Cuff the Duke – Sidelines of the City

Cuff the Duke are back, and today they repeat as winner of “most unbalanced indie-country-rock album of the year that came out last year!” But seriously, folks, there are some great songs here. And some really boring ones. And with no general artistic trend to comment on and only ten songs, let’s get right to the point where I make comments about each individual song:

If I Live Or If I Die – A sort of religious song, which is annoying, but they totes rescue it by making it an awesome fiddle-led hoedown with enough rock sensibility to be awesome. It songs weird to lustily sing something God-y, but shit, if it’s this good I’ll do it. What a great song!

Surging Revival – Whee! An awesome catchy piano-led stomper that expertly turns into a prog-something. Maybe not for everybody, but it’s really well done. Good song!

Failure to Some – Oh, that’s odd. It’s seven minutes long, slow, boring, and has a really dull, obvious message about how “Failure to some isn’t failure to most” or “I want you to know that I’m here for you” imparted in a way that doesn’t really matter, with an unnecessary four minute guitar solo. And they put this as track three? Gah.

Remember the Good Times – More like it! A 2:40 long rock song that really hits being sad about a loved one’s death AND bravely trying to, you know, remember the good times. It’s catchy! It’s sad! It’s uplifting! It’s sad again! Great song!

The Ballad of the Tired Old Man – Oh dear. The single most awkward, clumsy anti-Iraq war song I’ve ever heard. That’s not good at all. The award maybe goes to the last verse where they try to rhyme “back” with “…stop,” or maybe the “mournful” trumpet that sounds like a mariachi band solo. I don’t like the Iraq war either, but Buddy Christ I I I, okay.

Long Road – Nice “ooh”s but otherwise unmemorable. Is this about how touring is hard? If so, that’s an odd message that I don’t care about. Pretty bad by most standards.

When All Else Fails and Fades – A bad, bad, short love song that’s just nothing, really. Lots of horrible oversinging and attempts to sound sincere, and they don’t help at all.

By Winter’s End – A cliched riff with a bunch of cliched words and it still rocks. Might be my Canadian upbringing. I don’t really know what it’s about in particular, but I like the idea of anything happening “by winter’s end,” and that riff really gets stuck in there. Like classic rock, or maybe the Traveling Wilburys.

Rossland Square – A really catchy, rather sad song about how great Oshawa is. Oshawa isn’t great. The two landmarks mentioned in the song, The Velvet Elvis, which is “the best place around” is now closed, and titular Rossland Square has been bulldozed. Fail! Only a perfunctory reminder of that time I dated that girl from Oshawa, really, but a good song. Oh, and you can’t “take park road” because the off-ramp no longer goes there. And the “forests and the farms” aren’t stopping the houses in the North growing anymore. Aw, endless suburbia. I am overcome by the sentiment of affection for an Ontario band writing a song about their hometown, even if it’s Oshawa, a city mostly referenced by other people from other Ontario towns (like Guelph) saying “at least it’s not Oshawa.”

Confessions From a Parkdale Basement – Boring and overlong despite not being long. Unless they’re literally confession from my friend Nancy’s basement in Parkdale, this isn’t that great.

So! Five really good songs, one mediocre song, and four bad songs, all unconnected thematically. I don’t know what the heck either, but I feel very affectionate for these guys. I bought this CD from their rhythm guitarist at a show for ten bucks because it was all I had on me in cash and the machine wasn’t working and the stupid bar had a stupid no re-entry policy, so how could I not be overly generous PERIOD. I need an excuse to eat my maple syrup!

7/10

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