Music Notes March 2019

March 31, 2019 at 12:50 am (Uncategorized)

1 Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra – The Capital Studios Sessions 

Sure, sure, Jeff Goldblum is a cool guy, and he’s certainly a snappy dresser, but do I want to hear a record by him? As it turns out, I do. The Capital Studios Sessions is a cocktail jazz collection of standards and Goldblum along with guests like Haley Reinhart, Imelda May, and Sarah Silverman (!) singing duets. Seriously, the version of “Me and My Shadow” with Silverman is a lot of fun. Still, there’s a part of me, that feels, as nice as these are, it’s probably better to seek out earlier versions. On the other hand, no one will complain when you put this on at your next party (Can I come?)

2. Various Artists – Kreaturen der Nacht

Like the Jeff Goldblum record, this one doesn’t sound like something I’d want to listen to, but like that record, I’m glad I did. A crazy collection of what might loosely be called pre and post punk German disco. Now if I say the only person I’d heard of on this collection was Christiane F (yes, that Christiane F), does that interest or repel you? Crazy selection by JD Twitch, and well worth investigation. You might not dig everything, but I’m willing to bet there’s a few things that will strike your fancy.

3. Handsome Ned – The Name is Ned

Handsome Ned was a part of a diverse Queen Street West scene in the mid 1980s that included Blue Rodeo, Jane Sibbery, and the Cowboy Junkies. Playing a more rootsy country than Blue Rodeo, Ned never made the big time. In January 1987, he died of a heroin overdose. Two years later The Ballad of Handsome Ned was released collecting singles and unreleased tracks. It’s a pretty amazing record and includes my favourite of his songs, “In Spite of the Danger” which sounds very much like a cautionary tale about heroin. This two CD set from 2000 collects that first album plus demos and some roughly recorded live tracks. If you’re a completest, you probably need this.

4. Beaches – Late Show

I’m trying to listen to the radio more, but the only time I get to do so is when I’m driving. Beaches’ song “T-Shirt” get a lot of play on indie Canadian radio stations, and with good reason. Great little rocker. The album branches out covering a variety of styles, and I found myself liking the slower ones the best. Funny that. Support local music.

5. The Stray Cats – Runaway Boys: A Retrospective

It’s funny just how many Stray Cats comps don’t feature their greatest song “Runaway Boys.” Never fear, this one does include it (it’s the title of the collection after all). When the Stray Cats appeared in 1980, the rockabilly revival sounded fresh and inspired a cool set of fashion.  This comp has all the hits you know, plus a few interesting covers (“Can’t Hurry love” is not the first choice I’d make). Worth a trip down memory lane.

6. Bauhaus – 5 Albums 

Bauhaus were one of those tremendously influential bands that opened the floodgates for exciting genres and equally innovative bands, along with a tsunami of mediocrity. Bauhaus burst onto the post-punk scene in 1979 wearing their influences (Bowie, Bolan,Roxy) proudly, but their first single displayed a strong dub sound. This clamshell box set is an instant Bauhaus introduction. It contains the four studio albums highlighting their varied influences, but the gem is the fifth CD which boasts the singles. Nice addition to anyone’s collection.

7. Christine and the Queens – Chris

Not really the kind of thing I usually listen to,(Seems to be a lot of that this month) but the dance/disco sound of this one is really seductive – the pop sounds are very nearly perfect.

8. The Rolling Stones – Some Girls

The Stones have been bad longer than they’ve been good. And in my opinion, Some Girls is their last great album (I know some will make an argument for Tattoo You, but that’s another day). It’s the Stones rebuttal to punk, but it’s not a punk record. It’s a rock album, but it’s also country, blues and yeah, maybe a little punky. Worth tracking down the disc with the bonus songs

9. Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet – Dim the Lights and Chill the Ham

Shadowy Men will probably best be known for the song “Having an Average Weekend,” which was later used as the theme for the the Kids in the Hall’s self-titled TV show. This album is their first of surf instrumentals. Some are great, some are forgettable, but they make a great soundtrack to your next cool party. (Along with that Jeff Goldblum record)

10. Cassette – A Documentary Mix Tape

If you’re of a certain age, you spent a lot of time taping songs off of the radio with a cassette player. You also swapped albums on cassettes with your friends. Maybe you made mix-tapes trying to impress girls with your musical taste. Cassette: A Documentary Mix Tape is both a love letter to those early youthful days with commentary by the ubiquitous Thurston Moore and Henry Rollins, but also a broader look at the medium today. Didn’t you know there’s a revival? I’m certainly down with the former, but the latter seems limited. The great advantage of the tape was its portability (not exactly unique in the digital age), and this was great. Still, I do remember the sound was never as great as vinyl or CDs and about the same as MP3s (be honest), but it degraded much more quickly. Plus, despite the claims of its advocates, every single one of us who has used cassettes has lost tapes when they became too hissy, the tape snapped, or the player ate it. (Which happens more than people like to admit) None of this should stop you from watching this film or being charmed by it though.

And that is all.



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The Hunger Games Are Almost Upon Us

March 24, 2019 at 11:00 pm (Uncategorized)

The current Ontario government, the Conservative Party, was elected last summer. They are currently engaging in what they euphemistically call education reform, but it has parents, students and teachers concerned about the future of education in the province.

The last time the Conservative Party was in power in Ontario, among other things, it introduced a literacy test at grade 10. Arguing for a need for a basic literacy standard, the government introduced a mandatory test on which every student in the province needed to score 70 % to pass, and without which they could not graduate from high school. Among the tests of literacy were brief grammar sections (grammar is no longer taught in school), essays (which were never called as such),  and a newspaper report, (presumably because journalism is an expanding career field and this is something students will need) Despite being critical of the test, the opposition Liberals, when they came to power, did nothing to change it.

Pass rates from the test according to EQAO’s own data are in the low 90’s for first-time takers from the academic stream, and in the forties for those in the applied stream. (The applied stream also often includes ESL students for whom the cultural gap is sometimes too wide to bridge). So what happens to those kids who don’t pass? They can take it again, or they can take a credit course version.

But there’s a catch. In order to  take the course, you must first have attempted the test (i.e., tried and failed).

This year’s test is on Wednesday. My son is taking the test, and I have no doubt he’ll pass. But there will be other students at his school, and schools across the province, who will not pass. Many of those kids have been criticized throughout much of their lives by society (and yes, probably by some of their teachers too). Now, they are being asked to write a stressful test, in order to qualify for the chance to take a course. It just seems cruel.


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The Mueller Report – A Brief Take

March 24, 2019 at 10:41 pm (Uncategorized)

Not really a surprise.

After the submission of the Mueller Report and the release of a four page summary by William Barr, Trump tweeted,

No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!

I’m pretty sure that was the tweet no matter what the report said except that exoneration would have been replaced with the word HOAX

The circus will continue.

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Montreal Anarchist Bookfair 2019

March 11, 2019 at 12:40 am (Uncategorized)

Dithered until the last minute (pretty much), then filled out my application to table at this year’s Montreal Anarchist Bookfair. The biggest and longest running in Canada. Well worth the experience. Hope to see you there.

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Music Notes February 2019

March 1, 2019 at 12:00 am (Uncategorized)

Much more music. 

1 The Bangles/The Three O’Clock/The Dream Syndicate/Rain Parade – 3 X 4

Here’s an idea. Four Paisley Underground bands each record songs by the others. Sound daft? It’s not. Quite lovely. Was never a big Three O’Clock fan, but their covers and their covered songs are great. (As do the other contributions) Great liner notes too.

2. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II

And so, my appreciation of Zeppelin grows. Will never be as big a fan as many (still prefer Plant’s solo work), but there are some pretty great songs here. Dig too, the bonus disc with earlier versions.

3. Cosey Fanni Tutti – “Tutti”

Hypnotic dance music. Never a fan of her best known project Throbbing Gristle, but this is a lot of fun.

4. The Long Ryders- Psychedelic Country Soul

I loved the Long Ryders back in the day. You can sample tracks from this at their site, and it sounds pretty amazing.

5. “Turn and Face the Strange – Occultist Alestair Crowley’s Influence on Popular Music” 

Flawed intro to Crowley’s influence – “Sympathy for the Devil” isn’t on Their Satanic Majesties Request, but maybe worth a look.

6. The Liminanas – I’ve Got Trouble in mind Volume 2

If Serge Gainsberg managed the Velvets instead of Andy Warhol. B-sides and rarities

7. Loureedia

I guess this is old, but it’s new to me – a Spider named for the Velvets singer. 

8. Ann Summa – The Beautiful & The Damned: Punk Photographs

I’m a sucker for this sort of this. Nice collection of LA punk pix.

9. Jordan – Defying Gravity

Forthcoimng. I just saw this note. I’m also a sucker for punk autobiographies.

10. CEOL  Benefit. If you’re in Toronto March 1, you might consider checking out this benefit for a music program in Regent Park. Great bands including the very wonderful Christian D and the Sinners. 


Until next time.


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February 24, 2019 at 3:28 am (Uncategorized)

I didn’t come across Mark Fisher’s writings until after his death in January of 2017.  If you haven’t read any of his work, the massive volume compiling work from his K-Punk blog is well worth delving into: Music, politics, cultural theory. There’s plenty to find stimulating there.

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International Group of the Communist Left Forum in Toronto

February 24, 2019 at 3:25 am (Uncategorized)

The International Group of the Communist Left are a Left Communist grouping, “the result of the fusion of CIK- Klabastalo and FICL which dissolved beforehand in November 2013.” They are holding a public meeting March 2nd 2019, 2 pm at the Sidney Smith Hall of the Toronto University. The agenda will be the relation between the economic crisis, the class struggle and the imperialist war.

My politics are not those of the IGCL, but I’ll be there, and it should be a good discussion.

UPDATE: Please not, the meeting is March 2nd, not 3rd.

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Audio for Internationalist Perspective Forum

February 12, 2019 at 11:42 pm (Uncategorized)

On January 14 2019, Mac Intosh of Internationalist Perspective gave a talk in Seattle entitled “The Communist Left, Class Lines, and the New Reading of Marx.”

Audio from the event is now available on the IP site.

Scroll down for the link to the recording


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Charles Reeve on “Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution”

February 11, 2019 at 11:41 pm (Uncategorized)

In the 1930s, the Netherlands-based council communist group the Group of International Communists (G.I.K.), produced an important text Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution. Despite its inclusion of the infamous “labour vouchers” as social measurement, the GIK text remained for many years one of the most important texts of the Dutch Communist Left.

Charles Reeve In a recent issue of the Brooklyn Rail, takes a look at the text and writes an interesting commentary. 


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Music Notes January 2019

January 31, 2019 at 11:49 pm (Uncategorized)

Here we are


1 Bauhaus – The Bela Sessions

Forty years after it was recorded, Bauhaus’ debut single “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” still thrills. This band-approved version along with some unreleased versions of early tracks is quite, quite wonderful.

2 Sleaford Mods –Sleaford Mods EP

More minimalist anger from the lads. Always worth picking up

3 The Liminanas – Shadow People

Every time I try to come up with a pithy description of this truly outstanding French band, I fail. A French acid-psychedelic Velvet Underground? Fail! just get the record.

4 Kathleen Hanna with Tim Buck – “Dancing in the Dark”

OK, this came out three years ago, but I heard if for the first time yesterday. Either love it or hare it, but it’s different.

5 Jah Wobble – “A Very British Coup”

Let me see, Jah Wobble, Keith Levene, Youth, and Mark Stewart on one record. Too good to be true? it isn’t.

6 Roxy Music Ultimate Music Guide

Uncut puts out these glossy format editions which are quite pricey, but I have to admit, I’m tempted to get this one. Great band (well, until they became completely overwhelmed by Ferry lounge singer ethos)

7 Ex-Hex – “Waterfall”

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this, but the are playing Toronto in April. Hey, is that Kid Congo Powers in the video?

8 Chris Stein – Point of View

I liked Blondie well enough, but Chris Stein was never a favourite guitar player. Still, you gotta admit, the guy knows how to take a picture. Rather cool collection of New York punk pix.

9 Social Distortion – ” Story of My Life”

Heard this one on the way home today. First time in years. Reminded me of what a great band SD are.


10 Christian D and the Sinners – “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”

Pretty ballsy to attempt this. They do  quite a decent job. Support local music.

Till next month.


PS Bonus.note

Let’s remember the passing of James Calvin Wilsey who we lost December 24th. Wilsey played in the Avengers, but is probably best known, or sadly not, for the dreamy riff in Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game


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