Music Notes February 2011

February 27, 2011 at 8:39 pm (Uncategorized)

 This month’s picks to click.

1. Tender Trap – Dansette Dansette

Every time there’s a line-up change in Amelia Fletcher’s band, the name of the band changes. OK, maybe not, but through Talulah gosh, Heavenly, Marine Research and now Tender Trap, Ms. Fletcher has been effortlessly making classic punk-pop records.   Dansette Dansette is more of the same: A brilliant blend of punk guitars with catchy tunes and sugar-sweet vocals; something to brighten everyone’s day.

2. Sea of Bees – Songs for the Ravens

Another new one on me. First heard of the band with their track on Mojo’s Xmas CD, and there was just something seductive about the sound. Backwards tracks, almost jazzy vocals, but it pulls you in. Even in the quietest moments.

3. These New Puritans – Beat Pyramid

Hey, what’s your favourite number? Heavy Gang of Four-ish dance music made by this Southend-on-Sea four piece. This is their first album (they have a second). Not always my kind of thing, but the mix of weird half-shouted vocals and thumping beats is strangely addictive

4. Iggy Pop and James Williamson – Kill City

Remastered, but just as lovely. The often overlooked nugget in the Ig’s catalogue. Iggy is a more traditionally rockist pose that usual, but still worth the time of day.

5. The Jesus and Mary Chain – Darklands

I bought this when it came out, but after the visceral thrill of Psychocandy it was a bit of a letdown. Over two decades later, I can see what a brilliant little bugger it is. Sure the feedback has been muted, but the songs are still amazing.

6. Rogues Gallery

On paper it doesn’t seem like a good idea at all: A 2-CD collection of sea shanties. But when you look at some of the performers, you get a faint feeling of hope: Nick Cave, Richard Thompson, Bryan Ferry, Lou Reed, Jarvis Cocker, Stan Ridgeway, Lucinda Williams and many more. 43 songs in total, and you can sing along to them all. Inspired.

7. Matthew Sweet – Girlfriend (Legacy Edition)

I saw Matthew Sweet in the mid 90s when he was touring in support of 100% Fun. Good record, good show, but it was a little formulaic. I wish I’d seem him promoting this album because Girlfriend is utterly fabulous. Terrific songs (“Divine intervention”, “Evangeline”, the title track and many others) and some truly talented sidemen including the late lamented Robert Quinne. The Legacy edition is a 2-CD set which contains demos, alternate versions and a few live cuts. There’s also an essay about how the record came to be released.

8. Kate and Anna McGarrigle

When I was about 18, I got into folk music in a big way. Dylan, Ochs, Joan Baez, Woody Guthrie and so on. But I don’t think I would have liked this one much. Too winsome. Just goes to show, if you wait, you can end up liking things. It’s a sad, beautiful album with great songs and harmonies. Perfect for days like today when the snow is blowing, and I can immiagine it’s even colder in Quebec.

9. Heartless Bastards – Stairs and Elevators

I got into the Heartless Bastars through their third album, the Mountain, but I’ve been listening to their first quite a bit. It’s a little more garage than the later one, and for some reason it just resonates right now. New album out this summer, but no Toronto date yet for the tour.  

10. Lykke Li – “Get some”

OK, guilty pleasure time. My wife is a bit fan of all things Swedish, but I’m not sure about how she feels about Ms. Li. Saw the video for “Get Some” where she comes off a little Theda Bara-like.  And you can still get this one as a free download from her site. Go on, you know you want to… (new album out Tuesday)

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Korean Socialists Sentenced

February 26, 2011 at 1:52 pm (Uncategorized)

In January I posted information about the Socialist Workers League of Korea and the impending jail terms several of its militants faced.

The following is a message sent by group after sentencing:

—————————————————————————-

The judge sentenced as below;

1) Oh Se-cheol, Yang Hyo-sik, Yang Joon-seok and Choi Young-ik :
imprisonment of 1 1/2 years, but conditional delay of imprisonment for 3 years for violation of National Security Law, and fine of 500,000 won ($500) each for violation of Assembly-Demonstration Law.

2) Park Joon-seon, Jeong Won-hyun, Nam-goong Won and Oh Min-gyu :
imprisonment of 1 year, but conditional delay of imprisonment for 2 years for violation of National Security Law,  
and fine of 500,000 won each for violation of Assembly-Demonstration Law.

The meaning of the decision is as follows:

1) The SWLK (Socialist Workers League of Korea) is judged to be an organization for propaganda and agitation for national disturbances, violating Article 7 of the National Security Law.

It shows the political nature of Korean judicial branch, which is a part of state apparatus serving for the capitalist class.

2) The conditional delay of imprisonment can be recognized as the result of Korean and international protest movement. The conditional respite for 3 years means that the imprisonment is suspended for 3 years on the condition of that there will be no other sentence for another crime, and after 3 years the validity of imprisonment sentence expires. But if there is another sentence during the next 3 years, imprisonment from this sentence will follow independently of any imprisonment for further convictions. So, the conditional respite of imprisonment is only a bit better than immediate imprisonment.

3) We, the 8 accused will appeal this sentence to the high court.

We will live and act confidently as revolutionary socialists without regard to the political oppression of the Korean state apparatus.

Thank you to all socialists and workers in the world who supported the judicial struggle of Korean socialists.

Please transmit our gratitude to the comrades of the world.

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(Tell me why) I don’t like Sundays

February 20, 2011 at 4:21 pm (Uncategorized)

Four Sundays ago, on the coldest day of the year with the temperatures in the minus-20s, my furnace died. I slept in the living room was the temperature slowly dropped. One freezing day and several thousand dollars later, heat slowly began to return to my body.

Three Sundays ago, I got violently ill. Vomiting and all the other stuff you usually associate with food poisoning. No solids for three days.

Two Sundays ago, I was on the verge of starting a new job. The day was spent worrying  and generally being unable to relax.

Last Sunday, sick again. This time milder.

Today, I’m going to a friend’s to play video games, but I have to admit there’s a little feeling of trepidation in the back of my head.

Someone, I forget who now, once wrote that Sunday is the worst day of the week because we are still trying to forget last week, and not think about next. Friday night is the best night of the week because it is on the cusp of two days of which possibilities are endless. Sunday the worst because those possibilities are over, and work beckons.

As Joe Strummer once wrote, Monday’s coming like a jail on wheels.

Enjoy the day. If you can.

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Confessions of a Juggler

February 13, 2011 at 4:52 pm (Uncategorized)

I haven’t watched Saturday Night Live for years. And in the final years when I did watch, it was usually only for Tina Fey on “Weekend Update.”

When she made the transition to the sitcom with 30 Rock, I couldn’t have been happierI’ve watched the show from its first episode, and while not every one is a classic, it is consistently funnier than pretty much everything on TV.  

Johanna Schneller’s column in the Globe and Mail this week makes mention of an article by Fey in the February 14 issue of the New Yorker entitled “Confession of a Juggler.” You can’t read the article at the New Yorker site unless you’re a subscriber, but it’s widely avaialble elsewhere (Here for example). Very funny and well worth your time. It also contains  this astute  observation:

I know older men in comedy who can barely feed and clean themselves, and they still work. The women, though, they’re all “crazy.” I have a suspicion – and hear me out, because this is a rough one – that the definition of “crazy” in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her anymore.

Have a read.

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Neil Young in Mojo

February 13, 2011 at 3:43 pm (Uncategorized)

My first Neil Young record was 1979’s Rust Never Sleeps.  I bought it in a news agents next to the supermarket where I worked (the same place where I bought Crossing the Red Sea with the Adverts, but I digress)

A couple of years later, I moved to Canada. A friend in high school was a big Neil Young fan (he also got me into Dylan), and we saw Young play at Maple Leaf Gardens when he was promoting Trans. The last time I saw Young play was in the mid-nineties where he played the CNE along with Sonic Youth and Pearl Jam.

Young has  always one of those performers who although he was a hippie was enjoyed by the punks as well. (and I might add by the grunge kids.)

The February issue of Mojo has a massive piece on Young along with a re-recording of Harvest. And like many of the profiles they publish a list of his best songs as chosen by who knows. I like lists because no one can ever agree on them. Anyway here’s the top twenty:

20 A Man Needs a Maid

19 Hey Hey My My (into the Black)

18 Old Man

17 Expecting to Fly

16 Tell me Why

15 Southern Man

14 Cortez the Killer

13 Ohio

12 Powderfinger

11Tonight’s the Night

10 Everybody Knows this is Nowhere

9 The Needle and the Damage Done

8 Mr Soul

7 Down by the River

6 Helpless

5 Like a Hurricane

4 Only Love Can Break Your Heart

3 Heart of Gold

2 Cinnamon Girl

1 After the Gold Rush

So there you have it.  And quite a few of these are on the Decades 2-CD set. That and Rust Never Sleeps are good places to start.

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The Events in North Africa

February 13, 2011 at 3:15 pm (Uncategorized)

Revolution is impossible. Anyone will tell you that. Yes, revolution is truly  impossible, except when it’s not.

If predictions had been made about the course of events in first Tunisia, and now Egypt, just a few months, no weeks ago, sage commentators would have wisely advised nothing of the sort was possible. And yet here we are.

The corrupt regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was toppled after demonstrations which began in December of last year apparently triggered by Mohamed Bouazizi’s self- immolation grew out of control. The turning point for the regime was when the government instructed the army to fire on demonstrators and the army refused. On January 14, Ben Ali fled the country.  

But once your neighbours had rid themselves of a corrupt authoritarian problem, it’s hard not to look at your own. And so it was with Egypt. A similar pattern of demonstrations and protests, which were initially peaceful, grew unchecked under the demand for “reform.” 

Hosni Mubarak has been in power since the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981. Mubarak’s regime has been marked with a degree of stability, but occasionally by protests. His regime has also seen the corruption and repression common to one-man rule, despite the presence of elections every few years or so. His announcement he would stay until September, then his departure the following day, made people believe that anything was possible. And possibly it is.

Egypt of course is a much more important player for the west and the surrounding powers. For the west it is a reliable ally and also an oil power (much more reliable that Saudi Arabia which despite lip service to the contrary is still a major source of funds to the kind of Islamism the west fears so greatly). And so everyone has an interest: The United States, the neighbouring powers, and the various political shadings.

There’s no shortage of news and analysis. I will continue to post relevant material, but I’m also going to point to the International Perspective blog where we publish and reprinting useful analysis.

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The Maghreb, What Movements For Which Perspectives?

February 10, 2011 at 3:10 am (Uncategorized)

A statement on Egypt and beyond by  Internationalist Perspective

The deepening of the world economic crisis, since 2008, has caused a significant degradation of living and working conditions in the “poor” countries and frontal attacks through austerity plans, the increase in unemployment, and the revocation of many [long standing] “social gains” in the “rich” countries.

Class reactions have multiplied throughout the world, there are strikes, riots with violent confrontations with the forces of repression, demonstrations…

What is significant in the current movements is the mobilization of youth. Greek youth have been the cutting edge of contestation since 2008 but in their wake, French and English students and, now, Tunisian, Algerian and Egyptian are the motivating force of the movements. But these young people, in Tunisia, in Egypt seem to have forged a link to other demands. They have been set in motion

The movements unfolding in the Maghreb must be situated in this context of a major aggravation of the world economic crisis and its repercussions on the proletariat, working or unemployed. They express a revolt against the price increase, but also, and this is fundamental, against the complete absence of any perspective represented by the capitalist system. This absence of any perspective manifests itself more and more strongly and affects the whole planet.

These movement are important in other ways too: they constitute an experiment in collective struggle, in the capacity to oppose, the capacity to say “No”, to reject the established order. These experiences, combined with the questioning about [the lack of any perspective, will not fail to have an important impact on the future development of the political consciousness of the proletariat.

The risk exists that the current demands in Tunisia and Egypt will be swallowed up by the illusion that a change of President or of the government will give work to the young people, will fill the shopping baskets of the housewife, and will allow freedom of expression and of organization.

Remember that the transformation of Latin America dictatorships and the so-called “communist” regimes into more modern, “democratic,” political systems, corresponded to a change into regimes better adapted to the present needs of the accumulation of capital, and the need for a democratic control of the working class. But, if these political adaptations allowed a better exploitation of natural resources and some industrial development, they only very partially masked the overturning of existing health care, housing, educational, systems, and the creation of an even wider gap between a newly enriched class and an increasing mass of the poor consigned to unemployment, to poverty, to drugs, and to the violence of the shantytowns and the street.

Thus, the movements of revolt agitating Tunisia and Egypt express at the same time the refusal of the poverty generated by the capitalist mode of production, the search for new perspectives, but also the hopes invested in a change [in the mode] of political management. They reflect the difficulty, for the world proletariat, to envision a new society and thus to break with the economic, social, and political functioning of capitalism.

It is now clear that life in this system, under whatever form it takes, can only produce more poverty, wars, destruction of the environment, and, at the end of the day, a major degradation in the conditions of existence of human beings.

Only putting into question the very bases of this society on a world scale can open up a revolutionary perspective for the creation of a society offering radically different perspectives.

Internationalist Perspective

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Weather Porn

February 3, 2011 at 2:46 am (Uncategorized)

I’ve been trying to write something about the much more important events of Egypt and Tunisia, but every time I finish, something more important comes along to add, and I have to start again. I suppose this is the point of a blog. It’s a journal; it’s a diary; it’s a work in progress. Maybe tomorrow.

But today, I got a break to catch up on other things. I live in Toronto, Canada. Not the coldest city in the world by any means (not even the coldest city in Canada for that matter), but winter is a fact. Something I was reminded of last week when my furnace died and I was left without heat on the two coldest days of the year so far. I sat huddled watching the mercury dip as two very valiant men installed a new furnace – I was completely useless save to make cups of tea and coffee.

Today we got our first major winter storm. Oh, we read about it coming. My in-laws who were returning from Florida yesterday came back a day early so as to avoid it (they need not have bothered; it hit after their original flight was due to attend).

I heard estimates of 20 to 30, then 40 CM of snow, White-outs, blizzards, and freezing rain. All were predicted. Cancellations abounded. Most of the colleges announced closures yesterday. Flights from the airport? Forget it. And wow, we knew this must be bad because even the school boards shut up shop (the last time, the school did that was 12 years ago).  

In the end though, it was bad, but not that bad. 15-20 centimetres fell, and while I was very happy not to have to go out (snow day for me too!), it seemed to fall a little short of the Snowzilla that was predicted.

If you watch the weather channel and assorted media, it seems as if everything must now be exaggerated to this ridiculous degree. Winer storms are now bigger, longer, harder; yes, I know I’m extending the analogy a bit, but when you a bit left down perhaps it’s not so inapt to make the comparison.   Weather porn indeed. Buyer beware!

UPDATE: John Doyle, in Thursday’s Globe and Mail wrote pretty much the same piece as above.  The Globe archives its articles after a fortnight, but it’s good for now.

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