Real One is the sound of a battle-tested band, brimming with confidence and betting on themselves.

Much like the crystals that adorn the cover of their new album, Real One, Toronto’s Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs have come into their own in spectacular fashion. It was only six years ago they were standing at the Gates Of Hell but It’s clear they have found salvation in the transformative potential of rock ‘n’ roll.

Real One finds the six-piece at the peak of their powers, delivering a raw, emotional, take-no-prisoners album destined for dive bars and arenas alike. It features the usual suspects of Sam Coffey (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Dave Tyson (keys), Liam Doyle (lead guitar), Joel “French” Desbois (rhythm guitar), Richard Stanley (bass) and Connor Glen (drums): A gang of best friends who play Dungeons & Dragons during the day and melt faces with their rock ‘n’ roll at night.

Real One is a well-conceived mix of anthemic power-pop and blue-collar barroom ballads, complete with blistering leads, rousing gang vocals, sax solos by Joseph Shabason, string quartet arrangements by Paul Erlichman of Ducks Unlimited and Elrichman and operatic vocals by Siânteuse. It also bears the mark of the strongest set of songs by the band to date. Adding to the musical alchemy is the expansive production work of Kevin Ratterman (White Reaper, Strands Of Oak, My Morning Jacket). Nothing is lost in the mix and he gives these songs an immediacy that cuts to the bone.

There is an uplifting current of optimism underpinning the record. Right from the jump, opening track and lead single, “Back With The Gang,” is a slice of glammy garage pop that serves as a statement of intent. Coffey bellows over a barrage of guitars and synth that barrel forward like the motorcycles in its animated music video. His voice serves as an additional instrument that he manipulates to great effect, depending on what the situation calls for.   

From there, the album struts back and forth between nervy rave-ups (“What This City Needs”), garage pop stompers (“Sounds Alright,” “Spirit Of The Radio”) and bleary-eyed ballads (“Gates Of Heaven,” “RUN Angel”). Throughout, there are nods to Springsteen, Warren Zevon and Thin Lizzy but Coffey and co. are so much more than the sum of their influences. Real One culminates in the title track, which is hands down my favourite song on the record. “I’m a real one baby, you’re a real one like me too!” belts Coffey on the refrain, over a smouldering crusher of an instrumental. 

Real One (the gang’s sixth album in ten years and their second with Dine Alone) is the sound of a battle-tested band, brimming with confidence and betting on themselves. 

Rae Spoon
Rae Spoon Songbook