Neville Quinlan, the singer, lyricist and realist of Toronto’s ragged, rootsy rockers NQ Arbuckle, wears a tie (maybe) and works in music publishing during the day. He knows the score. He knows the medium is rotten for most. Some of his songs sound like better, boozier and wryer Jacob Dylan, that rich hack. Quinlan makes no money with his own (Juno-nominated) music.
Is he bitter? No more than you or I. Which is to say yes, just a little. On NQ Arbuckle’s thoughtful late-night album The Future Happens Anyway (out April 29), an often growling Quinlan offers sober reflections on mortality, dreams, loathing and life’s gravity. Life Boat (Song for Carolyn Mark) concerns a bar band on the road: “Standing in the spotlight without fear, what you see is what you get. Hand to mouth and eye to eye, who knows what’s gonna happen next?”
Hospitals is the disc’s most radio-friendly rocker. Though a hot-shot producer could probably punch it up to fist-pumping status, Quinlan isn’t into that – why risk spilling a drink for that nonsense? I hear a little Springsteen here, but let’s be clear: Quinlan is not so much interested in the wild and the innocent as he is the shuffle.
Painful nostalgia, right – is there is any other kind?
Quinlan’s songs are more sardonic uprisings than anthems. On Death, he admits that the “bottleneck of dreams is trying to kill me.” The Civil War is Over is a ghost story, but I’m more interested in Quinlan’s own ghosts. From the piano-ballad downer Sleepy Wife, as eloquent a piece we’ve ever heard from NQ Arbuckle: “Life is better than death, but when does the phone ring? When does the night end?”
Quinlan asks questions – what happens next and when does the night end? – and answers them with a well-earned shrug and a simple plan of action: “So sleep when you’re tired, eat when you’re hungry, love when you’re loving, drink when you’re thirsty.”
The inevitability of death, then. Fight it or fear it, the future happens anyway.
NQ Arbuckle launches The Future Happens Anyway on April 29, at Clint Roenisch Gallery, 944 Queen St. W, Toronto.
This week in music
Top selling albums in Canada for the week ending April 20: The soundtrack for the Disney film Frozen stayed at No. 1 in Canada (and notched its 11th week atop the Billboard 200 album chart in the United States). Hot on Frozen’s tail are Pharrell Williams’s Girl, Serge Fiori’s self-titled LP, Gilles Vigneault’s Vivre debout and Olivier Dion’s self-titled debut album.
Top single: Pharrell Williams’s Happy rules the Billboard Hot 100 for a ninth week in the United States, with Justin Timberlake and Chris Brown each popping into the top 10 with Not a Bad Thing and Loyal, respectively.
Albums released this week: Kelis’s Food, Future’s Honest, Iggy Azalea’s The New Classic, Keb Mo’s Blues Americana, Justin Rutledge’s Daredevil and Jerry Leger’s Early Riser.