Waxahatchee at the Opera House

April 25, 2018 at 2:06 am (Uncategorized)

Waxahatchee’s 2015 album Ivy Tripp is one of my most common listens in the car these days. Great tunes, a great voice, and words that make it seem as if you’re privy to the private thoughts of a great romantic.  So, the chance to see the band again was one I didn’t want to miss.

I arrived at Queen Street’s Opera House near the start of Bedouine’s set. Bedouine is s Syrian-American of Armenian ancestry who performs as a solo artist. I’d listened to a few of her songs before the show and decided that I would probably skip her set. Fortunately, I arrived earlier than expected and caught most of it. Intimate and personal songs throughout the set. Certainly an artist to keep an eye on.

Next up were Hurray for the Riff Raff. I’d wanted to see Alynda Segarra’s band last year when they played Toronto after I  discovered her marvellous album The Navigator, but unfortunately was out of town.  The band played an energetic, political set appreciated by the near capacity crowd.

Finally Waxatatchee. Did I mention earlier how much I like this band? As such, my opinion may not be entirely objective, but  any band where people listen as intently to the quiet ones as to the rock numbers is worth following. The set drew heavily from Ivy Tripp and the current album Out in the Storm, but there were songs I didn’t recognize, so they may be from earlier recordings. For the encore Kate Crutchfield came back sol and played tow unaccompanied number. A beautiful end to the evening.


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April 25, 2018 at 2:06 am (Uncategorized)

What are the ingredients s the recipe for Trumpocracy?

  • Hypocrisy – check
  • Autocracy – check
  • Bureaucracy – check
  • Democracy – Even by bourgeois standards, not so much
  • Erm, racism, lies, paranoia, tantrums, the list goes on.

It’s also the title of a book I’m reading by David Frum’ a catalogue of sins.

Two things surprised me about this book.

  1. To begin with, that I’m actually reading David Frum. Frum is the son of the late Canadian Broadcasting Corporation icon Barbara Frum (and bother of dubious Canadian Senator Linda Frum) . A long time conservative writer, Frum’s position used to be that government really had no business regulating anything except for the social conservatism he favoured. Frum went on to become a speechwriter for George W. Bush coining the phrase “Axis of Evil.” Hard to say just how much Frum’s political views have actually shifted or simply been made better by a rightward shifting political spectrum, but in all fairness he accepted he was wrong in his opposition to same-sex marriage and is now a writer for the (generally) liberal Atlantic Magazine.
  2. I was really reminded of Robyn Dolittle’s Crazy Town, an account of Toronto’s crack-smoking train wreck of a Mayor Rob Ford, whose even less likable brother Doug is posed to become premier of Ontario. (BTW, Crazy Town’s story is about to be filmed starring Damian Lewis   (?)  Ford, and the character based upon Dolittle by…  Ben Platt. Yup, they recast the female role as a man for no apparent reason other than the usual one.) Still, The thing about Doolittle’s book was that I had forgotten all the shit Ford pulled, even before he was mayor. Ditto Trump. I frequently  found myself muttering aloud, “Oh, yeah, I forgot he did that.”

It won’t advance the class struggle, as Frum’s position is simply a defence of bourgeoisie democracy, but it’s a pretty funny book. If only it weren’t so sad. 325 million people and the choice for leader were those two. And that was the one they chose?



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April 25, 2018 at 2:05 am (Uncategorized)

I’ve lived in Toronto off and on (mostly on) since 1987. Done most of my political work here, met my wife here, and raised two children here. It’s a great city. The sickening attack yesterday left me with a deep sadness, but in the world in which we live, I suppose we should never think it can never happen here. But of course, it felt different because it was closer to home.

No doubt like many others, I tried to piece together what was happening through the local media as well as social media reaction. The last was probably a mistake, watching as people tried to frame the story through their own particular narrative, with a chorus of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant bias as the loudest voice. As the accused’s name and picture were revealed, it was almost comical as people tried desperately to cast his apparently Armenian name as possibly Syrian, possibly one of those Russians who might have been radicalized. Anything. Eventually, the realization that he was likely of a white Christian background meant that the previous narrative could no longer be maintained, and many just dropped the matter altogether – contrast Rebel media flurry of tweets before the suspect’s name was revealed and after. Or for that matter, Trump’s astonishing silence on the matter given that there is seldom a situation he is not prepared to jump into prematurely.

Today, the narrative has shifted again, as a Facebook post has surfaced which indicates the so-called Incel (Involuntarily Celibate) adherents might be to blame for the murderous rampage. On the face of it, linking internet boards of unhappy dateless misogynists to a seemingly random act of mass violence (women were not overly represented as targets, and the areas where the attacks has large concentrations of Iranian and Asian shops) seems a stretch, but this too is trying to imagine a picture based on a small number of puzzle pieces.

It was also interesting to note how few Canadians offered “prayers” (the standard US response to any act of this nature), and how many people were surprised that the Toronto police didn’t shoot the suspect, even when he told them he had a gun and told them to shoot him in the head.

And so it goes.


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The Strypes: Live at the Mod Club 2018

April 9, 2018 at 10:51 pm (Uncategorized)

What was it John Lennon said, he preferred records to live shows?

Certainly, with  few exceptions, a studio album is better than a live album, but live shows are something magical. And let’s face it, no matter how good some bands are in the studio, on stage is where they are meant to me.

Case in point, the Strypes. I’ve seen the band three times, and own two of their three albums. Their debut is a furious blast of R ‘n’ B: Dr. Feelgood, Eddie & the Hot Robs and Nine Below Zero all rolled into one powerful blast. The second album faltered a bit, and while what I’ve heard of the third is good, it’s a bit poppy for my taste. But live? I’m not sure who can touch them at the moment.

The band’s show at the Mod Club was an early one, so I missed the opening act. The venue was still empty, so I was able to move right up to the stage and stood a few rows back for the show. Closer than I had been when they played Lee’s a few years back and also the previous time I’d seen them at the Mod Club.

The band came out around eight, and from that moment the audience was their’s. There’s a kind of symbiosis between a band and an audience when things are going well. The band plays its set, the audience responds positively, and because the audience is enjoying itself, the band plays better too. Reflection and reflection.  That was the Strypes: Sixty minutes of ferocious punk-blues drawing from all three albums, and songs which had sounded poppy on record, did so no longer.

But eventually, like all good things, it came to an end. Still, I had the EP they were selling to listen to on the way home including a pretty cool “Mystery Train.” Oh what a shame they didn’t play that.

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Music Notes: March 2018

March 31, 2018 at 8:23 pm (Uncategorized)

A few things to listen to.

1 Echo and the Bunnymen – Heaven up Here

The second album from the Bunnymen doesn’t quite scale the heights of Crocodiles, but it’s a worthy moody post-punk followup.

2. A Tribe Called Red – We are the Halluci Nation

It’s not entirely my thing, but it’s definitely worth a listen – mixing electronica, beats and aboriginal identity to produce something rather unique.

3. The New Musical Express

A few weeks back, the NME discontinued its print edition. I read the paper every week between September 1978 and July 1981, when I moved to Canada and the cost became prohibitive. My readership coincided with my initial interest in music, and it was like an step into another world. The NME continues online.

4. Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm

Honestly, Waxahatchee is one of my favourite bands. Saw them last year at Lee’s and will be heading to the Opera House next month to see the show with Hurray for the Riff Raff. This is another brilliant album.

5. The Kills – “List of Demands”

I find Kills records growers: Initial disappointment, followed by growing admiration. Getting there.

6.  Jack White – “Over and Over and Over”

OK, I like this better than the previous single, but generally feel the same way about Jack White as I do about new Kills recordings.


7.  Gavin Butt et al  – Post-Punk: Then and Now 

Interesting collection of interviews, essays and transcripts on what is exactly is post-punk.

8. Gwenno – Le Kov

A valid reason to own this would be it’s a unique item: Cornish psychedelic pop. A better reason is that it’s absolutely great.

9.  v/a – Sonic Truth (Uncut Magazine sampler) 

Certainly not for everyone (not me for all of it), but it does include the Fall, My Bloody Valentine, Husker Du, Cabaret Voltaire, and a fairly polarizing Yoko Ono cut.

10. v/a – Ultra Lounge

Remember a few years back when lounge music was poised to conquer the world? No? OK, well this is a pleasant reminder. Featuring Julie London, Mel Torme, Louis Prima, and many more. The perfect soundtrack to your pre-summer cocktail soiree.

Till next time.

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Fake News! Fake News!

March 31, 2018 at 8:22 pm (Uncategorized)


From, where else, twitter.

 Donald J. Trump‏ Mar 26

Is it just me or is Trump using the term “fake news” with less and less focus?  Was the above about Stormy Daniels or something else?  While I’m pretty sure Bob Geldof  wasn’t a clairvoyant when he wrote this song in 1978, he seems to grasp Trump’s press paranoia quite nicely.


The Boomtown Rats “Don’t Believe What you read ” (A Tonic for the Troops 1978)

As soon as I wake up every day,
I look at the papers to see what they say,
I know most what I read will be a lot of lies,
But then you learn really fast to read between the lines,
‘Cos I know (he knows)
What I read ain’t true
I know (he knows)
And I’m telling you

 I know (he knows)
If they say it’s red, it’s blue
Don’t believe what you read,
Do you believe what you read?
No, I don’t believe what I read.

Never put it down in writing the old man said
I didn’t know then but now I know what he meant
And if you’re wondering why your letters never get a reply,
It’s just when you tell me that you love me I need to see…your eyes.
‘Cos I know
What I read ain’t true
I know
And I’m telling you
I know
If they say it’s one, it’s two
Don’t believe what you read,
Do you believe what you read?
No, I don’t believe what I read.

And if you pick up a book and you’re starting to read it,
I’ll tell you what you’d better do,
You can read it till the end and even if you believe it,
That doesn’t mean to say it’s true…

Don’t believe what you read.


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Frightened Rabbit 2018

March 3, 2018 at 11:10 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s a funny thing. Usually when I like a band, I buy their music and so often end up with more albums than times I’ve seen them live. . Frightened Rabbit, I’ve seen five times in the last six years, but only own one album (Pedestrian Verse). Consequently, it takes me a little bit of time before I recognize a song when they start up.

I saw them at the Danforth Music Hall last year, and initially hesitated before buying a ticket. Still, it was the Mod Club, the first place I saw the band and a great venue, so I eventually made the right decision. It was pouring with rain when we arrives, and we were asked for ID by a guy on the door who was half our age, btu once we were inside, we began to feel better. Oddly enough there was almost nothing at the merch table except for tote bags, some stickers and t-shirts. Hmm. But soon after the band were there and it didn’t matter.

Probably my favourite line in a Frighten Rabbit song is a reference to a “knight in shitty armour.” It just cracks me up. There’s an ironic juxtaposition about a band that so obviously loves what it’as doing and playing live, and the miserableness of the words.  It’s always a great show, a fact I occasionally forget before I’m in front of the band.

They’ll likely be back next year,. I’ll hesitate, buy a ticket and then wonder why I waited.


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Music Notes: February 2018

February 28, 2018 at 11:13 pm (Uncategorized)

A few things of note this month. But don’t take my word for it, have a listen.

1 The Breeders –  “Wait in the Car”

Everything you’ve hoped for: Dreamy vocals, garage guitars, surreal visuals. And there’s an album coming on Friday!

2. Neil Young – Weld

Two disc live Neil Young albums from 1991 – the hits you’d expect from that period along with earlier classics. Not essential, but a nice edition.

3. Run-DMC –  Raising Hell

This was the first rap album I really listened to. Still amazing after all of these years although the lyrical content on some songs is a little ideologically unsound. Still the hits hold up. The latest version has a couple of outtakes and a pretty funny attempt to record a radio spot.

4. Dirty Laces – 1,000 MPH (EP)

Would you believe I heard this for the first time today. Punky, but not without nods to classic rock. You can hear it in a bunch of places including their twitter feed. 

5. IDestroy – :”Lemon”

Or this which I heard yesterday. Check out their Youtube channel. 

6 Nico – Chelsea Girl

Teutonic classical folk. I’m am partial to her version of “I’ll Keep it with mine” though.

7. Echo & the Bunnymen – More Songs to Learn and Sing

Saw the Bunnymen only once – the Concert Hall in 1984 with Breeding Ground and Let’s Active. If you’ve never heard the band, this compilation is not a bad place to start, but seriously Crocodiles, the debut, is where you really want to begin. Then work through the catalogue. This edition does have a DVD with promo videos if you like that sort of thing.

8. Varius – Action, Time, Vision

4 CD box covering indie punk sounds from the dawn of punk to a bit beyond. The hit to miss ration is very good, and there’s a lot of stuff I hadn’t heard in a while. Very nice booklet, although the packaging makes it difficult to get the disc out.

9. Alex Chilton – A Man Called Destruction

One of Chilton’s final albums, and the last to contain original material. Lovable, loopy, soul and rock material. It’s hard not to love Chilton as he so genuinely loved what he was doing.

10. Stick in the Wheel – “Follow them True”

I don’t like autotune, butas  this is hauntingly beautiful.




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Words Fail me: Writing about another Massacre of Children

February 28, 2018 at 11:13 pm (Uncategorized)

In 2012, after the massacre at Sandy Hook, I was talking to someone in my workplace about it, and he blurted out, “That shit is fucked-up.” Five years and numerous mass killings later, it’s still true, and it continues to be true. A 19 year old, not old enough to buy a beer, legally buys an AR-15 and butchers 17 people; students who harness their outrage are denounced as crisis actors; the NRA claims that “European socialists” are coming for their guns; the President of the USA, who apparently needs cue cards to express empathy, suggests arming some teachers to shoot back (what could go wrong there?), and also that if he had been at the school he would have run into the building even if he were unarmed. Oh yeah, that shit is fucked up.

Liberals call for gun control. Conservatives call for more guns. Somewhere there is the call for more awareness of mental health issues (though likely no money for it).  It seems to be a dialogue that no one is listening to, merely repeating talking points (that said, the anger of the teens organizing protests is palpable). It’s an oversimplification to say that the degeneration of capitalism is to blame, although its certainly a factor.

I’m reminded of that headline The Onion often runs : ‘No Way to prevent this’ says only nation where this happens regularly.

But the thing is, there is a way out after all. And yes, it does involve the destruction of this murderous, inhumane system.

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The Writing on the Wall

February 28, 2018 at 11:13 pm (Uncategorized)

Reading a collection of essays entitled The Writing on the Hall by Anselm Jappe. The essays are writtien post 2008 and deal with “the decomposition of capitalism and its critics.”

The preface is a very interesting defence of a importance of a theoretical critique of capitalism. Available from Zero Books.

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