Such occurrences are rare but sometimes, all the tumblers just happen to align. A band doesn’t just produce the best damned music of their career, it also happens to get released in just the right place at the right time (and enough people just happen to be looking and listening just the right way) that the music catches a large amount of attention. There are too many variables at work to try and plan something like that; it pretty much has to happen by coincidence. But when it does happen, it can be so special and great that the fans that album wins never forget it and they keep coming back in hopes of catching another moment even half as charmed as that one. For Toronto-via-Vancouver transplants NEEDLES//PINS, that first great moment is their third album, Good Night Tomorrow.
This time out, the band had already trimmed its personnel down to a tight power trio which helped, but the most important things are that singer/guitarist Adam Solomonian’s voice has developed some natural scruff and snarl about it with the help of a regular touring regimen and general misuse (go back through the band’s first two full-lengths and it’s pretty clear that he was trying too hard and pushing his voice too earnestly). And the band finally got a producer (two of them, actually – Jesse Gander and Chuck Jones) to properly capture what is truly their best set of songs to date.
The impression that listeners are in for an event is apparent from the moment “Good Night” explodes and gets the A-side of the album spinning. There – in a manner similar to how The Replacements used to operate – NEEDLES//PINS uses raw urgency and attack coupled with an awesome lyric sheet to capture a perfectly articulated picture of wounded hearts and the hard feelings which tend to come with them (along with the resignation that says that there’s no going back). It might seem unbelievable to those who haven’t heard it yet but listeners will actually be able to feel their hearts being won by the band. The slightly rough edges of the song’s presentation as a whole are the little flecks which hook listeners with their unforgettable form and styling, and they’ll know they’ll want all they can get from this band right then and there.
As the A-side continues, listeners will discover they are not left wanting for more heart-winning moments of punk brilliance. Immediately after “Good Night,” NEEDLES//PINS change their form up a bit and touch an ever-so-slightly more street punk tip with “Violet” (this time, it’s as much a cross between The Replacements and Rancid as lines like “The palest eyes shit through boredom/ OK one more drink and we’re out of here” suggest) before firing off the final shots of a failed relationship for “Back To The Bright” with lines like “Still talking circles at 3am/ Still not convinced to the shape we’re in/ Start stop the bleeding in the morning light/ Keep fighting the feeling until it’s gone”.
Listeners are left feeling some familiar wanderlust in “Time And Tide” before closing out the side with a little more heartache at trying to save a relationship which reached its expiration date long ago in “Miracle.” In many ways and on many occasions, leaving off at a low point like that might lose a couple of listeners prior to the proverbial flip but, in this particular case, NEEDLES//PINS’ hooks will prove to be sunk deep into listeners. In fact, the darker end upon which “Miracle” leaves proves to be flat out chilling and marks a truly dynamic change in the emotional scope within which the other songs had operated and really opens up the musical/emotional vocabulary that the band has been working with. The difference is subtle, but those who catch it will be engrossed by the change and want to see what other growth reveals itself on the album’s B-side.
Unlike the A-side – which opens pretty clearly with an intentional “runaway hit” sort of song in “Good Night” – the B-side opener is very different and “Boil” simply lives up to its name as it brings the sound to a tense boil, but doesn’t shoot for any real bright lights. Rather the song just seeks to bring the heat back up to the levels at which the album’s A-side left them; Solomonian growls petulantly throughout the song but doesn’t really break into an active form here (check out lines like “So I guess I’ll say goodnight before the carbon takes the light/ Before your breath takes the room and the silence kills me” and how frustrated they feel), and really leaves it more to bassist Tony Dubroy and drummer Macey Budgell to scorch listeners and make his point for him. It is, needless to say, a very different kind of start stacked against how the A-side opened, but that difference proves grab a hold of listeners because it is solid and not the same and so shows yet another side of the band.
After “Boil” regroups with a different build, the precedent is set and the side continues in much the same manner. “All The Same” blazes out to answer that opening with the most perfectly formulaic and repetitive punk song on the album before “Pressure Points” bemoans the harder miles found on the road before picking up the loser/slacker ropes beautifully with perfectly epic, deliberately half-assed anthem “Untitled (You’re Fine).” This time, the band gets cheeky where “All The Same” saw them get cheesy and finds the group really just knocking out simple couplets, straddling the line between ‘brilliant’ and ‘bad’ precariously; but never actually falter or collapse in spite of themselves. Again, as was the case elsewhere on the album, NEEDLES//PINS prove they have the balls and the heart to come close to being just godawful – but they bravely own that shit and it really saves the song.
With “Someting New”, the band removes any remaining question of whether they’ve ever been fans of The Replacements at any point in their lives – and stands as the single greatest Replacements song that band never wrote. They then close up the doors on the album by reassuring listeners that, no, “everything’s not fine” with one last torrential three-minute tantrum. The lyrics “Everything’s not fine/ When every word hangs dead on the line/ Everything’s not good/ When you’re left alone with a curse of a life you could … Goddamn it I get it, goddamn it I know/ It’s hard to get somewhere with nowhere to go” basically encapsulates everything readers need to know before locking up and leaving listeners to sort out just how much they love what the band has laid down.
And what will the decision be after they’ve made it out of “Tomorrow” and taken a second to breathe? Likely they’ll reason that one trip through this album is simply not enough. After that first play through, listeners will already know that they feel a kinship with NEEDLES//PINS and need to take as much of this album into themselves as they can because it just feels so personally fulfilling. Upon first listen (as well as each successive one), listeners will feel gratified that NEEDLES//PINS have released twelve songs which speak both to them and for them in a way that they simply could not have done any better themselves. There is simply no easy way to articulate how good that feels. Get ready to love NEEDLES//PINS for Good Night Tomorrow reader, that it will happen right away and forevermore is a foregone conclusion.
(Mint Records/Dirt Cult Records)