Alun Piggins – [Album]

Thursday, 27 March 2008

It has been four years since Alun Piggins released his sophomore album, Awaken The Snakes, but it isn’t as if the singer/songwriter has been inactive or suffered from a block that kept him from producing a follow-up. Rather, in the space between Awaken The Snakes and the tellingly entitled At War With The Elephants, Piggins has gone around the world a couple of times with former Rheostatics frontman Dave Bidini (the latest excursion is chronicled hilariously in Bidini’s book Around The World In 57 ½ Gigs) among other resume building endeavours—all of which manifest immediately on this record. From the opening blast of “Watching You Glow," Piggins extends his reach and energy level from Awaken The Snakes and sets the tone for this album; while his solo debut lived up to its name as the singer explored the more tender, literally Balladesque side of his songwriting and Awaken The Snakes upped the ante by indulging in his love of Replacements-style rock, At War With The Elephants has a more classic feel. The singer cranks up the amps and delivers a series of warhorse rockers a la Crazy Horse-era Neil Young in “Not Happening," “Ballad Of Fleeting Wisdom” and “I Survived You” that, unlike Young, never get bloated or blurry in the middle. The songs follow through each time and present Alun Piggins as the hardest working, most under-appreciated Canadian songwriter in indie rock.

That isn’t to say that the record is a dark or jaded affair, only that it rocks hard on the power of belief. The really hard songs (“Not Happening” et al) are tempered by reflective and sweetly melodic songs (“Empty House”), spry rockers (“Watching You Glow," “Drunk In America”) and lighter classic rock-ish anthems (“Beckoning Door” is the throwback to Awaken The Snakes while “Somewhere On Highway 2” bears hints of The Byrds and 54-40) that round out the album and keep the mood of At War With The Elephants from getting two-dimensional.

It may have taken four years for Piggins to return, but it was worth the wait. At War With The Elephants is an impressive follow-up that finds the singer blasting back into great form without following all of the same roads he’s traveled before. At War With The Elephants is the logical answer to the extensive touring the singer has done abroad in recent years; it demands a large audience.

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