Canadian iconic rockers 54-40 get back to basics

Canadian iconic rockers 54-40 get back to basics

54-40 play The McPherson Playhouse on Feb. 22

Even in today’s absurdly fragmented music scene, it’s easy to spot legendary bands. They’re the ones reliably cranking out great album after album, each distinct and accessible, in sync with the times and yet timeless.

Witness pop/rock luminaries 54-40, writers of countless iconic, enduring, chart-topping hits, loved by millions at home in Canada and across the globe.

Legendary, indeed, not to mention consistently in-demand on marquee stages far and wide. Fittingly, in their 38th year as a band, 54-40 unleashed Keep On Walking, their most eclectic, propulsive, flat-out excellent album in a career spilling over with them.

Featuring 11 original songs helmed by a quartet of superstar producers that would make a gear nerd quiver, Keep On Walking is a snapshot of precisely where singer/guitarist Neil Osborne, bassist Brad Merritt, drummer Matt Johnson, and guitarist Dave Genn — songwriters and multi-instrumentalists all — are right now: totally dialled in and seriously on fire.

“Gavin Brown has a system of recording that is tight and efficient but still leaves room for the magic that can happen spontaneously during recording,” Johnson explained. Osborne added that when it came to deciding who would produce what, “We asked the producers which songs among our demos piqued their interest and went from there.”

While long-time 54-40 fans will find recognizable sonic touchstones on Keep On Walking, sharp left turns also appear, perhaps most notably in the two tracks produced in Toronto by first-time 54-40 collaborator Brown — the above-mentioned “Hold My Kiss,” and the swirling, futuristic yet somehow vaguely psychedelic “Sublime Like Me.”

“My favourite song on the album,” Johnson says of “Sublime.” “I love the groove.”

“We’ve played the song live a few times and it’s already evolving,” Merritt adds.

“I think it has the potential to become a staple of our live shows well into the future.”

54-40’s success across the decades is virtually unparalleled. Formed in Vancouver by Osborne and Merritt on the cusp of the 1980s, the band — with only three line-up changes since its inception — quickly caught on with discerning local audiences, mining that rarefied space between rock, punk, folk, and pop.

The release of their self-titled album in 1986 heralded the arrival of a powerhouse with the songs “Baby Ran,” “Take My Hand,” “I Wanna Know,” and, especially, “I Go Blind” steamrolling across alternative, campus, and commercial radio nationwide.

54-40 will play an acoustic show at the McPherson Playhouse on

Feb. 22.

— Monday Magazine

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The COVID-19 pandemic had an effect on film production on central and north Vancouver Island, says Vancouver Island North Film Commission. Pictured here, production of TV series Resident Alien in Ladysmith earlier this year. (Black Press file)
Film commissioner says COVID-19 cost central Island $6 million in economic activity

Jurassic World: Dominion, Chesapeake Shores among productions halted due to pandemic, says INFilm

Chelsey Moore’s character Chloe in the upcoming virtual reality game Altdeus: Beyond Chronos. Screengrab
Vancouver Island actress finds success in a virtual world

Black Creek’s Chelsey Moore lends her voice to a new video game set for release in December

Ceramic artist Darrel Hancock working on a clay jug in his home studio in Qualicum Beach. (Submitted photo)
Qualicum Beach potter Darrel Hancock celebrates 40 years in business

‘It’s wonderful to do what you love and make a living at it’

Artist Daniel Cline discusses his sculpture, Harmony Humpbacks, during the June 20 walking tour of Oak Bay’s 2019 ArtsAlive sculptures. Harmony Humpbacks was purchased by Oak Bay as the 2019 people’s choice winner and is permanently installed at the Beach Drive entrance to Willows Park. (Kevin Murdoch Photo)
Influx of donated art a ‘fantastic problem to have,’ says Oak Bay mayor

Oak Bay goes from zero to 10 permanent art pieces since 2015

Next month Nanaimo musician Spencer Hiemstra releases his solo debut album, ‘Wildlife.’ (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo musician Spencer Hiemstra releases solo debut album

New record ‘Wildlife’ about taking chances and going through changes

Dover Bay Secondary School student Victoria Hathfield’s poem <em>Dear Santa</em> appears in<em> Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas is in the Air</em>. (Photo courtesy Darren Lee)
Nanaimo high schooler has first poem published in ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’

Victoria Hathfield’s ‘Dear Santa’ appears in new Christmas-themed edition of anthology series

Nanaimo graphic designer Amy Pye has written and illustrated her first children’s book, <em>G is for Grizzly Bear: A Canadian Alphabet</em>. (Photo courtesy Amy Pye)
Nanaimo graphic designer releases first children’s book

Amy Pye teaches the Canadian alphabet in ‘G is for Grizzly Bear’

The Vancouver Island Symphony’s Back Row Brass Quintet – including trumpeter Mark D’Angelo, tuba player Nick Atkinson and French horn player Karen Hough (from left) – were scheduled to tour the Nanaimo area with Christmas Under the Big Tent, but the concert series has now been cancelled. (Photo courtesy HA Photography)
Symphony brass quintet’s Christmas concert series cancelled

Performances were to happen at venues in Parksville and Lantzville next month

The Sheringham Point Lighthouse, near Shirley. (Contributed - Lee-Ann Ruttan)
New book shines a light on Sheringham Point Lighthouse

Publication examines history, lightkeepers, and volunteer society

Victoria-based guitarist Eric Harper performs at the Port Theatre on Nov. 27. (Photo credit Tatum Duryba)
Classical guitarist to play at the Port Theatre

Eric Harper to play new songs composed during the pandemic

A sample of some of Lou-ann Neel’s jewelry.
Lou-ann Neel wins the Fulmer Award in First Nations Art

Originally from Alert Bay, Neel’s family is steeped in renowned Kwakwaka’wakw artists

Most Read