I’m driving through Toronto’s trendy Queen Street West. The city’s coloured lights throw shapes and shadows across my car’s interior. On the radio, the call letters “The Edge 102.1 FM” glow a reassuring orange. Sandwiched between songs by Everclear and the Offspring, the newest single by the Velvet Ants pumps loud and strong.
Despite this event having never taken place, in an alternate universe, it could have.
Blacklight Press, the 10-song menagerie by Boston’s Velvet Ants, would’ve almost certainly made its mark in pop-culture history but for the unfortunate gap between the mid-90s heyday of alternative nation and the record industry famine of 2017.
Maybe it still will.
The guitars are tough. They’re textured and warm. The songs are hooky and well performed. The vocal harmonies are tasteful and inventive. The production is good and very American sounding.
If it were well and truly 1995, the real question is whether the Velvet Ants would be signed to Epitaph or to SST Records, as the songs on Blacklight Press effortlessly bounce from Bad Religion (“Kitsch”) to Loose Nut-era Black Flag (“Nothing”) with the occasional hint of Weezer (“Two Sox”) thrown in for good measure.
Fans of this particular timeline of alt-rock are bound to hear the influence of the very best bands of the 90s; a spoonful of Sugar here, the crispy crunch of Cracker there, and because I’m Canadian, I’ll throw in a nod to the paisley-hoser sounds of Sloan (“A Thousand Yards”).
My favourite part of the journey, coincidently and aptly, is when the Ants end their ride by taking a surprising minor key detour via “Vapor Street,” and park the car in front of Mark Oliver Everett’s house, effectively dropping the keys off in the Eels’ mailbox.
What can I say; the Velvet Ants have delivered a pretty nifty album that you’ll want to play on repeat.
Play on repeat.
Play on repeat.
Stephen is the author of The Marvelous Beauhunks: Do Not Resuscitate and has decades of musical experience; just don’t bring up The Barenaked Ladies.