Music Notes February 2012

February 29, 2012 at 2:27 am (Uncategorized)

Time to rinse out your ears.

1. Shonen Knife – Osaka Ramones

Usually when a band releases a covers record, it means it’s running out of ideas. So Shonen Knife’s decision to release CD of Ramones songs might cause fans to be concerned. No worries. Osaka Ramones is entirely unnecessary, but much appreciated. 13 serving of utterly delightful punk-pop.

2. Peaking Lights – 936

Trippy dance music from the US. I’m not entirely sure if I like this, but it bears repeated listening.

3. Heartless Bastards – Arrow

Yes, yes, I still have to write the review of last week’s show, but in the meantime, let me rave about the album. The record is filled with bluesy rockers, and memorable tunes. And even though I felt the slow songs broke up the momentum at the show, they work well here.  The Heartless Bastards are clearly at the top of their game

4. Hunter –Hands on Fire

Saw this band open for the Kills a few weeks back. Not entirely original punk, but well executed. Download the album at Bandcamp.

5. MIA – Bad Girls

Time was a new MIA release was cause for excitement, but I have to say “Bad Girls” doesn’t do it for me. It’s a shambling mess, and the video really seems like style over substance. Maybe it’ll grow on me, but so far it leaves me cold.

6. Brian Eno/David Byrne – My Life in the Bush of Ghosts

I hadn’t listened to this in ages, but on a whim, it ended up in the CD player. Man, I’d forgotten how good it is. Full of exotic samples and splices. Jezebel Spirit was the track which originally turned me onto this collaboration, but there’s so much more to it. Hard to say just how influential this was.

7. Donovan – Summer Day Reflection Songs

There’s a renewed interest in Donovan because of the use of his song “Season of the Witch” in the promo to Para Norman, but you should really seek out the earlier folky stuff.   Summer Day… is a 2-CD collection of his early Dylanesque material, including Catch the Wind and his marvellous version of Buffy St. Marie’s Universal Soldier.

8. The Jam – Extras

Ooh what a talented bastard Paul Weller was (is). Extras is a collection of Jam outtakes dating from 1979 until the end of the band’s existence. What you get is Beatles, Who and Small Faces covers along with a magnificent set of demos from Setting Sons. Probably just for the fans, but then you really should be one.

9.  (What’s so Funny bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.

A Brinsley Schwartz song written and sung by Nick Lowe. On the b-side to nick Lowe’s single “American Squirm” came a re-recorded version that sounded an awful lot like Elvis Costello but was credited to Nick Lowe and his Sound. When the US version of Costello’s album Armed Forces was released, Costello’s version was on it. Costello’s is the superlative version in my opinion, and the last notes of the guitar solo is my favourite part.  Apparently Curtis Stiger’s version of the Bodyguard soundtrack made Lowe independently wealthy. A great song. Listen again.

Hey, it’s the shortest month (even with the extra day), so only 9.

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Jason Pierce: New York Times Profile

February 26, 2012 at 3:02 pm (Uncategorized)

I got into Spacemen 3 / Spiritualized late. Still, better late than nver. This piece is from today’s paper. Spiritualized plays Toronto May 5th.

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Heroes From Detroit, Texas, the Library and the Pharmacy

By MELENA RYZIK

JASON PIERCE does not like working in the studio, and he’s not pussy-footed about it. “I have this love-hate relationship with making records,” he said. “Mostly hate.”

Here’s the love part: “I have to make records,” he said. “It allows me to do the thing I love most, which is tour. Touring is like being in a waterfall, it’s just rushing through you and you’re not trying to capture it.”

Mr. Pierce, a polymath British musician, is the force behind Spiritualized, the spacey rock group whose towering arrangements and wistful lyrics have been swallowing audiences for two decades, most notably with “Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space” (Dedicated) in 1997. His latest album, “Sweet Heart Sweet Light,” due from Fat Possum in April, tweaks that sound with more forward vocals and melodies, though Mr. Pierce, 46, was still working on it at the last minute; despite his in-studio ambivalence, he spent two years recording in Los Angeles, Reykjavik and Wales, and a year mixing in his home studio in London. “The possibilities really are endless, and I kind of get lost in that,” he said. As he was finishing the mix in London, he recently spoke with Melena Ryzik about some artists who have inspired him, becoming more classic-pop and his favorite music to trip to. Here are excerpts from the conversation.

Q. You had one book on your list, “Knockemstiff,” Donald Ray Pollock’s interconnected short stories. Did you read it while you were recording?

A. I become a kind of cultural hermit when I make a record, really. That was a book that was given to me recently that just got me reading again. It’s about Middle America and people who live in these small towns. It reminded me of Denis Johnson, of that kind of writing — that you can write about squalor and poverty and the language can still be great. The lines in it just knocked me dead, in their simplicity.

Q. Are you attracted to darker stories?

A. I guess. Rock ’n’ roll is always built on shaky ground, and this is what makes it: the very cornerstone of rock ’n’ roll is that Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil at the crossroads.

Q. Link Wray, the rockabilly pioneer, has something of that. His chunky guitar sound is still influential.

A. He’s amazing. There were three records that were made in the ’70s for Polydor, they were made in his little three-track studio. They feel like they were made with no expectations, they just had to make the record. Everybody’s looking back with rock ’n’ roll: “These were the classics, these were the great moments.” There were an awful lot of records that weren’t waving flags at you from the shelf, but I thought every time I played them, “What a beautiful record.” Those Link Wray records sound like that, I have probably played them every day for a year.

Q. What did you learn from listening to the Beach Boys’ “Smile Sessions”?

A. I just found myself listening endlessly to the outtakes. I’d heard the music before but not the conversation, the way people interact in the studio. It’s nice to be able to listen to somebody, eventually, failing to make a record. It’s nice to listen to something that didn’t get finished.

Q. You don’t listen to a lot of new music, do you? The only newer artist you listed is Panda Bear, from Animal Collective, and his solo album “Person Pitch.”

A. It’s a rare thing to be able to find something completely new that I want to play all the time. There’s this idea that you can’t create new music, it’s like creating a new animal, [but] that record is so authentic. I can play that record first thing in the morning and it just fills me with joy. I’ve never heard anybody deliver a whole album that way. I don’t know what he does, if he sits in the studio and ponders endlessly in tiny details. It doesn’t sound like that, it sounds like he’s got this joy and love of singing. It’s so enthusiastic. He sounds like he’s drunk a bottle of Jägermeister.

Q. You also chose Royal Trux’s album “Accelerator,” and it is a really forceful live band. Is that part of what you like about it

A. I think live music is just a totally different thing, but “Accelerator,” more than most records, translates that. And it sounds modern. It sounds like it’s properly digitized, and the silences are very silent, and the volume is squashed and lifted in a properly digital way, but it’s ferocious.

Q. What was the sound you were going for with your album?

A. I wanted it to be a pop record. I don’t mean pop like popular, just that you don’t have to prepare yourself for it, it makes sense at any time. You can play the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” and it just works for any time. I had this thing where I thought all rock ’n’ roll records are made by young people, graffiti on your walls, throwing stones on you. They’re full of the kind of the arrogance and simple-mindedness of youth. And then I listened to other records that had absorbed some wisdom, like Iggy Pop. I think rock ’n’ roll generally ages really badly, because people try to pretend they’re kids, and they try to relive their youth all the time. I don’t think Iggy does do that, I don’t think he’s going through the motions of being a 21-year-old when he performs now.

I bought [Iggy and the Stooges’] “Raw Power” when I was 14, that was the first record I bought. I didn’t know anything about it, I had no friends that were listening to it. They used to sell records in the chemists’, Boots chemists. I saw the sleeve to “Raw Power,” I saw the silver pants, and I went home holding that. If you’re going to start anywhere in music — I got lucky.

Q. A lot of your music is kind of trippy, was that your intention with “Sweet Heart”?

A. Not particularly on this record, I really wanted to be very direct on this record. It’s almost like the medium of pop, you can’t hide in the distortion or abstraction of it. Once music started to try to explore that inner-mind kind of feeling, then it lost its way. I think the best record for acid is “Slippin’ and Slidin’ ” by Buddy Holly, and I don’t think that was his intention. It just sounds amazing.

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New Links – February 2012

February 22, 2012 at 12:26 am (Uncategorized)

The fine people (OK, person) at Big Chief Tablets have closed down that blog, but phoenix-like from the ashes comes Mission   (Hey Stuart, let me know, I would have added the link sooner!)

Also another UK blog, Relative Autonomy – a media and politics blog.

Gentlemen, point your browsers. (Both have been added to my blogroll list)

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Communicating Vessels # 23

February 22, 2012 at 12:10 am (Uncategorized)

The new issue of Communicating Vessels appeared in the mailbox the other week. If you’ve never read this magazine, it’s well worth investigation.

For one thing each and every issue is beautifully produced. Lots of surrealist illustrations and graphics, poems and what appears to be a hand coloured cover all contribute to the feeling that this is a delightful reading experience (my copy included a Goya poster). The earlier issues of this magazine veered more to an ultra-left politic, but more recently, politics have taken a less overt form.

I was also saddened to learn of the death of Don LaCoss. Don was a surrealist whom I knew slightly. He sent me some material on Benjamin Peret when I was researching him, some of which appeared in Red & Black Notes.

For those looking to subscribe, CV has moved. Write to

PO Box 2048, Tucson, Arizona, 85702.

Subscriptions are free, but donations are nice.

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Spoiler Alert: Buffy the Pro-Choice Slayer

February 13, 2012 at 2:38 am (Uncategorized)

And sometimes you understand why people wear t-shirts that read “Joss Whedon is my master.” The most recent issue of  Dark Horse comics’ Buffy the Vampire Slayer ended with Buffy discovering she was pregnant. In the new issue, out on Wednesday, Buffy decides to have an abortion.

Not something you usually see in comics, but read the piece below from The Guardian and you’ll appreciate Whedon a little more. In a year when he has a major movie coming out (The Avengers) which could take him from his cult status to being a much bigger force, he’s taken on an issue that sends many running for cover. for example, the New York Times piece of Mitt Romney’s opportunistic shifting position on abortion.  (I won’t even get into the flap about controception in the U.S. this week – it’s too depressing)

One (nerd) criticism about the article. It suggests Spike could be the father. Unless things have changed, in the Buffyverse, vampires can’t have children.

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Voices arguing for a woman’s right to choose in America’s anguished debate over abortion have discovered an unexpected ally: Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The new issue of the Buffy comics, published on Thursday in the US, sees the Chosen One taking some time off from staking vampires through the heart to deal with what publisher Dark Horse called “a rather personal problem”. Season nine continues, after issue five’s cliffhanger revelation that the Slayer was pregnant, with Buffy deciding what to do about the unwanted pregnancy – the result of a drunken night at a party. Eventually she decides to have an abortion.

“I want to do something. And I think it’s going to be hard. So I was hoping you could help me,” Buffy tells the vampire Spike – a potential father of the baby (she isn’t sure what happened at the party). “I’m going to have an abortion,” she continues. “I’m barely able to hold onto a job. I live with roommates who are about to kick me out. And I can’t even hold my alcohol well enough to remember who got me pregnant. I can handle the Slayer stuff … But everything else I’m not ready. At least not now.”

The row over the breast cancer advocacy group  Susan G Komen for the Cure’s decision to cut funding to the woman’s health care organisation Planned Parenthood has made abortion a “hot button issue”, according to Joss Whedon, who created Buffy in 1992 and is now executive producer of the comic series.

“A woman’s right to choose is under attack as much as it’s ever been, and that’s a terrible and dangerous thing for this country. I don’t usually get soap box-y with this, but the thing about Buffy is all she’s going through is what women go through, and what nobody making a speech, holding up a placard, or making a movie is willing to say,” Whedon told Entertainment Weekly

The cult creator criticised the celebration in the media of teen pregnancy and “young people having babies when they are not emotionally, financially, or otherwise equipped to take care of them”, citing The Secret Life of an American Teenager television show, and the films Juno and Knocked Up.

“Even if they pretend to deal with abortion, the movies don’t even say the word ‘abortion’,” he said. “It’s something that over a third of American women are going to decide to have to do in their lives. But people are so terrified that no one will discuss the reality of it — not no one, but very few popular entertainments, even when they say they’re dealing with this issue, they don’t, and won’t. It’s frustrating to me. I don’t think Buffy should have a baby. I don’t think Buffy can take care of a baby. I agree with Buffy.”

Early feedback has been mixed, with many comics fans welcoming the development. Comic Book Resources’ Kelly Thompson said that its authors “deserve huge credit for tackling the sensitive and controversial subject of abortion with unflinching honesty and realism” in her review, adding that Buffy’s decision “is handled smartly and respectfully and with exactly the right tone”. “As a result, this is a comic that makes me proud to be a fan of the character and the Buffyverse at large,” she said.

Others were less impressed. “Whedon’s talk of abortion being a ‘painful’ decision for young women may be true as far as it goes, but such rhetoric is often code for pro-choicers who really mean it’s too painful a decision for any of us judgmental anti-choice yahoos to intrude on,” wrote Calvin Freiburger in a post entitled “Buffy the Unborn Slayer” on Live Action, which describes itself as” a youth led movement dedicated to building a culture of life and ending abortion, the greatest human rights injustice of our time”. Expressing the hope that Buffy won’t actually go through with the abortion, Freiburger added: “While I never watched Buffy myself, I did watch Whedon’s short-lived sci-fi series Firefly, a couple episodes of which indicate Whedon has a rather lax view of sexual mores.”

Whedon insisted that the storyline was not a “sensationalist” move. “I did it as what seemed like a natural part of Buffy’s life,” he said. “And obviously there will be complications to the whole storyline that could only happen in the Buffyverse. But it’s not about what happens, it’s about that moment of decision, and just articulating what so many people are not saying, but so many are thinking.”

 

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The Kills in Toronto 2012: A Review

February 9, 2012 at 3:45 am (Uncategorized)

Note: I couldn’t find a cable to upload the pictures I took of the show, so check back tomorrow and we’ll see.

It was quite a bit colder in Toronto Tuesday night than in recent days. Still, as we shivered outside, we were warmed by the knowledge, the Kills were only a short time away.

I’d seem the Kills twice before: At the Phoenix in 2009 and at the Sound Academy in 2011, and was looking forward ot the Kool Haus Show. Despite the bigger venue, the sound is usually pretty good, and it’s generally easy to find a spot with good sight lines.

The Kills shows seem to be one of the few places where I have to line-up to visit the merch table. Line-up may be a bit of an exaggeration, as it was more of a huddle. Still, I had huddled for over half an hour to buy an overpriced Selena Gomez shirt for my daughter, so the ten minutes or so I spent waiting to buy a Kills poster (#38 of 120) seemed like a bargain in comparison.

As I walked into the Kool Haus Sweet’s “Teenage Rampage” was blaring; a good sign I thought.

First up were the Hunters. Despite the rather pedestrian name, the New York four-piece warmed up nicely. The punky blonde singer had her Siouxise yelps down nicely, and the band delivered background drone that reminded me a little of the Crocodiles. In their all-to0-brief twenty minute set, the band  showed an impressive noise although the Kool Haus stage seemed a bit overwhelming for them. I’d like to see them in a smaller venue such as the Horseshoe.

Next up were Jeff the Brotherhood  from Nashville Tennessee. Hard to describe them as they encompass a variety of styles from garage punk all the way over to a kind of psychedelic rock. Jake and Jamin Orrall, the two brothers who make up the band delivered a punky noise that reminded me a little of Jay Reatard as well as a more traditional arena rock sound. Often within the same song. The treat for the audience, in additional to their set, was the appearance of Alison Mossheart on their final number.

And then we waited.

The Kills took the stage to a leopard print backdrop at 10:30. Unlike the other times I’ve seem the band, this time Alison and Jamie were joined by two members of the Black Rooster Drum Corps, ie., two guys in red bandanas performing stylized, synchronized percussion moves.

The band hit the stage with “No Wow” (the only song they seem to play from the second album), and for the next 65 minutes or so, (plus a lovely 5 song encore), blasted through their back catalogue. It’s hard to say what the highlight of the set was as they never seemed to let up the intensity, even in the quieter songs. And despite the vast size of the stage, the two piece commanded the audience’s attention throughout. 

The sound mix seemed a little muddy in places (during “satellite” for example), but it didn’t seem to slow them down. and before we knew it, the set was over. I was more than a little surprised at how many people flooded out before the encores. I’m almost fifty, and to see people two decades younger than me going home before midnight, before the encore, before the house lights come up, is, well, as I said, surprising.  and yes, I had to work in the morning as well.

 The band did return playing a generous five song encore including a gorgeous cover of the Velvets’ “Pale Blue Eyes.”  And then they really were gone.

For a band celebrating their tenth anniversary, the Kills were on top of their game.

 Set List (acccording to my barely legible handwriting)

1. No Wow
2. Future Starts Slow
3. Heart is a Beating Drum
4. Kissy Kissy
5. UR A Fever
6. DNA
7. satellite
8. Last Day of Magic
9. Crazy
10. Baby Says
11. Hook and Line
12. Black Balloon
13. Tape Song
14. Cheap and Cheerful
15. Pots and Pans

 Encore

The Last Goodbye
Pale Blue Eyes
Sour Cherry
Fuck the People
Monkey 23

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The Man in Black

February 5, 2012 at 12:17 am (Uncategorized)

I was doing some work today listening to music, and put on some old Johnny Cash CD. This song came on, and I thought it deserved to be posted here.

The Man in Black

 
Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there’s a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he’s a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.

Well, we’re doin’ mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin’ cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought ‘a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin’ for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen’ that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen’ that we all were on their side.

Well, there’s things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin’ everywhere you go,
But ’til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You’ll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I’d love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything’s OK,
But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
‘Till things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black.

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Music Notes January 2012

February 1, 2012 at 1:38 am (Uncategorized)

Must be the first of the month – here’s last month’s music notes…

1. Wild Flag   – Wild Flag

Depressed that Sleater-Kinny will never make another record? Fear not, Wild Flag has 2/3 of the band, and the debut does have a bit of that vibe. And there’s nothing wrong with that.  Wild Flag has a guitar heavy post-punk sound that will quickly find itself in regular rotation in whatever musical medium you favour.  And it’s brought to you by those fine people at Merge.

2. Mr. Gnome – Madness in Miniature

Read about in Rolling Stone of all places. A folky psychedelic country and western. I know that’s a terrible description, but it’s ever so seductive. And they’re from Cleveland. Check out their site for free stuff.  I love the fact the latest comment someone from Toronto begging them to come here. Yes please.

3. Wooden Shjips – West

Space rock from San Francisco. I’m not usually a bit fan of stuff like this (oh who am I kidding?), but the drone-y aspect of this is really nice. It burns a hole into your skull and sits there. If that sounds appealing, you know where to go. And if you don’t, try here.  

4. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

Everybody’s record of last year. It’s quite tremendous. That’s all I need say.

5. Gordon Gano – Hitting the Ground

I saw the Violent Femmes the first time they played in Canada. It was in 1993 at a little church called Canadian Martyrs across from McMaster university. Great show. Loved their first two records, but not much after that. Gano’s first solo record (from 2002) is a mixed bag, and features vocals from John Cale, Mary Lou Lord and Lou Reed among others. But the kicker, the absolute kicker is PJ Havey’s version of the title track in her best Patti Smith vocal. Worth the price of admission.   

6. Jah Wobble – Psychic Life

Julie Campbell sings lead on this dance themed collection from Wobble. But for many people, the most exciting thing is the presence of ex-PiL guitarist Keith Levene on a number of tracks.  

7. Sigur Ros – Inni

Ooh, a two CD live set and a live DVD. Absolutely essential stuff. (OK, I haven’t watched the film yet). After you’ve regained muscle control, head over to Sigur Ros’  web site to see all the other cool stuff there.

8. Wilco – The Whole Love

In a comment on my review of Toronto’s show last year, one poster suggested that the reason I didn’t like the first half of the show was because it was primarily new material with which I wasn’t so familiar. I was willing to conceded that possibility at the time, but after listening to the record, I think I’m right. I still think the band was having trouble finding its groove, and the reason is this is a pretty good album. It’s full of great hook and memorable songs. Another great record by Tweedy.

9. Widowspeak – Widowspeak

Currently getting a lot of notice for their moody cover of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game, Widowspeak (is it Widow’s peak or Widow speak? It took me a while to figure out Alexisonfire too) play swampy atmospheric pop. Worth a listen.

10. The Doors – LA Woman

I was in HMV a week or so back and ran into an old friend from university. We talked about the decline of the music business and record companies. It seems as if the companies have become convinced that the way to make people pay for music is not to attract new buyers, but rather to make the people like me re-buy their entire collection by releasing anniversary  or special editions. Since I only ever owned the first Door’s album, I’m not sure that applies here, but I am sure plenty of Doors fans will line up for it. A new Doors song and some alternative versions  (none quite as good as the finished versions), but for the fan, yup, they’ll be handing over the dollars.

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