Finally, Canadian-icana has its poster boys
Highway intersects with all things catchy on its debut album, Moody
Motorcycle. The duo of Islands' frontman Nick "Diamonds"
Thorburn and former Islands guitarist Jim Guthrie, who has also
recorded off-kilter folk-rock with Royal City and as a solo artist,
make the most of their collaboration on "The Sound," a
perfect three-minute slice of pop-rock. With little more than a few
chords backing it up, the pair breaks into harmonies that send
reverberations down a chain linking the intricate vocals of the
Everly Brothers, the Byrds, Simon & Garfunkel and Big Star,
amongst others. "Got nothing left but it ain't bringing me down
/ I'm just gonna follow the sound," a refrain sweet as the Nerds
mixed into this Blizzard of a song, will leave your brain short of
spoons.Human Highway (also a 1982 black comedy
starring Neil Young and Devo) follows its ear-charming sound for the
remaining 11 tracks in convincing fashion. "Sleep Talking"
continues the throwback nature of the collection with an
interpolation of the classic Santo & Johnny classic instrumental
"Sleep Walk," and is also reminiscent of Modest Mouse's
update of the tune, "Sleepwalkin'," from a few year back.
Thorburn could have hammed up and decked out compositions like "My
Beach" or "Ode to Abner" as Islands tracks, and fans
of his previous work will hear overlap in Human Highway. Some of the
Unicorns' old mischief still peeks out from time to time in lines
like "I'm counting on you to misinterpret what I say."
However, Guthrie's countrified sensibilities create a feel that's
more controlled than anything of the bombast his counterpart has
attached himself to before, and without inhibiting the fun.
Inevitably, Thorburn was going to install some mahogany over his
crayon-smeared walls, at least temporarily, and he found a kindred
spirit to help him with the job.