[CD Review] Sebastien Grainger, 'Sebastien Grainger N the Mountains' (Saddle Creek)

It’s been nearly five years since Sebastien Grainger and Jesse Keeler broke through with Death From Above 1979’s cult smash, You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, and two years since the raucous Canadian duo called it quits. Taking a step back from the remix and electronic work he’s done in the interim, Grainger embraces rootsy, anthemic rock in a big way on his first solo album.

Despite the title and the fact that he’s touring with a full band, this record is all Grainger, for better or worse. It’s choppy, hit-and-miss, self-indulgent, and self-consciously cool, but also catchy, diverse, determined, and fiercely energetic. Grainger loves to graft dirty guitars and dirtier singing to a thick, dance-y rhythm section and let things explode all over the place from there, whether he’s nodding to Prince with funk and falsetto on the concert-recorded “I’m All Rage” or blowing off steam with the curt, throttling “Niagara.”

His ragged voice can resemble Spoon’s Britt Daniel, though he typically howls into a distorted mic to make it even more ragged. He aims for arena-rock expansiveness on “(I Am Like A) River,” and even his songs nodding to U2, Springsteen, and the Stones retain traces of DFA 1979 while packing infectious amounts of tambourine. Sometimes it comes together well, as on “American Names”—the title track of a digital EP preceding this album—and other times not so much, as on the closer “Renegade Silence,” culled from his bedroom project the Rhythm Method (har har).

Grainger’s range should come as no surprise to anyone who’s followed his collaborations over the years, from hardcore punks Fucked Up to Canadian rapper K-Os to the young U.K. brats Does It Offend You, Yeah? And this debut is similarly restless. Trouble is, it winds up feeling more like a rushed odds-and-sods collection than a proper platter.

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