Gordon Downie Battle of the Nudes

[Rounder/Zoe; 2003]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: indie rock
Others: The Weakerthans, Robert Pollard, The Tragically Hip

After digesting Gord Downie’s Battle of the Nudes for a couple of weeks I have to agree with Husky’s theory of first listen. I shall tuck-tail between my legs and more or less re-write my initial review of Downie’s latest.  I should have known better. To follow Downie’s career as the front man of The Tragically Hip reveals a path moving forward, building on the past with one eye clearly looking to the future.  So as expected this poet and artist alike has expanded upon his previous solo work.  The hushed beauty of his first release, Coke Machine Glow, is still found on his latest, but Downie also plugs in this time around.  “Figment” and “Christmastime in Toronto” are the most straightforward rock tracks to creep out of Downie’s brain.  The vocal harmonies and backing band (The Country of Miracles) on these tracks and on Battle of the Nudes add a new element to his repertoire.  Although many of the same core musicians are found on both of Downie’s releases, The Country Of Miracles have found a name this time and as such step to the front a little more.  There is no mistaking however that this is Downie’s show and his surreal imagination keeps things musically varied throughout. This is heard on the bouncy, Beatlesque hijacking of “Pascal’s Submarine” or the gorgeous “Steeplechase” that swells from a whisper and then disappears into an old radio transmission of an NHL game.  Not everything works such as the seemingly unfinished idea of “Who by Rote”, and two versions of “Pilforrm” are hardly necessary.  All in all though Battle of the Nudes is positive step forward in Downie’s solo work which showcases his continued growth as an artist and willingness to try new ideas.

1. Into the Night
2. Figment
3. Christmastime in Toronto
4. Willow Logic
5. Pascal’s Submarine
6. 11^th Fret
7. Who by Rote
8. Steeplechase
9. More Me Less You
10. We’re Hardcore
11. Pillform No. 2
12. Pillform No. 1

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