It’s certainly not uncommon for a recording artist to tout a new collection as their most “eclectic” or “diverse” to date. But such a statement carries serious weight when its speaker is four decades into a decorated career built on a pure and compelling foundation of passion, gumption, and unapologetic piss and vinegar.

Ron Hawkins is undeniably one of the most respected and revered songwriters from a place that punches well above its weight in that regard, boasting a celebrated catalogue over 20 records deep. Some are straight solo offerings, others feature backing bands the Do Good Assassins or Rusty Nails, and some, of course, find him fronting the almighty Lowest of the Low, whose iconic LP Shakespeare My Butt continues to dominate lists of “essential Canadian albums” to this day.

The common thread woven through all is a bold and brazen approach songwriting – unrepentantly potent poetry anchored by simple-but-substantial melodies comprising some combination of indie, folk, and punk rock.

Such is the case with his latest EP, Trash Talkin’ at the Speed of Sound. But while it carries Hawkins’ now signature take on the “three-chords-and-the-truth” ethos, it also circumvents its inherent musical confinements.

“I’ve come to really like and appreciate that place where you’re half convinced you’re writing the best song of your career, but half convinced it could be a trainwreck,” Hawkins muses, “and I spent a lot of time in that place while making this record.”

The six-song collection showcases the widest sonic array of anything in the singer, multi-instrumentalist, and accomplished visual artist’s back catalogue, seamlessly incorporating electronic elements like vintage synths and drum machines with an ambitious production style.

Opening cut “Ambulance Chaser” perfectly encapsulates that sonic spectrum within seconds, with some synth programming atypical to his esteemed canon leading into familiar four-on-the-floor riffing, a monster drumbeat, and Hawkins’ swag-drenched vocals.

While it’s technically a “solo” album, Trash Talkin’ features “production” from the multi-talented Devon Lougheed (Skye Wallace, Hey Ocean!), the quotations owing to the blurred lines between creator and curator they navigated through the record-making process.

“What brought us together, and I think what made this collaboration so rewarding, is that we’re both willing to try anything with a big grin on our faces until we’ve exhausted every option,” enthuses Hawkins. “My style is very much about quick combustion – fast, directly to the point – whereas Devon is a master of dynamics. I’d send over demos from my home studio that went in all kinds of directions, and then he really guided them towards the finish line. It was funny when the label asked us to break down who played which instruments and parts, and we really had no idea in the end.”

The result is like a dark short film pressed on vinyl, unlike anything else we’ve heard from the notably prolific Hawkins but at the same time, unmistakably him.

The dizzying, danceable “Church of the Chemical D.J.” and amped-up, alt-country-tinged anthem “One Horse Town” would be right at home on any of Lowest of the Low’s triumphant last three LPs while the more sombre “R.I.P. Van Winkle” and “The Undertow” present a sharp reminder of Hawkins’ raw prowess as a composer and lyricist. But it’s “Can’t Be Love” that best captures the album’s essence, somehow creating cohesion at a crossroads of Broken Social Scene, the Beastie Boys, and an Ennio Morricone soundtrack, punctuated with a beautiful verse by guest artist Britta B.

While the album was mostly written prior to the onset of the global COVID pandemic, it was assembled amidst its most stringent months, leading to another unique dichotomy.

Thematically, these songs centre around our figurative and literal self-medicated or sedated escapes from a destructively capitalist society and culture, “So it was strange circumstances that the theme of the record – these different types of social exile we experienced – sort of aligned with history,” Hawkins shares.

Trash Talkin’ at the Speed of Sound is sure to pick up praise and accolades akin to that of its many predecessors; Hawkins is, after all, a perennial Songwriter of the Year candidate from a myriad of outlets and even a Canadian Indie Rock Hall of Fame inductee. But at this stage of such a storied life in music and art, that’s basically just par for the course.

“This EP really captures how blessed I am to have a 40-year career and still get to make this my vocation and livelihood,” he says. “If I sit down and think about it too much, it starts to feel surreal,” so in that regard, it’s as much a gift to the artist himself as it is to his ever-growing faithful.

Buy the new album here

Stream it here