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Arts and Culture

Remembering Canada's Pioneering Two-Piece

The Inbreds were predicting the future while you were still jumping around to Ace of Base.

By Thom Wong 25 Aug 2011 | TheTyee.ca

Thom Wong writes regularly about music for The Tyee. He can also be found ruminating about the state of menswear at The Sunday Best.

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The Inbreds showing us the shape of bands to come.

If you were a teenager in Canada in 1994, chances are you fell into one of two musical categories. On the one side were the kids who rushed the DJ at school dances, demanding Janet Jackson and Ace of Base. On the other were the kids who smoked outside the dances, wondering when Smashing Pumpkins would release another album and oh my god Kurt Cobain Kurt Cobain Kurt Cobain! If you fell more into the latter group you probably also became familiar with the Canadian alternative scene, and, in desperation of finding a local band to which you could dedicate your heart and soul and binder covers.

Such was that desperation that some pretty questionable bands rose to prominence, bands with astoundingly bad names like Rymes with Orange and I Mother Earth and The Ghandarvas (I don't care what anyone says -- "The First Day of Spring" is an awesome, awesome song). Let's put it this way: we were so keen to find a Vancouver band that understood our pain we crowned David Usher as our rock king. These were dark times.

How different it might have been for us if we had been more familiar with the music of our Eastern counterparts. This was in the Days Before the Internet, and the land lying outside of the reach of Rolling Stone, Spin, and Ray Gun was an uncharted wasteland. If you didn't have friends who lived in the Maritimes, or weren't really, really tuned into college radio, the chances of you hearing about a band like The Inbreds was minimal.

If you don't know, The Inbreds were bassist/singer Mike O'Neill and drummer Dave Ullrich, a duo before being a duo was considered some kind of rebellious act, and sonically a far different story from that other Canadian bass/drummer duo, Death from Above 1979. O'Neill, who sounded like a less tortured Jeff Mangum, played his bass like a rhythm guitar, and the result was songs that chimed along on his echoing notes and Ullrich's steady, workman-like rhythms. 

"Any Sense of Time," off the band's second album, follows the alternative framework of quiet-quiet-loud-quiet, but O'Neill's beautifully simple melody and poetically repetitive lyrics save it from being just another Canadian alternative rock song. The Inbreds released their last album in 1998, right about the same time the entire alternative scene was starting to collapse into itself. ("Alternative to what?" being the common refrain.) "Any Sense of Time" stands as an example of what Canadian rock might have been had Matthew Good never picked up a guitar.  [Tyee]

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