Last year Wampus artist Kowtow Popof introduced us to a record called Ashtray Rock by Canadian songwriter Joel Plaskett and his band the Joel Plaskett Emergency. This under-the-radar disc wasn’t just good. It wasn’t even merely great, as such a tag would imply it was no better than many other albums. No — this was one of the best rock records we had heard in 20 years, a stunning, flawless amalgam of passion, craftsmanship, and pure, contrarian brilliance. So yeah, you might say we kinda liked it.
And the odd part? We haven’t stopped listening to it since, haven’t gotten to the point where it no longer engages us. We’re still cranking it loud in the car, still pushing it on everyone we know.
Over the years, bands have made rancid concept albums, giving a perfectly fine genre — album as novel, what’s not to like? — a bad name. With Ashtray Rock, Plaskett reminds us it was lousy art, not music as narrative, that killed the concept album. The songs on Ashtray Rock are wise but not clever, impassioned but not treacly. They are personal and universal. And absolutely real.
You’ve got a picture of her that you carry around, Plaskett croons in his best falsetto, but China’s not the same as Chinatown.
Makes us long for Halifax.