Atomic 7 - … en Hillbilly Caliente

(Mint Records - 2004)

Brian Connelly doesn't run away from his past, but instead turns around and barrels back into it.

As guitarist and co-arranger for seminal instrumental band Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet (and not-so-seminal Heatseekers), Brian Connelly has one of the most recognizable signature sounds in Canadian music. In fact, you realize just how much his sound stamped Shadowy Men. (Though Reid Diamond's more agile bass playing is definitely missing here.)

This notoriety is a very mild blessing and a hefty curse. It's hard to imagine why Connelly keeps a group like this going when he could probably be impressing newer fans and keeping old ones doing gigs like playing in Neko Case's Boyfriends, which he did for a time.

It's a blessing only so far as it triggers nostalgia for those heady early '90s days, when indie Canadian rock was really coming into its own, and all those old Kids In The Hall episodes opened with the Connelly-penned Shadowy tune, "Having an Average Weekend."

But therein lies the curse: despite the fact this album is living, breathing current material it sounds dated -- not to the late '50s, early '60s obscurities (not surf bands) but to, again, the early '90s. Atomic 7 will have no problem, surely, licensing these songs to smart TV and film producers. As an album worth of listening though, it's not lifting the listener above a quick reminiscence, before putting the disc away perhaps for good. At least with other similar artists, say the Sadies, there are vocals, more bold changes and contrasts within a single record to keep the interest.

Nostalgia hits don't last long enough. It's as simple as that.

Rating: 5

- Sean Flinn