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Canadian Post-Punks Cola Are Refreshingly Alienated on ‘Gloss’

Their second album is some top-shelf minimalist guitar racket

“I have got some questions/Filed with discontent,” Cola singer-guitarist Tim Darcy informs us on the Montreal post-punk band’s second album. Cola have their own fun little take on modern alienation. Laying bright, bracing guitars over taut, tetchy, minimalist drums and bass, their sound brings to mind Wire and the very earliest Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen. Yet where those bands had the decaying post-industrial England of the 1970s as a backdrop, Cola are products of our own more ambiently dehumanized times. “I’m a fragrant kind of shadow,” Darcy sings on The Gloss, the band’s second album. His shadow-world contains multitudes. 

Darcy and bassist Ben Stidworth were in the excellent, expansively off-kilter mid-2010s band Ought. In Cola, they’re joined by drummer Evan Cartwright (who has played with U.S. Girls and the Weather Station), and they made a great debut in 2022 with Deep in View. Cola’s name evokes a generic consumer product, but it was actually inspired by something even more mundane: the Cost of Living Adjustment, a statistic used by government bureaucrats to calculate changes in benefits payments relative to inflation. Indeed, there is something almost technocratically precise in the crisp, caustic attack of songs like “Albatross” and “Pallor Tricks.” But Cola are hardly misanthropic fun-haters. The guitars on The Glass can be cutting and harsh, but they’re often kind of pretty and even a little bit rousing. The rhythms are sharp and skeletal, but also propulsive and jumpy. Darcy’s singing may sometimes bring to mind the stentorian declamations of the Fall’s Mark E. Smith, but there’s also a strain of petulant hot-guy brio in his voice that a Strokes fan might recognize. You’ll find yourself head-bobbing along more often than you think you would with a band this low-eye-contact.

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Darcy spends the album trying to find purchase in what Ought/Cola forebear Pere Ubu once called “the empty spaces in this life,” from technological malaise (“Woke up lazy, turned on the tele/Variated wavelength has me at the ready,” he sings on “Bell Wheel”) to passing moments of interpersonal weirdness (“You sure put together an honest lie/The sweet kind of reportage,” he tells someone on “Pulling Quotes”). On “Down to Size,” he wanders a hometown urban landscape that’s changing so fast he can’t keep up, while “Reprise” frowningly surveys the landscape of twenty-something rudderlessness (“a career in fashion, contemplate grad school”).

But Cola are too taken with their own cutting, headlong guitar racket to get bogged down in apathy or dejection, and Darcy has a wry, self-interrogating attitude towards his own opaque bellyaching. “Quips don’t come out right but the meaning’s true,” he mumbles against the spartan drift of “Nice Try.” Cola have their own unique way of turning their empty spaces into seas of possibility.

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Their second album is some top-shelf minimalist guitar racket “I have got some questions/Filed with discontent,” Cola singer-guitarist Tim Darcy informs us on the...