Saturday, November 14, 2009

Stagehands: "The Silent City" (album review)

There's been an interesting convergence of rock and theatre over the last couple of years.  Bands like The Decemberists with Hazards of Love have told stories through their albums.  From the theatrical side, productions like We Will Rock You have told stories using existing rock music.  Recently, Vancouver/NYC's Hard Drugs went a step further by writing rock music to specifically be performed as a theatre piece.

That's a plan Toronto's Stagehands have been working to perfect for some time.  The group sing and act their music/drama, creating one of the first true hybrids on their debut full length album The Silent City.

The album follows the tale of young songwriter Stan.  He sets out for Laconia, the land of entertainment, to seek his fame and fortune.  Once he arrives he discovers that Laconia isn't what he expected.  The repressive Mayor only allows people to become famous if they comply to his restrictive protocols which include only being allowed to become famous if you were a mask, thereby concealing your identity.

The theme does come a little too close to that of We Will Rock You.  In both instances there's a young protagonist who rebels against a system that restricts his freedom of creative expression.

That's easily overlooked as the music more than makes up for any storyline shortcomings.  The vocal performances are fabulous.  They have a depth and breadth that truly convey the emotions of the characters.

Moreover the arrangements are strong.  They are a good combination of rock and roll with the typical sounds of musical theatre.  Stagehands also take us on the occasional musical tangent such as a sea shanty ("Sailor Man, Sailor Man") or rocked up ABBA pop ("Ashley/Searching/La Bibliotheque").

If you're seeking a unique musical experience (and possibly sensory overload), you should check out The Silent City.

Best tracks: "Ashley/Searching/La Bibliotheque", "The Commercial (Do It Anyway)"

Track listing for The Silent City:

  • It's the Start/Overture
  • The Commercial (Do It Anyway)
  • Sailor Man, Sailor Man
  • Welcome To Our Town
  • The Mayor (Part 1 & 2)
  • Pretty Games/Worries Grow With Time/Nothin's Wrong
  • Ashley/Searching/La Bibliotheque
  • Island Fever
  • The Threat
  • Not Alone (Ashley Reprise)
  • Set a Fire
  • The Riot
  • Now Or Never
  • Curtains (It's the Start Reprise)
7.5/10
Stagehands' website
Stagehands' Myspace

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