I was first introduced to Monster Truck back in 2011 when they opened for the Sheepdogs at the Alehouse in Kingston. At the time, I knew nothing about them (it would have been around the time they released The Brown EP). Their set was awesome, and it stood up strong beside that of the Sheepdogs, which was no easy feat. After, I chatted with drummer Steve Kiely who I remember as surprisingly genuine and down to earth, which is something that doesn’t happen very often. It wasn’t long after that a lot of people were turned on to them (myself included) and they were constantly on the radio with their single “Seven Seas Blues.” Fast forward some seven years, two studio albums, a Juno, and multiple tours with the likes of Vista Chino, Monster Truck has released True Rockers.
Often touted as a refreshing throwback to the rock and roll of the 70s, Monster Truck, at their best, are just that. Heavy, melodic, and unapologetic, they don’t let you forget that awesome music is alive and well in Canada. True Rockers has some big shoes to fill, and I would say that some parts of it do. Tracks like “Thundertruck,” “Being Cool is Over,” and “Hurricane,” are all solid and maintain the level of fun that they set out to achieve. Given that there is a lot going on within their big sound, I don’t think keyboardist Brandon Bliss gets enough credit. In basically every track, the keys are buried within, holding the track together with understated glue.
Unfortunately, I really fall off the bandwagon with “Evolution,” and “Young City Hearts.” Neither of these tracks seem to fit within the album, or Monster Truck’s sound more generally. “Evolution,” is just a weird electro-pop number, while “Young City Hearts” hits you right out of left field – and not in a good way. Sure, both have a couple of great riffs and a few bright moments vocally from Jon Harvey, but they contain very little of the raw, uncompromised energy of tracks like “Sweet Mountain River” that make Monster Truck great.
In my mind, True Rockers is best represented by tracks like “Devil Don’t Care,” and “Undone.” If you’re only perusing the album, I’d recommend you direct your time here. With a distinctly southern feel, “Devil Don’t Care” is bluesy, groovy, and features a wicked harmonica. “Undone” is a bit slower, but still big and bluesy; coming right after “Young City Hearts” you almost want to scream, “yes! I want a whole album of THIS!” Somewhat of an undercurrent running through True Rockers, it is tracks like these – and to some extent, the final track “The Howlin’” – that reaffirm Monster Truck’s position as proudly Canadian, kick-ass band.
Written By Jordan Hodgins
*edited by Mike Milito