Joel Plaskett- Ashtray Rock

Joel Plaskett- <i>Ashtray Rock</i>
Joel Plaskett Emergency’s heartfelt and exuberant Ashtray Rock is an all-Canadian roman à clef. Set against the sacred, secret party site somewhere out in the back 40, the album-long narrative tells of high school best buds who start a band, then drink, fight and puke their way to a bitter, girlfriend-stealing, band-breaking-up finish. But even though it’s peppered with references to Plaskett’s own misspent youth in the woods of Clayton Park, the oft-shared, painful experiences of young adulthood come through in strains at once anthemic, goofy, heartbroken and defiant, but always loud and proud. Nostalgic high schoolisms aside, Ashtray Rock is equally terrific for the things it is not. Neither cynical nor earnest, never hyper-orchestral, genre-mashing nor contrived, Ashtray Rock is just a solid collection of sharp, clean, catchy pop-rock delivered with precision by a band that’s always on the right side of fuckin’ A. And therein lies the genius of Plaskett and the Emergency: in both songwriting and execution, there’s a compelling lack of affectation that makes it okay to punch the air to "Drunk Teenagers,” jump in with bass doo-wops on "Penny for Your Thoughts,” or drive too fast with the windows down to… well, pretty much the whole album. This takes us back to rock-as-metaphor-for-life. And like the titular slab, it’s an album that will weather countless beers, bands and break-ups, and still be a kick-ass place to come back to. (Maple)