JASON COLLETT with BAHAMAS, ZEUS, KEVIN DREW, DANIELLE DUVAL, CHARLES SPEARIN, ANDREW CASH, HOWIE BECK and others at the Great Hall (1087 Queen West), Tuesday (October 2), doors 8 pm. $15. RT, SS, TM. See listing.
While he was writing the lyrics to his newest album, Reckon (Arts & Crafts), Jason Collett repeatedly stumbled upon a St. Augustine quote he'd scribbled in his notebook: "Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to change them."
That sentiment became a motivator for the record, arguably his most overtly political one yet. The Toronto singer/songwriter/sometime-Broken Social Scenester has never shied away from injecting his songs with his incisive convictions, but Reckon rails against dogmatic nationalism, anti-environmentalism and "the largest swindle of public money ever" in a way that suggests he's taken the Occupy movement to heart.
"Well, I was actually hitting the studio just as Occupy was starting, so I had already written the songs," says Collett over the phone from his Bloor and Ossington home. "It felt like a certain kind of serendipity. This is the way a lot of people are feeling, and now there's a movement to put voice to it. My album is just a part of that larger groundswell."
But Collett is quick to assert that Reckon is a piece of art, not a political tract. The theme of economic calamity provides a consistent undercurrent, but there's also emotion, poetry and humour, all under "the big tent of rock and roll."
"There's a weight to most of the songs," he says. "But there's no point in screaming. People can't relate to a record that's shrill with rhetoric."
Collett says the album is his most personal in years, a result of both the subject matter and the recording. His last, 2010's Rat A Tat Tat, was as much a Collett album as a showcase for his backing band, Zeus, who also played a production role. The band contributed to Reckon as well, but knowing they wouldn't be available to tour, Collett used them more as a session band. As a result, the songs are shorter, sparser and rootsier than his recent rock-inflected compositions.
Ironically, Collett's being forced to return to his solo roots speaks to his talent for choosing breakout-worthy collaborators - Howie Beck, Andrew Cash, Bahamas and Broken Social Scene, to name a few - many of whom will join him at his "Frankenstein" hometown release show.
The show will be reminiscent of his annual Basement Revue series, a high-brow variety show at the Dakota that unites music, poetry and theatre communities. This December, the series will spend one night at the much roomier Great Hall.