The Globe and Mail | DISC OF THE WEEK

NQ Arbuckle’s latest release reflects on mortality, dreams, loathing and life’s gravity
BRAD WHEELER ~ The Globe and Mail

Neville Quinlan, the singer, lyricist and realist of Toronto’s ragged, rootsy rockers NQ Arbuckle, wears a tie (maybe) and works in music publishing during the day. He knows the score. He knows the medium is rotten for most. Some of his songs sound like better, boozier and wryer Jacob Dylan, that rich hack. Quinlan makes no money with his own (Juno-nominated) music.

Is he bitter? No more than you or I. Which is to say yes, just a little. On NQ Arbuckle’s thoughtful late-night album The Future Happens Anyway (out April 29), an often growling Quinlan offers sober reflections on mortality, dreams, loathing and life’s gravity. Life Boat (Song for Carolyn Mark) concerns a bar band on the road: “Standing in the spotlight without fear, what you see is what you get. Hand to mouth and eye to eye, who knows what’s gonna happen next?”

Hospitals is the disc’s most radio-friendly rocker. Though a hot-shot producer could probably punch it up to fist-pumping status, Quinlan isn’t into that – why risk spilling a drink for that nonsense? I hear a little Springsteen here, but let’s be clear: Quinlan is not so much interested in the wild and the innocent as he is the shuffle.

Painful nostalgia, right – is there is any other kind?

Quinlan’s songs are more sardonic uprisings than anthems. On Death, he admits that the “bottleneck of dreams is trying to kill me.” The Civil War is Over is a ghost story, but I’m more interested in Quinlan’s own ghosts. From the piano-ballad downer Sleepy Wife, as eloquent a piece we’ve ever heard from NQ Arbuckle: “Life is better than death, but when does the phone ring? When does the night end?”

Quinlan asks questions – what happens next and when does the night end? – and answers them with a well-earned shrug and a simple plan of action: “So sleep when you’re tired, eat when you’re hungry, love when you’re loving, drink when you’re thirsty.”

The inevitability of death, then. Fight it or fear it, the future happens anyway.

NQ Arbuckle launches The Future Happens Anyway on April 29, at Clint Roenisch Gallery, 944 Queen St. W, Toronto.


The Future Happens Anyway
( April 2014, Six Shooter Records )