As always, there’s a lot of buzz about the Pacific Northwest music underground at the moment, but I’m not talking about the Seattle scene alone. To the north in Vancouver, B.C., artists like Pennan Brae are bringing rock back from the dead with vinyl-quality riffing that could serve as both a throwback and a step towards creative reconciliation in 2021, and his new single “Passing Fad” demonstrates as much. Straight out of the old school and yet piercing enough to satisfy even the most demanding of millennial tastes, “Passing Fad” has one of the more ironic titles of any single I’ve reviewed lately.
I love the sway to the rhythm here, and it’s definitely reminiscent of the so-called “robot rock” of early Queens of the Stone Age. The swagger of the lyricism bleeds into the groove effortlessly on more than one occasion in this single, and although there are few instances in which the searing tonality of the strings isn’t the most enticing element in the mix, the thrust of the collective band is undeniably reason enough to give the track a spin this spring. If you like to shake your hips but want a little more danger between the beats, this song was made with you in mind.
The guitar parts in “Passing Fad” have a certain playfulness to their melodic output that contrasts quite heavily with the reckless grind of the percussion and bassline in the background, but I think that was the point of arranging this track the way Brae did. He wants to get to that vicious point of total chaos in this performance without totally giving himself up to the noise of a more brandish brand of punk rock, and while there are a lot of routes to reach his summit, I think his chosen path is one of particular compositional wit in this release.
A killer blend of retro desert rock and smart, contemporary Canadian punkishness that doesn’t owe anything to anyone or any other movement in the North American underground today, “Passing Fad” is a true audiophile’s delight in more ways than one. It might not be the most aggressive performance Pennan Brae was capable of producing at this point in his career, but I don’t think flexing muscle is something he needs to concern himself with right now. He has a lot going for him, and if that wasn’t overwhelmingly obvious before listening to this single, it will be after.