Trembling electric guitar strings modulate between the right and left speakers as “Alpha Wolf,” one of the eight songs to behold on Across the Board’s Wild Ones, takes shape. The vocal track soars into the night sky against a meteor shower of melodic riffage in the foreground, but try as they might, the guitars aren’t able to distract our attention from the swing of the beats pushing us through the song. “Alpha Wolf” follows the alternative rock riot-starter “Graffiti,” and I think that the two tracks actually complement each other quite well, despite their strikingly different methods of delivery. Across the Board are a band with a lot of skills to share, and they use all of them on Wild Ones, one way or another.
“All Gone” has a sporty little homage to pre-Purple Rain Prince in its main riff, but the rhythm of the song is anything but R&B-stylized. In this track, the vocal rides a grooving bassline that ends up giving the percussion a run for its money when it comes to laying down sick beats. “Calling” is a completely different story, but it doesn’t fail to stimulate all of our senses just the same. Across the Board show off their balladic talents in “Calling” and play with a relaxed, folk-inspired tonality that I think they wear surprisingly well (for a modern hard rock band, that is). There are not many groups that can play to both sides of the spectrum anymore, but Wild Ones proves that there’s at least one unit still making well-rounded music in contemporary Canada.
The most emotional song that I listened to on Across the Board’s new album was “Eye of the Storm,” which is as heavy as any of the tracks that it sits with here, both lyrically and musically. The passion in our vocalist’s voice transcends the studio in this song, and by the time that the chorus comes to life, our hearts are literally in the palm of her hand. Much like “Monster,” this track is bolstered by the physical nature of the master mix, but as indulgent an offering as both songs are when enjoyed in a single session, they never become so overwhelming that we’re unable to understand the deeper meaning in their words.
Wild Ones’ signature song, the title track, has a very countrified overtone to its vocal track, but it’s nothing compared to the old school, classic rock warmth in the guitars that form its melodic center. It’s another fine example of Across the Board’s smorgasbord of influences working together in an exquisite blend of chemistry and charisma, and for me, it’s one of the main reasons to pick up the album this spring. This is a record that is full of hits from top to bottom, and while I’ve always enjoyed the work that this Toronto-based band has shelled out in the past, what they did in Wild Ones deserves to be championed as their most sophisticated and genuinely moving collection of songs yet. The bottom line? Those who decide to give this LP a chance this March will not be disappointed.
-review by Bethany Page