It might seem provocative for a band to be called the Tea Party in the divisive political climate of today but this bunch are Canadian and they've been the Tea Party for, holy crap, over thirty years now, named for a social group of beat poets like William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. This isn't really a new album for them but it kinda sorta is so I'm going to cover it anyway. It's a compilation for the European market of their Black River EP from 2019, the brand new Sunshower EP that was released in the US on the same day as this, two COVID era singles and a live track. So most of it's new and the rest is new-ish.
I definitely prefer the Black River material to what's on Sunshower but not exclusively. There are three hard rockers that stand out, for instance, all with tinges of alternative and southern rock. I prefer the two from Black River, namely the title track and especially Way Way Down, which takes the approach of the wildly underrated Raging Slab and adds some of the Middle Eastern textures that have led to the band being described as Moroccan roll. Hole in My Heart, from Sunshower, is pretty good too, with huge riffs that unfortunately occasionally seem borrowed from the Kinks.
The other real highlight from Black River is So Careless, which combines a groovy bass with some eastern melodies, then grows into alternative rock. It's a storytelling song that reminds me of a less idiosyncratic Cake. To highlight how varied this material is, Shelter is closer to Steely Dan and Blood Moon Rising (Wattsy's Song) is a strange amalgam of Pink Floyd with Leonard Cohen, which I really like, perhaps unsurprisingly given how much I like both those artists. And that leaves Out on the Tiles, which is a cover of a deep cut from Led Zeppelin III.
The highlight from Sunshower is its title track, though it took me a while to realise that. It calms the album down a lot from the two rockers that open up proceedings, though it really does build. It's more of a seventies rock song with an earlier psychedelic hippie mindset and some neat solos. Even with a Led Zeppelin cover on the album, the most overt Zep is the opening acoustic riff from Our Love, though the song moves more into a David Bowie cover of an obscure soul gem. I rather like The Beautiful, but it's extremely familiar—what pop song is that?—and the Tea Party can play this sort of thing in their sleep.
While the Out on the Tiles cover fits with the heavier originals here, especially Way Way Down, I'd call the bonus couple of covers that were released as singles last year a little jarring. They're not bad covers at all, but they're of songs by Joy Division and Morrissey and they're played very close to the original style of those artists rather than reinventing them into a Tea Party sound. They're therefore interesting but hardly essential. I can throw on the original of Isolation any time I want and, while I liked this cover, I can't imagine ever coming back to it.
And so this is a mixed bag, as such compilations often are. To be strictly accurate, the Black River EP was a compilation itself, as it brought two singles together with the Zep cover and three new songs, thus making this a compilation of a compilation with more recent material, but it does add up to everything that I think the Tea Party have done since their most recent album proper, 2014's The Ocean at the End. It's good to have it all in one place but I guarantee you'll be both repeating and skipping songs.