I dipped into the second volume of Darin Cappe’s 9 volume box set retrospective of the Rheostatics’ career. Darin is releasing one volume a week up ’til the end of March, in order to commemorate the one year anniversary of the last Rheos concert. I posted about volume one here.
Volume 2 of Static Journey is almost entirely about Melville, the Rheostatics’ second album. Released in 1991, this was the record that truly established the band’s credibility among fans, critics and (perhaps most importantly, in terms of their ultimate influence on Canadian music) musicians. One doesn’t so much listen to that album as come to terms with it. My own experience with the record is probably more or less typical; when I first listened to the disc, I didn’t quite get it – the songs didn’t resonate, and it all just sounded kind of weird and foreign to my ears. I had occasion to listen to the thing repeatedly more or less unintentionally – there was a cassette dub of the record in my car that I listened to frequently while going back and forth between Toronto and Windsor on weekend visits to my then girlfriend. I only listened to the Rheostatics side to get back to the beginning of the recording on the other side. As time went by, I found myself strangely drawn to these songs, and gradually I became addicted to Melville; needless to say, I can no longer even remember what was on the other side of that tape. My point is that the music is somewhat inaccessible, or at least not immediately so, if one is coming from a more-or-less mainstream sensibility – but one thing Melville did was to announce, from the opening chords of Record Body Count that this album would be something different. It took some effort, attention and involvement to understand the record, but once I really sat and listened to it, I didn’t want to hear anything else.