North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

One and Done: Six Canadian Bands That Only Released a Debut Record

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Editor’s Note: Originally published Feb. 6, 2012 at A postscript has been appended to the bottom.

It’s harder than you’d think to find bands that only released one album. Generally, if a band is any good they have a little staying power. Sometimes even if they’re not any good, too. Even one-hit-wonders seem to stick around for a little while: did you realize Len released five albums? That The Odds released four? Even Jale – a band that only seemed to be around for a matter of weeks – released two albums.

But it still happened. Each of the following bands here were, and in one case still are, very good. But somehow, they left just one album for their legacy, at least while they were still together. And when I say album, I’m talking a full length: something substantial, with more than a couple songs. EPs, compilations and remix albums don’t count. Neither do records released well after the band broke up: do those reflect the bands intent, or was it a way for a label to recoup costs? I’m not counting stuff released if the band went through substantial changes, either: if they added new members and changed their name, I’m considering that a different band.

The Yoko Casionos – These Are the New Old Times (2007)

The Yoko Casionos were an unabashedly loud and catchy rock band from BC, straight out of the same scene that brought The New Pornographers and Immaculate Machine. They released one great album on Universal back in 2007, which got four stars from Allmusic, who called it “a pure pop treasure ripe for discovery.” Sadly, it tanked and the band was dropped from the label. They were working on a follow-up record and have a few tracks streaming on their webpage, but also appear to have given up the ghost, with a cryptic breakup message on their Facebook page. It’s too bad they never got the break they deserved.

Starkicker – Beach Music (1998)

One of Canada’s most overlooked bands. A mid-90s trio from Niagara Falls, they only released one short album in their lifespan, but damn, what an album! Beach Music is one of the better records to come out of Canada around that time and the best song on the album – Neil Armstrong- is one of the best power pop songs this country’s ever produced. They were nominated for a couple of Juno Awards, but didn’t pick up any hardware. Shortly afterward, they added another guitarist, changed their name to Dunk and released one other album, the not-quite-as-good Time To Fly, and vanished.

Pukka Orchestra – The Pukka Orchestra (1984)

Formed in the late 70s, Pukka Orchestra was one of the seminal Toronto new wave bands, along with The Diodes, Blue Peter and Spoons. But they didn’t get an album out quite as quickly as their peers: their eponymous first record was released in 1984. While maddeningly uneven as a whole, the LP had two great originals – Might As Well Be On Mars & Cherry Beach Express – and a good cover of Tom Robinson’s Listen to the Radio. But the band was hit by problems: their label went under and singer developed kidney problems. They released another EP and long after breaking up, that and some stray tracks were compiled onto a second LP.

Death From Above 1979 – You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine (2004)

Quite simply, DFA1979 was the best band of the 2000s. They were like no one before them and still nobody sounds quite the same. They had a power, a tension to their music: it was equally informed by techno as punk. They formed in the early part of the last decade and only recorded about an hour’s worth of music: two EPs and one full length, all of which are essential recordings and pack more energy into 80 minutes than most bands release in a lifetime. Hopefully, you know their best stuff: the thunderous bass riff on If We Don’t Make It, We’ll Fake It, the spiky Blood On Our Hands, the full-bore rock of Little Sister. In 2006, they split into separate projects: Sebastian Grainger into a solo act and Jesse Keeler into half of MSTRKRFT. Each sounds almost exactly like half of the band. They reformed for a series of concerts last year.

Go Four 3 – Six Friends (1987)

Another band from BC, Go Four 3’s back-story is a little complex: before releasing their debut LP, they went through three drummers and a name change. Still, that record had one really killer tune, Just Another Day. They didn’t find much success with the track, though and soon the band went through even more personnel changes and changed their name once again. Eventually they relocated to England, released an album and another EP before petering out.

The Collapse – Kills 56 (2006)

An-Alberta based band, these guys had one of the most underrated songs of the 2000s with Geographic Centre of Canada. It got some airplay on outlets like CBC Radio 3, but the band never seemed to catch on. After recording Kills 56, their drummer and singer split to form The Wheat Pool, who recorded another version of Geographic and released a couple good albums. I haven’t heard much from The Collapse in a couple years (they don’t even have a website anymore), but The Wheat Pool recently announced their breakup.

2013 Postscript: Since I wrote this about a year and a half ago, a few things have changed about these bands. The biggest and best news is that not only is DFA still around, but they’ve been working on new material and played it in concert during a tour last fall. A new album is expected at some point in the future. And more recently, The Yoko Casionos reformed for a show last summer. There’s some new demos kicking around, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for a new full-length from them.

Meanwhile, The Wheat Pool are formally defunct, with the official breakup coming a month or so after this was originally published. There’s no new news on the Go Four 3, Starkicker or Pukka Orchestra fronts, although what’d you really expect? 

Finally, here’s a couple bands I decided not to include: Valley of the Giants, who will probably only ever have their 2004 self-titled album; The Unicorns, who only released one album in any amount (their first was limited t0 500 copies) but remain curiously popular in some circles. Neither are albums I especially care for.

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  1. Here is my offering to the “One and Done” genre; “Scrubbaloe Caine” from Winnipeg. Awesome group, and btw, why does Winnipeg produce so much freakin’ incredible music! Their debut (and only album) was called “Round One”. Check out the classic cover.

    Mike Milner

    May 15, 2013 at 5:52 pm

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