Reclaiming Canadian rock

Rock bands out of the great north aren’t getting the credit they deserve

When people ask me what I’ve been listening to lately and I say “modern Canadian rock,” the response I receive is usually a look of confusion or an unsure cock of the eyebrow. This is because for some reason, modern Canadian rock ’n’ roll is viewed as a joke. I blame Nickelback.

The truth is, there are really good things happening in the Canadian rock scene right now. I believe people just don’t know where to look. As Canadians, we are so influenced by our American neighbours, that sometimes we forget our own country is capable of creating tasteful art.

Of course we are home to some incredible bands like The Tragically Hip or The Guess Who, but in terms of new Canadian rock, there are many bands that are not receiving the recognition they deserve.

Although this is contestable, I believe the Saskatoon-based rock band The Sheepdogs are one of the first 21st century Canadian bands to prove that mainstream modern Canadian rock doesn’t always have to suck.

I remember when The Sheepdogs were first making their mark around 2010 when they released Learn and Burn. This band looked as if they had stepped out of a time machine, with their raw hippie aesthetic reminiscent of the ‘60s. The Sheepdogs are cool, talented, amazing live and above all, Canadian.

Now the modern Canadian rock scene is seeing bands like The Glorious Sons from Kingston, July Talk from Toronto, Monster Truck from Hamilton and One Bad Sons from Saskatoon who are all booming with talent. Although these bands are different and cannot be discussed as one, they do have one main factor in common: they are all wildly underlooked.

In September 2014, The Glorious Sons released their album The Union, genuine rock record from start to finish. Like a good book, I can’t put it down. Lyrically, this album is poetry. Instrumentally, this album is versatile and puts all that over played radio garbage to shame.

This album leaves me wondering why radio stations are consistently playing the same commercial material over and over when they can support musicians in their own neighbourhoods who actually have that raw, unadulterated talent that is supposed to make musicians famous in the first place.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission provides Canadian radio stations with regulations as to how much Canadian content they must play. As it stands now, roughly one-third of all music aired by Canadian radio stations must be Canadian-made.

Although this process is much more complicated than it seems, this regulation is important for the success of Canadian musicians. Our country is so huge that geography alone makes being a successful musician in Canada a hard road to travel.

My only argument is that even with regulations made by the CRTC, why isn’t a wider variety of Canadian music being explored by radio stations? The only musicians that seem to make the CanCon cut are the Nickelbacks or the Carly Rae Jepsens or the Justin Biebers who have obviously been manufactured by the industry for somebody else’s success.

Two years ago, I saw Monster Truck in a small venue in Hamilton. Tickets were thirty dollars, and to date it is still one of the best shows I’ve been to. All I could think was how those guys deserve to sell out a stadium one day.

If modern Canadian rock continues to be perceived as worse than their American counterparts, I don’t see how any of these amazing bands will ever be fully appreciated or receive substantial recognition. CanCon needs to be more versatile, and Canadians themselves need to stop looking outside of our own borders for new music. There are incredible things happening here.      

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