In this age of seemingly unlimited music there’s a song, an album, or a playlist for every occasion. The big occasion is often the house gathering/house party and many will spend hours perfecting a playlist for a party, but what’s not to be forgotten about is the music that comes before the party. It always helps to have something to get you in the mood, and not just for the car ride there, but for when you’re putting on your best attire, finding your favourite pair of Converse, or straightening your hair all for the night ahead.
“Get Ready Now,” the lead single from The Shilohs’ debut album So Wild, is not only titled in a way that would make it entirely apt for getting ready for a party (or any occasion, really), but it rides an infectious bustle of drums and guitars that can’t help raise a smile and have you looking forward to whatever the world outside might hold. After the briefly likeable Beatles-esque opening track “This Is Vancouver Music,” “Get Ready Now” stumbles into the picture and it brings with it high expectations for the rest of the album. You might even think that the party might be held within the album itself, but So Wild soon reveals itself to be something of a wet blanket, driving you back home after the initial excitement instead of driving you to where the party is. “You and I are staying in tonight” goes the chorus to “Little Valentine” and they sound damn-well chipper about that.
So Wild isn’t without its upbeat moments, but compared to “Get Ready Now” they sound less impressive, and too often their tightness makes them sound like their taking the scenic route to impress you the best they can. Consequently the twist and turns songwriters Johnny Payne and Michael Komaszczuk make don’t really take them to interesting places, but instead distract from the song’s simple core. “TV Action Jazz” is probably one of the best examples, sounding like three or four songs stuck together even though it rides nothing more than a verse and chorus that run at different tempos. And linked together with the mundane story of watching television and getting involved too much, it never really engages you lyrically; the best hook is the suitably jazzy guitar and Hammond organ during the chorus. “Airliner Man” goes for sassiness with shrieking guitar riffs, while “International Appeal” even has a saxophone solo, but neither really hit in the way desired. Instead they come off like homages to artists and bands who could execute these moves better (see Destroyer for the latter song and, well, Aerosmith for the former).
The Shilohs do show plenty of their influences across the album, and their unabashed take on music from forty or so years ago can work for and against their favour. You’ll find The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles all over So Wild, such as “The Place Where Nobody Knows I Go” and the slow-burning light guitar on closing track, “You Don’t Call Me Darling Anymore,” while “Man Of The Times” rides a Dylan-like jangle with a jaunty piano trailing through it. On “Little Valentine” there are touches of the Beach Boys in the little bass and guitar riffs and vocal harmonies, but after travelling through Gay Parade-period of Montreal territory, the crescendos leans too closely to Status Quo for my (or surely anyone else’s) liking. It’s an influence-heavy playground and while it can be fun to spot the inspiration, it does lead to inevitable question as to where the band’s own music and style come into the picture.
“The Place Where Nobody Knows I Go” is probably the next best thing to “Get Ready Now” in terms of instrumental frolic, but it suffers from lyrics that read like lines created by an elementary child. Sure, it matches the carefree vibe of the song, but anyone over fourteen can surely do better than “When i’m feeling sad/ I just think of you then I’m glad/ And if that’s not enough/ I just run away when it gets tough.” The lyrics from both Payne and Komaszczuk never really hit the ground running. On “LA” they paint a well-worn picture of capitalist city living that doesn’t go further than it has been before, even with a touch of deadpan cheekiness: “I drive my car to my job/ And my job pays for my car/ LA what have you done to me?”
Still, So Wild is enjoyable in some respects and there are far worse ways to spend thirty-eight minutes. Payne and Komaszczuk play and sing with an earnestness that’s endearing and you’ll at least have one or two tracks to take away from the album. The production does do some favours, too, helping moments sound great amidst everything else, like the cowbell and background guitars on “Airliner Man.” While it might not bring the party it aims to or even bring you to a party of any kind, sometimes just going home can be nice. But chances are whichever way you go–home or party-bound–you’ll put on something else when you get there.