Those familiar with Canadian bands Broken Social Scene, and the now defunct band The Stills, probably have been anticipating this release for quite some time. Eight And A Half is comprised of Justin Peroff (BSS), Dave Hamelin, and Liam O’neil of the Stills, who I have felt were an under appreciated band from our neighbors to the north. In a band where everyone is essentially a multi-instrumentalist, the roles may not always be clearly defined, with the exception of Hamelin, who takes to the vocals as he did part-time with the Stills. So how did a record comprised of multiple drummers turn out? Well, an electronic indie record of course.
It seems that Peroff and company when making their self-titled debut were comfortable with putting away the sticks for a chance to play around with their MacBooks. The results end in a sometimes interesting and engaging record, but at other times can fall flat and little bit repetitive.
‘Eight And A Half’ begins with an instrumental intro, called ‘When I Was Twenty Nine’, that wouldn’t be out of place on an Air album. After about a minute of a half of the airy atmospherics, the album transitions smoothly into the down-tempo first single ‘Scissors’. It’s here that we realize what Eight And A Half might be striving for. They aren’t making a record for driving on sunny days with the window down like other electro-indie acts. Their self titled debut is meant for times of contemplation when the windshield wipers are on. Like after a breakup your mildly sad about. ‘Scissors’, and the album, begin with the lyrics…If I cut you with these scissors…not exactly a ray of sunshine, but Hamelin delivers these lines in such a matter of fact way, the lyrical gloominess has its edge effectively taken off. What’s left is a quality down-tempo electronic song.
The third track, ‘Go Ego’, picks up the pace a little bit, though it’s still mid-tempo at best. It’s also the second single from the album, and has a hook that you will eventually be humming to. Fourth track, ‘The Turn Around’ possesses an odd dichotomy. It’s the most upbeat (slightly) track of the first four, both lyrically and electronically, however Hamelin’s almost deadpan delivery still manages to portray melancholy in someone who claims to be “turning things around”. There is a level of contrast there that I find interesting and effective in portraying a cautious optimism. Hamelin sounds like a man that has been beaten down so much, he is trying to convince himself he can turn things around just by saying it. The standout track in my opinion comes next, “Took A Train To India”, and it’s another mid-tempo track that is endearing in it’s simplicity.
The latter half of ‘Eight And A Half’ while not bad, begins to lose it’s effect, as the it begins to blend together into a pretty safe vanilla indie rock shake. Hamelin isn’t ever going to be accused of having the pipes of Journey front man Steve Perry by any stretch, but he seems to be comfortable with his vocal limitations with Eight And A Half, while he seemed strained at times with The Stills. Overall though, the band has some potential if this isn’t just a one time get together. These guys know their way around instruments, and aren’t afraid to play around with different sounds.
One thing that is a good sign is that I have liked this album more with repeated listens.
All in all, Eight And A Half’s self-titled album is a solid debut from a couple of Canadian heavyweights.