As flash-in-the-pan pseudo cover bands regurgitate their rock fashionista-dictated record collections, all mirror-on-mirror mimicry slapped with an amped-up beat and record deals free with proof of Brooklyn address, and the unlistenably hip flaunt recordings as tedious to listen to as their glowing, footnoted reviews are to read, as the world seems to be devouring itself in a contagious idiocy, Fake Canoe take the stage at the Forksville Inn in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania. Sullivan County, a serene, gorgeous, dirt poor expanse populated with rednecks, hippies, moneyed tourists, and just one stoplight, is where the three members of the band first met while in school, and as they take the stage-a cleared away corner in the stained-wood, cabinesque interior, with a black bear pelt hanging behind an amplifier and a portrait of Tim McGraw made by a high school student gazing from the opposing wall-they are greeted and boisterously cheered by a packed crowd. Friends and family, teenaged to middle-aged, grizzled regulars, hipsters from hours away, someone who stopped mid-sentence of a story about having been beaten mercilessly with a crowbar in a fight the week before in order to applaud the band-surely a more varied and real crowd than indie rock is used to, no bespectacled ocean of scarves to become unanimous in-yet all enthusiastic, cheering and singing along. Fake Canoe's self-titled debut is all it should be-an assured, solid first album with as much pleasure as there is promise, following a loose thematic arc, from being fooled by faith, to finding, through visions and revisions, a strange paradise in what you have. Spare acoustic tracks such as "Jared & Alan", "17 Hours", and "Heaven of Sorts" place Boatman's gifted lyricism front and center. Boatman, who voraciously digested Bob Dylan's catalog at an early age, and who mentions as influences other word-handy artists such as Warren Zevon, Joanna Newsom, and Ani Difranco, as well as the surreal humor of poets like James Tate and Jeffrey McDaniel, has a gift for blending focused imagery and deft wordplay to form narratives best befitting a song. While the meanings of Boatman's lyrics are sometimes direct, as in "Things I Want" and the terminally catchy "Last Ambition", other times the words are cloaked in a more personal symbolism, like with the lilting "Short Stories" (one of two songs featuring the gorgeous voice of Boatman's sister Timbi) or the blustery "Remote Control", but in either case the music is able to translate any meaning otherwise lost in the words. While "Bracelet" shows that Boatman and Zelewicz were a more than capable two-piece, "Hercules" and "Empty Your Pockets" are strong evidence of what Yonkin brings to the table. The former is a fierce, fuzz-drenched gallop of a song, and the latter a lush, slow-burning ballad replete with accordion and banjo that rises and falls in engulfing waves, and both are highlights among highlights, but the album's real centerpiece is the tattered, two-part stomp of "Rewrite the Bible/Big Red Ribbon". Balanced between the lush and the ragged, Fake Canoe's debut unveils a band that is not a Big New Thing doomed to infanticide by the next in line, but rather a lasting voice and sound finding it's place in the jukebox of American Music, joining the pantheon of lifelong artists working on their own terms and finding meaning in their own way. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Fake Canoe: if you're not listening to their album by now, then you are just wasting time.
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