As restrictions slowly, slowly begin to lift across Canada, we can start to think about seeing our friends in person for the first time in weeks or months. Thankfully for us music-consuming folk, this also means musicians can start collaborating again — like the team-up that is Former Firsts, a testament to an enduring friendship between two linchpins of Canada’s music scene.
Construction & Destruction (Colleen “Coco” Collins and Dave Trenaman) are revered for their intense and lyrically dense compositions, and Steven Lambke has been equally as inspiring as part of the Constantines, Baby Eagle, and more. Though each song on Former Firsts is authored by a different person, there’s a great deal of comfort and familiarity thanks to the decade-plus friendship between Collins, Trenaman, and Lambke, who met on three separate days in three different studios to record each of these three songs. Stylistically, each song is pretty different, but the aforementioned comfort between everyone involved makes Former Firsts fit together well.
Collins’ song, “Triple Double Double”, is packed full of imagery of birds and death, though not necessarily in that order. Collins’ barely-above-a-whisper singing paired with upright piano makes this one downright spooky. “Murder in the morning/to feed the young/Strange tides amok in the/Great Unsung” is such a uniquely eerie lyric that only Collins could have come up with it.
“Full Throttle”, Trenaman’s song, is an interesting study in control. Ostensibly about a car with engine troubles, it moves back and forth between gnarly, fuzzy guitars and barely restrained quiet. Interestingly, when he actually sings of going full throttle, the music quiets down, ramping up the velocity in the verses instead.
Finally, “Human Love” is unmistakably a Lambke number. Lyrically it is much simpler than the Construction & Destruction-penned songs, but it’s no less affecting. There’s something about Lambke’s signature raspy voice that makes lyrics like “Once a year/The earth spirits rise from the mud/And lay together with their human love” feel joyful and not just plain weird. Though it’s harder to hear the other members’ contributions in the first two tracks, here Collins joins in on vocals in the last few bars of the song.
Here’s to friendship! May it spawn many more collaborations as fruitful as this one.