by Darren Kerr
Corsage create hip guitar rock in the tradition of CBGB bands like Television, music that sounds both downtown urban and calm, serene rural. Phil Smith has a voice that is a cross between head Sister of Mercy Andrew Eldritch and a grounded Gibby Haynes via Jello Biafra. His voice is unique, standing out amongst the grunge holdovers and aggro rock grinders. Guitarist Bill Napier-Hemy knows when to sit in the pocket ("Kill the Messenger") and when to embark on Tom Verlaine-esque flights of fancy ("Crashing Down to Heaven"). Drummer John Cody really understands the value of underplaying to set a foundation for the songs to grow out of, while Ron Allan's bass work is fully realized, deftly underpinning the main framework of the songs but still stretching out with some cool, subtle runs.
The whole disc is refreshingly unpretentious. Even when Smith delves into jazzbo spoken word territory on "A Cab Pulls Up to Trader Vic's," it sounds genuine, not contrived. Coal's Nicole Steen takes over the lead vocal reins on "Free the Rings of Saturn." Her sweet mellow tones coupled with Chris Grove's wicked sax breaks make this tune one of Western Roll's highlights.
The CD was recorded at CBC Studios Vancouver for David Wisdom's consistently entertaining Nightlines radio program and David Elvidge's production is pristine. This is a very good album, perfect for lazy, overcast Sundays and late night gatherings when you're huddled around the ol' hookah.
First published in Drop-D Magazine on November 23, 1996