Sunday, October 25, 2020

Treble Charger - "Wide Awake Bored" CD Review!!

It's now time for our 136th monthly CD review at The Sault Metal Scene, but with nothing new on sale and little to tie in with re: live concerts, we're dipping into the archives once again for a look at inactive local/Toronto indie/punk veterans Treble Charger's fourth album "Wide Awake Bored"! Released on July 25th, 2000 by ViK Recordings & BMG Music Canada (and on April 24th, 2001 in the United States with alternate cover art by Nettwerk Records), this album was recorded at Grandmaster Recorders, Kings Sound & Pictures, and Sound City Studios in the metro Los Angeles area, and was produced by Matt Hyde. Treble Charger are represented here by singer/guitarists Greig Nori & Bill Priddle, bassist Rosie Martin, and in his studio debut, drummer Trevor McGregor (who joined after the recording sessions for 1997's "Maybe It's Me", but appeared in it's liner notes & music videos.)

As well, veteran session drummer Don Heffington provides additional percussion on three songs (including the opener), while Wallflowers/future Foo Fighters keyboardist Rami Jaffee guests on the other two songs featuring Don. "Wide Awake Bored" remains Treble Charger's most successful album, going platinum in Canada and sourcing four songs on EA Sports' soundtracks for the games NHL 2002 & Triple Play 2002. The band also received two nominations at the 2001 Juno Awards (one for Best Rock Album), and performed live at the ceremony. You may find copies of "Wide Awake Bored" in record stores, but it can easily be streamed on services like Apple Music & Spotify. Song names below are linked to YouTube copies, but consider buying the album to support the guys' work!

Featuring 11 songs running for about 40 minutes in length, let's begin this month's CD review with it's opening song, "Brand New Low"! The second single from the CD (despite it's MMVA-nominated music video taking place after the events of the next song), this one seems to be about questioning your past actions in the context of a failed relationship. The isolated intro and slightly distorted vocals from Greig build into a strong full band verse and an exceedingly catchy chorus with nicely layered vocals. The heavier punk-leaning portions of the song are where this one shines, and I like the guitar melodies, though the chorus repetition is a little much late, and Don's added percussion flew under the radar somewhat. A solid opener to the album, and it's easy to see why this is one of Treble Charger's signature punk-era songs! Next up is the album's first and the band's best known single, "American Psycho", whose music video preceded the album opener chronologically.

A #4 hit on the Canadian rock radio charts, a 2001 Juno nominee for Best Single, and an inclusion on Big Shiny Tunes 5, this song is basically about becoming famous at any cost, and is not visibly about the book & movie of the same name. Immediately significant as their most pop-punk song yet in this late stage of their original run, the upbeat guitar riffs, Greig's melodic and somewhat rapid vocals, and solid drumming from Trevor pair well here, and the somewhat bitter lyrics are a good contrast! Nothing too shockingly ambitious, and the bass could have been louder, but this is a strong pop punk song that is fully realized, and it deserved it's original success! Third on the CD is "Business", also the album's final single, and whose music video completed that story arc with their jailbreak. Lyrically about wanting clarity about a relationship on the rocks, this is the most up-tempo and upbeat song yet, and I like the skate-punk vibe with the structure, but the isolated guitar noodling spots don't add anything to the track.

By now, Treble Charger had a good ear for melodic sing-along verses, and Greig puts that to great use here, but the soft bridge was a buzz kill, and this was another song that didn't really let Rosie's bass work come out in full. Still, this is a fun song while it lasts, though it's deep cuts from here on out, given that the 3 singles are front-loaded on the album. Next is "Cheat Away", which seems to be about a final send-off for a love interest who doesn't want to let go. The first song on the album with Bill on lead vocals, this song has a very Foo Fightersy vibe that would have fit well on "Maybe It's Me". More of a reserved power pop song with little of the preceding punk energy, this is still a nice composition that serves as a good showcase for Rosie, and it runs for just the right amount of time. Fifth on the CD is "Funny", featuring guest appearances from both Don Heffington and Rami Jaffee.

The longest song on "Wide Awake Bored", the title is actually ironic, again referring to a strained relationship and how a key admission is "not funny anymore". Here, the lyrics do match the musical ambiance, which is slower, darker, and more mature. Not a bad composition, and I was surprised to hear a bit of a guitar solo! Greig's vocal tone isn't a perfect match for the intended mood, but the song has the right atmosphere and puts everyone to good use on their instruments. Definitely a sleeper pick, and a nice change of pace! That's followed by "Favourite Worst Enemy", yet another song about a broken relationship, this time about missing someone despite their clear disagreements. We're back in upbeat pop punk territory here, albeit in a much lighter and breezier form factor, though the bridge is a little more aggressive. The song is good, and it has solid drumming from Trevor throughout, but it runs for about a minute too long, and it doesn't have the passion or the slight punk edge of earlier standout tracks.

Song #7 is "More's The Pity", which seems to be about admitting personal fault and acknowledging having multiple personalities in conflict. Bill returns to lead vocals here, and once again, this song feels very reminiscent of The Foo Fighters. I like how the track builds into the choruses with a nice extension of his vocal range, and the mini-guitar solo was welcomed! While not a super-aggressive song, it's catchy enough and has a nice melody to it, and the drum track compliments everything well! Next is "I Don't Know", with lyrics alluding to confusion & uncertainty about one's place in life. Another Bill-sung track, this is more of a throwback musically to Treble Charger's first two CDs, thanks to it's reserved indie rock nature. This song is pleasant and well constructed by all involved, Bill's singing is very fitting, and it's nice to see that they hadn't totally abandoned their mid '90s roots. At the same time, it's a huge outlier in tone, and alas, it may have been buried late in the album for that reason

After that, we get "Wear Me Down", which has themes about anger and revenge, albeit in a one-sided conversation. If you prefer Treble Charger's Greig-sung pop punk side, you'll be right at home with this tight and direct number, which benefits from another fun sing-along chorus, plus solid guitar riffs and a fitting contrast between the music and lyrics. Fun song and a late album higlight for genre fans that stands up with the opening three singles, if not in length! The penultimate song is "Another Dollar", also the CD's shortest song, and this one has more lyrics about a strained relationship, albeit with more metaphors. More of a mid-tempo punk song with a tone more fitting the lyrics (though not to the extent of "Funny"), I like the structure and themes, and it's a nice bass showcase with good vocal melodies, aside from the high pitched "Why do we even bother?" at the end. Compared to the more upbeat and longer punk songs, this isn't as strong overall, but it's certainly not a bad track on the CD.

"Wide Awake Bored" closes with "Just What They Told Me", which features the album's last contributions from Rami & Don, and last of four lead vocal performances by Bill. Lyrically about questioning your place in life and what is expected in public, this is the fourth & final song with Bill on lead vocals, and it actually reminds me a bit of Oasis, which I wasn't expecting! More of a sorrowful song with a nice keyboard line at the midpoint, it is a bit of a downbeat note to end the CD with, but it's well composed with a real maturity, and would be right at home on their first two albums. So, what are my final thoughts on Treble Charger's fourth CD? Overall, this is my favourite of their studio albums to date, and while going down the pop punk path likely wasn't Bill's vision, it rightfully gave them their biggest successes. While "Maybe It's Me" bridged the two sounds, punk fans of the turn of the era had a lot to like here!

More often than not, the seven Greig-sung tracks delivered a fun, upbeat brand of pop punk that utilized strong guitar melodies, with the singles and "Wear Me Down" fully realizing that, but the dark ambiance and themes of "Funny" were also very well done. Of the four songs with Bill on vocals, I gravitated to "Cheat Away" & "More's The Pity", but I concede that early fans will likely disagree. Rosie's bass playing was solid when audible, and Trevor left a good first impression on drums, but aside from Rami's keyboard work on the closer, I don't find the guest spots added a whole lot. There's still enough genre variance to please multiple tastes, but here, outliers are even more apparent, and I believe the disparity is even greater (if not absent) on their follow-up "Detox". However, with strong production, fun pop punk originals, and a very talented core, "Wide Awake Bored" was their peak effort yet, at least to this reviewer, and it still holds up! Buy or stream it above, and I hope you liked this review!

As for next month's CD review.... I have no idea what's next. Next week's "Where Are The New Albums?" post may offer ideas, but with album releases and live concerts severely impacted by the pandemic, I couldn't begin to make a prediction. In any event, our next review will not be of a Treble Charger, Inner City Surfers, or Chase Wigmore album due to our 6 month anti-bias buffer period. Stay tuned in any event, and for this month's YouTube Channel Profile next! Thanks everyone!

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