Culture worrier

Luke Doucet jangles it up on his latest, Steel City Trawler

Luke Doucet trawls for substance in the age of flash

'There's a paradox in wanting to be brief and exciting on a record and at the same time wanting to tackle some gigantic issues in a way that is meaningful, not just vitriolic and pissy," Luke Doucet offers. "Brevity was a macro-idea of production: I wanted the songs to be three minutes long, not eight minutes long."

With Andrew Scott—Sloan's drummer—he did. Banished (mostly) were the ruminating guitar noodles and interiority that marked Blood's Too Rich, Doucet's previous effort. Instead, the recent Steel City Trawler is stuffed with compressed jangly gems, lusty riff-heavy rockers, one butch Canadiana classic and a couple moody heartfelt standalones. The record heaves with borrowings from disparate branches of the redwood of modern music—throbbing post-punk bass, hot southern-fried grubby licks, amphetamine heartbeat rhythms of mod and more—pastiched into the bedrock of Doucet's muscular journeyman songcraft.

He acknowledges the pilfering from the record bin of history. "That's Andrew Scott. Andrew has a knack for finding the thing in a song that is the most 'thieveable'. He has no qualms. He'll say, 'I know what this needs—we need to steal this riff, from this obscure Kinks B-side from 1975.' And I tell him he's the producer, and I'll point the finger when the time comes," Doucet laughs.

Bucking against the music's insouciance is the gravity of much of the content. "A couple themes recur, issues of 'god' and 'purpose' and 'intellectual honesty,'" Doucet explains. "Those are big subjects, to the point that I'm flirting dangerously close to my all-time lyrical nemesis, which is to use the term 'society' in a record, which I'll never do. But, strangely, this record almost cries out for it, because I'm expressing some frustrations and looking critically at us as a whole, which comes dangerously close to pointing a finger, particularly concerning religion. And that was one of the challenges: to feel like I'm taking this on in a serious way that I can stand behind, but not just being reactionary and offensive—because, you know, I can be those ways."

Doucet's always been a thoughtful songwriter, which is admirable, considering his prodigious guitar skills—the Gretsch White Falcon that gives its name to Doucet's band is as much a part of him as the horsey portion is to a centaur—could've easily forged him a career without his slaving over writing (which he's admitted doesn't come easily). Much of his thoughtfulness has been intimately scaled, encompassing familial, tribal and romantic relationships, and odd, touching encounters disgorged by his peripatetic working life. Yet with each album, his field of vision has expanded, taking in wider swaths of the world.

"This album is more outward-looking. I think that's what it is," Doucet notes. "I'm apprehensive about talking about some of the songs. ['Thinking People'] is so specifically thematic, and political, and I'm not a very subtle or metaphorical writer, so it's all out there. It's risky—politics in music is like jokes: effective once, then after people get the punchline, what next?"

He sighs. "But it used to be you could only create organically with disheveled maniacs in a small room, and now any collection of young men with decent haircuts and one decent songwriter and a great computer can make a record that'll fool most people. There's a connection between my bitching about bigger issues, what people might be prone to accepting as truth, and the lying going on in music. Most of the records now—not just Kanye West, where autotune is part of the song—have been fucked with so much by technology that peoples' ears are trained to expect perfection always. Most of those records are not going to be viewed in 25 years as anything more than opportunistic pop culture parasitic fucking noise. As an artist, I see what's happening in my backyard, and I see it happening in the population and with politics. This is what we're dealing with—people remaking the truth. In the age of reality television and reality rock 'n' roll and reality politics—which are all anything but—I feel these conversations are essential to our intellectual survival as a fucking society." V

For more of Mary Christa O'Keefe's interview with Luke Doucet, click here.

Wed, Nov 10 (7 pm)
Luke Doucet & the White Falcon
With the Sunparlour Players
Myer Horowitz Theatre, $24

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