Golden Hands Before God Conducts Incredible Magic Band and the Spirits (yes, that’s the band’s full name) is deeply entrenched in the Canadian indie scene that has been sweeping the U.S. for the past few years. Here, the band's debut album, was mixed and engineered by Jace Lasek (the Besnard Lakes) and mastered by Harris Newman (A Silver Mt. Zion, Wolf Parade, Frog Eyes). It was recorded at Montreal’s Breakglass Studio, which has been home to the Unicorns, Islands, and Sunset Rubdown. They’ve toured with more recent Canadian imports such as the High Dials and Young Galaxy.
This camaraderie isn’t remarkable in itself -- after all, Montreal is known for its tightly knit music scene. What’s noteworthy is that when Golden Hands Before God is compared with any of these other bands, they inevitably come out a little left of center. There’s only a tinge of the modern that inhabits their music. Part of the reason for this is that the band originally hails from Windsor, Ontario, which is just across the border from Detroit. Motor City bands such as the MC5 and the Stooges are much more evident in their sound than any of their contemporaries. Mostly, the Golden Hands Before God deal in the sort of backward-looking psychedelia that made the Brian Jonestown Massacre infamous.
This is obvious from the first track. Here opens with “One Fine Morning,” which starts with a riff taken straight from Anton Newcombe’s songbook. Layered vocal harmonies push the song forward until it falls apart, and then a count-off cues the riff back into the mix. The second track, “The Ladder,” carries on in the same vein but replaces the harmonies with a fast paced Iggy Pop-style rant. The stand-out track here is “Communist Party,” which features a lead guitar reminiscent of Bring It All Back Home-era Dylan. Lead singer Sean Barry shouts, “This ain’t no communist party, and you ain’t sleeping on my couch” over a rollicking bass line and simple four-on-the-floor drums. “Blood of November,” the album’s closer, is a ballad full of slightly awkward but endearing lyrics sung in a surprisingly soulful falsetto.
Nothing is entirely original about Golden Hands Before God, and the band have no pretensions otherwise. But even if their music hearkens to an earlier time, it does so in a refreshing way, without the kitsch of the Darkness or the simplicity of the White Stripes. Listening to Here is like driving through the town you grew up in: Everything is familiar but seems somehow different.
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