Published Jan 22, 2010Sorely missed, By Divine Right return with a gorgeous collection of airy, hazy, pop-infused rock'n'roll that celebrates all that is sunny and shiny in this dark world. Jose Contreras has allowed the BDR moniker to take on all manner of shapes and sizes over the past 20 years, housing talents like Brendan Canning, Leslie Feist and Brian Borcherdt along the way. Even as much of the world celebrated and elevated Canadian indie rock over the past decade, Contreras let his pioneering BDR go dim, quietly producing great records by others while tending to his blossoming family. It's no surprise, really, that Mutant Message ― the first new music by Contreras since 2004's Sweet Confusion ― bubbles with urgent psychedelic revelry and optimism over concise blasts of pop jabs. There's a thoughtful weight to sophisticated, slyly autobiographical tunes like "Que Paso?," and the sharp romance of "I Will Hook You Up" belies a jaunty album with bite. In many ways, By Divine Right are the father band for artful explorers like Jim Guthrie and Broken Social Scene. Mutant Message proves that Contreras still has some dazzling tricks for the kids.
It's been a while since your last album. What gives?
Contreras: I was going to make this record in '05 and then I got busy. I produced a lot of records and played a lot of shows with Lily, my wife. And then I impregnated my wife, successfully, with my penis. Time went by and I recorded and mixed 30 songs before my friend, James Mejia, helped me pare it down into this short, little, sweet album. These songs were recorded over the past year-and-a-half.
Their structures seem to be making a point about the power of streamlined songs and getting back to basics.
Well, at the heart of all my albums are bass, drums, and guitar. In 2001, I sort of did the overdub album, which everyone seems to have spent this decade doing. Like, a foolish amount of overdubs. The next one tried to capture what we were doing live. I've produced a lot of records since then and my favourite things were always the song, the singer, the beat and the really experimental overdub ― that's it. So I purposely avoided the tambourines and shakers and just moved mics around to create a big but lo-fi sound. (Hand Drawn Dracula)