TRICKY WOO with NASHVILLE PUSSY and TUULI at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Friday (May 18). $20. 416-532-1598. Rating: NNNNN
with no fewer than three classic rock radio stations on the local dial and a slate of summer tours by old-school monsters like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Deep Purple, Styx and Robert Plant, there's no doubt that rock of the rawk variety is thriving.
Yet that only partly explains the growing buzz about Montreal crushers Tricky Woo. The bruising guiterrorism and lead-footed percussive wallop of their Sometimes I Cry disc -- to say nothing of their in-your-face live shows -- kept the affections of college radio for most of 99 while gathering a Juno nomination for best alternative album. (They lost, although singer/guitarist Andrew Dickson allows, "My mom dug it.")
If any band is capable of bridging the chasm between devil-saluting, hair-swinging 70s rockers and devil-saluting, hair-swinging 00s rockers, it's Tricky Woo.
But a disarmingly subdued Dickson explains from just outside Halifax, where the band is touring to support their just-released Les Sables Magiques disc, that tapping the mullet market is not something the Woo is keen to do.
"We're just trying to be human beings living now," Dickson says. It's hard to believe this soft-spoken chappy is the same manic belter who drives Tricky Woo gigs to the brink of collapse.
"The classic rock crowd is made up of people who are fixed in their ways and would be willing to pay attention to stuff that we do that sounds like the past, but wouldn't be receptive to newer sounds.
"And let's face it -- most of these bands are pretty bad now. The cover bands are better than some of these bands that are coming back from the dead."
That may be true, but the classic rock crowd is also fiercely loyal, which explains how a band like Skynyrd can tour 23 years after the death of its key member.
Tricky Woo's Les Sables Magiques -- while maintaining the Detroit-damaged scorch of its predecessor -- pushes the edges further, occasionally framing Dickson's psychedelic lyrics with violin and viola but keeping the crunch factor high. Conscious effort?
"That's fair to say," Dickson says. "Part of it was the amount of touring we did with the last record, but we also had a fair bit of time off before recording, and we became a three-piece before writing the album.
"Our other guitarist, Adrian Popovich, left to start a studio in Montreal, and now we have Phil Burns (guitar/organ) with us. But this was probably the most time we've had in the studio or prior to making a record."
Despite the ballast, careful scrutiny of Dickson's lyrics on Les Sables Magiques reveals a feline fascination one wouldn't expect to find in a band this wigged.
"My old lady and I have six cats at the house," he says, explaining songs like 6 Cats And A Podium. "There's a Miss Woo, and she and I came together around the time the band started. There's Buddy Guy the cat. Other than that, they all have regular affectionate names."