Review Summary: In time you'll learn there's us and them.
Montrealite Beatrice Martin (Coeur de Pirate) and Torontonian Jay Malinowski (of Bedouin Soundclash fame) don't exactly have a lot in common. Although a real-life episode of Bon Cop, Bad Cop
this is not, a world of differences separates the two musicians. For one, Malinowski has chosen the brashness of English alternative rock and dirty reggae as his forte, whereas Martin breathes French indie pop and will leave her heart on her windowsill when she can - ton histoire est une épopée des plus brillants exploits
, indeed. In spite of the odds, a connection still came in 2010, when Martin lent her voice to the track “Brutal Hearts” on Bedouin Soundclash’s fall release, Light The Horizon
. Although the collaboration was initially planned as a one-off performance, it eventually became the springboard for further collaboration a year later, and before long legendary Los Angeles hardcore punk band The Bronx (operating here under the name Mariachi El Bronx) was roped in as well. The result is Armistice
, and all told this 15-minute EP is both a veritable smorgasbord of stylistic collusion and a hint at greater things to come.
The mariachi backdrop in which the EP's five songs are set is an immediate clincher. Although the concept of writing songs about love and war is itself incredibly dated, the delightful implementation of the vihuela and the guitarron makes their reincarnation here appear both fresh and worthwhile. Album opener "Mission Bells", for instance, is deeply evocative thanks to the roiling instrumental work in the back of the mix. Then, when the Canadian pair sing, "Oh then we could ring out like mission bells/Across the yard we knew so well", it's extremely hard to avoid from being caught up in the pervading melancholy. Elsewhere, Latin flavoring is used to invigorate: on "City Lights Cry", for example, a reverberating bass adds a hint of intrigue, with Martin's skeletal opening verses recalling her earlier work as Coeur de Pirate.
The sense of chemistry between the two leads is also impeccable; neither performer is ever overshadowed by the quality of the other, even when vocal duties are shared. The number "Neon Love" is perhaps the best example of this; here, the cohesion between Martin and Malinowski is at its most palpable, and one might even be tempted to describe the whole affair as electrifying; it is easy to see why it only took all of a year before the pair decided to re-unite. More importantly, Coeur de Pirate fans and Bedouin Soundclash fans should have no trouble with this album. In fact, Coeur de Pirate fans will find more to love about Martin's sultry vocals; that is, they manage to sound as vulnerable as remembered, even when surrounded by denser and more flavorful backing music. Meanwhile, Malinowski fans longing for their messiah's youthful desperation will find him everywhere on this record; his vocals permeate the entire album, infusing it with real character. Undoubtedly, the Bedouin Soundclash frontman's crowning moment on this release is EP closer "God Will Get His Man", where he delivers a haunting riposte set against a burgeoning flamenco; the results are predictably stunning.
In a year which has seen precious few quality collaborations, Armistice's debut EP stands out as a shining beacon of showmanship and pop sensibility. Indeed, the only thing worth deploring about this release is its length - or lack thereof. Still, it is likely that enough has been done to both entice the band's current fans and suggest to the neutrals that a full Armistice LP might be a worthwhile proposition. Notably, Armistice have chosen to list their genre as being, "rock, folk, alt, awesome" on their official Facebook page; while this may seem as a crude and laughable move for most bands, on this particular occasion, Armistice have actually made an understatement.