The latest from power pop/alt rock group The Perms is a collection of ten songs that exhibit all the fun and youthfulness that rock can bring. The Winnipeg band has no shortage of experience, they released their first album in 1998 and this 2011 offering, Sofia Nights is their fifth full length. Through the years, Shane Smith (bass/vox), Chad Smith (guitar/vox), and John Huver (drums) have just gotten better and better at what they do: rock.
Sofia Nights begins with the single and a blast, “High School High”, a very catchy, accurate reminiscence of the good old days. If one is not familiar with the work of The Perms, this tune does a great job of introducing what they’re all about: infectious melodies, solid harmonies and a great mix of rock, new and old. “Make It Through” allows Shane to really show the power that his voice possesses for a very passionate tune that hardly sounds like it’s being performed by a three-piece.
The best part of the record comes at the half-point with a string of four really well crafted rock tracks. “Skin and Bones” has a Sloan-like sound, building nicely from its start to its finish. At no time are the vocals overpowered, and all elements compliment each other quite nicely, especially the chorus harmonies between Shane and Chad. “Slipping Away”, the record’s best track, is definitely more rock than pop with a gritty edge to it. Its head-bang inducing rate is through the roof. The climax builds to a point of group-vocal wailing, descends then ascends again to the end with a glory-filled guitar solo.
The anthemic “Live For Today” is made for singing along to. Each phrase is sung and played with such conviction and strength. You’d be crazy to not believe them when they say “You’d better live for today”. Finally, “Mannheim” is a tune that really does take you back. The hard-hitting bluesy melodies absolutely scream April Wine and the like. Brilliant.
The stream of great stuff sadly comes to an end with “In No Time”, which features added female vocals. It sounds like a practice take where the balance between vocals and the rest of the band haven’t been figured out yet. There is no growth, the song’s entirety lies on a plateau.
The last track on Sofia Nights is a redemption, bringing it back to the power and catchiness of the first track. Funny that the two should be compared, because “High School High” regards the youth and “Over and Over” speaks more to adulthood and grocery lists. There’s a great mix of loud powerful moments and minimalist times that are just as moving, as well as the combining of major and minor keys. The result is a rock song destined to be a classic.
There are many things that The Perms do well, but one specifically, and that is embody the essence of true rock, gimmick free, existing solely for the purpose of rocking. You can speculate that their work isn’t ground breaking or “different” from rock music of the past, present, and you’d probably be right. Do we constantly have to be looking for something new though? Must we always be pushing so hard towards future? Can we not enjoy full-heartedly something that has been similarly done in the past? I really don’t see why not. Music is made to be enjoyed, and the fun and enjoyment factor on Sofia Nights is certainly present.
I invite you to have a listen to this most recent offering from The Perms and look not for something new, but for something that you can come back to and delight in again and again. I’m certain you will find it.
Here’s a taste of Sofia Nights, our favourite track “Slipping Away”