With The Big Other—a flawlessly cohesive debut, packed with clear-headed rock songs—Canada’s Figure Walking have provided an up-to-the-second, human response to an increasingly neoliberal world. The two-piece, based in Winnipeg, infamous as Canada’s coldest, most racist city, have taken social criticism and justice to heart, creating an album that is meaningful, unconventional, and exciting.
Built on Greg MacPherson’s powerful songwriting, and the relentless backbone of Rob Gardiner’s drumming, The Big Other asks the citizens of the world to “believe in ourselves and to take something from the mistakes we’ve made”. MacPherson has been a just-under-the-radar songwriting gem for the past 20 years. A G7 Welcoming Committee Records alumni whose music was never strictly ideological or easily categorized, MacPherson is fiercely DIY, the director of an inner-city non-profit organization by day, and one of few artists nominated more than once for Canada’s prestigious Polaris Music Prize honouring artistic merit in recorded music.
The Big Other accomplishes the rare feat of presenting big ideas on a foundation of dance beats, electric guitar and storytelling. The jagged, arthouse post-punk of “Submarines” and “Spring Thaw” demand movement. “Blue World,” with its gauzy swells of aquatic guitar, thumping bass lines, and vivid soundscapes, is a hopeful anthem to reconciliation and possibility. “Singapore”, puts the average hot-blooded North American on a plain dropping into the Pacific, where lust and the no longer exotic combine in the celebrity image of Janet Jackson and a renewed 30 something romance. The album’s centrepiece is the forceful “Victorious”—a vicious, scathing battle cry that lights up Western shadows right to their margins. If there’s a mission statement drilled into The Big Other, it comes at the surprise ending of “Funeral,” a swirling barrage of cheerleading gang vocals that command, “let’s just try to celebrate, dance until this all makes sense.”
In their own words, “Figure Walking is our attempt as artists to focus on who we are in the present and to take ownership of what we’re bringing into the world, with an eye on a better future.”
The Big Other will be released on Disintegration Records in North America on May 12 and by Belgium’s Marathon of Dope in Europe on May 19. Figure Walking will be on tour in Canada, the US and throughout Europe in 2017.