Under the Snow: A Canadian Music Expose #2

The smalls:
The Smalls/Corb Lund:

Oh man, where to start?

The smalls are one of Canada’s most important punk acts from the 90’s and early ’00’s, and their influence is a lot more subtle than most. Amongst the hardest touring bands in Alberta, they were famous for playing small towns, night after night after rocking fucking night.

Tiny venues in tiny towns across Canada (especially the west), bore witness to their startling fusion of punk, metal, jazz, country and pure showmanship. Caldwell is infamous for his lack of banter with the crowd, and a smalls show was a non-stop music fest, intense, loud and awesome as fuck.

Through their career the band released 4 albums (and eventually a dvd I have never been able to get my hands on, called the smalls…er whatever.)

The self-titled ‘first’ album is a re-recording of their first cassette, with additional tracks added to fluff it out. It came out after their first official album.
Their re-released first cassette, also included a cover of the Pretenders – Middle of the Road, and a live track.

In many ways, this is the earliest smalls sound, and Caldwells voice is just coming into his own, with tracks like Toughest Times showing the bands early propensity for engaging sing-along tracks.

Roughest of the albums, it is also a great example of the sound that got them started, and if you listen to the live track, you’ll get an appreciation for how intensely they captivate an audience. Not the strongest, but a must have for fans.

The first album most people met the smalls with, was:

Muddy, rocking and fast, To Each a Zone is a spectacular introduction to Caldwells amazing vocals and lyrics, Corbs intense bass-lines and rhythms, and the bands early sound. Fusing a lot of country and metal with their punk, they give you a very rural inspired album, that’s fast enough to mosh to, and just light enough to keep metal-haters hooked.

Waste and Tragedy. The bands third outing, and arguably their shortest. By this point in the bands career, Corb’s influence is getting even stringer, and the cross-over between his country act, and the band was causing some friction. Waste and Tragedy is a powerfully short, impressive and heavy affair. Soaked in country over-tones, the album is punk as fuck, heavy as metal and has some truly out-standing tracks; Maybe That Prophet Scared You? Pity the Man With the Fast Right Hand and the title track in particular are above the norm. This is probably my favourite smalls album, despite it’s shortness, edging out the next album by dint of it’s pure intensity.

Strong grunge moments, vie with country and metal for dominance through out, making this short, furious album an intense rocking ride.

The bands most popular outing (and the one the punkers call their sell-out album) is this masterpiece of Faith No More inspired country-punk. Nods to Nomeansno and Faith No More can be seen through out the album, vocally and musically; and Corb’s bass really moves up a notch here, while the drumming and guitars are at the bands peak, offering a confusingly engaging and immense album. The album is grooving. I mean, infectiously engaging, and the lyrcs are both decidedly obtuse, and yet startlingly evocative.

Now, a couple music videos to give you a hint of what you have been missing all these years:

From To Each a Zone:

Horse Thief

From Waste and Tragedy:
Maybe That Prophet Scared You

Pity the Man (With the Fast Right Hand)

From My Dear Little Angle:

My Saddle Horse Has Died

A still up Myspace page: Myspace

The bands virtually defunct website: the smalls.ca

Now, for those of you interested in the current country scene, I will be doing a run-down on Corb Lund next week, and expounding on the explosive alt-country scene popping up in Canada.


About Messianic Rebel
Crazier than expected...

One Response to Under the Snow: A Canadian Music Expose #2

  1. Rodd says:

    THE most influential band in Canadian music history. Love this band and wish I had seen them live before they call it quits. Please Please Please do a reunion show!

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