Toronto singer-guitarist Jason Collett is a charter member of beloved Canadian indie-rock collective Broken Social Scene. He’s also a solo artist with five rootsy alt-folk/alt-country albums under his belt, including the brand-new
Rat A Tat Tat
. On the eve of a North American tour that comes to World Cafe Live, the genial Collett got on the phone with us for a “Review the Reviews” session, wherein we read excerpts from recent reviews and get the reaction of the reviewed.
“If ‘happiness is for amateurs,’ as Jason Collett sings on his fifth solo album, then this Broken Social Scenester has gone pro. Heavily steeped in ’70s classic and lite rock, Rat A Tat Tat may sound easygoing and vampy, but only because Collett knows there’s joy to be found in sad songs.” – Paste
That’s fine [laughs]. You know, the funny thing is that some people have pointed that line out, saying it’s such a mopey kind of a line. I love the line, but I didn’t write that line. I quoted that line from a fantastic poet—C.D. Wright. She was up here in Toronto last year and I saw her read and that line really resonated with me. So I got her blessing to use it. I found it humorous in other reviews that people are accusing me of being mopey when I didn’t even fuckin’ write it. [laughs]
“Most of Rat A Tat Tat strives for genuineness, pop, and wry wisdom, and absolutely does better than the average record attempting it. But ‘The Slowest Dance’ wraps up the paradox of every Jason Collett album: He’s far better when he takes it a little easier, leaving all the well-studied elements to fall into place in good time.” – The Onion A.V. Club
I like that. I think that’s pretty insightful. I’ve always felt that—and I know it’s a weakness of mine—that I have to remind myself to keep a sense of humor. It’s a quality I’ve always been attracted to in my favorite writers, whether it’s Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan. Intellectualizing in writing a pop song is your worst enemy. The more fun you’re having, the better. It’s easy to lean on “craft,” especially when you’ve been doing it for a while like I have, but craft can be a real enemy.
“Collett delivers a solid album that moves with confidence between breezy pop-rock and more pensive, artier endeavors. The reverbed, reggae-tinged ‘Lake Superior’ and cheekily shuffling ‘Love Is a Dirty Word’ posit Collett as Mellencamp 2.0, an earnest roots-rocker with a firm hold on rhythm.” – Pitchfork
[laughs] I love that one! I love the Mellencamp 2.0! What’s really funny is when people criticize me for being derivative, and then the same ideas or phrases wind up in all these goddamn blogs all over the place from such lazy-ass writers that don’t have an original thought of their own. That Mellencamp 2.0 thing has cropped up in a few places as if someone is writing it fresh. That’s the dangerous thing about the weight Pitchfork has—it creates derivative reviews. I’m not complaining about Pitchfork, but I’m essentially pointing out that there’s a lot of lazy-ass journalism out there.
“Collett’s groovy folk-rock pleasures boast enough energy and weary joy that we can forgive him for failing to subvert the bedrock assumptions of our post-post-modern late-capitalist existence like a good counterculturalist.” – PopMatters
[laughs] Wow, that’s a mouthful. I don’t even know … I can’t even touch it. I’m not even sure what that all means?
“Collett’s vision of AM Gold is homespun (thanks to low-key Toronto backing band Zeus). He can’t really pull off Dylan-ish literariness, but when he’s loose, he more than earns his corduroy vest and Kris Kristofferson beard.” – Spin
I don’t have a beard. And I don’t own a corduroy vest. You wouldn’t catch me dead in one. I’m more of a dandy than Kris Kristofferson. Or Dylan, for that matter.
Tues., April 20th, 8pm. $17-$19. With Bahamas. World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St. 215.222.1400. worldcafelive.com
PW's Music Issue 2014