Reject is an exorcism, aided and abetted by the very spirit that haunts it.
The story of Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 album Rumors is one of the more fascinating tales in the classic rock canon. The Mac’s freshest members, Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks (who had joined the band as a package deal a few years earlier), were on the rocks. John and Christine McVie divorced after touring behind the band’s self-titled 1975 album. Mick Fleetwood’s marriage was on its last legs. Cocaine was the band’s confidant — the sixth member of the band, which surely didn’t help mellow the vibe during the studio sessions. To say things were tense while recording Rumors is a huge understatement. But the end result of all that turmoil and trauma, as you probably know, is nothing short of stunning. Rumors endures as one of the most popular and important albums of all time and it’s all thanks to the band members putting the music before their personal drama.
While the financial stakes (and the band members) were not as high, Kingston’s Deux Trois made a similar commitment to make sure their powerful new record, Reject, saw the light of day. Deux Trois’ 2018 (album length) EP, HEALTH, was mostly composed by vocalist, guitarist, and sometimes-drummer Nadia Pacey and bassist Benjamin Nelson (formerly of Kingston indie rock heroes P.S. I Love You). Ben Webb joined as a lead guitarist just in time to add a restrained, melodic touch to the songs Pacey and Nelson had put together. During this time, Pacey and Nelson began a romantic relationship. Nevertheless, the band forged ahead, adding drummer Laura Kelly and writing an album’s worth of new material. Before the band recorded what would become Reject, however, Nelson and Pacey broke up.
Now, normally I wouldn’t dwell on the personal business of the members of a band whose album I am reviewing, but the pair’s split is integral to understanding Reject’s power and energy. Nelson left the band for a brief period only to come back to finish what he started (although he is not presently a member). Even though these songs were written before the break up, there is a constant sense of push and pull in the lyrics. Pacey does battle with her own psyche over these twelve songs, resisting temptation and acting upon it in equal measure. She plays it cool on the opening one-two-punch of “Eruption” and “Good News”, but it’s clear there’s something stirring underneath the surface. That something spills out over the remainder of Reject’s runtime: on the sultry and rousing “All Night Long”; on the buzzing, frantic “Can’t Hold It In”. You can hear the desperation dripping from every syllable Pacey spits on “Columbia”. Across the whole album, Pacey’s vocals are something to behold. The way she’s able to change from a soulful howl to a cool kiss-off is always seamless and extremely effective. For Pacey, it seems like Reject is an exorcism, aided and abetted by the very spirit she is haunted by.
Musically, Reject captures the sound of a band coming apart at the seams with nothing but the songs they’ve written holding it all together. There is a palpable energy that simply can’t be faked. That said, there is another power at play here — the sound of a band, born in the studio, writing songs for their live show (which kicks ass) and capturing that lighting in a bottle. Because of this, Reject’s rock-to-not ratio leans heavily on the rock, captured in all its chaotic glory live off the floor. Deux Trois may have been reeling, but the mark of a well-oiled machine is that it performs equally well under duress. There are no out-and-out tear jerkers on here as were on HEALTH (“Roy”), but there are more dynamics at play: “Good News” is as good an example of the classic Pixies quiet-loud dynamic as any. The album’s middle stretch sounds like a collection of Florence and the Machine songs with the Machine replaced by the Stooges. Buried in “Monday to Friday”’s scuzzy-bubblegum chorus is a sense of triumph and relief; it is the dance party at the end of a long day, week, or year.
Reject is an album about overcoming dualities and contradictions within oneself and searching for some sort of stable middle amidst the chaos. The title can be read in two different ways: are you the reject or do you choose to reject? It’s hard to tell where Pacey and her bandmates land, but the album pushes and pulls in both directions, eventually getting past the question all together. You will reject and you will be rejected, but neither of those positions needs to be destabilizing. “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow,” goes the Fleetwood Mac classic, sung a thousand times over by a band with so much baggage they still struggle to find stability. The very act of trying to come to peace with something, of following through with something, should be considered a success. By that measure, Reject is a smash.