Mark Berube and the Patriotic Few: "Flowers on the Stones"
By Eric Sams | 9 August 2008
The image of planting a flower on stones is a little too cute. Yet, somehow, when Mark Berube tucks it into the busy march of “Flowers on the Stones” he manages to sell it. This song, off the upcoming What the Boat Gave the River, has a counterpart on the Montreal quartet’s last album, What the River Gave the Boat (2007). Oh, symmetry. If that song is meant to be a counterweight to this one, however, it must be bleak indeed, because this is near to untethered humanist rhapsody. Still, I’m buying it. Maybe it’s the anthemic sweep of the strings, maybe it’s the militant cadence of the snare, maybe it’s Berube’s own earnest, bleating delivery when he keens (seriously) “Stand up / and put your hands up / and never shut up / and plant your flowers on the stones.”
The lyrics in the verses are thankfully much more substantial, but even if they weren’t it would be tempting to just let this one ride as a sing-a-long bliss out. There’s just too much concentrated energy here to roll your eyes at. Essentially “Flowers” is a three-minute quickening crescendo, with the humble piano chops that begin the track by the final chanting chorus pounding out a grinding rhythm. A parade down the main drag of some too-bright thoroughfare, veering here and there onto the pristine sidewalk, onto the manicured grass, kicking up sod and chugging right along to some cliff somewhere to tumble off headlong. Because such unrestrained enthusiasm is, ultimately, fatal. But then so is everything else.