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Doug Mason

Fox Pirate (Gooseberry)

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Doug Mason, AKA Michael Jackson and friends, makes an imaginary award shortlist for best album to listen to stupidly loud when annoying neighbours cut their grass again. Fox Pirate is joyful, easy-to-please, summer power-pop for fans of early Fountains of Wayne, with plenty of fuzzy guitars and big ol' drum hooks, played by dudes who obviously know what they're doing: Jackson, Cliff Gibb (Thrush Hermit), Jarrett Murphy (El Torpedo) and Dave Chisholm (The Sycamores).

It's easy to fall for punchy odes to delicious drunken French fries ("Poutine Village," also the name of Jackson's home studio) that are "baked, not deep-fried" for fear of house-fires, and sports injuries that happen to "old men in a hobbyist band" ("The Tennis Injury"). But look past the jokester veneer and there's a Doug Mason philosophy at work: Heck, we're all just trying to do our own thing and survive until the cemetery dirt is turned. "Ordinary People" go to corner stores and check caller ID. On "Plagiarize," Jackson slows it down, vulnerably admitting to troubles writing the perfect song. But he gets the last zing on "Scott Bryson is a Douche Bag," an ode to the CHARTattack music writer who compared the band's last album to Joey Jeremiah's Zit Remedy all grown up. Less a threat than a strong finger poke, it's still a firm warning for both sides of this messy, symbiotic relationship.

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