Words from a Waldman: Ranking the Discography of Billy Talent

Surrender. Tom Kunzman (of 18th & Addison) and I had such a great time discussing Green Day’s discography two weeks ago for Substream that we found it only fitting to do the same for a band that isn’t as revered (but should be). On record we will both state that the abrasive Billy Talent is NOT for everyone, but (surprise surprise) the band is 100% for us. When you push on glass it’s bound to break; we just wish that Billy Talent broke in America.

Disclaimer: We do not include any BT greatest hits records, live albums, singles, re-releases, B-sides, or YouTube fucking demos. Studio. Albums. We also love Pezz, but Billy Talent isn’t Pezz. Stop yelling at us. Listen to the two of us babble about BT whilst ranking its discography:

5. Afraid of Heights (2016)

SW: I know that it’s uber uber cool to hate on a band’s newest album, but I won’t do that (and it’s tacky as well); Afraid of Heights still truly rocks. BUT it’s my least favorite album from the band. 

TK: That’s a pet peeve too. Not that Billy Talent is “old” old, but I love some older bands’ newest albums. I can’t completely explain exactly why this album didn’t hit me as hard as the other records. 

SW: Girl, same. Crazily, you and I agreed 100% on this list. Right?

TK: Indeed. From what I know about Billy Talent, the foursome seems like sincere best friends. Drummer Aaron Solowoniuk suffered a great ordeal during the making of Afraid of Heights that no one is truly prepared for: Multiple scerlosis. At the end of the day, no one but Aaron really knows what it was like suffering from this horrible disease.

SW: It had to majorly stunt the ability to do what he seemingly loved the most. From what I’ve read from the band itself, and heard in interviews, the band seems more like a family than friends. Every band says that, but I think that Billy Talent means it.

TK: I agree. You see and hear that. You can still find Aaron in the videos helping make this record in different ways, and still in photos alongside (I hesitate to say this) replacement drummer Jordan Hastings (of fellow Canadian rock band Alexisonfire). It’s truly heart warming as Billy Talent actually seems genuine; most other bands try to come off as such. 

SW: No comment. Or, was that a comment?

TK: Rabbit down the hole.

SW: Leave them all behind. 

TK: Onto the next.

4. Billy Talent III (2009)

SW: Three is four.

TK: Four score and ten years ago.

SW: Dad joking isn’t your brand. You’re too good looking.

TK: (blushes) Anyway, this is the last of the number titles. By the time this record came out almost ten years ago…

SW: Holy shit. Turn your back.

TK: The dead can’t testify. (pause) Can I finish? (pause) Thank you. Billy Talent is probably one of the only bands out there wherein its singles are just as great (and sometimes greater) than the deeper cuts. 

SW: Usually hipsters wouldn’t agree.

TK: More on that in the next listing.

SW: Anywho, guitarist Ian D’Sa is beyond underrated as a guitarist and songwriter. He shines the rain that track two rusted on Billy Talent III and then some.

TK: Right out of the fucking gates, Ian D’Sa indicated to the fucking world that he could fucking shred the nar. Billy Talent III is the band’s most “hard” rock album.

SW: That’s what she said. (pauses; mild laughter) To use your favorite word “fucking,” Billy Talent III is fucking confident in style, sound, and lyrics… And not in a false bravado insincere douche-canoe way. 

TK: In a sincere way.

SW: White sparrows bleed sincerity.

TK: Regardless of the placing on this subjective list, every album sounds like a logical progression from its predecessor. 

SW: Backed. 

TK: Notarized.

SW: Tears into wine. You can’t out-dad joke me. As I told you before, you’re the good-looking one!

TK: Definition of destiny.

3. Dead Silence (2012)

SW: This may surprise (surprise) you, but we ranked this album higher than Billy Talent III (and it’s newer; what the hell is wrong with us)!

TK: Fun fact: Dead Silence is Billy Talent’s first album title that is not numbered!

SW: Well, Dead Silence could equal zero, which is a popular number in this industry. Food for thought. 

TK: Technicality. But fair. I’ll take it. This record to me shattered the little collector’s heart in my chest, but I was so happy to see the band progress and adapt to a new format. Dead Silence had more intricate artwork than the prior three releases and that was not lost on me. Also, its actual album title form complemented said artwork so well. I pose a question: Do I really need to dive into the genius and creativity behind the music videos? I pose another: Especially for “Surprise, Surprise”?

SW: You talk a lot. I know. Pot. Kettle. Black. Still, I’m not answering your questions. 

TK: Fine. (pauses) When it comes to discussing the vocals, there’s no better album to pinpoint (or pins and needles point) than this one. Regardless of your thoughts on Billy Talent, which I don’t care about, there is no denying the extreme individuality that singer (some may argue that he should be called such; I love his voice) Ben Kowalewicz has brought to the table since its debut album. On THIS record, he really seemed to find his voice. 

SW: Ben’s still as abrasive as ever, but he sounds a little more comfortable in range and approach.

2. Billy Talent (2003)

TK: This IS how it goes. Although “Devil in a Midnight Mass” is an unbelievable album opener (more on its album in just in minute), this (is how it goes) record might have the best of all time. Yeah, it’s subjective, but I’m right. You’re wrong.

SW: I honestly think for abrasive bands like Billy Talent, it’s definitely up there. Stop yelling at me.

TK: My bad.

SW: I forgive you. (pauses) Anyway, silverchair has the best album opener of all time with “Across The Night” on Diorama, but I’m gonna let you finish. Actually, I won’t. I talked about this album and how wonderful it is on Substream before in my 2003 piece. I still agree with what I said on May 21st of this year and I always will.

TK: Big step. And did you just cite yourself? WOW.

SW: (whispers) Yup.

TK: WELL, I still vividly remember my old friend (and first drummer) showing me “This Is How It Goes” for the first time before one of our band practices. I was in 5th or 6th grade and it was a total mindfuck (in the best way). The guitar riff was one thing, but the booming bass is what drew me in. Almost hypnotically. 

SW: John Gallant is such a powerhouse. And, for those who are in the know about the bass guitar and stuff, he plays many of these parts with NO PIC. NO. PIC. I’ll stop yelling.

TK: I’ll pic-i-back. John finds ways to match many songs’ vocal melodies, while weaving in and out of the guitar seamlessly. And, he still keeps in time with Aaron’s pristine drumming with such defined dynamic. 

SW: It’s an unreal lead in before the actual song fully kicks in.  Speaking of leads…

1. Billy Talent II (2006)

TK: YES! Speaking of leads, Billy Talent II comes in at #1! 

SW: Holy fucking follow up, Batman.   

TK: No kidding, boy wonder. By 2006 (one of the best years for music ever) when the band released its sophomore album, it certainly kick-started an obsession in the mind of twelve-year-old “punk rocker” me to collect their CDs due to it’s Led Zeppelin-esque numbered titles.

SW: I’m ten years older than you and fucking love this band/album. Stop making me feel bad.

TK: I fuck things up. No more mistakes or curses. Billy Talent definitely proved once again that it is capable of jumpstarting an album better than anyone. How the HECK does this band pick an opener for the live show?!

SW: Where is the line?

TW: Burn the evidence. 

SW: I know that we highlighted every single member in this band in some way, shape, or form, but I just wanted to say that the guitar part in “Pins and Needles” is one of the better ones from this century. I mean it.

TK: I second that wholeheartedly. I’m pretty sure that even Ben, John and Aaron would agree that this album could have very well been the zenith of Ian’s progression discography. His style of playing delivers SUCH personality. What. A. Distinct. Identity.

SW: The markings of a truly great band and album.

Red Flag: So there you have it. Or five of it. Or over a thousand words of it. Whatever. We love this band and hope that this article changes your life. Enjoy this playlist featuring one song from each aforementioned album and MAN ALIVE: