The Meds – South America – Album Review
The Meds’ South America, released on April 29, 2014, is a perfect example of what hardworking Canadian musicians can produce. An original sound, yet still a popularly accessible work of art. With avid support from Colin MacDonald of The Trews, The Meds have produced an album that is sonically un-presumptuous. While not all of the tracks will stick in your head there are definitely one or two that will make their way onto your “getting’ stuff done” or “walkin’ places” playlists. Originating from PEI, The Meds are Kyle Drake on lead vocals and guitar, Bruce Rooney on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, Iain McCarvill slapping the bass and George Maros playing drums.
South America has a sound indicatively Canadian, ironically enough. With very little tense aggression and more of a general passive aggressive emotional release. Admittedly, the album title still puzzles me and as a descriptor it is completely useless, as the title track is definitely not the best of the album and there are not any sort of Latin vibes to be heard.
Their sound is entirely their own. Broadly painted with the “indie rock” brush, listening to The Meds’ soft rock you can almost see the edge of pop in the distance while tickling the border of a dreamy post-punk sound once or twice with the vibrato phrases and vast swells (I have been listening to a lot of Lowlife lately so maybe I am just looking for it). As the album progresses the songs get more folky with an almost shoegaze-y influence.Â
For the east coast musicians, recording this album was no easy task. As bassist McCarvill described in an interview, the album took five years from beginning to completion: “There are probably people out there who would disagree with me, but I think that taking so long to put this album together is exactly what we needed.” I do disagree with you, Iain. I am all for taking your time but in our industry taking too long to come out with tunes can make or break a new band. However, they did release a debut recording in the meantime with The Meds EP. In collaboration with producer/mentor/tour partner Matt Mays, The Meds got many ears anxious to hear what the full-length had to say.Â
Drake, frontman of the band, has been writing these songs since 2009. “Basically, every song on this album was written through the decade of my twenties,” Drake explained, “The Meds were never in a big rush to get nowhere.” This is abundantly clear from the album. South America is the Sunday-driver of the musical highway. It is nice to hear an album that focuses more on track individuality than pushing you from one vibe to the next. Each song subtly and organically flows in and out like the breath of a beautiful woman sleeping next to you.
While the dichotomy of feelings do not change drastically from track to track you can absolutely feel the movement and thought progression of Drake’s twenties from the very beginning hard-driving guitar riff of “Running the Edge Down” to the wounded strings howling at the moon in the finale, “Lonely Man.” Perfectly encapsulating the stages and turns life takes you on as an early adult.
Starting off hard and fast, then slowing down in the middle and ending slow but passionate, South America as an album has great dynamics. The indie rock-reminiscent “Rubberband” is my personal favourite, coming after the light fluttery tune “Dial Tones”. I like candy canes and gumdrops and all that shit but I think “Dial Tones” is the weakest track and definitely should have been cut from the team. “Laugh it Off” is another great groove and with its catchier hooks, it would have been a better single or even title-track than “South America”. Track seven; “Animals” is a real thinker as the album hits its most acoustic and organic point.Â
That being said…
THE GOOD:Â What an original sound! The Meds keep you on moving in your seat, as you never know what the next track on South America is going to have in store. These guys have potential and have already flaunted it across the continent. Keep an eye and ear on ‘em in the next couple years.Â
THE BAD:Â They really missed the mark with some tracks. The album as a whole is only decent and really gets weighed down by some forgettable songs.Â
THE UGLY:Â Being the jaded, cynical prick I have become after enduring wave after wave of unoriginal sounds, I have to give The Meds credit for coming out with an album that is absolutely completely 100 per cent their own. However this album is definitely not for everyone (as most albums aren’t) and unless you fall madly in love with South America most of the tunes are likely to be pushed out of your memory like many other Canadian artists.
If you are listening for a road trip soundtrack or even just the background noise for washing your beaver, let your ears rejoice and revel in the Canadian sound waves created by The Meds.