Wednesday, April 25, 2018


1990's faves The Lowest Of The Low have turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving. Not only does the Toronto group have its own fine legacy, including the now-classic Shakespeare My Butt album, there was a fine new album last year, Do The Right Now, and the continued solo excellence of Ron Hawkins' career. Now, add founding member Stephen Stanley to that list. He left TLOTL in 2013 for good, and formed this band a couple of years later. Now he unveils a terrific set of songs that take us right back to that level of excellence we came to know and love back in '91.

Since I haven't heard him in awhile, what leaps to mind is how much John K. Samson and The Weakerthans were influenced by Stanley, in his vocal style, his delivery and his most literary way with lyrics. Like Samson, Stanley packs tremendous visuals and story-telling into his songs, placing us in the middle of lives of interesting characters. Stanley puts us right downtown in Toronto for several of his songs, including Under The Mynah Bird, the coffee house in Yorkville Village, circa 1966 with Neil Young and Rick James playing. The title cut, set on Gerrard St., is about the ridiculous amount of construction that rips apart the history and culture of much of old Toronto, as seen by one 60-year resident, bemoaning the loss of his view of the moon to another dull condo complex or office building. Geez, don't get me started on that topic. Stanley's speaking for lots of people there.

The band, augmented by producer Hugh Christopher Brown (Bourbon Tabernacle Choir), some fine backing singers and guest sharpshooters such as Jane Scarpantoni on cello, have that great indie rock energy that to my ears has never gone out of style, with tracks such as Talkin' Bout It and Birthday Clown filled with power and joy. The title cut and The Troubadour's Song have length and breadth, epics worthy of their stories. A most welcome return for Stanley.

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