John Critchley Crooked Mile

If there's one thing the Canadian rock scene has been lacking over the past five years, it's been John Critchley's euphoric power pop. With this first solo album since 13 Engines fizzled out in 1996, it sounds as if he never left. Yet, Crooked Mile contains little nostalgia, apart from the initial rush that fans of the Engines' glory days will feel with the first listen. That's because Critchley's work has always partially existed outside of any timeframe. Equal parts Neil Young fury and clinical craftsmanship, the combination has always been a potent reminder of how an effective rock band should sound, and several moments on Crooked Mile even outshine what the Engines accomplished. Of course, this shouldn't be surprising considering Critchley's dedication to his art and some of the credit must also go to fine backing from latter-day Engines Scott Stevenson, Jon McCann and former hHead and By Divine Right bassist Brendan Canning. "Too Much Too Late" is a tailor-made rocker, while "Astronomer" echoes some of the psychedelic majesty of "Beached" and the title track is Critchley's best realisation so far of his fractured approach to country. A welcome return for long-time fans and a worthy introduction for newcomers. (Sound King)