DUOTANG with WEAKERTHANS and FOUR SQUARE at the Reverb (651 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, August 9). $10. 416-598-4753. Rating: NNNNN
Duotang drummer Sean Allum insists he's fine with the fact that a lot of fans are reacting to the Winnipeg bass and drums duo's new The Bright Side disc with shock that the group are even still around. You see, no one's more surprised about the release of a new Duotang album than the members of Duotang themselves.
After releasing two solid discs of modish, minimalist pop, the group imploded in 1999 on the heels of a marathon European tour. Allum went back to school, became a journalist and forgot about music for the time being, while bassist/vocalist Rod Slaughter joined power pop crew Novillero.
A few aborted attempts at restarting the group went nowhere until the two -- inspired, as many of the best things in life are, by alcohol -- finally hit at the root of the problem.
"I remember one night we were babbling drunkenly at a party," Allum laughs from Winnipeg, "and Rod and I agreed that if playing wasn't fun, we weren't going to do it again. When we were on the last tour, we just weren't having a good time. It was actually pretty terrible. Once we figured that out, it was fine.
"We were asked by our label to record a song for their Christmas single, and we wrote and recorded it in one night. Three days later, we wrote the title song for the new album and then were on the phone to the label, saying, 'Get ready, the record's going to be done soon.'
"In a way, it's like starting over, but when we started, it was just a fun thing to do. It finally feels like that again."
While the 2001 edition of Duotang is still largely just a bass and drums affair, the sound has expanded somewhat. The Bright Side features horns, keyboards and a sweetly bowed saw. The duo have also ditched their suits-only policy occasionally for some slightly more casual attire.
And while most bands bouncing back from a breakup would take their time slipping back into the music grind, Duotang seem more eager than ever to make their mark.
"We're neurotic about everything," Allum admits. "We worry about every single thing with the group, and now this is a bigger deal than ever. We want the record to do well and we want to be successful. We know what we're doing now, and maybe the time off made us a bit hungrier.
"We've already recorded a live album that we're trying to figure out what to do with. Also, a few weeks ago, Rod weirded me out by saying, 'You know, for the fourth album.' All of a sudden, it's the real deal again."