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The best kept secret in music


"CD Review - The World Is Too Much With Us"

Bob Dylan once remarked that "the world don't need any more songs." When asked to explain what he meant, Dylan merely replied that world has "got way too many," and added that "if nobody wrote any songs from this day on, the world ain't gonna suffer." This sounds like an odd remark, particularly coming from the man who created what is arguably the greatest musical legacy of the 20th century. Then again, the statement makes some sense in a typically-cryptic-Dylan-type way. After all, hasn't everything been done before? Isn't every new idea simply a reconfiguration of preceding ideas? Dylan himself was aping Woody Guthrie -- right down to the grey flannel shirt, defiant sneer, and nasal drawl. In the end, is to be "original" merely to present old ideas in a particularly unique manner?

There's plenty of evidence to suggest this is the case, especially when you look at the current state of popular music. For those of us who grew up in the eighties, this all looks familiar: dark suits, pretty hairdos, synthesizers, quavering falsettos, melodrama… All of a sudden, the music scene sounds like the soundtrack to a John Hughes movie; everybody's biggest influence is from the Atari age, whether it's U2, the Cure, New Order, the Smiths, or the Talking Heads. Now Showroom, a band from Toronto, are doing their best eighties impersonation. And though they aren't doing anything groundbreaking here, the band's first proper album,The World Is Too Much With Us, is an impressive debut. Showroom may wear their influences on their sleeve, but somehow their music sounds fresh and perhaps -- dare the word be uttered -- original.

Two things about Showroom that make them stand out from the new wave revival crowd: lead singer Ben Hutchinson's voice is an uncanny amalgamation of numerous other voices and guitarist Rory Lindsay knows his Johnny Marr licks. One moment Hutchinson sounds like Dexy's Midnight Runner's Kevin Rowland doing that charming English-countryside-drawl thing, the next like Morrissey actually singing in key, the next like Jeff Buckley hitting one of those unearthly high notes. Then there's Lindsay, who can effortlessly shift from a shimmering, jangly lead to a foot-stomping rhythm. In essence, he's two guitarists in one, able to seamlessly graft a melody to a chord progression without the need for a rhythm player or extensive overdubs. All this is to say these boys have skills.

"How then," you might be wondering, "can Showroom sound original when their influences are so obvious?" Well, while they might have impeccable influences, Showroom aren't trying to copy anyone. Their music is more like a mosaic -- made up of many familiar pieces that form something entirely new. Take "Gentlemen of Leisure," for example, which starts with a bouncy rockabilly guitar riff before tumbling into a frenetic romp of scattershot guitar and drums. Over all the music, Hutchinson delivers the gospel as only a true man of style can: "Gentlemen shouldn't ever strain / He who seats doth himself arraign." Later, he adds, "While the idle sit and waste / And the waspy buzz in haste / So the best of men reflect / And by God, they don't fret." Finally, a lead singer whose wit is sharper than the crease in his trousers!

And therein lays Showroom's forte -- melding catchy riffs, bouncy drumbeats, and impeccable lyric writing. Clearly, the four members of the band grew up listening to classic pop, for only music fanatics could make an album with such perfect hooks on their first LP. "The Dying Art," for instance, is an infectious little pop song that somehow manages to be both jaunty and philosophically weighty. "Grim will reap what you have sown," Hutchinson warns, "Just as you peak you will be mown." In the background, drummer Tyler Dokis plays a dapper shuffle while Lindsay alternates between furious palm muted chords and chiming notes. Likewise, "Brooding On a Friday Night" is both catchy and depressing, a tribute to those boring Friday nights when loneliness breeds frustration, then gives way to guilty release. "Sing the song of liberation," Hutchinson encourages, "Sing the song of masturbation."

The World Is Too Much With Us is full of such delightful pop gems, and Showroom prove they have the skills to forge a long career. There's not a bad track on this album, which is a rare accomplishment for a band still in their relative infancy. Moreover, the guys in Showroom are wise enough to know it's all been done before. In "Brooding On a Friday Night," they concede as much: "Damn it all. Everything's been done / Nothing new underneath the sun." So, in the end, perhaps Dylan is right; the world doesn't need any new songs. But when they're as full of charm and punch as Showroom's music, it sure makes life a lot more enjoyable.

— 3 November 2005 -

"CD Review - The World Is Too Much With Us"

The 80s sound revival is still, to quote a 80s tune from Simple Minds, “alive and kicking.” Bands such as The Killers, Interpol, and Franz Ferdinand have all enjoyed enormous commercial success thanks to their nostalgic appeal. Lump one more band into the revivalist genre: Toronto based Showroom. The group’s sound merges a number of eighties bands (or 80s inspired bands) into one cleverly convenient package. To make the flashbacks to the decade of Ronald Reagan even more poignant, their CD cover looks like packaging from an old Atari 2600 game cartridge.

The disc is full of splendid tracks. The first song, “Fighting Words,” sounds eerily like Franz Ferdinand. It’s light, fun, and full of 80s goodness. “The Residence of Ben” sounds like part two of The Smiths’ “This Charming Man” without the nasal whining of Morrissey. “Dying Art” also sounds like Johnny Marr made a guest appearance (kudos to guitarist Rory Lindsay). “Clarity” takes an about face to the bands’ up-tempo meanderings. It is a beautiful song that reminded me of The Railway Children (how’s that for name dropping). Not to be confined to the sounds of the 80s, “Valediction” has a guitar opening that could be culled from a Jeff Buckley ballad.

The band is also strong lyrically, with poignancy that can be easily lost with their happy ramblings. The lyrics for “The Dying Art” present that evidence with prose that reads “Salvation is a happy heart/So kill the inner tart/Ugliness must depart/Living’s a dying art.” The band delicately combines fun music with often depressing lyrics. But, not to be all gloomy, they also have a sense of humor. That is evident on “Brooding On A Friday Night” and the aforementioned first track when lead vocalist Ben Hutchinson croons “Mad dog, rabid, go on paw the ground/You snarl fierce but no one’s around/It’s just you and I.”

A number of the tracks appeared earlier on their EP Still Escalator but for someone like me who is just getting their first taste of Showroom, the disc is one of the most enjoyable and palatable offerings of 2005. Better yet, the more I listen to the disc, the more I dig it. -

"NXNE Live Review"

Every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp dressed band and this Toronto quartet was nothing if not fashionable. Vocalist Ben Hutchinson looks like a Club Monaco version of Simon LeBon, with a mop-topped Strokes cast-off as his guitar slinging sidekick. But the two of them dominated the stage and their brand of retro no-wave pop was bouncy, fun and surprisingly fresh. - Exclaim! Magazine

"Profile: This Band Should Be Huge"

No one can accuse Showroom of passivity. Within just a few years, the band already has a fully formed and impressively accomplished sound. The four Showroom members also boast a demo and an EP under their belts, and a full-length is in the works--and all this, too, while they're fully immersed in four years of liberal arts studies at the University of Toronto.

Yes, we know, higher learning institutions sprout bands like weeds. And no offense to all the hard-working, dorm-dwelling, would-be rock stars out there, but it takes more than a dream and campus-wide notoriety to launch a career. Many college bands call it quits upon graduation, much in the way frat guys leave behind binge drinking--it was fun while it lasted, but a lifetime's worth is no picnic.

Showroom, though, could prove to be a rare exception--a band waiting in the wings of academia for a chance to prove its greatness. Ben Hutchinson (vocals), Tristan Samuk (bass), Rory Lindsay (guitar), and Tyler Dokis (drums) have been sweating through such arbitrary subjects as religion and political science--well, 'arbitrary' when rock 'n' roll infamy is at stake--but with graduation on the horizon and potential bursting at the seams, it's now time to shed light on this immensely promising but as-yet-unsigned band.

Steeped in '80s jangle pop and, well, college rock, Showroom exhibits a healthy obsession with the Smiths and Jeff Buckley, and the group's near-perfect pop fits nicely between the sensitive musings of Death Cab for Cutie and the melodic roar of Thursday. And while it's true that all bands have missteps and growing pains, with Showroom it just isn't as obvious. "The sound was never forced. It came together quickly and naturally," explains Lindsay. "We all appreciate pop/rock, though our individual tastes certainly differ." This would explain the reggae-inflected bridge towards the end of "Paradise Misplaced," and the unconventional song structure of "Clarity," which quickly builds to a gorgeous crescendo leaving the listener wanting more. "I think we share a common wish to write parts that are creative and, hopefully, innovative," says Samuk. "It's popular music, so it's got to be accessible, but that doesn't mean you can't explore the limits of a particular song idea."

It's nuances and surprises such as these that propel Showroom's songs beyond the standard formula. However, what really sets them soaring is Hutchinson's passionate delivery and idiosyncratic approach. "Ben writes intelligent lyrics that sound remarkably poppy," explains Lindsay. "The content and delivery are seemingly on opposite ends of the spectrum, which makes for unusual music. A lot of our originality comes from that." On "Residence of Ben," Hutchinson treats the song like one long answering-machine message, capturing a state of restlessness and ennui with imagination and wit.

With such commitment and chemistry it's unlikely Showroom will stop anytime soon--school or no school--though we'll have to wait and see if fame is in the cards. At the very least, Showroom deserves a healthy and fruitful creative existence. "It all depends on what happens in the next couple of years," says Samuk. "We're all in our early 20s and at a point in our lives where we can take different directions and not suffer too much by taking risks. If we can continue with Showroom for the next five to ten years, I'll be ecstatic!"

The question remains, though: Is a liberal arts education good for the life of a musician? With degrees in such subjects as philosophy and aboriginal studies, it seems like the members of Showroom aren't exactly preparing for the rat race.

"Either (we) attain rock infamy or retire from the beastliness of the real world to the blessed realms of the academy," explains Hutchinson. Samuk agrees: "If music doesn't work out, then I think we're all looking at the possibility of doing some further schooling. The decision will probably be made for us by the time we come to it." And sounding like a man who knows well the differences between Descartes and Sartre, Hutchinson justifies the group's intellectual endeavors, explaining, "If nothing else, this education has taught me that life is activity. It is to be lived, not passively experienced."

"Still Escalator Review"

Toronto’s Showroom is going full on into the retro swoon of the 80s pop naïf. No surprise there. The Dears, the Stills, Uncut, Interpol and loads of other acts have been tugging at those same heartstrings for a while now. What sets Still Escalator apart is that the mood is far more eyes-to-the-sky than the shoe-gazing stuff we're used to. Ben Hutchinson plies impressive Morrissey-strayingtoward-Siouxie Sioux vox, and a predictable amount of melancholy rides along with that voice. But in flavour and tone, Showroom have a peppier sensibility that recalls the buoyant pop of Dexy’s Midnight Runners and the 80s’ other less grey artists. - Now Magazine

"Chart's 2004 NXNE Report Card"

Refreshing and fun. Makes you wanna bop around even though
it’s1 a.m. and you're dead tired. Lead singer Ben Hutchinson’s
personality filled the stage. He commanded the crowd with charm and a bit of well-placed arrogance: “So...are you fans yet?!” Hutchison’s voice is powerful and dramatic. The guitar licks are addictive and frequent. There is some ‘80s homage happening here with shades of the more upbeat, poppy side of The Smiths. -

"Still Escalator Review"

...their first release, an EP entitled Still Escalator, is a surprisingly accomplished debut... They’ve managed to capture that upbeat jangly guitar sound that was so very popular in the UK in the midst of the C86 era, resulting in something that is reminiscent of the Chesterfields or the Trash Can Sinatras. And then there are the vocals of Ben Hutchinson who has a style that sounds like a cross between James Bradfield (from the Manic Street Preachers) and Morrissey, giving Showroom a pretty, unique sound. - Exclaim! Magazine


The World Is Too Much With Us (2005)
Still Escalator EP (2004)


Feeling a bit camera shy


Showroom is a band. A good band. While Toronto is a city, Showroom is a band within that city, and has received praise from “music critics” who themselves are human beings with feelings. Their first EP, Still Escalator, was described by Soul Shine Magazine as a “shimmering joyride” with a string of tunes that “raises the bar for what it means to be an indie band in Toronto circa 2004.” Exclaim! called it a “surprisingly accomplished debut.” Now Showroom has released a fulllength album that will make you want to dance, smile, reflect, run, walk, roll over, heal, and eat dinner. Entitled The World Is Too Much With Us, this album is projected to sell over 1,000,000,000,000 copies. Outrageous? No. Just call it “true.”

Showroom’s members have jaw-dropping biographies. Vocalist Ben Hutchinson, bassist Tristan Samuk, and guitarist Rory Lindsay met in high school. And as if this weren’t enough, drummer Tyler Dokis met Rory at the University of Toronto. After playing a series of impromptu gigs in neighbouring countries, Showroom recorded their first demo disc with producer Eric Lightfoot of Madrid (Aporia/Universal). Soon Showroom began playing explosive, fun-filled, and frantic performances with Toronto buzz band The Golden Dogs (True North/Universal). Now Magazine couldn’t get enough of one concert: “Openers Showroom made it a double victory... Any band that can get the groove and feel of the Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer down cold is doing something right.” Feeling the need to record more songs, Showroom approached then-Golden Dogs guitarist and resident recording engineer Michael Chambers, and within 25 minutes had completed their first EP Still Escalator.

Showroom have sold hundreds of CDs to the US, Canada, and Europe. Most record labels have simply thrown up their arms and said: “This band is too famous.” Not surprising. They headlined a NXNE showcase in 2004 and received a 90% grade from Chart Magazine. Moreover, the editors at ran a feature on Showroom called “This Band Should Be Huge” and selected the band as one of the best of 2004. Even America’s National Public Radio featured the band on their online program All Songs Considered. Now fans from as far away as Beijing are slamming Showroom’s inbox with glorious emails. And who could blame them? Showroom’s music is just that neat.

The stage is now set for a Showroom-based economy in Canada. And you, the reader, may be one of the first to listen to The World Is Too Much With Us. Will you be the last? Of course not. Just keep listening. And waiting. And hope that you will experience this album enough times to survive a summer, a fall, a winter, a spring, another summer, and beyond.