Music Notes March 2011

March 29, 2011 at 9:41 pm (Uncategorized)

 This month’s musical treats.

1. Beady Eye – Different Gear, Still Speeding

A dreadful band name, and quite frankly a silly cover to the album, but really it doesn’t make any difference. Liam Gallagher’s new band is essentially Oasis minus Noel, and it’s very much a return to form. Yeah, yeah, it’s an unabashed homage to classic sixties rock n roll (but still likely won’t be heard on classic rock radio), but it’s more than competent. If you’re into such things you can pick up the version with a DVD containing videos and a documentary. Rock on!

2. These New Puritans – Hidden

Last month, I wrote about TNP’s first record Beat Pyramid. Hidden is their second, and it’s a colossal step forward from an astounding debut. Still broadly post-punk, but incorporating global sounds and horns. Terrifyingly good. Check out “We Want a War”

3. Panic (Free CD with Mojo, March 2011)

Sometimes I feel as if I’m running a promo site for Mojo, but then again this is worth having. Panic collects together mid-eighties (and beyond ) protest tracks from the UK. Enjoy Billy Bragg, the Redskins, Half Man Half biscuit and more, but the real treat is Pete Wylie’s The Day Margaret Thatcher dies.”

4. Andres Landero – Grandes Cumbias

First heard of Landero on the soundtrack to the Joe Strummer movie, The Future is Unwritten. This is a greatest hits package, and although I haven’t a clue what he’s singing about, it’s utterly infectious.  What sounds like an accordion and percussion along with Landeros. Marvellous.

5. Syd Barret: A Very Irregular Head Rob Chapman

A very fine book about Syd Barrett chronicling his early life, through the Pink Floyd days and beyond. Some very cool pictures too.  

6. Cat’s Eye – “Not a Friend”

Don’t  know much about this one. Faris Rotter is the singer from the Horrors, but the voice is Rachel Zeffira a Canadian soprano.  It’s got a sort of Mazzy Star vibe, and has a smokey feel to it. You can get this as a free download from their site

7. Marine Research – Sounds from the Gulf Stream

After ploughing through Tender Trap’s, it was time to work backwards. Marine Research was a predecessor band, but the sound is just as lovely: indie pop heaven. 10 songs, all perfect. Next month, Tallulah Gosh.

8. Jace Everett – “Bad Things”

Funny how getting pictured up as the theme for a TV show can help your career. My wife and I recently watched the first season on True Blood on DVD. As the show starts there’s a lovely Chris Isaak-esque rockabilly song. Instantly hummable. Dunno what the rest is like, but this rates a mention.

9. Motorhead – Motorhead

The sound of great things to come. Lemmy’s post-Hawkwind project, and it sounds a little, well,  tame. The title track is great and there’s a pretty heavy version of “Train kept a rollin”, but overall the mix isn’t quite there. Next time round was Overkill and they never looked back.

10. The Kills – “Satellite”

Only a few days till the new Kills album is released, and yes I’m one of those uncool people who waits rather than scouring the internet for leaked downloads. Call me old-fashioned. Anyway, this is a very cool noir video. A certain Bonnie and Clyde meets Badlands feel to it. Watch it here, and get DNA as a free download when you join the mailing list.

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Value form

March 29, 2011 at 11:05 am (Uncategorized)

Marx’s writings on the value-form are among his most important, some would say the most important, but the least read.

Endnotes, a UK-based journal I’ve mentioned previously, has a very interesting essay on Communisation and Value-Form Theory  which is really worth reading.

Fascinating stuff.

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Homophobia: The Worst disease

March 24, 2011 at 10:56 pm (Uncategorized)

So sang Chumbawamba on their 1995 album Anarchy:  “Love who you want to love and love who you please.” (Actually, if you’re interested in the song, the Anarchy version has a fairly downbeat style; the one to seek out is the live recording on the Showbusiness album, which is faster and celebratory in its discussion of sexual orientation).

But I digress, the immediate reason for this post  is a few nights back, I was flipping channels when I came across an episode of the Royal Canadian Air Farce on the Comedy Channel. For those who don’t know, the Air Farce is a rather toothless CBC comedy which satirizes  current events. A faux newsreader reported that Prime Minister Stephen Harper had announced he was a big fan of High School Musical, having seen it more times than he could remember. The commentator concluded that Harper was the biggest fan of musicals in Canada who isn’t in favour of gay marriage.

Let’s leave aside the mildly homophobic thrust of the joke, and think about that for a moment. Just what it is about homosexuality and gay marriage that provokes such a strong response?

Last year the Halton-Peel Separate School Board banned the Gay-Straight Alliance from its schools. When the board chair was challenged about this matter, he defended himself with references to Nazism and Sodom and Gomorrah. On Tuesday, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty suggested that  publicly funded schools should toe the line when it comes to equality issues, even though he stopped short of condemning the Catholic board’s policies.

But what was fairly low-key in  its Canadian incarnation is sinister elsewhere. Last year a Ugandan newspaper called Rolling Stone  (no connection to the US music magazine) published names of gays in its paper warning they were “recruiting your children” and headlining “Hang Them”. When a leading gay activist in Uganda was found beaten to death, the editors of the paper (and the American evangelists who visited Uganda with anti-gay messages) shrugged their shoulders and denied any responsibility, but it’s hard to belive they felt sorry.

I have to confess I don’t really understand the repugnance and violence that homosexuality is capable of inciting. I’ve been married for 15 years, and I suspect if I were to marry again, it would likely be to a woman. That said, why should I really care if two men want to be married? Or two women? (Although lesbianism has always been slightly more acceptable to society in general anyway)

Patriarchy makes a certain amount of sense. Well, nonsense really, but there is a certain material basis for it: Women as property and a need to control in Denise Mina’s memorable phrase women’s “big leaky bodies” has a logical (illogical?) consistency. Homophobia less so, especially given the prevalence and acceptance of it during earlier human societies.  

Given the virulent dislike by some, gay rights movements often gained a  leftist reputation which they did not entirely deserve. When the Gay Pride parades started in Toronto, a certain percentage of those who participated argued that homosexuality in its very nature was a revolutionary act because it threatened the dominance of heterosexual society.  Within a decade, pride organizers were forcing those leftists who showed up to sell papers out of the parade, arguing that this wasn’t about politics (yes, I had exactly that conversation). Nowadays, gay pride pumps millions of dollars into Toronto’s economy and politicians of all politics stripes vie for prominent positions at the parade.

It’s quite surprising how even that mild leftist character was recuperated.

But then, a  hole is a hole.

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Another Day Filled With Dread

March 23, 2011 at 10:59 pm (Uncategorized)

When I woke up this morning, it was snowing.

Now that wouldn’t normally be so bad, since I live in Canada, but just a few days back it was plus 12. What perhaps is the last blast of winter wasn’t too much of a surprise, but it sure was unwelcome. Especially since it snowed all day, making driving conditions absolutely appalling. The only consolation was that for once, people slowed down.

 But that wasn’t the worst news. The defeat of the federal Conservative Party’s budget yesterday means another election. So then, the  highlights along with a  lot of paper, ink and hot air:

A series of mean-spirited, dishonest and fairly insulting attack ads from the Conservatives.

A campaign by the Liberals about Stephen Harper’s hidden agenda, led by an increasing ineffectual Michael Ignatiev (surely his last term as leader)

A lot of claptrap from the miserable social democrats of the New Democratic Party  as the “moral conscience of parliament” until the point when they announce they can’t win and start angling to cut a deal.

Who knows what from the increasingly irrelevant Parti Quebecois, and finally more nonsense from the Greens about how they really are important.

In short, the circus has pulled into town.  Think I’ll pass.

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March 17, 2011 at 1:01 pm (Uncategorized)

Ain’t language a wonderful thing? OK, that sentence wasn’t quite Shakespeare, but the idea behind it is true. If our spoken language can be sloppy, then at least it has the virtues of immediate clarification and visual clues. Writing has neither of these. Which is why punctuation is so important in writing.  

My favourite illustration of the importance of punctuation used to be this one:

A woman without her man is nothing.

A simple sentence with one piece of punctuation, the period. However, with the addition of a colon and a comma, the meaning becomes rather different.

A woman: without her, man is nothing.

The first part is a definition, followed by a prepositional phrase and then the main clause.

A few days ago, I was thumbing through Lynne Truss’ 2003 bestseller Eats Shoots and Leaves (try doing that with Kindle), when I came across the following example of the importance of punctuation, equally as brilliant as the one above:

Dear Jack,

I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be happy forever – will you let me be yours?


And now the revised version.

Dear Jack,

I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men I yearn! For you  I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart  I can be happy forever. Will you let me be?



A classic.

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New York in the Spring.

March 15, 2011 at 8:24 pm (Uncategorized)

I think I’ve broken the curse of New York.

I usually end up in New York about once a year, but quite often the trips are accompanied by misfortune, albeit of a fairly mundane sort: Blackouts, cancelled flights, illness and injury (I fell while getting off a bus, and no, I hadn’t been drinking that much). This past weekend’s visit went swingingly though.

Of the three dates I spent in New York, Monday was the only day I got to go into Manhattan. I usually stay on Staten Island, so the trip begins with the ferry, which, if you’ve never been to New York is a great experience: A free twenty-minute trip between the Manhattan and Staten Island and a great view of the city.

Whenever I visit different cities, I like to walk. Walking just gives you a better feel for the city. and given that the temperature was a balmy 8 degrees, it was just perfect for shank’s pony.

When I got off the ferry, I walked up to Bowling Green and then up Broadway into Soho and beyond. My trip up Broadway concluded with a stop at the Strand Bookstore which I always find just too large to navigate.

The only thing I was instructed to do on the trip was to go to the American Girl store at 5th Avenue and 49th Street. For whose of you who have the good fortune not to know what American Girl is, it’s a high-end doll, which my daughter persuaded us to buy for her or Christmas. I broke my rule about walking and took a cab for the almost forty blocks from the Strand to the American Girl outlet. I won’t reveal how much I spent, but my daughter should be pleased on her birthday later this month.

One day, I’m planning to go to India. My wife, who was born in India, doesn’t really want to go with me, as she suspects, perhaps rightly, that the assault on the sense that is India might be too much for my delicate self.  I once thought that visiting New York might be a gentle intro, but it isn’t.

New York has a reputation for being dangerous. It’s undeserved. It’s one of the safest cities around. It also has a reputation for rudeness. That too is apparently undeserved as during the numerous pedestrian collisions I witnessed yesterday, no one was unaccompanied by an apology. My cab driver was crazy though.  

What New York does do  is to remind me how small Toronto is. Whenever I come back home, I’m struck by how quiet it is, and how, well, ordered things are. I suppose people coming to Toronto from smaller cities in Canada have that same feeling. It is a great city. And I won’t resort to the cliché on the t-shirt, but it’s true.

Same time next year then?

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Saturday in Toronto

March 11, 2011 at 12:20 am (Uncategorized)

Man oh man, I complain enough about how not much happens here, but this Saturday it’s all go.

OK, the International Women’s Day event is sometimes fun, but if you head down to TIFF Bell Lightbox,  you can catch the Canadian premiere of Oil City confidential; Julian Temple’s movie about one of the great unsung rock n roll bands Dr. Feelgood. Then, if that’s not enough, in the evening Steve Ignorant of Crass is playing the Opera House on Queen East.

Me? I’m in New York this weekend and will miss it all. Oh well, I suppose there might be something to do in New York 🙂

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March 10, 2011 at 4:17 am (Uncategorized)

With all the developments in North Africa over the past months, it’s been easy to forget the events in Wisconsin. Certainly capital would prefer us to believe that the North African uprisings are heroic struggles for (capitalist) democracy, while the events in Wisconsin are simply greedy workers who don’t understand the new reality.

David Letterman recently quipped that U.S. Officials were worried that if Wisconsin governor Scott Walker (thankfully not the singer) were defeated the vacuum might be filled by the Muslim Brotherhood. That’s the way, it’s presented isn’t it? (Iran had its own version, when it’s leaders applauded the events in Egypt than swiftly cracked down on those who sought to emulate events there)

 For so long we have been on the receiving end of savage attacks that when the working class stands up, we can only applaud. There’s an interesting report (and discussion on this on the Lib Com site based around a piece by Will Barnes. (My other source of news is the Trotskyist World Socialist Web Site, and while I disagree with their Leninist conclusions, they do provide a useful antidote to the bourgeois media) 

The problem I find in a lot of the commentaries, and especially in the leftist press is that it’s pitched as evil Republicans, dithering Democrats and heroic unions fighting the good fight.  But when you listen to the comments by many of the union leaders and their Democratic Party allies, you find the unions agree “we will have to make sacrifices. ” and when they saw “we,” it’s their members.

Scott Walker and the unions have pretty much already agreed that the issue is collective bargaining, not jobs or wages. Is it so radical a suggestion that the solution to this problem is not  negotiations of jobs given away, but wildcat strikes at the point of production?

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