REVIEW: Graham Ko's "Outside Looking In" ~
Toronto has a new habit called Graham Ko. It is a very good addiction and it is Rock ’N Roll. Ko’s newest album, Outside Looking In, is an oasis of big hooks and bigger sounds. It is much-needed water in today’s desiccated Rock landscape where most people have traded in their attitude for tight pants and a weird t-shirt. The songwriting is masterful; it is impossible not to get a sense of the care and labour that went into each composition and arrangement on this album. Outside Looking In starts strong and only gains momentum from there. The opening track “Habit” immediately draws attention with punchy drums and gorgeous, crumbly guitar tones. Ko’s voice enters a lot like the way the Kool-Aid guy breaks through the wall - it’s impossible to ignore and very, very exciting. But there’s plenty of tenderness suffusing this work. Songs like “True” and “All Mine” show not only the thoughtfulness and genuine expression of Ko’s lyrics, but also the gentle and mellifluous side of his incredible and versatile voice. There is an amazing arc to the album that is restless and shifting. At one moment the music darkens as if to summon Beelzebub himself (“The Devil Comes” - a song where the rhythmic backbone of the piece is the chilling sound of a chain dropping). And then just a bit later, Ko pays funky tribute to urban sexiness and debauchery on “City Girls”. This reviewer avoids comparisons, but there is something of The Black Crowes in this artwork of Ko’s. No one is making this kind of music today, and yet hearing it today sounds right. It should also be noted that this is a beautifully recorded and mixed record that any audiophile would drool over. Check out Graham Ko in concert around Ontario and get your hands and ears on Outside Looking In as soon as possible. That is if you’re interested in hearing something daringly apart from the mainstream that is also a masterwork.
- Matt James, Toronto music reviewer