Detour Makes the Journey Worthy.
“You can never take the wrong road”
Phill Hood and The Exclamation’s first release lives up to its name, which itself took a detour to get to. Once called Travel, the (quite candid) story behind the change can be found in through my AFL podcast interview with frontman and songwriter, Phill Hood. Despite many a need to change course, however, the record seamlessly blends influences and genres creating a perfectly curated journey through the trials and tribulations of a touring musician and what it means to love, to lose, and to come home.
Fans of Can-rock like Barenaked Ladies and Great Big Sea will recognize the influence right away, but beneath that surface lies complex arrangements, intricate and varied guitar tones, and a rhythm section that is as comfortable with battlefield drum lines as it is with Springsteen rock. Detour grapples and comes to terms with the multitude of traits that define Canadians, from the perspective of a particularly observant and relatably personal lens.
Many of the band members’ roots lie in the east coast. The track St. John’s Tear (as in tear up the town) is a modern update of the drinking song, ideal for yelling “sociable!” and chronicling the pub crawl east coasters ritually take when back from the mainland. It’s rowdy, clever and begs for a sing-a-long. Coming Home serves as a sweet, reverent ballad and companion tune for the homesick, wherever you hail from. Both could be snapped up by Tourism Newfoundland and Labrador in a heartbeat, and both showcase Hood’s clearly practised craft of storytelling.
A strong 90s emo/alt rock influence is also palpable and well executed with my personal favourite track Nelly and some of the more Beatles influenced tunes like The Island, with some notes of Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World permeating throughout. Nearly as deft as his guitar work are Hood’s vocalisations, which flit effortlessly between intensely reverent on war epic Beaumont Hamel, to softly bittersweet love-lost final track 6:50, and elsewhere on the record belt out to a wonderfully maniacal scream when necessary. There’s even a taste of Broken Social Scene thrown in for good measure. In the capable hands of it’s composers, this dish is delicious even with the seemingly endless ingredient list.
There’s weight to this record especially in its instrumentation beyond the alt-rock foundation. We’re treated to wistful but not overused whistle, and perfectly true to his kitchen party roots Celtic fiddle work from classically trained but clearly having fun Jarred Albright, not to mention elevating harmonies from the Exclamation, and then some. It helps when you stack your band with musicians equally at home at their first instrument as their 6th. Hiring your best friends also doesn’t hurt.
With such a range of seemingly conflicting influences it’s a feat that Hood found cohesion amongst them, the success of which lies in his decision to self-produce. After many attempts and forks in the road over a decade (yet another reason for the album title) Phill decided to teach himself how to get the sound he envisioned, and it pays off in spades.
If you’re a fan of the above mentioned artists, enjoy a good tale of being on the road and indulging in a frosty beer, or know a little something about how our ever changing identity as Canadians is shaped as we traverse this country in search of discovery, Detour is sure to have something for you. To call it a love letter to the east coast would be an understatement. It feels at once like a candid look at the struggles of self discovery, while celebrating the characteristic strength against adversity which Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are known for. It’s absolutely a portrait of the man who wrote the music, and each member of the Exclamation along with Phill leaves it all on the stage that is this record.
Catch them live to witness their infectious enthusiasm and chemistry. Take any road you can to get this album. If you get lost along the way, all the better. You’ll make it eventually, and with a better story for it.
A Feedback Loop Podcast