The Lowest of the Low were one of my favourite bands in the early 90s. A friend of mine loaned me a copy of their debut album, “Shakespeare my butt”, on cassette tape, which I dubbed and with which I promptly became obsessed. Their sophomore album came out in 1994 and though I was initially put off by “Hallucigenia”‘s harder rock edge, grew to love it as well. Like on the debut, the Toronto-based independent alternative rock band wrote literate, punk-informed songs that referenced places and things that people who knew Toronto would appreciate. In a short handful of years, they had made a huge fan of me and amassed a cult following in Southern Ontario and in communities in neighbouring parts of the US, like Buffalo. Then, they broke up, at Cafe Diplimatico (as the story goes), while preparing to record their third album and before I got the chance to see them live.
Meanwhile, their debut album kept selling copies and their legend grew. So much so that, in 2000, when all four original members decided to reform and do a string of club shows, they sold out in short order. It was so successful they decided to do more, a “world tour”, really just a handful of shows around Toronto and Buffalo, that culminated in a headline slot at Molson Amphitheater (which is a large outdoor concert venue, for those not from Toronto) on a night that included storied openers The Weakerthans and Billy Bragg. It was a great night of good cheer and singing along to every word. I can attest to this first hand because this was the night that I, along with my friend Zed, finally got to see The Lowest of the Low live.
A few months later, the band released “Nothing short of a bullet”: a live album put together from recordings of the original string of sold out reunion shows. At 18 tracks, it features selections from the first two albums and includes a couple of previously unrecorded, yet fan favourite tunes, like “The unbearable lightness of Jean”. But that is just the first disc. Yes, my friends, there was a second disc and as good as the live material was, it was this that was real gem for me: the first new material from one of my favourite bands in seven years. It was three tracks: one was a Bad Religion cover and the other two were split between the two principal songwriters: Stephen Stanley and Ron Hawkins.
It is from this bonus disc that song number eleven on my best tunes of 2001 comes. (I know. It took me a while to get here.) On the first two albums, I typically preferred the songs penned by Hawkins over those by Stanley but it was not the case here. Stanley’s “New Westminster Taxi Squad” is a rocker and a riot. It’s got energy and jump and you can almost picture the man first pumping, in full on punk pose, while Hawkins jumps around him with the other guitar, à la Mick Jones.
“Oh say, Oh my God
You’re going to pay for a ride
With the New Wesminster taxi squad
Oh say, I can see
You’ve got the weight of the world
On your shoulder and it’s killing me”
That’s right. Sing it, Steve.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 2001 list, click here.