The Sadies – Northern Passages (Yep Roc)

Introducing The Sadies, a group you may have never heard of – at least in this part of the world.  But for well over two decades, this Canadian foursome have been firing off a cannon of indie rock, tinged with psychedelia and the occasional nod to Americana. 

On their 10th studio release Northern Passages, singers/guitarists Dallas and Travis Good, bassist Sean Dean, and drummer Mike Belitsky return after a four-year hiatus with a product that feels like an updated amalgam of Nuggets-era garage rock and country.

Almost intentionally, the band set up an abrupt, jarring juxtaposition between the first two tracks, the down-home pastoral Riverview Fog and the punky garage clamour of Another Season Again.

The first is like some campfire melody, an open letter to a long-lost friend, a reaching out to reconnect the severed ties.  Having never heard of this band, I was settling in to enjoy some nice soft Crosby styled Americana until Wham!  The second tune bullies its way in like a pogoing bovver boy and had me jumping around the room.

The third tune, There Are No Words, is even more fuzz drenched.  Like any good Datsuns number it’s big, ballsy, grungy.  But just as one-punter-mosh- pit in my living room is starting to get sweaty it morphs into a slow cowboy two-step powered by steel guitar and a clop-clop woodblock keeping time.  Oddly it works.  It’s Easy makes no apologies for being a Neil Young tune.  After all they’re all Canadians, so there’s always an opportunity.

The Elements Song swirls along like a slow building tempest for nearly minutes before shapeshifting from a gorgeous psych-rock wig out into a stompin’ honky-tonk hoedown.

Elsewhere, there’s more Americana such as the Byrds’-like country groove of God Bless the Infidels or truck driver soundtracks Through Strange Eyes.  And another in a similar style, but utilizing the most esoteric title As Above, So Below.

Hidden among all these wee nuggets is the unannounced appearance of Kurt Vile, who adds his guitar and voice to the laidback, slacker tempo on It’s Easy (Like Walking). His laconic delivery works in so well with the bands grunge swagger.  I’ve not yet checked but I suspect they have always collaborated well because this partnership seems so comfortable.

So, while this band is new to me, it feels like a band that I know, at least a little.  Their material has enough variety and challenge to keep me listening and the juxtapositions between garage rock and Americana and country elements seem to work pretty well.

Tim Gruar