It’s one of my Dad’s favourite stories to tell. CBC Radio 1 was on in his kitchen (and living room and bedroom) on Mother’s Day back when Sam Robert’s “Brother Down” had made him as a household name in Canada, and our beloved national station was hosting a show for moms to call-in and request the songs of their children. And Sam Roberts’ mom called. My dad was overcome with patriotic pride at this event.
“Can you imagine this happening in the States?” he asked me rhetorically.
Rhetorically, because I couldn’t, and he knew that. Sure the US of A has NPR, but it does not permeate the culture of the country like CBC does here. In many ways, CBC helped raise me. With it on in every room of my dad’s house and in the car (unless we hit a dead zone on road trips and had to switch over to Buddy Holly, Janis Joplin, and Leonard Cohen albums), I was bombarded with the current events of As It Happens, the music history of Finkleman’s 45s, the stories of Stuart McLean, and the comedy stylings of Air Farce, Dead Dog Café, and Luh-oooooooorne Elliott. I’m even wearing a CBC Radio t-shirt right now.
Not everyone listens to CBC Radio. I don’t when I am away from my hometown—when I am working on essays or wanderlusting off somewhere—but CBC formed an important part of who I am, and it did the same for many other Canadians. Apparently not Stephen Harper, unfortunately. Our Prime Minister, with his minty-fresh majority government, will keep cutting and cutting at CBC’s funding, so maybe happy moments like a celebrated rock-star’s mom calling-in to hear her son on Mother’s Day for Canadians to hear from coast to coast will be a thing of the past.
That was a long introduction to the album, about which I will I try to be brief. I think it is Sam Roberts (now Sam Roberts Band)’s best to date. From beginning to end, Collider entertains with its groovy rhythms and recurring imagery that interlocks the lyrics of all 13 tracks. It is not the thematic masterpiece that is Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, but the images of war, knives, sailing, stars, maps, bees, hunters, fog, and arrows link all the songs together in a way that gives the album a truly completed feel. Even the definite geek reference in the title of the last track, “Tractor Beam Blues”, hearkens back to the first on the album: “The Last Crusade” (if you like Lucas and Spielberg movies).
Considering all the war imagery, my favourite line is “I surrender to the very mention of you” from “Without a Map”, but the chorus of “Tractor Beam Blues” also stands out as a final plea for positivity in the face of all the loss:
Is love enough?
Yes it is.
Is hope enough?
I hope it is.