Stuart Rankin is a musician living and working in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. He describes himself simply as a man who can play drums and bass in a couple of local bands and has made his own music in his spare time. However, I think Rankin undersells himself. What he has created with his first album Electric Universe is something of which he should be proud. Of course, you don’t need to just take my word for it. You can listen for yourself.
This mammoth 11-track album opens with “If You Were Me.” Rankin guides us into the album with a sweet, soothing picked acoustic chord progression. Yet, this is deceptive, as a punchy and vibrant drum beat along with a screeching electric guitar accompaniment to the initial acoustic guitar adds a loud-quiet dynamic to this bombastic opening track. Soothing verses are joined by Rankin’s tame, folk-esque vocals, but the distorted power-chord driven choruses are joined by Rankin’s louder, harsher tone of voice. The track closes with an electrifying and catchy electric guitar solo which rapidly swirls dances between different frets as drums crash chaotically and Rankin screeches melodically atop the tuneful noise.
“Lights Of The Cars On The Highway At Night” is a song which entirely encompasses its title. The frantic, dark nature of the song which is driven by a punchy drum beat, punchy electric chords and sliding riffs perfectly sums up the experience of being on a busy highway at the dead of the night. The light, the noise and the tension is encapsulated in music form on this track. Rankin adds a sombre, reflective tone as he laments about “You and the girls in the car in the rain on the road / There’s nowhere left now to go / There ain’t no job to do / There ain’t a seed to sow / How do I make it last? / There’s nothing in my way / Everything’s so far in the past.” This sums up the introspective reflection we all feel in a car late at night as we look back on the good and bad of our life.
“The Spider & The Fly” is driven by a bluesy clean electric guitar picking pattern along with a precise, punchy drum rhythm. Rankin sings a tale of a spider who comes across a fly stuck to a web. While it’s a joyous, light-hearted song full of quirky, tongue-in-cheek lyrics, it’s hard to tell how much meaning Ranking attaches to the words. It makes one wonder whether there’s a personal story based on Rankin’s own life about the tale being told, given that this spider “has no choice” regarding what he’s going to do to the fly.
“A Lifetime Full Of Years” is very telling about Rankin on an emotional level, but it’s also the most instrumentally impressive and catchy piece of music on the record. A dark electric chord progression coupled with organs and reverberating electric guitar riffs serves as the twisted background to Rankin’s reflective vocals and lyrics asking “Yeah / Here we are around this star / It’s all so clear / But it’s another one in a lifetime full of years.” It’s nostalgic, but in an upbeat, dark and inventive sort of way; Rankin doesn’t opt for the typical soft ballad whilst recounting on his life, and that’s what I enjoy about the album.
As a whole, this is an impressive effort. There’s musical diversity, but also raw passion poured into everything Rankin does. He isn’t different for the sake of it. He genuinely feels the music. I like that.
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