The first full studio album from husband and wife duo Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland is more than just a marital side-project gone right. Whitehorse’s The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss is a chemical reaction, two elements converging to create an exciting album that blends influence from both classic country and alternative rock to create a refreshing and reminiscent sound.
Doucet and McClelland are not entirely obscure artists who just happened to bump into each other and write a sparky record. Halifax-born Doucet was the frontman for the Vancouver-based indie-rock band Veal, and has released several solo albums. McClelland, who was born in Chicago but grew up in Ontario, has worked with well-known Canadian artists on their records (Sarah McLachlan, Matthew Good, Ron Sexsmith) while also releasing numerous solo albums. The two have worked together on several of their seperate projects, but The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss is the first, full-length album that is exclusively theirs.
From the very first track, “Achilles’ Desire,” the chemistry between McClelland and Doucet is evident. McClelland’s voice is clear and clean, but when paired with the steady repetition of the cymbals and the electric-country guitar riff it takes on an edgy quality. Together with Doucet’s vocals, the song becomes a soundtrack for a dusty town in the Wild West, saloon doors swinging, tumbleweed passing through. This outlaw-rock dimension is maintained almost entirely throughout the album in both the faster and slower tracks. Up-tempo songs such as “Devil’s Got A Gun,” “Peterbilt Coalmine,” and “Radiator Blues,” sound just similar enough to the first track to capture the theme of the album, but they are distinctive and memorable on their own. Certain slower numbers such as “Annie Lu” and “Wisconsin” maintain the same grit-country quality, but the drowsy guitar and the easy percussion create a haunting, almost suspenseful pitch, like paces being counted by gunslingers prepared for the quick-draw.
The only place the album is faulted is in the track “Cold July.” From the get-go, the balladic lead of the piano is an indicator something is off, and the song sounds like it could be a Sarah MacLauchlan cover. McClelland sings it well, and it would be well-suited for coffee-shop music, but the track doesn’t belong on the classic-country infused album.
There is no denying the musical compatibility between McClelland and Doucet, and The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss is a record that anyone who enjoys alternative-country will be grateful for. Instead of instilling images of pick-up trucks, rounds of darts, and warm beer, Whitehorse reawakens country music by returning to the roots. With the exception of the one song, McClelland and Doucet capture all the drama, romance, and action of the Wild West in an album that we can only hope is merely the beginning of their collaborative journey.