Distinctly average first long-player from a trio including two veteran, Canadian roots-rock scenesters – works best when it sounds like Springsteen and Wilco.
‘The Greatest Short Story Never Told’, which is the debut album by Canadian three-piece Ontarians, has a brilliant opening, but it soon fails to hold one’s imagination. This is a story that we’ve all heard before.
First song ‘Time’, is the highlight – an atmospheric, moody and cinematic ballad, with ghostly steel guitar and a Springsteen and Ryan Adams feel. It wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack of a US – or Canadian – road movie. Such a shame then that after a strong start, ‘The Greatest Short Story Never Told’ soon starts to unravel and lose the plot.
‘No Regrets’ is much more upbeat and urgent – a mid-paced, but forgettable, feel-good country rocker, with some nice organ, and the vaguely jazzy ‘Photographs and Epitaphs’ is slick, but fails to make a lasting impression. With its tasteful guitar licks, it’s background barroom music at best. ‘Forest For The Trees’ has, if you excuse the pun, a more rootsy sound. It’s lightweight and pleasant enough – a stripped-down, folky campfire country tune.
Many of the songs, like the saccharine AOR of ‘Born To Love You’, are hamstrung by trite or clichéd lyrics: “I was born to love you – I think I was.” On ‘Balloon’, we are told, “a balloon in the air will always land somewhere,” – thanks for that – and ‘No Regrets’ is all about burning bridges and, yes, you guessed it, having no regrets…
‘Changes’ is much better. It sounds like early Wilco, circa ‘A.M.’ – think ‘Passenger Side’, or, funnily enough, ‘Pick Up The Change’, but less raw. It also nods to Bowie lyrically: “Ch-ch-ch-change, change the lock on me.” Penultimate song, ‘Sunblind’, with its wailing, Neil Young-style harmonica, is one of the stronger moments, and it too has echoes of Wilco.
Awkwardly, Ontarians, who are roots-rock scene veterans Frank Deresti and Craig Smith, as well as keyboardist Jay Stiles, sound much better when they’re trying to emulate other artists rather than be themselves. There’s definitely a moral to this short story.