After a few years of attempting to sound heavier than they actually were (the influence of Seattle grunge no doubt), it's amazing to hear that by embracing both roots and modern sounds, 54-40
can still make a simple tune with two guitars and a hook sound fresh and inviting. Singer Neil Osborne
's lazy tenor croons gently over the sweetly sensitive "I Could Give You More" and the melancholy "Playground" (complete with a lovely string arrangement), but the heart of Since When
lies in the kinds of tunes the band plays best, ringing, mid-tempo rockers like "You Should Come Over," a twangy number that could be the product of any No Depression band, and the gospel-ish "Pay for Living."
At its best moments Since When
sounds like vintage 54-40
albums of the late '80s when the Canadian quartet borrowed liberally from early R.E.M.
, Big Star
, and the dB's
. Tempered with age and a more earthy aesthetic, 54-40
remain masters of the jangle-pop form. And while 54-40
albums can sometimes end up sounding like Osborne solo records, they sound like a true band on the tunes that don't stretch beyond their reach. A decent latter-day effort but not the best place to start for the curious.