Rock Plaza Central Are We Not Horses

Rock Plaza Central Are We Not Horses
Photo: Dre Labre
Long-time favourites in Toronto’s alt-folk community, Rock Plaza Central have quietly written a masterpiece with Are We Not Horses. The mantra, "I am an Excellent Steel Horse” contains definite Mountain Goat-isms in Chris Eaton’s deft wordplay and the song is simple yet captivating. John Darnielle’s presence is again apparent on "Fifteen Hands,” whose stirring, bohemian soundtrack is captured zealously by engineer Dale Morningstar. With their exuberant defiance, "How Shall I to Heaven Aspire?” and "Our Hearts Will Not Rust” sound like the kind of new-world western songs Will Oldham has perfected, and his tale-telling tics have been absorbed by Eaton. There’s a glorious bit of gypsy jazz propelling "Anthem for the Already Defeated,” which slyly follows "My Children, Be Joyful,” a dusty new spiritual. The teetering quality of found sounds and Eaton’s harrowing wordplay come to a head by the title track; Eaton’s horse metaphors begin to unfold more forcefully here and he sounds semi-crazed. With subtle folk leanings, RPC swell behind him on "Our Pasts, Like Lighthouses,” a cowboy’s farewell that proceeds down an unsteady path with conviction. Rollicking and unhinged, Are We Not Horses contains a real physicality, as if lives hang in the balance with every utterance. It’s a stunning and unexpected gem from Rock Plaza Central.

What’s all this about horses? Eaton: A couple of songs on our last record described a war between humans and angels. Gradually a metallic theme emerged and horses kept coming up. This album depicts that story, where robotic horses are employed by humanity to destroy these angels. In the end, they wonder if they were on the right side, especially since the humans tell them they’re not real. It’s a quest for identity.

I hear a Mountain Goats and Will Oldham influence here… I like them both for their lyrics, especially John Darnielle, who has this magical way with a simile; it’s just gorgeous. Because I write books too, it’s all really about writing these fun stories. People mostly tell me I sound like I’m from the Maritimes, which is where I’m from. They think the songs all sound like they could be about boats.

The band often sounds like it’s teetering upon collapse — why? The best way to describe it is "music by committee.” Everybody just does what they wanna do and that comes about largely because we don’t practice ever. Whenever a new song comes into being, it’s at live shows. You never know what’s gonna happen really; I guess we’re built on chaos theory. (Independent)