No Medicine, Only Music

Album Review - Pickwick - Can't Talk Medicine (March 12, 2013 on Dine Alone Records).

It’s only the beginning of spring, and I may be jumping the gun, but Pickwick’s recently released debut album, Can’t Talk Medicine, oozes the scent of summer. At first listen, the album’s upbeat, groovy guitar riffs and powerhouse vocals (courtesy of lead singer Galen Disston) induce intense flashbacks to jamming along with the Alabama Shakes last summer. Although their rise has been gradual when compared to Brittany Howard and company, the Seattle natives have delivered a catalogue with a similar tone and style to their Southern counterparts. Simple composition, fronted by a standout vocalist, and executed with ease are three major elements that can be applied to the entirety of this record. The offspring of soul, blues, and rock, Can’t Talk Medicine will be safely tucked into my pocket on trips to the beach once the water warms and the clouds clear; but, not one of those sandy beaches – a British Columbian beach, full of stone.

Pickwick relies heavily on Disston’s unique, high-pitched vocals to manufacture their sultry blues-rock sound. Although his voice is the natural centrepiece, the subtle harmonies that lay in the background serve as bluesy filler, adding a dimension of depth and complexity to the vocal arrangement. This creates a stronger sense of wholeness throughout every song, instead of leaning solely on Disston’s powerhouse of a voice.

Can’t Talk Medicine is a well-crafted musical mixture of soft and hard, fast and slow, rock n’ soul. Upbeat guitar riffs are switched for heavy piano chords, and summer tunes for slow, distant piano grooves. Can’t Talk Medicine effectively displays diversity in style and form from the instant you press ‘play’, all the way through to Disston’s haunting fade-out during “Santa Rosa”. In between, we can find songs best suited for driving around in a convertible with hands brushing the wind (“The Round”), or a weighted piano that induces self-reflection (“Brother Roland”). “Letterbox” switches it up with a slow groove, a song reminiscent of psychedelic music of the ‘70s, but that also smacks you in the face with that soul-rock sound.

Although these Seattleites have been together for the past few years, this will be the album that catapults them into indie-rock star status. However, as good as it is, Can’t Talk Medicine lacks originality. The sound is not groundbreaking by any means – it’s not new, nor is it fresh. Yet, this is not a criticism – as odd as that may sound – but a hope that this release is a stepping stone which they can use to increase their momentum, further develop their sound, and redefine the genre. I’m already excited for the next release.

 

You can catch Pickwick at The Rickshaw Theatre on April 12.