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Album Review: Neveroddoreven by Theset

Theset treads the well-worn paths of Canadian alternative/power pop, sounding by turns like Our Lady Peace and Matthew Good Band, though they stir a more aggressive punk sensibility into the music.

By Ryan McGreal
Published February 11, 2009

On Neveroddoreven, Victoria BC's Theset (pronounced "The Set") has produced an album of tightly-produced hard rock tracks, at least some of which are destined to find homes in the current playlist over at 102.1 The Edge.

Theset treads the well-worn paths of Canadian alternative/power pop, sounding by turns like Our Lady Peace and Matthew Good Band, though they stir a more aggressive punk sensibility into the music.

The album opens with a twin fast guitar lick, seething bassline and iconic scream on the menacing title track.

The strongest tracks are "Survive" and "Gravity", which should satisfy anyone's apetite for guitar-driven angst.

To keep the music from becoming too frenetic, they leaven it with a sprinkling of New New Wave - as on "Dance Floor" and "Sirens" - and even the odd touch of ska.

The band also proves they can handle more restrained, mid-tempo songs on the penultimate "Androids", which closes with a haunting wash of reverb and plaintive vocalizing.

Intense album closer "White Spider Red Spider" shows off the band's virtuosity while experimenting with time and tempo changes.

Vocalist Martin MacPhail leans a little too heavily on a stylish falsetto (which drifts frequently into a kind of screech that inexplicably recalls Gregg Alexander from late '90s alternative soul band New Radicals). I think the cool kids are calling it "screamo".

Okay, a little more on the singing, since I have a hunch that most listeners will come down hard in one of two camps: either love MacPhail's range and vulnerability, or else cringe at his squawky excesses.

I worry that Theset has learned precisely the wrong musical lesson from Our Lady Peace's rise to fame a decade and a half ago.

Their first album, Naveed, had hints of the nasal falsetto that would later become vocalist Raine Maida's signature style, but it served mainly as punctuation for an otherwise throaty, menacing delivery that matched the driving guitar riffs and thumping rhythms.

By Clumsy, the trademark whine began to overshadow the instrumentation. Clumsy outsold Naveed ten-to-one (not least because the mid-'90s were an excellent time to sound a lot like The Smashing Pumpkins), but it also marked the point at which Maida's falsetto jumped the shark.

On baroque follow-up Happiness... Is Not A Fish That YOu Can Catch, the falsetto had become a grating self-parody. Maida eventually abandoned it altogether.

So, a word of advice to Theset: restrain yourselves. A little shriek goes a long way, even when you're working double-time to convey the anguish of disaffected youth.

You can listen to a selection of Theset's songs on their MySpace page.

Theset plays in Hamilton at Absinthe (with Marcio Novelli) on Saturday, February 14, 2009.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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