Music Notes January 2011

January 24, 2011 at 5:15 pm (Uncategorized)

This month’s tasty treats.  

1. Mojo/Uncut Year End Editions

Both Mojo and Uncut arrive a month late in Canada. By the time, an issue hits the stands here, the new one is out in the UK (and the US for some reason). Whatever. Anyway, the great thing then is that you get the Christmas and year-end editions just as the new year is beginning. Mojo has  articles on Queen and Crass, best of the year lists, and a free Christmas CD with an exclusive Superchunk track (their version of John Cale’s “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.”) Uncut has a long interview with Paul Weller and a best of CD which includes These New Puritans, the Black Keys and Zola Jesus. And both have crosswords!

2. Ethioiques

Remember those hipster friends of yours who insist on playing you music from countries you’ve never heard of? Well, if they have anything from Ethiopia make sure you pay special attention. Ethiopiques is a multi-volume series documenting the glorious days of Ethiopian music in the final years of Haile Selassie’s rule: Jazz, soul, big band sounds and music more are represented in the series. There’s a two-CD ‘best of’ which is a great introduction to the series.

3. Augustus Pablo – King David’s Melody

Just down the road from Ethiopia, at least philosophically, is this very fine instrumental release from Augustus Pablo. If you like the dub versions of the Clash’s stuff  on Black Market Clash, this should suit you too.  Thanks to my brother-in-law for this one.

4. The 13th Floor Elevators – Headstone: The Contact Sessions

Now this one might just be for collectors. Basically it’s a mono version of the Elevators’ first album, some  alternative versions, and a bunch of live stuff. If you’re an Elevators fan you should probably pick it up, but be warned the sound quality is dodgy at best on the live tracks, and even the studio stuff is less than pristine. The thing does come in a nice CD package with some cool pictures and sleeve notes though.  

5. The Gun Club – Early Warning

Now where were you when you heard “Sex Beat” for the first time? From 1983-88 the Gun Club were definitely in by top ten. I saw them play at the late unlamented Larry’s Hideaway in the summer of 1984. Ugh, they were horrible. Jeffrey Lee Pierce was drunk and couldn’t play the clarinet (or whatever it was). For about twenty minutes, they held it together, and lapsed back into chaos. Early Warning  is a 2-CD set released by Sympathy for the Record Industry a few years after Pierce’s death. The record contains demos, some live tracks including a radically different version of Walking with the Beast, and some home recordings by Pierce. Rough yes, but lovely in their own way.

6. The Fleshtones – It’s Super Rock Time: The IRS Years 1980-85

And super it is; 25 hits from the golden years of the Fleshtones including “Hexbreaker” and most of Roman Gods (unavailable for years). It’s a pricey import, but if you don’t own the vinyl, a tinny MP3 won’t do this justice. And if you’ve never seen them live, it’s time to do some travelling.

7.  Dr. Feelgood – Stupidity

No frills, just straight up R&B (when that meant music inspired by the blues rather than simply black pop music). Recorded on one of the final tours before Wilko Johnson left the band, Stupidity topped the UK charts and briefly made possible the dream that Dr. Feelgood would receive the credit they were due. It was not to be, but we still have this fine live record.

8. M.I.A. –Vicki Leekx

Boy, Maya had a bad year. A record that wasn’t so well received, and a fiasco with the New York Times; what else could go wrong? (OK, her father-in-law was just convicted on insider trading in France, but that was this year). Vicki Leekx is, if not a return to the glories of her first two records, at least an indication she might be getting her game back. Still free at time of writing.

9. The Rutles – All you Need is Cash

Bought this DVD in the post-Xmas sales, and it took me a couple of weeks to get to it. It’s a brilliant spoof of the Beatles courtesy of Eric Idle and Neil Innes. I read somewhere it was the inspiration for Spinal Tap, and you can certainly see it.  Well worth an hour of your life.

10. The Kills – Blood Pressure

OK, OK, I know I’m a bit early on this one. The new Kills album is out on April 4th (April 5th in the US for some reason – I suspect Canada too). They play the Sound Academy (oh well) on May 1st. Tracks are listed at the Kills site

UPDATE: “Satelite” is streaming at Spin Magazine. Not so immediate. Slower with a reggae beat, but it’s a grower.

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‘Lost’ Solidarity Text

January 23, 2011 at 3:04 pm (Uncategorized)

Those of you who’ve followed me through earlier publications will know that earlier in life I was influenced by the British libertarian socialist group Solidarity.

The good people at Counago & Spaves recently posted on a recently published text by David Brown, which contains his resignation from and critique of the organization. Follow the above link to read C&S’s comments, or go here to read the original text.

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True Grit

January 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm (Uncategorized)

I can’t remember how old I was when I saw the 1969 version of True Grit starring John Wayne. My guess would be around ten, but I loved the film. I hadn’t come to realize the role Wayne played in American culture, and even though he wasn’t my favourite cowboy, the story seemed perfect. (I didn’t really know who Glen Campbell was either, but I digress).

When I heard the Coen brothers were remaking the movie, I wondered why. Yes, yes, they’re brilliant, but a re-make is quite often not the mark of brilliance, and especially when it is the case of an already celebrated film, it seems unnecessary.

In the build-up to the release of the movie, I read several articles about True Grit’s  author Charles Portis. Intrigued, I borrowed the book from the local library. It’s a great book, narrated by an older Mattie Ross who relates the story of her adventure with Marshal Rooster Cogburn in the pursuit of her father’s murderer. It’s a great book, which strives for an authentic western voice. The language would no doubt upset those who would re-write Huckleberry Finn, but it seems true to the characters, none of who are particularly likeable, and yet we eventually come to care for them. It’s a story of revenge, but also containing humour, and ultimately compassion and even redemption.

So when I saw the film, starring Jeff Bridges as Cogburn, Matt Damon as Texas Ranger LaBoeuf and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross, I was pleasantly surprised how faithful the new version was to the original novel. While some events are condensed, there is only one significant change in the film (LaBoeuf does not leave before the final confrontation with Pepper’s gang), and much of the book’s dialogue is retained for the film. The only invention is the mysterious bear-skin wearing dentist which indicates that yes, you’re still watching a Coen brothers film, even if is it more of a crowd pleaser than usual.

A great couple of hours.

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Shortly after I wrote the above, I read Frank Rich’s column in the New York Times which compares the two movies to each other and to The Social Network, and looks at the old and new Americas in these movies.

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Workplace Health and Safety: A Question of Balance

January 20, 2011 at 12:41 am (Uncategorized)

Yesterday was the funeral of Toronto police office Sgt. Ryan Russell. Russell was killed in the early hours of January 12, 2011 when he was hit by a stolen snowplough.

Thousands lined the streets. Newspapers and media reported extensively on the proceedings. The Toronto District School Board even had a moment of silence.

Today at my workplace, there was an hour-long presentation on workplace health and safety. The stories the speaker told were heartbreaking. Young workers and old, people just trying to earn a buck ended up injured or killed. almost every day in Canada, people are killed on the job. In 2007,  the figure was over 1,000. Who knows how many are injured in the workplace? (the speaker at the presentation lost part of his arm in a workplace accident when he was 19) Every year in Canada, there is a Day of Mourning to remember those killed on the job. It barely rates a mention in the media.

It’s not a question of arguing who has lost more or who is a hero. A life is a life. And a worker killed on the job is a worker killed on the job. The charging of Russell’s accused killer with first-degree murder (which means he planned in advance to kill Russell) and canonization of Russell suggests otherwise.

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Further reading: Enzo Di Matteo of Now Magazine has an article  on  how Russell’s death has been situated in the media and elsewhere.

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Hey Spartacist Youth Clubs! Enough with the Exclamation Points!

January 20, 2011 at 12:10 am (Uncategorized)

I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t resist.

The new issue of Spartacist Canada showed up in my mail box the other day containing all the usual nonsense. No surprises there, but I happened to read the article entitled “Join the Spartacus Youth Clubs!”

90% of the article falls under the heading “What We Fight For,” and every single sentence ends with an exclamation point. Sample: “Look to the example of the heroic, Bolshevik -led workers of 1917 Russia!”  Leaving aside the general awkwardness of that sentence, does it really need an exclamation point?

Does it make the article seem more important? Does it make the Spartacus Youth Club seem more important?

The answer to both is no.

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Korean Socialists Face 5-7 Years in Jail

January 15, 2011 at 10:06 pm (Uncategorized)

This is very last minute, but technical problems prevented me from posting it earlier.

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Urgent Appeal: Eight South Korean Labor Activists Face 5-7 Years in Prison

On Dec. 3 of last year, the prosecutor in the Seoul Central District Court demanded prison terms of 5-7 years for Oh sei-chull and other members (Yang Hyo-sik, Yang Joon-seok, Choi Young-ik, Park Joon-seon, Jeong Won-hyun, Oh Min-gyu, and Nam-goong Won) of the Socialist Workers’ Alliance of Korea (SWLK), a revolutionary socialist group. These activists in the Korean working-class movement were indicted under South Korea’s notorious National Security Law (passed in 1948 and theoretically still stipulating the death penalty for “pro-North” activities). The eight militants of the SWLK, who as internationalists advocate working-class revolution in both Koreas, were accused of no specific crime except being socialists, but in reality the indictment resulted from their intervention in several strikes and movements going back to 2007.

This is the first instance of such harsh repression under the National Security Law in many years. It occurs in the larger context of the hard-right turn (such as the smashing of the Ssangyong Motor Co. strike of 2009) of South Korean President Lee Myong Bak’s government since he took office in early 2008. (In fact, leaflets of the SWLK distributed during the Ssangyong strike were key evidence in the trial.)

Prosecutors have attempted to indict members of the SWLK several times since 2008, and prior to December, the prosecutors’ case was thrown out of court each time. It is not impossible that a barrage of e-mail protests to Judge Hyung Doo Kim of the Seoul Central District Court will help reduce or obviate the pending sentences altogether, when final sentencing will take place on Jan. 27.

Let Judge Kim know your feelings in your own words about this crackdown on “thought crime” by writing to swlk@jinbo.net

The e-mails must be received by 06:00 AM on Monday January 17th 2011 (Seoul time), so that the SWLK’s lawyer can forward them to Judge Kim prior to sentencing.

Please distribute this appeal as widely as possible. Messages in languages other than English are welcome.

Loren Goldner

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And we’re back…with the Greenhornes

January 15, 2011 at 9:49 pm (Uncategorized)

Computer repairs have meant that I haven’t added anything in a while, but all that’s over with now.

So, anyway, I was listening to the Greenhornes’ Sewed Soles compilation  (see November’s Music Notes )this afternoon, and I finally got around to  reading the sleeve notes.  They begin with this insightful comment:

Everyone thinks they have good taste in music. Everyone. It’s like a fortune cookie which reads “you are a very creative person” which leads every miserable bastard who reads it to proclaim “wow…that’s me!” Everyone has good taste in music. But nowadays, it feels like you need to be a detective at Scotland Yard to find something which the Americans call “swell.” Well, I’m a mathematician, and being so means sometimes what radio and T.V. are telling me simply isn’t good enough for the gander. I simply must have the facts.

Brush Thomalson.

Now this is the point where I add all sorts of hyperbola and people’s eyes glaze over. But the thing is, it’s not hyperbola. They really are that good. A lot of their material sounds as it if could have appeared on Nuggets or have been recorded by a Memphis soul band: Now that might make it sound as if their sound is derivative, but strangely it’s not. It’s fresh.

The new album Four Stars has been out for a couple of months, and you can listen to them at their MySpace page or visit their main page for Tour details and all that sort of stuff. They play Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern April 3.

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The name of this blog is…Notes from Underground

January 1, 2011 at 7:17 pm (Uncategorized)

A few people have asked me about the name of this blog, and whether or not I like the UK eighties band Fischer-Z. So here goes…

I really like Dostoyevsky. And since I had once edited a journal called Red & Black Notes, I thought Notes from Underground would be a cool title.

Fischer is the pen name I use. I added “zed” because although I live in Canada,  I spent the first 17 years of my life in Britain. I wasn’t particularly a fan of the band, but I like the way it went together. Somehow when I was registering the blog I screwed up the URL and it ended up as fischerzed.wordpress.com.

And there’s the whole sorry story.

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