Music Notes July 2011

July 31, 2011 at 2:43 pm (Uncategorized)

If it’s the last day of the month, it must be time for…

1. Urge Overkill – Rock n Roll Submarine

Man, has it been 16 years since Exit the Dragon?  The best thing a fan can usually hope for when a band reforms is that they don’t suck, but UO have actually produced a pretty good record which fits nicely into the earlier Urge canon of catchy tunes and gritty riffs. Long live arena punk!

2. Wire – Read and Burn (EPs)

The thinking man’s punk band? My favourite description of Wire was if the Ramones had read Cahiers du Cinema instead of Mad and listened to Brian Eno instead of the Ronettes.  And while Wire were part of that first wave of punk, they never stopped moving. The Read and Burn EPs were released in 2002 and 2009 (the first two in 2002), were a return to the manic energy of punk’s early rush, and with an energy that blows away many latter-day “punk” bands. Listen to them at Wire’s site where you can download lots of free stuff.

3. The La’s – BBC In Session

Hard to know if Lee Mavers ever found the sound he wanted for the La’s. After the release of their debut album, Mavers and the rest of the band immediately disavowed the record. The rest of the world however fell in love with it.  The BBC In Session  released in 2006 consists of 4 sessions the band did for the BBC between 1997 and 1990. I’m not sure how Mavers felt about the sound on these recordings, but there’s a certain freshness, a crispness on this one which makes it different from the album. (I actually prefer this version of “There She Goes.”) It’s a real treat and perfect for just about every situation where you want to listen to music.  

4. The Mo-Dettes – The Story So Far

Another post-punk band that sadly disappeared without leaving much of an impact. A couple of singles, a Peel session and this album and they were gone. Perhaps best known for the White Mice single, the Mo-Dettes had punk credibility: Guitarist Kate Corris nee Chaos was an original member of the Slits nad “Mad” Jane Corckford was the woman who bit future Pogue Shane MacGowan’s ear at a Pistols show.  Add to it Ramona Carlier from Switzerland and you had something that sounded rather different. Worth a listen. When was the last you owned a record with covers of the Rolling Stones and Edith Piaf?   

5. The Flamin Groovies – Slow Death

Brought to you by the good people at Norton, the Flamin Groovies unofficial releases are many and varied. This one however was OKed by the band. The first six cuts are demos from around the Shake Some Action period and the remaining four cuts are live odds and sods.  Demos are often just for fans, but this album is good enough to own on its own account. The version of Shake Some Action here is apparently Cyril Jordan’s favourite. (Slow Death is pretty amazing too). Only complaint – too short!

6. Devo – Something for Everyone

Half way through Devo’s set at the NXNE festival this year, I thought, hmm, these guys are pretty good. The electronica section of the show was catchy and the rock section pretty punk. So, I held out for a while, then got the new record. And it’s pretty good too, though more on the electronica side. Catchy, nutty.  I’m not a Devo fan of old (only bought the frist record), but I’m tempted to seek out some of those Devo bootlegs lying around the world.

7. Cat’s Eyes – Cat’s Eyes

I’ve mentioned Cat’s Eyes before, but this is their full length debut. The band consists of soprano Rachel Zeffira and Horrors singer Ferris Badwan, but the result is not what you’d expect from either.  Rather than a psyche-opera you get a sixties style pop. Like the earlier EP, the album has a lush dreamy feel, and is not recommended if you’re to be operating heavy equipment.

8. Junior Kimbough – You Better Run:  The Essential Junior Kimbrough

Swampy grumpy blues. Just listen to it, OK?

9. England’s Glory – Legendary Lost Album

Led by future Only One Peter Perrett, England’s Glory sank without a trace in pre-punk England. Perrett was a great songwriter (several songs here turn up as Only Ones’ songs), but the music lacks the urgency punk introduced into music. A curiosity more than an essential; still, a curiosity that will interest.

10.  Sloan – Peppermint EP

Not a big write-up. Last month, I mentioned Sloan’s debut album, Smeared. this month, I want to point people to their first EP Peppermint, which contains a better, to my ears, version of Underwhelmed.

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July 29, 2011 at 7:40 pm (Uncategorized)

What is a protest song and why are they so hard to get right? 

The real difficulty with the protest song is that if you sit and say, “Hmm, I think I’ll write a political song” the end result is usually that either the art or the message suffers. Writing a song that addresses the issue, and is at the same time, a song is nor small feat.

Shipbuilding was written in 1982 by Clive Langer and Elvis Costello. According to Langer he had written the song for Robert Wyatt, but was unhappy with the lyrics. Langer ran into Costello at a party and within a few days, Costello had written this classic.

Costello recorded the song in 1983, but for many people, myself included, the definitive version is Wyatt’s which appears on his Nothing Can Stop Us album . (Steve Nieve of the Attractions plays piano and Elvis sings backup) There’s just something about Wyatt’s delivery which captures the tragic nature of the song.

The shipbuilding industry in the north of England had declined dramatically resulting in wide-spread unemployment. The Falklands War meant a return to relative prosperity for the working class; however, the war meant that the soldiers through an economic draft would also be drawn from the working class of those regions: young men sent to die on the ships their fathers had built. 

“It’s all we’re skilled in.”

Is it worth it?
A new winter coat and shoes for the wife
And a bicycle on the boy’s birthday
It’s just a rumour that was spread around town
By the women and children
Soon we’ll be shipbuilding

Well I ask you
The boy said, “Dad they’re going to take me to task
But I’ll be back by Christmas”
It’s just a rumour that was spread around town
Somebody said that someone got filled in
For saying that people get killed in the result of this shipbuilding

With all the will in the world
Diving for dear life
When we could be diving for pearls

It’s just a rumour that was spread around town
A telegram or a picture-postcard
Within weeks they’ll be re-opening the shipyard
And notifying the next of kin – once again

It’s all we’re skilled in
We will be shipbuilding

With all the will in the world
Diving for dear life
When we could be diving for pearls

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Bob Miller

July 28, 2011 at 2:24 pm (Uncategorized)

I probably don’t visit the Libcom site as often as I should. If I had I would have learned of the passing of Anarchist Federation member Bob Miller sooner.

I never met Bob in person, but he was one of the first people I met in the ultra-left cyber-space community back in the mid-nineties. Bob was then a member of the group council communist group Subversion,  and as with many other obscure groups I learned of them through the late lamented Discussion Bulletin.

I wrote to Subversion and Bob was the person I most often dealt with. He provided a lot of useful background  for me as well as a good amount of Subversion material as well as one of the last copies of Class War on the Home Front (a prized possession)

We were supposed to get together at the 1998 Anarchist Bookfair in London, but somehow, I forget why, we never met. Subversion was in the process of breaking up and some of its members ended up in then Anarchist-Communist Federation. Bob maintained the Anarchist Federation North web site and made sure Subversion pamphlets were there (also good stuff by Solidarity and Wildcat)

Bob passed away June 17, 2011.

Follow this link for a moving tribute to Bob. 

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Ex-Lion Tamer

July 26, 2011 at 12:16 pm (Uncategorized)

Mmmm, from Wire’s first album Pink Flag. Henry Rollins (as Henrietta Collins and the Wife Beating Child Haters) covered this, and I think the Forgotten Rebels used to do this one as well. I just like that line about fish fingers all in a row.


Ex-Lion Tamer

There’s a great danger,
for the loneliest ranger of all,
no silver bullets,
Tonto’s split the scene.

Next week will solve your problems,
but now, fish fingers all in a line,
and all the milk bottles stand empty,
stay glued to your T.V. set.

There’s great danger,
at hand most caped crusader of all,
no cloak of justice,
Robin’s flown the nest.

Next week will solve your problems,
but now, fish fingers all in a line,
and all the milk bottles stand empty,
stay glued to your T.V. set.

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Internationalist Perspective Public Meeting in Seattle, August 11

July 24, 2011 at 5:33 pm (Uncategorized)


An ad-hoc group of pro-revolutionaries in Seattle present:

A presentation by Internationalist Perspective followed by an open discussion on the topic of:


Where: Room 115, Smith Hall, University of Washington, Seattle.

When: 6:00 p.m., Thursday, August 11.

Presentation abstract:

The “Arab Spring,” the occupation of the statehouse in Madison Wisconsin, the encampments in Spain, the occupation and violent struggle in Syntagma square in Athens, are all responses to the present crisis of capitalism, and the resultant assault on the living and working conditions of the “collective worker” in every corner of the globe.

The occupation of Tahrir square in Cairo and the toppling of the Mubarak regime cannot be understood outside of the fact that most Egyptians – indeed most Arabs – today are under thirty and youth unemployment is around 40%. The encampments in Spain cannot be dissociated from the fact that in that country youth unemployment is now 40%. The bloody struggles in Greece are directly linked to the draconian austerity that the “Socialist” government is now imposing as its response to an imminent default on the country’s huge public debt. And the tens of thousands who demonstrated for more than a week in Madison were responding to huge wage and pension cuts, and layoffs, for public sector workers.

Within these popular upheavals, and the above are only a few examples of what is a global phenomenon, there are really two battles. One is focused on demands for democratic rights, for “real Democracy,” for the right of unions to engage in collective bargaining for their members (In Wisconsin the unions had accepted the austerity measures called for by Gov. Scott Walker, only opposing the effort to strip them of their collective bargaining rights, the key to their own power within the capitalist system). That is a battle to reform the system; a battle within the iron framework of the capitalist system. It is a battle that cannot be won. The second battle is the battle to abolish the dictatorship of the economy, as a leaflet distributed in Madrid put it, a battle to abolish capitalism, the system of wage labor that is its veritable basis, and to put an end to the subjection or subsumption of the collective worker to the value-form. That second battle is only beginning, but its presence in all the popular upheavals through the intervention of pro-revolutionaries, points the way to confrontations that constitute the only realistic perspective for a struggle against the looming austerity, and an existence in a planet of slums, which is the only future that capitalism can realistically promise.

It is here that a Marxist analysis of the trajectory of capitalism, of the necessity for capitalism to impose draconian austerity in response to its present crisis, can provide a theoretical framework to understand why the survival of capitalism demands massive austerity, dramatic cuts in the standard of living of the working class, and the creation of the planet of slums that Mike Davis has so accurately described. Traditional or “orthodox” Marxism has based itself on a vision of a world in which the productive forces can no longer grow within the framework of capitalism, leading to an inevitable revolution. Yet over the past century the material productive forces, the gigantism of technology, have massively increased, even as the condition of the collective worker has stagnated or worsened over the past thirty years. Indeed, capitalism’s very survival requires the development of the productive forces, ever-new technologies, and as a concomitant of that very development the massive expulsion of living labor, of workers, from the production process. The effect of that process is the creation of a vast population whose labor power, is no longer of any use to capital – an exponentially growing mass, whether educated or illiterate, who face an existence of permanent unemployment. That is the underlying source of the present popular upheavals, and that is why unless the value-form is abolished Davis’ planet of slums will continue to grow.

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Amy Winehouse

July 24, 2011 at 5:27 pm (Uncategorized)

What to say about Amy Winehouse that others haven’t already said more eloquently?

Perhaps, the late Ian Dury might have put it best: What a Waste.

It doesn’t really come as a surprise that Winehouse was found dead at her home of as yet unannounced causes; surely she figured prominently on many people’s dead pools, but I’m left with sadness. .

I watched the 2010 movie Get Him to the Greek Last night. Featuring Russell Brand as dissolute rocker Aldous Snow, a talented performer whose excesses derailed his career and his life. At the end of the movie,  minder Aaron Green (Jonah Hill), watches Snow performing at the Greek theatre in Los Angeles, and realises that it’s performing that makes Snow happy. 

 But coming in the wake of her disastrous live show in Serbia last month, it was clear that Winehouse’s personal demons were overwhelming her formidable talent.

Go back and listen to Back to Black and especially the deluxe version with the bonus CD. She was tremendous. Listen to her version of the Specials “Poor Little Rich Girl.” While the original has Terry Hall almost gleeful at the heiress who ends up making porn movies, Winehouse’s version brings out sympathy from the listener.

It may be clichés to say it, but it’s no less a tragedy.

The entertainment industry unfortunately is full of cases such as Winehouse’s. Talented performers cast into a situation where money and drugs flow freely, and record labels see the performer only as a commodity, comfortable in the knowledge that should this package be used up, there are plenty more out there to replace them.

Unlike Get Him to the Greek, there’s no happy ending with this story.

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The Lost Sea of Bees Interview

July 23, 2011 at 12:54 pm (Uncategorized)

In May I went to see Sea of Bees who opened for Stornoway in Toronto.

After their set, I did a brief interview with Jules and Amber, and for the last month I’ve been half-heartedly searching for the tape. It’s here somewhere.

So, sorry Jules and Amber, the interview will appear very soon., but don’t worry the interview will appear this week (Found the tape)

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Video of a Failed Anti-Immigrant Raid in Madrid

July 22, 2011 at 9:08 pm (Uncategorized)

The video shows a failed anti-immigrant raid in Lavapies, an ethnically diverse neighbourhood in central Madrid, in which the police is forced to retreat. The main slogan shouted is ” Ningun ser humano es illegal”, no human being is illegal, and of course ‘fuera’ (get out). A moving illustration of the wind of change that’s blowing..




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Internationalist Perspective 55

July 17, 2011 at 11:16 pm (Uncategorized)

There’s a new issue of Internationalist Perspective  hot off the presses.

The table of contents is listed below, and while only the editorial is on-line right now the rest of the issue should follow soon.

Hard copies are $5 from

PO Box 47643
Don Mills, ON
M3C 3S7

Editorial: Upheavals in the Arab World and Draconian Austerity in the Metropoles
Leaflet from Madrid “Que se vayan todos”
North Africa, the Middle East, China… Which Movements for Which Perspective?
Will China Save Global Capitalism?
Counciliar Power
A Comment on WB’s Text…
Repression and Trial of South Korean Revolutionary Militants, 2008-2011
Democracy Hides the Dictatorship of Capital
Is the Working Class Liquidated? – A debate with Blaumachen
Two Battles in Athens
Which Marxism? – A Discussion with the Peruvian GEC

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The Other Kind of Crisis…Age

July 10, 2011 at 1:49 pm (Uncategorized)

A couple of months back, I had a mini mid-life crisis.

Yeah, it’s my birthday today, and I’m 47. I know men my age are supposed to start an affair with their much younger secretary (don’t have one; no time anyway) or buy a fancy car (can’t afford it, although we are getting a new car at some point in the foreseeable future to accommodate my daughter who refuses to stop growing), so what’s left?

Here’s how it happened. I’m walking back from the mall, and in my hands are two cups of overpriced coffee, and in my pocket is a certified cheque to pay for the dog we’re picking up the next day. And I thought, how did I get here?  (sorry for the Talking Heads lift, but it seemed to fit)

And then we got the dog.

Truth be told, it wasn’t that much of a crisis, but getting a dog seemed like a very respectable thing to do. My daughter had waged a four-year campaign for a dog, and eventually we gave in. I think the final straw was when we discovered I wasn’t allergic to a friend’s dog (thanks Julie!), and so the efforts redoubled.

Lester is a Bichon Frise. A hypoallergenic dog, And it only took him three days to steal my heart. A friend of mine rightly pointed out, it’s like having a toddler for ten years. And yes, there’ a lot of chewing, peeing and pooing, but it’s not without its benefits.

I understand the appeal of a pet. People will always let you down, but a dog’s love is unconditional. And there is something touching about a creature that’s always happy to see you.

While it might seem like an extra chore, there is a sort of zen-like state when you’re walking a dog early in the morning. It’s quiet; it’s peaceful. the only people out are other dog walkers. (At times, it feels as if you’ve joined a secret club where everyone is friendly)

I don’t know if a dog keeps you young or makes you old, but this morning’s birthday walk was a lot of fun.

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