This is an online supplement to Maisonneuve's print-only "The Music We Hate" feature (Issue 36, Summer 2010). To read Carl Wilson on Radiohead, Sean Michaels on Sufjan Stevens and more, buy the print edition in stores or contact us to order it.
I’m making a concerted effort to listen to Timber Timbre. This is the worst task I’ve been charged with since serving canapés to Maisonneuve editors at the National Magazine Awards. It’s a good thing I’m so committed to my craft and freedom of speech, providing forums for dialogue and such, or I wouldn’t have the emotional fortitude to see it through.
I hate this music. From the stupid wordplay name to the clichéd folksy lyrics, the whole over-earnest package leaves me violently angry. Now, you know I love to sit on an upturned stump around the campfire nursing a bottle of mash whiskey before crying myself to sleep as much as the next guy, but seven seconds of this soulful plodding is all I can take before I’m frantically searching for Glee covers on YouTube and screaming “So there!” at my iTunes.
People who know far more about music than I do splooged all over Timber Timbre’s latest self-titled “effort.” Toronto’s Eye Weekly even named it album of the year, and when their annual Cross-Canada Music Critics Poll corroborated that opinion, they wrote a whole new article about how they were right the first time. I always knew music journalists (like me) had class. And speaking of impeccable research skills and boundless integrity, I never bothered to listen to that album because I hated 2007’s Medicinals beyond description.
But I’m obligated to love it because it’s Real Canadian Gospel, right? In just one single song Taylor Kirk manages to refer to locusts, crops, a mountain, woods, God, lightning, a buck, trees, muck, birds, bees, trees, skating, swimming and ice. What happened, guy? Couldn’t find a way to rhyme in “fiberglass canoe” or “Lakeport Lager”?
LATER—OK, it took me two weeks to muster the courage, but I listened to Timber Timbre and it sounds like those same fools from Medicinals found one of those percussion eggs I got in my stocking one Christmas, set their synthesizer to “Groove” and went to town.
Apparently this time I’m supposed to appreciate the shit out of the “beautifully restrained blues” and “startling unique” yet “timeless” sound that organically emerged from this group of three musicians who claim never to practice together yet somehow enthrall without trying. In keeping with the theme of effortlessness, Kirk doesn’t even attempt to innovate. According to Now Magazine, “rather than fighting the influence of having listened to The Animals’ ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ over and over, he integrated the ideas quite liberally, fighting the internal pressure to be innovative.”
Timber Timbre are capable musicians, certainly. And if there’s anything I hate more than artsy name-dropping, it’s baseless disparagement of something one could never hope to achieve oneself. And if there’s one thing I hate even more than the other thing I just said, it’s pretending to be gritty and real when all you’ve done is put on a pair of coveralls.
Marit Mitchell is a real live music journalist.
Related on maisonneuve.org: