The Ontario-via-New Brunswick duo have always had a sense of humour – perfect for their unabashed rock stylle – but their new EP veers them towards joke-band territory
If you’re going to survive as a rock band in 2019, you better have a sense of humour.
That’s one of the things that made Partner – the Ontario-via-New Brunswick duo of Josée Caron and Lucy Niles – stand out with their debut album In Search Of Lost Time (which made our top albums of 2017 list). They took the tropes of 90s alt-rock and testosteroned-out 70s hard rock, embraced the cheese factor and didn’t shy away from the inherent funniness.
But there’s a line between band-with-jokes and joke-band, and on their new five-song EP, for the first time they’re standing on the edge.
Saturday The 14th (as in the day after Friday The 13th) starts with Fun For Everyone (Minions), a dance track half-rapped over a groovy bassline and with sung “bow chicka bow wow” backing vocals, with words about dancing like a minion – yes the cartoon character, though the lyrics admit they haven’t seen the movie.
Tell You Off is a twangy harmonica-laden honky-tonk tune with samples of farm animals and rubber chickens. It’s catchy, but extremely goofy. Stoned Thought is more in Partner’s wheelhouse with endless classic rock solos and riffs, a cowbell and lyrics about having great ideas while high and forgetting them while sober. The right kind of goofy.
Long & McQuade was inspired by the classic rock dudes who hang out at the titular music equipment shop, sung in a semi-grunge growl. It sounds like the perfect Partner premise – a way to unapologetically rip while casually approaching rock attitudes from the perspective of two queer women. But it sounds almost like they’re angling for an endorsement deal.
The EP ends with Les Ailes D’un Ange, a sweet-sounding francophone piano ballad sung by Caron in a whole new register. A song about facing your fears inspired by the emotive power of Céline Dion, it almost sounds like a different band until the drums come in and, soon, so do the November Rain-style guitar solos. It’s another left-turn, but one that has less in common with the skits on their last album – which was a gag that got old very quickly. It’s an intriguing risk.
The band are still fun and interesting, and they still have a knack for lodging a chorus in your brain. Here’s hoping the next album strikes a better balance.
Top track: Stoned Thought
Partner open for Wintersleep on April 13 at the Danforth Music Hall.
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