These Guys I Know Who Have Got A Band, Episode 1: Explode When They Bloom

Posted: April 14, 2011 by Adam Craig. in Band/Artist, Profiles

Adam Craig

I remember it like it was yesterday, us playing shows together. Me in Measured in Angles, them in Explode When They Bloom. Actually, I don’t remember much of that at all. I remember them being pleasant young men, who played pleasant music for other young people. At the time I was already entering what would be a long-standing period of deep cynicism and curmedgeonry so these fresh faced, handsome young lads who were so full of optimism and enthusiasm about rock and roll was sort of disgusting.

I recall that one of the first times we had played with them was an all ages event in the banquet hall of an arena in Kingsville, and thinking ‘Christ, these guys are nice’. It made my skin crawl. They would have been just starting out at that point, and the pessimism that inevitably accompanies the Sisyphean struggle to ‘make it’ had not started to settle in for them. Back in those days, you wanted to hand over a lollipop, tousle their hair and give them a hearty “way to go, boys”, like you might for a kid who at just come out on top at the track meet.

That would have been late 2006 or 2007 maybe. It’s hard to remember, as the intervening years have meant a lot of details getting lost in a haze, but the thing to remember is that they were young and just starting out, but they were fucking good. You can take my word for it if you weren’t there, and it’s an honest and unbiased assessment of where they were at. The truth is that I didn’t really like it very much at all; it just wasn’t my thing. But despite that, I could listen to it and safely say, “these kids know how to play, and they know how to write songs”.

At this point in the article, it occurs to me that I still haven’t said anything about their music.

When you’re in an indie band there’s a couple of scenarios that will likely play out for you. The most common being that you do a couple of shows, people are falling over themselves to pat you on the back, and then they forget about you, the crowds dwindle and you stop. You can almost set your watch to it. There’s a reason that this hasn’t happened to Explode When They Bloom; it’s catchy. It’s catchy, and it almost forces you to bob your head around or pump your fist. Like it or not, I’m going to say that Explode sits right at the intersection of Bruce Springsteen and Tool. Didn’t see that horribly awkward comparison coming, did you? And I’m willing to wager that you can’t even grasp what that might sound like.

Before you start thinking that the piece you are reading right now is a thinly veiled slab of cockstrokery between buddies, let me say that Explode isn’t really doing anything new. It’s still just rock and roll, it’s got hooks and choruses and some solos and all the rest. It’s just that it’s really good rock and roll. It’s the kind of thing that could launch a modest career, get a little North American notoriety in the ‘blogosphere’, and then after a couple of years give it up gracefully and be satisfied with the knowledge that what was done was done better than most indie bands do.

When I told the guys from the band that I would be writing this, I had them pick a couple of songs that they thought best represented them. Being the cooperative young lads that they are, I promptly received a handful of tracks in my inbox and set about diving in. Having listened to this stuff, and having heard some of it live and on my own in the past, let’s see if I can say this diplomatically; Explode When They Bloom starts with last year’s The Ugly. That’s not to say that there’s no recorded output before then, and it’s not that it’s not good…. but it all sounds a bit like a lead up to what’s on this most recent offering. There are prime cuts on the earlier As The Animals Make Their Way Through The Crowds, some of which are recognizable if you’ve seen them live, but at that point it sounds like they were still figuring things out. Maybe it’s that The Ugly takes a big step forward in terms of production, or maybe they all just got a little more confident with respect to songwriting and musicianship, but on As The Animals… they sound like kids. On The Ugly, the balls have apparently dropped.

I should add that saying some of the early stuff is a little ‘weak wristed’ is only in reference to the recordings. Those same songs played live in a tiny place like the Phog turn into the sonic equivalent of a balled fist in the nose, which is considerably more pleasant than it sounds.

So The Ugly is Explode’s grown-up album. There’s any number of indie rock journalistic tropes that I can use to put this differently, but I’d prefer not to go down that route. So instead, let’s get into details and see if you can fill in the rest: It’s groovier. It’s maybe a little bluesier than the older stuff. There’s a new sense of dynamics that wasn’t present before, and it sounds like they started to understand the idea of ‘atmosphere’. Use caution when interpreting that last statement… When i say atmosphere, I’m not talking about Enya or whatever that mess was that Radiohead just put out. It’s still a rock album, but maybe a little closer now to a rock ‘experience’ than on As The Animals Make Their Way Through The Crowd.

Being close to the source, I know for a fact that this album took a long time to push out and may have been the source of no shortage of frustration. And maybe this is a good thing. The longer you stew on something, the more vibrant the flavors and the more time you have to set things up just right. That comes through while you’re listening to the album itself. There are few if any missteps, and everything sounds like it was meant to be there. It’s spit polished, slick and quite frankly more ready for the’ big time’ than anything else I’ve heard coming out of Windsor in a long while. I very rarely sing along at local shows. EWTB has got those kind of choruses that make you want to do that.

They’re at Phog April 29th. It’s a Friday, and I can almost guarantee that there won’t be anything better going on anywhere else in Windsor. So do yourself a favor; show up early, grab a poutine and a pint and settle in for the closest thing to ‘big-chorus’ rock and roll that you’re going to get around here. Here’s some links in case you’re still not sold:

  1. Justin Jarrold says:

    This is an awesome article and an awesome band but… It’s just a little ugly.

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