Music Notes May 2012

May 31, 2012 at 1:05 am (Uncategorized)

Here’s May’s list of good things for your ears.

1. Jack White –Blunderbuss

And it’s good, very good. It took a few plays to sink in, but there’s lots of good things from what sounds like a compilation spanning the whole of the White Stripes career. I don’t mean that it’s a throwback, but White seems to have captured different styles and aspects of his career from rockers to more plaintive numbers and even the odd soul sounding rave-up. Terrific.

2. Public Image Ltd -One Drop

I can’t say I’ve been sitting around waiting for the new John Lydon product. True Metal Box and the Flowers of Romance are astonishing works, but there’s also a lot of fluff, and while I still get a kick out of Lydon’s L’Enfant terrible personality …anyway, this is rather a pleasant surprise. That Slits reggae sound vaguely reminiscent of  Album-era PiL. Nice.

3. Paul Weller- Heliocentric

Weller was in town a few weeks back. Didn’t go. I never saw Weller with the Jam or the Style Council, but I did catch him twice as a solo artist. Heliocentric is a few albums back, and happened to be in a pile of things being sorted. It’s not as immediate as the Jam recordings, but it’s a stylish pop record with some great tunes. Well worth seeking out.

4. Mojo – May 2012

T’other month I mentioned Steve Marriott. Pick up the new issue of  Mojo for  a lovely profile of the man along with a tasty free CD of Small Faces-esque sounds.

5. Wilko Johnson

It’s a funny thing. I was watching Game of Thrones, when I realized that the King’s Justice Sur IlymPayne was none other than Wilko. Payne had his tongue torn out by the Mad King, so all Wilko has to do is look mean. Heard a rumour he might be coming to Toronto to promote Oil City Confidential.  Check the site. And the autobiography.

6. AC/DC – If You Want Blood

No apologies for this one; as summer approaches, it’s harder and harder to resist these boys. True, Back in Black is often cited as the summer experience, but the old Bon Scott records are hard to beat. They gave the punks a run for their money.

7.  NXNE

Coming up in a couple of weeks. Looks of cool stuff and free things too. Bad Religion play for free at Dundas Square on June 14 and the Flaming Lips on the 16th. On my first date with my wife, we saw the Flaming Lips with the Butthole Surfers. Ah memories.

8. Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin – “J’taime”

Banned all over the place when it was released in 1969, it’s probably quite tame by today’s standards, right? Er, I was listening to Original Seeds a compilation of songs which influenced Nick Cave when this one came one. Phew! Great song, but phew! It’s pretty racy even for today. Serge, you old dog!

9. Donna Summer

Disco sucks right? Well, as it turns out, no it doesn’t. And Donna Summer was the Queen of disco. When I first came to musical age, I liked punk. Still do. Disco however was not cool. But as I grow older I find myself appreciating it more and more. Mostly the electronica stuff, but Georgio Morodna’s stuff is pretty amazing. Donna Summer whatever her subsequent evolution was an innovator.

10. MCA

I can’t remember the first Beastie Boys record I heard. Maybe “She’s on it” or possibly “Rock Hard.” As moronic as Licensed to Ill was, it was still marvellous. And then came Paul’s Boutique. A bit of a shock, and to be honest, I didn’t like it as much, but over time it’s brilliance became apparent to me. Adam Yauch was one of those rare musicians who grew as an artist throughout his career. His death at 47 is a real loss.

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The Struggle in Quebec

May 28, 2012 at 12:41 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

It may seem that while the pop culture stuff and political commentary is all fine and dandy, but lost in the shuffle at this blog is any word about the struggles in Quebec.

It may seem that way, but in fact the organization to which I belong is publishing a longer and hopefully more comprehensive statement that a short blog post. I’ll post that when it’s ready.

I will say though that at my workplace and in the places I frequent, there are two schools of thought. The first supports the students, noting that if the students and their allies lose, things won’t be any better for the rest of us. In fact they will get worse. (it’s likely things will get worse anyway, but only through struggle so things get better)

The second doesn’t. The most sophisticated argument I’ve seen (and in truth it’s not that sophisticated) says that students are middle class, so in fact what you’re doing is subsidizing the education of those who can already afford to go.

Hmm, well first of all, this is also about colleges where the percentage of working class students is much higher. Second,  by increasing tuition doesn’t that further exclude working class students, and third I DON”T CARE. Education ought to be free. This is a crisis of capitalism and capital must not be allowed to try to make the working class pay for it (it can’t be done anyway – this system is broken and cannot be fixed).

More to come


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How Everyone Except Sam was a Hypocrite

May 25, 2012 at 12:39 am (Uncategorized)

One of those marvellous little social observations courtesy of the Strawbs.

Half a bitter for the vicar
He’s here to save your soul
He’s looking fat and jovial
Though he’s nearly on the dole
Anne Riley cooks his dinner
She keeps him washed and fed
She doesn’t need much prompting
To jump into his bed.

And they all think they’re so grand
Yes, they all think they’re so grand
Yes, they all think they’re so grand
But they’re not
Oh no they’re not.

Dr. Watson drinks large whiskies
He’s nearly always high
He supplements his income
Aborting on the sly
Mrs. Thompson is an angel
In the W.V.S.
Her meals on wheels are very cheap
And she cooks the books for less.

Sammy Cohen is the bookie
Sitting over there
Drinking three star brandy
He doesn’t seem to care
No-one wants to know him
They say he’s been inside
They say his dear old mother
Committed suicide.

Dr. Watson charged Anne Riley
A fifty guinea fee
For Mr. Thompson’s peace of mind
As far as I can see
Mrs. Thompson envies Annie
Cooking for the preacher
And everyone thinks Sam
Is a quite disgusting creature
But if the truth was known
It would shake all their foundations
It seems the preacher lives
On Sam’s anonymous donations.


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Montreal Anarchist Bookfair 2012 – A Quick Recap

May 21, 2012 at 9:23 pm (Uncategorized)

The Montreal anarchist bookfair is now in its 13th year. Originally housed in a community centre in the east end, it quickly outgrew that space. In its fourth year (I think), the bookfair moved to a school in the west end. And over its history the bookfair grew from being a one way event to a month long celebration including a two-day fair. This year, it spilled into a second building. And it shows no sign of slowing down.  I’m proud to say, I’ve tabled at every one; first as Red and Black Notes and more recently as Notes from Underground.

This years’ events were framed against the student protests (a separate post for that one), which no doubt helped attendance.  And attendance was good. It seemed to teem with people, and my sales were up. Good conversations and a lot of interest in radical ideas (glad to see fewer Che t-shirts this year too).

Most popular single items were Endnotes, Aufheben and the new issue of Internationalist Perspective. Good to see that communist theory is of interest (I also had a couple of books on the communization current, which generated quite a bit of interest).

The Toronto events are at the end of June, and I heard also there will be a Hamilton event, but probably not until August this time.

Oh and on the drive back to Toronto, I saw a bear by the highway watching the traffic. A bear! Unbelievable.

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Montreal Anarchist Bookfair 2012

May 16, 2012 at 4:12 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s almost here – the 13th annual Anarchist Bookfair in Montreal is taking place this weekend. Actually there are events already happening, and will continue next week, but the book fair itself is the centrepiece.

I table on Saturday, so come on by the Notes From Underground table for lots of ultra-leftish stuff from here and elsewhere. Say hi. (New new issues of Internationalist Perspective and Aufheben, as well as books and pamphlets. )

Check the bookfair’s site for more details.


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Free Will and Testament

May 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm (Uncategorized)

A lovely song by Robert Wyatt. At work and elsewhere, I’m sure we can identify in part with the final stanza’s sentiment, if not the implied conclusion.

Given free will but within certain limitations,
I cannot will myself to limitless mutations,
I cannot know what I would be if I were not me,
I can only guess me.

So when I say that I know me, how can I know that?
What kind of spider understands arachnophobia?
I have my senses and my sense of having senses.
Do I guide them? Or they me?

The weight of dust exceeds the weight of settled objects.
What can it mean, such gravity without a centre?
Is there freedom to un-be?
Is there freedom from will-to-be?

Sheer momentum makes us act this way or that way.
We just invent or just assume a motivation.
I would disperse, be disconnected. Is this possible?
What are soldiers without a foe?

Be in the air, but not be air, be in the no air.
Be on the loose, neither compacted nor suspended.
Neither born nor left to die.

Had I been free, I could have chosen not to be me.
Demented forces push me madly round a treadmill.
Demented forces push me madly round a treadmill.
Let me off please, I am so tired.
Let me off please, I am so very tired

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Spiritualized in Toronto – A Review

May 7, 2012 at 9:44 pm (Uncategorized)

A Spiritualized concert is not exactly a concert. It’s more of  an experience.

And the experience began about 8:50 on Saturday night, as dry ice began to creep across the stage. Twenty minutes later, Nikki Lane, accompanied by only an acoustic guitar, took the stage of the Phoenix. Initially the singer, who hails from South Carolina, was greeted by polite indifference but throughout the course of her 30-minute set, applause and interest built for her country-folk performance.

And then the wait for the main event. It’s a funny thing that happens between sets. Initially the crowd waits. It goes to the bathroom or buys another drink. But after half an hour or so, the mood shifs. Any movement near the stage stirs the crowd as it tries to guess is this it? As a PA song ends, there’s a moment or two or silence and the crowd wonders again, is this it? There’s jockeying for position and then finally, the moment is here.

Spiritualized walked on stage at 10:15.The band wore black, but Jason Pierce and his back-up singers came dressed in white. Standing sideways to the crowd and hidden behind dark shades, J Spaceman immediately launched into “Hey Jane” the single from the just released Sweetheart Sweet Light.

And for the next 100 minutes, Spiritualized performed.  I’ll be honest, I didn’t catch a lot of the titles, as Spiritualized is notoriously for lifting bits of other songs and blending them. Since his days in Spacemen 3 Pierce has recycled from Dylan, Lou Reed, folk  country and gospel songs and even his own work (sometimes when I’m listening to those old Spacemen 3 albums, I forget which song is on).

But as I indicated earlier Spiritualized is an experience. Along with songs from the new album, the band seemed to draw most heavily from the 1997 masterpiece Ladies and Gentlemen We are Drifting in Space, playing  the title track, Come Together and Cop Shoot Cop as the encore.From all out rockers to lush ballads which worked even without the choir Pierce often employs to noisy mash-ups of sound, Spiritualized kept the audience entranced (no doubt chemical played some role as the smell of marijuana hung heavy in the packed club)

Against a swirling light show, Pierce stood impassive. It’s perhaps telling that his first words to the audience, “Thank you…thank you” were spoken at midnight as the band exited the stage.

Touchdown, touchdown.


Set (courtesy of

  1. Hey Jane
  2. Lord Let It Rain On Me
  3. Headin’ for the Top Now
  4. She Kissed Me (It Felt Like A Hit)
  5. Lay Back In The Sun
  6. Oh Baby
  7. Rated X
  8. I Am What I Am
  9. Born Never Asked
  10. Electric Mainline
  11. Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
  12. Mary
  13. Stay With Me
  14. So Long You Pretty Things
  15. Come Together
Cop Shoot Cop

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Personal Philosophies

May 7, 2012 at 12:34 pm (Uncategorized)

I’ve been a Trotskyist, a council communist, a left communist. (The latter is still true). These are all big PICTURE ideas concerned with the critique of political economy and the future society. They aren’t always guides to personal actions. And as those on you who walk on the left side of the street know, being a socialist or a communist doesn’t necessarily make you a good person.

In my thirty years or so of active politics there are dozens I can easily recall who most certainly did not go to sleep dreaming of a better tomorrow, but rather how they could fuck people over in pursuit of their goals. Strangely enough, many of them belonged to the same organization (no names, but read over old posts and maybe you’ll figure it out). Maybe not so strange.

A few years back I was in a Whole Foods store in Washington DC when I saw a guy with the legend WWJD on it. Initially dismayed, a closer look relieved me. I actually read What would Jesus Do…for a Klondike Bar. A good question, but presumably if the ice cream treat had existed back in the day (and if Jesus had existed along with it), he might have gone to lengths to obtain it. Religion isn’t for me, although on paper they do make some nice points here and there.

There’s also that Gandhi quotation, be the change you want to see in the world. Hmm, not bad for a personal goal.

My current favourite is one my wife pointed out to me from an interview with George Clooney. His comment:

Be the person your dog thinks you are.

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A Note on Dickens

May 6, 2012 at 10:55 pm (Uncategorized)

Without wanting to start a mutual admiration society here, I’d like to direct people to a post on the Dictatorship Now blog which makes mentions on a piece I wrote on Dickens.

Like Shalken of Dictatorship Now, I haven’t read a great deal of Dickens. I did try to read A Tale of Two Cities once, but didn’t make it beyond the first few chapters.  Shalknen mentioned Hard Times as an excellent “backwards-looking critique of capitalism” along with Elizabeth Gaitskill’s North and South (both published the same year).

So, if you’ve read The Hunger Games, and are almost finished battling through A Song of Fire and Ice, here’s some important summer reading.


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Toronto Comic Arts Festival

May 5, 2012 at 6:35 pm (Uncategorized)

Today is Free Comic Book Day. The deal is the first Saturday in May, comic book shops across North American give away free comics. How can you lose? Little Island Comics on Bathurst Street were nice enough to provide copies of Buffy and other things for free.

But if your tastes also run beyond the super-hero stuff, try the Toronto Comic Arts Festival taking place at the Toronto Reference Library on Yonge. I went to the opening event last night to see Jeff Smith (Bone) and Fabio Moon and his brother Gabriel Ba give a talk about their work. Really interesting stuff. All three signed books I brought. Great guys.

The festival is free and runs until tomorrow.

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