Clumsy Lovers: After the Flood

One of the most fun, talented and energetic bands to emerge from our great northern neighbor in the last 10 years, Vancouver’s Clumsy Lovers defy easy pigeonholing, ranging across the spectrum of musical styles and covering everyone from Woody Guthrie to AC/DC. Strong bluegrass and folk roots anchor a wry punk sensibility and hard-working rock ’n’ roll attitude.

The Clumsy Lovers are known for their rollicking live gigs, and this album successfully gets across exactly what it means to be at one of their crazy-ass punk shows. On the road over 300 days per year, the Clumsy Lovers have perfected the art of staying fresh with every performance and they are certainly at their best on After the Flood. The band plays on record just like they do live — hard, fast and full of so much energy that you can't help but shake what your maker gave you. The album proves that it really is possible to play just as strong and tight in the studio as on stage.

After the Flood is the band’s seventh album and their first with Nettwerk Records. The strongest song on the album, “Everything’s Okay” perfectly frames the punch of Trevor Rogers’ dynamic and flexible vocals. Jason Homey and Andrea Lewis layer in their melodic banjo and fiddle playing, and the addition of Chris Jonat and Randall Stoll's rhythm section produces a rich undercurrent of Americana. This is what Dave Matthews wishes he sounded like.

“Better Me” touches back to classic bluegrass with frenetic banjo and rapid-fire vocals, and could be at home on any country radio station. This is bluegrass at its finest, yes, but with the lightning-fast drumming of any good punk romp. The breathless-yet-strong chorus is a testament to Rogers’ graceful delivery. A medley of traditional instrumental pieces bridges into the next track, “Mercy.” Highlighting Andrea Lewis’ fiddling, “Mercy” has a catchy tune that weaves its way across, around and under Rogers’ vocals. The thoughtful lyrics give way to the sweeping flow of the chorus, punctuated by a tongue-in-cheek bridge. It’s a paean to repentance, no matter how insincere the apology. “Spare in the Trunk” has an utterly fantastic chorus, a real tongue twister with a delightful bit of wordplay. “Spare” is lots of fun — a rollicking good tune with a jaunty beat driving the chorus into your subconscious. Rogers’ vocal flexibility is also evident in “Checking Out,” with understated singing soberly depicting the pain of a breakup even while lending hope for the possibility of entering a new chapter of life. “Playera” is a riff on the composition by the Spanish great Sarasate, with a sensuous flamenco feel. Lewis fairly seduces the listener with her violin with this hot little number that leaves you in a sweat (and tapping your feet).

After the Flood isn’t just a romp through different styles of music, however. There is more to the album than just gorgeous playing and tight rhythms — it has a story to tell. Blending traditional bluegrass, down-home gospel and epic storytelling, the ballad “Amen” is the first of a flood-themed song cycle that will move and shake you. The fast pace of the song counterpoints the lyrical desperation of the voice of the narrator, a down-to-earth farmer who will fight for his land come hell or (literally) high water. “House and Home” continues the drama, echoing the staunch independence of the steadfast farmer. In this setting, the strong harmony of Lewis’ and Homey’s fiddle and banjo is showcased. The high water theme continues in the following track, “After the Flood.” Who would have thought that a song could combine Noah, the Gospel of John and Humpty Dumpty in such a sweeping, touching manner? But it works, man, it works. Lewis’ fiddle weaves the disparate elements of the song into a passionate crescendo with a cathartic coda provided by Rogers. The coda makes the song, reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s classic “Eclipse.” The burgeoning drama of life, the universe and everything is all contained therein. “Waterbound” is a fitting end to the overt flood symbolism, a traditional song that harkens back to the playful spirit of Appalachian folk music. It’s not often folks from outside the south play down-home bluegrass well, but these Canadians are up to the task. Basking in a playful reel, “Waterbound” brings closure to the somber themes of the previous three. A fitting end to the flood cycle of the album.

The Clumsy Lovers are a hard-working band, and with this album they've fully paid their dues and are ready for bigger and better things. After the Flood can be purchased at the band’s web site or at one of their many live shows and is worth absolutely every penny.