CRACK CLOUD – ” Tough Baby “

Posted: October 9, 2022 in MUSIC

Crack Cloud’s new album “Tough Baby” is both a clarion call and a life-manual for the listener. For an outfit founded as a healing outlet by and for people in addiction recovery, it’s no surprise the work of this Canadian “band” (now a multi-media collective the size of 3 bands ) sounds as urgent and vital as it does. A wide-ranging experiment with art-punk and post-punk at centre, the collective’s 3rd album engages self-examination and sociopolitical discourse with equal fervor. Highlgihts: “Costly Engineered Illusion,” “Virtuous Industry,” and “Criminal”

Unsurprisingly, “Tough Baby” is a record with purpose and resolve. nothing is wasted. sometimes the music feels deliberately compressed, the essences extracted and bottled into an overpowering cordial, as on ‘115 at night’, which sounds like an ‘80s Van Halen track being squeezed into another shape.

It’s difficult to see how a track like ‘Virtuous Industry’ can hold itself together, such are the sonic hoops it jumps through. the sharp angles and hook-laden guitar lines that were once seen as a trademark sound are less in evidence. Last track ‘Crackin Up’ does nod back to earlier releases with a booming beat and guitars that snag, like wool on barbed wire. but maybe there’s another focus taking shape, one that was not fully realised on the band’s remarkable debut, “Pain Olympics”. Zach Choy: “we made that album with no expectation of making another.” maybe that expectation lent “Pain Olympics” its febrile, combustible atmosphere. but the world moves on, and “Tough Baby” is moving with it.

The new record reflects Choy’s point that “we are always maturing emotionally with our experiences, and so how we understand and express them evolves over our lifetime.” there is a sleekness here: cinematic dreamer music that takes in the street romanticisms and seedy cruises of classic alternative pop. indeed, the record could be a brilliant c21st riposte to the likes of the pogues, the blockheads, roxy music or armand schaubroeck. ‘The Politician’ could be a search party sent out to find the bogus man after 50 years. this is music that is happy to colour outside the lines prescribed for it. in fact, “Tough Baby” reminds one of reading a nabokov novel, with lots of stylistic conceits and clevernesses, sometimes outrageous pretentiousness,

The title track employs orchestral sweeps and other stylings: a broadway musical perhaps, or the sort of uplifting orchestrations that would sit snugly on a modern film soundtrack, and boasting an intermission where we could be listening to unkle. The key track is Criminal’ – also the longest on the record, weighing in at 6 minutes – an angry soliloquy which suddenly snaps into life around a primitive beat (which sounds like someone whacking at a door with a hammer) and a scuzzy bass line. the intermittent vocals and sighs at the end only add to the drama. the band does offer antidotes to help your head find some equilibrium: Zach Choy: “the name “Tough Baby” is an allusion to our planet. to our culture. and to our selves.” it’s made to remind us that whilst we are all in the gutter to some extent, some of us are looking at the kerb.

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