Review – Sex With Strangers – You Know Something We Don’t? (2014)


Sex With Strangers (SWS) are from the shadows of rain-covered Vancouver.  They draw from a wide source of influences from new wave and post-punk to ’60’s inspired ballads. Although the band revels in the exploration of a wide variety of genres, SWS has managed to create their own unique sound that is highlighted by robust bass grooves and the vocal interplay between lead singers Hatch Benedict (lead vox/keyboards) and Alexis Young (lead vox/keyboards).  It seems to me that Hatch has met his female musical counterpart in Alexis and vice-versa.  They play well off each other as far as studio music is concerned.  Rounding out the band is Mike Gentile (bass), Cory Price (guitars) and Dan Walker (drums).  I’ve been a big fan of this band since 2009’s The Tokyo Steel LP.  Spin Magazine once named SWS as one of “7 Undiscovered Bands Worth a Listen”, and they are best known for their feverish and interactive live performances.  The band has been showcased at a number of North American Festivals since their inception – which includes performances at SXSW, CMJ, NXNE, Halifax Pop Explosion, Riffilandia, Sled Island, Junofest and Shambhala.

Hatch Benedict.  Photo by Jade Sperry 2010.

Hatch Benedict. Photo by Jade Sperry 2010.

The band are set to release their 6th Studio LP this May 27.  This LP extends the sonic margins of the band’s previous efforts, moving the guitars out front and furthering the unique vocal interplay of Hatch and Alexis.  The vision for this new album is clearly evident when comparing the album’s first single “Slaves to the Night” (a dark unrelenting bass driven track) to Alexis Young’s dreamy synth crackling entry ballad “Burned”.

The album was recorded, mixed and produced by Paul Boechler (along with the band Sex With Strangers) at Garth Richardson’s Fader Mountain Studios in Vancouver. It was mastered by Brock McFarlane (at CPS Mastering Vancouver BC).  The cd was designed and photographed by Alexis Young with photo styling by Lindsay Elliott. Also in the cd, there is a thank you to the students at the Nimbus School of Recording Arts in Vancouver BC.

Mike Gentile (bass) on the left and Cory Price (guitar) on the right. Photo by Jade Sperry 2010.

Mike Gentile (bass) on the left and Cory Price (guitar) on the right. Photo by Jade Sperry 2010.

The track listing is as follows:

1.   Hostages

2.   22

3.   Pink Sock

4.   Slaves to the Night

5.   Falling Over

6.   Burned

7.  Wasted Glory

8.   Space Wolf

9.   Temporary Love Confession’

10.  Wandering Eyes

“Hostages” begins with high chords on the guitar and has some good bass grooves that come in and out of the song which gives it a choppy feel.  “Don’t you hate it when the panic never arrives?” and “Don’t you hate it when the truth sounds better than lies?” are great lyrics in my books because in a lot of ways, these are true statements. What you expect to happen doesn’t.  “Whatever happened to our senses?” gives one a thought of your senses may be misleading you because you want something to happen that never does.  “You don’t want to be hostages in the night” which can elude to some primal act or emotion or both.  Great song!  This song also reminds me of another great Vancouver band whose CD I’m also reviewing right now.

“22” is a good song with a good hook and melody.  Reminding me of a band in Ontario whose music I really like, this song is taken over by Alexis who sings the lead vocals.  The music is fast, danceable and has a feeling of being crazy. This song also sounds very punk in the music because of the guitar work by Cory Price.  Alexis’ vocals are really good and make a dramatic part from Hatchs’ vocals.  “Let’s go out and tell everyone we know” and “Cause you won’t stop and I won’t tell you no” gives you the impression that there is something that one cannot say no to.  What that is only the band knows.

“Pink Sock” is an interesting title for a song that is written in minor keys (as much of the album is) which gives it a slightly darker feel to it.  “I only want to watch you carry on with your convection” which gives me the impression someone is watching you for what reason(s)?  For their own amusement?  Or for some darker purpose you aren’t aware of?  The guitars are very much in your face but so is the keyboards, so you have a duel off between them. Which is wild and crazy as the melody of the song is really not like that.  But SWS has a way of making notes of music do that.  Bend it baby!

By far the best song on the CD is “Slaves to the Night”.  Wow.  The bass work by Mike is so deep down which makes the song and gives it a great backbone to work off of. Dirty heavy guitars are laced throughout the song as an evil coiled snake moving its way through the songs sinewy body.  Hatch and Alexis’ vocals trade off each other and also compliment each other which gives the song an even more darker edge.  The melody itself is rather edgy in its own way and kind of has a life of its own.  “….I warned you lovers/you can’t take back what’s under the covers” is a great lyric for this song and gives me an indication as to what the song is about.  Fantastic job on guitars Cory!

“Burned” is a dark ballad sung very well by Alexis.  The melody has a very dark edge to it and is all keyboards with some drums, other percussion instruments and guitars with a little bass.  The song reminds me a very well cooked meal in its design.  The melody flows really well in the background giving it a full lush sound. With lyrics like “Oh the way you tricked me and how you lied” and “Oh and how it feels to be so alive” give an indication of a romance gone bad in visceral way but somehow managing to surviving the fallout.

“Space Wolf” is a great title for any song but this song reminds me of a running wolf.  Always going going going without taking time to look around and enjoy life around him/her.  Once again, Hatch and Alexis trade off vocals with Hatch being the aggressive singer and Alexis being softer more gentle with the lyrics.  The music is fast paced, moving on its own as if it too is alive.  “Let me hear you lie” reminds me of lying and maybe getting away with it.  But in the animal world its all about energy that you give off so in a way I would imagine it would be harder to lie to another animal.  That’s how I see the song – very animal like and of the energetic world as opposed to our shallow world of make believe and distractions.

All in all this is an evolutionary turn for SWS as this is a real departure from the last five albums.  Their fourth album, Behaviours, indicates a direction but this album is that direction burning down the highway in the fast lane.  I look forward to hearing more from SWS in the future and also look forward to hearing more evolution from these great people.

The band doesn’t have a video off the new album yet, but from 2011, Sex With Strangers show their fun side from The Peak Performance Project with 102.7 The Peak (Vancouver Radio Station).  Enjoy!

SWS are also playing a FREE CD release show in the Vancouver area on Thursday May 29 with some of their friends Actors, War Baby and Combine the Victorious and DJ Trevor Risk (Ice Cream Social) at The Fox Cabaret.  Come on down and have some fun and some drinks!  You might even end up meeting the band who wander freely with drinks in hand through the club stalking nothing and no one in particular.

SWS_FoxShow_May29_forweb

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Jade Sperry thanks you very much for any and all comments. JS

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