Music Notes July 2014

July 31, 2014 at 12:22 pm (Uncategorized)

Here it is, your music notes for the month…

1. Harry Dean Stanton -Partly Fiction

I am prepared to watch pretty much anything with Harry Dean Stanton in it. Nuff said? This album of favourites, recorded in his living room, is a treat. Stanton could never be called a great singer, but there’s a rawness, an authenticity, a growth over the course of the record which is marvellous. On the records, which includes songs like “Promised Land” or “He’ll Have to Go” there’s a magic.

2. Oasis – Definitely Maybe (remastered)

Liam Gallagher took to social media to denounce this release arguing it was already perfect. It won’t deter fans though. We all want to see behind the curtain, to see the demos and the outtakes that led to this, arguable the best Oasis album. And, yeah, while the original album is pretty close to perfect, this provides the context, and it seems better for it.

3. Kim Gordon - Is This My Body?

Bought this on my recent New York trip. A collection of essays and texts by Kim Gordon. Stuff from her art school days and a very nice Sonic Youth tour diary.

4. Spacemen 3 – Dreamweapon

The main track on this is a 45-minute live recording entitled “An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music.” Droning guitar, audience chatter, words softly spoken. Not something to listen to every day, but there’s an intensity to it.

5. Lana Del Ray – Ultraviolence

Last year at a recital, my daughter sang the Lana Del Ray song “Young and Beautiful.” OK, let’s look at her work. So, I’ve listened to this a couple of times and have come up with a few conclusions. I like the idea of LDL better than the overall effect. The David Lynchian noir feel to her music, the black and white idealization of classic American culture has a great, well, feel to it.  Second, I’m not sure she has any songs, but rather a sound. Oddly enough, the neo-Marxist The New Inquiry has just published a collection of essays about Ms. Del Ray echoing some of the above.

6. Sharon Van Ettan – Are We There?

I can’t say much about this. You just need to listen to it. It’s a record which grows stronger with every listen.

7. Jack White – Lazeretto

Poor Jack White. No matter what he does, there’s a certain percentage of his audience that would like nothing more than another White Stripes album (and if I’m honest…). White’s second solo album continues the trend from Blunderbuss. No anthems, but some very cool songs along the way.

8. The Forgotten Rebels – In Love With the System

Can you go home? I wrote earlier about going to see the Forgotten Rebels this year. I probably saw that local band more than any other when I was in university, but I was disappointed because it seemed like faded glory. so, why should I own their debut. Probably for the same reason. Lots to shock, lots to enjoy. And, whether or not this is satire, I once loved these songs.

9. The Boomtown Rats – The Boomtown Rats

Deeply, deeply unfashionable. The Rats second album, A Tonic for the Troops was the second real album I bought, but this one is the one I’ve come to prefer over time. It’s not punk. Too steeped in rockist influences, but it has osme lovely punky moments (“Mary of the Fourth Form”) along with the Springsteenish “Joey’s on the Street Again.” This edition adds demos and some live tracks.

10. Tommy Ramone

And lastly, Tommy Ramone. The final surviving original Ramone who passed away earlier this month. Without Tommy, there might not have a been a band. He was the manager who switched to drums when it became clear Joey couldn’t keep a beat. RIP.

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Toronto Anarchist Bookfair 2014

July 31, 2014 at 11:41 am (Uncategorized)

I’ve been tabling at the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair since its inception in 2000. The bookfair quickly outgrew its original space, then outgrew its second home. Currently, it’s a squeeze in the two building site. Maybe it’s the culture in Montreal. Lots of Anarchists (and lots of Maoists).

Toronto however has always been dominated by Trotskyists. All the varieties, but they don’t seem to be able to play in the same sandbox long enough to organize a bookfair together.

It’s been a struggle to establish anarchist bookfairs in Toronto. There were a series in the early 2000s, then they faded away, but the last four years or so, events have taken place (I might be wrong about last year), usually at the Steelworkers’ Hall downtown.

I tabled at this years event, but almost from the start, it was clear  it was going to be small. It was a bit of a mystery why, but for much of bookfair the venders outweighed the public. The workshops were interesting and a good selection of tables, but the masses didn’t show.

Now there were demonstrations that day, but that ought to have fed into the event rather than drawing from it. Perhaps because a regular schedule has not been established. (The Montreal event is the same time every year and I start getting notices for the following year’s event almost as soon as the dust has settled on the current year).

There was one telling thing though. After I set up my table, I walked to the nearest Tim Horton’s (About ten minutes). I saw several crackpot posters for municipal candidate Jim McMillan, but not a single notice for the bookfair. Odd?

Well, there’s always next year.







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Random Dog Picture #6

July 29, 2014 at 7:15 pm (Uncategorized)

Ugh. Hard to believe it’s been almost three weeks since I posted something. I took a month long contract position to earn a little extra money, but it turned out to be nightmarishly run and much more work than I anticipated. C’est la vie.

Anyway, to ease back in, here’s a somewhat staged shot of the dog. Maybe I should run a contest for people to write clever captions.

Here’s mine: Marxist Dogma

No? OK, you do better.



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Half a Century High

July 11, 2014 at 4:07 pm (Uncategorized)

I turned 50 yesterday. I was going to write this post then, but I was too busy partying to get to it. Er,… no actually. first of all, I hate using the word party as anything other than a noun, and second, I had to work today.

A visit to the physiotherapist for a problem with my shoulder, a roti and some birthday cake, a few calls from family and friends, and capped the evening by watching a truly unfunny shit-com called Welcome to Sweden.

So, yeah, the title of this post refers to a Phil Ochs song I like rather than my prodigious drug habit –  caffeine is my favourite drug, closely followed by Advil for migraines which have followed me throughout my life.

What’s the line, if you’re not a communist by the time you’re twenty you have no heart, but if you’re still a communist by the time you’re thirty you have no brains? What does that say about a fifty year old? A friend asked me yesterday if I felt I had mellowed. Hmm. I’m certainly less active. Time for family, for work and the problem of less energy all feed into that. But mellow? Nah.

Aging is the most unexpected thing which happens to a person. I did think I would be more mature by now though.

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Toronto Anarchist Bookfair 2014

July 9, 2014 at 2:42 am (Uncategorized)

Ah ha, this year’s Toronto Anarchist Bookfair is taking place in two weeks (July 19 and 20) at the Steelworkers Hall on Cecil Street. Workshops and tablers (including my humble self). Come by, say hi.

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A Quick New York Trip

July 6, 2014 at 10:17 pm (Uncategorized) ()

I started a new job last week which has caused all sorts of stress and is one of the principal reasons, I’ve been silent of the post-front of late. But, before the job started, I managed to work in a quick trip to New York.

I’ve lived in Toronto off and on for almost three decades now, and I’m very fond of the place, but whenever I travel to New York, I am forcibly made aware of just how tiny Toronto is. New York is…well, an assault on the senses. I mean that in a positive way, but in the short space of a city block you can experience the scent of the best pizza you’ve every smelt, human sweat, perfume, ice-cream and urine. Yeah, yeah, I know you can experience than in many cities, but it just seems so New York.

I like to fly Porter Airlines out of Toronto not because it’s cheaper or more convenient, but because I feel more like a person than cattle. Oh, and while they now charge $25 for checked luggage, snacks and alcohol are still complimentary (alas, the days of the vegetarian sandwich are over). Porter though flies into Newark which usually means a 25 minute train ride to Penn Station. Except…the train lines are down and so I found myself on a bus which crawled through New Jersey traffic to New Jersey’s Penn Station. A quick stop to find my place, and I was on a train into Manhattan.

Problem number two appeared when I arrived at my hotel near the Empire State Building. It turned out I had made my reservation for the following month. Huh? I starred and the confirmation sheet I had printed, and sure enough it was for July 27. Luckily, there was room and I ended up with a room cheaper than he rate I had earlier been quoted.

So then it was off to explore Manhattan. Whenever I go to New York, I always feel I’m just scratching the surface, so I made planned to spend time in other areas, but very quickly I found myself at the Strand bookstore picking up used books , including a set of essays by Kim Gordon Is This My Body? Old habits die hard. At the end of the first day, I found myself exhausted with a splitting headache. Not an auspicious start.

Day 2 was better, and began with a trip to the Guggenheim. The exhibition I was interesting in seeing was on Italian Futurism. Futurism , like its leftist cousins in surrealism and Dada, rejected bourgeois society talking in revolutionary terms. Futurism however seemed to glorify destruction and build in a backward looking nationalism. It’s no accident that the blurb for the exhibition spoke of Futurism’s “complicated” relationship with Italian fascism. Complicated seems to be a little mild. The Futurists clearly aspired to be the official art movement of Fascism, but the fascists weren’t that interested as Il Duce’s tastes were a little more traditional. Always the bridesmaid. Still, if you can tear yourself away from that, (and it’s hard when you saw dinner plates inscribed with Fascism and Futurism), some of the art was tremendous. Heavily influenced by impressionism, and cubism as well as new techniques in sculpture and photography, the exhibition was astonishing.

At the end of the day, I took the ferry over to Staten Island to attend the Lumin Festival. The festival, now in its fifth year, is an installation by local artists working in a variety of forms (TV, video, sculpture, puppetry, etc) all in a vaguely post-apocalyptic venue down by the water. The festival stretched about half a mile along the water’s edge, and I very quickly noticed that we were a part of the show just as much as the installations (OK< maybe not quite as much). It was interesting to hear a babble of languages as people walked back and forth under the night sky (fireworks from Brooklyn were also visible which made for a nice co-incidence). It was very different from the dry atmosphere of the Guggenheim, but no less interesting.

My thirds day was spent on Staten Island with friends (likely the subject of another post), but I did wander around the streets for an hour or so)
Monday was my last day in the city, and I headed back into Manhattan for see a couple of sites. I wandered past the Weathermen house (I was surprised not to see a plaque), past the Chelsea Hotel and past a house where Kerouac lived. The most interesting thing for me though was the High Line. A former industrial train track now reclaimed an above ground city park stretching from the meatpacking district up to 32nd street or so. It offers some very interesting views of the city, and serves as another oasis from people. I trudged up to Port Authority and took the bus to Newark. And then it was back to Toronto.

New York has become my go-to getaway city, but each trip never turns out the way I imagine it will. And that’s probably a good thing.

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Music Notes June 2014 (Digging Through the Back File)

June 27, 2014 at 12:53 pm (Uncategorized)

A little early this time as I’m going out-of-town for a few days.

1. Buffalo Daughter – New Rock

Electronica from Japan. Picked this up around 1999. Quirky rock soundtrack over samples and beats. Not essential, but worth a listen.

2.  Jawbox – Novelty

I saw Jawbox at Lee’s Palace in 1992. Bought the CD, ordered the vinyl and a t-shirt (which I still have). Great sonic assault.

3. The Vibrators – Pure Mania

Terrific pop-punk. Stiff Little Fingers took their name from a song on this record. The Vibrators are scheduled to play the Rockpile East in Toronto in August.

4. The Fall – Totale’s Turns (It’s now or Never)

In 1980 or so, I became a fan of the Fall as they entered their Manc-abilly phase with songs like “How I Wrote Plastic Man” and “Totally Wired.” I bought this live album when I was on holiday with my parents in some little seaside town in Devon. It’s a bit of an assault, on the listener and the audience, but no less wonderful for it.

5. Handsome Ned – The Ballad of Handsome Ned

Posthumously released collection of Toronto country star Handsome Ned. Listen to “In spite of the Danger,” which may have been written about a girl and not wonder if he was talking about the heroin which killed him. Also available as a double set My Name is Ned

6. Cub  – Come Out Come Out

Canada’s Shonen Knife? No, that’s unfair. BC minimalist pop trio’s second album featuring Yoko Ono and Go-=Gos covers as well as some pretty nifty originals.

7. The Jesus and Mary Chain – Darklands

When I first heard this record, I thought “Where’s the feedback?” But you know, over the years, I think I prefer this one to Psychocandy. Great pop songs full of menace. I saw the band only once, at the Concert Hall in Toronto in the 1990s, and they were, well, just OK. This however is brilliant.

8. Rocket From the Crypt – All Systems Go!

Some bands make singles, some make albums, some only play live. RFTC are a great live band, but my preferred medium is the single. All Systems Go is their first singles comp and to my ears works better than the albums,. Short blasts of noise.

9. Spacemen 3 – Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To

Whether of not you do take drugs, it’s hard to resist the title of this collection of demos from Spacemen 3. Best song? The rambling minimalist version of Bo Diddley’s “I’m Alright” reworked as “It’s Alright.”

10. Huevos Rancheros – Dig In!

Did you ever wish Shadowy Men were less Surf-guitar and more garage band? Wish no more. Alberta’s Huevos Rancheros provide the perfect instrumental soundtrack to Friday night.





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A Note About the Parquet Courts

June 22, 2014 at 10:47 pm (Uncategorized)

The Parquet Courts are from Brooklyn. And, like a lot of bands, I end up liking, I heard a lot about them before I actually heard them. People with more spare time than me I guess.

The problem with the way we listen to music now, as opposed to the way I did when I was younger, is that whenever you heard a buzz, you can heard it immediately. The problem is that there’s just soooo much to hear now. In the old days, the limited distribution channels prevented them. Doesn’t mean I want to go back, but anyway, I digress.

A more serious problem though is that when you get the music, it’s often shaped by the buzz you heard. So when I first heard of Parquet Courts, words like slacker, and Pavement-influenced surrounded them. And sure, when I listened to Light Up Gold I could hear some of that, but it’s lazy and really unfair to the band.

The band released a new album Sunbathing Animal earlier this year, but I hadn’t heard it when I went to see them at the Horseshoe a few weeks back.  I missed the first couple of bands because it was a Sunday night, and going out is getting harder (OK, Marcela, I admit it!) Alas, even with those opening bands, it was late.

Still, it was worth it. PC (sorry, I’m just to lazy to keep typing out the band’s name), brought a range of sounds. From short snappy punk, to pop sounds, to longer drones (I admit, I liked the latter the best). Very cool, and the nearly full Horseshoe crowd responded in kind. One odd thing that I’ve noticed at a few shows now, bands perform their encores without a break. A longer set, or a quick note and that’s it; house lights come up.

Good experience though.


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Post-Election Blues (or something Like that)

June 22, 2014 at 2:35 pm (Uncategorized)

Erm.  It’s been two weeks since my last post, so I’m going to say the shock of the Ontario Liberals re-election and a majority of that shocked me into silence. Don’t buy it? OK, just busy at work then.

But that, election…To borrow from Dickens, it was the most cynical of times, it was the most cynical of times.:

  • The governing Liberals in power since 2003 and despite a leadership change showing their age and caught up in a series of scandals, present a budget far to the left of previous ones in an attempt to entice the New Democrats to vote for it
  • The New Democrats after having supported earlier rightist budgets say no to this one. Then they run a right-of-Liberal populist campaign (which is largely ineffective)
  • Finally, the Conservatives play to their base, and make no effort to appeal to others. Their strategy seemed to be tack right and try to get out the vote (it didn’t seem to occur that their reduce public payroll by 100,000  might encourage those 100,000 to vote as well)

In the end, an outcome few foresaw, a majority for the Liberals. My hope that Tory leader Tim Hudak would be eaten alive by his party a la Walking Dead, has been unfulfilled, but he was forced out sooner than he wanted.

Of course, in the bigger picture, the Liberals will likely carry out many of the same policies as the Tories. Probably not as brutally, but the end result will differ little. Bread and circuses, rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, feel free to add the cliché you like.

At least the weather is a little nicer now. (and it’s only four months until the Municipal election)

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The CIA’s first Tweet

June 7, 2014 at 9:33 pm (Uncategorized)

“We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.”

Oh very good.

So, if you’re a murderous government agency which has a blood-soaked legacy of assassination, overthrowing “unfriendly” governments and blowbacks including promoting Islamic fundamentalists who were thought to be a lesser problem than leftist secularists, a sense of humour really is important.

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