Vancouver's B-Lines keep it simple

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      Local punk fans looking for a followup to B-Lines’ short and scrappy six-song seven-inch from 2009 finally got what they were waiting for this spring in the form of the group’s new, self-titled 12-inch. However, if you were expecting a much more thorough affair than the band’s earlier single, you’re in for a rude awakening. While there’s a good five inches extra on each side, the whole thing clocks in at just over 11 minutes. Sitting beside guitarist Scotty Colin at an East Van JJ Bean, singer Ryan Dyck offers up a perfectly good reason why B-Lines didn’t fill up its latest platter with innumerable ragers: adding anything extra would be outright annoying.

      “It would be hard to sit through a half an hour of B-Lines, I think,” Dyck says frankly between sips of java.

      The vocalist explains that he’d rather trim the fat than bloat up the band’s product, likening the record to classic punk EPs of the ’80s rather than the overstuffed CD compilations he grew up with in the ’90s.

      “You could fit 70 minutes of music on there,” he moans of grunge era’s glut. “Everyone thought they had to put more and more stuff on there. You don’t need 33 songs on there.”

      The nine brief bursts that B-Lines—which also features drummer Bruce Dyck and bassist Adam Fothergill—unleashes on the record feature spiky guitar licks, lightning-quick beats, and Dyck’s wrenched-up, nervous wail. Unsettling moments like the hyper-speed “Wealthy Barber”, a hopped-up ode to junk-collecting, bring to mind American hardcore icons like the Circle Jerks and Government Issue through their strangled power chords and brutally bashed-out beats, but B-Lines members are quick to point out they’re no retro act.

      “There are lots of revival punk bands these days that try to write songs that sound like they’re from London in ’77 or from California in ’81, whatever period in time they feel punk was at its best, and it just sounds kind of cheesy,” Dyck says with a sneer. “If you’re a band from Edmonton, why would you be singing songs about going to the beach?”

      Rather than scream about catching a wave on his surfboard or affect a Brit accent while dumping on the royals, Dyck uses the lyrics on the new record to reflect life in Vancouver. The jarring, skank-inducing “It Rains”, for instance, plays up Lotusland’s frequent torrential downpours, with the singer decrying our overflowing gutters, eternally soggy footwear, and the fact that “you can’t tell where the concrete ends and where the sky begins.”

      The punchy punk opener, “Hastings Strut”, meanwhile, finds the frontman fascinated with the dangers of jaywalking in the Downtown Eastside, remarking on how many people narrowly avoid getting hit by traffic as they lurch aimlessly into the street. Working at Scratch Records, situated at 1 East Hastings, Dyck is quite familiar with the scenario.

      “You don’t look. You just cross the street, step out in front of a bus. I see the Hastings strut every day.”

      “Ever since the beginning of B-Lines, we’ve always tried to have this element of being a Vancouver band,” guitarist Colin offers, pointing to the group's being named after the popular city bus line. “This is where we live, this is our city. We’re proud of our scene. We want to sing about it.”

      A noticeable difference between the new album and B-Lines’ previous work is how much gnarlier Dyck’s vocals sound. Earlier recordings had him yelping like a giddy teenage Muppet, whereas he comes across as both more aggressive and more reckless on snotty missives like “World War Four”. It’s a little disconcerting to hear the singer doing his best to ravage his vocal cords. While some would be concerned about the irreparable damage being done to their throat, Dyck maintains it’s just part of the game.

      “My voice has just changed from playing so many shows and yelling over cheap PAs,” he admits. “I don’t plan on being a jazz vocalist when I’m 40 or anything. If I have a rough voice from a couple years of being in a punk band, then that’s a risk I’m willing to take.”