By Mike Dunn
Alternating between blasts of fierce punk rock, chiming chords, and walls of squalling ambient noise, the self-titled full-length debut from Edmonton’s Wares is at once all over the map, but stands out in Cassia Hardy’s ability to tie her songs together with clever instrumental and vocal hooks, and lyrics that dig in close to the bone without cutting too deeply.
“City Kids” leads off the record with a jangling riff that falls into a sauntering sway, whistling a melody that turns up in other places through the tune. Hardy’s vocals start out soaked in reverb, with small-town street kids encouraging each other to hold on: “You don’t like doin’ what you’re told, don’t take shit from anybody, no you and me babe are just a stone’s throw from the city,” like so many kids eager to get out of the confines of redneck towns to a place where there are people more like them. “What You Want” features some greasy skate punk riffs, the drive of the ‘90s underground with a lo-fi aesthetic that has more punk energy than a lot of those classics ever did, along with hard-turn tempo changes and tripped-out showers of psychedelia. Hardy’s particularly adept at that classic Pixies style of whisper/scream dynamics and Wares is distinct in its ability to keep the listener off balance, as on “Mission Hill.”
“Keeping Me Awake” is another barrage of charging punk riffs that stands out in tying a pop sound with gritty rock n’ roll guitars that have a Hold Steady feel. The second half of the album sets Wares apart in that it gets better as it goes. With the acoustic gem “Out All Night,” the clamor of eighteen strings ringing with a single tambourine while Hardy’s voice nearly seethes on the lines, “It must be so hard to breathe, with every breath you’re lying through your teeth, does it keep you up at night?” before the plaintive call of “Would you come back if I said you’ll never find anyone better?”
There’s a constant variance throughout Hardy’s work on this Wares record, like the practiced abstraction of a painter who appears to be blasting paint at a canvas, or the finished work of a sculptor which confounds the eye of the beholder. It’s in the shifting colours and shapes, the pushes and pulls of pace, and in her willingness to absorb the risk of being misunderstood that sets Wares apart from her indie rock peers.Independent, Wares