Then some research revealed that Graham Wright is not actually the lead singer or guitarist of the Toronto foursome. He’s the keyboardist.
“Shirts Vs. Skins,” while bearing a passing resemblance to its hyperkinetic indie-rock forebears, is primarily a power-pop album in the vein of The Cars, Fountains of Wayne and other mildly aggressive but mostly genial dudes playing loud music for the thrill of noise.
The longest song is four seconds over three minutes, with the rest camping out around 2:30. This is a no-bloat pop album. There are hooks, and then there are hooks, and then there are some more hooks. Not a second passes that doesn’t offer you the possibility of singing or humming along. It like someone squished a Generationals disc into 27 minutes, added Miracle-Gro and watered it with Pabst Blue Ribbon. (And that’s a compliment, although I suppose haters could use the same exact phraseology to deride it.)
“Soviet Race” is a arms-over-head, dancing-like-no-one’s-there pop song with a killer chorus. “Canadian Thanksgiving” is a snarky, punchy, acoustic-led track, while “Evening Train from Kingston Station” features a ukulele. “Potassium Blast” swaggers like TPC, but with a distinctive sax line. But “Shirts vs. Skins” isn’t all pop giddiness, as Wright drops in excellent acoustic numbers like “Bird of a Feather” and “Keys to the Kingdom.”
“Shirts vs. Skins” has joined Generationals’ “Actor-Castor” in heavy summer rotation. But, unlike that effort, Wright’s solo effort has a staying power in the mellow moments that will put this in rotation during all seasons. Fans of infectious pop songs should be magnetically drawn in this direction. —Stephen Carradini