The Real McKenzies - Westwinds (Cover Artwork)

The Real McKenzies

Westwinds (2012)

Fat Wreck

The Real McKenzies are as old as my car. Both were assembled in 1992 and both have spent so much time on the road that it's a legitimate miracle they're still running. My poor old Buick is starting to make some funny noises and it's only a matter of days before the next rusty car part decides to fall off in the middle of the street. The McKenzies are making some funny noises, too, but instead of crumbling apart, they're just easing their foot of the gas a bit on Westwinds, their latest full-length for Fat Wreck.

The first cut ("The Tempest") heralds the sound of things to come with bagpipes so stirring and a sea chanty chorus so spirited you can practically smell the dead fish and Lyme disease. It's so good you'd swear it was a traditional sea-faring sing-along, but it's just one example of how the McKenzies have translated their affinity for folk music into writing their own contemporary classics. It also asserts a new found focus on mid-tempo material instead of the fast-as-fuck songs they're known for.

"The Message" and "My Luck is So Bad" are perfect tunes for that hazy space between last call and when your head hits the pillow, and "Hi Lily" might be the most somber (and touching) song they've ever recorded. "Burnout" sounds like it would have fit perfectly on their last studio LP, Off the Leash, and singer Paul McKenzie goes for goofy dramatics in between manic pipes on "Halloween."

Honestly, there's not a bad song on the album. "The Tempest," "My Luck" and their a capella rendition of traditional Canuck ditty "Barrett's Privateers" are all instantly lovable and utterly plead to be put on repeat. Others are certainly growers that will prove their worth over time (and after many, many drinks). But if it's the wild, rabid McKenzies of yesteryear you're looking for, brace yourself for a comedown.

"I don't ever wanna do what I'm told / And I'm getting old," goes the chorus to "I Do What I Want." But that's not necessarily a bad thing; just look at Jane Seymour for chrissakes.