“The Modest Revolution” is based on a newspaper. For their eighth studio album, the Canadian folk rock/world fusion band went high concept – they picked a random day in the future and promised to create an album around the contents of that day’s newspaper. Call it an ode to the dying medium of print or a seemingly random choice of a concept album – though the press release explains how Enter The Haggis made the concept album, it never quite gets to why – but you have to admit: Enter The Haggis commits.
The date was March 30, 2012, and the newspaper was The Globe and Mail, Canada’s largest circulation newspaper and second-largest daily newspaper, after the Toronto Star. The band preordered 1,500 copies of the issue, so they had to stick with the theme.
“Committing to a specific future day in history as the sole inspiration for an album’s worth of music was an initial source of anxiety – what if nothing interesting happens?’ reads the band’s press release.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened – the focus of the March 30 paper was an analysis of the Canadian federal budget – but they made the best of it.
“You start to see all of the little things that are so inspiring,” vocalist/guitarist/fiddler/songwriter Buchanan said of the writing experience. “Everything from the front page through to the personal stories that fill the obituaries, you realize there are so many stories going on every day. There’s so much more than the talking heads on television or the headlines themselves.”
Despite the Kickstarter backing (they achieved their fundraising goal in less than 12 hours) and the relevance of their topic matter, the band was formed in 1996, and it sounds like it. Think Dave Matthews Band or Crash Test Dummies. And, forgive me, but the Celtic instruments and abrupt changes in tone make me think of nothing more than the ‘90s Irish girl group B*Witched.
The financial news on March 30, 2012 led to surprisingly engaging music. The opening track, “Year of the Rat,” is an earnest anthem-type rock song. “Come all you liars, you saints and lost souls,” Enter the Haggis sing, urging you along.
Some of the songs take their newspaper article subject matter perhaps a little too literally – “Blackout,” for instance, inspired by an article about concussions in hockey that led the Toronto Maple Leafs to a poor record, contains the lyrics, “We follow along, we keep chasing the puck, ever whispering someday, we’ll drink from the cup.” At least they didn’t say “Stanley Cup.”
If nothing else, Enter the Haggis is sincere. Every song sounds like an earnest stadium anthem, and it’s easy to imagine Enter the Haggis opening for a band like U2.
The first single, “Can’t Trust the News,” contains a hopeful chorus that seems shorthand for the album and the band’s outlook, as well as the news story it was based on – a brief on a 65-year-old woman who climbed mountains to find distraction from trauma.
“Trust your eyes / They will follow the light / It’s a new tragic story / Trust your heart / It will swallow the dark / It’s a mecca of heartache and doom / You can’t trust the news,” Enter the Haggis sing.
It’s rousing call for hope amidst the bleakness of modernity and of news cycle – though one imagines Enter the Haggis must have wished they had something more tragic than the demise of the penny (“Copper Leaves”) to write about.