Under the Snow: A Canadian Music Expose #6

The Gandharvas
Formed in ’89 as the Droogs, the band changed their name to the Gandharvas in 1993, before releasing their first album, and would record 3 altogether (plus one EP under the name of the Droogs) before breaking up in 2000. Coming out of London, Ontario, the Gandharvas were a strong part of the 90’s grunge/alternative scene in Canada, and garnered some acclaim before the scene collapsed and the band crumbled under their own pressures.

Rob Blanchette – bass (1989–1993)
Eric Howden – bass (1993–1996)
Beau Cook – bass, keyboards (1996–2000)
Paul Jago – vocals
Jud Ruhl – guitar
Brian Ward – guitar
Tim McDonald – drums

A Soap Bubble and Inertia (1994), the bands first lp is strongly washed in psychedelic prog-rock influences, and the burgeoning alternative rock scene out of the US. Opening with the grooving, swingy, almost lounge-influenced, First Day of Spring; an idyllic soft ride that slowly increases in pace and energizes the mind, while encouraging you too sing along. There’s the bobbing, catchy and bleakly realistic Coffee Song, an ode to escapism, caffeine and mental instability. A delightful ode at that. There’s the almost pop-rock, vocal work-out, with it’s party-time percussions and dark thematics. The 8 minute title track is a progressive/psychedelic masterpiece of alt-rock/grunge; a complex, deep and surreal recording that will envelop you. The album ends on the absolutely perversely delightful Circus Song, a demented ride through carnival-like music to ease you out and let you go gently.

Kicking in the Water (1995), the follow up, presents a more matured band, with more intricate, multi-faceted compositions, yet still as deep, and still as prone to weird humour. Many comparisons have been made between the Gandharvas and Wee, and I’m inclined to side with that demographic. Both bands refuse to be genuinely categorized, are widely recognized by their unique vocxals, weird musical compositions and strongly bizarre lyrical contents. That said, the Gandharvas have never strayed as far into the world of absurdity as Ween, and this album is chock full of strongly intelligent lyrical themes. It starts on the pop-rock inspired crooner, Drool, a condemnation of the radio and terrible music all around. It’s a strong track, with excellent use of pianos, and Jagos unique and identifiable vocals. A Quick Feel, stands out on the album, as a soothing, almost tidal track of surreal washed soundscapes and subtle instrumentation; and then there’s Hollow you Out, a true sing-along masterpiece of distorted instrumentation and warbly vocals, over-laid on creepy and messed up lyrics. The albums title track is catchy, almost too much; it’s got a finger-snapping rhythm, toe-tapping drums, and engaging vocals, with Jagos voice truly on it’s game here.

Sold for a Smile (1997) was released as the bottom started to go out in the alternative/grunge scene, and the albums feels…compromised. The album title give’s you a hint of the mood for the band at the time, and the stretched, almost formulaic compositions on the album are in poor quality compared to the previous two albums. Still, there are a few stand-out tracks worthy of being mentioned. Gonna be so loose, has a classic old school rock feel to it, with minimal distortion on guitars, or vocals, and fairly straight forward pacing, with fairly standard lyrics for the band, even if it feels like Jago’s voice is bein reigned in. The album’s opener, Downtime got the band some small degree of commercial recognition, and it a pretty standard example of the alt-rock/grunge scene at the end of it’s glory; it’s not a complex song, but it’s catchy, easy to sing along too and not very complex. My personal favourite track is Sarsaparilla, as it let’s Jago stretch his lungs, and it sounds like the band is having fun, playing with all the fuzz and distortion their grubby little souls can handle. In short, I wouldn’t upsell this album to people, but I would recommend it to anyone who wants to be a perfectionist (or completionist).

Music Videos:
First Day of Spring:
Coffee Song:
Hollow You Out:
Watching the Girl:
The Masochistic Minstrel:

Take the time, get to know them, then be sad because they (like the smalls) are no more.


About Messianic Rebel
Crazier than expected...

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