It’s just about enough to make you sick. Quicker than you can say, “Duck! It’s a Canuck,” yet another Canadian artist has released a stellar album. First it was the volley from Vancouver with bands such as the New Pornographers, its individual members and Hot Hot Heat, then it was the Arts & Crafts crew who rocked our worlds, and who frankly still are. Besides a number of members of Broken Social Scene, Toronto has been home to the likes of Neil Young and the Band (yet also Rush, Saga and Triumph, but we won’t get into that). Because of the country’s seeming endless string of fantastic releases, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. So, every time I receive a CD from a Canadian artist, I sit on pins and needles to see if this will indeed be the one to break the spell that our neighbors from the north have on me. Alas, Broken (And Other Rogue States) is not that album. Instead, the sophomore studio album from Luke Doucet, former member of the band Veal and sometime touring guitarist for Sarah McLachlan, is yet another satisfying Canadian import, honest, witty, cheeky, touching, polished and accomplished.
It’s no coincidence that Doucet’s album has a U.S. release date of Valentine’s Day, though it is not at all an album of love songs. Broken is, in fact, a `kick you in the teeth’ breakup album. Nearly every song on the record is mired in the melancholy ‘drunk yet sobering’ aftermath of the day after, trying to pick up the pieces and possibly win her back. Doucet’s betrothed, the golden voiced Melissa McClelland, plays the Emmylou Harris to his Parsons, two voices over twanging steel that always seems to punch home the heartbreak like no other sound. “Brother,” the opening track on Broken is part Gram Parsons, part Bruce Springsteen, specifically the outlaw stories he tells on Nebraska. “Broken One” is the first but definitely not the last song on the album to have an extremely memorable and hooky chorus. “Emily, Please” combines a stunning surf rock guitar riff with mariachi horns in one tight package. “Lucky Strikes” ably treads the same country / pop lines as one time tour mate Josh Rouse’s songs.
“It’s Not the Liquor I Miss” is one example of why Doucet is receiving comparisons to one Sir Paul McCartney as it bounces along, complete with strings, like “Silly Love Songs.” This song and a handful of others are steeped in tear-diluted beer, the solace for the brokenhearted. Follower “One Too Many” is just such an example, with its B3 organ and twangy guitars reeking of barroom suds. Doucet gets a lot of help from his friends on Broken (including one Brendan Canning from BSS), but it is “No Love to Be Made Here Now,” a near solo acoustic performance that is one of the standouts. Once the other musicians join him, things take on a Brokeback Mountain meets Radiohead a la “Exit Music (for a Film)” feel.
If you’ve been alone this Valentine’s Day and your heart has been broken, Luke Doucet knows how you feel. Just put Broken (And Other Rogue States) into the CD player, pour yourself a nice stiff drink, get out the ashtray and a couple of packs of unfiltered cigarettes to be chain smoked throughout a long and lonely evening and share your sorrows. You’ve found the perfect soundtrack for the drowning of sorrows, the taste of bitterness and the loneliness of lost love. Chet Baker, eat your heart out.