Music Notes February 2010

February 21, 2010 at 1:27 am (Uncategorized)

 This month’s music notes.

1. CatL

Punk blues? Blues punk? Dunno, but this  Toronto three-piece is well worth investigating. The new album is called With the Lord for Cowards you will find no Place. I’m planning to check them out at the Dakota Tavern later this month. Have  a listen at their myspace page

2. Sex and Drugs and Rock and  Roll  

From the UK comes a bio-pic about Ian Dury. Former Kilburn and the High Roads singer turned music hall punk, and scoring a massive hits with “Rhythm Stick”  “Reasons to be Cheerful” and more. Andy “Gollum” Serkis does an amazing job as Dury. (The marvellous Olivia Williams plays his wife). Watch the trailer at  the official site

3. Massive Attack – Heligoland

Even though it’s been subject to middling to good reviews, I like this one. It’s a bit more upbeat than  100th Window. Brooding layered dance music. I actually decided to spring for the I-Tunes LP edition to see what it was like. It’s a bit more impressive than the usual download, which contains next to no information about the songs. The I-tunes package comes with lots of art work which you’d normally only get with the vinyl or CD editions. I still can’t get into it in the same way, but it’s a recognition that packaging is also important. You also get remixes of some of the songs on the album, some of which I think are better than the originals. There’s a lot of videos at their site at the moment.   

4. The Three Johns – Live in Chicago

Once, when I came home from university, I found a Three Johns records among my sister’s albums. Knocked me out. I once saw an ad for an album, but never heard it. A few years later, I picked up a CNT compilation with the Three Johns, the Mekons, the Red skins, the Newtown Neurotics and others, but there’s not much out there by the band, but there is this rather nice live set from Chicago with most of the hits. Along with a groovy T-Rex cover.

There’s an unofficial web site with some downloadable Peel sessions and other stuff, but it seems to be down most of the time. Try also their myspace page.

5. The Men They Couldn’t Hang – How Green is the Valley

If the Pogues had been a little less into folk music and a little more into the Clash… no, that’s unfair, but listen to this record and you’ll see what I mean. Marvellous mid-eighties record. Full of great hooks and memorable tunes. The immediate classic is “Ghosts of Cable Street” which tells the story of Oswald Mosley’s attempt to march his Blackshirts through the east end of London. Great song, completely historically inaccurate, but still a great song. Great record too.

6. Cristina – “Is that All There is?”  

Early eighties cover of the old Peggy Lee song with spiced up lyrics. At the time it was considered risque (references to arson and spanking led the writers to withhold permission to use it), but now it seems a bit old hat. Love the bored affectation in her voice though.

7. Abba

It may be in our DNA to respond to Abba. At work in the morning when Abba makes its way into the PA rotation, it’s hard not to respond. There’s something about the chorus in “Knowing Me Knowing You” that makes me melt.

However, when we watched Mama Mia, the charm faded. “The closest you’ll ever get to A-list actors performing drunken karaoke” said one reviewer. I watched about twenty minutes.

Still like Abba Gold though.

8. The Ting Tings

I hear they’re recording a new album. Apparently it’s called Kunst, the German word for art. How unfortunate.  The New Musical Express suggested its addition on a list for the worst named records of all time.

9. Tinariwen – Imidiwan: Companions

Last year, Mojo gave away a CD called Africa Rising. A great collection of African artists I’d never heard of. The stand out track for me was  by Tinariwen called “Tenhert.” Great guitar sound. A month or two later I picked up a copy of Uncut which had a free Velvet underground influenced CD with it. Same song is on it.

OK, I thought, look into this. Glad I did: Poet guitarists and soul rebels from the Sahara. Unlike much I’ve heard before, but simply amazing. Have a listen and a look. They play Toronto on March 4.  

10 Bruce Springsteen – “The River”

I was never a big Bruce Springsteen fan. The first Springsteen song I heard was “Candy’s Room” from the Darkness at the Edge of Town album in 1978. S’ OK, but i was into things a little harder and faster then.

I remember waiting to see Stiff Little Fingers, or possible Adam and the Ants  and the club playing most of  The River.  Wasn’t really impressed by that either.

I think I first sat up and took notice when Nebraska came out. The starkness of the sound, and the intensity of the lyrics just grabbed me. It contains two of my favourite Springsteen songs, “Atlantic City” (great back and white video) and “Highway Patrolman.”

Anyway for some reason, I pulled an old Springsteen CD to listen to in the car on the drive to work on friday. I was looking for something upbeat as i fought traffic, but it was “The River” that stood out.

It’s a simple song. Boy meets girl and they plan to get out of nowheresville, USA. Boy gets girl pregnant, and he goes to work in the factory. Sometime later, there’s no work, and those dreams, “I act like I don’t remember and Mary acts like she don’t care.” But there’s still the river, and those dreams he once had. “Is a lie a dream that don’t come true or is it something worse?”

A lot of people call Springsteen a fraud. Asking how he can write songs about the ordinary a millionaire like him is so far removed from. I don’t know about that, but this simple tale reveals something far deeper. It’s a beautiful song. And that’s no small achievement.



  1. John Green said,

    I’m still in regular contact with two of the Three Johns. I was a huge fan back in the 80s. There’s a “Best of” CD that’s difficult to track down, and Jon Langford’s Buried Treasure label sells the Live in Chicago album, but otherwise the MySpace page is the place to look. John Hyatt has a number of other pages where he puts up new stuff, and Langford still plays with the Mekons and the Waco Brothers. The Johns get together now and then for special occasions. They played the Mekons 25th-anniversary show, along with Chumbawamba, a few years back, and they reunited for gigs in Manchester and London a couple of years ago.

    Without exception the best live band I ever saw. Shambolic genius.

  2. fischerzed said,

    I’ve seen Jon Langford play in Toronto solo, with the Mekons and with the Waco Brothers. Great shows on each occasion. The Live is Chicago is easy to get as a download, but I’ve never seen the Greatest Hits you mention. thanks for recalling this band for me.

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