Music Notes May 2011

May 31, 2011 at 12:13 am (Uncategorized)

What I’ve been listening to this month.

1. Stornoway – 4AD Sessions (Tour EP edition)

Oh sure, the songs are available elsewhere, but there’s a lovely handmade sleeve to go with these lovely songs. Sure to be going for $500 on E-bay anyway now. Pick it up if you see them on tour.  

2. EWA – Past Life Martyred Saints

A sort of grungy, grimy spoken word electronica that’s quietly compelling. How can you resist a record that contains the line, “fuck California, you made me boring.” Playing the Garrison in Toronto in June.  

3. Beasts of Burdon – The Axeman’s Jazz

Australian cow-punks, heavy on the irony, perfect listening after you re-watched the Proposition. Best track: The Day Marty Robbins Died.

4 Television – Adventure

I’ve never really understood why Television aren’t played to death on classic rock radio – these are classic rock songs (OK, I do understand). Not quite as perfect as Marque Moon, but pretty close. This re-issued re-masted version contains a few alternative versions, but that doesn’t really matter. Tom Verlaine’s muscular guitar and whiney vocals are good enough for me.

5. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes

Er, OK, I admit it, I love this record. From neo-Phil spectorisms to the tribal sound of Get Some, everything about this record works. A perfect pop release. Damn those Swedes are good.  

6. Cornershop – Cornershop and the Double O Groove of

In which Cornershop disappear behind the lovely vocals of Bubbley Kaur to create a more traditional Indian sound. Punjabi hip hop folk music or something like that. Oh, just get it, you’ll love it.

7. Anna Calavi – Anna Calvi

My thoughts about Anna Calvi are best summed up in the review of her show I wrote yesterday, so I won’t go on here too much. needless to say, this is an amazing record by an astonishing new talent. Quiet when it needs to be; ferocious when it can be.  

8. Captain Beefheart – The MirrorMan Sessions

Erm, the follow-up to Safe as Milk, sort of. Deeply weird blues, and essential listening all the same. Beefheart jams out with songs lasting as long as 18 minutes. Like it or not, you have to admit the man was some sort of genius.

9. The Ravonettes – Raven in the Grave

Leaving aside the dreadful pun, the new Raveonettes album sounds…er…exactly like all the other Raveonettes records, which si never a bad things. For fans of the Everly Brothers and the Jesus and Mary Chain.

10. Dexy’s Mdnight Runners – Searching for the Young Soul Rebels (Deluxe Edition)

If you think Come On Eileen when someone mentions Dexy’s, you might be forgiven, but you really owe it to yourself to check out their first record. Before the urban folk sound, Dexy;s were all about Geno Washington and the new soul. The deluxe format has a whole record of outtakes, BBC sessions, B-sides and more.

And lastly, let’s give a moment’s silence for Gil Scott-Heron who passed away at 62 a few days back. Leaving us much too soon, the man gave us tracks that will never be forgotten.

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Anna Calvi in Toronto – A Review

May 29, 2011 at 9:31 pm (Uncategorized)

And for the second time in a week I headed down to the neon palms of the El Mocambo for a Collective Concerts show. Earlier in the week, it was for Stornoway and Sea of Bees, but this time it was for Anna Calvi, whose Canadian debut had been rescheduled due to a hand injury.

Calvi has received a lot of buzz about her work. Names like Patti Smith, Polly Harvey and Nick Cave are often bandied around in connection with her debut album. In truth, she doesn’t sound like any of them, but what you do have is an extraordinarily powerful record.

I didn’t catch the name of the opening band, and while they seemed like nice fellows who played a Talking Headish funk, they didn’t really move me. Other audience members disagreed and they received a positive reaction from the crowd.

But it was the main item, we were really waiting for.

Calvi took to the stage shortly before midnight, with the two members of her band multi-instrumentalist Mally Harpez and drummer Daniel Maiden-Wood. They show began with the instrumental opener from the album  and very quickly it became clear just how much of a talent Calvi is. Leaving aside the guitar and voice, the songs are remarkably seductive, pulling in the audience.  

jumped from one instrument to another, and Maiden-Wood created a fiercely intense backing for Calvi’s guitar. And despite her recent hand injury Calvi played most of  her album as well as a cover of Elvis’ Surrender and the Edith Piaf song Jezebel.

And once again I’d have to say that my only complaint was the shortness of the show. Around fifty minutes including the one song encore. A few more songs to take us over the one hour mark would have been nice, but in all fairness, the show was so good, that I was just happy to be there.

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Stornoway and Sea of Bees in Toronto – A Review

May 28, 2011 at 5:13 pm (Uncategorized)

Snap decisions can sometimes go disastrously wrong. But not always.

I’ve been a fan of Sea of Bees since I heard their cover of “Feliz Navidad” on Mojo’s Christmas compilation, so when I heard a rumour they were playing  Toronto supporting Stornoway, I though I’d get a ticket. trouble was I wasn’t absolutely sure they were opening, and I was only vaguely aware of Stornoway. The guy at Soundscapes convinced me.

Before the show I contacted Sea of Bee’s manager and asked about the possibility of an interview. The details in place, I headed down early to the El Mocambo.

I don’t think I’ve been to the Elmo in about 15 years. The last time was to see Wreckless Eric, and the stage was on the other side.  Unfortunately too, the interview wasn’t possible before the show, but I did get to watch Stornoway’s soundcheck, which was lovely.

Sea of Bees began their set at about 9:15. Sea of Bees is Julie “Jules” Baenziger’s  project, but recently she has been joined by additional guitarist Amber Padgett. And that was the band. Just Jules and Amber on stage in front of some rather lovely red drapes, but within seconds they created an intimate atmosphere which drew in an appreciative audience.

If you pick up the full-length Sea of Bees album Songs for the Ravens, the material has a richer feel, but the stripped-down approach  worked beautifully for the confined quarters of the Elmo.  The band played what seemed like a too-brief a seven song set, Skinnybone, Gnomes, Wizbot, Strikefoot, Marmalade, Sidepain and the Woods, but perhaps they’ll be back to see us soon. 

After the show, I did an interview with Jules and Amber which will appear in this space as soon as I transcribe the tape.

As we were finishing the interview, Stornoway came on stage. After the soundcheck, I’d chatted with a couple of the members of the band. The band is from Cowley, which is just outside Oxford. I lived in a town called Wantage when I was a kid (after 30 minutes from Oxford) and my dad worked in Cowley. Small world. On the strength of the soundcheck, I’d bought their tour EP (it sounded lovely in the car on the way home), so I was very excited about their set.

Like Sea of Bees, Stornoway created an instant rapport with the audience with their mixture of kinetic folk and catchy ballads. Singer Brian Briggs told the crowd that their Toronto show from last year was their favourite gig of the tour, and you might almost believe that wasn’t just flattery. The crowd seemed to soak up every little aspect of the show from the faster singalongs to the quiet intimate moments. It’s something of a tell, that when Briggs asked the audience for quiet during a number, the audience shut up.

The time seemed to fly by. Within what seems liked moments the band were announcing their final number, then a quick two-song encore and it was over.  

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The 12th Annual Montreal Anarchist bookfair

May 24, 2011 at 1:13 am (Uncategorized)

So, here’s my brief report on the Montreal Anarchist bookfair which took place this weekend.

 The bookfair started in 2000 and is the largest radical left/anarchist bookfair in Canada, and one of the largest in North America. It was originally a one-ay affair in a small community centre, it has not expanded into a month of activates with a two-day fair in a much larger venue, which seems smaller every year (Big thank you to Sara who got me a better table!)

 I have tabled every year, first as Red & Black Notes and now as Notes from Underground (but of course, Internationalist Perspective occupies a place of prominence on my table).

NFU/IP is one of three Marxist groups at the fair. The others being the Internationalist Communist Tendency (formerly the IBRP) and a split from it, the Internationalist Communists of Montreal. Others at the fair include the IWW, Common Cause, the Libertarian Communist Organization (both ex-NEFAC, anarcho communists), La Sociale, AK Press, PM Press, 5th Estate, Autonomedia, South End and a whole host of smaller publishers and distributors. I also got to see a few old friends from years gone by and to reintroduce myself to Penelope Rosemont.

 All in all a good cross-section.

The bookfair is an interesting mixture of ideas. While the focus is anarchist, there is room for others;  It’s not uncommon to see Che t-shirts. I mentioned above some Marxists are allowed space, but for a variety of reasons (more historical and local). Anarchists are hostile to Leninists, Trots and party builders in general. (for that matter, so am I) But not necessarily to Marxism. Indeed, what they see as anti-state communism are usually welcome. (so Dauve, Aufheben and others are usually big sellers on my table) IP too, though curiously I sell more English than French copies.  

I had a number of interesting conversations about value theory and also the role of activism.  Maybe next year, I’ll stay for both days. For now, it’s next stop Hamilton in June.

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Apocalypse Pretty Soon

May 17, 2011 at 2:29 am (Uncategorized)

If you’ve got stuff to do, you better do it soon because the end of the world is coming.

I know some people were comforted by the Mayan Apocalypse which is coming next year, because that meant hey, you’ve still got plenty of time to get your shit together. But no, good people, according to some, the end of the world is Friday. Which really sucks because it’s the beginning of the Victoria Day long weekend, and I was planning to go to Montreal for the anarchist bookfair.

If it had been a Monday (or in the case of next week,  a Tuesday), I don’t think too many people would have minded.

But before you get out your Visa cards to spend , spend , spend (or alternatively pop down the mall for some last minute looting), it should be noted that not everyone agrees this is the date. According to one prophet of the end of days, the apocalypse will begin on Friday with the Christian rapture and end on October 21 (a few days before my son’s birthday and Halloween, so double sucks there) with the end of the world.  I’m not really putting any stock in this, but I may be slightly unnerved if I see any of my Christian neighbours floating into the air on Friday. 

But seriously, end of the world and Milleniumist predictions are hardly new. They date back thousands of years. Here’s how at least one group calculated the new one (courtesy of Wikipedia)

  1. According to [Harold] Camping, the number five equals “atonement”, the number ten equals “completeness”, and the number seventeen equals “heaven”.
  2. Christ is said to have hung on the cross on April 1, 33 AD. The time between April 1, 33 AD and April 1, 2011 is 1,978 years.
  3. If 1,978 is multiplied by 365.2422 days (the number of days in a solar year, not to be confused with the lunar year), the result is 722,449.
  4. The time between April 1 and May 21 is 51 days.
  5. 51 added to 722,449 is 722,500.
  6. (5 x 10 x 17)2 or (atonement x completeness x heaven)2 also equals 722,500.

Thus, Camping concludes that 5 × 10 × 17 is telling us a “story from the time Christ made payment for our sins until we’re completely saved

The problem of course being that numbers can do just about anything you want them do. So, for example, today is monday which is the 1st day of the week, and I have $18. 68 in change in my pocket, so multiply 1,868 X 1  X the number of books in the old testament divided by… I’m sure I could figure something out given enough time.

Oh and by the way, in case you’re mildly concerned you might not be Christian enough to survive and that fiery lake doesn’t sound too appealing, Harold Camping believes in what’s called annihilationism. Souls who are not saved will not spend an eternity in hellfire and damnation (that’s a comfort), but will simply cease to exist (in other words they die – pretty much what I was expecting at the end of life anyway).

Pause for breath.

I’ve spent a good part of my life as an advocate of a cause that many would see as fairly unrealistic (except for that glorious moment when it isn’t), but I have to say this kind of thing still leaves me mystified. When Marx talked about religion being the opium of the people, he went on to note it was the sign of the oppressed creature. In other words, the existence of religion was a sign of a deep problem in society. Religion was a relection of a deep social disorder. Unfortunately, religion has become a shield which instead of viewing those social problems as the cause of religion, it views the lack of religion as the cause of the problems.

I leave the last words on this mess to the world’s most famous atheist Richard Dawkins:

 “he will inevitably explain, on May 22nd, that there must have been some error in the calculation, the rapture is postponed to . . . and please send more money to pay for updated billboards.”

(Read Dawkins full article here)

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Dylan’s China Gig Set List (Up-date)

May 15, 2011 at 12:31 pm (Uncategorized)

Dylan release this statement on Friday about the China’s  shows.


To my fans and followers

Allow me to clarify a couple of things about this so-called China controversy which has been going on for over a year. First of all, we were never denied permission to play in China. This was all drummed up by a Chinese promoter who was trying to get me to come there after playing Japan and Korea. My guess is that the guy printed up tickets and made promises to certain groups without any agreements being made. We had no intention of playing China at that time, and when it didn’t happen most likely the promoter had to save face by issuing statements that the Chinese Ministry had refused permission for me to play there to get himself off the hook. If anybody had bothered to check with the Chinese authorities, it would have been clear that the Chinese authorities were unaware of the whole thing.

We did go there this year under a different promoter. According to Mojo magazine the concerts were attended mostly by ex-pats and there were a lot of empty seats. Not true. If anybody wants to check with any of the concert-goers they will see that it was mostly Chinese young people that came. Very few ex-pats if any. The ex-pats were mostly in Hong Kong not Beijing. Out of 13,000 seats we sold about 12,000 of them, and the rest of the tickets were given away to orphanages. The Chinese press did tout me as a sixties icon, however, and posted my picture all over the place with Joan Baez, Che Guevara, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. The concert attendees probably wouldn’t have known about any of those people. Regardless, they responded enthusiastically to the songs on my last 4 or 5 records. Ask anyone who was there. They were young and my feeling was that they wouldn’t have known my early songs anyway.

As far as censorship goes, the Chinese government had asked for the names of the songs that I would be playing. There’s no logical answer to that, so we sent them the set lists from the previous 3 months. If there were any songs, verses or lines censored, nobody ever told me about it and we played all the songs that we intended to play.

Everybody knows by now that there’s a gazillion books on me either out or coming out in the near future. So I’m encouraging anybody who’s ever met me, heard me or even seen me, to get in on the action and scribble their own book. You never know, somebody might have a great book in them.


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Montreal Anarchist Bookfair 2011

May 11, 2011 at 1:00 am (Uncategorized)

Less than two weeks now to the Montreal anarchist bookfair, now in its 12th year. I’ve tabled at every one and I’m happy to say I will be back this year.

The bookfair takes place on May 21 and 22 at CEDA, 2515 rue Delisle
(a short walk from Lionel-Groulx metro) from 10 – 6. Free!

As usual I’ve got new issues of Aufheben, Internationalist Perspective  and Radical Anthropology, as well as pamphlets, Lots of good stuff from PM and AK Press and a selection of other new and used titles. Come and say hello at the Notes from Underground table. .


And go to the bookfair site for all the details

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On Fire

May 8, 2011 at 10:10 pm (Uncategorized)

Then there was the Great Chicago Fire. I was there. The stories of how the fire began were wildly contradictory, but I was there. Some people say the fire was started by a stampede of cows. Some say it was just one cow. Some tried to blame it all on someone they didn’t like. One fella tried to blame it on his own brother,  just because his brother had stolen away his girlfriend and married her. The wedding took place in Las Vegas. It was a modest affair of about 150 guests, non-denominational (which really pissed off the parents of the bride, but hell you can’t please everybody). During the ceremony, some rotten little punks yelled “Fire! Fire!” and the whole place cleared out in no time. The maid of honor even broke her ankle in two places after being shoved down the altar by the always overly zealous justice of the peace. Well, the ankle was pretty bad and the maid of honor had to be shot, and exactly one week later the entire block burned to the ground. Even the bricks burned. But at least nobody tried to blame it on a cow. And the wedding went ahead as planned. And some people actually believe that Nero fiddled as Rome burned, and that he really did look like a badly aging Peter Lorre. On Sunday nights we’d all gather ’round the television set to watch the Disney show, and I would always fall asleep from boredom. But I had a big ol’ Siamese cat named Butch who’d always loved to play with my face within moments after my head hit the pillow. So I’d awake startled, sometimes crying, sometimes covered with blood and crying, staring into the idiot box. sometimes I’d see Walt himself, sometimes Mickey or Goofy. But sometimes I’d see a thousand bright blue caribou racing a dust storm to the finish line, neck and neck all the way, like nature’s own Indy 500! Flesh and blood racing against the elements! And I remember wondering to myself…”Why are they racing?” Then one fine day I understood why the race took place. It was because the hairs on those caribou necks were being tickled by the instinctual knowledge of a fire raging not too far away, and most certainly headed this way. Humans often get the same feeling…like an oddly warm breeze, malevolently  fueled by the maddening flames behind it. Come ride the fiery breeze of Galaxie 500!

Kramer, notes for Galaxie 500’s second album On Fire.   
New York City, 1989.

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The Good Ole El Mocambo

May 5, 2011 at 2:28 am (Uncategorized)

Yes, yes, I know. It doesn’t make any sense to say the El Mocambo when el means the as well. Such is life.

I’ve seen some great shows there over the years  Alex Chilton probably being my favourite. Although the Steve Wynn/Exene Cervenka show and Wreckless Eric were pretty good too.

The El Mo’s star doesn’t burn quite as brightly these days, but this month are two shows not to be missed: 

Stornoway  plays May 24. English indie folk band, but the real treat is the absolutely wonderful Sea of Bees is opening the show (at 9:15). Get there early.

Three days later it’s Anna Calvi. Which also promises to be a great show.

There’s still life in the beast yet.

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The Kills in Toronto 2011 – A Review

May 2, 2011 at 11:27 pm (Uncategorized)

It always seems to be raining whenever I go to the Sound Academy.  Not a big deal except that it makes traversing the parking lot a bit tricky as the place fills up like the Thousand Islands – my shoes are always soaked. And when you’re charging an exorbitant $20 for parking, you might at least have it properly paved.

But I digress. I was at the Sound Academy to see the Kills, one of my favourite bands, play stuff from their new album Blood Pressures. The Kills were in Toronto two years ago at the smaller Phoenix. Since then the band has been overshadowed by Allison Mossart and Jamie Hince’s solo projects – The Dead Weather in the case of Mosshart and Kate Moss in the case of Hince.  Which is a shame, since the Kills are a truly great band.

I got the show about 7:50, just in time to join the line for the merch counter (?)  I don’t think I’ve ever had to stand in line at a show to buy a t-shirt before. It all seemed to work well though, and from the band’s point of view it’s smart: much less hubbub (so less chance of things being stolen), and audience members are more likely to buy something if they’ve waited twenty minutes to get to the front of the line. I was tempted to buy a tour poster, but it was little rich for my blood, and I walked away with a few badges.

It’s hard to be an opening band. Your job is to warm up the crowd, who for the most part, are not there to see you. But should you be too good, you’re likely to get encounter the hostility of the headliners or at worse get kicked off the tour. It’s not a enviable position to be in.

The Entrance Band (hardly an inspiring name to be sure) took the stage about 8:15. The band is from Baltimore and played a kind of laid-back heavy rock. lots of guitar and extended jams.  They received polite applause from the audience who had gathered early, but it always seems to me that there’s something wrong when the band is having more fun than the audience. The Entrance Band played a thirty minute set in which they spoke to the audience exactly twice. Both times to say, “We’re the Entrance band.”

9:15 and Cold Cave came on. I know it’s lazy writing to say this band sounds like that band, but to my ears  they sounded an awful lot like Depeche Mode. As poppy as the Entrance Band were rockist,  they bopped around for about forty minutes in a haze of blue smoke receiving quite a bit more applause than the openers.  

The Kills hit the stage around 10:10 starting their set with the title track of 2005’s No Wow.  As befitting their sound the Kills stage was sparsely decorated. A simple leopard print backdrop with scattered sparkles was the only prop, and for fifty minutes they played a bluesy-punk set that had the audience singing along, enjoying every moment.  

The band drew from all four of their albums, although No Wow was the only song from their second album. They played eight of the eleven songs from their new album, and if they songs took a while to grow on disc, there was no problem live. The effect was immediate.  

My only complaint, and this is a complaint that says you did a good job, was it was too short. The regular set was a little shy of an hour, and although it was a three song encore, it felt short. (also, why no “Pale Blue Eyes” ? The version they recorded for Levis Sessions is superlative). But hey, nothing’s perfect. A great Sunday night

Set list

No Wow
Future Starts Slow
Heart is a Beating Drum
Kissy Kissy
U.R.A. Fever
Tape Song
Baby Says
You Don’t Own the Road
Sour Cherry


The Last Goodbye
Pots and Pans
Fried My Little Brains

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