CD review: PUNKS & PUSHERS (And Notes From The Fast Folk Underground)
By: Dan Brisebois
With the release of his fourth album PUNKS & PUSHERS, Toronto's Eugene Ripper has put himself on the Canadian rock and roll map with one of the most diverse albums of 2010. It's eleven tracks physically divided into four separate categories - a recipe that's spiced with ingredients that, if left to anyone less talented, wouldn't work.
There aren't many artists today who can take a simple melody or a chord or two and make it into something special. Ripper has that talent, having quietly gained a reputation as one of Canada's most respected songwriters. Although still underexposed and awaiting his 'big break,' he's steadily racked up awards and nominations from radio stations while trekking across the country planting the seeds that have become one of the country's best talents unsigned to a major label.
Four new songs accompany reworkings of seven of his older numbers that have helped make him one of the best kept secrets around. They're remixed, refreshed and revitalized with attitude, vigor, and purpose. Often adding flavours of rock, ska and punk into the folk mix, it's full of punch, where he borrows elements from each style and manages to make them unique and all his own.
The lead-off "Perfect Day In Hollywood," complete with sonic undertones, and the title track that relies on funky harmonica work are two of the new tracks - both not merely palatable - great beats and easily listenable treats that make you want to come back for seconds.
The three self-proclaimed rockers and rackets are like folk on steroids, and tracks like "Go Van Gogh" and "Tech Know Me" in particular showcase his penchant for using traditional instruments in slightly less than conventional methods with outstanding results.
"I Won't Believe It" leads off four tracks labelled ballads and bleeding hearts. Each derives from personal emotions, but since they've all appeared on Ripper's previous discs, they're updated, with fresh perspectives - tender and relevant stories the listener can relate to. Among the album's gems is "Around Sundown," a throwback to old school folk, with maybe a pinch of Leondard Cohen thrown in for good measure.
The album also features a pair of instrumentals, the other new songs - "Brooklyn Down" and "Gone Fishing," a pair of finely crafted pieces that highlight some of Canada's most under-rated musicianship and studio prowess. There really isn't a bad cut on this disc. You'll have your favourites, it will simply depend on what mood you're in at that particular moment. The crafty lyrics are relatable, the beats are catchy, and his approach to making music is original, cutting edge, and a natural evolution of his roots.