Two Saint John expats making noise in the The Big Smoke.
Matt Carter | @M_J_C73
I will admit to being seriously bummed out when Jason Ogden left the foggy city of Saint John to seek opportunities amongst the endless streets and tall buildings of Toronto. It’s been a few years now. I’m slowly starting to accept it.
For practically two decades, Ogden was the driving force behind what for me, where some of New Brunswick’s most exciting and significant musical projects ranging from indie and post-punk (NFA and Hospital Grade) to folk-focused roots rock (Penny Blacks). In the late 80s and into 90s, he and fellow Hospital Grade musician Andrew Earle played an integral role in instilling the DIY spirit of punk into an entire generation of pre-Nirvana New Brunswickers by hosting all-ages shows, doing zines, recording their own music and touring a lot.
But a big part of what has always attracted me to Ogden’s music is his unique sense of dissonant melody. To my ears, no one else writes melody lines quite like he does. Thinking that I might have heard him play the electric guitar for the last time was a major contributing factor to my previously mentioned post-Odgen depression. So you can now fully appreciate my excitement when last week, on the same day, I receive messages from two different members of the Toronto post-hardcore outfit, Plastic War, announcing the trio’s debut EP – with Ogden at the helm.
The five track, self-titled release is a powerful and confident introduction that pairs Ogden’s vocals and guitar with a driving rhythm section made up of fellow Saint John musician Blair Phillips on bass and Toronto scene veteran Alex Teixeira (The Steady State/Childs) on drums. This is just what my ears have been lacking as of late, and I have since listened to this EP at least 20 times.
“When I moved to Toronto, it wasn’t long before I missed playing with Hospital Grade and missed playing loud, dissonant music,” said Ogden, who now splits his time between Saint John and Toronto. “I put an ad on Kijiji looking for folks to start a band and cited influences like Fugazi, The Jesus Lizard, Future Of The Left, Hot Snakes, etc. I got quite a few responses and eventually started jamming with a drummer and awesome fellow named Alex Teixeira.”
After dismissing several emails from bassists who had little to nothing in common with what he and Teixeira had started creating, Ogden found out Phillips was also in the area and looking to make some noise.
“I had played with Blair years before in Halo, and Blair was also in another SJ band of note called Born Under Satellites,” said Ogden. “So, I dropped him a line, he came to jam with Alex and I, and we started writing some tunes.”
The three have been together for about two years now. Their sound pairs expected dissonance with straight ahead rhythm that at times mixes Fugazi-like melodies with simple yet effective changes in beat placement and timing.
For Ogden, who has always maintained a certain degree of unpredictability in his writing and arrangements, Plastic War may be one of his most reined-in efforts to date. Each song on this release moves forward with serious intent with Phillips and Teixeira leaving little room for the unexpected turns that helped characterize much of Ogden’s louder projects.
“I think this band is much more singular in approach than NFA,” he said. “It’s all kind of a snotty, angular distillation of hardcore/punk and math in concentrated bursts. NFA was more sort of all over the place stylistically. I guess Hospital Grade would be closer in sound, but Plastic War is definitely more casual and we actually make an attempt to keep our songs under four minutes.”
Download a copy of Plastic War’s Plastic War immediately, listen below, or do both. It’s nice to have options.