Sunday, June 30, 2019

"Foggy Style Volume 1" CD Review!!

It's now time for our 120th monthly CD review at The Sault Metal Scene, and we have another archive review for this month due to a lack of new hard rock and punk CD releases in June 2019. That said, we have quite the throwback this month, as we're finally taking a look at "Foggy Style Volume 1", the compilation album put out by defunct local nightclub & concert venue Foggy Notions during the peak of their run at 704 Queen Street East! The album proper is not finitely dated in the booklet, but the 20 included songs were originally released between 2000 and the fall of 2002 on their original albums, so I am estimating that this came out in 2003. Independently released during Jon Ferguson & Brendan Fyfe's co-ownership of Foggy's, this compilation features acts who played well received concerts at what's now Coch's Corner, and perhaps at Foggy's original Bay Street location beforehand. Of the 20 songs, six come from local performers, and overall, punk rock plays a huge component in it's makeup. No, there was no "Volume 2."

For the record, we're tying in this review with live sets this month in the Soo from album performers John Barber (Parabol), Dustin Jones (The Cover-Up), Al Wood (...and The Woodsmen), and Planet Smashers bassist Dave Cooper, so now is as good a time as any to finally review "Foggy Style"! Just for full disclosure, I was 13 or 14 years old when this CD came out, and would not be old enough to enter Foggy Notions for a concert until two months after it's initial 2008 closure, so if I miss an obvious factoid about a performer on the album, I apologize in advance, I truly wasn't there. Song names below are linked to YouTube copies of the songs, largely from prior uploads of the album via other sources, but I did post the stragglers on our YouTube channel with associated playlist. With all that said, this 20 song, 66 minutes-long album is packed with familiar live acts from Foggy Notions' heyday, so let's begin our "Foggy Style" review!

The compilation opens up with a song by Brownsfield, Alberta folk musician Carson Cole's song "Fryday" from his 2002 solo album "Sticky", but this song shares a lot thematically with punk rock, and he uses his raspy singing voice to good effect here! Exclaim's review of this album implies that Carson was exploring a number of different sounds on this album, and he seems to execute punk well, if with a Husker Du-esque indie bent. A free-wheeling party vibe suits this album well to start, but there's a missing authenticity compared to his later work. Second on "Foggy Style" is Guelph/Toronto pop punk quartet Flashlight Brown, who contributed their song "A Freak" from their self-titled 2001 CD. Matt Hughes' punk snarl is effective on this well performed song, but it's very vocal/drum-based at the expense of the guitar, and the "shoop-de-woop" backing vocals are sorely out of place. Straight forward and reliable punk track that nicely fits the album's range!

Song #3 belongs to the first of six local acts on the CD, namely standout punk rock quartet The Inner City Surfers, who perform their song "Booze and Doobs" here, as first seen on their 2002 album "Laughing on the Outside." This song was re-recorded for their 2007 self-titled album, but we'll talk about that version at a later date. I haven't reviewed "Laughing on the Outside" on the site yet, so I can't compare the song in this way, but this is a more laid back song in the Surfers oeuvre, harbouring more of a country/drinking song vibe that may appeal to Rising Tide fans. Myself, I think the song sounds kind of sleepy compared to peak Surfers tracks, with Dustin's vocals often lacking for clarity, and the ending is too abrupt for my liking. Not a bad song, and Dave gets some time to shine on guitar, but for my tastes, there are Surfers songs I enjoy more than this.

Fourth is our first full diversion from the punk path on "Foggy Style", courtesy of Winnipeg hip hop group Mood Ruff's song "Antarctica: Cold Cold World" from the 2002 album of the same name. I'm not a rap scholar, but from what I know of the genre, this song is well performed with solid rhymes and a nice beat! I think the song drags a bit with verses that are too drawn out, but fans familiar with their later hit single "Rocketship" should be right at home with this well performed song! If you're a punk diehard though, look elsewhere. Next up is "Live Wire" by Kindle, a Celtic rock group comprised of five cousins from Souris, Prince Edward Island. This may bring up Rising Tide comparisons, but Kindle are a different band altogether, with them having more of a true instrumental rock base, and the fiddle almost replacing vocals. Very East Coast flavour, and the song (from their 2000 self-titled CD) is very well performed for the genre!

Next is "Business As Usual" by Toronto roots rock band Staggered Crossing, courtesy of their 2002 album "Last Summer When We Were Famous." This is a upbeat rock song that reminds me in a way of early Lenny Kravitz material, but with a bluesier vibe, and it's a good match. I wasn't familiar with StagX going in, but this is a catchy number with strong vocals by Julian Taylor, a nice bouncy guitar riff, and a bit of a heavier edge, and this is definitely a sleeper hit on this compulation! That's followed by Ottawa alt-rock quartet Nectar's song "Modern Making" from their 2001 album "Somewhere That Way." Somewhat of a power pop song that reminds me a bit of Weezer, this is a good rocker that's in your face without being too aggressive, and the drumming's particularly effective in the background, but the harmonized vocals at the end did slightly take me out of it. Not a bad track, it's a shame Nectar didn't release anything after this album!

The second local act on "Foggy Style" is next, namely defunct local hard rock quartet Redefined, whose song here is "M.T. Bundies" from their 2001 demo CD "Risk & Uncertainty." I don't own the full demo, but if you're familiar with John Barber's later hard rock vocal work in bands like Parabol & Late Shift, this won't be far away in sound. Honestly, I was surprised by the ska-inspired verses, which are a complete and utter contrast from the heavy & loud modern rock choruses, but once I was used to them, I liked the jump in intensity! Matt Sibilo's guitar playing meshes well in both areas, Danno O'Shea's drumming is more than up to the task, and I like the bass lines that Josh St. Amour gets in the bridge particularly. Very solid track from Redefined, an accomplished hard rock band in their day (who survived long enough to have a page on PureVolume!)

The ninth song belongs to Montreal ska punk legends The Planet Smashers, whose featured song is "Blind" from their 2001 album "No Self Control". I don't listen to a lot of ska punk, but The Smashers are a top rank example of the genre, with a punk essence, strong musicianship, a lively appeal, and talented horn section combining well on this song, and if you prefer the "punk" side of ska punk, we have that in spades here! Matt, Dave, and company deliver a fun song here, and if you've missed The Planet Smashers live since 2005, this is a refresher of what they could do! The first half of the CD concludes with Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu punk quintet Subb, whose song here is "Daylight Saving" from the 2002 album of that name. This is a harder edged punk song with nicely thumping guitar in the verses, but with more of a melodic base, especially thanks to Jeff Quesnel's higher vocal register.

This song doesn't fully embrace Subb's ska punk base, but if you like pop and skate punk, this is a reliable song in that genre range to check out! We continue in the realm of punk rock with the eleventh song and third from a local band, namely Running With Scissors, an early-2000s punk band who recorded the single "Waiting" for this compilation. Public details on R.W.S. are extremely minimal nowadays, but they opened for Redefined often at Foggy's in 2001. Personal Facebook conversations indicated that their lineup on this recording included singer/guitarist Christian Pasiak (Bankshot), drummer Aaron Mooney (Bin Hawdon et al.), and either Clint Wilson or Curtis Faux on bass. The song proper has a nice swing to it's rhythm, and the guitar work is solid, but the vocals are somewhat muddled in this recording. There was promise here, as Foggy Notions indicated on their old website, and it's a shame we didn't see more studio work from Running With Scissors to build on that!

Track #12 is "Taken" by Toronto pop punk band The Getaway, via their 2002 album "What Can You Do?" Exclaim praised their natural sound and relatable lyrics at the time compared to "mall-punk" bands of the era, and this song has positive qualities! Solid catchy guitar riff while still being a laid back, casual song, but Matt Wesley's vocals are an acquired taste for me, the extended instrumental bridge goes a little too long, and I wish the song had a little more bite to it. Not a bad song for genre fans all the same! Next is "Steady As She Goes" by Riverside, California ska punk legends The Voodoo Glow Skulls, as seen on their 2002 album of the same name. On this one, the horn section sounds a little crackly, which is mildly distracting, and the song as a whole can get repetitive, but I like the hardcore punk influence on Frank Casillas' vocals! Genre fans will like this song's pacing and aggression contrasting with the melodic ska elements, and it hits more than it misses!

Afterwards is the album's shortest song, that being "You Have It All" by Kamloops, B.C. ska punk band Blinded, from their 2002 CD "Seconds From Reality."This has more of an authentic ska punk sound to it than preceding genre songs, lying heavily on the reggae touches and horn section, but the punk part of the song is a little flat to me, coming across as too laid back and not in-your-face enough. Well performed and lively, but more for the ska fan than the punk fan. The fourth local song on "Foggy Style" is next, and there's even more ska punk ahead, as this is "Sunshine" by fan favourites The 12 Gauge Ready! Not tied to a prior album in the booklet, this is the most laid back of the punk songs yet, evoking listening to this song by a beach with a margarita. They get good mileage out of the keyboard here, and the singing is a great match to the cool vibes, but if you want punk with your ska punk, this may not be what you're looking for. Still nice to hear Adam, Sal, Beano, and company again after all these years!

The sixteenth song comes from this album's biggest name in retrospect, them being Kingston ska/reggae band Bedouin Soundclash, who later went platinum with hits like "When the Night Feels My Song" and "Walls Fall Down", and won the Juno for Best New Group in 2006. Their song on "Foggy Style" is "Santa Monica" from their 2001 debut CD "Root Fire." I have admittedly never been a fan of Bedouin Soundclash, likely because of their sound tending to be a lot softer than I tend to like, but this has a folksy campfire vibe that is effective in it's way! The song is well performed by Jay, Eon, and company, but sound-wise, it's not for me. Next is Moncton folk rock band Chris Colepaugh & The Cosmic Crew, whose song here is "Bookmark" from their 2001 album "Trip." This is an upbeat song with a classic rock influence and some country touches, and it's got a deceiving simplicity to it. Chris is a talented performer, and I like the genre diversity, but sound wise, this again isn't my thing compared to earlier punk songs.

Eighteenth up on the album is the fifth of six local acts, namely Red Wood Central, the blues rock duo from singer Michelle "Red" April and Woodsmen frontman Al Wood on guitar. The song is "Suitcase Blues" from their 2002 album "Behind the Times", and this is a very straightforward, traditional blues song that genre fans will absolutely support! Red's got a smooth, soulful voice, and Al's guitar work is well established locally, so this is a nice pairing to add some extra zest to the album's variety! The album's penultimate song is also it's longest, namely "Gone To Stay" from the Vancouver indie rock band Radiogram and their 2002 album "All The Way Home." This song isn't my thing genre-wise, with a softer and more intricate style with some roots rock and horn flourishes, and a simple, frank style of vocals from Ken Beattie that would theoretically play well at LopLops. It's well performed, but again, this is out of my wheelhouse.

"Foggy Style" closes with "Cry, Baby, Cry", a single recorded by local folk musician Joe Kennedy. This has a well performed song with a frank, coffee-shop sound that has a delicate, emotional base, and he hit some good higher register notes on the chorus. I'm not sure that I'd have ended the compilation with an acoustic singer/songwriter, but Joe has clear talent and songwriting ability, and a little poignancy does add to the CD's variety. Note that this song skipped for me on my primary computer's CD drive, but played fine on my backup laptop (my CD copy is not scratched.)

So, what are my final thoughts on "Foggy Style Vol. 1"? As a compilation, it's hit and miss, but it has more than enough entertaining punk and alternative music to go around! Going in, I can safely say I didn't know half of the bands, but had I been born in 10 years earlier, I'd surely have been more familiar with Foggy's busy early 2000s schedule,  and this exposed me to what I missed out on! The dominant genre on here seemed to be (ska) punk, but we got dashes of blues, rap, Celtic, indie, and folk on here, and it covers a lot of ground to allow casual fans something they'd like! Myself, I wish a band heavier than Redefined could have snuck in, but Foggy Notions wasn't identified with extreme metal for most people. Of the out of town bands, I enjoyed The Planet Smashers, Staggered Crossing, and Nectar the most overall, while Redefined gave my favourite of the 6 local songs. My dislikes mostly revolve around personal preferences, which goes without saying that I would prefer the included heavier and punk songs.

The song order on the final product is worth revisiting, as I think it would have been laid out better without blocking the songs by genre (i.e. ska punk in the middle, softer/folksier songs late), and ending on "Cry, Baby, Cry" wasn't a great call to close the album compared to something more upbeat. Also, with the power of hindsight, there are different songs I'd have included from some of the local bands, particularly The Surfers and The 12 Gauge Ready, who offered more in the punk realm than was shown here.

Overall though, "Foggy Style" is an effective time capsule of busier days at 704 Queen, and it's a shame we didn't get a sequel before the owner and name changes! Give the whole thing a listen at the above links, and thanks to Jacob, Sal, Christian, and many others for the help on acquiring information on Running With Scissors! I hope you guys liked this month's CD review, but what's coming up on the site next month? Of course, I'll give preference to a new studio album if one pops up, but if not, I know precisely which archive album would be reviewed next: "Pierced", the 2013 demo CD from Sailor's Tongue that they released at Rotaryfest's Second Stage that year, which would be an ideal tie-in given their one-off reunion set on Stage 1 next month! Whether we're reviewing Sailor's Tongue or not, look for our next review in the coming weeks, and stay tuned for more news soon! Thanks everyone!


Brendan Fyfe said...

Wow! I have to admit that it's pretty cool to see a review of this compilation so many years after it came out. The CD was created to showcase all the talented artists that were playing the venue and to get the message across that we embraced all genres. The majority were definitely rock, punk and ska though. That was particularly true of the all ages shows.

We had a good time pulling it together and had some funny debates over the tracks, artwork and compilation name. Maybe we should have called it "Hit or Miss". :)

I live in Toronto now and occasionally run into some of the artists that are still playing. Made many great friends and had a lot of awesome experiences during that time. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

Brendan Fyfe said...
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