The Toronto-based trio mix punk earnestness with cultural commentary.
A new twist on an old joke: “Two recovering punk rockers and an indie rocker walk into a bar”. In the case of Toronto’s Talk Show Host, the ensuing punchline delivers a refreshing dose of scathing honesty. Their latest EP Not Here to Make Friends showcases an incredible lyrical urgency (with an eye on the ever-changing cultural landscape) with stories of self-improvement, self-loathing, and youthful rebellion.
Opener “Dead Meat” highlights their indie influence with a driving guitar passage slightly reminiscent of Silversun Pickups, and a protagonist owning his failures, vowing to better himself even if he is “certified dead meat, cured and fried”. Strong, evocative wordplay is prevalent throughout, from calling out social networking on the burnout anthem “Watch Him Fall” to the Millennials vs. Baby Boomers play on words on closer “A Nervous Wreck” (“We’re 21st, you’re 1957”).
Not Here to Make Friends hits its stride with the 1-2 punch of the title track and “I Hate Men (I Hate All Men)”. Having played drums in a few bands, you play for some acts you stay in touch with, and then others that . . . you’d like to forget. When I hear the words “I’ll play for no one, I don’t care” on the title track, it takes me back to being behind the kit in some bar with almost no one watching. It’s a reality every musician has to go through on their way to “making it”, if they ever do. The track is written from the perspective of a band that’s been down that road before, and it’s so much better for taking that approach.
“I Hate Men (I Hate All Men)”, arguably the EPs strongest track, has a much lighter tone and an almost swing vibe to the verses. It’s an ideal song for newcomers looking to get into Talk Show Host. The song takes an empowered feminist stance, calling out the male sex and the power structures that prop it up. Given the many news headlines pertaining to the systemic problems in the entertainment AND the music industry, the song feels biting and relevant. The guest verse here adds a dark twist, as the focus swings around 180 degrees. This character singing about how supportive of women’s rights he is? Turns out he’s just like the people he’s lambasting; the entirety of what you just heard was all empty words. And the cycle repeats.
Whew. That was a lot to take in. But if you can keep up with Talk Show Host, you will absolutely love Not Here to Make Friends. It’s punk rock with indie sensibilities, showing off how well these two styles of music can blend together. We need more bands like Talk Show Host. Bands who cut the bullshit and drive straight to the core of the issues that inspire them. I cannot recommend this release enough. Talk Show Host may not be here to make friends, but they will certainly gain fans with the quality of these songs. Back the right horse this year, bet on Talk Show Host.