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If there’s one gift the White Stripes bequeathed to the 21st century, it was the shot of life they gave to the less-is-more guitar-drum duo. Whether it’s bands following in the Stripes heavier, garage-ier side like The Kills, The Pack AD and The Black Keys or others inspired by the poppier, indie-rock side of the White Stripes like Japandroids, The Young Evils and now The Cannon Bros., Jack and Meg White’s legacy is set.
Of course, the two-piece is a fitting configuration for our time; not only has the cycle of fashion hit the eighties, where duos like Tears for Fears ruled the charts but in these lean times for musicians, it’s likely easier to tour, record and split the meager profits where only two are involved.
For a band like Winnipeg’s the Cannon Bros., regardless of fashion or economics, the guitar-drums-vocals configuration seems to give their music both an unforced simplicity and a raw power. From the straight-forward beats to the alternately clanging and ringing guitars, to the always-melodic trade-off vocals between Alannah Walker and Cam Woods Firecracker/Cloudglow, the band’s debut album, maintains its simple power from start to finish.
“Soft View” starts with an echoing, watery guitar line and Woods singing, “Looks like you’re coming on strong”, which works as a statement of intent. By the time Walker chimes in with her sweet-but-deadly backing vocals, you’ve got the template for the entire album. So while it’s a consistent-sounding record, it’s consistent in being strong and hummable.
Potential-hit “Let’s Get Out Of Here” puts Walker on lead vocals, where she excels, and lets her winningly chant “Hey Let’s get out of here, I hate it here!” until you want to reach through the speakers and help her escape. Similarly, the wonderful “Let It Go” finds Walker forcefully singing “Just leave it to me, to forget everything” while the beat stomps behind her like an ally.
The band’s alliance with Greg MacPherson, a fellow Winnipeg musician who know his fair share about power and simplicity, and his new label, Disintegration Records is clearly a win for everyone involved.
It sounds as if these 21st century duos, like the Cannon Bros., are drawn to the malleability of the two-piece configuration rather than out of any animus towards bass players (though of course the Bassists Union now has a lot more rock bands to boycott other than just The Doors!). After all, if less is more, maybe way less can be way more.
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