Music Notes November 2013

November 30, 2013 at 12:33 am (Uncategorized)

Hmm… stocking stuffers anyone?

1. Arcade Fire – Reflektor

Damn! Arcade Fire made a dance record. It’s easy to point ot the influence of James Murphy ex of LCD Soundsystem, but the fact is AF have always been interested in big bold statements in their music, and dance music is a bold statement. Like the Anna Calvi record I mention below, it isn’t as immediate as previous releases, but the looping percussion of “Reflektor” pulls you in. Like most double albums, the release can be overwhelming, but I’ve been absorbing it as I drive to work, and I’m settling in very nicely thank you very much.

2. Karen Dalton – In My Own Time

I can only listen to Karen Dalton when my kids aren’t around. They HATE her voice. Admittedly, it’s an acquired taste, but to hear her tackle “When a Man Loves a Woman” and “How Sweet it is” along side such signature songs as “Katie Cruel” is astounding. Her voice is unique. The rawness and authenticity of her sound cuts through both the soul and the folk numbers and creates something incredible. I’m always amazed that artists such as Dalton who have influenced so many are virtually unknown.

3. Anna Calvi – One Breath

One of the mysteries for me listening to Anna Calvi’s first album was with a band of only three people how they could produce such a big sound. Orchestral even. One Breath, the new album which came out in September is no less orchestral. The songs aren’t quite so immediate, but Calvi’s singing and outstanding guitar playing won me over. A worthy successor.

4. Adam and the Ants- Kings of the Wild Frontier

I loved this record when it came out. Sure sure, it alienated a lot of Adam’s fan base, but I wasn’t part of it anyway. A big Gary Glitter drum sound, Duane Eddy guitar and Adam yelping about Native Americans and pirates. When you’re 15, it makes sense, but it got pretty silly soon after. Thirty years on, I realize it was pretty silly then too, but the tunes are mostly fun. This edition adds a few disposable demos.

5. Arson – Not Always About You

My new favourite local band. I mentioned in the Flamin Groovies review, that anyone who hoped for a follow-up to Raw Power or a third Dead boys album needs to own this one. Pure, unabashed rock and roll in all its glory. PLAY LOUD. Oh and catch them live opening for Hugh Cornwall at Lee’s December 15.

6. M.I.A. – Matangi

M.I.A. continues to be a puzzle to me. Noisy beats, a petulant attitude and quite fantastic stuff like the title song and “Bad Girls” (yes Richard, you were right) co-exist on this record. The album sounds to my ears less unified than previous works but maybe this is because of the album was recorded over a longer than usual period of time (“Bad Girls” is two years old) Always worth a listen though.

7. Metric – Old World Underground, Where Are you Now?

Surely you must know the title of the album and the first words sung by Emily Haynes are the same. Great  new wave album now a decade old, but still worth listening too for the punkier tracks like IOU, Combat Baby and Dead Disco. (You might also check out Martha & the Muffins first record)

8. Bad Religion – Christmas Songs

With 9 songs coming in at 19 minutes, it’s true the album feels a little, well, slight, but it’s a fun ride. The band blast through a bunch of Christmas favourites including “White Christmas,” “O come all ye Faithful,” and “Little Drummer Boy.” Part of the proceeds go to Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

9. Alex Chilton- Free Again: “The 1970″ Sessions”

Post-Box Tops, pre-Big Star, Alex Chilton recorded these songs in the summer of 1969. And they are essential for any Chilton fan. Two versions of “Free Again,” Stones and James Brown covers, some serious rock outs and some lovely ballads. This expanded collection also adds some mono versions. Lovely, just lovely.

10. Mojo 20th Anniversary issue

The issue isn’t on any newsstands I can see her, but on-line the issue looks great.; full of self-referential features (I love this stuff – I can’t wait for best of the year issues!) Also includes a 20 song  CD featuring Jack White, Teenage Fanclub. Mercury Rev and many more.

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A Rose By Any Other Name…

November 25, 2013 at 11:37 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

I was talking with a friend a few weeks back, and the subject of album titles came up. Quick as a rather slow flash, here’s a list of some of my favourite album titles.

1. Spacemen 3 – Taking Drugs to make Music to Take Drugs to

The demos from the first Spacemen 3 album. I almost went with “For all the Fucked-up children of the world, we give you Spacemen Three,” but this one narrowly beats it.

2. The Sex Pistols – Never mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols

I was a little too young to fully appreciate punk, and I wasn’t from one of the big cities. I probably didn’t buy the album until 1979. Still, I remember when the Sex Pistols did their thing. I remember the whispering about the album’s title and the thrill of listening to it, swear words and all. It’s still a thrill thirty years later.

3. The Heartbreakers – L.A.M.F.

A New York Street Legend: Like a mother fucker! Nuff said.

4. The Pogues – Rum, Sodomy and the Lash

Now given the Pogues’ name comes from a Gaelic phrase meaning kiss my arse, the title shouldn’t be a surprise, but the unofficial slogan of the British navy is curious. .

5. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – The First Born Son is Dead

Like many great rock acts, Nick Cave had a somewhat unhealthy Elvis fixation. Like many, he also made great music. First Born, including Elvis’s “In the Ghetto,” is brooding shambling mutant blues.

6. The Cockney Rejects – Greatest Hits Volume 1

Great joke naming your first record that. Unfortunately, when you tell the joke for the third time, the joke’s not so funny (especially when the third one was a live one). Still, it worked once.

7. Nick Lowe – Jesus of Cool (UK)/Pure Pop for Now People (US)

Nick Lowe’s first release for Stiff Records had a different title for the UK and the US release – apparently, the US wasn’t ready for the Jesus of Cool, but both titles are pretty amazing.

8. The Stranglers – No More Heroes

The perfect punk title. After all wasn’t it kill your heroes in 1977? Punk was year zero. Too bad the album didn’t entirely live up to the promise. It had moments sure, but it felt like hesitation sandwiched between Rattus Novegicus and Black and White.

9.  Social Distortion – White light, White Heat, White Trash

Recalling the Velvet’s album of almost the same name, Social Distortion add their own imprint in to their last truly great record.

10. Alex Chilton – Like Flies on Sherbert

A gloriously sloppy record. Check out “Alligator Man” which sounds as if each member of the band is playing a different song in different time. not entirely sure what that title means, but the image is great.

Any others? Another list later

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The Crocodiles at Lee’s Palace – A Brief Review

November 23, 2013 at 11:52 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Remember that bit in the Krays where the teacher asks the twins for a word, and without a pause they respond, “Crocodile” ? Not sure why i recall it now, but it seemed an appropriate place to begin.

I’ve been meaning to see the Crocodiles for a few years, but every time they’ve come through, fate has directed me elsewhere. This was the time.

I got to Lee’s to catch the last couple of songs of Wymond Miles’ set. I heard too few songs to make an informed judgement, but the penultimate had a nice eighties sound to it with some lovely keyboard work. The last song had a fairly glorious guitar noise, so maybe next time I’ll have to make more of an effort to be on time.

The Crocodiles often get tagged as Jesus and Mary Chain types, but to see them live is to realize how inaccurate that comparison is. For my money, the band have more in common with the Paisley Underground bands of the early eighties: sixties tunes and harmonies and organ sounds, along with pounding drums and crashing guitar sounds. The band ripped though a brief (well, 45 minute) set, encoring with the soaring “I Wanna Kill” from their 2009 debut Summer of Hate. Excellent.

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“Can Redistribution solve Capitalism’s Crises?” – Public Meeting in New York

November 19, 2013 at 7:37 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

In New York in December? Here’s something you should do

Public Meeting New York December 2

If you’re in or near New York City, please join us at Bluestockings bookstore for a special roundtable discussion co-sponsored by Marxist-Humanist Initiative and Internationalist Perspective, “Can Redistribution Solve Capitalism’s Crises?” Discussants will include Andrew Kliman, Anne Jaclard, Mac Intosh, and Sander.

The roundtable will critically examine proposals to redistribute income and wealth that are currently popular in “Marxist,” social democratic, and left-Keynesian circles. Can redistribution make capitalism “fair”? Can it prevent repeated economic crises? Does inequality cause crises and poverty? If not, what are the causes? Can capitalism be reformed to make it serve human needs? If not, what is the alternative?

The discussion will take place on Monday, December 2, between 7 and 9 pm. Bluestockings is at 172 Allen St., near Houston St. in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

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Xmas Gift Ideas #1: Support Local Artists

November 17, 2013 at 9:17 pm (Uncategorized)

The season is upon us. Sure, the stores have had their merchandise out since Halloween, but yesterday as I walked pasted the local shopping plaza, I noticed they had their big tree up in the square. Last night however, walking the dog, I noticed a neighbour had their tree up. C’mon people, it’s mid-November!

Of course, I can’t escape it (and to be honest, I won’t really try that hard.) If you’re looking for a unique gift, get art.  Here’s a very reasonably priced print by a friend of mine Alanna Cavanagh.

And there’s lots more great stuff on her site.



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The Flamin Groovies Now!

November 13, 2013 at 3:10 am (Uncategorized) (, )

Is rock ‘n’ roll a young man’s game? Blues musicians age and continue unfazed. Likewise folksingers. But somehow, when you get older as a rock singer, people say it just isn’t the same.

But is it? Last Wednesday I went down to Lee’s Palace to see the re-united Flamin’ Groovies and local boys Arson. Admittedly the evening didn’t start so well: I was almost hit by a car which ran a red light, and then about ten minutes after that as I walked to the club, I was almost hit by a car making a left turn in a hurry. I briefly considered going home, but, what the hell…

Lee’s was pretty empty when I arrived about ten minutes before Arson went on stage. I had seen the band open for the Rezillos last year, and was pretty excited to see them again. I should make a correction here to the link I had previously posted to their site though. You can hear tracks from their awesome new CD Not always about You, at their main site. Man, if you hoped Iggy would make a follow-up to Raw Power or you really liked the Dead Boys, you will not be disappointed (and I do not suggest Arson are derivative, but only by point of reference). By the end of their thoroughly entertaining set, Lee’s had become full. I hopped over to the merch table to pick up a copy of the CD and it was ten bucks well spent. (Note: Much of this review was written this past weekend, but I’m just finishing editing tonight. In the meantime I notice that a member of Arson has subscribed to the blog – let me know about the next show. Please!)

The Flamin Groovies came on about 10:15 to tumultuous applause. The band formed in the Bay Area in 1965, but who knows when the last time they were in Toronto. I’m not much for reunion shows, but sometimes you say, I need to see this band. No real surprises here. The band played as if they had been doing it all of their lives (although there was some strange stage banter including Chris Wilson’s persistent references to “Bob” Ford). And yes, they’re not as pretty as they were nor were the vocals as lovely as they had been, but really, who cared?  Does anyone care that Iggy is 66? Does anyone care that the Groovies are well into their sixties. The real question is, is it real and can they still do it. The answer is yes.

At about the seventy minute mark, the band played one of the songs I’d waited all evening to hear, “Slow Death.” As the song closed, Cyril Jordan announced to the audience that the next was their final song. He wouldn’t introduce it, but anyone who didn’t know it should be there: We all knew, it was “Shake Some Action,” arguably their greatest song. The guitars chimed and the harmonies still sounded fresh.

After a brief break, the band returned to play another great, “Teenage Head,” from which the legendary Canadian band took their name. A lot of fun, which this old guy thoroughly enjoyed.

Set List

Jumping Jack Flash (Rolling Stones)
Yeah My Baby
You Tore me Down
Yes I am
Tallahassee Lasse
Feel a Whole Lot Better (the Byrds)
Married woman(Frankie Lee Simns)
I want you Bad (NRBQ)
I Can’t hide
Don’t you lie to me (Chuck Berry)
Don’t Have to Tell you
[Sorry – couldn’t read my handwriting]
Paint it Black (Rolling Stones)
Please Please Girl
Between the lines
Slow Death
Shake some Action


Teenage Head

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Endnotes #3 Out Now

November 9, 2013 at 11:21 pm (Uncategorized)

Go quit your job. But download the new issue of Endnotes before you do. That way you won’t have to pay for it, and you’ll have something to occupy your free time.

One question I am often asked when I do bookfairs is ‘when is the new issue of Endnotes coming out?’ Well  kids, it’s here. And the good news is that another issue will be out in six months or so. Apparently, they have amassed so much material, it wasn’t able to fit into a single volume.

Endnotes arose out of a split in the British Aufheben collective a few years back. The new collective has published two book sized issues themed around the origins of modern ultra-left communism and communization. The current issue is themed “Gender, Race, Class and other Misfortunes.” The entire issue is up at the Endnotes website so download away. I’ll have some more to say about the issue later, but gotta go quit my job so I’ll have time to read the thing (only joking mum).

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Kid Congo Spooks the Horseshoe

November 7, 2013 at 11:49 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

So this review is a little overdue, but I’ve been busy with stuff. Better later than never right?

Have I mentioned that I love the Horseshoe Tavern?  Few better places to see a show in Toronto. It’s small, so the sight lines are good (and even if you arrive to a full house, you can usually work your way through); the sound is good; the ticket prices are quite reasonable. Yah!

So a couple of weeks back, me and a mate went down to see ex-Cramp, ex-Gun Clubber, ex-Bad Seed Kid Congo Powers return to the Horseshoe to play songs from his latest record Haunted Head (pre-Halloween thrills indeed)

I arrived shortly before openers Meanwood took the stage.

Meanwood rock out

Meanwood are a Toronto roots band who have been around for a couple of years, and have an entertaining, energetic  sound. Judging by the reaction and the exchanges, the band seemed to have brought their fan club to the show, but they didn’t need to, as they were quite infectious in their performance. The band has an EP for sale on Soundcloud, and are in the process of recording a full length record.

Shortly after came CatL, one of my favourite local bands. Now slimmed down to a two-piece, the band seemed to be even tighter than on previous occasions. The band is now three albums deep into their career, and their punk blues sound gets better with each record.  It’s hard to sum up, but their was an energy about them that night that was missing on previous outings. New album coming soon. (unfortunately my photos didn’t come out too well)

Last up was Kid Congo. What to say? He was a founding member of the Gun club, played on the Cramps Psychedelic Jungle and Smell of Female and recorded with Nick Cave. Then a solo career. I saw him a couple of years back with the Jim Jones Revue at this very venue (fess up time – Congo was working the merch table before the show, so I went to talk to him – I mentioned I had seen him with Urge Overkill – then he corrected me – oops!)

Congo blasted through tracks from his new album along with four songs from the Gun Club’s first album, all to our delight. The sound leapt from surf to garage to rockabilly and even skirted lounge at time. However, if I had to point to a weak area, it’s Congo’s vocals. They don’t really seem to live up to the material (on the album, I’ve noted elsewhere, they seem buried in the mix). Still, nothing’s perfect and if you judge by the reaction of the somewhat small Horseshoe crowd, we were all happy. (Like my CatL pictures, my Congo pix didn’t quite come out).

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Seth and Peter Bagge have a conversation in Toronto

November 3, 2013 at 1:24 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

Last weekend, in absolutely miserable weather, my wife and I made a quick trip down to Harbourfront for the International Festival of Authors to hear a talk with Seth and Peter Bagge. 

Both my wife and I love graphic novels, and were both readers of Bagge’s work Neat Stuff and Hate. Seth was one of the autobiographical cartoonists who emerged in Toronto in the nineties along with Chester Brown and Joe Matt  and centred in the Beguiling  (the place I rediscovered comics) I saw Seth speak last year with Daniel Handler (Lemony Snickett) at the Toronto Public Library, so this seemed an excellent opportunity to catch both.

We got there early expected a huge crowd, but strangely we were the first ones to show up. We wanted around the Harbourfront Centre for a bit, then joined the few others who had arrived (we stood in line behind Chester Brown). In total there were probably fewer than fifty people in the audience.

The always impeccably dressed Seth spoke first. Known primarily for his work illustrating others’ material, Seth has just finished a new edition of Stephen Leacock’s Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, Leacock’s  humourous account of , well, small town life. I’ve read some Leackock, but not this one. Nevertheless, after Seth’s presentation, I wanted to read this one too. Much was made of Seth’s small town origins, but oddly the town was never mention (It’s Clinton, Ontario by the way, the birthplace of Alice Munro and Steven Truscott). I was generally a city kid, but I did live in Antigonish, Nova Scotia for a year back in the mid-1990s. It’s am interesting experience; Sometimes unpleasant, but sometimes it really does seem like a better way of life.

Peter Bagge was next. I’d always imagined Bagge to look something like his disheveled plaid wearing character Buddy Bradley. He does not. The topic of his talk was his new graphic novel biography of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. Bagge devoted a large amount of his time to defending the reputation of Sanger from charges of racism stemming from her advocacy of eugenics.   It was a spirited defences, and made the book sound more interesting for it.

Following the two presentations, Bagge and Seth sat and were interviewed by CBC host Brent Bambery where topics ranged from the creative process to the alternative comics community. A very interesting afternoon, and the weather made staying inside a good choice.

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Arson Alert (oh, and the Flamin’ Groovies too)

November 2, 2013 at 10:41 pm (Uncategorized)

Sorry, for the inflammatory title (OK, no more jokes), but according to an ad in this week’s Now Magazine, Arson are opening for the Flamin’ Groovies at Lee’s this coming Wednesday.

Great rock ‘n’ roll band in that classic Dolls/Stooges style. They go on stage at 9.

And of course, there’s the Groovies themselves. I can go either way on reunion shows (I usually choose not to), but it might be fun, and I’m certain to hear “Shake Some Action” and “Slow Death,” so I will go home happy.

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