Home Read Classic Album Review: The Tea Party | The Interzone Mantras

Classic Album Review: The Tea Party | The Interzone Mantras

The Canadian power trio get back to basics (kind of) on their fifth full-length.

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This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

 


If you want to know how great the new Tea Party disc is, just ask Jeff Martin, their ever-so-humble leader. He’ll be the first to tell you. “It’s our hardest rock record,” the singer-guitarist was recently quoted saying. “And it’ll probably be the hardest Canadian rock record ever.” Ahem.

Martin’s blushing humility aside, you have to admit he has something of a point — at least as far as the first part of his claim is concerned. The Interzone Mantras, the fifth full-length from this Toronto trio, is a harder-hitting and more straightforward rock record than their last outings. On many if not most of these dozen tracks, Martin, drummer Jeff Burrows and bassist Stuart Chatwood streamline their sound to great benefit. Cutting back on the orchestrated grandiloquence, infinite overdubbing and sample-loop studio wizardry that can often smother their songs, the band make something of a return to the live power-trio dynamics and guitar-driven sound of their earlier albums — a swaggering, if derivative blend of swaggering Led Zep crunch and half-baked Jim Morrisonian mysticism, garnished with a variety of Middle Eastern flavours and spices.

Still, sometimes these old ingredients produce a tasty dish. Opening track Interzone is a heavy-metal belly dance of the first order, undulating along to a propulsively serpentine beat and melody, with some snappy horns to give it a little extra kick. Lullaby is a fever-dream that moves from opiated drowsiness to withdrawal-symptom edginess, with some decent dive-bombing, feedback-god guitar mangling thrown in for good measure. The smoky, percolating Apathy even finds Martin gearing down his throaty bellow to a Leonard Cohen rasp — at least part of the time.

Too bad it isn’t all the time. But let’s face it — not knowing when to leave well enough alone has always been Martin’s problem as a songwriter and producer. Here, even reining himself in, he still goes over the top far too often in all the usual ways: Unnecessarily bloated arrangements, gratuitous guitar overdubs, wow-I’m-so-deep lyrics lifted (sorry, inspired) by the works of writers such as William Burroughs (Interzone) and filmmakers like Wim Wenders (Angels). If Martin really wanted to get back to basics, he could have — and, I submit, should have — recorded this live in the studio without overdubs. That’s about as basic as it gets. And that would have been a much harder record — both in terms of musical oomph and musical difficulty.

Still, Interzone Mantras is a step in the right direction. Especially for a band that shoots itself in the foot as often as these guys.