Pick It Up
Toronto’s Fast Romantics are making quite a name for themselves in the Great White North, where the CBC’s Q called their last album, American Love, a ‘revelation,’ and they have hit the Top 20 on Canadian radio. Following in the footsteps of legendary Canadian bands like Montréal’s Arcade Fire and Toronto’s Broken Social Scene, the Fast Romantics carry on that shambolic sound, and here, they are produced by Marcus Paquin (who produced Arcade Fire’s The Surburbs, as well as Stars’ North, Elephant Stone’s Ship of Fools, and The National’s Trouble Will Find Me). There are in good company with Paquin.
Pick It Up the title track begins with frontman and songwriter Matthew Angus singing over a piano riff, the song is a ballad and a call to arms, looking at life and its failures and the need to keep on going. Angus channels his inner Elvis Costello and Bruce Springsteen here. ‘Pick It Up’ the track recalls the best torch songs of the 1980s, especially as the synth riff picks up towards the end of the track. Lyrically, the song emerges out of a long period of depression Angus fell into, one that he calls self-inflicted, the kind that ends with self-doubt and self-loathing. This is the song he wrote for himself, giving himself his own pep talk.
‘Only People’ is a more shambolic track, the beat of which I can’t help but here the Arcade Fire in, though the rest of the track, not so much, with a shining slide guitar, and Angus’ Costello voice being the perfect vehicle for the track, a love song to his partner and bandmate, Kirty. ‘Made for You’ begins in a wash of synthesizer, as Angus recalls making out on the highway after changing her tire. This song is epic, it is anthemic. The song itself arises out of Angus conquering his life-long fear of sharks on a recent holiday in the Caribbean, thanks to Kirty’s encouragement to just dig the ocean, to just feel the goodness of the water and the sun washing over him. And the track is about ‘the magic of sharing your life with someone who is better at living than you are, and being willing to let yourself be inspired to be more like them,’ according to Angus.
I am a big fan of ‘Hallelujah (What’s It To Ya?),’ another synth-driven song, that eventually explodes into an orchestral noise centred around a guitar riff of power chords. The chorus is a driving synth-dominated track. Angus is literally the son of a preacher man, and whilst he always found comfort in church and religion as a kid, as he grew up, he grew away from the church and religion, though, like pretty much all of us, he seeks a connection to something bigger than ourselves, and this is the song he wrote about that.
‘Top of the Mountain’ is another favourite of mine, a hushed, almost lullaby where Angus and Kirty chant about climbing to the top of the mountain and then coming right back down. The loping bassline from Jeffrey Lewis pushes the song along as a guitar riff from Kevin Black travels overtop before Lisa Lorenz’s synth takes over.
At their best, Fast Romantics are very much their own band, and yet, at the same time, they draw on their influences and rock history, from Costello and the Arcade Fire to the best of 80s torch singers from Julee Cruise to Dexy’s Midnight Runners. They deserve global fame, dammit!