Live in Toronto and there’s a good chance you know who Dave Bidini is. Maybe from his columns in the National Post. You might have read one of Bidini’s 10 books, including his classic On A Cold Road, which is one of five finalists in CBC’s Canada Reads contest. Or you may know him as a founding member of Canada’s second greatest band ever in the Rheostatics (I’ll give you 2,112 guesses as to who I rank as the Great White North’s best). That’s how I know him best – guitarist, singer, storyteller.
The Rheos aren’t around anymore; they haven’t been for a few years. Dave’s got his own band now – bidiniband, featuring former Rheo Don Kerr on drums and vocals, Doug Friesen on bass and an amazing lead guitarist named Paul Linklater. They’re the musicians you’ll hear on bidiniband’s second album, In The Rock Hall, out digitally today and in stores next Tuesday. Amazingly, I’ve listened to In The Rock Hall countless times now and I don’t miss the Rheostatics. Not at all. Believe me, I didn’t think this would be possible.
You see, the beauty of a band like the Rheostatics was that if you were listening to one of their albums and you didn’t like a Martin Tielli song, you didn’t have to worry, because soon enough there would be one from Tim Vesely or Bidini. But on In The Rock Hall, the weight of the world is on Dave’s shoulders – he had to craft an album of all good Dave songs, not just three or four.
Mission accomplished. Starting with opening track I Wanna Go To Yemen, bidiniband throws hook after hook at you; great, anthemic choruses, interesting characters, and some solid harmonies. Speaking of which, I’ve always thought former Rheostatics drummer and bidiniband producer Michael Phillip Wojewoda is Canada’s Brian Wilson – an ear for layered vocals and instrumentation, which I hear a lot of throughout In The Rock Hall – it’s there in songs like Big Man Go Fast On The Water. It’s sound that couldn’t be made except by musicians who don’t just love music, but love its history. You can hear that love throughout the whole album.
In The Rock Hall‘s not a perfect album – the opening lyrics full of cursing in On Camoragh Lake? Too much for me – Dave’s a better writer than that. Popcorn could have totally failed, with its obvious pilfering of various classic rock lyrics in its first half, but it succeeds thanks to Paul Linklater’s Richard Lloyd/Tom Verlaine-esque fills and a gorgeous second half that kicks in at around 2:45. The Best Thing About The 80s Is You is absolutely ridiculous, but in a way I can get into; it feels like something that could have been found on the Rheostatics Nightline Sessions.
The biggest compliment though – In The Rock Hall doesn’t just hold together for nearly an hour, it holds together extremely well. And while Dave Bidini may be the guy that people will check out the album because of, once you’re in you’re going to hear a crack group of musicians playing brilliantly. Well worth listening to.