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Since When...

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Album Review

After a few years of attempting to sound heavier than they actually were (the influence of Seattle grunge no doubt), it's amazing to hear that by embracing both roots and modern sounds, 54-40 can still make a simple tune with two guitars and a hook sound fresh and inviting. Singer Neil Osborne's lazy tenor croons gently over the sweetly sensitive "I Could Give You More" and the melancholy "Playground" (complete with a lovely string arrangement), but the heart of Since When lies in the kinds of tunes the band plays best, ringing, mid-tempo rockers like "You Should Come Over," a twangy number that could be the product of any No Depression band, and the gospel-ish "Pay for Living."

At its best moments Since When sounds like vintage 54-40 albums of the late '80s when the Canadian quartet borrowed liberally from early R.E.M., Big Star, and the dB's. Tempered with age and a more earthy aesthetic, 54-40 remain masters of the jangle-pop form. And while 54-40 albums can sometimes end up sounding like Osborne solo records, they sound like a true band on the tunes that don't stretch beyond their reach. A decent latter-day effort but not the best place to start for the curious.


Formed: 1981 in Tsawwassen, British Columbia, Can

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

A Vancouver band with a folk-pop take on alternative rock, 54-40 formed in 1981 as a trio consisting of bassist Brad Merritt, drummer Darryl Neudorf, and vocalist Neil Osbourne. (The band took their name from James K. Polk's presidential campaign slogan, "Fifty-Four Forty or Fight," which sought to expand the U.S. border northward.) Initially, 54-40 toured the Western Canadian club circuit, without gaining much attention. In 1984, Phil Comparelli was added on guitar and vocals; Neudorf left shortly...
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Since When..., 54-40
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