Surely Travel is Adam Sturgeon’s sophomore album with his band Status / Non-Status (formerly WHOOP-Szo). Unlike last year’s acclaimed 1, 2, 3, 4, 500 Years, which found Sturgeon tackling issues of generational trauma, indigeneity, and colonial violence through fuzzy, psych-inflected hard rock, Surely Travel is sonically and lyrically pared back.
Recorded over 10 days in Sudbury’s Deadpan Studios, Surely Travel eschews heavy layers of sound in favour of clean vocals and a simpler, folkier sound. This mirrors the album’s thematic focus on the quotidian, travel, and the glamour we often associate with it. This shift in artistic direction works well on some tracks, like on the instrumental “Travelogue,” where the dual melody of guitar and Wurlitzer organ builds a quiet atmosphere punctuated by bolts of fuzz. It’s a fun track that reminds me of absentmindedly looking out the window of a moving van.
On “North Adelaide,” another standout, the band goes from campfire slow to a pounding rock song about drunk neighbours, paying the rent, and shitty roommates, only to end back at a campfire sixty seconds later. It’s a lot to pack into a song that’s less than two minutes long and reflects how the album works better when it’s careful about what it chisels down. On the balladic “Mishkiki Sunset,” the decision to bury everything on a single vocal track muddles an otherwise fine chorus that invokes the delivery (and sincerity) of early REM. On other tracks, the issues are more structural, like the opener “Blown Tire”‘s over-reliance on clean vocal melodies and a chorus that’s repeated a few too many times.
As a whole, the album’s focus on reduction feels like a step back— stripped of the righteous anger and layers of effects, the band simply sounds too sedate. Dispelling the glamour and myth surrounding touring is a commendable artistic decision, but just like driving six hours on the highway, it’s simply not very exciting.