Music Notes July 2012

July 30, 2012 at 12:01 am (Uncategorized) (, )

A few days early, but here’s July’s things of musical interest…

1. Can – The Lost Tapes

A fan’s dream come true. We all hope for our favourites that somewhere there is a song or two of equal quality that’s unreleased. Usually we’re unlucky. And all too often we learn, there’s a reason the outtakes on the special edition weren’t released: they weren’t that good. This three CD set isn’t like that. It’s tapes that were simply never released. Around 50 hours of tapes, that sat in a studio for several decades. These tracks are the best of those. Packaged with a lovely book, my only complaint would be the physical way the CD’s are in the tray -easy to scratch. Otherwise fabulous.

2. The Bats – Free all the Monsters

Jangly Velvets-ish pop from this long-lasting New Zealand band. Worth a listen.

3. Damian and Naomi – With Ghost

The other 2/3 of Galaxie 500. Atmospheric Japanese folk music. Not particularly immediate, but it grows on you. It really does. Quite lovely.

4. Sigur Ros – Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust

With a buzz in our ears we play endlessly. Ah, well, that makes everything clear. With a Sigur Ros record, you know what you’re getting, although having said that, this one rocks a little more than others. Still full of compelling instrumentation and falsetto vocals though. If you described this band to me, I wouldn’t be interested. However, that’s why you should listen to them rather than talk about them. My biggest disappointment this year? I’ll be out-of-town during their Toronto show this week.

5. Rosanne Cash -” Land of Dreams”

OK, OK, it’s the song used by the American tourism board, but that doesn’t diminish its value as a great song.

6. Neil Diamond – The Bang Years

Wanna here the original version of Red Red Wine, I’m a Believer and more? This is the CD for you.  Recorded in soulful mono, this is Neil Diamond before he became a superstar.

7. Television – Live at the Academy

Solid live Television record featuring material from all of their albums. The tracks from Television really soar.

8. Billy Bragg – Back to Basics

Pulled this one-off of the shelf this morning for a spin. It’s a compilation of the first mini-album, the first album and another EP. Boy, Bill sure can’t sing, his Labour politics seem simplistic, but his words are just amazing. Takes me back to my early days in politics when the world seemed a very different place.

9. Various artists – The Indestructible Beat of Soweto

Last month, I recommended Graceland. Get this too. Incredible compilation of tracks from South Africa from the mid-1980s. Absolutely stunning. And as good as Graceland is, this is so much better. You won’t be disappointed.

10 Puffy AmiYumi – “Teen Titans Theme”

My son’s favourite TV show right now is the Teen Titans which ran on in the mid 00s.  The theme is by the ever-adorable Puffy Ami Yumi. Special points for including Guitar Wolf in the video. Enjoy.

And the Fall is shaping up to be a good season. New Jon Spencer album and tour to follow (download a track now at the web site); First Aid Kit back in town, and the Alabama Shakes are playing Toronto in October. All very good.

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Twenty Twelve: Life Imitates Art

July 25, 2012 at 9:24 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

With the London Olympics just a few days away, I want to draw attention to a clever little show called Twenty Twelve.

Twenty Twelve is a BBC mockumentary about the Olympic Deliverance committee headed by Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville aka Lord Grantham Downton Abbey). The committee  seems composed of Pollyannas who speak in clichéd gibberish and who are extremely resourceful in promoting their own agendas.

In the case of the Cultural Olympiad, the committee drew up a three candidate short list, and choose who they thought was the most qualified person (who in reality seemed to have experience only in meaningless bureaucrat-speak). After she was offered the job, the higher-ups in the Olympic committee  informed the committee that actually the desired candidate should more fully represent a reflection of a diverse cultural criteria. I’m paraphrasing, but the point was the higher-ups who had promised a hands-off policy wanted a candidate who was a person of colour. After going with their second choice, who was a person of colour, the committee was informed that in addition to being a person of colour, the desired candidate would also be more of a woman. The job was offered to the remaining candidate, who declined it. Truly a bureaucratic nightmare.

But some of the issues seems eerily prescient, especially the traffic nightmare. Worth a look.

Twenty Twelves is on Comedy in Canada.

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Recouperation 101: Quebec

July 25, 2012 at 9:04 pm (Uncategorized)

Marxism isn’t about predictions. It’s isn’t fortune telling. Still, I was mildly impressed with my precognitive powers on this one.

In June,  I made this little observation:

Implicitly or explicitly, this demand will eventually lead to calls for the election of the Quebec nationalist Parti Quebeçois in its Social-Democratic guise (rather than its recessionary one – until it is elected of course). 

Salute to the Greeks of Canada

And now Leo Bureau-Blouin, the former president of the FECQ has announced his candidacy for the Parti Quebecois. And no, at the press conference he wasn’t wearing that red square. Now, I don’t want to give the impression Burea-Blouin was a heroic revolutionary who has “sold out”, but want to note just how short a time it took to make this journey.

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So Long Chumbawamba …

July 25, 2012 at 2:34 am (Uncategorized) (, )

There’s an announcement on the Chumbawamba website that they are ending the project this year.

Read it yourself

Chumbawamba went from being an anarchist punk band, to being an anarchist dance band to being an anarchist folk band, all with a certain, well, flair. Lots of great music over the years (my favourites are probably Shhhh, the live Showbizness and the live Get on with it ).

My own Chuma story dates to 1997 when I was living in Calgary. I was working on a solidarity project with striking newspaper workers from Detroit. As it happened the band were playing a show when our guy Dennis Nazelli was in town. I got in touch and asked if we could have a table at the event. The band went better. They brought Dennis up on stage and got him to make a pitch for the strike. Then Alice made an appeal for the audience to donate spare change as they left the hall. We took over $500.


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Alexander Cockburn

July 24, 2012 at 12:13 am (Uncategorized) ()

Alexander Cockburn and Christopher hitchens

Ah, back in the day, I read The Nation. I even had a sub for a couple of years. Cockburn’s column, “Beat the Devil” was usually one of the better ones to read. I won’t say I agreed with Cockburn overall, I probably clumsily dismissed his overall politics as Stalinist or left-liberal (leftist would be more accurate) , but it would certainly be accurate to say he wrote well, and disliked a lot of the people I disliked. When he talked about what he liked or his solutions, we usually parted company.

I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t a regular reader of Counterpunch, but often the most interesting columns found themselves in my email box. (Thanks Paul) . Have a look at the New York Times obit. You have to smile about his comment about Hitchens.

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Decadence and Cannibalism

July 23, 2012 at 2:48 pm (Uncategorized) ()

A day or so after the mass killing in Aurora, Colorado, my eight year old son said to me that he was a little afraid to go to the movies now (we went to see The Amazing Spider-Man last week, but the Dark Knight Rises is probably a bit too scary for him anyway)

It’s all very well to say, well we live in Canada and  that sort of thing doesn’t happen here, except… In June a gunman opened fire in the food court at the downtown Eaton Centre killing two and wounding many others. In a sort of grim Final Fantasy scenario, a woman killed in Colorado narrowly escaped the situation at the Eaton Centre, having left the mall just minutes before the bullets began to fly.

Then just a few days before the Aurora killings, a community barbeque in Scarborough, in the east end of Toronto, ended in gun play with two dead and over twenty wounded.

It’s shocking. Not just the numbers involved, but the apparent randomness of the victims and the disregard for “innocents” shown by the killers. At the Eaton Centre, the intended victim met his death, but those wounded were to the assassin, collateral damage. Of course, in the case of Aurora, the accused  apparently intended to kill as many people as possible (to date his motives remain unknown other than a reported claim to be The Joker), but he had no connection to those he butchered.

Commentators were quick to offer the usual suspect: Isolated weird guys (sure seem to be a lot of “isolated weird guys” with guns though) in the case of Aurora, gangs and (sotto voice) foreign criminals in the Toronto shootings. But is there a larger pattern?

Below is an excerpt from an article published in Internationalist Perspective a few years back about the change in society. Call it decadence or call it something else, but look at the way wars are conducted today. All too often, there seems to be a need by various armies, nations etc, but simply to conquer, but to physically exterminate their enemies. The savagery of the twentieth century hardly needs footnoting. As capitalism continues, I would stay decays, the crisis also continues. There is a greater self-destructive impulse. At a higher level, as at a lower level. Grim thoughts indeed.

While the transition from the formal to the real submission of labor to capital entails an increasing reliance on the fruits of science and technology, and a concomitant recomposition of the working class that transforms the very meaning and nature of productive and unproductive labor, no matter how many changes occur in the forms and techniques of production, according to Marx, capitalism remains a mode of production whose “presupposition is – and remains – the mass of direct labour time, the quantity of labour employed, as the determinant factor in the production of wealth.” (Grundrisse, Penguin Books, p.704) However, the historical trajectory of capitalism produces a growing contradiction between its unsurpassable basis in the expenditure of living labor to produce exchange-value, on the one hand, and the actual results of its own developmental tendencies on the other: “But to the degree that large industry develops, the creation of real wealth comes to depend less on labour time and on the amount of labour employed than on the power of the agencies set in motion during labour time, whose ‘powerful effectiveness’ is itself in turn out of all proportion to the direct labour time spent on their production …. [a]s soon as labour in the direct form has ceased to be the great well-spring of wealth, labour time ceases and must cease to be its measure, and hence exchange-value [must cease to be the measure] of use value. The surplus labour of the mass has ceased to be the condition for the development of general wealth …. (Grundrisse, pp. 704-705) In short, when the production of real wealth is no longer dependent on the extraction of surplus-value (absolute or relative), no longer inextricably bound to the expenditure of living labor, capitalism ceases to be a necessary condition for the progress of the human species; ceases to be a progressive mode of production. Moreover, the perpetuation of value production, its continued progress in the form of the transition from the formal to the real domination of capital over society, then constitutes not just an obstacle to the progress of the human species, but a form of social retrogression! The more capital progresses, as it has since 1914, and especially after 1945, the more that progress reveals itself to be retrogressive or regressive; a mortal threat to the continued existence of human kind. The creation of a vast surplus population, the exploitation of which by capital is no longer necessary or profitable (at any wage), has sown the seeds of new and more devastating orgies of mass murder, deliberately orchestrated by the capitalist state.

From the Formal to the Real Domination of Capital: How Capital’s Progress Became Society’s Retrogression

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Kitty Wells 1919 – 2012

July 18, 2012 at 1:25 am (Uncategorized) ()

I’ve been a bit busy of late, so all quiet on the, er, blogging front. Still, I’d be remiss if I didn’t post something about the passing of Kitty Wells.

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That’s Entertainment!

July 5, 2012 at 5:11 pm (Uncategorized)

One of the comic strips in the Globe and Mail is Betty. It’s an average strip with moments of insight about family dynamics. However, the last week or so has been quite compelling. Betty’s wealthy, superficial friend Alex has been appointed to high office in the firm Betty works for. It falls to Alex to tell Betty that she hasn’t been fired, but rather the position she holds will no longer exist in three months. She is then escorted from the building by security. How can I hurt this company more than management is doing she wonders.

For some reason it reminded me of the Jam’s 1980 song.

A police car and a screaming siren –
A pneumatic drill and ripped up concrete –
A baby wailing and stray dog howling –
The screech of brakes and lamp lights blinking –
that’s entertainment.

A smash of glass and the rumble of boots –
An electric train and a ripped up ‘phone booth –
Paint splattered walls and the cry of a tomcat –
Lights going out and a kick in the balls –

that’s entertainment.

Days of speed and slow time Mondays –
Pissing down with rain on a boring Wednesday –
Watching the news and not eating your tea –
A freezing cold flat and damp on the walls –

that’s entertainment.

Waking up at 6 a.m. on a cool warm morning –
Opening the windows and breathing in petrol –
An amateur band rehearsing in a nearby yard –
Watching the telly and thinking about your holidays –

that’s entertainment.
Waking up from bad dreams and smoking cigarettes –
Cuddling a warm girl and smelling stale perfume –
A hot summers’ day and sticky black tarmac –
Feeding ducks in the park and wishing you were faraway –

that’s entertainment.

Two lovers kissing amongst the scream of midnight –
Two lovers missing the tranquility of solitude –
Getting a cab and travelling on buses –
Reading the graffiti about slashed seat affairs –

that’s entertainment.


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Eric Sykes

July 4, 2012 at 4:07 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

Eric Sykes died today aged 89. I watched Eric Sykes in a self-titled sit-com with Hattie Jacques when I was a kid. It wasn’t his best work, but it was still pretty funny. To the current generation, Sykes is probably best known for his portrayal of Frank Bryce in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (a caretaker killed by Voldemort and then eaten by Nagini) or possibly the voice at the start of Teletubbies.

Still, the Plank is his best work.


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An interview about Communization

July 3, 2012 at 12:44 am (Uncategorized)

The political organization to which I belong, Internationalist Perspective, is not a part of the communization tendency. Nevertheless, I think it’s fair to say that many of the groups involved with the project (Endnotes, Riff Raff, Theorie Communiste, Dauve)  have produced quite stimulating  material.

Here’s an interview with Benjamin Noyes, the editor of Communization and Its Discontents:

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