A Vancouver band with a folk-pop take on alternative rock, 54-40 formed in 1981 as a trio consisting of bassist Brad Merritt, drummer Darryl Neudorf, and vocalist Neil Osborne. (The band took their name from James K. Polk's presidential campaign slogan, "Fifty-Four Forty or Fight," which sought to expand the U.S. border northward.)
Initially, 54-40 toured the Western Canadian club circuit, without gaining much attention. In 1984, Phil Comparelli was added on guitar and vocals; Neudorf left shortly thereafter and was replaced by Matt Johnson (not the The's frontman). By the time of the band's self-titled album in 1986, their folk/roots approach had earned them favorable comparisons to R.E.M. Subsequent albums found the band moving into harder-edged territory. A lack of U.S. interest led to 1992's exclusively Canadian release Dear Dear, but by 1994, continued success in their homeland helped to make a U.S. release possible for 1995's Smilin' Buddah Cabaret. 1996's dark and cynical Trusted by Millions went platinum, while 1998's Since When, which signaled a return to the folk-inflected sound that dominated the band's early days, went gold.
Casual Viewin' arrived in 2000, followed by Goodbye Flatland (2003). In 2005, Comparelli left the band, replaced by David Genn. That same year, 54-40 released Yes to Everything. Two years later, they delivered Northern Soul. The band's 13th studio album, Lost in the City, appeared in 2011. In 2016, they released La Difference: A History Unplugged, which featured acoustic reworkings of the band's biggest hits. ~ Chris Woodstra