Joel Plaskett Emergency – Ashtray Rock
Released April 17th, 2007 on MapleMusic Recordings
A triumph of album-making, the third Emergency album tells the story of the Ashtray Rock, a place in the woods near the Halifax suburb of Clayton Park where the local teenagers gather to get drunk and crank the volume on already-loud rock ‘n’ roll music. Two guys have a great time hanging out at the late-night parties but they have a falling out over a girl. One of them gets the girl for a little while, and the other one forms a rock ‘n’ roll band.
As far as ideas for concept albums go, it’s squarely in the Who camp, but Plaskett and Co. pull it off at the height of their powers and it ends up being exhilarating rather than ridiculous. Part of the success in this is that the concept and lyrics are near and dear to Plaskett’s heart and he has said at times that some of the characters are his old bandmates in Thrush Hermit, and that the music-in-common part of “Penny For Your Thoughts” is tuned to his wife’s tastes.
Regardless of the concept, of course, it’s an amazing lineup of songs that strike a clear tone and build hooks like skyscrapers. It was shortlisted for the 2007 Polaris Music prize (along with Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible) but eventually lost out to Patrick Watson’s Close To Paradise. This is too bad, really, since Ashtray Rock is the absolute peak of the Emergency, a rock ‘n’ roll triumph whose nostalgic paeans to youth and young love will ring on long after the last notes.