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Two Guitars Clash – The New Economy

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Band: Two Guitars Clash
Album: The New Economy
Genre: Punk
Influences: Unsure, but I can hear touches of Rancid, Bad Religion and Social Distortion, among many others.
Produced by: Two Guitars Clash and Rick Hollett
Mixed and Mastered by: Francis Hall
By: Lee Mellor






Occupying Punk Rock

Something truly horrible happened to punk rock during my teenaged years — a genre of music ostensibly built on a foundation of individual rebellion and boundless self expression suddenly became cute and, in some cases, even wholesome. Gone were the days of Johnny Rotten venomously spitting “no future” into the microphone. Proletariat revolution was clandestinely swapped for adolescent middle-class naughtiness, evidenced by the kitsch album cover of Blink 182’s “Enema of the State,” often considered to be the “landmark” in the emerging genre of Pop-Punk. And then came A Simple Plan, the era where I started avoiding public places where any radio might be playing.

Thankfully, St. John’s Two Guitars Clash have followed more in the footsteps of punk rock’s forefathers, eschewing the commercial formula of Pop-Punk in favor of something more meaningful. “Rock N’ Roll Radar”, the first track on 2011’s The New Economy, is a statement of abject defiance against these sell-outs. The opening guitar riff charges out full of balls, setting the tone for the rest of the album. Shortly after, the drums launch in, along with Sharona Clarke’s refreshing piano accompaniment. One of my major grievances with punk rock is that the production is generally too narrow: guitars, bass and drums. Unlike many of the other bands in their genre, however, Two Guitars Clash do not seem afraid to experiment with instrumentation. The first line of the song is more or less a testament to this: “Sorry to say boys, it all sounds just the same/Market material tracked and packed for sale.” Vocal harmonies and piano give the choruses a nice lift, and the tasteful song structure keeps it interesting throughout its 4:29 duration.

Track 2 “The Cost of Doin’ Business” announces the beginning of a more microcosmic political bent to The New Economy, focusing heavily on the psychopathic nature of the modern corporation. It’s a solid follow-up with a punchy chorus and pleasing guitar solo, although a lengthy intro, repetitive bridge and unnecessary second solo leave the song about a minute and a half longer than we need to hear. “The China Price” resonates mostly on a political level. Though the melody left me lukewarm, I truly appreciated the direct, unambiguous nature of the anti-globalization message. Nowhere else is the working-class Newfoundland roots of the band more palpable. It wasn’t until the Lynchian whammy bar and organ intro to “Highway of Love” that I found myself as engaged as during the opening track (the chorus and guitar solo ain’t half bad either). Detailing the soul-destroying ordeal of a woman forced into sex slavery, lyrically, this is where the songwriting duo of Rowe/Dooley are at their best: “This is a highway of push/this is a highway of shove/this ain’t no highway of love” and “Money and muscle run the show/you’ll find her in the Camp Town bars/with the ones who wear the stripes and stars.” This concentration on the specifics of an individual’s suffering, to my mind, works better in a literary

sense than the broader brushstrokes of the previous two songs. Skipping ahead for a moment, “No Way to Spend the Night”, the final track on the album, is effective for similar reasons: “Got cardboard castles all across this land/with treasures dug from every garbage can/where they work real hard at recyclin’ dreams/their wake-up calls are siren screams…This guy passes by with charred fingertips/picks up a butt and puts it to this lips/as he makes his way down Toronto streets/concrete carpet for his bare feet.” These two songs appeal to our emotions through slice of life storytelling, rather than overt political proselytizing – a direction which I would encourage the band to follow in order to spread their benevolent humanitarian message.

Though Track 5 “Wall Street Welfare” has some good musical ideas and nicely satirical lyrics, the rhythm is just a little too sloppy to fully appreciate the song. The best guitar work on the album, along with the catchiest riff is undoubtedly on “Work Horses,” which stands beside “Rock N’ Roll Radar” and “Highway of Love” as one of the more creative numbers on The New Economy, and a personal favourite (my bias for surf guitar is likely showing by now). “Against the Law” is a good ol’ fashioned “fuck you” anthem with guitars blazing. As an aside, I wonder if the band is familiar with the tune’s namesake “Against the Law” penned by Woody Guthrie, and recorded by Billy Bragg and Wilco on the almost-classic Mermaid Avenue Volume II. Despite the musical differences, there is definitely an ideological common ground between the two.

In summary, lovers of old school punk rock should definitely give this album a spin, as there are a lot of good things happening. The album’s most glaring weakness is that the rhythm guitar pumps out a similar groove around the same distorted frequency in more than 50% of the songs. If that sound is up your alley, then you’re going to love rocking out to this disc. For my personal tastes, I would prefer to have heard more sonic diversity. A sparse peppering of slower-tempo tunes would have broken things up a little, and boosted the replay value of the album immensely. Then again, in this age of ubiquitous digital downloading, perhaps the idea of fretting over the flow of an album is somewhat anachronistic. Point is: if you like hard driving rock and roll music, there will be something on The New Economy that will probably turn your crank.

THE GOOD: Aggressive, meaningful lyrics; some catchy choruses; generally tight rhythms; rockin’ lead guitar sounds; a propensity for experimentation within a surprisingly rigid genre.

THE BAD: Only nine tracks on the disc; a few throwaway tunes; no ballads (every album needs at least one); a lack of versatility in the rhythm guitar chording

THE UGLY: The songs in which Two Guitars Clash branch out to use non-traditional punk instruments or flavours are the strongest (“Rock N’ Roll Radar”, “Highway of Love”, “Work Horses”). If this approach had been used on a majority of the recordings, I feel the album would have been more diverse. Perhaps the band is only beginning to dabble with this style production, and the next album will move further in this direction, which would be a positive step in their creative development.

Track list:

rock n roll radar
cost of doin’ business
the china price
highway of love
wall street welfare
the new economy
against the law
no way to spend the night


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by: Lee Mellor