Jon Epworth & the Improvements
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Jon Epworth & the Improvements

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


Jon Epworth
MM/DD/YY
(Antiantenna)
By Matt Charlton
September 04, 2003

This is a fucking great album. On his debut solo CD, Dean Malenkos drummer Jon Epworth turns in an album showing huge ability as both a pop songsmith and a talented performer. While each song is at worst an adequately charming tune, Epworth uses them as a vehicle for a huge variety of experimentation. From the synth/noise slashes in “All Day” to the rootsy delivery of “Wherefore Emanuel,” the album throws ideas around freely, not worrying if new ones will materialise for the next track. Best of all Epworth manages to pull this off while simultaneously avoiding the songs sinking into a self-indulgent muck or feeling like they are pop songs with spaces set aside for Radiohead-inspired madness. This is one of the few albums that has managed to both capitalise on the Halifax sound while still sounding vibrant and new. - Matt Charlton


New on CD
HFX/The Daily News
April 27,2006

Jon Epworth and the Improvements
Wet on Wet
Indepedent
4/5 stars

HRM's unsung pawn-shop guitar hero is back with a fistful of raw, raunchy rock'n'roll riffs that will satisfy both new listeners and longtime fans.
Great production by Laurence Currie captures the fury and power of "15 minutes of fame, 29 years of anguish."
The Improvements get it done right, helping Epworth make the jump from angst to anger and establishing him as one to watch in coming months. - Stephen Clare


June 22, 2006

“Epworth can drive hooks that stick with you for days.[...] The attitude that comes through in Epworth's voice through the latter track shows a singer who's in charge of his vocal strength, but more importantly, comfortable in delivering his message. [...] And have you seen them perform live? Like for real. If you have and this isn't on your shelf at home, don't bother talking to me next time we're out. You should know better.” - Ray Gracewood


Jon Epworth & the Improvements
Wet on Wet
(Independent)
By Chris Whibbs
August 03, 2006

Bounding out of the East, Jon Epworth cuts a mean path with this assured disc that has many outstanding moments of rock. The term “rock” is one that is used reticently, as due to its overuse it can now indicate something that is good, yet is clearly not. To wit: “This gun rocks.” Here, the term is a compliment on the part of Epworth and his self-depreciatingly named back-up band. To “rock” is to be moved by the music to jump around, burst into an embarrassing pose and even flail around wildly in pathetic air guitar. To “rock” is to be emboldened by the music, both to do the above and to turn a walk into a strut. If this all sounds unbearably cheesy and clinical, it may be an attempt to make something more out of this music. It is fun, expertly done and inspires hapless joy in its handclaps and choruses, like on “The Body” and even blows the speakers as on the spectacular closer, “Gone.” All of the above seems somewhat needless when this album could be encapsulated in two, albeit cliché, words: it rocks. - by Chris Whibbs


The Coast (Halifax's weekly)
Vol13, #47, April 20-27, 2006


“...a stellar sophomore solo effort [...] Musically and production-wise, it's extremely attractive for the listener, but Epworth likes to make his audience work for it. His lyrics can be harshly descriptive and he doesn't hestitate to throw in unconventional elements, ones that ultimately make the song much more satisfying. [...] Epworth sounds fully in command on the album. There are some heavy Elvis Costello influences, strong songwriting and fantastic production.”



- Stephanie Johns


...Wet on Wet, named after a method of painting, is a powerhouse rock record, full of intricate playing and Epworth’s impressive vocal chops. It’s also one of the very last projects recorded at Idea of East, the North-end studio whose building fell prey to the wrecking ball in the spring.
... - Stephen Cooke


Discography

MMDDYY (2002)
Two Sessions
Wet on Wet (2006)

Distributed in Canada through Sonic Unyon
Digital distribution through IODA (worldwide-2007)

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Whenever we perform, which is often, there is a moment during one of our songs, no matter how many times we've practiced or played it, whether it be in front of hundreds of fans or ten persons unfamiliar with our repetoire, when I believe we all share a genuine, collective smile; therein lies the secret to a beautiful musical group. That is what we have. That is what we mean to each other on the stage.

"To the pear shaped men and women living in these downsize-era urban discotheques
all your dreams are covered in cheese
waiting for your giant royalty cheques …"
-- Extra Fries

Jon Epworth makes an impression. But he is not merely out to impress, and this distinguishes the Halifax songwriter from many other frontmen. He nudges (and sometimes jostles) us out of our complacency. Whether being carried godlike onto the stage by a procession of rock slaves or exploring serious questions through absurd humour and raucous rock, Epworth compels and challenges beer-numbed minds, straddling the line between musical performance and performance art.

Although Jon Epworth has performed in diverse bands over the past 12 years, his previous two albums (MM/DD/YY, 2002 and Two Sessions, 2005) were performed solo and recorded according to a DIY ethic. His songs, however, began to diverge from previous musical efforts and he began to look for a fuller sound. The resulting union of Epworth with his accomplished band, The Improvements, and the release of their debut disc Wet on Wet, marks an explosive twist in Halifax music mythology.

Consisting of Jason Vautour (guitar), Shane Kerr (bass), and Mike Belyea (drums), the Improvements is a collective of veteran Maritime musicians unified by a love for smart soul and pop-saturated rock. The newly-formed group proved to be game for the challenge of Epworth’s new material, their eclectic backgrounds and expert musicianship providing depth to his initial offerings.

As the band’s material grew, recording prospects loomed. Ultimately choosing to work with revered Halifax engineer Laurence Currie (Thrush Hermit, Buck 65, Wintersleep), the band rolled up its sleeves to work on what would become the incomparable Wet on Wet (2006). Recording the tracks live off the floor ensured that the frenetic energy of their live performance remained intact.

As walls of rhythm build and fall under explosive guitars and dynamic vocals, it quickly becomes apparent that this record offers more than cheap aesthetic thrills. “Epworth sounds fully in command on the album,” a full-length Coast cover story notes, citing “fantastic production” and “strong songwriting” as key elements of the album’s appeal. From the subtle craftsmanship of “Extra Fries,” to the arresting power of “Gone,” the album fuses into an urgent sound that is nothing but rock ’n’ roll. The scrappy guitars and lush vocals of “Please Stop Celebrating” and “Static Receiver” lead the pop charge on the disc, while the brooding darkness of “The Guilt” and “1st Platoon” and deliver a more sombre tone (“His hair is sticky and his eyebrow's cut/ the eye beneath it is swollen shut / due to lack of restraint and a wicked tongue/ that's where these decorations come from” – 1st Platoon).

The result? Wet on Wet is a work of diverse elements shaped into an impressively focused unit, not unlike the musicians who made it. And the future is promising: the record has already earned a nomination for the 2007 East Coast Music Awards “Alternative Recording of the Year”, as well as a trio of nods from Music Nova Scotia for Group Recording of the Year, Alternative Recording of the Year, and Album of the Year. An international press campaign will follow on the heels of a worldwide digital distribution agreement through IODA (Independent Online Distribution Alliance) beginning early in 2007. With constant touring, newly acquired Canadian distribution from Sonic Unyon (physical), and a national video and single to be launched in January 2007, Jon Epworth and The Improvements are set to unsettle us--one show at a time.