Intellectual Madame de Staël once said “One must choose in life between boredom and suffering.” If Wintersleep were to make their decision, they would instead road trip in-between these lines, finding the best in both boredom and suffering. Because if this Halifax band’s sixth album has shown one thing, it’s that choices are but an illusion within the metropolis. They don’t sing their words in the fashion of a conspiracy theorist, instead having a sometimes inappropriate optimism in the face of the powers that be. Even with these controlling forces running through the album, Paul Murphy sings about love, identity, and inner peace without caring for the mindless politics that act as a panopticon in an unforgiving life.
The Tragically Hip and The Weakerthans can rest assured knowing that Wintersleep are heralding Canadian Rock with caring fingers. The band might be going for the route of stadium rock with their loud production, but in their quieter tones, they still are as devastating as Weakerthans’ “One Great City” and as fast-paced as the Hips’ “Lonely End Of The Rink.” These two bands, that can feel comfortable being in their own skin and talking of a single day with coffee always by their sides, know the illusion, know the painstaking process of finding an identity in their supposed Canadian Dream. Wintersleep brings these bands’ similar cold atmospheres, despite sometimes simple lyricism. What’s crafted is an important reflection of the self under the shadow of life.
“If the worst is true, is it a waste of time?” Murphy sings in “Amerika,” realizing that life has its lies, the very ones he attempts to live with through the album. The band is loud and performing like they’re around a campfire–they don’t care about noise pollution because the system that promised them freedom turns out to be frail. They continue to follow this journey in the proclamation that this is the “age of decay” (“Lifting Cure”), with instrumentation reflecting a road trip to something hopeful. “Metropolis,” “Love Lies,” “Territory,” and “Who Are You” all want to wrap their heads around the problem of disillusionment without creating the proper mood of confusion in strings and drums. Though these are fantastic tracks, this concept of missing trouble becomes overshadowed by an instrumentation that keeps its hope to a fault.
The other fault Detachment still hides behind is its kind love for simple lyricism. “Santa Fe” creates its long-distance atmosphere through its vocal effect, but it’s line “Baby, give me one more night,” which is sung in the style of Interpol, is lacking in the complexity that the speedy strings and their wavering strums have. “More Than,” however, marks simplicity in a better light, despite its cliché of cutting into someone’s brain to know their thoughts. It’s splendidly Canadian, and because of that, listeners blush and cheer for the band to catch their lovers. But at nearly a dozen songs, these issues can go unnoticed thanks to the complexities that explore a mind detached.
Whether it be through love or society, Detachment wants to admire the human condition with its too strong optimism that flows through a loud instrumentation. In their alienation of being in love, the band pay unconscious tribute to Radiohead through wisps and quieter tones (“Shadowless”). When “Spirit” explores the zeitgeist of the time, it wants humanity to keep on keeping on under the pressure, continually asking “Are you gonna be alright?” The dance-worthy bass emanating from its end is a nice touch, considering the band’s amateurish take on electronics (“Love Lies”). Geddy Lee-featuring “Territory” wants to separate man and machine in the workplace, utilizing strings that want to solo at any time. Perhaps this optimism for the worker, for the lover, is cause to revolt against systems. Wintersleep are headstrong in this suit.
The Great Detachment is suffering in its dire boredom of facing life’s lies over and over. Instead of occasionally dealing with suffering and boredom by taking de Staël’s middle road, they face them both simultaneously. Wintersleep’s existential crisis overtakes all, but their stubborn hope is what makes this album grandly beautiful.
Dustin Ragucos is a writer of things fictional, poetic, and musical. His main loves include Death Grips and Indie music. Dustin’s blog is host to a weekly blurb about albums old and new.