Hailing from a small town in Ontario called Kirkland Lake, Dany Lajeunesse sounds like a perpetual daydreamer on his band, Dany Laj and The Looks’ first full-length album Word On The Street. Imagine Weezer meets early Elvis Costello; Word On The Street is a fusion of elements from 60’s and 70’s British rock as well as modern pop punk. The foursome delivers a fast and fun, meat and potatoes type of record that is sure to please the beer drinking pub crowd across the country.
Album opener “Small Town Kid” sounds like a lyrical ode to Bryan Adams’ “Summer Of 69.” The same story of a kid with a pawn shop guitar dreaming of leaving town and making it big. That cut is followed by “I Know You Want Out,” another song with a similar lyrical theme. Laj hammers home that idea of wanting to leave his small town and play some rock and roll! He infuses the songs with a giddy, youthful energy that is very infectious; it is an energy that helps make up for the lack of any truly memorable hooks.
Musically, the tempos are fast, and the guitars generally play big, bright major chords. The band sounds tight and well-rehearsed; it is evident by all the stop-start breaks throughout the album, like in “Mr Rebound” or “I Know You Want Out.”
The nice rhythmic punches courtesy of drummer, Lewis Handford, add to the tracks. Lead singer and songwriter, Dany Laj, has a nasty snarl but can also push his voice into an impressive higher range that suits his style well. His vocal ability, however, is limited and sounds more like a one trick pony than a Thoroughbred. Bassist, Jeannette Dowling, adds most of the backing vocals and harmonies that give a nice touch to most of the songs. One of the standout tracks is “Woody/Dreamer;” an instrumental intro with a spaghetti western, almost surf sounding, electric guitar melody that morphs into an upbeat and quirky piece where Laj is falling in love with a like-minded dreamer.
The production is bare bones, for the most part, only drops of reverb here and there on the vocals as emphasis, and there is absolutely no fancy studio trickery. That is the result of having the album recorded live off the floor at Stu-Stu-Studio in Toronto. The mix is all about the guitars and vocals which is a little disappointing as there are guest musicians listed (backing vocals, percussions, keyboards) but they are barely present throughout the record, with the exception of the reggae-tinged “Where’s the love.”
If you are looking for rich and complex textures, then you will not find them here. This band’s music is best enjoyed in a live setting. Word on the street is an album that is perfect during a rowdy time in a local drinking hole, but it also leaves you with the same feeling from too many nights spent at your favourite bar; fun but forgettable.
With the lack of memorable moments on the album, there just is not much to hum back to yourself once it is over.
Written By Ben Massicotte
*edited by Danielle Kenedy