I’ve fallen under the spell of Canadian geek music and it’s all my Canadian friends’ fault. Yes, blame Canada!
Last month on Pop Mythology I reviewed a compilation album called Geek Bands and thoroughly dug it. One of the bands whose songs I especially enjoyed was a band by the Star Wars-influenced moniker of Copy Red Leader, and so when I heard that they were releasing a new album, Crossing the Streams, in June I asked to be beamed on board for a review.
Like their compatriots Debs and Errol, Copy Red Leader are a Toronto-based duo. And I really don’t know what it is about these geek duos but they tend to be very versatile, a quality that in this instance prevents Crossing the Streams from feeling repetitive even as there are multiple songs about similar (or even the same) topics. CTS has not just two, not three, but four songs devoted to both Star Wars and Star Trek, respectively. Even for an SW and Trek fan that might be a bit too much were it not for the fun genre-hopping that duo Devin Melanson and Leslie Hudson playfully, and quite effortlessly, engage in throughout, shifting vocal technique and instrumentation from propulsive funk rock (album opener “Crossing the Streams”) to bluesy swagger (the Jabba the Hut anthem “Large and in Charge”) to Broadway-style musical theater (“P’s & Q’s”) to grin-inducing bluegrass (“Let the Wookiee Win”).
You might say that aside from the Ghostbusters and pop culture mashing that the album title references, Copy Red Leader are also crossing genre streams here and, in the process, prove that contrary to Spenglerian wisdom, crossing the streams is not “bad” but good. Very good.
As I mentioned only half-jokingly in my review of the Geek Bands compilation album, one of the pleasures of listening to geek music is that topically it’s a welcome departure from mainstream pop’s usual obsessions with love, romance and sex. Not that those things are entirely absent in Crossing the Streams (nor should they be), but even when they’re present they’re done in an irrepressibly offbeat and geeky way.
Consider one of my favorite tracks on the album, “I’m Not Bon Jovi,” in which Melanson’s very un-rock star-like manner of professing love to his wife is that while he may not exactly set loins aflame like the eponymous leather-clad rocker, at least he shovels the driveway and takes the kids to the hockey game even while hung over. Surely, Jon would be too busy, er, “commingling” with groupies to have time for such normality? It’s an endearing testament for loving the mundane reality that’s in front of us rather than pine for the fantasy that never was or never can be.
But just because geeks aren’t rock stars doesn’t mean their hormones don’t rage just as hard. “Dyson Sphere” even offers up the kind of good, old-fashioned sexual double entendres that would make AC/DC and Led Zeppelin proud:
My love’s as functional as Data’s manhood
And stiffer than Star Fleet brass
My love is longer than the DS9 wormhole
And wider than Guinan’s… hats
Oh, yeah. Are you hot and bothered yet?
While I can say I quite enjoyed this album as a whole, the highlights for me were the aforementioned “P’s & Q’s,” “I’m Not Bon Jovi,” “Dyson Sphere” and “Let the Wookiee Win,” along with ”Brawl in Ten Forward,” “Pigs in Space,” “Drawn That Way,” and the beautiful but all too short mid-album interlude inspired by Calvin & Hobbes, “Daydreaming in Class.” It’s in these tracks that I felt the duo’s gift for melody shine the brightest. Meanwhile, all throughout, Hudson’s voice—as luminous and effulgent as her blazing red hair—and Melanson’s earthy, throaty voice nicely offset and complement each other.
Finally, aside from everything I’ve just talked about, unless I’m mistaken Crossing the Streams wins the distinction of being perhaps the only album in history to contain an entire song devoted solely to that most underappreciated of Star Wars heroes, Wedge Antilles, in the aptly titled “I’m Not Bitter” (hint: he’s very bitter, so bitter he starts singing about the wrong Star franchise).
So, you know, unless you want to be left feeling bitter like Wedge, join the geek music revolution. Resistance is futile.