Atheism in the UK

May 24, 2016 at 6:58 pm (Uncategorized)

Ha! We’re winning! Oh, atheists that is. According to a story in the Guardian , more people in England and Wales identify with no-religion than as Christians. It’s hard not to be cynical about religion in Britain though.

Let me see if I’ve got this right. After Martin Luther provokes a split in the church, the king of England, Henry VIII writes a screed condemning Luther and is awarded the tittle “Defender of the Faith” by the Pope.

Flash forward a few years, and Henry is stuck in a marriage to Catherine of Aragon who has been unable to produce a son for Henry (In all fairness, it’s not her fault). since divorce is not allowed, Henry wants an annulment, which basically means the marriage never happened. And so, this would make Henry’s daughter Mary a bastard and Catherine a prostitute. Given that the Pope’s main ally and protector was Catherine’s brother, it didn’t seem to be in the cards.

Then, Henry had a dream. God wanted him to start his own church where divorce was cool and by the way entitled him to seize much of the church’s land for redistribution to Henry’s friends and the clergymen who could see the writing on the wall. (Over-simplified I know, but I think the comic flavour compensates)

And you wonder why people are cynical. Surprising it took so long.


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All Aboard the Waco Express!

May 22, 2016 at 3:49 pm (Uncategorized)

Jon Langford of the Mekons, Skull Orchard, the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, the Waco Brothers and no doubt many more is a funny fucking guy. Langford held court at the Horseshoe Tavern Friday May 13, and for anyone who attended, you know what I mean.

Langford performed first with Skull Orchard and the Burlington Welsh Male Chorus Which meant that Langford and a couple of Wacos along with a twenty-plus men’s choir were crowded onto the tiny stage at the ‘Shoe.And if the prospect of a folk-country-punk playing alongside a group known for traditional folk song and hymns doesn’t sound appealing., you weren’t there. Langford led his band and the Chorus through songs of struggle, but also joy. Mixed in with Langford commentary and between-song banter, and you had a great start to the evening.

Joe D’Urso and the Stone Caravan played second and acquitted themselves with honour. A New Jersey based country-rock band, D’Urso played an energetic Americana that channeled their inner-Springsteen but also sounded original. The kind of band you could walk into a bar to hear, but one that somehow transcended the medium.

A little later came, well, the Waco Brothers. If you have never seen them perform, it’s a bit hard to explain. But basically, they’re an unstoppable force of nature. For over two hours and ternty minutes (I left the Horseoe as the house lights came on at 2:05 AM), Langford and his buddies raced through the best country album the Clash never made (or alternately the good records the Rolling Stones no longer make) mixing their own material with a significant helping of covers. In addition to material from their new record Going Down in History and previous greatest hits, the band covered T-Rex, Bobby Fuller, Tom Jones ( comments about Wales’ greatest son filled the evening), Shirley Bassey, Neil Young, and the Undertones. Every time it sounded as if the song they were playing was going to be the last of the evening, it turned out it wasn’t. (Except for the last, I suppose)Throughout the evening, shouts were heard for “Fox River,” and it was the last song of the evening. Joined by Jeff Cohen,  his wife, and several audience members the band tore through the track from Electric Waco Chair and sent everyone home happy.

PS For those of you who are fans of all things Langford, the word is that the Mekons will be playing the TURF festival in the Fall, but that the band will also be playing a club show at the Shoe in September.

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Not Long Until the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair

May 21, 2016 at 8:27 pm (Uncategorized)

This time next week, it’s the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair, the biggest radical bookfair around these parts. I usually table for Notes from Underground on the Saturday, but this year circumstances have led me to going on Sunday instead. Come by say hi.



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On May Day

May 1, 2016 at 7:32 pm (Uncategorized)

On May Day, I usually post an excerpt from a speech or an inspirational quotation. This year, I’m redirecting people to the author’s page at PM press because noted historian Peter Linebaugh has a new book out which deserves very wide readership.

The Incomplete, True, Authentic and Wonderful History of May Day

I’ll have copies of the book for Montreal and Toronto bookfairs, but Peter is also going to be at this year’s Historical Materialism conference in Toronto in a couple of weeks. And if you want to save a few dollarsd (and who doesn’t?), PM has the book on sale.

Cheers comrades.




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Music Notes: April 2016

April 30, 2016 at 3:21 pm (Uncategorized)

The end of the cruelest month then.

1 Primal Scream – Chaosmosis

The received wisdom is that Primal Scream follow a great album with a so-so one. That’s not quite true (remember the run of Vanishing Point, EXTRMNTR and Evil Heat?), but after  More Light, Chaosmosis feels like a bit of a step back. Not that the record is terrible, it just feels a little lighter than previous Scream records. The Sky Ferreira guesting on “Where the Light Gets it” was fun and “”Where the Blackout meets the Fallout” is suitably punky, but my guess is this won’t be your favourite Scream record (but since no two sound alike anyway, who knows?)

2 David Bowie – Lazarus

Even though Bowie’s final album was released months ago, I didn’t get a chance to listen to it fully until a few weeks back. It’s a fitting end to an outstanding career, and it’s one that I like a lot more that his previous, which seem to fade in the second half. Lazarus feels like a much more fully realized final vision of a man who never stopped moving, and even when he was not at the top of his game, was always worth listening to.

3 Gwenno – Y Dydd Olaf

No, I don’t know how to pronounce it either, but this electro-beat Welsh language album by former Pipettes member is really quite stunning. Seek it out.

4 Portishead – “SOS”

Huh. I read about this ABBA cover for the new Tom Hiddleston movie Hi-Rise a few days back, but I was already too slow. It was up on the web and very quickly removed. Apparently it will be in the movie, but not on the soundtrack and will not have an actual release. Well well. The reviews were good.

5 PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project

And then there’s Polly Jean Harvey who never seems to have a problem knocking the ball out of the park every time. A brilliant album surveying the horrors of capitalism in places as diverse as Washington DC (from which the album takes its title), Kosovo and Afghanistan. But at the same time, like Harvey’s other work, it is an intensely personal album. Amazing. Here’s a review by the World Socialist Web Site

6 The Kills – “Heart of a Dog”

The new Kills album Ash and Ice isn’t out until June, but the band has released a couple of tracks. I wasn’t thrilled by  “Doing it to Death” although I did like the video. “Heart of a Dog” is stronger, and both can be seen on the Kills’ site. The Kills play the Danforth Music Hall on May 21, 2016.

7  Le Tigre – “Deceptacon”

OK, so it’s now being used in a commercial for lipstick of something, it’s still a great song. The video not so much.:)


8 The Geraldine Fibbers – Lost Somewhere Between the Earth and My Home

The Geraldine Fibbers were an alt-country punk band from the 1990’s, and this one, their major label debut is well worth a listen for its ability to mine the past and create something fresh. Also check out the demos and rarities record What Part of Get Thee Gone Don’t you Understand?

9 The Waco Brothers – Going Down in History

The first new Waco Brothers record in a decade (excluding collaborations, live sets and comps) is certainly cause for celebration. My two favourite Waco lines voiced by fans: “The best country record the Clash never made”and “If the Rolling Stones still made good records, they would sound like these.” Nuff said?

10 Prince

I remember working at CFMU-FM, McMaster’s student radio station, and a friend arguing about how great Prince was. I wasn’t impressed. I was still into post-punk noise and getting into the burgeoning Paisley underground sound. Flash forward a few years and I’m in the car trying to find something on the radio. Hmm. Good song. Good beat. “That was ‘Housequake’ by Prince” says the announcer. OK. I can admit when I’m wrong. Later, the Prince concert movie Sign o’ the Times was the first movie I went to with my wife (by the end of the show, we were the only ones in the theatre). I won’t say I was a huge Prince fan, but his influence and ability make him a towering figure who leaves a significant presence.

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My Life as a Video Game

April 23, 2016 at 12:26 pm (Uncategorized)

Oh no, not one of those eighty dollar PS 4 or X-Box games. No, more like one of those free downloadable one you play on your phone or tablet. Yeah, like Temple Run.

If you’ve never played Temple Run, Sonic, Subway Surf or any of the innumerable variants, the principle is simple. You run. There’s no end.  You just run. You pick up prizes (often coins) or protection which enables you to gain other treasure, run faster etc., but no matter how good you are, you eventually run into something solid, fall over a cliff or something, and die. A lot like life.

Well, gotta go and try to beat the high score…or do I?


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Like a Phoenix: The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair Lives!

April 23, 2016 at 12:18 pm (Uncategorized)

A few weeks back, I wrote asking about the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair which was Missing in Action. Usually the bookfair is super-organized, sending out notices months in advance. This year nothing. Emails were unanswered and no one seemed to know anything. And then two days ago, I got a notice. The Bookfair lives! No idea what happened, but I’m glad it’s going ahead. I’ve already filled out my tabling request.

Tabling requests by May 6

Workshop proposals by May 11

More details: Montreal Anarchist Bookfair





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Thao and the Get Down Stay Down – A Long Overdue Review

April 23, 2016 at 12:11 pm (Uncategorized)

Ah, two things.

One, the last fortnight has been busy for me. No, seriously. Really busy. There have been a couple of major projects that needed to be finished, and another one is due this weekend. But if I don’t get some of these reviews done, I’ll never finish them.

Two, I really like the Adelaide Hall.  I’ve been twice now to this little club off of Adelaide Street on the east side  of the entertainment district. The place holds maybe 250, but the sight lines are great and the sound is good too. The only trouble is that it’s underground. Literally. Two small flights of stairs mean that in the event of a fire or something, we’re unlikely to make it out – yes, I know there are fire exits listed downstairs, but since I’ve never used them, I can’t be certain they lead anywhere. Fingers crossed.

So, with that in mind, to Thao. I almost missed the show. I had it in my note book that the show was the following weekend, but fortunately noticed the night before that it was the 9th not the 16th. And it was an early show although as I got there the line was just starting to move half an hour past the advertised opening time.

Opening band was Little Scream, the project of Iowa-born, Montreal- based musician Laurel Sprengelmeyer.  The crowd certainly liked her, but her 70s pop-rock style left me kind of cold. I may have been distracted by the sparkly shirt  she was wearing, but while the band  seemed into what they were doing, it lacked that symbiosis that makes for an unforgettable show.

Thao and her band, on the other hand, had none of that difficulty. I’d seen her play at Lee’s a couple of years back on the recommendation of a friend and wasn’t disappointed. At the tie of the show I hadn’t listened to her new album and initially was planning to go to the show this time. but the enormously positive review convinced me. And it was worth it, Thao’s brand of funky-folk is instantly appealing. You’re not always sure if you want to just bop your head along with the beat or full out burst into dancing, but it’s impossible not to be drawn into the music.

Not bad for an early show.



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MIA: Montreal Anarchist Bookfair

April 12, 2016 at 11:41 am (Uncategorized)

Hey! Anyone know what’s happening with the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair? The bookfair has run annually every May since 2000. I’ve tabled at every one. Usually, calls go out as early as December or January.

This year nothing. The webpage and social media feeds are from last year; emails have gone unanswered; friends tell me they have “heard” it’s happening, but with a little over a month as to when the bookfair usually occurs, I wonder what’s going on. I imagine at this point I’m not going.

Curious. Anyone know anything?

I should mention though that the Toronto Bookfair will take place on July 23/24 at the Steelworkers Hall.


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There were Savages in Toronto this Week

April 10, 2016 at 9:03 pm (Uncategorized)

OK, the Danforth Music Hall is one of the great venues in the city. Sure, if I have a choice, my preference would be the Horseshoe or Lee’s Palace, but the Music Hall has great sound and it’s always possible to find a good spot to see.

A few nights back, I went down to see post-punk band Savages at the Music Hall. I’d bought both of their albums, but was wondering if I wanted to spend $30 to see them. The appearance on Colbert made me put down cash for the show. Good call.

I got to the venue half way through Brooklyn-based Angus Tarnawsky’s set. Imagine a guy DJ-ing, but creating an experimental electronic wall of sound and beats. Not the kind of thing I want to listen to every day, but it had a hypnotic effect. Quite compelling. Hey, maybe I should listen everyday.

Savages came on about 9:15. Four women. Dressed in black. A light show that projected shadows onto the walls. Post-punk. Intense. Three members of the band barely moved, but singer Jehnny Beth never stopped. I had read that Savages live show was much more intense that their studio recordings, and it was true. There was a passion, a raw emotion that thus far has escaped the recordings (although it comes closer on Adore Life than Silence Yourself). I was a little disappointed that the band didn’t play their cover of Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream,” but I still left pretty pleased with the experience.


I Am Here
Sad Person
City’s Full
Slowing Down the World
Shut Up
She Will
When In Love
I Need Something New
The Answer
Hit Me
No Face


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