Review – La Difference: A History Unplugged

54-40 La Difference54-40
La Difference: A History Unplugged
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Nicholas Friesen @Nicholastronaut May 25, 2016

With an old-timey radio filter and minimalist guitars on 1994’s “Ocean Pearl” (which gives way to a fully-fleshed out singalong with horns and backups), 54-40 begins La Difference: A History Unplugged, an acoustic/reworking retrospective in the vein of Matthew Good’s Rooms and Headstones’ One in the Chamber Music.

This 10-song collection tackles a great variety of the band’s work, from 1996’s Trusted by Millions (melancholy takes on the usually upbeat “Crossing a Canyon” and “Lies to Me”) to the oughts (a somehow more playful “Casual Viewin'”) and the ’80s (a stomping “Baby Ran” and a beautiful campfire singalong of “I Go Blind”) and refreshes it with the help of newish guitarist/pianist Dave Genn and a collection of talented friends. “Since When” gets the biggest facelift here – fitting, as the track was always a bit of an oddball in the band’s collection, a left turn after its early-mid ’90s pop rock hits. This rendition of the title track from their 1998 record has wind instruments, claps and the biggest acoustic goodness you could ever ask for – not that we ever wanted to forget the original, but this is a totally different song.

The heart of the disc may be “One Day In Your Life” – to this listener, one of the band’s signature songs. Gone are the throbbing bass lines (Guitar plucks? Synth throbs?) of the ’87 single, replaced with a simple toe-tapping acoustic guitar strum and subtle accordion. The songs of 54-40 are basically Canadian standards at this point, so why not put a new coat of paint on ’em? A very cool project from a band that never goes out of style.

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