Rock-Revivalists Original Pairs Warn Us About The Dangers Of Aging Out On “Not Grow Old”

When you hear a band has penned a concept album about the natural flow of a grand love affair, your instinctive reaction might be “Aww, how sweet.” Now meet Original Pairs. The Toronto rock-revival outfit have chosen to herald the arrival of their new collection, Long Play (OPLP), by releasing “Not Grow Old,” a relationship inventory with a—shall we say—quirkier bent.

Lyrically, the song finds a smitten narrator rattling off a series of things his woman could do that he promises wouldn’t scuttle their union—from staying out all night to putting him on hold to talking with her mouth full. But the loping, dark-rockabilly menace of the music hints that there’s going to be a crucial exception:

Don’t say you ain’t been told
You better not grow old
You better not grow old

Alllll righty then. This isn’t “I Will Always Love You”; it’s more like the answer to “When I’m Sixty-Four” McCartney was always dreading.

The song is the stealth-bomb Valentine of OPLP, which traces the evolution of a partnership from its earliest days in a Toronto apartment (“Concord Avenue”) to its inevitable rough spots (“Love Collision”) to the panicky prospect of living out the sunset years together (yep, that selfsame and troublesome “Not Grow Old”).

“The ‘Long Play’ of love isn’t always pretty, but it’s never boring,” the group understates.

And this bunch should know. When they met nearly two decades ago, the group’s Andrew Frontini and Lisa Logan decided to be not just a singer/guitarist and his drummer but a committed couple as well. Lest you assume, though, that OPLP represents some sort of twisted catharsis for the duo—well, they already mined that terrain on Original Pairs’ first album, Forbidden Fruit, whose romantic pop rock documented their “scandal-ridden” courtship.

The real scandal is the way Original Pairs have been setting the Toronto scene on its ear since 2008 with their electrifying brand of rock ’n roll, which incorporates elements of folk, country, pop and psychedelia. Over the years, they’ve settled into a winning lineup of Frontini, Logan, bassist Lynda Kraar and keyboardist Jon Loewen—the perfect vessel for the off-kilter yet accessible songs that flow from Frontini’s pen.

For this third album, the band chose to replicate its in-concert sound by recording “live off the floor” at Lincoln County Social Club, laying down all eight tracks in a frenzied four days. The aim was to recapture the feel of the early-’80s rock scene in Frontini’s native Kingston, Ontario, where he played in a band with Gord Downie, later of The Tragically Hip. It was a time, Original Pairs recall, when the revival of ’60s rock and rockabilly was dovetailing with the development of punk into new wave and postpunk. OPLP attempts to ape that synthesis by harkening simultaneously back to what the group pronounces “rock’s greatest years” of 1965 and 1980.

You can absolutely hear it on “Not Grow Old,” an endearingly retro number that sounds like the mutant cousin of a theme song a surf-garage band would have written for a TV spy show. Webb Wilder cultists will be in twang-guitar heaven. So the question has to be asked: Is the real love affair here the one between the star-crossed paramours on the album? Or is it with rock itself?

Take your time answering. As long as you’re thinking about it, you truly haven’t gotten old.