The Elections in France

April 23, 2017 at 1:29 pm (Uncategorized)

I’m going to give up predicting elections. I thought Rob Ford would lose the mayoralty election in Toronto. He won. I expected Kathleen Wynn would lose to the Conservatives in Ontario; she won a majority. I thought Justin Trudeau might get a minority in the Canadian federal election; he won one of the biggest majorities in Canadian history. And Trump…well you know how that turned out.

So, I’m not going to hazard a guess about today’s presidential election in France. Jean-Luc Melachon, who is everywhere described as a “far-left” candidate is a former member of Pierre Lambert’s Trotskyist  OCI (the group which distinguished itself by deliberately not being involved in the events of 1968) has been touted as the leading candidate, but who knows. And then there’s Marine Le Pen is a supposedly reformed fascist from the Fronte Nationale, which has cleaned up its act for public consumption (expelling daddy, and pushing some of the worse stuff to the backroom meetings, but come on…).  Given the attacks this week (and let’s not even bother with the false flag crowd), it will be interesting to see how the rest of the pack divides if, as expected,  Le Pen and Melachon emerge as the run-off candidates. (the rest of the pack includes liberals and conservatives, LaRouchites, leftists and Lutte Ouvrier)

May you live in interesting times.

 

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Sallie Ford at the Horseshoe

April 23, 2017 at 1:14 pm (Uncategorized)

Started this draft a week or so back, btu better late than never.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again, the Horseshoe Tavern one of the best places to see live music in Toronto. It holds a couple of hundred people, and there’s a really intimate atmosphere. Great sound, great sight-lines. Great selection of bands. I’ve seen Link Wray, the Heartless Bastards, Urge Overkill, the Mekons, the Waco Brothers, the Avengers, Jah Wobble, Son Volt, the Fleshtones and many more. What’s not to love? That said, a Sunday night is not the most conducive to large crowds.

Got to the venue shortly after nine, and opening act Molly Burch was already on stage. Originally from Los Angeles, Burch now lives in Austin, Texas. She has a sort of Mazzy Star shoegazer vibe, and  it created a sweet atmosphere. As the set wore on, we were drawn into a warm, intimate moment. After the set was over, I wandered over to the merch table to see if they had the new Sallie Ford record, and found myself talking to Burch. Bought a CD. It’s hard to say if Burch will be a success or one of those artists you never hear from again (success is often less due to talent than other factors), but the record sounded great.

I saw Sallie Ford open for Tha0 and the Get Down Stay Down at Lee’s a few years back. I thought Thao was great, but in all honesty, it was Ford’s barnstorming set that caught my attention. Ford played a blistering rock revivalism which bridged a variety of styles without being cornered by any of them. The Horseshoe gig was the same, but sadly only 80 or so turned up to hear it. (Still, it meant I could stand in front of the stage and not be crowded – so good for me). Ford played a smashing set of material from her excellent new album Soul Sick, as well as material from her older record with the Sound Outside, and even threw in a cover of Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me. ”

Next time, don’t miss it.

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Toronto Anarchist Bookfair

April 20, 2017 at 11:56 pm (Uncategorized)

Unfortunately there will be no Toronto anarchist bookfair this year. The committee which has organized the event over the last several years isn’t in a position to do it this time. That doesn’t mean no one will organize an event, but at this point, it’s not happening. More if I hear otherwise.

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Montreal Anarchist Bookfair

April 3, 2017 at 1:43 am (Uncategorized)

Don’t forget you have one final day to register for tables at this year’s Montreal Anarchist Bookfair. 

This year’s bookfair takes place on May 27th and 28th.

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English Tapas: The Sleafrod Mods at the Opera House (Toronto)

April 3, 2017 at 1:28 am (Uncategorized)

In the interests of journalistic integrity, I should mention I had been waiting for this show for a long time, and was more than a little concerned that it wouldn’t match my expectations. Thus, my impartiality is completely ruined by, as they say, a pre-existing condition.

I’d come across a review of the Sleaford Mods in Mojo or somewhere and picked up a copy of the singles compilation Chubbed Up + a while back. A couple of things strike even the causal listener: The ferocity and sincerely of Jason Williamson’s delivery, the instantly catchy minimalism of the beats, and boy, that’s a fuck of a lot of swear words. No radio play for these two. When they announced a North American tour, it was something you had to see.

My habit of being late for bands has evolved to checking  Twitter obsessively for set times in order to spend the minimum amount of time standing, and to avoid mediocre opening bands. The opener for the show was Not Of, described on their Bandcamp page as “a noise rock duo,” and after listening to a couple of their songs from their album decided I would go early and have a listen. Not Of’s sound has a lot in common with METZ, but with fewer members and just drums and guitar. It was evident quickly that I’d made the right choice. Not Of delivered a fearsome wall of voice, and apart from the slower songs  which just didn’t do it for me, had me nodding along . And free stickers too.

The Sleaford Mods show was originally scheduled to be at Lee’s Palace, but for some reason unknown to me was moved to the Opera House. The Opera House is a little bigger than Lee’s, and there’s more room on the stage. True, it’s a a little sweatier, but the sight lines are still good, and the sound is clean, So, as much as I love Lee’s, it was no big deal; I’ve seen a lot of great shows there (Mercury Rev and the Fall on separate occasions stand out )

But it is a bigger stage than Lees and given the nature of their stage show, you might wonder if the Mods could fill it. After all, duos are  funny things. Fewer members sometimes means a more efficient, streamlined band, so what to make of Sleaford Mods? Two guys, one who brings a lap top and spends the set chill dancing, and the other who bounces around stage like a possessed Max Wall (that’s meant as a compliment) spitting words at the audience as if his life depended upon it. You’d be wrong if you were worried. These two guys  produced a layered, engaging sound that hooked the audience from the first seconds on the stage. .

The new album English Tapas has garnered impressive reviews, with critics noting a richer sound moving away from the mimimalist electronica of earlier works towards more structured, but no less effective, songs. You might wonder if that would translate to the live show, and it does. Listening to the CD in the car on the way home, I was struck by this evolving sound, but also by how well it was reproduced in the live act. The band played a large chunk of new material as well as favourite “Jolly Fucker”, “TRC,”  “Tweet Tweet Tweet,” and “Tied up in Nottz”

Check out the band’s Twitter feed for fan pictures of the show, but honestly, nothing beat being there.

 

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Music Notes March 2017

March 30, 2017 at 5:32 pm (Uncategorized)

Argh.

1 Slaves – Take Control

I’ll say again, I don’t really like the name of the band, but the record sounds great. Melodic punk with just, for the most part, drums and guitar. Mike D of the Beastie Boys helps out and is name checked on one of the album’s weaker cuts. Great live band too.

2 The Bangles – Greatest Hits 

Yeah, I know, a crappy greatest hits package is the laziest way to approach a band, but I just had a yen to hear some of their tunes in one collection. Great early stuff which fades over the course of their career. For those with eighties nostalgia.

3 The XX – “I Dare You”

I know I mentioned the album previously, but for a week this month, this was my absolute favourite song.

4 Boss Hog – “Live at KEXP”

New album, new tour.

5 Ron Gallo – Heavy Meta

C’mon, worth a listen if just for the pun. Great Nashville punk sound.

6. Angelic Upstarts- Teenage Warning. 

First there was Sham. Then the Upstarts. And after the Cockney Rejects. The Angelic Upstarts wee the link between the old Sham style punk and Oi! Fiercely anti-racist, fiercely anti-police, and with a pretty fierce sound. Brilliant.

7. Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) 

True confessions time. Wu-Tang was a group that largely passed by me. Sure, I’d heard of them, but I couldn’t name a song or a record if my life depended upon it. Live and learn. A lot of their stuff (and one of their members) showed up on Netflix’s Luke Cage. Here we are. And it’s pretty good (yeah, twenty years late). Intricate sampling and cleverly put together stuff. I stand corrected.

8. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca

Another band that largely escaped my notice, but a series of profiles in places like the New York Times led me to give this a listen. It’s intellectual pop. Not something to grab you on the first listen, but something that’s absorbed over time. But when it is…

9  Louder Tan War

I usually read Mojo and often pick up Uncut, but I’ve noticed Louder Than War on the newsstands recently. Founded in 2015, the website now magazine has pretty good stuff from the punkier side of the street, but at nearly $15 Canadian, it’s a little pricey (true the others I read are the same price, but there’s a free CD with them). Anyway, something to watch.

10. Chuck Berry

I know I did a Chuck Berry piece earlier this month. But are you really complaining?

 

Next month, Jesus and Mary Chain and the new Boss Hog seem likely for inclusion. And I’ll be seeing the Sleaford Mods, P.J. Harvey and Sallie Ford. April is looking good.

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Habermas on the Internet and Social Media

March 19, 2017 at 7:10 pm (Uncategorized)

“The internet generates a centrifugal force. It releases an archaic wave of highly fragmented circuits of communication that infrequently overlap. Of course, the spontaneous and egalitarian nature of unlimited communication can have subversive effects under authoritarian regimes. But the web itself does not produce any public spheres. Its structure is not suited to focusing the attention of a dispersed public of citizens who form opinions simultaneously on the same topics and contributions which have been scrutinised and filtered by experts.”

—Quoted in Stuart Jeffries, Grand Hotel Abyss. (Verso, 2016)

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Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n Roll

March 19, 2017 at 7:01 pm (Uncategorized)

Sometimes one song is all it takes. If that one song is good enough, it becomes your sound. And if that sound is good enough, it becomes your career; maybe a lot of people’s careers. Look at Johnny Cash. Every song he recorded sounded like a Johnny Cash song, whether it was written by him or not. Or the Ramones. Every Ramones song sounded pretty much like every other Ramones song, but that was okay because it was such a good song. And then a lot of other people made Ramones songs too.

So too Chuck Berry who passed away yesterday aged 90. Listen to any Chuck Berry song, and it’s unquestionably a Chuck Berry song. I’m not a musician, just a music fan, but even someone has talentless as me can spot that certain something about his work. Something that makes it special, unique, timeless. Did Berry create rock ‘n’ roll? I suspect that debate will never be settled, but no one can deny that rock ‘n’ roll would never have been the way it was without him. His passing is the passing of a titan, but he left us with songs that will never be forgotten.

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Everything must Go!

March 14, 2017 at 4:46 pm (Uncategorized)

My kids are in high school, and in high school Marx and Communism come up in a particularly bastardized form. Occasionally, one of the kids will ask, “What’s communism?” and they recoil in horror as I try to give them the short answer (usually about seven hours worth of monologue…) Still, it’s hard to sum it up sometimes.

I used to be a Trotskyist. Now, while there are different versions, some of the main points remain: Trotsky good/Stalin bad, USSR as degenerated workers state, permanent revolution, “Crisis of leadership” blah, blah blah. Well, in the mid 1990s, I began to identify as a council communist. Essentially, this meant a greater emphasis on workers council and a critique of the Leninist vanguardists (yes, Leon you too). In 2005, I joined Internationalist Perspective. IP was a part of the International Communist Current until the mid-80s. Were they left communists? Internationalist communists? Pro-revolutionaries? Anti-state communists?  Neo-councilists? Something else? Argh. Labels. Better to read our stuff for yourself than take someone else’s word for it.

Anyway, I’d like to also suggest people have a look at Everything Must Go a small collection of essays by Bruno Astarian and Gilles Dauve on the abolition of value. Dauve’s essay “The A to Z of Communisation” is quite useful. I don’t agree with everything there, but it’s a good account. Available from LBC Books 

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Slaves play the Garrison: A Quick Review

March 14, 2017 at 4:21 pm (Uncategorized)

OK, OK, two things.

First, this review is a week late, and while I spent some time working on the title, it still feels awkward. It was a great show, and I really like the band, but in pretty much any context, and especially the North American one, two white guys from Kent calling themselves Slaves feels questionable.

Right then.

I’ve been to the Garrison a couple of times, and it’s pretty much a big room behind the restaurant in front. A bit like the Rivoli with less ambiance. But…having said that, the sound is good, it’s easy to find a good spot to stand, and the bands they book are always top-notch. Yah, Garrison. I missed the opening band, arriving about twenty minutes before Slaves took the stage.

Slaves inhabit a punk-rock paradigm: Guitar and drums. that’s about as stripped down as it gets.  True, on their excellent albums they employ other instruments and sidemen (Mike D of the Beastie Boys is on the new album, and it’s highly recommended), but live, it’s just Isaac and Laurie. Sixty minutes of raging punk rock interspersed with commentary that might have been missed. Who knows, too busy enjoying.

Good stuff lads.

 

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