Album Review – Go For The Eyes – Six Through Twelve
TOTAL SCORE: 8.2/10
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Style: Postpunk/Indie Rock
Release Date: March 31, 2013
Produced By: Kirill Telichev
Let’s be honest – the best rock bands in Canada are tumbleweeding out of the prairies, getting bigger and bigger by the time they hit Toronto. The last time I wrote for The Scene, I had the pleasure of reviewing Learn and Burn by Saskatchewan’s The Sheepdogs – one of the few albums in recent years to blast out of my stereo all summer (and you can bet your shaggy ass it’ll be rattling my bbq grill come this May). Upon making my triumphant return, I expected to be greeted by a standard effete faux-autistic hipster ensemble whose record I would have to pick through like a turd so I could praise the “consistency” (of their shit, pun intended) and praise the occasional golden nugget of corn. But low and behold, as the balls-out blues riff of Go For the Eyes’s first track “Can’t Quite Leave it Alone” flooded my headphones, I breathed a sigh of relief. Alright, who’s this unsucking my world now?
Turns out that Go For the Eyes are a Calgary quartet, comprised of vocalist/guitarist Jeff Turner, vocalist/keyboarder Elise Roller, drummer Nathan Raboud, and Scott Perrin on the bass. Active since 2008, the group rushed out a couple of albums, the first of which they now openly disown (takes balls). Evidently, they decided to make their third time the charm. The band went about it the right way – rehearsing and prepping their six song Six Through Twelve EP for half a year, before laying down all of the tracks in a basement recording studio over the course of four days. Now I am told Go For the Eyes have great onstage energy and theatricality, but so do Cirque-du-Soleil and I’d rather watch a bullet soaring at my head. So let’s stay focused on what this is about: the MUSIC. I’ll be very clear: it’s excellent. Go For the Eyes is a band who truly understands the concept that it’s not what you play it’s how you play it.
Between the rocking guitar riffs and thundering drums, the verses of “Can’t Quite Leave it Alone” have an unaffected Zeppelinesque quality which actually benefit from the contrast of Turner’s more-subdued-than-Robert Plant approach to singing. The terrific thing is that just when you think you’re locked into another Sheepdogian early-seventies homage, the chorus transforms the number into something reminiscent of heavy pop rock. “Can’t Quite Leave it Alone” sticks with you (so far it has passed the 24 hour forgettability test), owing to the clever counter-melody in the backing vocals. This is similar in approach to Tom Petty’s “Swingin’”, though melodically and stylistically the two songs are completely different.
Track two “The Birds and Birds” opens with Roller’s piano before the ferocious rhythm section and electric guitar kick in. This song follows in the footprints of its predecessor, though it’s lyrically more interesting, with allusions to the changing nature of romance in the 21st century (I think). Yet “Birds and the Birds” lacks “Can’t Quite Leave it Alone’s” staying power. Nevertheless, the drum breakdown and guitar experimentation keep things fresh. In “One Left Behind (Not in a Hurry) we are introduced to Elise Roller’s soulful vocals and impressionistic lyrics. The pace slows, with piano arpeggios punctuated by an electric guitar hitting the 2 and 4 beat. Nice. A classic misstep would have been to repeat the formula of the first two songs, but these Calgary cats know better. Admittedly, on the first few listens, I didn’t think the chorus did the verses justice, but upon the fourth I found myself fully converted. The guitar solo is notably good – starting out slow and steady, then oozing blues as we transition to the sparse piano finale of the final verse.
Track four “When the Lights Come On” – my personal favourite – is vaguely reminiscent of Amy Winehouse in the introduction. The lyrics are particularly sultry: “I just wanna make you happy/hear you scream as you stare back at me” and ‘Whatcha gonna do when you feel my heat/how you gonna move when our rhythms beat/I will shake you, keep you sweating/so you’ll go home without forgetting when you felt my heat.” Around 1:40, as we realize that we are on the receiving end of a particularly pleasing act of aural sex, the tempo suddenly quickens and sonic copulation begins. A Chris Isaak-like electric guitar croons appropriately in the background. Everything seems perfect. Then at 3:30 things step up AGAIN, and there’s so many right things happening that we can’t even pinpoint why it’s working. And then it’s over! A musical orgasm. That takes some pretty special talent.
Coming off its heels, “Whatever Thrills You” has its work cut out for it. But again the producer makes the right choice in track order, as we return to Turner’s vocals: “I think I liked you better when we were strangers.” Just about anybody who has been in a series of relationships can relate to that line – a fitting conclusion to the fleeting passion of “When the Lights Come On.” “Whatever Thrills You” is by far the most driving song on the album. This is not always a good thing, as it is often overdone. A band finds something that works, and repeat it ad nauseaum. Fortunately, Raboud breaks things up and by pounding out a tribal rhythm on the toms in the verses. Lovers of more modern music will probably appreciate this track the most.
“Close Call (Alchemy)” is decent, but doesn’t quite float my boat like many of the earlier tracks, coming off as somewhat anti-climactic. If you’re gonna pick a song to wrap up an EP, this is a nice closer, and the production is very imaginative. Listen for the accordion near the end an extra treat.
In conclusion, Go For the Eyes seem to have followed the advice of their own band name and taken the necessary measures to win. Musically. Now the business end of things, that’s a whole other battle… Six Through Twelve is a musical accomplishment to be proud of. Go For the Eyes – any previous sins are forgiven. You are absolved and elevated onto my iTunes. I wish you luck.
Recommended Listening: “When the Lights Come On” really turns my crank.
The Good: If it ain’t listed under the Bad or the Ugly, you can pretty much find it here. Great vocal arrangements, wicked drumming, tight rhythms, experimental yet tasteful guitar, pleasant surprises in composition and production, a few infectious tunes, excellent cohesion between band members. I recommend giving this album a good five listens, and can guarantee that unless you have some prior prejudice against the band, it will have its hooks in you.
The Bad: Six Through Twelve should have ended it at five. Track six is a bit of a throwaway. But hey, less isn’t always more. If you don’t dig it, turn the album off. If you do, enjoy. There’s not much to complain about here. The quality of the lyrics fluctuates, with tracks three and four occupying a higher plane than the others. It’s nowhere close to Leonard Cohen, but at times, definitely engaging.
The Ugly: Go For the Eyes walk a fine line between bluesy, soulful awesomeness and touches of post-punk. Please don’t stray too far in the wrong direction. Right now the balance is just right. As soon as I start hearing every instrument driving stiffly on every beat ala Arcade Fire, I’m tuning out. Keep mixing up the rhythms, and you’ll stay beautiful.
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Lee Mellor is a professional author, musician, music producer, and columnist for The Scene Magazine. The former Montreal resident released his debut album Ghost Town Heart in 2007, and was voted among the top ten singer-songwriters in the city for three consecutive years. In 2008, he finished third next to Leonard Cohen and Rufus Wainwright. Since leaving the big smoke, Mellor has released a second album, Lose, and the popular true crime books “Cold North Killers: Canadian Serial Murder” (Dundurn, 2012) and “Rampage: Canadian Mass Murder and Spree Killing” (Dundurn, 2013). He has produced E.P.’s for Montreal songstresses Roses and Kristen Bussandri.
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