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The Gay - You Know the Rules

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Artist: The Gay

Album: You Know the Rules

Label: Mint

Review date: Feb. 4, 2004

Several things about Canadian quintet the Gay may sound familiar: they more or less fall into the genre commonly referred to as “power pop,” liberally employ dense multi-part harmonies, and record on Vancouver’s Mint Records. In case that doesn’t ring a bell, all of the above are also true of Canuck all-stars the New Pornographers, whose drummer, Kurt Dahle, produced and arranged the Gay’s sophomore release, You Know the Rules. Fortunately, the similarities between the two bands don’t end there: the Gay, like the New Pornographers, have a knack for creating great pop music that is at once easily accessible and uniquely idiosyncratic.

While the easiest reference point for the Gay’s sound may be the aforementioned Pornographers, they’re certainly not mere imitators: they inject a bit more of a sixties baroque-pop sound into the mix, and break from the traditional rock-band line up by featuring a full-time accordionist. The band’s lyrics may not have the literary panache characteristic of a Carl Newman or a Dan Bejar, but they’re a hell of a lot more intelligible. Pop fans aren’t necessarily looking to decipher oblique messages hidden within a candy coating, the Gay take heed of this fact, providing lyrics that are generally playful and straightforward without being frivolous. You Know the Rules is warm and lighthearted from the get-go, sporting a cover that features the primarily female quintet (drummer Keith Parry, who deserves special recognition for his Victorian-style facial hair, is the sole male member) dressed in all white, sitting against a tree on a lawn strewn with fallen cherry blossoms. The opening track, “Opulent Canine,” apparently a love song sung to a dog, introduces the slightly goofy mood that pervades the album. Most tracks on You Know the Rules are uptempo and upbeat, saturated with youthful energy and soaring harmony vocals. The few tracks that take things down a notch, however, are even more impressive; “Cindy Lou,” perhaps the album’s strongest song, is an impeccably crafted sing-along ballad, while the initially subdued “Palace” builds to an anthemic chorus that just begs for a crowd of raised lighters. Although all of the tracks don’t quite achieve the same level of uniqueness, the songwriting and arrangements are uncommonly consistent throughout, making You Know the Rules a pleasurable listen.

The Gay manage to forge an original sound that, while not emphasizing variety or stylistic exploration, has enough personality and flair to separate them from the glut of hum-along guitar-driven pop outfits. You Know the Rules may not yet have achieved the indie megahit status of the last two New Pornographers albums, but given enough exposure, it certain could. There is no word yet, however, on whether or not the band members are, in fact, actually gay.

By Michael Cramer

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