Nowhere With You: The East Coast Anthems of Joel Paskett, The Emergency and Thrush Hermit
Globe and Mail reporter Josh O’Kane has delved deep into the story of Joel Plaskett, who, on the surface, is the everyman troubadour of Canadian indie rock. Underneath, it’s an everyband story.
Not unlike Greg Kot spending the first half of his book about Wilco, Learning How to Die, on Uncle Tupelo, O’Kane spends roughly the first half of his 200ish pages on Thrush Hermit (the band Plaskett co-fronted from ’92-’99). It’s essential, as the story of the Hermit is the story of a million CanRock acts that will never have a book about them, let alone a chapter in the inevitable Have Not Been the Same sequel. We follow this teenage band through moments of indie cred regrets (rejecting a spot on the successful Dumb & Dumber soundtrack, using its biggest audience yet to play Steve Miller Band covers) and occasional successes, all thoroughly researched and told through O’Kane’s impartial narrative.
Moving chronologically forward and touching on the details of Plaskett’s solo output (only slightly glazing over the production of Scrappy Happiness), the book clips along at a decent pace. It also fleshes out his relationships with family, friends, bandmates, and Sloan’s Chris Murphy (causing the reader to wonder why no one has written a book about murderecords or the underwhelmed ones). Even during the inevitable opening chapter about Plaskett’s parents (a type of chapter at which I’ve been known to shout at such authors as Marc Spitz to “stop talking bout Bowie’s dad and get to Ziggy Stardust!) I was enthralled with the stories of the elder Plasketts, especially since Joel’s dad, Bill, plays a role in the creation of his Three album.
The main themes and thesis of the book, that Plaskett is a Halifax boy through and through and through/that he is Halifax’s Bruce Springsteen, are mentioned more than they need to be (or maybe I just felt this because I read it in one sitting), but it’s a tiny thing to nitpick in a great story, told well, about a musician I thought I knew a lot about. Turns out I was simply in need of further indie rock education.