et another branch of the long-defunct Eric’s Trip tree (you might also remember Elevator, Elevator to Hell, Purple Knight, Broken Girl or Julie Doiron’s stirring solo material, pretty much all of which is highly recommended), Unintended features Rick White with instrumental backing from the Sadies, recorded with help from Blue Rodeo’s Greg Keelor (the rugged looking half of that singing/songwriting team; perhaps best known as “the guy that’s not Jim Cuddy”) at his home studio. This isn’t the first time these guys had worked together – White has worked with the Sadies several times; Dallas Good, who fronts the Sadies with brother Travis, worked with White in Elevator and has joined them live several times; Keelor worked with the Sadies on their last record, Stories Often Told – but it does mark the first time all three have holed up to work on more than just each other’s established projects or live shows.
Now with the slightly quirky, alt-country/spaghetti-western rock leanings of the Sadies, who make up nearly all of Unintended – not to ignore Keelor’s involvement in the least – you might be able to deduce that Unintended would fall much closer to a country-tinged sound with remnants of the lo-fi acid rock White has made a name for himself with, and, surely enough, it comes much closer to the Beachwood Sparks than a countrified Love Tara. Though it would’ve been interesting to hear a lo-fi Sadies with stronger involvement from Keelor, we’ll have to go with what we’re given and this group’s psych/country rock approach certainly sounds interesting, especially with the inclusion of someone, anyone, giving a slightly more pleasing voice, or lyrical focus for that matter, to the Sadies sound.
But like a fair amount of “supergroups,” and I’m still really hesitant to use the term here but I’ve seen it thrown around for artists far less renown than these guys, it sounds much better on paper than in practice. Which isn’t to discount the talent of any party involved, because each shines in their own right; White’s voice is unmistakable and haunting against these slightly unfamiliar backings (the roots are certainly there in even their most recent work, though not quite in this form), perhaps due in part to the fact that he wrote most of these songs before the Sadies transformed them; Keelor, though not playing a prominent role, certainly did affect how the record sounds, and traces of it can easily be heard in his solo work; The Sadies, as to be expected, do a fine job of arranging and performing these tracks, albeit without much sense of variety.
But no matter how much individual talent was poured into this, there is little that can belie that only about half of these songs actually work (“The Light,” “The Truth” and “Beautiful Things” being the best of what does; “Controller Aware,” “No Curse of Time,” “Angel” and “Stay Calm” being the least interesting). The thick, organ-propelled atmosphere, encasing the lax, effect-laden guitar lines (not surprisingly, echo is a hot commodity here) and breathy, harmonized vocals – all of which are straight out the same kind of by-the-numbers pot-rock formula thrown around for decades – has certainly been used before to create more memorable music than this, even in recent years. And while each of these artists has an undeniable appeal on their own, perhaps one of them will have to take control and give this project a little more direction before it crosses over into something substantial or, at the very least, consistently interesting. Or, you know, just lay off the bong and Nuggets records for a few minutes.
Reviewed by: Scott Reid
Reviewed on: 2004-03-01