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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Wanna Be A Star (Millenium, 1981)

It’s like you know the truth but you don’t want to admit it. Like being in love with a woman who's making your life miserable and you keep living in a state of denial. Like being mentally unstable and knowing that everybody knows. Something like that happens when we think of Chilliwack. They might be the greatest Canadian band of all time and one of the best of the world, but we don’t want to accept it because we don't know them well enough. Well, they're there, an 800-pound pop Gorilla from Vancouver. The perennial project of Bill Henderson, the most underrated musician Canada ever produced.

Chilliwack is known by a handful of people who know how to appreciate a punchy pop tune from almost 30 years ago. If we should not care or ask about the age of a woman, then we should not ask about how old you were when "I Believe," the most romantic song in the world came out: Henderson wrote it as a simple ode to steady love. That tune, along with "My Girl", differ from the other songs of the album, narrating stories about showbiz daydreams turned into nightmares. 

"I Believe" is the quintessential early-eighties ballad with a purpose: to show that a relationship can actually change a person into good. Bill Henderson on guitars, keys and vocals, along with Brian McLeod on drums, guitars, keys and vocals and Ab Bryant on bass gave us a lesson on to how a pop song is supposed to be sung and performed. Step aside, Toto:

"My Girl" is a goodbye tune with a catchy phrase that won't leave your head for days -or in my case, decades: "Gone, gone, gone, been gone so long" is sung with gusto, with adorable harmonics, and that guitar solo by McLeod... out of this world. This is not 80's rock, it's perennial

The rest of the album's songs are loaded with a critic view at the entertainment industry. From the chant opening of "Sign Here," the listener gets introduced to the art of deception: the Record deal. Henderson, having his band gone through several names, members and record labels, knows what he's singing about. He was very lucky to team up with Brian McLeod for 1978's Lights from the Valley and had him write and sing in Wanna Be A Star. And "Sign Here" develops into a mini anthem for the deceived. "Too Many Enemies" and "Tell It To The Telephone" will continue the story of stardom gone sour, reaching a high and danceable point with "Living In Stereo." Chilliwack are the kings of catchy and high pitched choruses, and this record is living proof.

Brian McLeod died of Cancer in 1992 and his death was a terrible loss for Canadian music. Bill Henderson currently plays with Chilliwack as the sole original member, sustaining a solid musical career  that's been developing since 1964.

Wanna Be A Star is Chilliwack's (or Canadian rock's, for that matter) best moment, but not the only one. Everything Chilliwack has done needs to be heard, believed and accepted.


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