54-40 – [Album]

Thursday, 26 May 2011

After a band reaches a certain level of success, the popular misconception among the public at large is that said band is set; they've got a core audience of devoted fans and they're not living hand-to-mouth. Things are a little easier right? Well, maybe they are, and maybe they're not. That moment when everything gets “easy” is actually when the going gets exponentially more difficult; the more familiar a band's fans feel they are with the group, the more they feel like they know precisely what to expect from release to release which means it gets increasingly difficult to build excitement for “the brand new album by your favorite old band.” Such was exactly the problem that 54-40 was staring down when the band announced the coming of their thirteenth album, Lost In The City. Since 1986, each successive album from the band has consistently charted a little bit higher than the last – peaking in 1998 when Since When nit number nineteen on the Albums chart in Canada. Then 2000's Casual Viewin' slipped a bit and topped out at number twenty-four, and the three albums released since then haven't charted at all. The possibility of a decline into decrepitude (read: “professional competence”) seemed inevitable but, on Lost In The City, 54-40 prove they didn't survive thirty years in the music business by doing what was expected. On their lucky thirteenth album (and their first independent release in twenty-seven years!), 54-40 proves (to paraphrase the quote from which the band took its name) they still have some fight in them.

Fans will be floored right from the get-go as “Let Me Be Your Wheel” leads the charge into Lost In The City with a swagger that betrays the band's experience, but also with enough power to imply that the band feels like it has something to prove. Here, singer Neil Osborne easily overtakes listeners and leaves them staring doe-eyed as the band follows with the sort of soulful country rock that won fans over as early as Set The Fire but, rather than sounding like “same old thing,” the delivery sounds spry and magical. The plot gets thicker when the band shifts gears at the two-and-a-half-minute mark and hits on a methodical but understated grandeur. Right then, 54-40 has the undivided attention of everyone listening; right then, longtime fans will start getting excited just as they did the first time they heard the band and a few new ones will be won for the ride too.

With hearts won right off, 54-40 keeps the ball rolling in absolutely the right way as the title track, “Feast Of Ida,” “Worry No More” and “Love Machine” all hit an “epic rock” tack, and do it so infectiously that it feels like it could just as easily have been the first time.

As the record progresses, the band goes out of its way to show listeners that it hasn't abandoned its softer side with a couple of bittersweet ballads (“Long Distance Moan” and “This Is The Way The World Ends”) and some heart-on-their-sleeves mid-tempo rockers like “Worry No More” and “Good Man Feeling Bad,” but at no point does the energy level dip on the record. While the lyrical fare does tread into a darker disposition occasionally (titles like “Good Man Feeling Bad” and “Long Distance Moan” say it all), the band never truly gets dour or depressing. In fact, as “This Is The Way The World Ends” lets out, listeners will be left glowing from the experience; not spent and not contemplative, but not left with energy to burn either, just a feeling of relaxed warmth and contentment. It's actually the perfect place to end the album, because it really feels like the band has shared something with their audience; they haven't blown the doors off, but listeners won't be left underwhelmed either. In that way, Lost In The City is the perfect album for where 54-40 is now in its career – it's not too much and certainly not to little, it's just the right amount to send listeners over the moon with excitement for this vibrant new album by 54-40.



Lost In The City
comes out on June 14, 2011 via Smilin' Buddha Enjoyment Complex/Maplemusic. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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