Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Din - "Suburban Sendoff" Album Review!!

It's now time for our 108th monthly CD review at The Sault Metal Scene, as we're finally taking a look at defunct local alt-hard rock trio The Din's posthumous live album "Suburban Sendoff"! Released on February 16th of this year, this is their fourth paid release and their second live album (but first from a non-acoustic concert), with this album being recorded from the soundboard at The Din's farewell/CD release concert at LopLops Lounge on October 21st, 2017. Like on their prior three albums, The Din are represented here by singer/bassist Mike Haggith (now of Thompson, Manitoba's Between The Ditches and his revived solo project), Steeletown Girls guitarist Tammy Hill, and Re:Born drummer Brandan Glew. "Suburban Sendoff" is only available on their Bandcamp page on their "name your price" model, but consider supporting The Din's work by paying an amount for it! As usual, you can stream it there too, and song names linked below are to their live versions.

This album has 20 tracks running for about 98 minutes in length, but keep in mind that this is a live album, and with one (technically two) exceptions, we have reviewed nearly every song in the past via our reviews of The Din's studio albums "Give In To The Din" and "Suburban Dream", while we looked at the acoustic version of "We Met At The Circus" on "The Din Does Laundry", Mike's studio solo version on "The Warinside" notwithstanding. Given that, I am not re-reviewing most of those songs here, but I will compare them to their studio versions and as live performances. Visit the album names linked above for our original reviews of 9/10ths of this album's songs!

After a brief introduction, "Suburban Sendoff" kicked off in album and live form with the first song on their then-brand new album "Suburban Dream", namely "Give Me A Reason". The LopLops performance sticks close to the original version, which is a fun and upbeat hard rocker already, but I do like that the chorus vocals sound a little looser and less forced. Mild overkill on the cymbals at times, but fans of the studio version will have nothing to complain about in live form! Next on "Suburban Dream" and "... Sendoff" alike is "High Park", which again hews close to the original version, but is played a little faster here, which doesn't hurt things at all! Fans responded well to this steadily paced rocker, and while I'm still not a fan of the "Ooooh" chorus, they again only used it once. Third up is a rendition of "Alleyways & Apartments" from 2016's "Give In To The Din."

This live rendition honestly has a rawer, less grand feel than the original studio copy, but that suits the live setting and the energy within! It's not really any faster, but there's a loose and casual nature to it, especially when Mike tries to get some back-up assistance on the chorus, so fans will be right at home. After acknowledging their impending breakup and that night's release of "Suburban Dream", they launch into the next song from "G.I.T.T.D.", namely "Out Of My League.", itself a prior solo song of Mike's. Aside from his voice showing some strain compared to The Din's studio version, this live take is well performed again, showcasing the song's upbeat and hard rocking strengths to good effect! We flip back to the "Suburban Dream" album for the next two songs, with Mike acknowledging that they're going a little more intimate at this stage of the set, before referencing Shaw TV filming the show (has their footage turned up yet publically?), and introducing the band to the crowd.

The next track is "Weekend Delivery", which maintains it's short and soft nature from the studio version, but the vocals are the big change, as Mike doesn't sound quite as reserved and delicate in this performance, and Brandan's backing vocals don't mesh as well at the same time. I prefer The Din's faster and heavier songs, and this didn't alter that, but it sounds fine otherwise while it lasts! On both live and studio albums, that's followed by "Missing", and I honestly didn't notice this song's verse similarities to "Ahead By A Century" by The Tragically Hip (to me, at least) until today's review! The moody, mid-tempo original is mostly intact here, and it's well performed for fans of The Din's middle ground between heavy and light material! After thanking attendees and Mike's family for attending the farewell show, the guys tackle "Flux" from "Give In To The Din". A slightly faster rendition, this is fairly standard with the original song otherwise, but that's fine by me!

"Flux" was one of my favourite songs" on their debut, and I'm glad to see that it didn't suffer at all in this live setting! Next is the set's only original composition not on The Din's studio albums, namely "We Met At The Circus" (otherwise known as "We Met As Surrogates".) You could call this The Din's de facto studio version of that song, and for comparisons sake with Mike's 2015 solo version on "The Warinside", The Din dropped the highway and telephone sound effects, as well as the orchestral base, in favour of just focusing on the basics. That said, this version is much longer than the original due to some extended jamming that Tammy shines on, as well as Mike thanking all of his friends in Sault Ste. Marie before his big move. The Din's live versions always turned this song into a more energetic, heavy, and fun composition, and that's no different here. It's a shame this song never made one of a Din studio album, but this will do!

We return to their debut album for the next song, "In Search Of The Perfect Moment", which is another faithful live rendition, save for a pause for drama late and a moment where Mike jokingly forgets the last chorus. The Din handles their first album's opener with the requisite enthusiasm and chemistry, and for one of that album's highlights, it definitely deserved it's positive reception (and the mystery balloons that showed up during this song!) The first half of the album concludes with "35's The Limit" from "Suburban Dream", which is another lively and faithful rendition in structure, but it honestly sounds a little more aggressive than it originally did. I don't mind that approach at all, but either way, this is perfectly on pace with earlier songs on this live album! Another "Suburban Dream" track follows next, that being "Up In The Air", which maintains it's leisurely indie-inspired pacing, but slightly amped up for the live concert atmosphere.

Not one of my favourites from that album, but it holds up well live, and the crowd seems to like it! Next is another softer original, "Remember" from "Give In To The Din", which was arguably that album's pure ballad. Live, the instrumentation's a little more prominent, and it feels a little less like a campfire jam, but whether the less casual feel is an improvement or not is subjective. I'm undecided, but it's well performed! Then we have "A Brief Intermission",  where a friend of the band named Kyle Foster comes on stage to compliment and congratulate The Din for their run. Nice of them to include this on the album, but given that it's not a song and runs for just 52 seconds, why not just tack it onto the end of "Remember"? Two successive songs from "Suburban Dream" come on next, starting with "In The Moonlight", which is played a little faster, but primarily differentiates from Mike's voice starting to crack during the first chorus.

That shows how much intensity and passion Mike was giving for The Din's sendoff, and it just adds to the mood of the night! I always liked the slow burn as the song evolved from an intimate performance to having the full band rocking out at the end, and that mostly comes through in this quality live take! Next is "The Price That You Pay", and I'll be honest, this song came through better in studio. The progressive, grand nature of it didn't translate to the farewell concert, and while still well performed, it has more of an emotional, raw feel here that doesn't click the same to me. The song immediately segues into "Potato (You Should've Known Better)" from their debut album/Mike's solo catalog. Again, the studio version of this song is more optimal to hear this song, both via the inclusion of the noodling guitar intro and due to Mike's vocal fatigue and Tammy's guitar coming unplugged, but the hard rock energy is welcomed back after their quieter and more reserved sketch to help get the home stretch in high gear!

The band teases ending their set before calls for an encore prompt a few more songs, starting with "75" from "Give In To The Din" and Mike's old band Haggith's debut CD. Fans of this song dating back to Haggith's run will be pleased to hear that it survived intact with no edits or visible fatigue, and for The Din'a harder edged, faster-paced side, this is surely welcome news! The encore continues with a surprise (though very welcomed) cover of The Tragically Hip's "Blow At High Dough" in tribute to their frontman Gord Downie, who lost his battle with brain cancer just four days prior to this concert. The Din had already covered this song live frequently, so it's short notice inclusion felt natural and right on all accounts. Their rendition was really solid, it's clear that they know the song very well, and Mike injected emotion with a mid-bridge speech about Gord's impact on him as a frontman, while also adding some humor with the "some kind of Elvis thing" lyric.

A cover of "Blow At High Dough" would benefit from two guitarists just for the melody, but you couldn't ask for a more fitting tribute from one Canadian band to another, and kudos for managing to include this in the album! The show seemingly ends with the title track of the "Suburban Dream" CD, and this rendition is really solid, flowing with the original while better using the backing chorus vocals at the same time! The guys bottled up their energy and talents well to unleash here, and this was a great capper.... or was it? After soaking in the emotion and the fan response, they tackle one more song, namely their debut album's extended closer and prior Mike solo track "A Drive Through The Peninsula", which runs for an album record 11 minutes in this live form! Already an extended jam number, it's existing nature lends itself well to Mike reflecting on The Din's local career.

As a slight homage to their early days as an acid jam band, this song is a fitting closer and lets Mike, Tammy, and Brandan jam out and have a little fun to close out their local run! If you like The Din's studio version, you'll surely like this one, but if you dislike jam rock, you may want to stick to Mike's solo rendition from a few years back, which is much shorter.

So, what are my final thoughts on The Din's second (and final?) live album? Well, in terms of a "Suburban Sendoff", you couldn't ask for much more! With the exception of "The Rose" and three Mike Haggith solo songs from "The Din Does Laundry", this comprises virtually all of The Din's recorded (post-acid jam) originals for one extended farewell, and given the emotion and the hype, they delivered! It's impossible to compare this objectively to their past albums, as studio releases will be perfected compositions, and their first live album was acoustic, but the majority of songs here are true to their prior studio versions, while adding the usual live concert quirks and introductions. There are occasional flubs and missed steps, but as they noted on Bandcamp, this concert was unaltered for it's album release, and "the human element is on full display." A few songs don't translate as well to studio, or show noticeable strain from the lengthy headlining set, but The Din went out on top doing what they did best as a group!

Getting to hear fan favourite songs like "75", "Flux", and "We Met As Surrogates" one more time was a thrill, and the crowd and atmosphere was suitably cool on this fall night! As all of a piece, this is as good of a farewell as you could ask for from Mike, Tammy, and Brandan, and here's hoping that we hear more from them in their current projects for the foreseeable future! I hope you guys liked our extended review of "Suburban Sendoff", but what's coming on the site next? We're definitely reviewing a new album next, and I am currently leaning towards our first review of an album from another Mike, namely "Ultimate Chaos" by former Bear Hunters guitarist Mike Vincent! That could change (there are new albums from SweetKenny and the aforementioned Mike Haggith to take note of as well), but that's my current instinct. In any event, look for our next review at some point in July, and stay tuned for weekend concert previews next! Thanks everyone!

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