The Meligrove Band – Let it Grow

The Meligrove Band
Let it Grow

Toronto’s power-pop trio the Meligrove Band collectively have only 69 years of experience on the planet. When listening to Let it Grow, the group’s second long-player after 2000’s Stars & Guitars, it’s somewhat hard to believe that, due in equal parts to their sophisticated grasp of pop songwriting and their decidedly backwards-looking influences. Barring some mathematical anomaly, the members of the Meligrove Band – Jason Nunes on guitar, keys, and vocals, Darcy Rego on drums and vocals, and Michael Small on bass – were born in 1979, just over a decade past the era of their prime inspiration. While recording technology has long since allowed musicians to absorb material created before their time, these fresh-faced Canucks seemed to have soaked up much more vintage pop than people who double their tender ages. Were it not for Let it Grow‘s sterling production, it might sound as if it were made as a contemporary response to Pet Sounds. This would be a considerable accomplishment for anyone, but coming from 23-year-olds, its impressiveness swells still more.
Yet for all the flash and fun of Let it Grow, it struggles throughout its duration with the problem of originality. In terms of songwriting, the Meligrove Band avoids sounding formulaic or trite by a wide margin, twisting and turning their tunes many times before they’re done with them. Their performances leave little to be desired, either, with terrific harmonies and melodies as far as the ear can hear. The sound of the record, though, suffers mightily from the obviousness of its point of reference, namely, the Beach Boys. One is tempted to forgive this in an era in which even Fred Durst is inspiring bands to form, but if there’s a way to stand so close to the Beach Boys without being in their shadow, the Meligrove Band hasn’t discovered it. Every time they pull off an overly familiar swoop into falsetto, they invite the question of why someone should be listening to this when they could be hearing Brian Wilson do the same. Quite simply, Nunes, Rego, and Small would have been well-served to have devoted a larger portion of the presumably massive chunk of time they spent listening to music with artists further removed from their obvious center.
Though Let it Grow may be a bit light in the innovation department, it should be noted that innovation has led to some terribly annoying places. There are plenty of good reasons why the vast majority of the population would likely prefer the Meligrove Band to John Cage, the most important of which is the fact that the former knows full well how to write fine sunshine pop that anyone with ears can enjoy. Besides, originality is an objection that springs up much more frequently in retrospect than when a record is actually playing. If that’s damning with faint praise, then the Meligroves may have to settle for that, at least temporarily. It looks probable, however, that they won’t have to settle for too long. On the best tracks here, such as “Check Your Messages” and “A Different Ship,” they show that they may be on the verge of forging a magnetic sound of their own. If that piece falls into place, it would be the last one they’d need to start making music on a less impeachable plane.