Canadian Wonder #4: Tal Bachman - If You Sleep

This week we go back to the Great White North to find yet another artist who didn't stick around in the states for more than one hit song. In Tal Bachman's case, it may have just been laziness as he no doubt had a large trust fund courtesy of his dad Randy Bachman.

Knowing Randy Bachman--former guitarist/songwriter for The Guess Who--one might automatically assume the younger Bachman would be awesome. But one would be forgetting that Randy Bachman also headed up the less-than-stellar '70s arena rock band Bachman-Turner Overdrive who released hits like "Let it Ride," "Takin' Care of Business," and "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet." Not a bad band by any means, but one that usually appeals to rednecks, old guys and people who unironically like bad '70s music (like yours truly). Oh, and Canadians (who gave them the "Best Group" Juno Award three non-consecutive years) and Stephen King (who took his pen name "Richard Bachman" from the group). Interesting fanbase, to say the least.

So would Tal be awesome like The Guess Who or fun but decidedly lame like BTO (note there is no in between here)?

The answer is--somewhat predictably--the latter, although, to be fair, it's a far cry from anything daddy ever did.

But first, some background on Bachman.

Growing up in a musical family (his uncles were also in BTO), Bachman became interested in music at an early age, but ended up giving it up to go to college in Utah (he was a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints), where he studied philosophy and and political science and reportedly "grew to accept his destiny as a performer." Returning to his hometown of Vancouver, Bachman began writing songs. In the late-90s Bachman got a record deal when some EMI executives heard his demo tape (wonder how they got a hold of that?) and got him a deal with Columbia Records. Metallica producer Bob Rock signed on to co-produce Bachman's eponymous debut.

The ingredients--son of a classic rock star makes an album with Metallica's longtime producer--seem to suggest Tal Bachman would be something far different than what it is: a pleasant collection of mainstream singer-songwriter pop-rock. Mostly absent are riffing, distorted guitars and punishing drums in favor of slick, radio-ready production and a lot of schmaltzy songs about love.

Bachman's first single, "She's So High" is so radio-ready and overproduced it's a wonder Bachman himself actually wrote it and not some professional songwriter like Max Martin or Diane Warren. The song is a mildly diverting piece of radio pop, complete with quiet verses and a loud burst of a chorus that shows off Bachman's falsetto. It became a huge hit in both Canada and the US, hitting #1 on the US Adult Contemporary Charts and #14 in the Top 100, also hitting the top ten of the Top 40 chart.

In Canada, Bachman won multiple Juno awards (damn nepotism) and a BMI songwriting award. The song was also played at least 500 times a day on Nashville's Top 40 station WRVW, 107.5 The River in 1999. I know this only because I took my morning shower with a shower radio that happened to be stuck on that station. Let's just say the song helped to add to my B.O. content in 8th grade (TMI?).

Bachman became something of a sensation for at least a minute. He was featured on The Tonight Show, MTV, E! and in Rolling Stone, LA Times, Q Magazine, Interview and USA Today. He even toured with fellow Canadians Bryan Adams and Barenaked Ladies. How's that for a lineup? I'm guessing Loverboy was busy.

The second single, "If You Sleep," well...not so impressive. More of the same really, only more. More saccharine lyrics, more heavy, layered overproduction, and a tad bit more rock. The track starts out slow and atmospheric, with Bachman's vocals accompanied by a synth, only to have it give way to an admittedly killer slide guitar riff and ringing guitars. That slide guitar riff is actually too good for the song--like the cleaner, more straitlaced cousin of the Flaming Lips slide riff on "She Don't Use Jelly." Maybe Bob Rock should have saved it for someone else.

The song was D.O.A. in the U.S.--on the pop charts at least--but reached #35 on the AC charts. Bachman took a five year hiatus before returning with Staring Down the Sun, which failed to yield any charting singles in the U.S., though the single "Aeroplane" reached #20 in Canada.

Nowadays, Bachman has turned his interests to being a talking head, appearing in documentaries like Bill Maher's Religulous and the PBS documentary The Mormons, where he discusses the LDS church his reasons for leaving the Mormon faith and speaking on politics for Canadian TV.

I'd like to end this with a lovely picture of two Second Single artists come together, possibly to discuss fusing their bodies in order to create a two-headed, two hit wonder, but more likely to pick up some award in 1999 that gave them false hope for the future of their careers.

Shawn Mullins (L), Tal Bachman (R)

Note: To my loyal readers (all 3 of you), if you have any suggestions for future entries please leave them in the comment section. Thanks!

Download: Tal Bachman - She's So High
Download: Tal Bachman - If You Sleep

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