High Noon

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The Arkells aim for the cheap seats on their big, boisterous third album, High Noon. Working with L.A. heavyweight Tony Hoffer (Beck, Phoenix, M83), the two-time Juno Award-winning rockers from Hamilton, Ontario have made what is easily their most commercially minded and immediate-sounding record. It's a logical progression following 2011's Michigan Left, which dialed down some of the rock heft from their 2009 debut, replacing it with bits of slightly more complex pop ornamentation. On High Noon, both the Springsteen-style stadium rockers and the modern pop synth bits have been dramatically emphasized to mixed results. One one hand, the Arkells are by no means some high-minded indie art band. They are outspoken and ambitious, and make no bones about their quest to rule the Provinces, and with tracks like the huge, politically charged opener "Fake Money" and the infectious piano-organ jam "Cynical Bastards," they very well might succeed. The bold strokes of those songs and the strong melodies of tracks like lead single "Never Thought That This Would Happen" play to the band's major strengths. There are times, though, when High Noon feels a little too injected and the heavy-handed production works against them. "11:11" and "Dirty Blonde" play a bit too hard on the trendy '80s fetish, though "Come to Light" (whose drum pattern is an awfully close cousin to Don Henley's "Boys of Summer") manages to use this to its advantage. In the end, it's clear that the Arkells want to be a big band and they've put themselves out there in a big way with High Noon.

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