The Key Of Green – Metaphorical Fires – Album Review
The Key Of Green…an artistic duo consisting of the talents of Evan Wooley on the ol’ electric guitar and a dude we’ve featured here on our pages many times, none other than Mr. Charles Ryan Davis handling the rest of what’s involved. It’s amazing how time still flies somehow from this chair I sit in every day – and when you’re rocking a signature sound like Davis tends to, it actually makes time seem like it moves even slower when you can still hear the last record you know of spinning in your head like it was just yesterday that ya heard it. That’s the case with CRD for sure…I was surprised to find it was already back in November of last year that I had last reviewed his own solo music. I know I’ve talked to the man a couple times behind the scenes here since then…but…three months ago already tells me that 2020 is about to freakin’ fly right by. Really feels like it was just last week I was listening to his records…maybe I was, who knows? What I can tell ya for a certain fact is that I’ve been listening to his new record with Evan as The Key Of Green as much as I possibly could over THIS week. I might have no clue about the past, but I still have a grip on the present.
Plus, I suppose some sort of frame of reference is a good thing to still have fresh in the mind. When it comes to this new record Metaphorical Fires by The Key Of Green…well of course you can hear the influence of Charles Ryan Davis on the material if you’re as familiar with his music as I have apparently become. BUT…the twist here, is that you get the awesomeness of Wooley’s guitar to go with it. That might seem like a small change when it comes to the ingredients involved in the recipe, but it sure makes for a seriously noticeable shift into a new sound that’s similar to CRD’s solo stuff, but not entirely.
For example, it was the guitar that immediately stood out to me on the opening track from Metaphorical Fires, called “Knifelike Nightlife” – the bold, vibrant tones are straight-up marvelous. For the Canadians out there reading these pages of ours…I’ll put it to you this way, cause you’ll get it – the last time you heard guitar tone so thick, rich, and awesome like this, was from The Tragically Hip. For those of you who aren’t Canadian, you just witnessed one of the highest compliments a Canadian can pass out to a band or artist – The Hip are as synonymous with Canada as maple syrup and hockey are. But aside from a legendary singer now gone far too soon (R.I.P. Gord), what people both inside AND outside of Canada (contrary to popular belief) connected with in their music was the brilliant depth found in the band’s music, and quite specifically in the guitars when it came to many of their tunes. So…I know this is a roundabout point & all, but what I’m saying is, The Key Of Green is certainly keeping good company when it comes to the music department…and ultimately, even comparing an artist like Gord to an artist like Charles Ryan Davis isn’t nearly as much of a stretch as you’d think, despite the uniqueness of both of’em. They both chose to tackle their art with an admirably ambitious poetic style.
When it comes to what you’ll hear on “Knifelike Nightlife” – sure, you’ll hear moments that sound like they could be on The Hip’s album Up To Here or even Day For Night – but the sheer amount of metamorphosis within this one song will go on to prove that The Key Of Green isn’t so much about any one style of music, as opposed to including MANY. Exceptional! I was freakin’ blown away. Being as honest with you all as I always am, I know that the progressive tendencies on display in “Knifelike Nightlife” are still going to make it tougher for the everyday listener to hang with…but I’ll be damned if the people out there shouldn’t be loving the shifts, transitions, twists, and turns found in this tune. Remarkable! You end up with a really extraordinary blend of music that still has enough solid riffage to satisfy those looking for something to hold on to, as well as the high doses of art inside the design of the structure, sound, and flow, that we’ve come to know and love from the mind of Charles Ryan Davis. Make no mistake – art inspires art, and enthusiasm is contagious – if you’re familiar with the music of CRD’s past, you’ll completely hear how the spark of energy supplied by Evan has raised the stakes here. As a result, The Key Of Green comes out strong from the gate, bringing you into a thick & meaty sound with “Knifelike Nightlife,” and a perfect example of the clever wordplay in the lyricism that adorns this record…another staple element of CRD’s music that also feels even more focused here within this duo. Plenty of groove, plenty of spectacular ideas…there’s no doubt that at only 2:38 in length, it’s actually an incredibly ambitious, creative, and colorful song well-beyond what you’d expect in a tune so short – The Key Of Green instantly show you how to fill the air with memorable moments. In fact, if you were to look at this first song on paper, you’d probably assume you were looking at ten song’s worth of ideas; somehow, they squeeze them all in here in under three minutes of time…it’s riotously impressive really.
You’ll go on to discover that’s the approach to the songs on Metaphorical Fires throughout this set of six tunes – the longest of which is only 3:15; The Key Of Green has figured out how to pack in a tremendous amount of entertainment into each short space. I mean, take a listen to “Down A Quarter” and you’ll hear what I’m talking about. Don’t just take my word for it though…in fact, many people have said that “Down A Quarter” is the greatest song to have ever been recorded. It was just the other day that I was in my office, and someone came up to me and said, “sir…SIR…have you heard the second song on the new album by The Key Of Green,” and they like, had tears in their eyes when they were telling me this story, because it was such a beautiful moment. And then I painted my face orange in celebration, kicked a homeless person, and awarded an old Doc Marten shoe the presidential medal of freedom just for fun.
OKAY. Maybe a bit of that was hyperbole, fantasy, or made up…and maybe a whole lot of “Down A Quarter” is obviously about Agent Orange, current occupant of The White House. Of course, like all-things-CRD, there is a whole lot more to it than such a simplified subject – in fact, he turns the spotlight right onto us all when he sings “Here’s a little thought for food/We are the fake news, dude” and outright exposes our own role in the spread of disinformation in today’s world. Whether it’s an opinion spread in person, on the internet, or through the bleak indifference of an emoji, The Key Of Green goes on to skewer society in all kinds of ways throughout the lyrics of “Down A Quarter,” presenting ya with one of the most topically relevant cuts on the record that shows how real life can bleed right into the art we create and become a true reflection of the times we’re living in. Charles Ryan will also do his own take on the ‘Jack Be Nimble’ nursery rhyme…which is honestly another brilliant idea to have included here; not only does it completely fit, but the very concept of including a nursery rhyme in a song that deals with Trump goes that much further to make its point about the numbskullery of its main target. Between the vibrant energy radiating from the drums, the mix of direct & poetic lyricism, and the sheer amount of personality in the guitars supplied by Wooley, particularly when he lights up the fretboard around the 1:15 mark…again, it’s undeniable that The Key Of Green is givin’ ya a whole lot to appreciate.
Jerry was a racecar driver when I grew up. Now in the world according to Davis, “Jerry bought a car he can’t afford” – my how times have changed eh? Alright…”Homicidal Sole” has nothing to do with Primus, other than a similar tongue-in-cheek humor in the song’s title, but it seemed like a nice segue to write in here anyway. The Key Of Green pounds into this cut, then immediately relents into a chilled-out vibe, before exploding into the bliss of distorted chords and bending lead-notes…then drifting into the space of the breakdown before ramping up the energy all over again…you get the point – lots goin’ on for this duo once again throughout “Homicidal Sole.” Knowing Charles Ryan just a little bit better than some out there might, I can tell ya he’d get a kick out of the fact I can actually relate to this song on the strangest of levels…I have in fact, had a “Homicidal Sole” of my own at one point. CRD singing “Soaking up the sun before it gets too cold/I step on an insect, homicidal sole” fully reminded me of one of the most defining moments of my childhood, where I slowly lowered my foot onto a grasshopper in grade three, daring the tiny creature to do the right thing, figure it out, jump to freedom, and survive. It did not. The first tear from my face likely coincided with the crunch of the grasshopper beneath my foot as I realized the horror of what I had done…no matter how small it was, it still felt like I had needlessly taken a life that day. And quite obviously from the fact that I still remember that moment as clear as if it were yesterday, it taught me to be better than that…and yes, I cried about it all the way home; I was a sensitive kid perhaps, but c’mon…however ya learn this lesson of life & death, it’s an important one to lock down tight & understand, wouldn’t ya say? Loved the groove The Key Of Green ends up in towards the two-minute mark & just after it passes…excellent vocal rhythms from Charles Ryan in the hypnotic repetition of the hooks, absolutely fantastic guitar notes bending in every direction from Evan…and the final moments of deconstruction made for a great surprise as the duo breaks it down after a majorly tight experience throughout the entire song, and falls apart piece by piece purposely.
LISTEN to that though will ya? That’s the sound of a song that has its own gravitational pull – you can’t resist the opening energy and inspired spark throughout “Wreck Of Nerves.” Word on the street is that this is potentially going to be a single from the record…and given the stunning level of supercharged charisma & personality on display throughout this catchy cut, I’d say that’s a solid choice. Certainly no objections from me – and I can’t imagine there would be any from the people out there listening either; in fact, I think this track hits just about every mark you could hope to. From the average set of ears looking for hooks they can latch onto, to completely dedicated musicians that dig their timing switches & innovative structures – everything’s included here and nothing feels left out. As a result, neither would anyone listening…it doesn’t feel above anyone’s head despite its progressive structure, because the flow is so spot-on & seamless; likewise, it doesn’t feel below anyone’s standards when the song roars into its most accessible hooks. Ultimately, that’s an extremely hard balance to achieve and an accomplishment to be proud of…it’s the ability to make what’s complex come out in a way that the people out there can hang with & handle that makes a song like “Wreck Of Nerves” so remarkable. Plus…I mean…again…we really can’t downplay the contributions that Wooley has been making to this record, and makes in particular on the all-out extraordinary performance he puts in on “Wreck Of Nerves” – because from the tone to the touch, this dude really has got the chops & stands out in all the right ways. He’ll get you interested in seventeen seconds or less when it comes to “Wreck Of Nerves” – and that’s all before the beat even kicks-in or Davis has sung a single note – and you better believe that this track continues to surge forward strongly to victory from there. Huge vocal hooks, great harmonies, massive guitar moments that blend a wild college-rock-inspired Kids In The Hall-esque vibe in the guitars with something decidedly beefier thickening up this whole tune through the production. Serious props to the production department on Metaphorical Fires – this entire record sounds freakin’ spectacular!
Once upon a time there was a “Time Once Upon,” where wordplay reigned supreme. CRD flexes his imagination and creativity inside of the lyrics on this cut, twisting a lot of phrases you know like the one in the title into something else that’ll make you think & ponder the mechanics of his mind as you listen. It’s a beautiful machine, this much I can tell ya – Davis stands apart from a ton of the rest for the thought he puts into his lyricism, and “Time Once Upon” is a solid example of both why that is, and a great representation of the kind of material you might have thought you’d find on an album called Metaphorical Fires. No lie though, it’s got a tougher spot in the lineup than the rest do in this set in coming after “Wreck Of Nerves” – and combined with its low-key sound at the beginning & being the shortest song on the album, it almost seems like the odds are against “Time Once Upon” in all sorts of ways when it comes to getting the attention it rightly deserves. I’ll say this – I like what CRD brings to the mic, but I’m loving what I hear in the music of this song; I couldn’t live without the lyrics, but it’s the personality in the sound of “Time Once Upon” that has the most appeal. Like, listen to how this cut slides into the first minute – or the build-up that takes place right after – or the explosion into the heaviest parts of this song after that & the killer drums & hi-hats goin’ on here will ya? I mean, you can’t fault ME just because one part outshines the other by a bit can ya? So the music has the edge here by a slight margin! Do I think this duo is gonna mind that fact given that they’re both still responsible for the sound of everything else we hear? Of course not – it’s a compliment for Christ’s sake! While there’s an argument to be made that “Time Once Upon” is a little less balanced in that regard in respect to what will both pull you into & retain your interest at the core of this song by comparison to the rest – we’d still be talking about the slightest of degrees in difference. Like I said – it’s a tough spot in the set-list and likely nothing more – the performance itself is as tight as every other tune and the production is equally spot-on as it’s been throughout the record. But still, bonus points for the killer guitars from Evan on “Time Once Upon,” the energy on the drums from Davis, the creativity in the lyricism, and the innovative/inventive structure they’ve put together in such a short timeframe. “Time Once Upon” may have more of an artistic thread than some of the others by design, which can definitely be challenging for some listeners, but The Key Of Green still gives ya plenty of entertainment to latch onto as it plays.
If there was some way that someone out there somehow missed the wicked contributions to The Key Of Green that Evan Wooley has been responsible for throughout Metaphorical Fires, then his guitar on the final track “The Message” should be like a flare of pure neon color flashing in the darkness of the night sky – you couldn’t possibly miss it. They get the blues, funk, jazz, rock, progressive, pop combo just right here wouldn’t ya say? For REAL folks – The Key Of Green has added in a ton of incredible sounds & styles into this last experience, and they’ve made it all seem as organic, seamless, and natural to them as music could possibly be. Everything fits, everything flows, everything moves, and everything grooves – “The Message” makes use of the few extra seconds in length it has by comparison to the rest of the songs on the album, and lights up your speakers with one last sonic dose of radiantly poetic personality. Give the bass-man some extra credit here as well! Killer stuff happenin’ there, and as noted earlier, supplied by Charles Ryan Davis…between his efforts there in the rhythm section and his reliable melody on the mic, he gives Evan all the space in the world he needs to roam around in search of awesomeness. Which he finds. Repeatedly. Over. And. Over. Again. Ferociously inspired stuff! It felt like section by section, second by second, The Key Of Green gives you a new dimension of the song & sound and a new reason to keep listening to “The Message.” Excellent build-up as it slides into place and locks into the melody of the verse – and then…THEN…around the 1:20 mark, Wooley takes right off into the stratosphere and The Key Of Green draw a firm line in the sand, daring to cross from the good side to the great side one last time on Metaphorical Fires. A minute later on down the road, they’re sliding right back into the sweetness of the most stripped-down section of this last blast of rhythm & groove, letting us drift along with the quaint chill of comforting sound to contemplate the contrasting complex lyricism that comes with it as “The Message” heads to its ending & wraps up the record for good.
Absolutely stoked on this record and the amount of sheer audio entertainment to be discovered on Metaphorical Fires – The Key Of Green have really got a rad energy shared between them, and soon enough they’ll be passing that all onto YOU. Metaphorical Fires comes out officially on February 28th at the end of the month – mark your calendars and make sure you have a listen to this one folks.
Find music by Charles Ryan Davis and The Key Of Green at Apple Music here: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/charles-ryan-davis/1316833300
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