Sam Roberts began his solo career with a bang. In 2002 his EP, The Inhuman Condition became one of the best-selling and largest Indie albums in Quebec and Canada’s history. Robert’s debut, We Were Born In A Flame however eclipsed his previous work, and shot him into the mainstream in Canada. The album went on to win numerous awards around Canada, including album of the year at the 2004 Juno’s.
Roberts and the rest of his band went to Australia to write and record much of his highly anticipated follow up. He found a renovated Presbyterian church in New South Wales while on vacation and thought it was the perfect place to record. They brought all the necessary recording equipment, and set up shop. With Sam having nothing else but to write new material, that is just what he did. However on Roberts debut, Sam himself wrote the majority of the material. From the lyrics, to the cords used, Sam was at the forefront. He even played every instrument, with only the one exception of drums. This formula changes a bit on the new album however. All members of his band took part on this go around. Writing for their instrument and also contributing on the lyrical aspect. Making this less a solo album and more a group. So with the dynamics changed, how would this album sound? On April 11, 2006, the fans would get all their questions, answered with the release of Chemical City.
Sam Roberts’ band:
Dave Nugent (lead guitar)
Eric Fares (keyboards)
James Hall (bass)
Billy Anthopoulos (drums)
The album starts off with one of its stronger tracks. The Gate sounds like it could be on any of Roberts past work. A simple guitar riff, over a hard hitting drum beat, with Roberts singing a catchy verse. Fares really gets to shine with a beautiful little keyboard solo towards the end. The Resistence uses this formula also, just with a softer edge. Not much diversity throughout, just another good tune. A Stone Would Cry Out, is another perfect example of Roberts softer side. A great key progression, that Sam just whispers along to. Fares once again makes his talent known, with a excellent piano performance. Roberts has some of his best lyrics on this track. “I never had to fight for my love, But that's over I know, It's just how it goes” is Roberts at his best. Catchy, simplistic, and beautiful.
A song that shows how much Roberts has grown from his last effort, and the affect from the other members of the band on this album is Bridge To Nowhere. An acoustic guitar over an electric. This is by far the best song on the album, and maybe the best work Roberts has ever done. The keyboard once again gets used to its fullest, and Hall shows up with his best feat on the album. Other songs Hall is the weakest member, and almost there for the sake of being their but on this track his presence is known, and felt. Emotional and heartfelt, Roberts puts together another track that will leave his audience is awe. Two other tracks that show Roberts growing talent are Mystified, Heavy and Uprising Down Under. These tracks show how strong Roberts voice is, with the vocal performance blending perfectly into these songs. Great picking done by Nugent also, making these songs have a laid back feel to them, also supported by Roberts at guitar. The only blemish on both tracks are after repeated listens, they tend to drag on a bit.
Blues and folk music is not new to Roberts catalogue of songs. The list gets much stronger with the addition of An American Draft Dodger in Thunder Bay, The Bootleg Saint, and Mind Flood. All of which have the down home feel to them with their lyrics, and exquisite guitar playing from Nugent and Roberts. Mind Flood however, may be the weakest track on the album. Nothing that stands out with this track. A track that does stand out above all on the album, is maybe the creepiest song this band has ever did. With a Bullet, starts off with a heavy drum beat, then the organ kicks in. Roberts intense lyrics and vocals make this song unlike anything they have done before. The feel of this song Roberts has said may have came from the fact that they were writing in a old church, or that they added an organ. At any rate, the feel alone easily makes this a must listen to anyone.
Sam Roberts and his band have released a solid follow up to We Were Born In A Flame. A little more polished, much more ambitious and experimental, makes Chemical City an all around stronger piece of work. With hits such as The Gate and Bridge To Nowhere, Chemical City has made Sam Roberts place in the Canadian indie scene undeniable, and mainstream success in North America unquestioned. Roberts and the rest of his band will be here making great music for years to come.
- Great lyrics.
- Inventive guitar riffs.
- Piano and keyboards done magnificently.
- Can become a bit boring after repeated listens.
- Bass player is not particularly talented, and often is unnoticeable.
- Bridge To Nowhere
- The Gate
- An American Draft Dodger in Thunder Bay