After years of crafting accessible alt-rock albums that garnered him a loyal following across Canada, Joel Plaskett’s latest album is also his finest. Whether it is the singalong title track – a sly lamentation of the curves that life can throw at you – or any of the rest of the album’s harder-rocking moments, The Park Avenue Sobriety Test situates Plaskett amongst the most heroic and enduring of Nova Scotia’s musical personalities, a rare example of a rocker who, while mellowing into middle age, is actually getting better as a result of the journey. Recorded more or less as a live album, which allows Plaskett to channel the immediacy that has characterized his legendary live performances for years, the album is loose, pointed and yet fully formed. Plaskett’s always raucous tunes are tempered by more serious, adult-oriented themes, on a work by a musician who – like all of us – is struggling to reconcile growing older with the inner child we all still feel inside. Assembling an eclectic musical cast to help him on the journey (his regular band are joined by Mo Kenny, for example, as well as singer-songwriter Peter Elkas and former Thrush Hermit drummer Ian McGettigan), the album plays like a traditional Maritime kitchen party, which fits the always engaging Plaskett to the proverbial “t”. On The Park Avenue Sobriety Test Joel Plaskett finally grows up, but does so without giving up. In the process, he has opened the door to a whole new range of exciting musical possibilities.
February 8, 2016