The Rest @ Drake Underground

. : : June 22nd, 2012 : : .

It’s near impossible to talk about The Rest and their latest effort Seesaw, without discussing the storied history of the album.

It’s been repeated ad nauseum; nary an article reviewing the album has managed to be written without contextualizing it within its colourful history. It’s become almost a trite, tired cliche that the review of the work comes secondary to a re-telling of its troubled past, which is a shame.

After all, the album isn’t informed one note by the hard drive crash that all but erased it from existence. Not one song is influenced by the series of data recovery specialists whom merely shrugged and shook their head. Not one line of lyric refers to the infamous “black box” recovery team that was able to pull and reconstruct the necessary 1’s and 0’s into proper waveforms.

And yet, there it is, every time.

Not that the album requires the indie-band David versus chaos theory Goliath to validate it. Seesaw is a wonderful album that, like its namesake, teeters back and forth between extremes. Loud and quiet. Slow and fast. Pop and experimental. Retro and original. Not only song to song, but frequently, stanza to stanza.

The album certainly has garnered the band a lot of much deserved attention, so it can reluctantly be forgiven that the initial point of interest is more: “here’s a modern day miracle! An album resurrected, risen from the digital ashes like a cacophonous phoenix!“, and less “here’s an album of really great songs by a really awesome band.

Ho hum.

That being said, it’s damn near impossible to separate the back story from the band’s record release party. Unlike the collection of songs themselves, this very night WAS coloured by its context. After all, in the year between losing the album and its eventual release, there was a lot of uncertainty. Could the album be recovered? At what cost? Should it be re-recorded? Would the band survive either process?

You didn’t have to consult a magic eight ball to know the outlook was grim. The stress of being an independent band in the suburbs of Ontario is enough to make the best collections of musicians implode; compounding this kind of emotional and financial stress has a long history of breaking bands on steadier, well-established, and financially fortified footing.

To make it to a record release party, an epic milestone of achievement for any musician, is exponentially sweeter when juxtaposed with the boundless obstacles that threatened the very fabric of the band en route.

It is that reason why The Rest’s record release party for Seesaw at The Drake Hotel last month felt more like a celebration than any other record release in recent memory. We weren’t just celebrating the songs, nor the album. We weren’t even celebrating the abolition of the hardships they took to get to this point, exactly. We were celebrating the band. We were celebrating the musicians who endured against bitter odds. We were celebrating our friends’, our family’s, our peers’ landmark accomplishment: their perseverance.

If there was ever an ideal venue for The Rest to play in Toronto, The Drake Hotel would definitely be it. With a dense seven member line-up, the band is stubbornly difficult to get a solid, balanced live mix of all the varied instrumentation. The Drake wasn’t without its faults, but provided the clearest set yet.

But it was the performance that was really exceptional. After set (and album) opener, Who Knows, front man Adam Bentley boldly declared, “We’re not messing around tonight. Let’s go!” And go they did, jumping directly into the jaunty, frantically-paced Hey! For Horses. They hardly slowed to catch their breath from then on out, packing their hour-long set with an unprecedented dozen songs top-to-bottom.

The band performed with even more urgency and excitement than usual — no small feat, I assure you! — perhaps, upon reflecting, realizing just how momentous and yet, fleetingly fragile these moments are. And yet, these seven accomplished musicians stood tall, as a testament to the strength of their unified steadfast resolve, and their unrelenting grasp onto something greater still than the sum of its substantial parts.

It was magical, and a more fitting and well-deserved celebration couldn’t be imagined.

The recording itself is solid, if not spectacular. The vocals, especially, sound a bit thinned out by the extra dollop of reverb applied to them, and the bass occasionally threatens to overpower some of the other instruments. Minor quibbles, really — there’s more than enough here to attract the attention of any of the band’s fans, and if you don’t count yourself amongst them already, then I urge you to familiarize yourself promptly and catch the band when they perform next in your town. This is as strong an endorsement as I can give: You will not go wrong.

Thank you, The Rest, for soldering on against all odds. I hope the fruits of your labour are as kind to you as they are to us. Godspeed.

01. Who Knows
02. Hey! Is For Horses
03. Walk On Water
04. The Close Western
05. [banter]
06. The Last Day
07. [banter]
08. John Huston
09. Coughing Blood, Fresh Mountain Air
10. [banter]
11. Laughing, Yearning
12. Bathtubs
13. Innocent Fools
14. Always On My Mind
15. [encore]
16. The Lady Vanishes

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Always On My Mind (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]

Thanks to The Rest and the Drake Hotel!

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