Veal The Embattled Hearts

Vancouver band Veal dropped a debut album in 1999 that made them a garage band to watch, but many thought front-man Luke Doucet left for them for the country with his Aloha, Manitoba solo effort. The first moments of The Embattled Hearts reveal he’s no longer channelling the Jayhawks, but Dick Dale. The surfabilly riffs show off the axe chops that have always been part of Doucet’s bag of tricks, but the change of direction may be disorienting. Blues-rock riffs recall Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones as mutated by Big Sugar — like so-called guitar god Gordie Johnson (but without the sartorial style), Doucet is clamouring for a spot at the hero’s table. He just might make it, though he’s not quite there yet. There’s a lot of enthused inspiration throughout The Embattled Hearts — Doucet’s a talented songwriter in addition to the guitar skills he’s honed since turning pro at age 15 — but it lacks a singular vision to separate it from the pack. Better than competent, it’s well executed and deserves ears that will appreciate it. Luke Doucet just hasn’t peaked yet. (Six Shooter)