Jason Collett probably wouldn’t have struck most listeners as the most likely candidate to champion the Occupy Movement. Better known for his emotive balladry and oft-playful Canadiana, the Toronto singer-songwriter didn’t necessarily intend to get political. Nevertheless, his latest release, Reckon, is a collection of 15 anthemic protest and love songs—and, unfortunately, much like the historic sit-in it recalls, it never quite finds its voice.
At no more than three minutes apiece, too many of the first eight tracks feel like ideas that haven’t been completely fleshed out rather than fully formed songs. While opener “Pacific Blue” is classic, understated Collett, the rest of Reckon’s first half—including the monotonous, whiny “Jasper Johns’ Flag”—is ultimately forgettable. The second half kicks off with “Talk Radio,” which tells the tale of a God-fearing, gun-carrying Christian distressed by a failing economy; that song is followed by the Occupy siren song, “I Wanna Rob a Bank” (the video for which does double duty as a trailer for the upcoming documentary Occupy: The Movie).
There’s slightly more substance in the subsequent six tunes, but Reckon never delivers the irresistible cheeriness of “I’ll Bring The Sun” or the heartbreaking beauty of “We All Lose One Another,” both off 2005’s Idols of Exile—two of the 11 songs on Reckon’s greatest-hits companion compilation, Essential Cuts. The extra disc is a nice touch, but it’ll likely only remind listeners of a better time when Collett wasn’t the songbird of the 99 per cent…or was that 47 per cent?
Playlist picks: “Pacific Blue,” “When the War Came Home”
Jason Collett plays The Great Hall (1087 Queen St. W.) on Oct 2.