Smokekiller's Satisfyingly Straight-Ahead 'Chiba' Is Begging to Be Turned to 11
Published Oct 01, 2020Chiba, the seven-song opus from Saskatoon indie scene stalwarts Smokekiller, is a masterclass in straight-ahead, small-venue, plug-in-and-play riff-rock. Musically a strange hodge podge of the folk rock sensibilities of Paul Westerberg, the vocal aloofness of Weezer and the four-on-the-floor anthems of Foo Fighters, Smokekiller know where their lane is and stay in it for the duration of Chiba.
Kicking off with the up-tempo, heady, hooky, nostalgia-laden neo-CanRock of "Feeling Good," frontman/guitarist/evil genius John Antoniuk clearly knows how to milk a heavy groove to its very fullest. He can also shred a pretty tasteful guitar solo. Throughout each of the seven tracks on Chiba, Antoniuk's guitar work is evident and, while not a focal point, still adds to the overall vibe and appeal.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Chiba, however, is Anoniuk's innate ability to create tension in his vocal delivery by jumping up an octave or pushing the volume of his voice, creating an emotive strain. He does this on a number of these seven tracks, most memorably on "Don't Wanna Tell You."
The devil is in the details when it comes to Chiba. The simplicity of a lot of the arrangements can be deceptive. The melodic hooks, and Antoniuk's overall use of tension, are the forces that makes Chiba such a palatable series of meat-and-potatoes grunge anthems, perfect for listeners who want to crank something to 11 and recount their '90s glory days. (Poor Kitty)