The Perms
Clark Drive
Hugtight Records
2002
C-

with the following review, I plant myself firmly into untried territory...positing myself as a ‘new’ reviewer for Stylus Magazine. Don’t everyone cheer all at once.


My approach to music reviewing may seem a little stilted at first..a bit formal and stiff...hey, I take music kinda seriously..so sue me..or better yet, just blame my parents for over educating me. And blame me, for being mildly anal-retentive. But I’m working on it.


Okay, enough about me...here’s the real deal.


The Perms formed in Brandon, Manitoba Canada in 1997 and in just three short months they released their initial, self-financed recording, Tight Perm. “Song for D” is the first track off their second disc, Clark Drive, and with the immediacy of jangly chords, coarse singing and melodic drums, it’s a song that boldly establishes where this band is headed. Transplanted from Brandon to Winnipeg (and with a slightly new line-up that either makes them a legitimate trio, or a touring quartet - -it’s hard to tell at the moment), The Perms are forging onward into the world of AOR alternative popdom, fueled by an obvious affection for self indulgent guitar solos and quirky vocals (“The Bodybuilder,” “Old Days”).


Strong, but not overpowering, throaty but not metalesque, Shane Smith’s catchy singing style is restrained from veering off into edgy punk by ba-ba-ba-ba Beach Boys harmonies, beckoning him back to gentler, leaner rock-pop leanings. And since trumpeter Nick Kolisnyk openly admits to being influenced by the Blood, Sweat and Tears’ horn section, there is absolutely NO trace of ska in his notes (“In Love”), even though his trumpet play sounds like it could break off into free-wheeling two-tone jive at any given moment.


The Perms present slightly more than your run of the mill, basic guitar/bass/drummer set up. There’s actual melody going on here in their Chicago-like vocal and horn modalities, melded with an infectiously rocking rhythm section. They don’t even sound Canadian (you know, they lack that self-important stance given off by Our Lady Peace, for instance). And despite a prevalent pop/punkish affront, The Perms’ seem contently stuck in a perpetual Weezer-meets-Elvis Costello-meets- Joe Jackson loop (“So the Stories Go,” “Maharishi Retreat”). This is not an out and out criticism of the band, per se, but a mere observation. Shane Smith certainly has the pipes worthy of deeply moving emotional revelation, such as he demonstrates in the ruminative and measured title track, “Clark Drive.” But The Perms excel best when they simply cut loose with jagged and fat hooks reminiscent of The Kinks’ playfulness and in keeping with the smart tones of The Hives.


I believe this band’s greatest strength exists in their ability to mix it up with strong, defining percussion and stirring guitar licks. Visceral rock is where it’s at right now and The Perms could easily find themselves on the winning end of the rock star equation by keeping that up-tempo thing going at full throttle. Let the power in the pop take front stage and the rest will follow.


Reviewed by: Roxanne Blanford
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01
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