Canadian guitar rock quartet Ladyhawk play a tough, emotionally wrought brand of six-string raunch that alternately plods and throbs, exposing the vulnerability of frontman and guitarist Duffy Dreidiger in songs that are simply riff-oriented and have plenty of crunch and roar. "The Dugout" is a fine example of reverie as the stuff of heartbreak bordering on rage. When a singer is this out front, laying bare a soul that is adolescent in its wish and disappointment, it's tough not to identify with him. In the chorus when he sings: "Turn your light on/turning your light on me," it's not a` command, it's a plea. Twin six-strings find a slightly behind-the-beat way of playing dual leads made up of one or two notes -- think of Neil Young with Crazy Horse or J. Mascis' Dinosaur Jr. Oh yeah, this is indie rock, pure and simple, and the band make no bones about the heroes they worship. That said, these songs have their own brand of angst, their own catchiness and charm because they are rooted in so much freaking electricity. Dynamics and texture are brought forth not from production, but in the wailing of electric guitars, shambolic drumming, and basslines that accent the almighty riff, not the groove. The muddiness of the band's attack is showcased well in "Came in Brave," with drunkenness, loneliness, and bewilderment buoyed by pure loud-ass rawk. There are a few duds here, as well, in "Long 'Til the Morning," that's over seven minutes and is simply pointless in its trudge and slow-burning depressiveness. It feels a little too close to jam band territory for comfort. Likewise, "Advise" tries to be clever in its use of space but it feels contrived. The country-rock "Drunk Eyes" is obvious but works well in its unmasking of masculinity. The backing vocals feel so much like CSN&Y it's uncomfortable. But those guitars, just roiling and quaking, carry the weight and make it one of the best cuts on the set. This is an auspicious if imperfect debut. The shoddy aspects of the songwriting here, and the band's basking so plainly in their influences, are both problematic and yet a relief. There is no "next big thing" here, and that's certainly a plus. There's room for this quartet to grow and flourish. In the meantime, Ladyhawk's offering is well worth a listen or three.
by Thom Jurek