Chances are, even if you did happen to be in Toronto last week for Canadian Music Week, you still probably missed the opportunity to see Ottawa’s The White Wires. Their lone set, at 3 a.m. on a Saturday night, made them an easy act to miss.
It’s unfortunate, because The White Wires are a gritty three-chord beach blanket punk band that is, along with a handful of others, making Ottawa cool.
But don’t fret if you did miss them, either due to their unfortunate time slot or mere proximity, because the sound and energy of their live set is captured almost perfectly on their latest album WWII and one of its many stand-out tracks, “Be True To Your School (Till You Get Kicked Out).”
Despite the unfortunately long title (mostly just a pain for rock journalists who have to type it out), BTTYS(TYGKO) is a refreshingly fun song. It sounds like high school, summer, and good times. It’s a song that begs to be danced to, or at least jumped around to in wild abandon.
The White Wires craft songs in the vein of early punk rockers. Not the safety pinned junkie romantics, but the kind of three-chord enthusiasm that comes from a group of people who are just excited to write songs. The beauty of punk rock, and what made it so wonderful in its infancy, is that anyone can do it. Bands like the Ramones proved that you didn’t need years of practice to write great pop music and as such, you didn’t really need a message either. “Be True To Your School” isn’t weighed down by heady politics or stubborn vitriol and it’s not confessional, but celebrational.
I couldn’t tell you exactly what “Be True To Your School” is about; I imagine it’s something to do with loyalty. But loyalty to one’s self—I think it’s about the fickleness of youth and chasing aspirations and nonsense like that. Things suited to silly teenage dreams. But that’s cool, and the thing is, maybe that’s a good thing to keep close, even when the sun sets on those teenage years.
Maybe we should continue to be true to our school, ourselves, and our principals/principles. It’s easy when you’re young, but it doesn’t hurt to look back every now and then either.