What is actually art rock? If you go by quite a particular definition on Wikipedia, “Art rock is a subgenre of rock music that generally reflects a challenging or avant-garde approach to rock, or which makes use of modernist, experimental, or unconventional elements. Art rock aspires to elevate rock from entertainment to an artistic statement, opting for a more experimental and conceptual outlook on music.”
Sounds complicated? Could be, but it doesn’t have to be; ‘all’ you have to do is strike the right balance between how you feel the music and how you think it through. Essentially, striking the right balance between emotional and intellectual.
Of course, that is much harder to do in practice and all the artists that go that route have their fair share of hits and misses. The ones that really sail through it actually make big (or moderately big) names for themselves: Sonic Youth, Joy Division, Pere Ubu, The Residents…
Vancouver’s Celebrity Warship Culture has certainly decided to take that somewhat thorny route with their latest album Recreational Everything, with not too many thorns in their side ( and with The Smiths song of a similar title in mind).
Their art/experimental element is both felt and thought out, possibly because they keep their vision closely to everything post-punk, trying to do as many variations of the genre as they could.
The opening title track makes for a perfect setup as if The National are looking deep into their rock roots side. From there on with the leading guidance of guitarist/vocalist Liam Scott and keyboardist Todd Pickell it veers in all directions post-punk from Joy Division (“Subtropical Jet Stream”) to Pere Ubu (“Medicational Nothing”) and elsewhere with quite interesting results.
As an album, Recreational Everything reaches one of the main goals of a song collection, it makes you play it over to make sure you haven’t missed anything. And then again.