Music Notes September 2010

September 30, 2010 at 12:21 am (Uncategorized)

Under the wire, this month’s list of good things for your ears…

1. Liz Worth – Treat me Like Dirt

An oral history of Toronto area punk to 1981. I moved to Canada in 1981, so missed all of this, but I saw the ripples after. The book has extensive selections from some of the main figures in the Toronto-Hamilton scene including the Viletones, Teenage Head,  the Forgotten Rebels, the Demics and more. (Boy, a lot of people didn’t like the Diodes). Well worth reading even if, like me, it’s history not memory. Some cool pictures too.

2. Jon Savage – The England’s Dreaming Tapes

The interviews which provides the background to Savage’s England’s Dreaming. Essential reading on the history of punk in the UK, this volume fills in the gasp with interviews with almost all of the players. Outstanding.

3. Simon Reynolds – Totally Wired

So if you read Savage for punk, Reynolds was the man to read for post-punk. And like Savage, Reynolds has released a book of interviews he did for his book. And also like Savage’s book, this one is a great read and utterly essential (It’s interesting to read the two books together and see how the players evolve – Jah Wobble’s interviews are a good example of maturity over time)  

4. The Kills – “Pale Blue Eyes”

Yup, the old Velvets song, done beautifully here. It’s part of a promotion by Levis, and is available as a free download. Find the link at the Kills site. (there are other free downloads too)

5. Urge Overkill – “Effigy”

Wow, it must be fifteen years since Exit the Dragon came out. Remember when Urge Overkill released Saturation and stood poised to conquer the world? Then came Exit, and it felt like a step back. Listen to it now, and it sounds pretty good. “Effigy” sounds a lot like vintage Urge, and that’s not a bad thing. A new album is supposed to be in the offing, but you can get this as a download from Spin.

6. Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanagan – Hawk

Another collaboration from former Belle and Sebastian and Screaming Trees members. I read the reviews, and bought the album, but I have to admit I’m not overwhelmed by it. It’s fine country-folk with a twist of psychedelia, but it’s nothing Lee and Nancy or their spiritual descendants Dean and Britta haven’t done better. I also bought a ticket for their upcoming show at Lee’s Palace in Toronto, so we’ll see how that turns out.

7. Buzzcocks – Love Bites

The difficult second album. Last year Buzzcocks remastered and reissued their first three post-Devoto albums. All of the albums are two CD sets including the original album, singles, demos and live tracks. I finally picked up the second release Love Bites a few weeks back. Second albums are difficult things. Quite often you spent a couple of years working on the songs which comprise your first record, then you have six months to work on the second. The songs you get are rushed or the ones which weren’t quite strong enough for the first. If the record is similar to the first, people say you’re stagnating; if it’s different, people criticize you for deserting your fans. You can’t win. Love Bites was tricky, but it’s still full of great hocks and clever songs. Well worth having in this form.  

8. Public Image Ltd. – Flowers of Romance

And speaking of albums which came changes in direction, coming after Metal Box and Wobble’s departure from the band, Flowers seems like an entirely new project. More percussion and a middle-east sound, the record still features Lydon’s eerie vocals (my daughter won’t let me listen to this when she’s around as it spooks her) . Suffocating, but also the last great PIL record.  

9. Hawaii Five -0

Not strictly a music note, but I’m putting it here anyway. I watched the first episode of the new version of the show last week. Nothing special even though it features James Marsters as a baddie (c’mon, no one believes he died at the end of the episode) and the lovely Grace Park as well…well you figure it out. But it was great to hear that theme music again. apparently earlier versions contained a new score, but fortunately people realized there are just some things you don’t change.

10 Blues at the Rex

One Sunday a month, the Rex Hotel on Queen Street in Toronto hosts a blues matinée. I went two weeks ago and saw Dr. Nick and …. (sorry, can’t remember the name). They were great, and anyway, it’s a fine way to spend an afternoon before heading back to the drudge, and something which should be supported. Not sure when this month’s is taking place, but check out the web site.

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September 27, 2010 at 11:24 pm (Uncategorized)

The links page at the Internationalist Perspective site has been updated. Have a look .

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Best Coast in Toronto – A Review

September 27, 2010 at 12:54 am (Uncategorized)

Just remember, if you’re planning to catch a band at Lee’s Palace on a Saturday night, get there early: Parking is hell.

So with that out-of-the-way, I was still early enough to catch Best Coast’s third trip to Toronto this year, and this time on the back of a smashing debut album Crazy for You

Opening band Male Bonding came on at 10:45.  In my opinion, it’s a daft  name, which could only have been mitigated if the three member UK group were women. Unfortunately, none of them were.

Male Bonding are on Sub Pop. Remember those great Sub Pop bands like Nirvana and Mudhoney. Well there were other not so great bands and Male bonding is the latter category. Noisy, chunky rock, but forgettable rock. The guys near me liked them, but they let out coyote howls throughout the evening which is not usually the sign of a discerning fan. The was a brief 25 minutes, but I didn’t really mind. It was nice to see Best Coast’s drummer Ali Koehler come out to sing back-up on their final song though. (In general, Best Coast do seem to be a very down to earth band – Bob Bruno worked the merch table, and band members were seen setting up their own equipment)

Best Coast released a series of well-received singles over the last year or so, and this summer released their first full length record. The band seems  to tour incessantly, but seeing them live, you can see why. The bad feelings built up through Male bonding’s set were instantly dispelled by the arrival of Best Coast. From the first notes of their set, they brought a joy to Lee’s Palace that was hard to disguise.

Singer and guitarist Beth Cosentino announced she was feeling like shit, but would try to get through the set.Apart from some retching near the end, she did admirably. While the bulk of the set was from the album, it was nice to see the band play some of the older  (?) songs too, although unfortunately for me they didn’t play “In my room.” 

The only disappointment was the length of the set: 40 minutes and a 1 song encore does seem brief (Cosentino’s illness didn’t seem to be a factor here). But hey, the ticket price was very reasonable, and while they played, they were sublime.  If you haven’t heard the album, do so, and while you’re at it, check out those early singles.  

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Guyana on my Mind

September 25, 2010 at 7:10 pm (Uncategorized)

Last week I went to the annual meeting of Pakaraima, an organization of Guyanese and Caribbean Canadian writers and poets. I’ve been involved in the production of two books by Guyanese writers, and one of them invited me to the meeting.

My awareness of Guyana began, like many people, with the madness and  destruction of Jonestown, the so-called People’s Temple led by Jim Jones. But, as many people have pointed out, they people at Jonestown were all Americans; most Guyanese were unaware of the goings on there.

So the meeting featured a number of Guyanese Canadian authors reading poems and selections from their works. Some good, some bad, some ugly. The work was often autobiographical, touching  on the immigrant both in Canada and elsewhere. As the evening wore on, the programme got further and further behind schedule, alcohol flowed a little more freely, and a more pronounced nationalist tone became evident.

But good food, and some good literature are not a bad way to spend an evening.


Should also mention the two books I worked on.

Teacher Ram’s Fascination with Fire by Ken Ramphal and Sharda by Julie K Jailall. Both short story collections.

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Dreaming of Far Off Places…and Neologism

September 19, 2010 at 11:18 pm (Uncategorized)

I wonder if there’s a word that means a longing desire initiated by a work of fiction. There should be. 

I read all of William Gibson’s early works. Even though the concepts books like Neuromancer described are now ubiquitous, the books themselves are still stunning. I loved Gibson’s work, but somehow I didn’t read his later works.

A review of his latest Zero History peaked my interest, but as it was the third of a trilogy, I decided to read the first two books before this one. I started Pattern Recognition a few days ago, and am completely hooked. Not least because of the first part of the novel’s setting in London. Cayce spends the first hundred or so pages in london at a friend’s apartment, but the descriptions of the city have filled me with an ache to see the pace again. I haven’t been to the UK in ten years, but maybe it’s time again.

My proposal for that word then is fictoyearning.  Not perfect by any means, but use it and we’ll see what happens. Maybe someone will come up with a better word.

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The Land of Lost Content

September 9, 2010 at 6:54 pm (Uncategorized)

I was watching an episode of the British detective series Lewis on PBS a few nights ago. During the show,  Lewis’ DS James Hathaway recites this amazing poem by Alfred Edward Housman. It’s worth repeating here.

The Land of Lost Content

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

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Pierre Bordieu on the Academy

September 7, 2010 at 11:14 pm (Uncategorized)

A little grandiose in the title department, but I carry on anyway.

I’ve been reading David Graeber’s book Possibilities. Graeber is an anthropologist who teaches in the UK. He’s also an anarchist and writes very interesting things in a way that makes you think, “Why didn’t I think of that.”

The first issue of the very wonderful Radical Anthropology has a piece by Graeber in it, which sets out his orientation.

Anyway, there’s a couple of good observations from French sociologist Pierre Bordieu in the book which are worth repeating:

Graeber recounts how Bordieu visted the UNiversity of Chicago at the height of his popularity. All the scholars wanted to meet him, but it turned out Bordieu was much more interested in meeting Students, because ” with students, you can actually discuss ideas. Your colleagues, all they want to do is kill you.”

And in an essay on vanguardism, Graeber points out, “Pierre Bordieu once noted that if the academic field is a game in which scholars strive for dominance, then you know you have won when other scholars start wondering how to make an adjective out of your name.”

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The Tiger

September 4, 2010 at 1:08 pm (Uncategorized)

William Blake’s famous poem. Thanks Julie

TIGER, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water’d heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

William Blake

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