Canada’s Acid Test is back with their first record in 25 years. The new album, Jus’ Rite, was conceived in little pieces at either end of the country, stitched together online and released with At Last Music. It has been dedicated to former member Mike Harland who passed away in 2012. The music is steeped in 90s alt-rock with the maturity and restraint of a group of musicians who know what they want and where they’re going.
This is a groovy bunch of songs. “Slippin Away” puts Lucy Di Santo’s strong bass tone to the forefront. Guitarist Steve Fall synchs with Tim Van De Ven’s drumming in a rhythm-heavy dance that build towards a synth parade courtesy of Keyboardist and programmer Atom Percy. “Ordinary Ways” reminded me of Californication-era Chilli Peppers; elements of rock, funk, and pop are well-blended and delightfully heavy. Vocal overdubs sound like the harmonies on Long Ryders “Still Get By.” “Heartquake” is pure rock n roll energy; it is surprising this isn’t a brand-new garage-rock group. “6 to 4” features classic 90s existentialism with spooky, heavy verses relieved by a major melody in the chorus: “I’m on a merry go round trying to find what I’m all about.”
My favourite song on here is the one that breaks the mould, “Sugarbowl.” Lonely-sounding guitars packed with reverb make for a really interesting, spacey intro. We float on that for a while and then the tempo picks up and we land on a driving disco groove that drives the rest of the song. It feels like a celebration like we’re being swept away by the band.
Halfway through my first listen, I went digging into their past work to see how the band had progressed. I was surprised that Di Santo’s vocals were much softer in their earlier music. Her pitch is more solid now, and she delivers with more confidence. However, for me, the vocals on Jus’ Rite were very nasal-sounding, piercing right through the mix in every single song. I had to force myself to ignore vocals for a large portion of the album which is a shame because the parts written actually fit really well with the music. I know there will be people out there who really dig it, but for me, it kind of took away from the whole experience. The vocal tone had a strained and forced sound, like Kurt Cobain (and I do love him), but tinnier and frankly, not pulled off as well. This wasn’t really an issue with the old stuff; but that was then, and this is now.
Acid Test proclaimed they had more to say, and they said it with this album. They put solid freaking work into this, and for me, the music is as relevant today as 25 years ago. Back then, Acid Test shared stages with Nine Inch Nails and Grace Jones. They also had a couple of songs in one of my favourite films, Highway 61 (where guitarist Fall plays the corpse, “Jeffrey”). Their music today is much, much stronger. At the time of this writing, there is no tour announced. I would be interested to see how everything sounds live, especially vocals. In any case, 90s fans old and new, Acid Test has got the grooves for you.
Written by Hanorah
*edited by Danielle Kenedy