Shout Out Out Out Out

Not Saying / Just Saying

(Nrmls Wlcm Rcrds; 2006)

By Connor Morris | 3 February 2008

It says a lot when a band cares more about getting their album out than how well it’s going to be received. Acclaim, financial stability, respect from contemporaries; none of it matters when faced with the bleak obstacles that threaten the very possibility you might have an “album” in the first place. SO4 (the accepted abbreviation among members of the hip Edmonton crowd) and their debut simply weren’t going to fall into our laps. It took two years of scopic touring and hefty self-promotion to get the sextuplet where they are today, and finally being able to say they made the album they wanted to could make it all worthwhile. With their own money, on their own label, Not Saying/Just Saying managed to make its way to shelves. A story that translated means indie success, yes, but did getting it there stand in the way of the group’s blatant creative potential?

The question for fans and critics alike: would the album be able to capture the buxom power of the band’s live performance without sounding like a local hack job? Myths before legends, SO4’s surge to popularity started with help from that relic of the press world: word of mouth. Two drummers and a drum machine? Four bass players? Three guys playing synth? No guitars? Vocoder on every song? Four “out”’s in a name? Not so easy to believe. Even more difficult was actually hearing the band combine these elements without wondering how long the gimmick would last. As it turned out, tenure was never a valid concern. The six Edmonton inhabitants dwarfed every stage they set foot on, sending low frequency ripples through the stomach and spinal cord of anyone present. The drums stamped, the keys purred, and front man Nik Kozub’s warbled vocals gave the songs an identity. As dance as they are rock, the relatively up-beat sound set the boys even further apart from their garage- or indie-oriented peers. Party music without a hint of cynicism or pretense, the timing couldn’t have been better.

For die-hard fans of the unprecedented live performances, this record may (albeit shouldn’t) disappoint. Spontaneity not completely dissipated, Not Saying/Just Saying still isn’t the proper representation of a venue night, but it’s more than worthy of attention. Opening track “Forever Indebted” sets pneumatics in motion over signature bass licks and a ticking disco melody. The song’s pressing breakdown makes a strong testament to the band’s unwillingness to be predictable, and sets a striking pace for what follows. “Your Shitty Record Won’t Mix Itself” churns and squelches before blasting out its monstrous synth hook. “Inspiration > Competition” builds on more familiar ground, patiently moving toward a high-octane disco chorus. “They Tear Down Houses Don’t They?”, the gargantuan six-minute centerpiece, is heavy on local flavor; noting both the city’s recent urban sprawl and subsequent tearing down of historical landmarks, the title is also a not-so-subtle nod to recent Sub-Pop signees and fellow Canadians They Shoot Horses Don’t They?

Not Saying/Just Saying is a remarkable model of efficiency, musicianship, and songwriting capability. A taut structure of dance, Krautrock, disco and punk, with the heart to outlast most pan-flashing acts attempting to cling to the same loosely bound skeleton. And even if the band has crafted this product at the price of sacrificing some of their live sound, so be it -- it’s not like they aren’t going to play anymore. Whether or not the hopes and fears surrounding the album’s release will push it to a satisfying apex or bring it to its knees is yet to be seen. With a strong Alberta following and an always-increasing status in the east, Not Saying/Just Saying could be the long-desired Edmontonian success story. But with all of these direct-to-spine grooves, who’s even thinking about that?