The Cribs in Toronto ( A Brief Review)

October 4, 2015 at 10:41 pm (Uncategorized)

This one is a true note from underground, but more on that in a minute.

Third time’s the charm for this band. I missed the Cribs once because of a ticket mix-up. I want to see another act the same week, delayed getting a ticket and missed my chance. Last time I got a migraine a few hours before the show, and missed that too. But this time…

The Adelaide Hall is near Adelaide and McCall, but the entrance is round the back in an alley, and then you go downstairs (see?). Once I got inside it was a pleasant surprise. The club might hold 250 at a squeeze and the sight lines were really good. I came in just as the opening band were finishing up, so I had no real sense of them, but judging by the applause, they did the job. .

The Cribs are three brothers, lads from Yorkshire who play an exhilarating, intelligent, knock about punk rock. They played a soaring 70 minute set with old tunes “Hey Scenesters” and “Man’s World” along with tracks from their newly released For All My Sisters. The show was a sweaty moment that seemed to draw from the audience to feed the band’s energy. I’m sorry I missed their two previous appearances, but better late than never, even with no encore.

Permalink Leave a Comment

More Notes on the Power of Dog (Because That’s What People Really Want)

October 4, 2015 at 5:38 pm (Uncategorized)

With another mass shooting in a school, I almost started another post about the decadence of capitalism, its cannibalistic and self-destructive tendencies and all that usual, familiar stuff. But nobody really seems to care. The headline in The Onion best summed it up: “No Way To Prevent This” says only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”

As WYNC noted, lines pulled from the article are of course familiar:

  • ...citizens living in the only country where this kind of mass killing routinely occurs reportedly concluded… that there was no way to prevent the massacre from taking place.
  • “This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them,” said _______ resident ________, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world’s deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations.
  • At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past five years were referring to themselves and their situation as “helpless.”

Pretty much Jeb Bush’s response. “”Stuff happens” may be the most callous  fuck you uttered in a while. Perhaps, a Trumpian, “Hey, I like people who didn’t get killed.”

So instead, I thought I’d reprint something else from the Onion. A little lighter. A few more laughs.


Bringing a dog into the family can be as difficult as it is rewarding, and pet owners must set rules and boundaries for the newest members of their household. Here are The Onion’s tips for training your dog:

  • Start with simple commands like “sit” before working your way up to the more complicated ones like “fill the gaping void in my life.”
  • Remember that consistently good behavior will take time. You’re letting a fucking animal loose in your house.
  • Set a good example for your dog by never chasing after squirrels, no matter how badly you want to.
  • It’s important to establish dominance. Show your dog who’s boss by cleaning up its waste and paying for all its food.
  • Consistency is key. Remember to use the same expletive every time your dog chews up your shoes.
  • Dogs crave clear direction, so be sure to schedule yours for quarterly performance reviews.
  • Remain patient during training sessions with your dog, as English is not its first language.
  • Rather than simply saying “no” to your pet, engage it in a constructive dialogue about the moralistic implications of the undesired behavior.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Excerpts from the Left in Britain: 1956-1968

October 3, 2015 at 9:02 pm (Uncategorized)

I was thumbing through David Widgery’s compilation The Left in Britain: 1956-1968 last week. It’s an odd little look at the British left in the period between the Hungarian Revolution and the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia and published by Penguin Books.   Widgery was a member of IS (now the SWP), and the collection leans towards their worldview, but it is broader than that. Some very interesting, and quite rare leaflets and interviews, but anyone with a working knowledge of the left at that time will enjoy the glossary.

Funny, but not always accurate. Here are a few of my favourites  (NB- the entries quoted below are much longer for each in the original are longer

  • Socialist Charter – “Pressure group of the Labour Left… Known as the Lunar Marxists in view of their way-out inconsistency.”
  • International Socialists – “Tend to regard themselves as a development of the Leninist tradition rather than as Trotskyists. Known for their members sense of humour except when people laugh at them.”
  • Socialist Party of Great Britain – “Indefatigable, old-fashioned propagandists of the virtues of socialist society…Denounced the Russian Revolution as state-capitalist within hours of hearing about it.” [Funny comment, but quite untrue]
  • English Student Movement – “Tiny Maoist religious grouping which flourished in Sussex University in the late sixties. Marxist-Leninist Children of God who guru is Hardial Bains, a Canadian ‘Internationalist.’ ” [Upon his return to Canada, Bains founded the equally loopy Communist Party of Canada Marxist-Leninist]
  • Socialist Labour League – “Orthodox Trotskyist group founded in 1969…members tend to look tense and aggressive.”
  • Internationalism – “Sophisticated international ultra-left theoretical journal of the state-capitalist, council-communist persuasion. English edition incorporated into the quarterly World Revolution in May 1974. Attitude to trade unions drawn from Spanish Trotskyist Grandizio Munis’s Unions Against Revoluion.

No doubt, more to follow.

Permalink 2 Comments

Music Notes September 2015

September 30, 2015 at 6:38 pm (Uncategorized)

A little bit of this; a little bit of that 

  1. Wolf Alice – My Love is Cool

Any band that names itself after an Angela Carter short story can’t be all bad can it? Well, yes and no. The album is rather mixed in styles which means that any listener is liked to find some songs that appeal, but not all. I rather like the post-punk garage sounds, but found myself skipping over the ethereal pop numbers at the start of the record. Not bad for a debut.

2.  Chrissie Hynde – Stockholm 

The album got mixed reviews when it came out, but there’s plenty of timeless Pretenders style pop here. And Ms. Hynde still has a great voice.

3. Chrissie Hynde – Reckless: My Life as a Pretender

Just got this and have only read the first chapter (maybe I should have waited?). It’s a good intro and Chrissie Hynde’s is a great story. The superficial reader in me needs to point out some cool punk pictures scattered throughout the book.

4. David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights – End Times Undone 

Fuzzy psyche-pop from the leader of New Zealand’s The Clean. Anything I can add is unnecessary; just listen to it.

5. The Weather Station – Loyalty 

This Canadian folk band is a little too mellow for my tastes, but it’s great Sunday morning music. I’m sure it would be a great road trip soundtrack as well.

6. Spacemen 3 –  “Big City”

On the Simpsons? Spacemen 3? I confess I stopped watching the show years ago, but I’m going to hunt it down now. Here’s an article by Stereogum on the music in the episode. 

7. Michelle Shocked – Arkansas Traveler

Before there was such a thing as Alt-country or Americana, and long before she flipped out, Michelle Shocked recorded this curious little beast. Among the guests on this homage to the musical heritage of the south are Uncle Tupelo and Alison Krause. When it works (“Cotton-eyed joe”) it’s amazing. But some parts are a little embarrassing (“Jump Jim Crow”).

8. Shellac- Dude Incredible 

Oh it’s incredible alright. The latest release from Steve Albini’s minimalist trio. Pounding rhythms, shouted vocals. Abrupt tempo changes. don’t listen to it before going to work. Or maybe do.

9. Van Morrison – Playlist (The Very Best of the Bang Masters)

Interesting little comp of Bang material. Featuring an outstanding “TB Sheets” and an alternate take of Brown Eyed Girl. Well worth a listen.

10. X-Ray Spex – Oh bondage, Up Yours!

One of the greatest things to come out of punk. It was that moment of freedom, of liberation. Still brilliant almost four decades later.



Permalink Leave a Comment

Ad Astra

September 28, 2015 at 1:52 am (Uncategorized)

I was at the annual Word on the Street festival today at Harbourfront. Imagine, in 2015, you can still have a festival devoted to the idea that there’s still value in putting words on a page (or screen I suppose). Ran into a friend from the Socialist Party of Canada and stopped by the People’s Voice table too.

Wanted to give a shout out to my friends at Ad Astra Comix though who will soon be publishing the North American edition of Drawing the Line: Indian Women Fight Back! Looks good.


Permalink Leave a Comment

People Ain’t no Good – Part 2

September 28, 2015 at 1:51 am (Uncategorized)

Last week, I was driving to work in the fog. It wasn’t terrible, but visibility was reduced. I had my lights on. Many didn’t. I drove more slowly. Many didn’t. As I drew closer to my exit, signs appeared that all lanes on the highway were closed ahead. Luckily, I exited before the jam. The highway didn’t reopen until 4 in the afternoon.  Turned out that there was an accident in the fog. An SUV was crushed between two tractor trailers. Two people died. Poor visibility due to fog.

You’d think that might cause some to pause to reflect upon driving habits.

The following day as I stopped at a red light just before I took the exit for the highway. I glanced at the car next to me. Usually you see people checking their phones or texting (how busy are you, really?). No. The guy was eating what appeared to be a bowl of oatmeal. It was definitely cereal, but I’m assuming oatmeal because the consistence would reduce spillage. Really?

I guess high-speed death doesn’t cause that pause after all./ Wonder why that is? Is it the culture we live in or something about driving that causes us yo perform some high risk activities without thought for ourselves or the others who might be caught up in the consequences of our activities. That will be another post I think.

Permalink Leave a Comment

John Cooper Clarke in Toronto; 44 Years in An Open Neck Shirt

September 13, 2015 at 8:04 pm (Uncategorized)

The Garrison is a club pretty much without ambiance. Located just west of Ossington on Dundas, it’s a medium-sized room with a small bar at the back, a stage at the front, a few seats on the sides, and unfortunately given Toronto’s recent weather no air-conditioning to speak of. But maybe that’s an appropriate venue for John Cooper Clarke, the bard of Salford, who came to fame playing alongside punk’s legends. Nothing to distract; just the show.

I came early because of a review I’d read about openers Ronley Teper and the Lipliners. The eight-piece ambled on stage around nine and the band struck up a lazy jazz sound, settling quickly into a groove. So far so good, but when Teper began to sing I flinched. Imagine Gollum grabbing the mic, and you might have an idea of the affected vocals. And it continued, an easy background, and  manufactured distracting vocals. Applause was polite, but audience conversations dominated. You know those shows where you feel the band is having more fun that you? Three songs later, Teper had donned falsies to sing about breast implants, a song which seemed to boil down to her wading through the audience encouraging people to yell out alternative names for breasts. And the band played on.  But then came a surprise. The final number shed the pretentiousness of the rest of the set, and built slowly drawing the audience in. A great end to their set, so why wasn’t the rest like that?

John Cooper Clarke took the stage about fifteen minutes later, and held court for the next 75. When he wasn’t reading his poems, Dr. Clarke was cracking jokes or talking about his long career. Part stand-up comedian, full-time poet and entertainer. Clarke took the audience as he walked on stage, and never let go.

Clarke performed many of his greatest moments including “Beasley Street” (leaving out the great line: “Keith Joseph smiles and a baby dies in a box on Beasley Street”), and the gentrified “Beasley Boulevard”, “I Wanna Be Yours,” and “Chickentown,” at breakneck speed which had him coughing through sections. I know the rapid-fire delivery is a hallmark of his shows, but they had me wishing for the slower versions which appeared on the records with the Invisible Girls.

But one little complaint. In 2015, jokes about Alzheimer’s, necrophilia and misogynist comments about women don’t work. If he’d thrown in a few mother-in-law jokes, I could have imagined I had gone to a Les Dawson show by mistake.  Make no mistake, Clarke is a genius with an amazing gift for language, but these little points made it feel like something I thought we’d left behind.

On October 16, Clarke will be releasing a 3 CD/DVD book set called Anthologia.  Something every home should have.


Permalink Leave a Comment

Music Notes August 2015

August 31, 2015 at 10:36 pm (Uncategorized)

1 Ronnie Lane and Slim Chance – Oh La La: An Island Harvest

Ronnie Lane, founder of the Small Faces, the Faces and a solo artist is one of those guys whose name might not be immediately familiar to many, but ask any musician and he’s right at the top. This  collection of demos, alternative versions, and live tracks is absolutely amazing.

2 Metz – II

The formula has varied on Metz’s second release – loud, very loud guitar heavy punk rock. Very cool.

3 Various artists – Remembering Mountains: Unheard Songs by Karen Dalton

a great collection of “unheard”songs by Dalton as recorded by the likes of Lucinda Williams and Sharon Von Etten. Now go and get Dalton’s records.

4 The Strypes – Little Victories

I was so looking forward to this, but it’s a bit of a let down. The first album Snapshot was a furious punk rock R&B driven record with nods to the Stones, Dr. Feelgood and Eddie and the Hot Rods. On the second release, the lads have slowed down a little to produce a solid rock album, but one that seems slight in comparison. It’s growing on me, but so far it pales in comparisson.

The Libertines –Anthem for the Doomed Youth

Not actually released until mid-September, there are a couple of tracks floating around. They sound as great at the first two records. Very excited for this one.

Various artists – Sticky Soul Fingers

Free with Mojo a few years back (sorry forget the date). Soul interpretations of Sticky Fingers. Very tasty.

Pixies – Doolittle

Sure, every Pixies fan has Doolittle and the B-sides and BBC tracks (although there are a couple of unreleased versions), it’s the demos that will attract the hardcore. Doolittle is arguably the band’s finest hour (I go back and forth between it and the first album). As with any reissue, there’s a bit of fan-exlpoitation, but this doesn’t feel so bad. Unlike…

The Velvet Underground – Loaded

Oh come on. I used to think Elvis Costello was bad, but the Velvets (or whoever is managing what’s left) is worse. Every couplw of years, they re-release a new version of the four with a few extras in it. (Mono mixes seem to be the new thing). This version of Loaded which will replace the two-CD “Fully” Loaded comes as a six CD set with remastered stereo and mono mixes, outtakes, and the Live 1969 set which apparently also has extra songs.  How many more times are people supposed to believe, “Oh, we found another box of demos…” ? I love this band, but still.

Jessica Hopper – The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic

wasn’t familiar with hopper’s work, but this collection is a great introduction to her writing.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Vampire Films

What is it about vampires and rock and roll? The bad boy image, the after dark vibe, the live fast die young and leave a good looking corpse ethos? Who knows. But check out Only Lovers Left Alive, WhT we Do in the Shadows and the marvellous A girl Walks Home Alone at Night.



Permalink Leave a Comment

New York 2015 Whirlwind Tour

August 30, 2015 at 2:16 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Earlier this month, I made the trip to New York. I’m not sure how many times I’ve been there (must be dozens now), but it’s still a revelation each time. A couple of months back, the boy mentioned the next time I went to New York for a non-political thing he’d like to come as well.  And so began the plan for the next NY expedition.

We took the train. I just had this idea that it would be a cool thing to do. Sure it would be longer, but I’d take a few books and magazines and catch up on stuff. And it would be cheaper and more civilized than flying. But it was longer. Actually, the trip down wasn’t too bad 30 minutes late, although inexplicably, the trip included a two-hour stop at the US border. Returning was worse: Three hours late, but I did do a lot of reading!

The trip began on a mildly ominous note; as we left the house early Sunday morning, I realized that the boy and I were dressed the same: black jacket, navy blue shirt and grey shorts. With the luggage, it looked as if we were contestants on the Amazing Race. The rest of the trip though, apart from its duration was without incident. as we left Penn Station at around 10:30, the book looked up at the still buzzing city,  “Cool.”

Day 1.

We took the subway to the Roosevelt Island Tram. The two-minute ride offers an amazing view of the city over to Roosevelt Island, a thin strip running along the upper east side of Manhattan. The tram is featured in Spider Man (2000) when the Green Goblin forces Spider-Man to choose between Mary-Jane Watson and a tramcar full of passengers. Nothing so dramatic for us.

Next was a walk through Central Park, which is always great. The boy and I did the tourist thing and ate pretzels by a fountain (we chose not to follow Tom Lehrer and poison pigeons) . Central Park took us to the Guggenheim; the boy had told me he didn’t want to go to art galleries or museums (kid – you’re in New York!), but I managed to persuade him to go to the Guggenheim which has such an interesting structural design.

A quick cab ride took us to Serendipity. A friend had mentioned this place to me (I vaguely remembered the movie), but we decided to go for the Frrozen Hot Chocolate. The story was that Jackie Kennedy has requested the recipe from the store’s founder for a party she was having. He declined though he came to the party to make it for the guests. I think if we had walked back to Toronto we might have worked off some of the calories, but it was good.

From there we wandered through Rockefeller Center and Times Square back to the hotel. One thing struck me. Americans have a reputation for being the most obese nation on earth (I suppose Canada is second), but this wasn’t at all in evidence – was it just that everyone walks in ew York so they are fitter, or that most of the people were tourists and so not Americans? Maybe a sociology thesis in there.

After lunch and a brief rest, we wandered along the High Line, an elevated walkway-park that runs through the old meatpacking district.


Day 2.

It was raining. Really raining. As we came out of the subway, the opportunists were there selling umbrellas. I said to the boy as I handed over my money, “If this lasts to the end of the day, I’ll have gotten my money’s worth.” As it turned out, I still have the umbrella.

Misreading the subway train meant we got off near the Brooklyn Bridge, so we decided to walk across that. The Brooklyn Bridge is the bridge that Gwen Stacy falls from in Amazing Spider-Man, but in the comics, it’s misidentified as the George Washington Bridge. We walked through Wall Street and the financial district, and then gradually made our way through Soho, stopping at Evolution to buy some odds and ends. Our trip ended with a walk through Times Square at night. (Didn’t see those Desnudas girls on either trip BTW)

This was probably my most tourist-y trip to New York. Sure, sure, I went last year with my sister, but to go with an 11-year old is even cooler.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Back Now

August 27, 2015 at 2:31 pm (Uncategorized)

A quick trip to the States, followed by computer problems, have meant little posted here in August. So, back on track now.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Next page »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 28 other followers