This past Friday night (April 11), I had the pleasure of being invited to a show at a new venue in down-town Vancouver. On Main Street just past the infamous intersection of Main and Hastings, I parked my car in front of the Vancouver Police Department as I figured it was super safe there (and it was). Everything about this show was new – a new venue called Imperial, which has great acoustics and is generous in its size and layout; an older band with a new name (Louder Than Love changed its name to City Walls); a new drummer and bassist, and fresh new songs. The stage was set for a great night. You could feel the electricity in the air.
There were three outstanding bands that opened for City Walls – Dear Adeline, Real Mad Decent and Six to Midnight. I had no idea what to expect since I had not heard of any of these bands as I’ve not been well medically for the last couple of years, but I’m on the rebound now. We walked into the venue as the first band, Dear Adeline, were just about wrapping up their set, so I don’t know what to say except the last 2 songs sounded pretty darn good. Real Mad Decent (2013 CFOX Seeds Top 20 finalists) were up next and they were not too bad. They did remind me a lot of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers (their last song’s music sounded a lot like “Blood Sugar Sex Magic”), but, they were entertaining nonetheless. Six to Midnight were also a tight band musically, and the lead singer sounded like Scott Anderson from the Canadian band Finger Eleven, but again, they put on a great show. All three opening bands had fun on-stage and were full of passion and joy just for the pleasure of playing to a live audience – there was a lot of energy flying back and forth between all four bands and the crowd.
City Walls took to the stage at 11:30 pm due to some technical difficulties that were eventually solved. My friend Denis and I were excited to see the new line-up of the band since their Louder Than Love days. Louder Than Love won the CFOX Seeds competition in 2011 and were signed to Cordova Bay Entertainment as a direct result of the win. They took some time to get things in order, added 2 new band members and lost 3 former members. They also spent time writing new songs, jamming them out in rehearsals, working out the instrumentations and the final result is a stellar CD called Engines. I have to say that I’ve rarely heard such phenomenal instrumentation that was consistent through the entire live set with virtually no mistakes made. Wow. Denis even met some of the parents of some of the band members (I think it was Nate’s Mom!). I was too immersed in taking photos and listening carefully to the music. City Walls did a really good cover of Bryan Adams’ song “Run To You” and played the title track from their Louder Than Love CD Dark Days which ironically is one of my all time favourite songs.
Engines was produced with Arnold Lanni (Our Lady Peace, Finger Eleven) and Howard Redekopp (Mother Mother, The New Pornographers) as well as by Paul Lambert and Adam Greenholtz. Arnold and Howard helped to develop a heightened lyrical depth and add a more robust and impactful sound to the CD. Paul Lambert (guitars/lead vocals) is the principal songwriter supported by Nate Parsons (guitars/supporting vocals) on several of the songs on the CD. Tony Lambert (bassist and Paul’s brother) and Brian Welsch (drummer) helped in developing the bands’ live sound.
Moving on to the CD review, here are the track listings:
2. What I’m Looking For
4. Before We Go
5. Nine Years
6. How It Feels
7. The Sign
8. These 4 Walls
9. Never Enough
11. Long Road
Before I say too much about the CD, I want to just take a moment to thank Paul Lambert for extending an invitation to Denis and I. It was great seeing you all again and I hope to see you all when you return from your tour. At the bottom of the article I’ll list the tour dates. You seriously need to check out this band and their music.
The CD opens with the song “Trapped” which is the first single released from the CD. Rocking out with an upbeat song, a good hook and a good melody is always a good thing. With lyrics like “I think I found a way out of here” makes one wonder if the song is about both people feeling this way or just one. But one thing is for sure – they are both in it up to the nth degree. Running from the cops, on the run and sweating it out from the heat of the nights can be one way to look at this song. But ultimately it’s up to the individual to figure it out for themselves.
“What I’m Looking For” begins with a forlorn melody and is a really good song in a ballad tradition. It picks up with full instruments playing but there is some serious soul searching going on in this song with lyrics like “Letting go of the lies that filled my head” and “You always brought me back in the nick of time” seem to indicate sadness in a profound way, and having someone pull him/her back to reality. The vocal range of Paul’s voice is done really well in conjunction to the music and melody.
“Higher” is a song that is played very well by all members of the band. It’s a good rock song with the opening lyric stating “I remember when we set the world on fire” should tell you something about what the song is about. Getting higher can mean different things to individuals and I like this song based on the generalness of the song to make it relate-able to a vast range of people. The melody is really good, the vocals are done well and really good bass work with root chords. A very upbeat and positive song that makes you feel good. I could see this song being used an anthem of some kind.
“Before We Go” is a song about love and is kind of folk-rock that builds as the song continues. Love is a strong emotion, and Paul dedicated this song to someone special at the show. I really like this song as it’s the bond of love between two people. This song was played very well live and reflects well on the CD and vice-versa. The melody is simple but the lyrics compliment the melody.
“Nine Years” was a song that caught my interest immediately when it was played live. I like the melody, the instrumentation of this song is phenomenal especially with Nate playing the mandolin, and was played exactly as the song is on the CD. Good start/stop breaks and very well played. This is my favourite song on the CD. It has a folksy kind of feel to it as well.
“How It Feels” has a sweet pleasing melody that reminds me of a lazy summer day musically. With lyrics like “Gravity is a killer, its trying to hold me down for good” and “You know how it feels don’t ya?” is a song that has multiple meanings which again is general in it’s true meaning that has potential to reach many people. I like how the song is played and the vocals are again well done. It has a bluesy/folk/rock feel to it as well.
“The Sign” has a melody that is in minor keys and has a darkness to it musically. “The signs are here, it’s time to leave it all behind” and “Open up your mind and leave it all behind” could be interpreted in many ways. Personally, I perceive it to be about leaving a place permanently or indefinitely. The slide blues guitar solo that Paul plays towards the end of the song is awesome. I can relate to the lyrics in this song because I came from a city that I really didn’t like and still don’t like. The mandolin Nate plays in this song gives the song a more rustic feel to it in a country rock way.
“These 4 Walls” definitely has a country flavour to the music. A good melody which is played very well with good vocals, and is a clapping kind of song. Lydia Hol joined the band on-stage for this song and it was received very well. Again Nate played the the mandolin and Paul played acoustic guitar. No bass or full drums. It’s a well constructed song musically that flows really well. Lydia and Paul’s vocals blend well together live and on the CD.
“Never Enough” is a good rock song played well musically. Lyrically, it seems to be about a struggle with someone, something or an addiction. The vocals are really well done, the depth of the music and lyrics is evident all over the songs but is particularly done well in this one song. “You wanna move on but you can’t let it go” is one lyric that stands out for me in this song – it again gives you a general meaning about what that could be. Again, a vast population can relate to this song.
The CD title track “Engines” has a great feel to it. Starting slow, filling out the song, going bare bones, it’s all here in this song. It reminds me of how the band works; the engine of the band is all four members. Lyrically “We’re waiting on the engines of the past/….and now its time to turn me on at last” makes me think that the past was great and a lot was learned but now new opportunities are on the horizon. Great work by all members!
The final song “Long Road” is another favourite of mine on this CD. An acoustic guitar with Paul’s vocals bring the melody of the song out immediately. Speaking of lost souls, a long road and cloudy days disappearing reminds me that lyrically it can give hope to anyone who listens to this song. It’s a pleasant song that leaves the listener with a good impression of a band that has developed over the last three years.
I truly believe in this band and the musical ability of the four men in it. They have a good support structure around them. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they hit the big time in the next few years if they continue on the path they are on right now. The music and lyrics make a band but the people in the band are what make the music and lyrics possible. Paul and Nate are such great people and Tony and Brian seem really in tune with the bands’ live development that will continue to evolve and change. Paul and Tony being brothers helps out immensely because they “know” each other. I look forward to hearing more music from this band and watching them progress through the next couple of years. I highly recommend this CD if you like good solid music that is progressive and ever changing. It would be an added bonus if you had this in your collection of music beside the greats like Pink Floyd (in a progressive band way), The Doobie Brothers (in its musical instrumentation) and Mother Mother (in lyrical depth and live show development).
I would like to let you know that you should go and see this band live. They begin their National Tour on April 18 and wrap it up on May 17. Below is a great photo with the show dates listed. I’ve also included the band’s video for “Trapped” at the end.