The Midways

Pay More And Get A Good Seat

(Fuzzy Logic; 2004)

By Scott Reid | 28 February 2004

For the amount of nostalgic throw-back acts that continually proliferate pretty much any successful/fruitful style or trend of old, it always surprises me how many don’t realize that they’re really fucking it up the second they try adding something significant to the mix. On the surface, it would seem to make sense – take the old, bring in some new, throw ‘em together and, you know, see what comes out. But the way it goes, and the way it’ll probably continue to go, is that most bands copping a style to the point where they’re instantly deemed throw-back artists – and there are exceptions for this of course, but there’s a reason they’re called “exceptions” – are only really interesting for playing a style that had already won us over, and though it’d be nice to think that all bands tackling old styles would find a way to meliorate it, our ears constantly prove otherwise.

The Midways are four-piece out of Toronto that finally get it. They love ‘60s garage-rock with a hint of surf, rockabilly and aggressive R&B, and from the opening Farfisa organ burst of opener “Find Another Girl” to the closing Farfisa organ burst of “Last Night,” they concern themselves with one thing and one thing only: channeling the music they love in a strictly felicitous style without any presumptuous “we can make this better with an original twist!” bullshit.

Produced by the Fembot’s Dave Mackinnon and Brian Poirier, Pay More and Get a Good Seat covers a few of their favorites along the way (including a great cover of Larry and the Bluenotes’s “Night of the Phantom” – and, like true geeks, they’ve reverted it to the original lyrics and title, “Night of the Sadist” – and a surprisingly tight version of fad dance hit “Dish Rag”), but you’d have a hard time really distinguishing the feel of their covers from their own parasitic three chord rave-ups.

Their attention to detail falters in the same way as many of the records they’ve idolized; you could really hit random and thoroughly enjoy any track that comes up, but after fifteen minutes the monotony of the dense arrangements and homogenous hooks renders the whole of the album like twelve slight variations of the same basic track. Even lyrically the subject only really changes during the covers (making “Dish Rag” even more of a clever and startling inclusion). But it’s a contagious and familiar basic track they use, and even during its weaker moments – the underwhelming “Yea! Yea! Yea!,” for example, which lacks the intensity of highlights “A Lot Like Me,” “Don’t You Know,” “Last Night” and “Hurt On You” – the Midways sound like they’re having the time of their lives, which is often just as infectious as the music itself.

Their goal on Pay More, their debut release, is unmistakably clear and by any measure, they’re wildly successful – thankfully avoiding the temptation to fuck it all up in an attempt to prove their worth as something other than a ‘60s garage/surf throw-back armed with the youth, passion and energy it demands. Frankly, this’ll do just fine.