ALL SYSTEMS GO CD release at the Bovine Sex Club (542 Queen West), Friday (May 9) at midnight. $5. 416-504-4239.
When party-friendly power pop punks All Systems Go named their new record on a weed-inspired whim, they figured a few people would get the reference.The moniker Mon Chi Chi, explains dreadlocked frontman John Kastner, stems from the group's goofy slang term for the marijuana munchies that plagued them while they were toking and recording the disc in a famous stoner-rock studio in the hipster Hollywood Hills.
It seemed like a silly band in-joke at the time, laughs the former member of beloved mid-90s Montreal rockers the Doughboys on the line from his home base near L.A., "but now that we've been touring around the world, we've discovered all these different countries have different meanings for mon chi chi!"
"In Mexico, it means big boobs, which is kinda embarrassing! In Japan, there's a doll called Mon Chi Chi, and in France it's like 'my darling.' It's cool that everyone's gonna have a different impression about what the album means, although I don't know about the big boobs thing. People might think we're a bunch of jock dudes or something."
The title may be up for interpretation, but All System's Go's exuberant hooky pop-punk anthems translate well on an international level.
Kastner says he's thrilled with the response to Mon Chi Chi (Aquarius/DKD), the foursome's first disc since 1999's jet-fuelled self-titled debut, especially now that he's disentangled himself from the gossipy, insular Canrock scene. He claims that European fans' ongoing devotion to their fave bands allowed him to let go of his competitive drive and write songs he loved without fear of being "eaten alive" by a self-defeatist music community.
The laid-back vibe comes through on the disc, where the band's growth in variety - "I'm proud of the first record, but I thought it was a bit too samey" - and the maturity of All Systems Go's songwriting are evident. Guests like the Afghan Whigs' Greg Dulli (a pal from Kastner's Silverlake neighbourhood) and childhood buddy Melissa Auf der Maur helped mix it up; a further factor in the band's sonic progression is the addition of Carnations bassist and songwriter Thom D'Arcy, who adds vocals and a flair for solid pop song structures.
There's even a downtempo ballad on Mon Chi Chi, which Kastner excitedly claims is the first slow song he's ever released. Meagan's Law is one of the album's strongest tracks, with doo-woppy chords and sweet girly harmonies (courtesy of Auf der Maur).
"It'll be a bad Stairway To Heaven for some high school in Chicoutimi," he jokes.
Considering the surfeit of puerile pop-punk outfits on the market (including labelmates Sum 41), you wonder if All Systems Go's movement away from straight-ahead candy-coated three-chord anthems is motivated by frustration with the genre.
Kastner ponders whether punk is still relevant.
"I think a lot of these current punk-pop boy bands' look is punk but their attitude isn't, and that's the one thing we've always had. We maintain this do-it-yourself attitude, and on that level we're the same as we ever were.
"The one thing I'm still really proud of is that, with the Doughboys, we were part of that Nirvana changing-of-music moment that happened in the early 90s. We had all the same booking agents, we were around all those bands, we saw it first-hand. I don't think I'll ever get to be part of something that big again. We were the Canadian version of that."