Published Aug 17, 2020Since the iconic release of Rally Cry in 2018, Arkells fans near and far have been yearning for another album from the talented Hamilton-based band. Our needs have been met and our prayers have been answered — kind of, sort of. Campfire Chords is here, and although it's a new release from the band, it's not an entirely new album. Arkells took a pause from working on their upcoming studio album and went back to their roots, reinterpreting past material and rediscovering the singer-songwriter spirit that has long informed their trademark singalongs.
For what it is — an entire acoustic album with a constant mellow sound that feels a bit like one run-on song at times — Campfire Chords is very good, but it is also very long.
Arkells clearly demonstrate their creativity in rewriting some of their greatest hits with emphasis on their catchy hooks. "Quitting You" — an intimate song about finding comfort in the people closest to you —was the first single dropped to promote Campfire Chords, and it is definitely an album standout. Arkells have a way of making you feel connected to all the good in the world and "Quitting You" does exactly like that. "Whistleblower" is another instant winner. The repurposed tune — originally off the band's 2011 album Michigan Left — has a western vibe to it that brings a sense of intensity to the song. Think Old West standoff, featuring tumbleweeds and frontman Max Kerman wearing cowboy boots.
Not every song works as well acoustically. "Years in the Making" and "Relentless" work better in their original forms as pump-up, blast-in-your-car-with-the-window-rolled-down jams.
At over an hour in length, Campfire Chords could have benefited from a shorter runtime; not every song included on the LP needed a reimagining. Quality over quaintly, after all. Had the album been cut to, say, 10 songs, it could've been perfect.
That said, it's still a solid release from Arkells that will be sung around many campfires for years to come, with many choices to pick from if you opt to learn a song (from one of their music classes, perhaps). The album reminds us of the importance of taking a step back from the chaos of our everyday lives and enjoy the things that make life so amazing. The boys are as talented as ever and the anticipation for a new studio release is as intense as can be.
There's no quitting you, Arkells. (Universal)