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Billy Talent - Billy Talent Print E-mail
Tuesday, 16 September 2003

Billy Talent

Billy Talent
format: 16-bit Stereo CD
label: Atlantic Records
release year: 2003
performance: 9
sound 8.5
reviewed by: Dan MacIntosh

ImageIt’s with good reason that Canadian punk band Billy Talent toured with the Buzzcocks recently, because this group combines intelligence and anger -- in that endearingly old-school Buzzcocks punk way -- in order to create just plain great rock ‘n’ roll. The album notes state that Billy Talent is a fictional character derived from Michael Turner’s 1993 book “Hard Core Logo,” and while that author/book combo may be relatively unfamiliar, there is clearly an enjoyably familiar ring to the spirited noise found on this talented group’s debut album.

Tracks like “Voices Of Violence” and “Line And Sinker” may rocket with high-speed punk energy, but Billy Talent has more than just one speed or direction going for it. For example, the guitar intro on “Try Honesty” wouldn’t sound at all out of place on a Tom Petty album, and “Cut The Curtains” chugs along much like a Judas Priest rocker. The tune also features a rare guitar solo, and vocalist Benjamin Kowalewicz’s voice is quite Johnny Rotton-esque in this particular instance. Gavin Brown produced this album by giving it a crystal clear sound, rather than trying to insert needless special effects into its mix. Billy Talent’s unavoidable passion and spiked hooks do a better job of keeping the interest level high than any gimmick ever could anyhow, so it was wise for Brown to leave things well enough alone.

This recording’s literacy level is also quite high, as Kowalewicz throws in some real lyrical zingers here. On “Line And Sinker,” he states, “We don’t always see the bright side/We all need ego suicide…” Later, he sings, “Everybody needs some sympathy/Santa seemed to miss my chimney.” Then on “Lies,” he adds this punny truism: “Lies will come back to hunt you.”

The music of Billy Talent will appeal to young punk fans weaned on so much (too much?) of today’s pop-punk, while giving these malnourished ones a lot of needed meat at the same time. As tracks such as “Try Honesty” and “Lies” bluntly illustrate, this is a truth-seeking band. It’s also a group that can show a little empathy, however, which can be experienced with “Standing In The Rain,” a song that tells the sad story about a junkie-prostitute, and then on “Nothing To Lose,” which is about one man’s lonely childhood. The later is also about as close to a ballad as this album ever gets.

Throwaway punk – as I like to call it -- is one of today’s tasteless flavors of the week. But Billy Talent should not be grouped in with so much of this other garbage. Instead, it’s one spicy keeper.

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