Post-punk excess meets pristine pop melodies in Across the Board’s new record Wild Ones, and anyone who thought that they had heard the best of this band’s skillset prior to its release is in for quite the shock this March. Wild Ones delivers some highly stylized harmonies in tracks like “Monster,” “All Gone” and “Alpha Wolf,” but their angelic magnificence represents only a fraction of what makes this album the stunner that it is. Across the Board are positioning themselves as one of Canada’s premier alternative rock groups, and this LP goes a long way towards solidifying that status once and for all.
The title track comes ripping from the ashes of the spoken word intro with a sonic show of strength that is only rivaled by the exotic melancholy of “Calling.” These two songs couldn’t be any more different in terms of tempo and execution, but they share a effervescence in their melodies that is nothing short of divine. There’s a duality in Across the Board’s sound, but it doesn’t interrupt the seamless transitions between the tracks in Wild Ones; in fact, quite the contrary. The diversity of their music actually adds to the texture of this album’s central narrative, and shows off just how multilayered Across the Board really are.
Wild Ones’ first half is a bit more restrained than the second is, with the clubby “Monster,” understated title track and ethereal “Eye of the Storm” setting us up for the galloping blues grooves of “Graffiti” and the ominous moan of “Alpha Wolf,” a song that I think encapsulates the tonality of this band better than any other here. In many ways, this album plays out like a piece of noir cinema; even in its most black and white moments, the mood rendered by the sonic characteristics of the music creates a colorful texture that is unparalleled in or out of Across the Board’s scene.
As far as this record’s production quality goes, there isn’t a single nuance within the tonality of the music in “All Gone,” “Monster” or “Calling” that isn’t brought to the surface, and that’s really saying something when we examine just how layered all of these songs really are. Across the Board have yet to disappoint their fans or critics alike, but I don’t know that they’ve ever sounded as in sync with each other, nor as robustly produced, as they do in Wild Ones. In every instance, it’s almost as if we’re witnessing an intimate concert instead of just listening to another studio record.
Across the Board turn in another smash in this latest urbane release from the Canadian crew, and I think that it’s got all of the necessary ingredients to make a really big impact both in their native country as well as abroad. Their American counterparts certainly haven’t been cutting anything nearly as assaultive or gripping as any of these tracks are, and I think that this LP could actually serve as a healthy shot of adrenaline for the band’s competitors. They’re certainly going to have to work a lot harder if they want to keep up with what Across the Board is doing, and that’s putting it very mildly.