Ilya S. Savenok, Getty Images The sad news came across late Wednesday afternoon…
- Posted on Jul 3rd 2009 12:30PM by Bryan Borzykowski
Rock Central Plaza is more literate than your average indie act. They're led by a twice-published author who wrote an entire album about robot horses and their latest effort was inspired by a William Faulkner novel.
While Toronto's vibrant music scene has produced a number of big name indie bands -- Broken Social Scene and Feist to name two -- you'd be hard pressed to find one that combines intriguing lyrics and layered sounds as compellingly as Rock Plaza Central. With both sides of their songwriting coin equally polished, the seven-piece offers an assault on both the ears and the mind that most other groups can't match.
But ultimately, the reason they transcend the rest of the Canadian indie pack is lyricism. Like John K. Samson of the Weakerthans, frontman Chris Eaton is an expert at turning difficult-to-parse concepts into easy-to-understand prose. On his latest album, '...At the Moment of Our Most Needing or if Only They Could Turn Around They Would Know They Weren't Alone,' the songwriter tackles lofty subjects like God, temptation and love with a profoundness lacking among his cohorts.
If some of the album's lyrics read like Faulkner, well, that's because Eaton was engrossed in his book 'Light in August' while on tour. "Something just gelled with the ideas that were already forming in my head lyrically," he tells Spinner. "It provided an anchor, really, to get everything out of me. Some lines are taken directly from the book. Sometimes it was just an image. Sometimes it was just the feel of Faulkner."
'...At the Moment' is filled with such vivid imagery it almost feels like you're watching a movie instead of listening to an album. On 'Handsome Men,' Eaton sings, "Father raged like a soldier. He snapped the back off the kitchen chair when he said it would've been better if you'd never crept round my back stair." During 'Them That Are Good, Them That Are Bad' Eaton croons, "There are stars in the heavens that once fell from sunny meadows, where they longed for things unsightly that might let them shine more brightly."
But Eaton's previous record, 'We Are Not Horses?' was a different beast altogether. On that record, the band developed a seemingly outrageous concept album about a race of robot horses engaged in a war with angles. Yes, it sounds like a bizarre idea, but Eaton turned this wacky story into poignant social commentary about life's 'Terminator'-style battle between good and evil.
But it's not just words and thought-provoking ideas that make RPC a must-listen. Although the group's music is in the folk/country field, Rock Plaza Central also includes everything from indie rock to haunting orchestration and chamber pop harmonies.
Imagine Will Oldham, Neutral Milk Hotel, Neil Young, the Band and Okkervil River making music together and you'll get an idea of RPC's sound. '...At the Moment' is filled with soaring folk soundscapes, cacophonous instrumentals melding banjo and mandolin with discordant electric guitars and thundering drums and plenty of brilliant harmonies and infectious choruses (especially on rollicking opener 'Oh I Can').
Plenty of acts write insightful lyrics or catchy folk melodies, but it's rare to do both and to do them so deftly. Rock Central Plaza is undoubtedly a band the entire country should know, but if even they only wind-up a blip on the CanCon radar, Eaton won't complain.
"I think that's probably our greatest fate, to be the obscure band that only nerds reference occasionally," he says. "I guess that's pretty cool."