Billy Talent III
13 July 2009
by Stephen Milnes
This month sees the release of yet another eponymous offering from Canadian punk rock outfit Billy Talent. No seriously, they’re still going. That band from college with the guy who’s got a bit of a weird voice and songs that all sound pretty much the same? Yeah, the ones you pretended not to like but secretly did. Them.
Billy Talent III is much less frantic than previous offerings. On first listen it seems there are no really compelling tracks that jump out of the speakers, grab the listener by the T-shirt and shake them into submission. Tracks like ‘River Below’, ‘Living In The Shadows’ or ‘This Is How It Goes’ from 2003’s offering or ‘Devil In A Midnight Mass’, ‘Red Flag’ and ‘Covered In Cowardice’ from their 2006 opus are noticeable by their absence.
This time round there’s a touch more melody to the rock on the album, as heard in ‘Diamond Into The Landmine’, which could easily have been a song Sting And The Police jammed out during rehearsals for their reunion back in 2007. It’s hard not to starting singing, “Rooooxxxxanne!” over the top of it in fact.
Despite it being a very slight departure in style there’s the same unmistakeable sound in the guitars of Ian D’Sa and in Benjamin Kowalewicz’s vocals. They still have that knack for writing catchy rock songs that retain they “alternative” feel, something that very few bands can get away with.
Some infectious riffage can be found in ‘Saint Veronica’, ‘Turn Your Back’ and ‘The Dead Can’t Testify’, which sounds like some of System Of A Down’s more recent Mesmerize/Hypnotize stuff, helped not least by the interjections of a mandolin. It’s these kind of numbers that are Billy Talent’s strength; a snare drum clapping authoritatively every second, guitar riffs that most teenagers can play in their bedrooms after a couple of listens and lyrics delivered with a contagious vim and vigour that anybody can pick up and sing along with. It’s simple, but it’s bloody effective.
Watch the video to ‘Rusted From The Rain’ by Billy Talent
It takes a few listens but eventually each and every track on this record – from ‘Rusted From The Rain’’s down-tempo rock balladry to ‘Saint Veronica‘’s urgent pleading to a loved one after a failed suicide attempt, the “fuck you” attitude of ‘Tears Into Wine’ to the mournful ‘White Sparrows’ – will get under the skin and into the head, refusing to leave.
As that may suggest, Billy Talent manage to cover a range of subject matter on this album, something many of their more popular post-Fugazi and Refused modern punk rock contemporaries don’t seem to be able to grasp.
Regardless of said glimpses of gravitas, Billy Talent III is catchy, fun and it’s invigorating (providing you don’t take it or yourself too seriously). Play this loud, very loud and be prepared to cathartically jump about, scream, shout and release all that angst like a whiny 17 year old all over again.
Sounds like: Hanging out in the punk rock tent with loads of other parentally subsidised middle-class kids at your first festival.
Top tracks: Devil On My Shoulder, The Dead Can’t Testify, Diamond Into The Landmine, Sudden Movement.
Billy Talent – Billy Talent III tracklisting
Devil On My Shoulder
Rusted From The Rain
Tears Into Wine
Pocketful Of Dreams
The Dead Can’t Testify
Diamond Into The Landmine
Turn Your Back
Definition Of Destiny