Joel Plaskett - Ashtray Rock
- Artist: Joel Plaskett
- Album: Ashtray Rock
- Label: Maple
- Year of Release: 2008
- ME Rating:
- Reviewed by: MusicCritic on 2009-04-11
Ashtray Rock represents the reunification of Joel Plaskett with the Emergency after a solo hiatus. Though it’s difficult to tell how much of this is autobiographical, the concept sees two friends in a band letting a girl come between them; this record is an ode to the stereotypical teenage experience (relationships, drinking, parties), but also retrospectively lamenting the decisions teenagers make.
The trouble is, it’s hard to tell how much to take at face value, and how much to put into a larger context. It’s reminiscent of a Chuck Klosterman narrative, about liking uncool music and wondering why it’s such a big deal. Some lyrics, taken at face value, are ridiculous (for instance, “Ditch him, he’s no good for you / Ditch him, do the switcheroo”; and the subject of liking instrumentals because they don’t have words is mentioned in four separate songs). Plaskett’s greatest lyrical asset is sincerity – but this concept really only has depth if it comes with a rich dose of irony. Are Plaskett’s lyrics shallow, or has he perfectly described a shallow time of life? It’s no coincidence that the lyrics are not printed; each song instead has a black and white drawing to outline the plots, perfectly representing each.
Musically, the conveyance of the plot is actually oddly predictable – now it’s time for the wistful song, now it’s time for the sad song symbolizing the inevitable, “I’m leaving, but we’ll always have heavy metal instrumentals and those parties at Ashtray Rock” conversation (complete with melodramatic string arrangements). Produced by Gordie Johnson (Big Sugar), the overall mood of the record is fitting for its Can-rock nostalgia, sounding better the louder you play it. As always, Plaskett’s melodies are excellent, familiar and comforting.
Musically and lyrically, the record is nostalgic, universal, and easily relatable. But at a barbecue the other night, a friend yelled that he needed to play us ‘Fashionable People.’ It sounded fine – entirely appropriate – but I then asked him what he thought of the record, and he shrugged and said, “It’s okay.” In spite of its universality, eventually you’ll play this record a few times, and enjoy it, but realize you’ve moved on.
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