Arkells / Michigan Left / Universal
One of the highest rated Youtube comments on the video for “Whistleblower”, the lead single off Michigan Left, is “Thumbs up if your (sic) from Hamilton, Ontario”. It says something about the appeal of five-piece rock group Arkells – and the city of Hamilton itself, which the group calls home — that the only comment rated higher than that one is “Thumbs up if you aren’t from Hamilton, Ontario.” The group may take some jibes over the blue collar grittiness of their place of origin, but that hasn’t made them the least bit timid about it. It certainly doesn’t show on their second album, Michigan Left, where they mention the city by name in the opener “Book Club”, set the song “Where U Goin” in Brandon Hall residence at McMaster University, and even give a little lesson on the best route to take from Hamilton to the chemical sunsets of Sarnia (403, 401, 402).
Their penchant for workingman’s anthems comes through again in the form of a hit single — as it did with “Oh, The Boss is Coming!” — on “Whisteblower”, which celebrates employees brave enough to report the misconduct of their bosses. The working-class city just down shore from the nation’s financial and cultural capital really is a fitting setting for Arkells’ tales of coming to grips with personal inadequacies like not being able to cut it in university or not having enough cash to get out of the cheap seats at the football game. Throughout Michigan Left, Tim Oxford’s drum kit seems programmed to inspire hand claps from listeners, bassist Nick Dika is far groovier than he’s given credit for, and guitarist Mike DeAngelis and instrumentalist Dan Griffin keep things sounding so polished that the vivid scenarios described by soulful vocalist Max Kerman actually come to life.
Download: “Book Club”, “Whistleblower”, “Where U Goin”
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