eye on The Beaches and wish them luck at the Junos!