Tricky Woo - Sometimes I Cry

Tricky Woo
Sometimes I Cry

Released 1999 on Sonic Unyon
Reviewed by Brandon Tenold, 31/05/2009ce

Montreal is a curious place indeed.

The city, long known within Canada as a cornerstone of the nation’s music scene, came to international recognition a few years ago, with various music magazine’s in the United States hyperbolically calling it the coolest city in North America and giving its music scene the kind of intense single-minded attention not seen since Seattle’s day in the sun back in the early 90’s. Many of the group’s given increased exposure by the press were the type of ultra-arty indie rock bands exemplified by The Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade. The types of bands that used accordions and xylophones almost as much as electric guitars and who wore tight jeans as an ironic statement rather than as a way to show off their packages. Indeed, the press made it seem like the entire city was full of nothing but pasty, skinny art students who thought rock music was better without the “& Roll”.

But there’s another side to Montreal.

As Newton’s law states, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In addition to the groups mentioned above, the city has also nurtured longhaired Cro-Magnon rockers like Priestess, who are unapologetic about the fact they aren’t doing anything new, but rather are doing what they feel everyone SHOULD still be doing. One of the band’s that put the ROCK in indie-rock more than arguably any other Montreal band is Tricky Woo, a band who paid for their unquestioning devotion to fast tempo’s and loud guitars by being not only ignored outside their native country, but also being something of a roving band of nomadic outcasts even in Canada.

Reaching back to punk rock’s primordial roots in both 60’s psychedelic garage rock and the furious sounds that came out of Michigan during the turn of that same decade, the bands early releases fused speedy 3-chord rushes with light touches of psychedelia. Make no mistake people; these punks wear fringed jackets and headbands, and they wear them with pride. And unlike some other groups, their tight jeans ARE to let their fans know which side they tuck on.

Their 3rd release, “Sometimes I Cry”, is arguably the group’s high point, pairing their relentless attack with their finest set of songs so far. Although they extend the length of their songs slightly, both the album and the individual songs are still astonishing in their fast-paced brevity, the album as a whole clocking in at about 30 minutes. Nearly every song on the album manages to fit in a fist-pumping chorus and a frantic guitar solo somewhere, even if the entire song is less than 2 minutes, the album sometimes coming off like a combination of the spiky power pop of the MC5’s “Back in the USA” and the thick sound of the same group’s live recordings. Indeed, comparison’s to the MC5 are inevitable, as the cover artwork looks like something Gary Grimshaw would cook up for a gig at the Grande Ballroom, and frontman Andrew Dickson sings like he decided Brother JC Crawford’s righteous testifying would’ve been a better fit for the 5’ than Rob Tyner. Dickson certainly looks more like Tyner though, a ponderous, ugly-as-shit motherfucker with long greasy locks in place of Tyner’s afro and a rhythm guitar instead of his harmonica.

Beginning with the 2-minute near instrumental “Altamont Raven” (a song whose very TITLE almost perfectly sums up what this group’s all about), the band takes The Stooges “TV Eye” riff and shifts it into an even higher gear, adding some brief bits of tape altered Jimi Hendrix “3rd Stone from the Sun” vocals for good measure. After a stop-start section, guitarist Adrian Popovich overlays a small psychedelic guitar solo before the whole thing suddenly comes to a halt.

Andrew Dickson’s righteous voice is heard clearly for the first time on the next song, “Fly the Orient”, his throat-shredding rasp spitting out nonsensical lyrics like “I’m not a man, I’m a cold slide/and you can tell me you can fly! It’s the end of the century/it’s the end of time!” I know not what he means people; I just know he sings like he means it. The song itself is one of the band’s highpoints, using the same irresistible riff for both the verse and a chorus that recalls Kiss when they got it right:

When the sun goes down (She comes around)!
When the sun goes down (She comes around)!
When the sun goes down (She comes around)!
When the sun goes down (She comes around)!

It’s simple, nonsensical and fantastic. Add some great runs by bassist Eric Larock and another great solo by Popovich, and you have the type of song that in a better world would have actually been heard on the radio. Although the pace of this song is slightly slower than the first, it’s by no means a slow song. There are no slow songs on this album, only “fast” and “not as fast”, the “not as fast” ones probably there just to give their hands a break. And as far as acoustic songs, why the hell would anyone want to listen to something not amplified above 100 db?

The rest of the album uses the “fast/not-as-fast” template set by the first two songs, juxtaposing ultra-short bursts like “Let the Good Times Roll” and “I Need Love” with more groove-oriented rockers like “Sad Eyed Woman” and “Fell from a Cloud”. All of them share a love for power chords, frantic drum fills and vocals that are shouted rather than sung. In “Sad Eyed Woman”, the band sings, “I’m gonna save ya with rock & roll!” which practically serves as the mantra of this album and the group as a whole. The album ends with the strutting and stomping “Lady of the Wind”, clocking in at an epic (for them) 4:23, the last 25 seconds of which are wind sound effects.

Unfortunately, the band became the victim of bad timing. They were doing pure unadulterated MC5/Stooges style rock a few years before the press in the U.K. gave attention to bands like the Datsuns and The Hives in the early 2000’s. By that time, Tricky Woo had released the far more genteel, “Les Sables Magiques” before breaking up briefly, and by the time they got back together in 2004, they were a little too late to ride the press wave that had given those bands international recognition. Which is a real shame, because at their best, they did pure unadulterated rock better than any of those groups, and “Sometimes I Cry” is a definite high point for the band. They still reunite and tour Canada sporadically, so if you get a chance, go check them out. They just might save you with rock and roll.

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