Music Notes September 2013

September 29, 2013 at 3:14 pm (Uncategorized) ()

1. Nirvana – In Utero (Twentieth Anniversary Edition)

You have to admire Nirvana for In Utero. Instead of releasing Nevermind II, they put out a much more abrasive album. How they would have evolved is a matter for conjecture given that this turned out to be the final release. Twenty years on, In Utero still sounds pretty good. The extra tracks vary from fascinating (the Steve Albini stuff for example) to things which are, well, a little harder to appreciate. Not sure if the causal fan wants this, but completists will.

2. Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight The Harder I Fight, the More I Love You.

I know deluxe items can be cash-ins, but the deluxe version of this one comes as a hardcover picture book with a couple of extra songs including a lovely version of Robin Hitchcock’s “Madonna of the Wasps.” There’s also a Nico cover as part of the regular album which is interesting too. The rest of the album is Ms. Case’s blend of country-pop and torch songs. Lovely.

3. Johnny Thunders – Have Faith

Johnny Thunders was a guitarist of incredible talents, but even more incredible appetites. And those ultimately did him in. I saw Thunders a year or so after this live record was recorded, and he was dreadful. There are countless Thunders live albums both official and bootleg, but this was a pleasant surprise. A mixture of Doll, Heartbreakers, Dolls and solo stuff turn up here along with a few Bo Diddley covers and only the Stones and Dylan songs are weak. A reminder of how, beyond the junkie chic, Thunders loved rock and roll.

4. The Clash – Give Em Enough Rope

Sandwiched between The Clash and London Calling, Give Em Enough Rope is often overlooked. It’s a shame because it is a great record. From the surging opener “Safe European Home” to the Final Closer All the young Punks, the album lays out all the classic aspects of the Clash including their penchant for self-mythologizing.  Listen closely and there are clues to where the band is coming from and where they’re going to,

5. Hugh Baker and Yuval Taylor – Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music

Found this one in the discount tables at a local big box bookstore, and it seemed worth a look. The question of authenticity is dear to any fan’s heart, and especially those inhabiting a particular sub-culture. In punk, “Sell-out” was the worse insult to fling, although what exactly a sell-out is seems to vary (remember Mark P’s comment that punk died the day the Clash signed to CBS? Of course, Perry also later admitted that the first Clash album was the soundtrack to his life, so go figure.) So who really is authentic and who is a poser?

6. Tonight – “Drummer Man”

All the way back to February of 1978 when I was a little lad of 13. Tonight were “power pop” or if you prefer “new wave” TOTP band (cleaner than the punks, but borrowing some of the energy), and this was their sole hit. Not sure what they were rebelling against, but it was a nice little noise while it lasted.

7. Pup – “Reservoir”

Ferocious young Toronto punk band. Ultra-catchy but not in a sucky pop-punk way (sorry Sum 41,, blink 182 etc) : Fresh sounding hardcore for the masses. Check out their bandcamp page

8. The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses demos

I know this is old news, and I plugged this when it was released a few years back, but I had a reminder of the power of music this week.  I noticed “Stones Roses” scrawled across a hand this week. A conversation led me to discover the person had just come across the band and the that the tunes were making their way through the circle. The great thing about music is that it doesn’t always have a sell by date. A great record can be discovered by new generations and sound just as fresh as when it originally came out. True these demos are not the utterly breath-taking finished versions, but they are a fascinating listen.

9. Sub Pop is 25.

Wow! The label that brought us songs by Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, Metz, Sebadoah, Soundgarden, Nirvana and many many more. 25 years? Man, I’m getting old.

10. Nirvana – Live and Loud DVD

OK, if you shell out for the super-deluxe edition you get this anyway, but let’s assume you didn’t. This is a still necessary reminder of how vital a band Nirvana were live.

And spare a thought for the lads of One Direction. For at least a year, my daughter was a huge One Direction fan. Their tune echoed through the house on a daily basis. A week or so back, I picked up the  new 1-D single “Best Song Ever” My daughter was appreciative, but essentially uninterested. The thing sat by the CD player for ten days, unplayed before I returned it. Come in number seven, your time is up.

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Jim Steranko on Agents of SHIELD

September 26, 2013 at 1:09 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD was supposed to be Marvel’s attempt to cash-in on the James Bond, Man from UNCLE sixties spy-craze. Nick Fury had feature in a strip called Sgt Fury an His Howling Commanos but when he was recruited to SHIELD was a CIA colonel.  The early days were a fairly standard story with the main antagonist being HYDRA. Then came Steranko who brought a cinematic style to the strip (Check the visuals for the Madame Hydra and Scorpio stories -incredible. All nicely available in trade paperback.

Here are Steranko’s thoughts on the new SHIELD TV series. Fair enough, but the show also has enough going for it to warrent watching next week.

When Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created S.H.I.E.L.D. in the pages of 1965’s Strange Tales, about the last thing on their minds was a 2013 TV series. Their goal was to initiate a comic book version of 007, in the manly tradition of Our Man Flint, Danger Man and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The concept was to recruit former World War II sergeant Nick Fury (of Howling Commandos fame) into the super-spy groove. Even though he was put into the best Marvel hands, they simply didn’t know how to make him compete with Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and Thor, until (in possible desperation) they turned the concept over to a kid who was new to the biz. Before you could say “DON’T YIELD, BACK SHIELD,” the series morphed into a high-tech extravaganza with more twists than a barrel of pretzels. The Man With the Eye Patch found himself countering a host of anti-American adversaries, from super scientists to the supernatural, all articulated in Op Art/Pop Art style that confounded — and often rivaled — the prevailing Brotherhood of Costumed Crusaders.

So, it comes as no surprise that Agents of SHIELD has emerged under the guidance of comic book-vet-turned-producer Jeph Loeb and Avengers writer-director Joss Whedon, aka mega creative muscle and high ambition. And for us, high expectations — maybe too high. The pilot assumes the audience is cognizant of the Marvel Universe as it regales viewers with a salvo of references established previously in big-screen efforts. Granted, Avengers may be the third-highest-grossing flick of all time, but recalling the details of last year’s favorite may be too much to expect above the fanboy level.

One of the pitfalls of multicharacter epics with multiple storylines is juggling each to dramatic satisfaction, and Whedon has been successful at it. But AoS‘s four major focuses — the Coulson story, the Agent Grant Ward story, the Skye story, the Hooded Hero story — result in a lack of unified focus that seriously undercuts the series’ opener. Any of them could have shouldered the hour effectively, yet, in this case, giving each equal gravitas serves only to diffuse viewer involvement. (Who in hell am I supposed to root for?) Certainly, the storylines all converge at the climax (in standard Edgar Rice Burroughs style), but, by that time, viewer involvement may be too minimal to matter.

In its comic book and cinematic incarnations, S.H.I.E.L.D. is staffed by skilled personnel, but helmed by the ultra-charismatic — and ultra-dangerous — Nick Fury, and for good reason. The game is one of epic heroes and villains, of larger-than-life characters who compete with outrageous, godlike force — not to mention Kirby Krackle! Although Fury, like Batman and Bond, has no superpowers, he is clearly suprahuman: irresistible, indomitable, invincible. And Agent Coulson, with his Rudy Giuliani aplomb, is no Fury. (Actually, he could take a few attitude lessons from Samuel L. Jackson.)

And speaking of Jackson, the SHIELD opener would have benefited immensely from a 15-second cameo or even a damn phone call from Jackson’s Fury. (Hell, I would have bought everybody drinks for a quickie Paste-Pot Pete appearance or even a walk-on by Stan Lee!) Even more disappointing was that the show had no menace, no tension. A month or so ago, during a conversation with Loeb, he categorized the series as “S.H.I.E.L.D. meets The X-Files.” Great premise, but barely in evidence. SHIELD needs to be much tougher, much stranger, much edgier to reach its potential!

The show’s creators have gone on record to point out the series is about ordinary people, somewhat echoing the Hitchcock approach (ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances). Perhaps, in this case, ordinary may not be enough to warrant audience interest and loyalty.

Additionally, the pilot was riddled with inscrutable, distracting moments. Did anyone notice all the women were cookie-cuttered, dressed the same, looked the same, had the same kind of edge (possibly more than their male counterparts)? In the Act 1 apartment fight scene (orchestrated in the Bourne manner), could anyone determine who was doing what to whom (all those black suits)? Anyone wonder how the superpowered Hooded Hero could be so easily tailed (perhaps for days) by hot babe Skye? And why didn’t the S.H.I.E.L.D. interrogators at least get her last name, not to mention her phone number?

Could anyone understand the dialogue delivered by the S.H.I.E.L.D. lab team? Did anyone feel punted into P.C.-ville by the Hooded Hero being black? And did we really need the rampant, dueling ideologies at the pilot’s denouement? We all understand melodrama has its conveniences, contrivances and coincidences, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect a certain transcendence with the kind of creative talent behind the series.

If only, at the episode’s close, a well-meaning security guard who worked in the subway terminal would have shot and killed the Hooded Hero to really punch up the philosophical dichotomy between what he termed the “bad guy” and the “hero.” Or would that kind of poetic irony been too over the top for a comic book-inspired TV series?

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Upcoming Fall Shows

September 23, 2013 at 10:00 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

It’s a good job I’m working again as it allows money for shows. The summer was a bit dry, but the fall concert series is shaping up.

Frightened Rabbit are playing Kool Haus on October 17. I’ve seen FR twice this past year – at the Mod Club and at the Phoenix, so I’m a little worried that it might be overkill and that the larger venue won’t be as thrilling. But what the hell, they are terrific.

Kid Congo Powers is coming to the Horseshoe October 24. I saw him open for Urge Overkill at the Horseshoe a few years back, and I might have seen him with the Cramps in the eighties, but I can’t be certain. Fun band and a great venue.

Into November and the Crocodiles come to Lee’s Palace Well, the Jesus and Mary Chain have been around for a long time, so why not have more feedback laced pop? Quite looking forward to this one.

Lastly, the Kills play the Music Hall December 11. They don’t seem to have new product, but I’m happy to see ’em again. A pretty fantastic live band.

Future looks bright!

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Driving and Crying…

September 23, 2013 at 1:16 am (Uncategorized)

I drive to work. It’s approximately a twenty minute drive from my house to my workplace, depending on traffic. The drive itself is fairly mundane and for the most part is along highway 401 eastbound.

Two thoughts usually run through my head.

One, I’m glad I’m not driving westbound in the morning. Even at 7:30, the express and collector lanes are at a crawl.

Two, what would happen if I didn’t take my exit and just kept driving? Really? It’s true that this thought is strongest on Monday, and while it recedes during the week, it never entirely disappears.

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Linda McQuaig and the Perils of Social Democracy

September 22, 2013 at 3:29 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

Linda McQuaig is a Canadian journalist and author who writes from a left social-democratic perspective.Conrad Black once described McQuaig as a “weedy” leftist and later opined she ought to be horsewhipped.

I’ve read a few of her books, and generally enjoy here columns when they criticize things I don’t like much either ( whatever the theoretical shortcomings). Still, I’ll admit I was a little disappointed when McQuaig announced her candidacy for the New Democratic Party nomination in Toronto Centre, which was held by former Ontario NDP leader Bob Rae during his turn as a Federal Liberal. (McQuaig easily won the nomination).

In a printed debate with LIberal candidate Chrystia Freeland in the September 21 2013 edition of the Globe and Mail , McQuaig scored points against Freeland who appears to see poverty through the prism of the privileged, but conceded she wasn’t against capitalism, but unbridled capitalism.

Ah, Linda, and just who do you think will be doing the bridling? The NDP which has been a good and faithful servant of capitalism since its inception? A telling indictment is that on the list of endorsers to McQuaig’s campaign is one Michael Lewis who served as provincial secretary to the NDP during the 1980s. Lewis was as establishment as you could get. His father, David Lewis was Federal party leader, but in the fifties served the right-wing of the unions in driving out communist activists. His brother Stephen, now reborn as an elder statesman on AIDS activism, was the party leader who drove out the leftist Canadian nationalists of the Waffle in the early 1970s.  Tell me who your friends are and…

Linda McQuaig, if she is successful, won’t be the last leftie commentator swallowed by social democracy, and it’s possible she could be allowed to be a rebel within the party as leftist cover (though Tom Mulcair would likely have other opinions), but it does seem she will likely be writing fewer moderately interesting books.

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Factory Living

September 16, 2013 at 10:39 pm (Uncategorized)

Shortly after the work post, I remembered this song by Canadian pop-punk band Blue Peter.

Sometimes I wonder why do I bother at all
When I could get a job down at the factory and work where all my friends are

It’s no fun starving just to keep your integrity
It’s no fun starving better to work down at the factory

Sometimes I wonder why do I worry about those things that you do
And then I see you late on a Saturday and I know that you’re right
If I had a job you could come and live with me and I would see you every night
If I was working you might come and live with me and I would see you every night

It’s no fun starving for artistic integrity
It’s no fun starving better to work in the big old factory

Starve.

Now if i had a job down at the factory I could buy houses and cars
And late in the evening I could write songs for you on my old broken guitar
And I would have finance we could go dancing like many happy people do
But then I’d be working 9-5 everyday leaves no time for play

It’s no fun starving for artistic integrity
It’s no fun starving better to work down at the factory
It’s no fun starving just to keep your integrity
Better to work in the big old factory
It’s no fun starving just to keep your integrity
Better to work down at the factory with you.

Here’s a live version from a couple of years ago, but it’s worth listening to the original which can be found on the site link above.

Sometimes I wonder why do I bother at all
When I could get a job down at the factory and work where all my friends are

It’s no fun starving just to keep your integrity
It’s no fun starving better to work down at the factory

Sometimes I wonder why do I worry about those things that you do
And then I see you late on a Saturday and I know that you’re right
If I had a job you could come and live with me and I would see you every night
If I was working you might come and live with me and I would see you every night

It’s no fun starving for artistic integrity
It’s no fun starving better to work in the big old factory

Starve.

Now if i had a job down at the factory I could buy houses and cars
And late in the evening I could write songs for you on my old broken guitar
And I would have finance we could go dancing like many happy people do
But then I’d be working 9-5 everyday leaves no time for play

It’s no fun starving for artistic integrity
It’s no fun starving better to work down at the factory
It’s no fun starving just to keep your integrity
Better to work in the big old factory
It’s no fun starving just to keep your integrity
Better to work down at the factory with you.

Words:
Chris Wardman
Music:
Chris Wardman

– See more at: http://www.bluepeterband.com/factory-living#sthash.rtWDesUc.dpuf

Sometimes I wonder why do I bother at all
When I could get a job down at the factory and work where all my friends are

It’s no fun starving just to keep your integrity
It’s no fun starving better to work down at the factory

Sometimes I wonder why do I worry about those things that you do
And then I see you late on a Saturday and I know that you’re right
If I had a job you could come and live with me and I would see you every night
If I was working you might come and live with me and I would see you every night

It’s no fun starving for artistic integrity
It’s no fun starving better to work in the big old factory

Starve.

Now if i had a job down at the factory I could buy houses and cars
And late in the evening I could write songs for you on my old broken guitar
And I would have finance we could go dancing like many happy people do
But then I’d be working 9-5 everyday leaves no time for play

It’s no fun starving for artistic integrity
It’s no fun starving better to work down at the factory
It’s no fun starving just to keep your integrity
Better to work in the big old factory
It’s no fun starving just to keep your integrity
Better to work down at the factory with you.

Words:
Chris Wardman
Music:
Chris Wardman

– See more at: http://www.bluepeterband.com/factory-living#sthash.rtWDesUc.dpuf

Sometimes I wonder why do I bother at all
When I could get a job down at the factory and work where all my friends are

It’s no fun starving just to keep your integrity
It’s no fun starving better to work down at the factory

Sometimes I wonder why do I worry about those things that you do
And then I see you late on a Saturday and I know that you’re right
If I had a job you could come and live with me and I would see you every night
If I was working you might come and live with me and I would see you every night

It’s no fun starving for artistic integrity
It’s no fun starving better to work in the big old factory

Starve.

Now if i had a job down at the factory I could buy houses and cars
And late in the evening I could write songs for you on my old broken guitar
And I would have finance we could go dancing like many happy people do
But then I’d be working 9-5 everyday leaves no time for play

It’s no fun starving for artistic integrity
It’s no fun starving better to work down at the factory
It’s no fun starving just to keep your integrity
Better to work in the big old factory
It’s no fun starving just to keep your integrity
Better to work down at the factory with you.

Words:
Chris Wardman
Music:
Chris Wardman

– See more at: http://www.bluepeterband.com/factory-living#sthash.rtWDesUc.dpuf

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Wage Slavery Blues: The Call of September

September 15, 2013 at 8:40 pm (Uncategorized)

It seems I write the same post every year, complete with an appropriate Smiths’ lyric.

Summer is the best time to be unemployed: The weather is nicer; the days are longer; everything is better.

I had a nice little routine this year. Get up. walk the dog. Read the paper and do the puzzles over a cup of coffee. Check my email. Look for work. Do a few chores. That took care of the day. Got up on Monday and the next hing I new it was Thursday.

Only thing was I was broke. And there’s nothing lie making you think about work than watching your bank balance dwindle as the bills pile up.

So eventually, I had to find a job.

A little while searching, filling out applications and then a friend helped out. And as soon as I found out I had the position, the old fear and loathing began to surface. And a part of my waking hours were filled with the question, “How am I going to get all my stuff done now?”

So, altogether then…

“I was looking for a job and then I found a job and heaven knows I’m miserable now.”

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Summer Reads: The Balance Sheet

September 12, 2013 at 1:26 am (Uncategorized)

Summer’s over.

Looking back at my list, I got through a fair bit: The Ocean at the End of the Lane, most of Moorcock’s Runestaff saga, most of Lipstick Traces, Shop Class as Soul Craft, Who Can That Be at This Hour, Madame Bovary, Teenage,  and I Dreamed I was a Very Clean Tramp.  Not bad. On the other hand, I didn’t even crack the spine of the Trotsky or Jared Diamond books on my list.

I read Christopher Hibbett’s book on Florence, the wretched Lost Symbol and the five-volume Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. I’m sure there may have been a few other things hidden in there too, but maybe they’ll have to feature on another summer reads list.

Now, I have to download The Decadence of the Shamans which really looks quite interesting. (Been looking for that one for years)

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Savages – Tomorrow in Toronto

September 11, 2013 at 4:15 pm (Uncategorized)

If you don’t have plans for tomorrow night, Savages are in town.

The four piece from the UK combines the neat trick of sounding both familiar and fresh; a band clearly influenced by post-punk sounds, but not simply a re-tread of the past.

Unfortunately, my schedule isn’t gonig to allow attendance at this one, but if you can the show’s at the Opera House.

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Random Dog Picture # 4

September 8, 2013 at 7:12 pm (Uncategorized)

My daughter has a peanut allergy, so we’re careful not to have nuts in the house. Still, recently she discovered faux peanut butter, and we’ve been buying it. We go through it rather quickly, which was a bit of a mystery. Until now…

Peanut

How he got the lid off without having an opposable  thumb is another matter … 🙂

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