Occasionally I realize that my tastes might not be tune with the broader milieu.
A month or so back, my wife sent me an email from work about a band called the Bare Mutants along with a link to the album then streaming on Pitchfork (ironically when Pitchfork came to review the record , it was a petty negative slag off – their loss). Anyway, the alum to my ears was one of those releases that you fall in love with after the first ten seconds. Subsequent listenings only strengthened by belief: this was a great record.
So when I heart they were playing the Drake, I hurried down to Soundscapes to get tickets lest it sell out and I be disappointed. Alas I needn’t have worried.
We go to the Drake a little after nine last night, only to see the place was deserted. About 10 people were drinking and waiting for the openers CTZNSHP to appear. Around nine thirty they did. A polite Canadian three-piece CTZNSHP sounds like a different post-punk band with every song – no slang. It was an effective recreation with a little something original thrown in. Can’t remember the name of any of the songs, but Heartbreak Kids and On a Roll, two atmospheric treats )one moody, one rocky)can be found on their bandcamp page.
Ten-Thirty came the Mutants. Thirty seconds or so of guitar noise, and we were off. And for the next forty minutes the band played a noisy blend of hip sounds with a building intensity that made the payoff so rewarding. The five piece Mutants mixed a garage sound with waves of guitar and sixties organ and percussion sounds. Thrillingly eclectic.
I’m almost embarrassed to say it was my first visit to the Drake, and the only real downside (it’s a great venue) was that almost no one came out. There were fewer than twenty-five people in the room throughout the set. you missed out Toronto. Bare Mutants, don’t hold it against us; come back soon.
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The new issue of Internationalist Perspective is now available.
The issue features articles of Syria and the Middle East, the Class Struggle, DSM-5, and parts 2 and 3 of our analysis of Internationalist Perspective’s relationship to and critique of the Communist Left.
The issue is available as a print edition for $5 (+ postage) or as a free electronic edition.
Contact us through email or snail mail at
PO Box 47643
Don Mills, ON
Print and email subscribers should receive their copies in the near future.
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I started watching Doctor Who regularly during Jon Pertwee’s tenure as the Doctor (the third Doctor). I’d seen some with Patrick Troughton, but Pertwee was the first for me. Those years were marked by cheesy plots and cheapo sets. I loved it. I followed the show until I moved to Canada in 1981, then lost touch. When they rebooted it in 2005, I again took up the mantle.
Yeah, I still watch (saw the anniversary special this afternoon, then happily ran across this. Pretty much agree with the assessment.
Oh, and I wearing bow ties before Matt Smith. Hand-tied bow ties mind you
Doctor Who at the half-century mark: A brief assessment
By Bryan Dyne and Christine Schofelt
30 November 2013
The much-anticipated 50th anniversary episode of the science fiction television series Doctor Who was broadcast November 23 in 94 countries simultaneously. As part of the release, the episode had a 3D theatrical showing in select cities across the globe.
Doctor Who follows the adventurers of a time-traveling alien known as “The Doctor” and his human companions as they travel through time and space, encounter various beings and meet historical personages. It originally aired on the BBC from 1963 to 1989 (the first episode was broadcast the day after John F. Kennedy’s assassination) and was subsequently relaunched in 2005.
Since its revival, the show has received far greater international attention, especially in the US. It is now the number-one-rated program on BBC America, undoubtedly bringing in considerable revenue. An average of 77 million viewers worldwide watch each episode.
The Doctor has the ability to “regenerate” after suffering a fatal injury, which results in a changed appearance, and has now been played by 12 different actors. The character has been portrayed in the new series by Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith. Peter Capaldi will be assuming the role during this year’s Christmas special.
As this is the show’s half-century mark, an assessment seems appropriate.
Certain themes recur in the series, particularly in the years since 2005: What is it to be human? How is this affected by technology? How far should one go in fighting an enemy? Who or what is “the enemy”?
At the heart of the series seems to be the notion that every aspect of humanity is worth knowing and fighting for. The Doctor is the last known survivor of the cataclysmic Time Wars—a conflict between his people (the Time Lords) and a bio-mechanical race known as the Daleks. He could go everywhere and to “anywhen” (any time) in the Universe, yet chooses Earth as his home and has played the part of its guardian against various invaders, sending the would-be conquerors back into space with a warning that, as Tennant’s Doctor declared, “When you talk of the Earth…it is defended!”
The Doctor is attracted to humans from ordinary working class backgrounds. The companions of the rebooted series include Rose (Billie Piper), a shop girl from a council flat; Martha (Freema Agyeman), a medical student; Donna (Catherine Tate), an administrative temp; Amy (Karen Gillan), an odd-jobber; Rory (Arthur Darvill), a nurse; and Clara (Jenna Coleman), a governess. The Doctor travels with them through time and space. Their various skills—ones that many audience members also possess—are cleverly and realistically employed to solve problems.
While the new series is somewhat darker in tone than the old one ( Doctor Who was conceived as a show for children), it still retains a sense of joy, wonder and curiosity about life that made the original series so enjoyable. The monsters that The Doctor and his companions must overcome are not simply phenomena to be obliterated, but understood. One particularly touching example occurred during Tennant’s tenure, in the episode “Fear Her” (2006), in which an alien force is trapping people inside of drawings. Instead of simply killing the creature, called an Isolus, The Doctor and Rose come to understand they are dealing with a lonely child who uses the drawings as a desperate way of breaking its solitude.
The series has even expressed sympathy for the Daleks, the sworn enemies of The Doctor. Such an attitude toward alien life is refreshing in contrast to television shows and movies that predominantly view non-Earth creatures as beings to be feared and killed at all costs.
The Doctor and his companions have also had adventures involving various cultural icons, including Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie, William Shakespeare and Vincent van Gogh. However, episodes in which past political figures—such as Winston Churchill in “Victory of the Daleks” (2010)—are represented tend to be far less satisfying, in large part due to the program’s nationalistic outlook and loose treatment of history.
With some sensitivity and complexity, Doctor Who has explored the cruelty of slavery (“Planet of the Ood,” 2008), the exploitation of labor (“The Rebel Flesh,” 2011), the ability and willingness of the media to control information (“The Long Game,” 2006) and the internment of immigrants (“Turn Left,” 2008), even if it offers rather naïve solutions to the various social ills.
The show speaks to a generally positive view of humanity’s future. Starting with Eccleston’s incarnation in the first revived season in 2005, we see that the species survives the death of the Sun. Episodes with Tennant as The Doctor (2005-2010) reveal that humans still exist 10 trillion years in the future when all the stars have burned out. All of this, it should be noted, is not done through magic or mysticism, but with an undisguised admiration for the human determination to understand, struggle with and master the world and nature through technological advances.
There has been, however, a troubling increase in militarism, especially by the seventh year of the reboot. In pursuit of information regarding a kidnapped companion’s whereabouts, Matt Smith’s Doctor (2010-2013) destroys a whole fleet of ships of Cybermen—beings who contain human brains as a means of “upgrading” their fragile bodies. To rescue this companion, The Doctor rounds up those who owe him favors to form a private army (in an episode significantly entitled “A Good Man Goes to War,” 2011). Since The Doctor can zip in and around the universe just as he pleases, why the need for an army?
UNIT, a military organization that combats extraterrestrial threats to the Earth, has been a part of the program from the beginning. In the original, while The Doctor sometimes worked with UNIT as a consultant, it was always on his own terms and with a skeptical eye toward weaponry. Over the course of the new series, UNIT has become something more threatening and nefarious, and The Doctor has become more willing to work with this body.
In Torchwood, the Doctor Who spinoff that first aired in 2006, that militarism has been extended into domestic spying. The ability to tap into any closed circuit television camera, hack computer systems and obtain personal data is presented as something the “good guys” routinely resort to. There is also an instance in Torchwood (“Countrycide,” 2006) in which torture is portrayed as a legitimate way of getting information.
At a time when US and British authorities have turned to illegal drone assassinations, mass domestic spying and a policy of unending war, it is perhaps not surprising that Doctor Who reflects these trends. However, that is no excuse, especially for a series that has traditionally expressed a general disdain for the military.
In the 50th anniversary episode (“The Day of the Doctor”), The Doctor does not allow UNIT to detonate a nuclear device in the heart of London to stop an alien incursion. Instead, he forces the humans and aliens to reach a truce with no loss of life. One hopes this marks a conscious and lasting return to the theme of the triumph of intellect over brute force—a notion that has helped the program build a devoted following over the course of decades.
Through The Doctor, viewers glimpse people at their best and worst. The contradictory nature of modern society—with its beauties and horrors—is examined with a degree of empathy and subtlety. While its approach and execution are sometimes flawed, Doctor Who champions, from the perspective of an outsider, the greatness that humanity can and should aspire to.
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Hmm… stocking stuffers anyone?
1. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
Damn! Arcade Fire made a dance record. It’s easy to point ot the influence of James Murphy ex of LCD Soundsystem, but the fact is AF have always been interested in big bold statements in their music, and dance music is a bold statement. Like the Anna Calvi record I mention below, it isn’t as immediate as previous releases, but the looping percussion of “Reflektor” pulls you in. Like most double albums, the release can be overwhelming, but I’ve been absorbing it as I drive to work, and I’m settling in very nicely thank you very much.
2. Karen Dalton – In My Own Time
I can only listen to Karen Dalton when my kids aren’t around. They HATE her voice. Admittedly, it’s an acquired taste, but to hear her tackle “When a Man Loves a Woman” and “How Sweet it is” along side such signature songs as “Katie Cruel” is astounding. Her voice is unique. The rawness and authenticity of her sound cuts through both the soul and the folk numbers and creates something incredible. I’m always amazed that artists such as Dalton who have influenced so many are virtually unknown.
3. Anna Calvi – One Breath
One of the mysteries for me listening to Anna Calvi’s first album was with a band of only three people how they could produce such a big sound. Orchestral even. One Breath, the new album which came out in September is no less orchestral. The songs aren’t quite so immediate, but Calvi’s singing and outstanding guitar playing won me over. A worthy successor.
4. Adam and the Ants- Kings of the Wild Frontier
I loved this record when it came out. Sure sure, it alienated a lot of Adam’s fan base, but I wasn’t part of it anyway. A big Gary Glitter drum sound, Duane Eddy guitar and Adam yelping about Native Americans and pirates. When you’re 15, it makes sense, but it got pretty silly soon after. Thirty years on, I realize it was pretty silly then too, but the tunes are mostly fun. This edition adds a few disposable demos.
5. Arson – Not Always About You
My new favourite local band. I mentioned in the Flamin Groovies review, that anyone who hoped for a follow-up to Raw Power or a third Dead boys album needs to own this one. Pure, unabashed rock and roll in all its glory. PLAY LOUD. Oh and catch them live opening for Hugh Cornwall at Lee’s December 15.
6. M.I.A. – Matangi
M.I.A. continues to be a puzzle to me. Noisy beats, a petulant attitude and quite fantastic stuff like the title song and “Bad Girls” (yes Richard, you were right) co-exist on this record. The album sounds to my ears less unified than previous works but maybe this is because of the album was recorded over a longer than usual period of time (“Bad Girls” is two years old) Always worth a listen though.
7. Metric – Old World Underground, Where Are you Now?
Surely you must know the title of the album and the first words sung by Emily Haynes are the same. Great new wave album now a decade old, but still worth listening too for the punkier tracks like IOU, Combat Baby and Dead Disco. (You might also check out Martha & the Muffins first record)
8. Bad Religion – Christmas Songs
With 9 songs coming in at 19 minutes, it’s true the album feels a little, well, slight, but it’s a fun ride. The band blast through a bunch of Christmas favourites including “White Christmas,” “O come all ye Faithful,” and “Little Drummer Boy.” Part of the proceeds go to Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
9. Alex Chilton- Free Again: “The 1970″ Sessions”
Post-Box Tops, pre-Big Star, Alex Chilton recorded these songs in the summer of 1969. And they are essential for any Chilton fan. Two versions of “Free Again,” Stones and James Brown covers, some serious rock outs and some lovely ballads. This expanded collection also adds some mono versions. Lovely, just lovely.
10. Mojo 20th Anniversary issue
The issue isn’t on any newsstands I can see her, but on-line the issue looks great.; full of self-referential features (I love this stuff – I can’t wait for best of the year issues!) Also includes a 20 song CD featuring Jack White, Teenage Fanclub. Mercury Rev and many more.
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I was talking with a friend a few weeks back, and the subject of album titles came up. Quick as a rather slow flash, here’s a list of some of my favourite album titles.
1. Spacemen 3 – Taking Drugs to make Music to Take Drugs to
The demos from the first Spacemen 3 album. I almost went with “For all the Fucked-up children of the world, we give you Spacemen Three,” but this one narrowly beats it.
2. The Sex Pistols – Never mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols
I was a little too young to fully appreciate punk, and I wasn’t from one of the big cities. I probably didn’t buy the album until 1979. Still, I remember when the Sex Pistols did their thing. I remember the whispering about the album’s title and the thrill of listening to it, swear words and all. It’s still a thrill thirty years later.
3. The Heartbreakers – L.A.M.F.
A New York Street Legend: Like a mother fucker! Nuff said.
4. The Pogues – Rum, Sodomy and the Lash
Now given the Pogues’ name comes from a Gaelic phrase meaning kiss my arse, the title shouldn’t be a surprise, but the unofficial slogan of the British navy is curious. .
5. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – The First Born Son is Dead
Like many great rock acts, Nick Cave had a somewhat unhealthy Elvis fixation. Like many, he also made great music. First Born, including Elvis’s “In the Ghetto,” is brooding shambling mutant blues.
6. The Cockney Rejects – Greatest Hits Volume 1
Great joke naming your first record that. Unfortunately, when you tell the joke for the third time, the joke’s not so funny (especially when the third one was a live one). Still, it worked once.
7. Nick Lowe – Jesus of Cool (UK)/Pure Pop for Now People (US)
Nick Lowe’s first release for Stiff Records had a different title for the UK and the US release – apparently, the US wasn’t ready for the Jesus of Cool, but both titles are pretty amazing.
8. The Stranglers – No More Heroes
The perfect punk title. After all wasn’t it kill your heroes in 1977? Punk was year zero. Too bad the album didn’t entirely live up to the promise. It had moments sure, but it felt like hesitation sandwiched between Rattus Novegicus and Black and White.
9. Social Distortion – White light, White Heat, White Trash
Recalling the Velvet’s album of almost the same name, Social Distortion add their own imprint in to their last truly great record.
10. Alex Chilton – Like Flies on Sherbert
A gloriously sloppy record. Check out “Alligator Man” which sounds as if each member of the band is playing a different song in different time. not entirely sure what that title means, but the image is great.
Any others? Another list later
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Remember that bit in the Krays where the teacher asks the twins for a word, and without a pause they respond, “Crocodile” ? Not sure why i recall it now, but it seemed an appropriate place to begin.
I’ve been meaning to see the Crocodiles for a few years, but every time they’ve come through, fate has directed me elsewhere. This was the time.
I got to Lee’s to catch the last couple of songs of Wymond Miles’ set. I heard too few songs to make an informed judgement, but the penultimate had a nice eighties sound to it with some lovely keyboard work. The last song had a fairly glorious guitar noise, so maybe next time I’ll have to make more of an effort to be on time.
The Crocodiles often get tagged as Jesus and Mary Chain types, but to see them live is to realize how inaccurate that comparison is. For my money, the band have more in common with the Paisley Underground bands of the early eighties: sixties tunes and harmonies and organ sounds, along with pounding drums and crashing guitar sounds. The band ripped though a brief (well, 45 minute) set, encoring with the soaring “I Wanna Kill” from their 2009 debut Summer of Hate. Excellent.
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In New York in December? Here’s something you should do
Public Meeting New York December 2
If you’re in or near New York City, please join us at Bluestockings bookstore for a special roundtable discussion co-sponsored by Marxist-Humanist Initiative and Internationalist Perspective, “Can Redistribution Solve Capitalism’s Crises?” Discussants will include Andrew Kliman, Anne Jaclard, Mac Intosh, and Sander.
The roundtable will critically examine proposals to redistribute income and wealth that are currently popular in “Marxist,” social democratic, and left-Keynesian circles. Can redistribution make capitalism “fair”? Can it prevent repeated economic crises? Does inequality cause crises and poverty? If not, what are the causes? Can capitalism be reformed to make it serve human needs? If not, what is the alternative?
The discussion will take place on Monday, December 2, between 7 and 9 pm. Bluestockings is at 172 Allen St., near Houston St. in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
The season is upon us. Sure, the stores have had their merchandise out since Halloween, but yesterday as I walked pasted the local shopping plaza, I noticed they had their big tree up in the square. Last night however, walking the dog, I noticed a neighbour had their tree up. C’mon people, it’s mid-November!
Of course, I can’t escape it (and to be honest, I won’t really try that hard.) If you’re looking for a unique gift, get art. Here’s a very reasonably priced print by a friend of mine Alanna Cavanagh.
And there’s lots more great stuff on her site.
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Is rock ‘n’ roll a young man’s game? Blues musicians age and continue unfazed. Likewise folksingers. But somehow, when you get older as a rock singer, people say it just isn’t the same.
But is it? Last Wednesday I went down to Lee’s Palace to see the re-united Flamin’ Groovies and local boys Arson. Admittedly the evening didn’t start so well: I was almost hit by a car which ran a red light, and then about ten minutes after that as I walked to the club, I was almost hit by a car making a left turn in a hurry. I briefly considered going home, but, what the hell…
Lee’s was pretty empty when I arrived about ten minutes before Arson went on stage. I had seen the band open for the Rezillos last year, and was pretty excited to see them again. I should make a correction here to the link I had previously posted to their site though. You can hear tracks from their awesome new CD Not always about You, at their main site. Man, if you hoped Iggy would make a follow-up to Raw Power or you really liked the Dead Boys, you will not be disappointed (and I do not suggest Arson are derivative, but only by point of reference). By the end of their thoroughly entertaining set, Lee’s had become full. I hopped over to the merch table to pick up a copy of the CD and it was ten bucks well spent. (Note: Much of this review was written this past weekend, but I’m just finishing editing tonight. In the meantime I notice that a member of Arson has subscribed to the blog – let me know about the next show. Please!)
The Flamin Groovies came on about 10:15 to tumultuous applause. The band formed in the Bay Area in 1965, but who knows when the last time they were in Toronto. I’m not much for reunion shows, but sometimes you say, I need to see this band. No real surprises here. The band played as if they had been doing it all of their lives (although there was some strange stage banter including Chris Wilson’s persistent references to “Bob” Ford). And yes, they’re not as pretty as they were nor were the vocals as lovely as they had been, but really, who cared? Does anyone care that Iggy is 66? Does anyone care that the Groovies are well into their sixties. The real question is, is it real and can they still do it. The answer is yes.
At about the seventy minute mark, the band played one of the songs I’d waited all evening to hear, “Slow Death.” As the song closed, Cyril Jordan announced to the audience that the next was their final song. He wouldn’t introduce it, but anyone who didn’t know it should be there: We all knew, it was “Shake Some Action,” arguably their greatest song. The guitars chimed and the harmonies still sounded fresh.
After a brief break, the band returned to play another great, “Teenage Head,” from which the legendary Canadian band took their name. A lot of fun, which this old guy thoroughly enjoyed.
Jumping Jack Flash (Rolling Stones)
Yeah My Baby
You Tore me Down
Yes I am
Feel a Whole Lot Better (the Byrds)
Married woman(Frankie Lee Simns)
I want you Bad (NRBQ)
I Can’t hide
Don’t you lie to me (Chuck Berry)
Don’t Have to Tell you
[Sorry - couldn't read my handwriting]
Paint it Black (Rolling Stones)
Please Please Girl
Between the lines
Shake some Action
Go quit your job. But download the new issue of Endnotes before you do. That way you won’t have to pay for it, and you’ll have something to occupy your free time.
One question I am often asked when I do bookfairs is ‘when is the new issue of Endnotes coming out?’ Well kids, it’s here. And the good news is that another issue will be out in six months or so. Apparently, they have amassed so much material, it wasn’t able to fit into a single volume.
Endnotes arose out of a split in the British Aufheben collective a few years back. The new collective has published two book sized issues themed around the origins of modern ultra-left communism and communization. The current issue is themed “Gender, Race, Class and other Misfortunes.” The entire issue is up at the Endnotes website so download away. I’ll have some more to say about the issue later, but gotta go quit my job so I’ll have time to read the thing (only joking mum).
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