While it couldn't be convincingly argued that there was a shortage of North American guitar-centered jangle pop during the '80s, the contributions of Canadian band The Grapes of Wrath never feel derivative or like a modern Byrds folk rock pastiche. In fact, a simple distillation of the band's sound is rather impossible given the experimental precision of songwriting team Tom Hooper and Kevin Kane. The best I can come up with in terms of concise description regarding the brilliant acoustic track "Misunderstanding" - the lead-off selection from 1985's September Bowl of Green - is a cross between Toad the Wet Sprocket and They Might Be Giants.
Of course, that hardly tells the story, either, but suffice it to say that the nuanced catalogue of The Grapes of Wrath holds many layered, multi-dimensional surprises that reach far beyond labels like college rock, power pop or folk pop. Most interestingly, there are enough sharp angles and edges in this particular song's punchy arrangement to bear comparison to disparate post-punk artists from R.E.M. to Hoodoo Gurus and back again. Ultimately, this breadth of style serves the band well even if many mainstream radio programmers in the U.S. scratched their heads as to the all-important question of categorization - if they bothered to consider The Grapes of Wrath at all. However, as is often the case, the story was much different in the band's native Canada, where radio was less busy oversaturating the airwaves with Bryan Adams. The band's initial period of activity may have been brief (1985-1992), but that time was packed with highly listenable music not to be missed.
- Sample or download "Misunderstanding" here.
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- Top Hoodoo Gurus Songs of the '80s
Compilation Album Cover Image Courtesy of EMI Canada