Music Notes April 2013: A Salute to the E.P.

April 29, 2013 at 9:27 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Something different this month.

Back in the day, before the MP3, there was the single, the humble seven-inch record. One song on each side. An “A” side and a “B” side. Three minutes of heaven. And there was album the album. Between four to seven songs per side judging from my collection, and a run time of about 15 to 20 minutes per side.

Oh that wasn’t all. There were also three song singles (the shortness of punk recordings often meant ann extra track on the b-side) , and the 12 inch single which often added an extended version of the A side (usually better sound quality too).

Finally, there was the EP. Also seven inches, but with four or more songs and usually lasting anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. Often, the EP had no title song, so it felt a little like a mini-album (then there were mini-albums, but I digress). As long as music was recorded on a physical entity such as vinyl or even CD, the format could endure, but with the advent of the download and the playlist, the EP concept faded. (Oddly, the single has endured,  even nas it was undermined by the CD. Vinyl’s back too!) I suppose the I-Tunes session is a sort of equivalent, but it’s a poor substitute.

Here’s a few favourites.

1. Buzzcocks – Spiral Scratch

Was this the first self-released punk record? Four songs with Howard Devoto singing. Minimal overdubs. Sweaty, exciting fun. Boredom.

2. REM – Chronic Town

It’s easy to forget after REM became rock stars just how revolutionary their early records really were. Jangle pop. Gardening at Night.

3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Is Is

Five thumpy songs from Karen and the boys. I still like their new records, but there’s rawness to these records which can’t be beat. Rockers to swallow

4. The Clash – The Cost of Living

The lead song is I Fought the law but the other three tracks, including the re-recorded Capital Radio are lots of fun. The EP also contains a 30 second Clash “radio” spot and a gatefold sleeve.

5, The Pogues – Poguetry in Motion

The middle record in the Pogues triumvirate of classics. You’re my London Girl. (Watch for the body of an American to appear in episodes of the Wire)

6. Arcade Fire – Arcade Fire EP

OK, those later records don’t cut it in the same way, but the first few releases by Arcade Fire are terrifyingly good. This one is cheating. At 35 minutes, it’s really an album.

7. The Fall – Slates

I wonder if this is worth anything. I still have my copy of this on 10 inch vinyl. No? OK. From their early period of greatness (or is that grateness?) When they used to be called Mancibilly.

Pavement – Slay tracks

More kids listening to the Fall, but with America ears. You’re killing me.

9. Big Black – Bulldozer

Say what you like about Steve Albini, he makes a fearsome noise. Cables!

10. The Rain Parade – Explosions in the Glass Palace

I think I had this on 12 inch vinyl once upon a time. Can’t find it now. Early eighties paisley underground. The guitar player would later start Mazzy Star.

Enjoy these and all the others. Recommendations?

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Blood Red Shoes in Toronto – A Review

April 28, 2013 at 6:44 pm (Uncategorized)

Near to the end of Blood Red Shoes’ ferociously entertaining set at the horseshoe Tavern last Tuesday, I took to wondering: Why aren’t these guys bigger? What’s the trick to fame?  If Aerosmith, why not the New York Dolls? If not REM why not Let’s Active? If the White Stripes why not Blood Red Shoes? Well, I suppose if I knew the answer, I’d have a lot more money. In any event, I couldn’t help but think, these guys really should be a lot bigger!


I missed opening band Sorry, Yes OK arriving sometime around 9:45. I listened to some of their stuff on MySpace page and decided it wasn’t for me. Not fair I know. The opening slot is always a hard one, and in my defence, often I’ve arrived to see the opener and left before the headliner came on, but still. Only so many hours in a day.

At 10:00 Sandman Viper Command (dreadful name – Sandman or Viper Command OK, but not both), who referred to themselves as Sandman VC  (better!) throughout the evening. I’d come to see them because on their site they described themselves as being influenced by Pavement and Sonic Youth. And the few songs I listened to gave that impression. Unfortunately, this wasn’t entirely reflective of their set. A lot of poppy sounds with a quite nice organ in the background giving them an orchestral air; a sort of psychedelic pop. Still, to my ears, it sounded to me as if they were still finding their sound.


Blood Red Shoes came on a little after 11. The front of the stage was densely crowded, but not so that you couldn’t find a way to the front without much trouble. BRS is a Brighton two-piece consisting of Laura-Mary Carter o guitar and vocals ad Stephen Ansell on drums. The band formed in 2004 and has released 3 full length records and even more singles. For the next hour put out a thunderous din of punk attitude. It’s a very simple formula, guitar and drums, and for those who love that stripped down sound, it’s tremendously seductive.

There wasn’t much let up throughout the hour, although Ansell joked throughout and repeatedly paid attention to one birthday boy. And boom, almost as soo ias it started it seemed it was over. And yes, they did play their hit from the Scott Pilgrim movie, “It’s Getting Boring By the Sea.” Cheers.


Courtesy of Setlist

  1. Heartsink
  2. Don’t Ask
  3. It’s Getting Boring by the Sea
  4. Lost Kids
  5. Light It Up
  6. This Is Not for You
  7. Black Distractions
  8. Cold
  9. Say Something, Say Anything
  10. It Is Happening Again
  11. In Time to Voices
  12. I Wish I Was Someone Better
  13. Red River


  1. Colours Fade
  2. Je Me Perds

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Random Dog Picture #2

April 21, 2013 at 3:51 pm (Uncategorized)

International Talk like a Pirate Day is not until September 19, but who cares?

Lester the Pirate

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Record Store Day 2013

April 20, 2013 at 3:16 pm (Uncategorized)

I know it’s unhip to actually buy records and things now, but there’s just something about being in the store that beats anything a download has to offer.

Visit the site; visit your local record store

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Internationalist Perspective at the Platypus Convention

April 20, 2013 at 3:08 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Recently IP participated in a number of panels at the Platypus Society conference in Chicago. Follow these links to see the presentation/discussion

Differing Perspectives on the Left

Marx and Wertkritik

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April 19, 2013 at 12:01 am (Uncategorized)

A few years back I worked at a place with a significant number of Sri Lankan Tamils. Not surprisingly the subject of the war back home came up…. often. For the most part, the people I regularly discussed politics with were supporters of the Libertation Tigers of Tamil Elam. The so-called Tamil Tigers were a fairly ruthless national liberation organization oddly divoid of ideology: No pseudo-socialist trappings; no religious wrap. Simply an independent Tamil homeland. Ruthless? Yeah. They were early enthusiasts of suicide bombings and were not above killing rival Tamil militants who they deemed insufficiently resolute (or more often simply rivals). In the west, they were terrorists. To many Tamils they were freedom fighters. I guess a lot of the time it depends upon which way the gun is pointing.

Which brings me to Boston and the events of this week. The reasons behind the bombing remain unknown. I don’t think I’ve heard an Islamic terror angle, but plenty of conspiracies are floating around. From false flag arguments to survivalist rightists to lone wolf nuts. Plenty of theories, little evidence. The thing that struck me about it was the explosive itself. Apparently ball bearings inside a pressure cooker device. When the device went off it sent thousands of tiny pieces of metal through the air 22 times faster than a bullet. What it didn’t kill, it would maim. Blood, body parts, screaming. Terror. People make arguments for this strategy and in particular military targets. It’s hard to fathom this one. It’s also hard to belive that no matter what the “cause,” those involved are dreaming of a better world. It’s easier to believe they’re simply blood thirsty sociopaths.

And in the interests of equal time, and in no way to diminish the events in Boston, it’s important to remember that this sort of thing happens on a regular basis in many places. Civilians become merely poker chips in larger events. A market place in Iraq, a drone in Afghanistan. Tomorrow, it will be something else.

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What Margaret Thatcher Did for Pop Music

April 9, 2013 at 6:56 pm (Uncategorized) ()

OK OK, last words on Thatcher.

This article appeared yesterday on the New Musical Express, and is an interesting assessment of the musical response to the Thatcher years. At the height of the Thatcher years, Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover  was a cinematic response to the polices and attitudes her regime had produced. John Doyle in today’s Globe and Mail makes a similar point about TV.  I’ve cut out the video links, but they’re all from You Tube. The original column can be found here

What Margaret Thatcher Did For Pop Music

Matthew Horton / April 8, 2013

The news of Margaret Thatcher’s death this morning (8 April) has seen the expected outpouring of mixed emotions. On one side, the feeling that no one should be rejoicing over an old lady’s passing; on the other, well, all that rejoicing’s hard to ignore. For every observer turned off by the gloating, there’s another who’ll point out lives ruined, industries flattened, jobs swept away with the flick of a pen. Let’s prise something positive out of the whole argument – the notion that great art flourishes in unlikely circumstances. And Thatcher’s government certainly created a hostile terrain. From cutting subsidies for the British film industry to progressively reducing arts funding in general, the Tory government of the 1980s appeared set on blunting the sharper edges of our culture. Of course that had to fail, and particularly with music. The greatest political music builds a bulwark against the enemy, and rallies engaged fans to the cause. This is Thatcher’s contribution to pop music.

The forces mobilised quickly. The Specials knew their history and drolly re-set Bob Dylan’s ‘Maggie’s Farm’ as a soca-meets-supper-club-jazz sneer at the incumbent PM at the end of 1980. That “she says she’s fifty-four” lyric didn’t even need to be changed – well, it was a couple of months out, but come on. Elsewhere, “National Guard” becomes “National Front”, but the song stands as a protest without too much tweaking. They were beaten to the punch though by fellow ska revivalists The Beat, whose ‘Stand Down Margaret’ made the top 30 in August 1980. It was telling that the more marginalised fragments of UK culture were the first to rear up.

Electronic music got a look-in too. Gary Numan was an early supporter of Thatcher and the new Conservative government – something of a lead balloon for his career, at least in the eyes of the music press – but he just managed to squeeze out the immortal frigid-pop of ‘Cars’ and ‘Are “Friends” Electric?’. An exception perhaps, although the dystopian visions didn’t sound like a ringing endorsement for the status quo. Meanwhile, Heaven 17’s ‘(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang’ turned up in 1981 to make great clanging statements from the other side of the ballot box, taking down Thatcher and Ronald Reagan to the strains of vital, burbling electro-funk. Dance music would still be standing defiant a dozen years later as a future Conservative government tried to shut down the rave scene.

Pop really got its opposition front bench together with the creation of politico-cultural organisation Red Wedge in 1985. With heavyweight support from then-Labour leader Neil Kinnock, the collective aimed to get the kids into the voting mindset for the 1987 election. Musically, Red Wedge were led by The Style Council – then righteously tearing into the government with ‘Walls Come Tumbling Down’ (“You don’t have to take this crap…”) – and Billy Bragg, who made his name with stark, gravelly attacks on the Tory administration, from ‘Between The Wars’ (“I’ll give my consent to any government/That does not deny a man a living wage”) to ‘Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards’, minting a new British protest folk built on the firmest of foundations: adversity.

Onto the personal, it’s a sentiment to make you wince today, but Elvis Costello’s 1989 track ‘Tramp The Dirt Down’ represented the unfettered vitriol of the time. Folky and ironically elegiac, it has the veiled bite but doesn’t quite pack the punch of ‘Shipbuilding’, his earlier swipe at the wrongheadedness of Thatcherite policy, made famous by Robert Wyatt. Costello certainly felt the fires burning when he turned on Thatcher – take, too, the quiet rage of ‘Pills And Soap’, recorded as The Imposter in 1983.

Let’s wince too at Morrissey’s ‘Margaret On The Guillotine’. “The kind people have a wonderful dream… when will you die?” It falls to Morrissey to sum up the feelings of one half of the internet, but doing so with a lilting ballad in the spring of 1988 doesn’t so much celebrate death as call for a political head. Just a few months after another whopping election victory, it’s sung more in hope than expectation, but ‘Margaret On The Guillotine’ was a suitably malevolent end to Morrissey’s first solo album, showing the old dog had lost none of his bite even if he’d lost his band. This was anti-Thatcherism as a badge of commitment.

And all that without mentioning Hue & Cry’s blue-eyed, double-edged funk assault ‘Labour Of Love’ and The Blow Monkeys’ equally blue-eyed ‘(Celebrate) The Day After You’, which admittedly brought some genuine funk with the guest-starring Curtis Mayfield, an American who might have wondered what he was doing laying into Thatcher. Although that didn’t stop Aimee Mann on ‘You’re With Stupid Now’.

In terms of quality, it’s a mixed bag. The anti-Thatcher canon embraces the sublime – Billy Bragg’s richer lyrical turns, The Style Council’s firebrand soul, The Specials’ grassroots polemic – but also the clunky – Morrissey’s grand guignol, Costello’s more browbeating moments, tune-avoiding hotheads like The Redskins. Whatever you think of the results, this political environment fed a pop scene that was diverse, angry and motivated. When the era came to an end after the Tories’ own Night of the Long Knives in autumn 1990, there was just one voice singing from a different hymnsheet – Jonathan King, with ‘We Can’t Let Maggie Go’. You can’t pick your friends in this game

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The Day Margaret Thatcher Died

April 8, 2013 at 9:13 pm (Uncategorized)

Oh come on, you knew I would (re) post this link.

Longer comments will be posted about Thatcher, what she represented, and her legacy. Me, I’d rather remember the millions of lives she ruined. And gleefully. I suppose the best you could say about her was that she served the interests of her class. Now everybody, sing along!


Shortly after I posted, I read this on the Chumbawumba site.


Thatcher: Phew, at Last

Chumbawamba – Margaret Thatcher EP ‘In Memoriam’ was mailed out on 8th April, 2013, to all who pre-ordered the CD. No further orders will be taken.

She’s not been gone more than a few hours, and already the national media have cranked into gear and begun the blandly respectful eulogies – at their most critical they seem to be only able to say: ‘She polarised opinion … what’s certain is how much of an impact she made on Britain … etc etc’

Twitter set off at a pace with a thousand ‘Ding Dong the Witch is Dead’ messages only to be followed by a slew of bleeding heart liberals bemoaning the fact that people were daring to celebrate someone’s death.

Pah! Let’s make it clear: This is a cause to celebrate, to party, to stamp the dirt down. Tomorrow we can carry on shouting and writing and working and singing and striking against the successive governments that have so clearly followed Thatcher’s Slash & Burn policies, none more so than the present lot. But for now, we can have a drink and a dance and propose a toast to the demise of someone who blighted so many people’s lives for so long.

If we must show a little reverence and decorum at this time, then so be it. Our deepest sympathies go out to the families of all Margaret Thatcher’s victims.

Chumbawamba, 8th April 2013






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Larra Skye Record Release

April 6, 2013 at 3:08 pm (Uncategorized)

Ah, a personal post. Larra is my son’s guitar teacher. She has a record release party for her second CD Wishing Tree at the Rivoli on Queen Street West in Toronto on Tuesday night  (leftist note – the Rivoli used to be the League for Socialist Action book store back in the seventies, long before the gentrification of the street)

Anyway, support local artists.

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I Wanna Be Yours

April 4, 2013 at 5:26 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Been a while since I posted a poem here. This one is by John Cooper Clarke

I wanna Be Yours...

I wanna be your vacuum cleaner
breathing in your dust
I wanna be your Ford Cortina
I will never rust
If you like your coffee hot
let me be your coffee pot
You call the shots
I wanna be yours

I wanna be your raincoat
for those frequent rainy days
I wanna be your dreamboat
when you want to sail away
Let me be your teddy bear
take me with you anywhere
I don’t care
I wanna be yours

I wanna be your electric meter
I will not run out
I wanna be the electric heater
you’ll get cold without
I wanna be your setting lotion
hold your hair in deep devotion
Deep as the deep Atlantic ocean
that’s how deep is my devotion

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