By Jennie Orton
CALGARY — In the eight-and-a-half minute opening track opus that is “Best of You,” Bend Sinister takes you on the gamut that is the anthemic rock lexicon, borrowing heavily from those who have built operatic heights before them. On their new album, Animals, you can hear shades of ELO, Queen, Wings and even lyrical shout-outs to Oasis. This is a project meant to explode off the live stage, populated with tracks that inspire abandon having the time of your life.
There are no obvious deep messages to speak of, which may be intentional, masking metaphysical explorations and honesty under fist-pumping stadium anthems, like Queen often employed. Or it could be that there really isn’t any deep thesis lurking under the synths, horn section and large riffs, and this simply is music meant to jam to. Either way, Animals is decidedly larger than the work that has come before it. Sonically, the album has balls: the songs, even when dancing remarkably close to pop/rock, are ambitious offerings. One can recognize why it would be a great candidate for a touring album: the songs all have the propensity to hit the kind of heights a frontman dreams about, complete with throbbing audience participation and crowd-surfing shenanigans, the kind of show from which people walk away sweaty and toting a copy of the LP that probably won’t deliver with the same gravitas on the tiny speakers at home. Pretty upbeat direction for a band that took their name from a dystopian Nabokov novel about thought control and infanticide.
Animals, not to be confused with the seminal Pink Floyd deconstruction of human nature by the same name, was the result of a vision of art direction from frontman Dan Moxon’s recent fascination with taxidermy and the retro vibe that defines the rumpus room atmosphere that usually surrounds most stuffed owls. This sparked the creative vision behind the album cover and, eventually, supplied the band with the title. But, the musical direction took the boys down to California where they took their inspiration and injected it with large doses of electricity with the help of Joe Marlett in the production booth. Marlett, carrying stints with Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age under his belt, brought a spirit of professionalism and organization to the album-making process; something Moxon says was a shot in the arm.
“It was a way to get out of the city and be somewhere different and sort of adventure,” says Moxon, citing Marlett’s keen attention to detail integral to making the process considerably less stressful.
The more task-oriented approach to the production of this album was a breath of fresh air for the singer, who also shared writing duties with his bandmates on the album. A new practice for the band, Moxon found the collaborative atmosphere to be very beneficial.
“It was a good experience,” the singer says, “just to have everyone keen and involved and let everyone contribute.”
As a result, the album features a selection of lyrics that very pleasantly take you to good places, the kind of light and pleasing array of words that would come out of a collaborative writing venture between guys that get along as well as this band does, as evident by the studio cut of laughter that erupts after the jaunty number, “Fancy Pants.” And that good-times vibe translates to the stage, a place where Moxon hopes people can have as much fun as the band is having.
“Well we hope to not be too serious and to have a good time, leave people with a smile on their face. And not with eardrums too impacted.”
Sometimes that’s really all a man needs.
Catch Bend Sinister at the Slice (Lethbridge) July 23 and at the Ship & Anchor (Calgary) July 24.AB, Alberta, Bend Sinister, Ship & Anchor, Slice, Slice Lethbridge