ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, AUG. 31, 1995
One of my favourite Canadian indie releases of 1993 was Deflowered, the debut disc by the Barstool Prophets. Quickly made but brimming with conviction, it ended with the particularly memorable “Robin’s Song”, a sweetly swaying, acoustic guitar–driven ode to the ravages of emotional abuse sung with assurance by lyricist-vocalist Graham Greer.
“Late one night by the riverside, she told all her problems to me/Of how her life was like slow suicide, I never knew how cruel a person could be/He ruled her life with an iron fist, and he kept her away from her friends/She asked me when it would ever end, will it ever end?”
“That’s an exact account of the occurrences that happened about four or five summers ago,” says Greer, on the phone from his Cornwall, Ontario, home. “This girl was in a real bind, and her boyfriend was… Well, he didn’t beat her, but he was very mean to her, and I think that may have been even more hurtful. And it’s just like it says in the song. We were down near Niagara Falls, playing at this river-raft race/festival thing, and we sat by the Caledonia River and she was just pourin’ her guts out to me. The song didn’t take too long to form thereafter.”
“Robin’s Song” is one of five tunes held over from the Deflowered sessions for the new Barstool Prophets release, Crank, on Mercury Records. Greer says it wasn’t difficult deciding which of the older tunes to include on its major-label debut.
“We kinda had an idea of what we wanted to reinterpret,” he says. “We did Deflowered in 40 hours, including recording and mixing, so we figured we could use the luxury time and actually do the songs the way we felt they could and should be done.”
Although Greer’s older songs are hard to beat, his band is putting its faith (and funds) in a new one, the ebullient opener “Mankind Man”, which points an accusatory finger at humans’ misuse of the earth. But the Barstool Prophets aren’t getting much help from “the nation’s music station” in taking that message to the masses.
“I was just talking to somebody else about this, so I’m a little bit up in arms about it,” says Greer. “We did a video for ‘Mankind Man’, and it was a Mad Max kind of production, very postapocalyptic. The children have taken over, and they’re putting grown-ups on trial for crimes against children, that kinda thing. We spent quite a bit of money on it, too, but apparently MuchMusic didn’t take too kindly to what they call violent content in it, because the kids are keeping the adults in dog cages. There’s no violence per se, but they’re really givin’ us a hard time about it. Apparently, there’s some re-editing gonna happen; I’m hoping it’s not too drastic.”
It’s too bad that the censors at MuchMusic find it necessary to hinder the Barstool Prophets at the point in their career when they need support the most, because the band is quite simply a Moist waiting to happen and one of the best guitar-rock bands to emerge in Canada since the Tragically Hip. Although the group does not come close to plagiarizing Kingston’s favourite sons, the similarity gets noted a fair bit.
“People compare us to them all the time,” says Greer, whose band opens for another sterling Canuck act—Hamilton’s Junkhouse—at the Town Pump next Friday and Saturday (September 8 and 9). “It used to kinda bug us, ’cause we heard it all the time, but we finally got the mind-set where ‘Geez, you know, people are comparing us to the best band in Canada.’ I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”