|Rating: 4 / 5
Reviewer: Sean Marchetto
“A real rock record’s like a wrecking ball!” the Canadian indie darling screams on his latest musical venture, Scrappy Happiness. The lead-off, ‘Lightning Bolt’, certainly finds him swinging in a wide arc with a guitar solo in the middle of this six-and-a-half minute song being one of the most muscular he’s unleashed in a while. Filled with musical tension, it’s reminiscent of Wilco’s simmering ‘Misunderstood’ from Being There, but Plaskett’s easy rhyming couplets give ‘Lightning Bolt’ an uplifting sense of the title’s “scrappy happiness”.
It’s not all rock bluster though. ‘Harbour Boys’ finds Plaskett taking a bit of a Celtic turn, describing the excitement of his youthful folk outings. Nostalgia also features heavily on the jangly pop of ‘You’re Mine’, where Plaskett sings of sunrises, fading years and Husker Du, before closing the album out with the long form free-flowing ‘North Star’, a song that’s already charted on CBC Radio 2; it’s a rambling, stream-of-consciousness narrative filled with memorable roadside characters.
Fans of the Joel Plaskett Emergency are no doubt familiar with the genesis of Scrappy Happiness as CBC documented the songwriter’s self-imposed challenge to release a song a week over the course of ten weeks. The track sequencing on the album is a little different from what was debuted over the radio, and the first half of the album, where ‘Lightning Bolt’, ‘Harbour Boys’, and ‘You’re Mine’ dominate, is quite strong. The back half, comprised of slightly slower, less hook-filled songs, like ‘Time Flies’, ones that could have used more time in the incubator and will hopefully benefit from some time on the road getting field tested and rounded out, but Plaskett’s wrecking ball hits more than it misses.