Toronto’s Kiwi Jr. return with their collage of college rock that remains peppy, poppy, perky and preppy. Wry musings from the outskirts of polite society, humorous barbs aimed at a cast of many, a rogues’ gallery where the guilty are shamed yet not named. Their names withheld to deflect the indolent.

Like last year’s debut shot-in-the-arm ‘Football Money’ this is a(nother) resolutely upbeat turn of events facing down the eye of the current storm. At times they evoke the 90s indie-pedant rock terrain of Pavement and Weezer (themselves arguably note-taking and cherry-picking Jonathan Richman’s oeuvre) an abstract, askew, askance glancing at the action and a literate articulation of the findings. At other times their jingle-jangle spangle-angle reminds of the DIY catchy, scratchy, shambling UK C86 scene of The June Brides, The Weather Prophets and The Wedding Present (title track ‘Cooler Returns’ has a quality Gedgelike wig-out coda) or even one of that scene’s touchstones, Felt. ‘Only a haircut’ has a wailing George Harrisonish wah-wah guitar, oozing-bluesy harmonica and R.E.M.-like back-vox.

However, this is formula rock without ever being formulaic.

Cerebrally conversational and terribly observational these are the purviewed antics of a helpless (yet not hopeless) neuro-mantic, where patience is repeatedly worn thin, the eyes are forever arched and the chiding comes wrapped in enigmatic codes. One person’s interpretation another’s abnegation. The democratising power of ‘art’.

Singled out subjects of scrutiny include political apathy and/or disenfranchisement that reveals the pantomime of global brinkmanship where the electorate are the perennial losers ‘or’ is it a scathing takedown of the art world, you (s)elect (‘Undecided Voters’), Robin Hood’s paramour Maid Marian and Marilyn Monroe’s original incarnation (Norma Jean Baker) pop up in and out of context. Overall the vista is a scrawled-wall of aural hieroglyphics that will make a new kind of (non)sense upon another airing and hearing.

Up front and centre, orchestrating and incriminating is Jeremy Gaudet’s sage against the mien dextrous delivery and tone, a rich mix of the laconic and sardonic, a deliberate drawn-out drawl that evinces a distinct disinterested interestedness, which is in reality, upon closer listening a sing-song storytelling style, sometimes forlorn, others world-weary with a skilled neurolinguistic emphasis on the right words at the right time, he simply s-p-e-l-l-s out his retelling.

The rest of the group is comprised of Brohan Moore (drums), Mike Walker (bass), and Brian Murphy (guitar) who combined produce an abstract sound-painting full of relentless surreality in the face of daily drudgery. Art for heart’s ache.

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