Inuit Rock: Willie Thrasher’s ‘Spirit Child’ (1981) Reissue

Light in the Attic continues their excellent run, this time highlighting an oft-forgotten Canadian culture.
By    September 29, 2015


Will Schube conquered Europe with John Cena

Willie Thrasher comes from Aklavik. If it sounds familiar, you’re lying. This place is deep in Canada’s Northwest Territory. Thrasher is a guitar player, and the latest revival project from Light in the Attic. Inuit heritage is at center of this record, carrying the baggage of a culture lost to Canadian insistence on assimilation. At the age of 5, Thrasher was taken from his family and sent to a residential school. The Canadian initiative for integration resulted in an alienation between the government and its native people (A recent New Yorker article says that the Canadian Government is beginning to call the practice a cultural genocide). After drumming for an Inuit rock band in the mid­ 60s, Thrasher picked up the guitar as a way of exploring his Aboriginal heritage.

Spirit Child is, despite its oppressive origins, wildly fun. It’s part Crosby, Stills, and Nash, part California Saga sections on The Beach Boys’ Holland. “Eskimo Named Johnny” rambles towards Dylan’s John Wesley Harding, while “We Got To Take You Higher” is all melted guitar psych­-funk. “Beautiful” could come up on the jukebox at a Texas bar and be mistaken for a Guy Clark tune. This is a record fresh in concept but delightfully aware of its influences and style.

The record’s arrangements are varied, but Thrasher’s words focus on the world he was robbed of. On “Forefathers,” he sings,

“It’s a land of darkness, it’s a land of many legends, It’s a home that the mighty conquered, where we don’t need no oil or gold.”

On “We Got To Take You Higher,” Thrasher laments, “Yesterday, it was hard to know who you are,” examining the impact of a heritage that was never his. There’s a deep, deep sadness to this record that results in an awkward initiation. It’s hard to reconcile its slap­happy musical arrangements with the somber details of his Inuit history. But that struggle is important. This is an important album. It tells a history too few people know about. That it’s really, really good is just a bonus.

Pre-order via Light in the Attic

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