Ladyhawk | Ladyhawk (Jagjaguwar)

Yes, we’re all going to die, Duffy, and life is a parade of bullshit on the surface. Thanks for pointing that out.

 

Yeah, we’re supposedly all about “the music” (whatever that means), but I highly doubt that any rock critics are going to be able to write an entire review on Ladyhawk without mentioning the band’s appearance. This is a group of uniformly hairy men here, people. And gazing upon their scraggly faces, it becomes all too tempting to draw comparisons between that unkempt look and their ragged songs, which so often seem to be emanating straight from a deserted bar in the middle of the night. But “bar band,” at least in my thinking, has always been a loaded term. Ladyhawk’s self-titled debut proves its members to be more sophisticated than that. They’re the rowdy party crashers who secretly meditate upon the crumbling world around them after closing time passes and it’s safe to let their guards down.

Album opener “48 Hours” establishes the group’s down-tempo formula, lurching forward inch by inch as frontman Duffy Driediger warbles a tune for the “crowds of empty bottles” on the bar top. Later on, “Advice” aims to get the drunks spilling tears into their beers, but it’s nothing that most people haven’t heard from their cynical friends. Yes, we’re all going to die, Duffy, and life is a parade of bullshit on the surface. Thanks for pointing that out. Much of the album contains battered songs that seem to fight against the grain to get their message across. However, on a few occasions the band manages to forge straight ahead with some up-tempo numbers, such as on the indie chug-a-thon “Dugout” and the hand-clapping rollick of “My Old Jacknife.” The lustful abandon of “Teenage Love” produces the album’s most striking lyrical moment, as Driediger exhorts his girlfriend, “Meet me outside the skating rink/Your mom is a bitch, I don’t care what she thinks/About me.” I’d say that sums up the rebellious spirit of an adolescent in love better than just about anything I’ve ever heard.

So, what do we have here in total? Here’s a Canadian quartet with a vaguely rootsy sound, by equal degrees mournful and triumphant in its delivery, with facial hair to spare. Their first album certainly feels like a debut, a cautious first step toward establishing the group in what’s becoming an increasingly crowded indie scene in the land of maple leaves. Still, you’ve got to believe that Ladyhawk is going to see things through. Maybe the band is still stuck in a drinking hole somewhere, but that’s where most of life’s best stories begin.


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