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CD Review: The Trews – Den of Thieves

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Probably because we don’t get a lot of crap records in the mail and we’re all understanding and willing to treat the music we listen to on its own terms, few albums here at the Modern Pea Pod headquarters have received negative reviews. Just check the archive: a lot of digital ink spilled over music that we, for the most part, really enjoy. The Trews’ sophomore album, Den of Thieves, is unfortunately one of those crap records we try to stay away from. It’s not hard to tell, either; you can infer it partly through the packaging: hilarious cover art with a silhouette of the band ostensibly “rockin’ out?” Check. Bland, vague, unemotional lyrics? Check. Group photo of the suspiciously fashionable and attractive band members? Check. And as a special bonus, they’re Canadian too.

Fact: both of the band’s albums have gone gold in Canada. Yep, six top ten singles, including two number one hits. Oh Canada, how you disappoint me. Here we have another instance of a band that’s shit-hot on the Canadian popular music charts trying to break into the American market, which for some strange reason seems to be incredibly difficult. American rock radio certainly has enough bland music dripping out of its FM signals, but the fact that the Trews are as popular as they are means they have appeal somehow, and I feel like I’m in a constant state of denial about that appeal.

This certainly isn’t new; it’s more like a regurgitation of a bunch of pop-rock influences we’ve all heard over and over, channeled through some dudes who practice their instruments a lot and have expensive haircuts. It’s just repressing and formulaic, stylistic cut and paste. I’m not going to discuss their melodies, or arrangements. Theoretically there’s nothing wrong with them, but it just feels wrong to me somehow, like the fashionable rock of the past 30 years just conflated into a 2006 teenage idiom. Consume away, kids! There’ll be another unimaginative “It” band next year.

The lyrics are boring. The vocal melodies are uninteresting and underdeveloped. Lead singer Colin McDonald sings like every ’90s alt-rocker you can remember. And as for stylistic launching points, if you haven’t been taking political asylum in Bosnia for the past thirty years, I think you know exactly which bands I’m talking about: Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, The Beatles, Black Crowes, blah blah blah. I think the Tracy Bonham cover on this album speaks for the group’s musical influences more than any of my criticism can.

For reasons beyond my ken, however, Den of Thieves was produced by Jack Douglas, semi-legendary producer/engineer of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, pre-’79 Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, etc. Of course, his pedigree as a producer and engineer sort of relies on his earlier jobs; these days he’s mostly doing Aerosmith and Cheap Trick compilations.

Anyway, this record is made up of 15 tracks filled with rockers and a few ballads thrown in for good measure (maybe you’ve listened to albums like that before?). And the production that might make it laudable for critics just annoys the shit out of me. I can admit that Douglas is a good producer, and this is the kind of material he’s most suited for; but his touch just seems to gloss over all the energy and youthfulness that the Trews could have had. If I could listen to the Trews under desired circumstances, it would be live. I can imagine them pulling together a pretty adept live show with some energy. As it is, the album feels inert, like it’s dragging its feet under the weight of all those boring idioms and riffs.

The end result of all this is, quite naturally, highly marketable alt-rock that your sister and/or modern rock-loving roommate will love. I wish the best of luck to the Trews. Keep on winning those Canadian music awards and stuff, guys, and remember to keep looking sharp. JUST PLEASE STAY AWAY FROM THE USA AND ITS RESPECTIVE RADIO STATIONS. We have enough crap over here, seriously. Thanks.

Reviewed by Jon Cameron

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  • Robert Prevost

    OK YOUR GOING TO SIT THERE MAKING FUN OF THE WORLDS GREATEST BAND!!!! WHAT KIND A LOSER ARE YOU. LISTEN DID YOU ACTULLY LISTEN TO DEN OF THEIVES. It shows what you know about music. The Trews are a GREAT band a GREAT Canadian band what do you not like them because there Canadian you have a problem with our country? I cant wait to read your Nickelbakc review so i can see what you think about Canada. I cant stand you ignorant Americans who know nothing about music. Read the lyrics listen to the music maybe you will actully understand.

  • john smith

    There must be something wrong with you.
    What kind of music do you listen to??
    Your an idiot

  • Tim

    ARE YOU SERIOUS, This is the first bad review ive heard , this album is amazing, its pure rock. And whats so funny about the album cover? if youve ever gone to one of their concerts youd know why its like that. Their live concerts are the best ive ever seen, hands down.

  • Lauren

    Oh man, it always makes me laugh to hear someone who knows absolutely nothing about music do a review. A poorly written one too.
    Guy, do everyone a favour and never write another undeserved review again.
    I also find it sad that you can’t recognize great Canadian talent. Especially a great band like The Trews. Don’t rip on Canadian music, it’ll save you one day.

  • A.

    You make me hope the Trews DON’T break into the American music scene, I’m not sure you guys deserve them. This band puts on the best live show I’ve ever seen, and their music is fantastic. If you can’t appreciate that, it’s your loss.

  • http://www.butterflyfiction.com/journal/ Connie Phillips

    This article has been placed at the Advance.net websites, a site affiliated with about 12 newspapers.

    One such site is here.

  • AG

    Hey look, another guy with an opinion who didn’t do his homework. Jon apparently doesn’t know his song well, and he started singin’.

    Expensive haircuts? Like Sean’s, riiight.

    Speaking of work, until someone creates something, critics like Jon Cameron are out of work.

    Prediction: The Trews will keep on creating and busting their humps out there, and Jon Cameron’s opinion of their work will continue to be irrelevant to them.

  • http://yeah josh

    that guy thought that colins lyrics and vocal lines were bad. that bullshit hes amazing. if i werent retarded id think he has perfect pitch which not to many people have. the trews are the best canadian band out there. other than rush

  • Ian

    In over 40 years of attending live concerts I’ve never seen the power, passion, performance, and fun generated by this band. These gentlemen are real down-to-earth friendly people who know exactly what they’re doing. Talent and charisma shine and you will enjoy their show. All they ask is that you move your body and respond to their performance. I’ve only seen them three times in the last 8 months and can’t wait for my next opportunity. You have to see them live! Then you’ll love their albums too.

    Forget the Canadian/American comparisons. We have much better talent here. Check out where your best comedians, singers, actors, hosts, musicians, etc. came from. Rockstar INXS and Supernova both found that two Canadians beat the rest of the world for talent.

  • Josh

    Man are you serious, hahah you and your big egos john!You sir are full of crap and thats exactly how american music sounds compared to Canadian music! The Trews are by far the best band to ever come out of Canada. I’ve gone to many of their concerts here in Antigonish and even had the honour and privelage of meeting them. John-Angus has by far the sickest riffs on the face of this Earth and Colin Macdonald is such an amazing singer that it gives me chills! They are all just amazing, down to earth artists with enough talent to screw all of the american music over. Its just idiots like you who don’t realize that and need to open your eyes and especially your ears! Clean the crap out!

  • Tim

    I totally and utterly agree.. I am myself sitting with the tormenting task of reviewing this piece of utter crap and I can say nothing but how right you are. This is complete and utterly worthless :S

  • Justin

    I saw this article and was so angry that I could not believe what it was saying. Then I read the comments and I became happy once again.