Music Notes November 2010

November 30, 2010 at 11:57 pm (Uncategorized)

This month’s notable musical thangs…

1. LCD Soundsystem – The London Sessions

LCD Soundsystem release a big honking party record. recorded in the UK earlier this year, it’s the perfect hip soundtrack (only available as a download)

2. Massive Attack – “Atlas Air”

Ah, Massive Attack. My favourite concert of the year and one of the highlights of the show. This EP includes the original version, along with remixes and a video. Well worth picking up.

3. REM – Fables of the Reconstruction

The difficult third album. REM are re-issuing all their important early records (I lost interest after the fifth one). This is a lovely package – the album, a CD of demos, postcards, and a poster, all in a box. Quite lovely.

4. Beady Eye – “Bring the Light”

Liam Gallagher’s new band, and it doesn’t sound much like Oasis. And that’s a good thing.  A cheery little pop song that maybe goes on about ninety seconds too long. A ” B”. definitely maybe. Free from the web site along with some wallpaper.

5. Gang of Four –  Free EP

As the Gang of Four get ready to release their first new album in 14 years, they put out this teaser in conjunction with the Guardian. A re-recorded version of Glass, a new song and a remix of something from the new album. Free through the Guardian web site or the Gang’s mailing list.

6. R.L. Burnside – A Ass Full of Whiskey

Yeah, R.L.’s got soul! The veteran bluesman’s album with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion has been occupying a lot of my time these days.

7. The Decemberists  – “Down by the Water”

I think it was Utah Phillips who said no American song that begins ‘down by the river’ ends well. So be it, but this is irresistible. A Springsteen-esque number from the new album. Available as a free download if you subscribe to their email list.

8. Radio Birdman – 1974-78

Whenever I listen to Little Stephen’s Underground Garage, I always wonder about the bands he doesn’t get to. He does a great job, but no one can cover everything. Australia’s Radio Birdman never got the recognition they deserved. Early punk and worth tracking down (On Sub Pop)

9. The Greenhornes – Sewed Soles

If you haven’t heard the Greenhornes, you’ve missed out. Mmm, Kinks style pop. Retro, but not. This 19 track compilation (including a few rarities is a good place to start.  

10. Danny Goldberg – Bumping into Geniuses

I really wanted to dislike this book. Goldberg is a music industry inside, but it’s such a great story filled with personalities from Zeppelin to Nirvana, it’s impossible to put down. A quick read, maybe a slight read, but engrossing nevertheless.

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Notes on Being a Dad (Part 1)

November 30, 2010 at 1:55 am (Uncategorized)

If, as Oscar Wilde had it, a cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, I might have to turn in my membership card.

Last week, I took my daughter to her first basketball tournament. A month earlier, she tried out for the school basketball team and made it. Since this was her first major sporting participation, I could hardly miss it.

So off we drove to the north-west of the city: me, my daughter, two of her fellow-teammates and another parent (I did wonder if I was some kind of soccer mum).

I’m not much of a sports person. Sure, I’m good for soccer and the World Cup, and I’ll watch tennis if it happens to be on, but generally I prefer a good book. Then a funny thing happened. Halfway through “our” (yeah, that was funny too) team’s second game, I realized I was on my feet shouting advice, “Shoot! Shoot!”  Huh? My daughter tugged on my jacket: “Dad, sit down.”

A little while later as we sat against the other wall watching another team, I realized my daughter was leaning against me watching the game. If I was a vampire with a soul cursed by Roma, I would have lost it for sure (if you’re not a Buffy fan, I ask, why not?) .

In the end, our team came in second, losing their final game, but I’ve seldom been prouder. It’s a funny thing being a parent. And yes, it does make me  want to make the world a better place.

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Meeting on Raya Dunayevskaya in Toronto

November 29, 2010 at 11:17 pm (Uncategorized)

Coming up this weekend in Toronto is a meeting on a new biography of Raya Dunayevskaya, a founding member of the Johnson-Forest Tendency and later News and Letters.

When I was publishing Red & Black Notes, I was influenced by James and also the N&L tradition. I have quite a few differnces and objections to the group now, but it might be an interesting event.

Here’s the (slightly edited) press release:


Biography of an Idea …Raya Dunayevskaya and Marxist Humanism

With Dr. Sandra Rein, University of Alberta

Sunday, December 5 @ 4:00 PM

Room 8201 OISE
252 Bloor St. W. (at St. George)

Sponsored by: Ideas Left Out, Historical Materialism Toronto, Centre for Social Justice, and Socialist Project


Prior to her death in 1987, Raya Dunayevskaya frequently commented that her biography was not of importance or significance, but what was significant was the “biography of an idea” – in this instance the “idea” she named Marxist Humanism. However, it is impossible to separate Dunayevskaya’s “idea” from the practices and theory that were inter-woven in her more than 50 years of activism in the United States.

This talk will examine the “transformative” moment which Dunayevskaya self-identified as a result of her 1953 “Letters on Hegel”. In her own account of this philosophical moment, contextualized in the turmoil of post-world war and post-Stalinist politics, Dunayevskaya noted: “I do know that there are certain creative moments in history when the objective movement and the subjective movement so coincide that the self-determination of ideas and the self-determination of masses readying for revolt explode. Something is in the air, and you catch it.”

This talk presupposes that there is another “collision” of objective movement and subjective movement that defines our current crisis and turns to Dunayevskaya’s reflections of a similar historical juncture to explore the possibility of “masses readying for revolt” – that is, that there is something in the air today. Such an investigation will draw from three elements: (1) a brief overview of Dunayevskaya’s own biography; (2) an exploration of the conjuncture of events in 1953 that created a philosophical moment for the emergence of Marxist Humanism; and (3) a critical engagement of what the biography of an idea means in the context of today’s global crisis

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ICC Behind Student Riots! Shock Horror!

November 28, 2010 at 9:17 pm (Uncategorized)

Thanks to the Inveresk Street Ingrate for pointing this one out.

The British Daily Mail ran this story earlier in month, naming the left- communist International Communist Current as the apparently sinister puppet master in student protests in the UK.

Would that it were true, but unfortunately fiction often makes a better story. It must have been a slow day at the Mail for the old red scare angle to warrant reviving.

Here’s the ICC’s take on it.  

The Inveresk Street Ingrate’s view is a little closer to the mark in my opinion.

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Burdened With Debt: TPTG

November 27, 2010 at 2:43 pm (Uncategorized)

“Through the constant terrorism of the media for almost a year now concerning “our” debt, the modern moralists, the preachers of the word of capital and money are trying violently to convince us, the “debtors”, that in order to pay back “our” debt to “our” creditors we are obliged to take up our cross of torture and sacrifices, to place our faith in the orthodoxy of the Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies and the Stability Pact and filled with awe to anticipate in the fullness of time the post-deficit life.”

Above is one of the opening passages from a new article by TPTG, a Greek organization whose name translates as “the children of the gallery.”  The article, “burdened with Debt” analyzes the debt crisis in Greece. It’s too long to post,  but it is available in its entirety here.

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The Horror, the Horror: William and Kate Ad Nauseam

November 21, 2010 at 12:16 am (Uncategorized)

When I opened my newspaper earlier this week, I knew it was going to be bad. The Toronto Globe and Mail printed an eight-page section on the royal engagement the day it was announced.

File this under things I say I don’t care about, yet bother me intensely. Four days of royal engagement nonsense and I’m sick of it, but it’s only going to get worse until the inevitable spectacle next summer.

In a sense though, I’m kicking at open doors. The monarchy is one of those curious traditions that people have long since stopped justifying, but merely accept as, well, tradition. After all , none of the old arguments make much sense anymore:

The acceptance of the divine right of kings was abandoned hundreds of years ago.

The notion that they play a useful role in guiding the country is long gone too. It always amused me when  people would defend the Queen mother, they pointed to her role in the Second World War touring the blitz decimated areas of London. Yes, but what did she do for the next half century?

The final argument is that the royal family provide some sort of glue that holds the country together. Well it is true that a few years ago the British people were united in their dislike of them, but I digress.

So let’s briefly Let’s look at the last generation of royal marriages, and the moral leadership they provided.

Charles and Diana – what was presented as a fairy tale romance swiftly descended into a fairly unpleasant divorce complete with adultery, tampon-envy, and a somewhat gruesome death. 

Anne and Mark – Oddly enough, though Anne was probably the most disliked of the royal children because of her ill-contained contempt for “the common people” she emerged with the most dignity. A divorce. Plain and simple.

Andrew and Sarah – Another squalid divorce complete with toe-sucking.

Edward and Sophie – I always thought Edward was gay (probably the most interesting thing about him), but he ended up marrying a woman who looked creepily like a plain version of his dead sister-in-law, and then the two of them disappeared from sight.

Yup, much better than us.

Still, I was mildly amused to read in this morning’s Globe that when she was a student at public school, Kate would regularly moon the boys’ residence. Whatever would the Queen mother say?

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Internationalist Perspective 54

November 13, 2010 at 4:06 pm (Uncategorized)

The new issue of Internationalist Perspective is out.

Number 54 features the following articles: 

Editorial: What a Rotten Summer

Class Struggle: Exacerbation of the Historic Perspective

With Recoveries like this one, who needs Recessions?

Artificial Scarcity in a World of Overproduction: An Escape that isn’t

The Value Form, Reification and the Consciousness of the Collective Worker

Insurgent Notes: A New Pro-Revolutionary Publication

Contact IP for hard copies; articles will be posted on the web site shortly.

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Dulce et Decorum est

November 11, 2010 at 12:43 pm (Uncategorized)

Remembrance Day. Around the country, there is a wash of poppies. Children gather in auditoriums for a meeting, a minute of silence and the obligatory reading of John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields.”

Remember, they tell us. Remember the dead. Remember their sacrifice.

But don’t remember why they died. For the continuance of empire, for this blood soaked system, for capital. There will be no mention of that today.

McCrae’s poem always bothered me. It’s not just the clumsy rhymes of the first two stanzas, but the last stanza which asks readers to take up the quarrel, suggesting not to do so is breaking faith with the dead which will prevent their rest.

The best way to honour those who died in an imperialist war is never do have another one.

When I was 15, my English teacher read us the following poem by Wilfred Owen. Like many 15 year olds, I was a cocky know-it-all. Yet, this moved me. It still does.  

Dulce et Decorum est 


Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, 
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, 
Till on the haunting flares2 we turned our backs 
And towards our distant rest3 began to trudge. 
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots 
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind; 
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped5 Five-Nines6 that dropped behind.

Gas!7 Gas! Quick, boys! –  An ecstasy of fumbling, 
Fitting the clumsy helmets8 just in time; 
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling, 
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime9 . . . 
Dim, through the misty panes10 and thick green light, 
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, 
He plunges at me, guttering,11 choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace 
Behind the wagon that we flung him in, 
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, 
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin; 
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood 
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, 
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud12 
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, 
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest13 
To children ardent14 for some desperate glory, 
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est 
Pro patria mori.15

8 October 1917 – March, 1918

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Margrave of the Marshes – John Peel

November 7, 2010 at 10:46 pm (Uncategorized)

I’m reading John Peel’s wonderful autobiography Margrave of the Marshes. Simply put, it’s a fantastic book. Honest, insightful, hilarious, and above all fascinating.

I remember first listening to Peel in late 1978. I had started reading The New Musical Express earlier in the year, and Peel’s show, Monday to Friday 10-12 PM was the next logical step for all the great bands I was reading about.

10-12 PM on a school night (I was 14 in ’78)  was a bit late for me (and my parents), so I often had to listen with the volume turned down very low, but Peel exposed me to countless things that were new to me.  Friday night was a treat because I could stay up later, so it was a real disappointment when they gave that time slot to Tommy Vance and what would later be known as classic rock.

But I first heard Crass, Siouxsie, the Undertones, Stiff Little Fingers, the Slits, and many many more on Peel’s show. And every Christmas was the Festive Fifty. Listeners wrote in with their favourite songs and Peel played then in order. “Anarchy in the UK” was the number one in my formative years.  

An amazing man who really and truly loved music.

In fact the only thing wrong with this book is that he died before he finished in. The second part of the book was written by Peel’s wife Sheila. Haven’t got that far yet, but no doubt this will figure in the music notes post later this month.

Here’s something Peel wrote about being a DJ.  

“It’s obvious that disc jockeys, as a class, are essentially parasitic. We are, with lamentably few exceptions, neither creative or productive. We have, however, manipulated the creations of others (records)  to provide ourselves with reputations as arbiters of public taste. There is no more reason (nor no less) why I should be writing this column than you – however I am in this unmerited position and you’re not. I believe very much in radio as a medium of tragically unrealised possibilities and also in the music I play. Therefore accepting the falseness of my own precarious position I will do what I can, wherever I can, to publicise these good things I hear around me. These musicians have made you aware of, and appreciative of their music – not J. Peel. ”

John Peel, Disc and Music Echo, 1969.

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