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Apostle of Hustle - Folkloric Feel

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Artist: Apostle of Hustle

Album: Folkloric Feel

Label: Arts & Crafts

Review date: Sep. 21, 2004

Apostle of Hustle carries the burden of comparison to Canadian rock collective Broken Social Scene – one of the most hyped indie acts in recent memory. That guitarist and singer-songwriter Andrew Whiteman is a member of both acts only increases the critical scrutiny and consumer expectation placed on their debut. Folkloric Feel does hold many similarities to BSS, and that's not necessarily a bad thing; the strongest material on this disc serves to highlight the significant contributions Whiteman makes to the BSS juggernaut. Judged on its own merits, however, Folkloric Feel never fully breaks away from the "for fans only" vibe.

Conceived as a drunken lounge act following Whiteman's jaunts in Cuba, Apostle of Hustle's origins suggest the same creative free-for-all and exchange of ideas that have birthed countless Canadian spin-offs. Most of these side-projects have been offshoots of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but BSS is catching up pretty quickly.

For fans of BSS, it'll all sound pretty familiar. "Sleeping Ballad" affects the same lazy Buckley-esque croon, and the disc's crunchy, rock-steady drums are framed with sloppily symphonic guitars. The digital/analog hybrid that Apostle of Hustle rely on is thrilling in parts, but overkill in others. Despite the appeal of the formula, one imagines that BSS' You Forgot It In People was successful largely because of democratic veto power.

One of the obvious failings of this record are the clear-as-a-bell lyrics, which seem all too direct. Not only can you understand almost every word, the poetry is frankly not very good. "Last night I got your letter," Whiteman sings, "it weighed as much of a feather." Not terribly potent. None of this would matter as much if there wasn't such an overbearing vibe of self-importance throughout the record. There are wonderful musical passages to be sure, but most of the good ideas are squashed by either invasive production choices or sophomoric wordplay. The Apostle is talented, but he's got a thing or two to learn about concise songcraft.

When the Cuban influence finally surfaces, sublimity is achieved. The track "Animal Fat" has a chance at greatness with its hazy sway and flamenco passages. The lyrics are a marked improvement from the rest of the disc; there is enough mystery left to allow Whiteman's ruminations on forgotten North American civilizations to make its poetic point without gagging the listener with trite metaphors.

It seems reasonable to assume that Apostle of Hustle had a blast recording Folkloric Feel – the passion is there, and they obviously care a lot about music, art and literature. It takes a bit more than a handful of fine ideas and lofty ambitions to create lasting art, however. Sometime during the great Canadian musical experiment, Apostle of Hustle apparently lost the plot.

By Casey Rae-Hunter

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