Buttless Chaps Tumblewire

Possibly the hardest working Canadian band to surface in the past few years, Victoria's Buttless Chaps follow up their splendid debut with their second album in two years. Although their debut stuck pretty close to a traditional country format, the Buttless Chaps have put on many a mask since, embarking on a wild musical expedition that takes us all over the map. Dave Gowans was first coaxed on stage three years ago by Victorian party girl Carolyn Mark. "She made me go up during this open stage night and play some of my song. She said if I didn't, she'd never speak to me again. It seemed to go okay and I got addicted to going down there and playing." Gowans soon put together a band, and a few short months later they recorded their self-titled debut in one night at a warehouse, Trinity Session-style. Gowans, whose voice is a dead-on match with Nothing Painted Blue's Franklin Bruno (particularly on "Polecat"), has little to be modest about. The band's latest disc, Tumblewire, further expands the Buttless boundaries as the players' heads came together as a unit. "The songs come more out of playing around in practice and working with rough structures brought to practice." A good example is "The Finnish Revolutionary Song," where Chicago-like vibes permeate the mix before Gowans' vocal puts on its Waits-y drawl and leads the way through the songs many changes. Gone is the overwhelming country feel to the Chaps sound, although it pops its head up here and there on Tumblewire, as on "The Trailer Life Two-Step," whose saloon piano work from Morgan McDonald shows that the twang is still with the Chaps. "Pullman" slows things down and opens up the musical boundaries, echoing a Drag City sentiment with light keyboards. While the keyboard work is delightful through the CD, the chosen sounds sometimes seem inappropriate, like the synth horns on "Pop Song," which destroy the power that the song could have if they were real. It's a small crack to make on an otherwise solid album from the Chaps, who are already hard at work on number three. And you thought all West Coasters were lazy stoners. (Independent)