Published Nov 28, 2016On the cover of November Baby, Bishop's Mills, ON's Christo Graham stands in a pose befitting Springsteen, boasting a triple layer of denim in varying blues and one of those $5 Honest Ed's T-shirts. Looking directly at you in soft focus, Graham invites the listener into his world of fact and fiction and the well-worn themes of love and loss. It's also a bit of a love letter to Toronto, between the Honest Ed's touch (Graham even commissioned the store's sign painter Wayne Reuben to design the sticker that graces the vinyl's cover) and a cleverly titled song "Yonge & Stupid" to boot.
These 10 tracks boast a range of instrumentation (some serious saxophone action here and there, warm organs, some guitar rips and neat bass runs), shifts in time signature and recurring themes. The album starts off on a bright note with the danceable "Oatmeal Fingers," which is propelled by a rollicking guitar hook, the frantic "Smithereen" and the jangly "November Baby."
The title track is a highlight, opening with soft strummed guitar and a sensual (if a little comical) exhale before making its way to a catchy and weirdly, wonderfully worded chorus: "There's room for one more inside my Thinsulate down sleeping bag / So that's how I've come to know / Public Health Law 334 / Bra Removal 101/ Scrunchie on the door." (It's worth noting that "Public Health Law 334" comes from William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch and amusingly defined as "procuring an orgasm by use of fraud.") The use of backing vocals that repeat certain words is very fun, and Graham certainly goes for it vocally, on this track in particular.
Clever and curious lyrics abound, such as on opening track "Times New Woman" ("Hey Times New Woman, do I have to spell it out? / You're just my type and all I'm dreamin' about" and later, "I sought the serif all this time"). Graham also includes more personal moments that still retain some cheekiness, such as the first line in "Tongues" ("Seventh Heaven lied to me, there is no wholesome family") or an account of wanting to leave a party that he had no intention of being at in the first place in "Grow Up" ("Why did you drag me here? Why did I go? / I could have stayed at home / Instead I'm stuck with people I don't know).
November Baby is the work of someone that's taken in a lot of rock's most revered recordings. Graham's checking off all the hits here: Backing vocals? Check. Sultry saxophone? You bet. Synth fills in that recognizable cheesy tone? Of course. A slightly over the top ballad titled "Barbara"? You don't even have to ask. It's all enough to make for a very fun listen, indeed. (Independent)