When I heard that Duotang was releasing a new album, my first thought was “that two-piece band that I saw on MuchMusic when I was 13?” Indeed, the drum-and-bass twosome rides again after a 14-year hiatus. I liked them then, and with the release of New Occupation on Stomp Records, they’ve managed to win back fans after pulling a musical Rip Van Winkle.
The album opens up with ‘Nostalgia’s A Vice’ and sets the perfect tone; simple, clean pop-rock. There’s only so much you can do with only two instruments (although some fun synth can be heard throughout this album) and this is Duotang’s genius. Listeners will find no pretentious prog-rock breakdowns, no indulgent guitar solos, and no auditory garbage to clutter up what’s at the heart of these tunes — Rod Slaughter’s voice and lyrics. Drummer Sean Allum keeps it simple and steady and the album benefits from this.
The album’s title track, “New Occupation,” gives away the band’s ‘90s alt-rock roots. Steady, marching beats and banged-out guitar chords accented with the occasional bout of horns brings listeners back to the Canadian music heyday of the late ‘90s. Over 12 tracks the band manages to keep the music poppy and high-energy. Slaughter and Allum use every musical tool available to them as a two-piece to keep each song feeling fresh and different from the one before it.
“Karma Needs To Come Around” is a standout, catchy and poppy with the aforementioned fun synth running through it. The song caught my attention even as I was half-listening while cleaning my room with the lyrics, “I’d love to sit you down and argue with you face to face / and with a razor-sharp wit put you in your place / but the real world is nothing like the one in my head / in reality I’d probably only choke instead.” Shy people everywhere will relate. Similarly on the track ‘Friends,’ Slaughter asks, ‘why can’t we just get along / why can’t we just be friends?’ The ‘90s vibe set out by the music is contrasted with the modernity of Slaughter’s lyrics; one feels they are really getting to know Slaughter’s insecurities, and they’re the same insecurities we all have in these modern times. The album is like the music equivalent of a BuzzFeed Listicle with a title like “10 Things You Think When You Live With Anxiety.”
The frankness of Slaughter’s lyrics, matched with the dry, up-front vocals work perfectly with the simplicity of the music. With “New Occupation,” Duotang remind us that sometimes less is really more.