Formerly the front man of Ottawa indie band Andrew Vincent and the Pirates, Canadian singer Andrew Vincent is now a solo artist. Opting for a more stripped down ‘acoustic’ approach that his previous incarnation, Vincent is now his own soul free to explore the world around and his own mind in equal measure. Rotten Pear is Vincent’s fifth album, a year old in Canada, but now released in the UK to gain exposure in the international market.
Opener Hi Lo immediately exposes the listener to the warts-and-all world that Vincent knows. This is the tale of a drug-addled relationship and seedy bars: “In their sweatpants and with acne scars, one by one they ask you out…”. The flip side of this is the wonderful Going Out Tonight, with a superb guitar arrangement, this is more alienation and despair: “I’m going out tonight. It ain’t gonna be good, it ain’t gonna be right”. Moving through the first half of the album, Diane is another highlight with brilliant lyrics, inspired by Lou Reed, Vincent is in conversation with himself: “Hurry up and finish that new record and I’ll see you on the OC”, proves he knows the world around him on a different level.
Drawing upon other early influences, the two songs Nobody Else and Under Your Thumb are much heavier than most of the album. The former is uncomplicated folk-punk, part Joey Ramone, part Jonathan Richmond. Under Your Thumb, essentially about fighting, is brutal song writing. “Count me in and knock me out, well I wanna taste blood in my mouth”. The track tries a similar approach with toy piano and organ.
An excellent trio of songs pack the end of Rotten Pear. Ruffian is the best song on the album, like Rosh Ritter with a more challenging subject matter - that of childhood delinquency with an honest final message. The guitar work and arrangement is sublime. Canadian Dream is bitter-sweet, another conversation song about a ‘friend’ that ‘moves East’ then overseas for a better life. Vincent then turns this back to himself. Excellent song writing. And Bus Stop could be an Eels cover, a gorgeous melody and subtle instrumentation.
The real surprise is closer Hounds Of Love, a cover of the Kate Bush song. Vincent makes it his own completely. Much of the original vocal melody is gone but the core of the song remains. A great addition.
Like most experienced musicians who go solo, there is a dramatic leap from old to new, from familiar to unknown. Vincent’s sound may now be divorced from that of a full band, but his spirit and gift for crafting lyrics is still as energised as ever. This is much more thoughtful and reflective song writing as Vincent inhabits a persona of self-loathing and depression - always challenging stuff. Rotten Pear is a solid work but the impending UK tours will be the definitive sign that Vincent, much revered in his home country, will have a world-wide appeal.
-- CS (for AltSounds)