Suckerpunch, Dodge Fiasco frontman goes solo"The Kid" has grown up.
Christopher Dignan was still in high school when he formed Suckerpunch more than 20 years ago. The singer/guitarist was a sexy and swaggering frontman for the Toronto group that played a swampy, punky version of rockabilly that made it a hit in local clubs — even if it didn't receive the widespread recognition I thought it deserved.
The band broke up in 1996 and I can still remember its last show (or at least one of its last shows) in the basement of a friend's house. Suckerpunch was missed, but Dignan soon formed Dodge Fiasco. Like his previous band, it included his older brother Sean on drums. And also like Suckerpunch, it rocked.
Dodge Fiasco is still around, but Dignan is now independently releasing his first solo record: the excellent Let The Sparks Fly. The multi-talented singer, songwriter and musician shows just how far he's come musically on this 14-song, 42-minute disc.
Dignan wrote and mixed all the songs and played all of the instruments on it, with the exception of saxophone and organ on two tracks. Dignan honed his chops on bass with The Kensington Hillbillies and on drums with The Midways, whose ultra-fun and garage-based Pay More And Get A Good Seat was one of my favourite albums of 2003.
The maturing that Dignan has done over the years shines brightly through on Let The Sparks Fly, which showcases more variations in style and substance than the two bands he's most closely associated with.
Opener "Gonna Move" is a rocker that cooks with gas, and it's followed by the more rockabilly-oriented "My Time Will Come." "I'm Feeling Good Now" follows a similar path.
There's a classic '60s pop vibe running through "Too Long Without You," "Certain Kind Of Girl" and "Tap On Your Window," which features pleasant harmonies. "My Back Pocket" could have been a new wave song from 30 years ago.
Dignan shows his guitar prowess on "Move Them Bones" and proves he's no slouch on the skins with the drum rolls on "Hurtful." The organ will prick up your ears on "It's You."
The guest saxophones add a nice touch on the sexy, mid-tempo love song "Say There Beautiful," and there's a rootsy edge to "Black Barn."
The album ends with the title track, which starts slowly but builds in intensity as the song progresses.
As much as I liked Suckerpunch and Dodge Fiasco, Let The Sparks Fly is the crowning achievement of Dignan's career so far.
I can't see Let The Sparks Fly not being on my ballot when I submit it for next year's Polaris Music Prize, which will recognize the top album released in Canada over the last half of 2010 and first half of 2011.
You can hear "Gonna Move," "My Back Pocket" and "It's You" here.
Let The Sparks Fly will officially be launched on Dec. 1 at Toronto's Lula Lounge. This special performance will see Dignan joined by a band featuring Glenn Milchem (Blue Rodeo), John Borra (The Screwed) and Derrick Brady (Dodge Fiasco, Hawksley Workman).