The idea of downtown Canada being the new Seattle was kinda stupid at best, but if the Stills are allowed to have a second album, then I ask, "Why not Chad VanGaalen?" On "Flower Gardens" (the first and possibly best track on his new record), VanGaalen puts us on a Miami Vice-style boat ride with fuzz and synth laid down like lines of early '80s cocaine. And borrowing from fellow Canadian Randy Bachman, VanGaalen does the "Ain't seen nothing yet!" stutter almost as well as the BTO front man (and onetime DOA collaborator, FYI). VanGaalen's songs are usually just a vehicle for the chorus, so sometimes he's able to fool you into thinking you're listening to a great song. But these are really just snippets of great ideas that unfortunately don't work as a whole. This may be the Achilles heel of the solo artist who records at home: sometimes it helps to have a couple of other dudes in the band to help you realize your ideas. Another problem is that VanGaalen is all over the map style-wise, so the cohesiveness of the album suffers. But although he's not the most talented songwriter, he is a weirdo, and that ultimately makes him okay. Next time you're driving around and your friend puts this record on, try to remember which song it is you want him to burn for you. Hint: it's the one that goes boring-awesome-boring-awesome-bridge-awesome.
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