The indie-rock wave out of The Great White North these past few years has been the biggest thing to hit Canadian music since Rush. This surge, however, is no longer limited to Toronto and Montreal, but has spread to smaller cities just north of the border, such as the towns of Guelph (The Constantines) and Hamilton (Ten Kens – QRO album review).
Formed by six friends from Hamilton, Ontario, with the addition of a cellist and a friend’s grandmother’s organ, The Rest play the kind of tragic, expansive indie music with classical melodies that The Arcade Fire are known for. However, on their debut, Atlantis, Oh Our Saviour, The Rest don’t stick completely to script, as they trend away somewhat from the overt classicalism, and towards a stronger rock foundation. Plus, this sound has not yet been mimicked enough to be played out, and moreover, it’s an incredible sound; ape it fairly successfully, and you’ve got a pretty damn good album.
Atlantis, Oh Our Saviour is strongest at its beginning, with the incredible first four tracks. It opens with "The Close Western," a sad cowboy cry that grows into a grand vastness with sweeping sounds. "Copying" establishes its space from note one with an onslaught of guitars, perhaps more akin to Toronto’s Broken Social Scene. The beginning of "Innocent Fools" introduces the (perhaps too) tragic cello and organ; mid-way through, it establishes just the right mix of tragedy and rhythm. It only gets better with the following "Atlantis, Typhoon, Oh Our Saviour, Starving Bears! Dance! Dance! (An Interpretation of "We Stole Your Grandma's Organ and Now It Can Dance")". This upbeat, even danceable elegy is The Rest at their finest, and could probably go toe-to-toe with any Molson-drinking indie-rocker’s most crowd-pleasing anthems.
Unfortunately, Atlantis, Oh Our Saviour sinks in the middle. The expansive resonance starts to not quite work, or to quite grab the listener. If the first four tracks are where The Rest take their poignant, sprawling sound and make their own way with it, the next four tracks are where they don’t wholly grasp that sound, and don’t go that far with it. These songs also expose the weakness in the voice of singer/guitarist/organist Adam Bentley. His relatively high pitch can reach you well when it’s just a part of a massive melody, but without enough support, his voice can feel screechy, almost as if it’s about to break.
The 2005 winners of the YMCA of Hamilton/Burlington "Throwin’ the Horns" program are indebted to those indie-rockers who’ve been flying the Maple Leaf in this decade, and not just The Arcade Fire. But all music is drawn from that which came before it, and if The Rest’s inspiration happens to be particularly recent, that doesn’t change the fact that Atlantis, Oh Our Saviour contains some absolutely terrific songs. Their weaker tracks do need some more work, and Bentley could use a lozenge or three, but if they can keep lugging around that organ from show to show, I think they can make it.