Album review: Hollerado – ‘Retaliation Vacation’

Over the past 12 years or so, Hollerado has been a trailblazer in the Canadian indie-music scene.  They started their own label, Royal Mountain Records and have released some of the most original and unique videos ever seen on MuchMusic (Canada’s version of MTV, when both actually played music videos…check out either version of Americanarama).  As a bonus for fans that preordered an album, they wrote and recorded custom songs for those who sent in their name and a couple of facts about themselves.  Last summer they posted spare beds on their tour bus on Airbnb.

As a fan of the band, I’d been eagerly awaiting the follow up to their 2017 album, Born Yesterday.   In February the band released the first single called “One Last Time” from the upcoming album, Retaliation Vacation, with a post on Instagram explaining this will be the final album from the band and after a farewell tour, they will be hanging up their instruments.  The tickets for their final show scheduled for December 13 at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto sold out in minutes (I was able to get a pair of tickets so if anyone is looking for me, you know where I’ll be).  The song is a goodbye card of sorts to their fans.  Saying they’ve been trying to make a go of being a band but it isn’t working out but before things are said and done promising that we’ll dance one last time.  The accompanying video is taken from home movies and clips spanning the band’s run, including way too many clips of members peeing in public.

Hollerado is a four-piece band originally from Manotick, just outside Ottawa, Canada where Menno Versteeg (vocals, guitar) and Nixon Boyd (guitar, vocals) along with his brother Jake (drums) grew up on the same street, the bassist Dean Baxter also grew up in Ottawa.  The credits on Retaliation Vacation identify the members as “The guy from the ads,” Keanu Reeves, Russel Brand and Nicholas Cage respectively.  They’ve released three previous albums; Record in a Bag, White Paint and Born Yesterday in addition to a couple EPs and the fan-based song collection called “111 Songs.”

Produced by the band and recorded in Nixon’s studio, Banquet Sound in Toronto, Retaliation Vacation is a fitting swan song for the band.  About half the tracks definitely sound like what we expect from Hollerado; the rest are an eclectic mix showing the band’s versatility.

The opening track, “Straight To Hell” is a departure from the band’s usual guitar driven sound; instead, Versteeg sings a beautifully written confessional tune accompanied by acoustic guitar and French horns.  The song is the second single from the album and was released with a lyric video using a custom-made pop-up book.

The band gets some help from a local public school’s grade 4, 5 and 6 choir on a couple of tracks.   “Days Without Sugar” is a pop song about the state of the world that sounds like a modern take on Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” “King Kong” is a fun, bouncy song that I could picture being used in a sitcom where the fun, quirky sister is dancing around to annoy her brother (I wonder if anyone from Schitt’s Creek may read this). The closing track, “A Little Touch of Madness” has a definite funky vibe and I can almost picture the band on stage in matching metallic jumpsuits doing a choreographed four-step dance.

Overall, Retaliation Vacation comes across as a parting gift from an influential band to their fans while thanking them for sticking around for the past dozen years.

Hollerado’s final tour begins in Montreal on September 26, traveling across North America and finishing up with a three-night stint at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto, December 11 – 13. If you are in the Toronto area, Royal Mountain Records is hosting a backyard BBQ at their studio on June 8 to raise money for the “Royal Mountain Mental Health Fund” which gives money to musical artists for mental health and addiction assistance.  Email for tickets.

TAGS: Hollerado | Royal Mountain Records

Elliott Spagat

Twitter: @Elliott33RPM

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