REVIEW: Greg Macpherson Band: Good Times Coming Back Again
Greg Macpherson Band: Good Times Coming Back Again [G7 Welcoming Commitee, 2002]
Three words? Songwriting that roars.
"Good Times" opens this disc with acoustic guitar and bells, a folky rhythm atop a brisk, somehow threatening drum-beat. The lyrics are ominous, vivid, slightly sinister: "There's something dead out in the field behind our house / the wind's changing direction." Greg Macpherson sings with a deep, full-bodied intensity. There's a snarl that emerges in parts and gives his images a fierce, listen to me vibe. As much as he sings the "good times are coming back again", he's hinting at something else, warning of the fire that precedes and accompanies a revolution.
Throughout this album, Macpherson's songwriting stands front and centre. It's forceful, it's brilliant, it's invigorating. Even those who generally ignore lyrics will be struck by Macpherson's powerful wordpay, the strong-as-asphalt, insistent poetry. He sings with ease and skill, painting each word with vigour and earnesty. Inevitable comparisons will be made to Bruce Sprinsteen, and they're apt: Macpherson means every word he sings, and he wants you to listen to him. He's working class but alive, an underdog but not apathetic. In every guitar crunch or arresting chorus, there's a power, a potential. These are not songs for the defeated.
"The Day the Water Dried Up from the Tap" explodes with drums and bass, a pulsing, rushing, angry vibrance. Though he sings of empty streets, a dead city, the mood is exactly the reverse. It's rock and roll, yes, rock and roll, from the unstoppable guitar-line to the sudden yells, growls, cymbal-claps. The Weakerthans' Jason Tait pounding at the skins with a punk intensity. On "Weak" it's again quiet, but not dead. Like Joe Strummer, Macpherson is able to invest noise with intimacy, squeeze an urgent whisper into a wide, raspy roar. "Numbers" has melody and meaning and energy: Damien Jurado could learn a great deal. Unlike Jurado's I Break Chairs, here the songs come first - the folk/punk/rock feeds awesome tunes, brings out their best. "Remote Control" is moody and densely atmospheric, recalling Veda Hille and even a few tracks off Clive Holden's Trains of Winnipeg.
The entire disc bursts with a clenched-teeth optimism, Billy Bragg declarations that "everything will work out right". Where there's melancholy, this melancholy is an archiving, a warning, an incitement to action. The quiet, acoustic "Heatwave" - where Macpherson could be Ben Harper or Dave Matthews, mellow and melodic - speaks of a tomorrow that will change, a redemption, a "pressure rise under western skies".
Good Times Coming Back Again takes Canadian lyricism, working-class activism, and filters them through a mighty voice, a dynamic, versatile band. Folk conventions are tossed by high-volume rock and acoustic punk punch, and then the rock and roll is spliced into finger-plucked acoustic guitar, quiet contemplation. This album has music to believe in, and songs to take to heart.