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The Sadies | Tremendous Efforts (Bloodshot Records)
Now this, the third album from Toronto's The Sadies, is a very interesting record to talk about. For a start, whatever you think of Steve Albini's personal sonic attack, it cannot be denied that anything involving his not inconsiderable production skills is well worth a look - the most visible recent example of which being Low's staggering Things We Lost In The Fire. He engineers and mixes here, but produced on The Sadies' first two albums. We can, then, at least expect sonic purity from Tremendous Efforts, and that is exactly what we get. Next, let's look at the packaging. The cover bears a Lowgold colour scheme square-framed painting of the boys, gazing down from within a constellation (or surrounded by random blobs â?? your call). The inner band shot shows them ghosted against the wall of a room lit only by two candles, bass drum on display. In black and white, obviously. And there's an illustration of a recorder playing young female atop waves of psychedelic silliness. In shades of red and blue, of course. (It is worth noting that the sleeve designer and photographer are listed amongst additional musicians as special guests. Each part as important as the next â?? I like that, and you don't see it very often). So, sort of psyche-country-ish, the sleeve and listed instrumentation â?? all the gubbins present â?? would seem to imply. The Sadies are fronted by brothers Dallas and Travis Good, who are apparently so tall that Neko Case â?? who they used to back â?? described them as trees. A real rib-tickler that, I thought. The Brothers Good are of the same family that produced, er, the Good Brothers; Canada's premier bluegrass outfit. Indeed, Brian, Bruce, Larry and Margaret Good all appear on Tremendous Efforts. Everything considered thus far, this is a very enticing prospect, so let's slap it on. Over the course of this thirteen track, thirty-six minute baffler of an album, The Sadies prove many things, not least of which is that they are the world's best tribute band. Bloodshot state that they like their signing 'because they can play ANYTHING better than anyone else'. Not quite, but they can play anything almost the same as anyone else. The musicianship is impeccable and often gritty or tender, but what I want to hear is The Sadies, and not their near perfect impressions of The Ventures, Dick Dale, The 101'ers, Highway 61 era Dylan, Jerry Garcia's nu-grass indulgences or Calexico. The 'C' word in fact, is deeply evident. There are five instrumentals, and they run the gamut from 'C' / Morricone western laments to the sort of knees-ups found in any bar in most any North American mountain community, any night of the week. Absolutely nothing 'alt.'about it. Of those with vocals, 120 Miles Per Hour is the standout on all fronts. Opening with the lines "When you said we should never leave the city / did you know we never would return? / did you think that nobody would find us? / our signal was too weak to be heard," in a croak most suited to a tale narrated from the afterlife, then it can't really fail. Fabulous. There are breezes through I Wasn't Born To Follow and Jeffrey Lee Pierce' Mother Of Earth, a few other pleasant or foot-tappin' ditties, and that's about it. Not a classic then, but I have banged on quite a bit about a release that it may appear I have little regard for for four reasons. Firstly, it is extremely obvious that with roots unabashedly on sleeves, The Sadies are merely continuing the traditions of yore and kin, bashing out their own generation's interpretation â?? and that's pure. Secondly, they have swagger and cool. Next, that Steve Albini obviously loves them, and finally, that with all of the above at the right time, with the right material, they are more than capable of producing a quite brilliant album â?? as The Sadies.
CWAS #8 - Summer 2001