Jim Guthrie

Now, More Than Ever

(Three Gut; 2003)

By Aaron Newell | 19 October 2007

So I’m sitting there with my buddy Pat enjoying Royal City (apparently Scott thinks that’s not possible, but this is a true story) at the Cellar Pub in Fredericton (no windows, dartboards, foozball for miles) and the band is taking a break to tune up before the next song. Lead man Aaron Riche decides to do the “charismatic” thing and blubs: “Well, this is question time, does anyone want to say something?” I was drunk, and was at a table up front, so I raised my hand. Riche: “OK you sir, in the front, with the empty beer stein.”

I knew the band was on its way to Newfoundland, and that never happens (i.e. “solid half-popular band from Toronto playing in St. John’s”) and I also knew my good buddy Mike Condon was eagerly awaiting both Royal City and the Constantines, so I said: “when you get to Newfoundland there will be a tall gentleman with long-ish, reddish hair who will introduce himself as “Mike Condon”, he said he’d buy all you guys a couple of beer when you got in town.” Now, Mike didn’t say anything of the sort, but, at the time, I thought that would be a wild and fantastically hilarious joke on him; definitely one that would get on the news, and most certainly the inspiration for a future Hollywood film or at least a show with Ashton Kutcher. Jim Guthrie must have been hammered, too, as at that moment he decided to crack a joke of his own. He said: “My Condom?” (see, “Mike Condon” sounds like “My Condom” sort of).

Everyone in the bar went dead quiet except for some dude in the bathroom who yelled out “good one” in a dead-pan that actually meant “ha ha let’s rush him.”

Jim did manage to survive that evening, and his near-death experience inspired him to record one of the most impressive, lush, masterful, beautiful, etc., “pop” albums that I’ve had the good fortune of rediscovering recently. Now, More Than Ever will, for fans of the Shins, Archer Prewitt, Sufjan Stevens (circa Michigan), Augie March, and generally beautifully-orchestrated, microscopically-detailed “pop” (the type of music that is belittled by the term “pop” but really doesn’t fit anything else) become one of “those albums” that people thank you for turning them on to. “Oh my God, I love this – how did you hear about this?”

Why are we reviewing this now --- a good nine months after nine stellar reviews all posted here, and well over a year since landing on one of our own year-end lists in 2003? Well, one, we didn't get to it the first time around and we’re ashamed of that; and, two, Now, More Than Ever just happens to be one of the longest-running Canadian indie record success stories still going. It was released in Canada in November 2003, picked up for US distro in June of last year, and just recently got a Juno (Canadian Grammy) nomination for “Alternative Album of the Year” for 2005. Competition is stiff (Feist, Stars, A.C. Newman and Arcade Fire) but all of the above have had considerably more and considerably more recent buzz (except, like, who is the “Arcade Fire?" E-mail if you have info). This is cokemachineglow’s little effort to big up the underdog --- we adore this album and are pretty sure most of you will, too.

How exactly is Guthrie an underdog? Even though Nowis the oldest Juno nominee, it has been promoted and worked the least of all in the running for the award. Second, Guthrie has no Matador or Merge or New Pornographers or David Bowie or Broken Social Scene connections to flaunt. What he does have is, obviously, one of “those” albums that has managed to persevere in critical circles for almost two years running and is only recently receiving the “official” acclaim that: 1) it deserves; and 2) us protectionist indie types like to use as “I told you so” ammunition in overlong, themed adverts posing as reviews that wax about a record for four paragraphs without once detailing the music that lies therein.

So I’m just going to leave this alone now, and, as it has been since November 2003, let the album do most of its own promotion. www.threegutrecords.com for your purchasing needs after the mp3’s below drive you crazy. And yes, I did write this piece just because I love this record so much. Enjoy.