On the title track of Bidiniband’s third record, Dave Bidini doesn’t pull any punches, as he sneers, “you might think I’m an angry, radical freak for what I’ve sung/But when it comes to speaking my mind, it’s only just begun.” He wants to talk about Canada, what it means to be Canadian, and his distaste with what Stephen Harper’s leadership has done to the country. Of course he does. Canada is Bidini’s favourite topic. And Canadians are lucky for that, because his insights regarding the True North are often bang-on, with a love for it behind them that doesn’t wane.
It takes that sort of attitude – a refusal to give up on the idea that we, as a country, have never drifted too far from the plot that we can’t right ourselves – to make an album like The Motherland. It’s sonically diverse, musically intricate, and leaves no opportunity for the listener to tune it out. There’s the swingy sparkle and crashing crescendo of “The Grey Wave,” the bizarro heavy metal and spastic guitar solos of “The Fatherland,” a larger-than-life reimagining of Rheostatics classic “Fat,” now with 100 per cent more fiddle, the hazy blues-stomp of “Ladies of Montreal,” and the truly gorgeous closer, “Say The Names,” which begins with the late poet Al Purdy’s reading of part of his poem, “The Necropsy of Love.” And all throughout, Bidini tosses out lyrical gems and barbs, the latter usually in the direction of the big man on Parliament Hill, and probably most ruthless on “All Hail Canada”: “Power is a deadly fizz/that burns away the face and skin/resembling a hideous thing/whose legacy is just to win.”
It’s sprawling and ambitious, and it hits its mark. At his best, Bidini has been able to turn his art and writing into a mirror for the country, showcasing its beauty or deep scars depending on the moment, never shying away from the truth. And The Motherland shows us what we might not want to see, but need to. (Pheromone Recordings, davebidini.ca) Matt Williams