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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Friday, April 19, 2024

Arkells make space for crunchy 9-to-5 millennials

The band’s sound is consistent to the point of borderline monotony, but their fans love it all the same.


Canadian alt-rock band Arkells pictured Oct. 3.

Arkells, a Canadian alt-rock band, made their way to the Paradise Rock Club on Oct. 3, where they were met by a hoard of flannel-donning 25–40-year-old fans. The band’s lineup featured lead singer Max Kerman on vocals and guitar, Mike DeAngelis on lead guitar and backup vocals, Nick Dika on bass, Tim Oxford on drums and Anthony Carone on keys. Their “At Your Service” tour aims to boost their 2023 LP, “Laundry Pile,” but not aggressively so — they know what their fans like, and they know how to keep them engaged with a healthy mixture of new and familiar tracks.

Courtesy Clarke Taylor

Arkells launched their show with a well-loved tune from their new album, “Skin,” an ode to deliberate love that reaches past the surface level. Kerman is clearly a master of his craft, and he beckoned the crowd in easily, but without begging — rather, he flashed a couple grins and opened himself up to his audience.

“Tuesday night is the enemy of rock ‘n’ roll,” he joked. “So let’s make this a Friday night!”

The crowd was buzzing, though not totally convinced, but within a couple of songs, Kerman and his bandmates buttered the audience up from enthusiastic to positively zealous. Arkells was warm and inviting; the members’ faces lit up with grins whenever the crowd joined in with the lyrics. The members are clearly close — Kerman was happy to give Carone or DeAngelis a playful hug in the middle of their brief solos — and their affection for one another spread quickly to the increasingly joyous crowd. A Friday night indeed.

Courtesy Clarke Taylor

The setlist was crafted to flow nicely between high and low energy songs, and the band paused the show for two creative and non-musical bits. The first bit featured a collection of T-shirts with the titles of songs from the band’s “Laundry Pile” album written on them, from which a fan selected randomly as though they were names in a hat. The selected song was “Wash Away,” a beachy-yet-forlorn ode to a love that is slipping through the writer’s fingers: “I dream of one more chance / That’s all I can do today / You’re drawing lines in the sand / And I’m just hoping they might wash away.”

The second bit, their request line, featured a phone with a pre-recorded message from a random fan who called in before the show to request a specific song. The selected song was “Never Thought That This Would Happen” (2014), an unapologetic ballad to youth, love, sexuality and living in the moment. Both bits helped to re-engage members of the audience who had begun to drift away from the music, and old fans seemed particularly pleased with the two selections.

Arkell’s sound is a familiar one; an easygoing affair between Imagine Dragons and Mumford & Sons. Some might say it is a little too familiar, and that their setlist is repetitive and monotonous. The band’s rhythms and chord progressions blended into each other after a few songs, and their instrumentals were nothing to write home about. Arkells moved together as a unit, which did well to provide a basis for their sound and a friendly, communal atmosphere. But this did mean that the individual band members had only a few moments to shine and that the show lulled at times. The crowd went ballistic during the odd keyboard, drum, guitar and sax solos, though they sometimes fell short.

Courtesy Clarke Taylor

Canadian alt-rock band Arkells is pictured Oct. 3.

For what they lack in instrumentals, however, Arkells made up for in lyrical sentiment. Kerman’s casual, gravelly voice lended itself to ballads of love — which got a bit boring — but the band also focused on their own political beliefs, which are unabashedly presented in a delightfully unexpected light. The tune “American Screams” (2018) focuses on increasing political polarization in the U.S., which Arkells first explored with roadside bulletin boards depicting both left and right-wing beliefs: You keep repeating that wicked catchphrase / Painted on the interstate / All the billboards, they get me lonely / I can’t sleep off all these American screams tonight.”

However, Arkells’ most powerful and crashingly energetic anthem is “Knocking at the Door” (2017), which was inspired by the Women’s Marches brought on by former President Donald Trump’s inauguration: “All aboard, I heard my sister sing / All aboard, and bring your offerings / That’s me, I’m knockin’ at the door / I’m thirsty / For more, for more, for more.”

Arkells provides a sound that is easy to listen to and an environment that is easy to enjoy, especially for Birkenstock-clad millennials. The music is emotional and jubilant, though the band knows how to tone it down to a more melancholy vibe. However, Arkells’ most prominent virtue is their ability to charm the crowd and portray themselves as friends instead of people up onstage, which is exactly what makes the band so easy to stop and listen to.