Grand Theft Bus – Say It With Me

I’ve probably been listening to Grand Theft Bus for something like ten years. Ten. Does that seem right? Birth of Confusion came out in 2002. Holy fuck. That’s crazy. And, I think, it’s probably pretty typical for a band to go through some dramatic changes over a ten-year tenure. If they didn’t, you’d be bored. Or would you?

Grand Theft Bus toured a little this summer. They played two sets at Evolve. Someone said to me “They better fucking play ‘Street Sleeper’.” Of course. Maritimers know them well. Many of us came of show-going age bobbing to “Don’t Treat Me Like That” or “Silence”. And I’m a goddamn latecomer. The first time I ever saw them play at UNB’s Cellar Pub someone was holding up a sign that said “PLAY BOLTNEK”, which, I guess, was a song they didn’t play anymore because they were sick of it? Like… there’s a whole era of GTB that was before my time.

That’s ridiculous.

I remember around the time Made Upwards was being released I was trying to explain to older folks that GTB weren’t just a jam band anymore. Even on Flies in the No Fly they were mostly writing pop songs. And sure, they still “feel it out” from time to time (current renditions of “Leader” have a pretty excellent new intro, by the way). But they’ve grown up. Their tastes have, too. And they’re busier. Graeme Walker plays with The Olympic Symphonium. Bob Deveau’s got Gravity Strike and Force Fields (probably two of the best bands in Atlantic Canada). Tim Walker works on Heat and Lights (Heaton Lightfoot?) and Gravity Strike. Dennis Goodwin plays in every other band there is left: turning up to play with Force Fields, Mike Feuerstack (RIP SNAILHOUSE), occasionally The Olympic Syphonium, and probably either other things I can’t remember. He even turned up on The Shorty Tubbs recent release for a few tracks.

Plus, now there’s Brad Perry (tasteful and gifted keyboardist who has probably recorded your album if you live in Fredericton).

Also, three of them are dads! DADS! Nothing says change in a musician’s life like children, I’m pretty sure. Growth! Metaphorical and literal!

Anyway, listen, there’s a lot of preamble here. Grand Theft Bus are established. I know them. You know them. Full disclosure: I call them friends. I don’t know many folks who haven’t seen them play live. They’ve earned their reputation (whichever reputation it is). They’ve definitely put in their time.

SO THEY HAVE THIS NEW ALBUM, SAY IT WITH ME

It’s good, you guys.

Grand Theft Bus still sound like Grand Theft Bus. Tim has a pretty distinct timbre and cadence to his voice that hasn’t changed much throughout their career. It’s strong but comforting and warm. You can curl up in it. His songwriting has steadily improved, though and a few of his Heat and Lights songs make the cut on this album (“No Easy Way” is probably one of the albums strongest tracks). The song writing is cleaner and poppier than previous efforts.

And that’s sort of the theme throughout the album? You can hear each of GTB’s members shine through with their individual styles – honed by their respective other projects – so clearly.

The drums, though never really dialled back at any point in GTB history, are tight and danceable (“Something Medicinal”, “How Many Times”, “Gold Mine”). You can tell that Bob has been drumming with his electronic outfit. And can I take a second to mention that Bob is one the best drummers in Atlantic Canada? Yes. Yes he is.

Graeme’s vocals are haunting and atmospheric; a holdover from his OS work. Whether it be through harmonies or on the tracks where he leads, you can hear a softer Syphonium touch. I could have sworn while listening to album-closer “Shadow Sleep” that it was originally played with that band.

I can’t listen to Dennis’ lead guitar work without thinking about his reverb-drenched performances with Force Fields. His playing on “No Easy Way” smells like him (hairy, fashionable, inappropriate), and his greasy solo on Astronauts – another album standout – is a pretty excellent counterpoint to his usual soundscape-style work. His lapsteel playing on “Kite” is familiar and delicious. It just hangs out in the background, showing up to keep you warm. You can pick him out but it’s not blatant. And it’s propped up expertly against Brad’s keys.

Speaking of which, Brad’s work on keys is restrained and subtle in a way I recognize from his work in The Slate Pacific. He also recorded the album, because of course he did. This is his first album as a member of GTB and his playing is a perfect fit with the band.

So, yeah. It’s definitely a GTB album. It’s certainly them. Lots of tracks sound like their previous work (“Only Me”), but sometimes they’re greater than the sum of their parts (“Moose Moose and Goose”). No one in the band overplays. It’s not overproduced. The band didn’t attempt to record anything they couldn’t pull off live (and, if their performances this summer are any indication, they did just fine).

Should you listen to it? If you’re a GTB fan, definitely. There’s some growth here and new sounds. Or maybe you don’t really know them but appreciate really smartly crafted records, strong songwriting, and a steady groove? You’ll likely be very happy with the album, too.

Tight jams, you guys. Headphones up.

You can stream the album and also purchase it HERE.

- Mike Nason



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