A Labour of Love: Sonny Tripp’s Work Just Works

"Where Taylor's pop inclinations leave off, they are immediately contrasted by the more eerie and dissonant songwriting habits of Strickland."

I’ll admit, I’ve known the Sonny Tripp guys virtually since I started playing music. We were a few towns apart and, musically, had begun in different worlds; myself in a rough-and-tumble post-hardcore band that idolized Rage Against the Machine and At the Drive-In, and Ryan (along with Andre Marshall) in an alt-rock outfit that echoed Pearl Jam and everything 90’s.

Further down the road were the Carbonear bands and b’ys, including Andrew (Dicky) Strickland and Chris Donnelly. With a scene of roughly 6-7 active bands at any given time, we filled Lion’s Clubs and Legions every other weekend in every nook and cranny up and down the Trinity Bay shore, with busloads of kids with emo flips or plaid shirts surreptitiously getting tipsy in the woods outside.

We were a cohesive group, constructive and supportive of one another as we honed our skills and found our voices. But it was those guys that always stood out, and ten years removed from the bay heyday it’s more evident than ever.

Work is a glimpse into the realization of that promise. Taylor, a teacher by trade, has traversed the country for work on numerous occasions, but always kept a musical yearning in a carry-on bag. The output has been prolific; This is their fourth full length album, and that’s besides the numerous EPs that were collected as last year’s 2-disc “Nothing Left Behind.”

To be sure, there are few local acts that rival the sheer recording prowess of Sonny Tripp. It has manifested in a multitude of St. John’s houses and apartments, and even captured in the music room of a Saskatchewan school.

“Work” emerges from Alberta, with Taylor putting the finishing touches on tracks laid down before his latest exodus. While earlier Sonny Tripp was a vehicle for Taylor’s songs, “Work”, like its predecessor “Zoo” is an obvious collaborative effort.

The arrangement of the title track, which starts the album, gives everyone their own melodic space in a masterful way. It begins quaint and catchy, modeled after early Death Cab, and then bursts into a hyper singalong.

Where Taylor’s pop inclinations leave off, they are immediately contrasted by the more eerie and dissonant songwriting habits of Strickland. He offers the first reprieve with a pair of standout tracks that colour the album in a drastically different way than Taylor’s.

“The Reluctant Disclosure” and “All Of Those Summers” add a measured quirkiness to the whole affair. But Taylor’s own range is not to be discounted. Capping the album off with the sublime, slide guitar laden “Feels Like Home” and the appropriately titled, rousing little ditty “Ending” only further exemplifies how far Sonny Tripp can stretch.

Also worthy of a mention is Taylor’s production. The album feels and sounds whole, but contained within are thunderous fuzzes and bright acoustics. Subtle harmonies abound throughout every song, offering a subdued layer that most bands take for granted.

Taylor has done this for a long time, and the album rubs off warmly, with an unparalleled attention to detail. “Work” is worthy of a listen, or in my case, many. It’s not too far removed from those demos of yesteryear I still have.

The same sensibilities have just been harnessed into creating something grander. It’s four friends who have been playing together for years on end, who’s musical chemistry is surpassed only by their personal chemistry. The title is exceedingly ironic; this is most certainly a labour of love.

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