By Kenny Fowler
The Arkells have been in the music scene for a decade now, and their age is showing. But this is not a bad thing. If their previous efforts were well crafted cocktails in music form, their latest album, Morning Report, plays like a vintage wine, layered and rich with years of experience for a different but highly enjoyable Arkells experience.
This aged feeling is established immediately with album opener “Drake’s Dad”. Claiming the lyrics are based on a true story, the song rolls a steady beat while explaining they met the 6ix God’s father in the U.S. and the conversation that ensued (a conversation about getting older and still acting like a child, calling it “some Peter Pan s—t we’re trying to work out”). It’s a feel-good track that establishes the feeling that this is the sober morning after years of late night parties. It’s the moment where you look around and recognize the glorious absurdity of life’s adventures.
The album picks up the energy into “Private School”, a tongue-in-cheek track about partying with the naïve elite and wealthy. The song is fun and lighthearted with enough bite, especially the poignant closing lines “Private school kids, life is so simple. Born on third base, thought they hit a triple.” Expect this track to be a house party favourite, with great choral work and catchy melodies across the chorus.
This energy continues until “Passenger Seat”, a melancholic but honest ballad about travelling and losing loved ones, and letting that sadness sink in and direct you for a while. Max Kerman is lyrically at his strongest with this album and this track, as he infuses just enough of himself into each line to make it unique, but relatable. Rather than relishing in hyperbole and waxing poetic about his hurt, he underlines the empty spaces and allows the gaps in the story to do most of the narrative legwork. The production makes the song feel spacious and huge – reflective of that loss.
“A Little Rain (A Song For Pete)” is definitely the standout track on the album. It feels like classic Arkells mixed with this new found maturity and wisdom. It is vivacious and celebratory despite its bleak truth – telling of a time of weakness and allowing someone else to help you back to your feet. It’s a song about strength from support, and recognizing those who keep you moving forward even on the worst days. It resonates with the millennials born in the late 80’s and early 90’s, finding themselves halfway through their twenties and still looking for a place to belong, knowing that now more than ever, we need each other, and that is okay.
Morning Report is the right album at the right time for The Arkells. As the band celebrates a ten year milestone, it is only reasonable to expect some musical evolution from this release. Leave it to the boys from Hamilton to reflect on what makes them work, boil it down, add a few new flavours and re-emerge with something different yet familiar. Fans of The Arkells will not be disappointed, but definitely intrigued. This album is also a great jumping off point for the uninitiated, and young adults with relate with laughs, sighs and nods as each track relates experiences we are all too familiar with. This vintage is worth savouring.