We’re going to keep this week’s international flavor going by reviewing the latest album from Joel Plaskett Emergency, the finest band to emerge from Nova Scotia since Sloan in the early 90s. (No lyrics en français this time since Plaskett himself recalls in one of his songs that “dans la french class je suis terrible.”) Joel and his power trio have actually been together for about 10 years, but mainstream attention has eluded them in the United States despite winning a slew of awards and acclaim in their native Canada. (Plaskett alternates band albums and solo albums but there isn’t a drastic difference in how they sound.) As mentioned in previous posts, classicist rock—modern rock influenced by classic rock and pop—might garner critical praise here but not much in the way of sales.
So what classic rock influences are we talking about? Along with a dozen or so musical allusions—to The Beatles, Sam Cooke, Pink Floyd, Lee Dorsey and many others—Plaskett specifically namechecks Cactus, Marillion, Neil Young, and Carly Simon, although he doesn’t sound like any of them (except for a little Young-ian guitar). In the song “You’re Mine” he also mentions that Hüsker Dü was his favorite band, and that’s a reference point which makes more sense—some of the songs on Scrappy Happiness have a definite late 80s/early-to-mid 90s vibe. Not that they sound like Warrant crossed with Color Me Badd; let’s say more like Michael Penn crossed with The Replacements, a nice blend between the acoustic and the riff-tastic with well-turned lyrics. No keyboards, strings, or horn sections here—just the stripped-down sound of a band doin’ what they do. Prepare to have your socks politely rocked off. (They are Canadian, after all.)