Tape Review: B.A. Johnston’s ‘The Skid Is Hot Tonight’

B.A. Johnston

The Skid Is Hot Tonight

(Transistor 66 Record Co.)

For the uninitiated, B.A. Johnston is something of legend in Hamilton, Ontario. Regularly posting triple-digit gig numbers each year, peddling his brand of ‘skid’ music year-round to any town that’ll have him. With his eighth album The Skid Is Hot Tonight, Johnston’s crafted yet another brilliant and uniquely Canadian soundtrack to day-to-day, middle-aged man-child life.

As per usual, Johnston stylistically flips between simple, absurd, Wesley Willis-esque synth pop-punk and equally simple and absurd, but more subdued and emotional material in the form of his acoustic folk punk songs. With the former, he tells tales of a mushroom trip at Van Halen in Toronto (“We’re All Going to Jail (Except Pete, He’s Gonna Die)”), compares himself and his Dodge Caravan to pieces of shit doomed to endless circle the toilet bowl (“Circle the Bowl”), and waxes philosophical about the emptiness of existence via a bouncy veil of a tune that drops references to Froot Loops and Young Sheldon (“I Stare Into the Void”). With the latter, “Flintstones Vitamins and Jamesons” describes an unhealthy post-breakup diet (“Eat Flintstones vitamins / For the strength to carry on”), and “Discounted Bacon” recalls how Johnston used to be skinny, but cheap, unhealthy food became a comfort when he didn’t have money.

As mentioned before, Johnston music is un-apologetically Canadian, with several songs referencing old local bars like The Pig’s Ear Tavern, Canadian deep discount supermarket chains (No Frills), and Canadian cheese curl brands (Hawkins Cheezies). While such specifications could risk isolating those not from B.A.’s homeland, they’re generally simple enough to grasp and aid in making the music feel much more personal and intimate than the vast majority of ‘novelty’ artists.

The Skid Is Hot Tonight doesn’t revolutionize the sound of B.A. Johnston and it doesn’t have to. It feels like the gimmick should’ve gotten old a decade and a half ago, but Johnston remains reliably fun and charming all this time later. Another great project from a Canadian independent music icon.

 

Favorite tracks: “We’re All Going to Jail (Except Pete, He’s Gonna Die)”, “Circle the Bowl”

 

 

Rating: Strongly Recommended

 

You can purchase B.A. Johnston’s The Skid Is Hot Tonight here.

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