I confess to being generally well-disposed toward band reunions, a trait that may be in no small part due to my pathologically nostalgic character. You can understand, then, that I was mightily pissed off at not being able to attend the Toronto show of the Erics Trip reunion tour last year. Fortunately, Ive been given a second chance to re-visit a bit of my youth next week at the Mod Club (June 3rd). But the best part is that my good-fortune can be yours. Read on.
If memory serves me, I first saw Erics Trip just after they had released Love Tara. It was at the Opera House with guests Grasshopper. I hadnt heard of either band, and, truth be told, I wasnt very impressed with the aforementioned opening act. This may have had something to do with the fact that in the middle of the show the lead singer picked up his mostly-full litre Evian bottle and threw it into the crowd. As I watched the object hurtle through the air toward me I thought to myself, no, that cant possibly be what I think it is. But it was, and it hit me squarely in the face. In retrospect, its funny, but at the time I was quite ready to get my money back and leave. Twenty minutes later I was really happy I hadnt.
While I wouldnt say Erics Trip were doing something totally original, they did it awfully well. Everybody I was there with agreed that there was a sense of honesty and authenticity to the bands performance, both in what they were singing and the delivery. Like other grunge-era bands, there wasnt a lot of emphasis on production, soloing or timing, an aesthetic borrowed from their punk predecessors; but buried within that raw sound there was always a melody that propelled the songs past being just noisy or loud for the sake of being so. And they could be really loud.
As they launched into Haze from their Peter EP the hair on the back of my neck stood up. It was powerful in a very simple way thats somewhat difficult to explain. (I probably lost a good portion of my hearing that night, having neglected to bring earplugs, but it was worth every note.) This was, however, balanced by songs such as the very cleverly written–and ever so short–Allergic to Love, a quiet guitar song that likens innocent infatuation to being plagued with allergies.
Indeed, I think its worth noting that as one Erics Trip album followed another I increasingly got the sense that they were two bands in one, an aspect in which they were comparable to bands such as Yo la Tengo. They had songs that were loud, psychedelic, and clearly had evolved out of listening to artists influenced by early Velvet Underground (all the stuff Cale had been around for), and more obviously Sonic Youth, from whom they got their name. But there was also much quieter folk-oriented material that wasnt entirely dissimilar to what their bassist, Julie Doiron, is doing these days on her solo albums. Of course, this dichotomy is hardly unique to this band alone, but their navigation of the field between these extremes led to very interesting songs.
Personally, I think Erics Trip were at their best when they worked with both halves of their brain, so to speak, and I would suggest this collaboration is exemplified in what may possibly be the best song they ever recorded, that being Smoke, from the On the Road South 7. As I listen to this song for the first time in many years I still think it has all the ingredients necessary for the perfect indie rock track. Its best heard with the volume up, has a driving guitar line courtesy of Rick White and Chris Thompson thats crunchier than corn flakes and has a chorus catchier than smallpox. This package is completed by harmonies that, while being simple, fit the song perfectly. As the song nears the end it explodes into a double-bass drum monster of an outro that only Mark Gaudet could do justice to.
The best part of my attendance of their upcoming Mod Club show (June 3rd) is that Ive been granted the opportunity to give away two pairs of tickets. This means that if youre in the GTA next week, you too could attend at no charge! And though it would be easy for the skill-testing question to involve some arcane bit of Erics Trip trivia, Ive chosen to honour myself by awarding these tickets to anyone who can tell me what the mass of one litre of water is. Simply email Chris your answer before Monday at noon to be entered in the draw.