Billy Talent have platinum albums. They sell out the Air Canada Centre. They’re huge in Germany. They could easily rest on their laurels. Instead, they’re getting better.
Producer Brendan O’Brien (Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam) has clearly pushed every member of this band to be better songwriters and players. Every one of the 11 tracks here boasts the kind of killer hooks that their best singles have always had; don’t be surprised if they spin a half-dozen radio hits out of this record. But even more importantly, they’ve matured to the point where they can maintain their trademark intensity at half their normal tempo — lead single “Rusted from the Rain” being the best example.
Elsewhere, they leave much more open space and use dynamics to help build tension in ways that all the best rock records do — or should do. Other influences have started creeping in: “Tears Into Wine” and “Pocketful of Dreams” have vaguely Celtic guitar melodies. Not that they’ve mellowed: “Saint Veronika” boasts some furiously arpeggiated metal riffing, and “Turn Your Back” and “Tears Into Wine” are the kind of barnburners that Billy Talent built their reputation on.
Some things don’t change: Ian D’Sa’s one-note backing vocals are still inflected with a hilariously overwrought sense of frustration, like he stubbed his toe immediately before stepping up to the mike. Lead singer Ben Kowalewicz, on the other hand, has moved far beyond his signature screams — which he still lets out of the bag on a couple of tracks here — to become a much more engaging vocalist; he’s no longer a one-trick pony.
This is not just the album that will elevate Billy Talent above their mall punk fan base and present a convincing case for their longevity–this is the rock record for the summer of 2009.
July 16, 2009