Music Notes May 2014

May 31, 2014 at 9:58 pm (Uncategorized)

Lots of new stuff this month

1. Looking for Johnny

The classic story. Boy loves baseball, boy discovers the Beatles, boy forms great but unappreciated band, boy discovers drugs, then pisses away his talent over a decade or two, showing increasingly fewer signs of brilliance before dying prematurely in squalid circumstances. Now, Looking for Johnny, the new Johnny Thunders documentary does have some brilliant footage and it’s worth seeing for that, but the production and editing does leave  little to be desired; the audio in particular is particularly sloppy. It’s also interesting for who is interviewed an who isn’t/ Sylvain Sylvain appears, but David Johansen doesn’t. Walter Lure does, but Richard Hell doesn’t. Oh, and there’s also the skeletor-like Billy Rath. Interesting, but only essential for fans.

2. Chrissie Hynde – “Dark Sunglasses”

Damn! Chrissie Hynde is 62 and she still sounds sexy. The album doesn’t come out for a couple of weeks, but this is the single: The very cool sounding pop she’s been effortlessly turning out for decades.

3. Lykke Li – I Never Learn

Oh Lykke, that’s OK. As long as you keep producing these Spectoresque album of loss, we won’t criticize. The new album is not quite as immediate as  Wounded Rhymes, but a few plays reveal, the majesty of the record. I usually like poppier, faster songs, but there’s something gloriously melancholic about these tunes. Get some.

4. Promised Land Sound – Fadin Fast

Saw these guys a couple of weeks back opening for Angel Olsen. Kinda Jayhawks-like in their sounds, but that’s not a bad thing is it.

5. Only Lovers Left Alive – Soundtrack

If you haven’t seen this intelligent vampire movie directed by Jim Jarmusch, go and check it out. Then get the soundtrack. Spooky, atmospheric stuff mostly composed by Jarmusch.  Then see the movie again.

6. Bush Tetras – “Too Many Creeps”

This turned up on a comp. I came across this month. Punk-funk from the early days.

7. Black Keys – Turn Blue

Huh? After the cheesy psych-pop of “Fever,” the finished album is a fairly faithful Black Keys’ blues-soul record. Too be honest, I was hoping for more of the single, but the album is quite tasty. There’ s a lovely slow burning opener, “Weight of Love,” and only the final song “Gottta Getaway” sounds like a throwback. Interesting piece for the lads.

8. The Pixies – Indie Cindy

Who was it said the best you can hope for when a favourite band reforms is they don’t suck completely? So what to make of the Pixies Indie Cindy?I like the fact that new material was Kim Deal’s idea because she knew it would piss people off. I like it less that Kim doesn’t appear, but they hired someone to sound like her backing vocals. And while I didn’t get the EPs, I can imagine someone who did resenting the fact this is being marketed as a new album when there are no unreleased songs on it. Enough? What about the music. Erm, it’s…OK. I liked “Silver Snail” and “Snakes” and to be fair, there’s nothing that made me want to skip onto the next track, btu there’s also nothing that thrilled me in the way so many other Pixies records have. It’s a successor to Trompe le Monde, sure, but it’s the last place Pixies album for me.

9. Blood Red Shoes – In Time to Voices

From a couple of years back, the BRS album is not quite as much of a sonic assault as their lives shows, but still, a pretty solid record. Punky, but thoughtful too.

10. Holly George-Warren – Alex Chilton: A Man Called Destruction

A lovingly detailed biography of Alex Chilton following him through the pop success of the Boxtops and the critical triumphs of Big Star, through the shambling punk years and his final metamorphosis into a kind of rock revival interpreter. In each phase of his career, Chilton displayed a brilliance, and it shines thorough in Warren-Holly’s amazing biography.

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Anarchy in Montreal 2014 – A Brief Report

May 31, 2014 at 10:24 am (Uncategorized)

It’s been said that anarchist has a broad back, that it encompasses many things. The truth of that statement is evident to anyone who visits the annual Anarchist Bookfair in Montreal: from Platformists, to syndicalists, to feminists, to anti-Police-brutality activists, to publishers, to First Nations, to  ultra-left Marxists (sorry self-reference here) and every one in-between the bookfair is a dazzling display of (anti)political diversity.

The bookfair began in 2000, but over its fifteen year existence has grown into a month-long festival of which the centre point is the two-day bookfair which was held last weekend. I always imagine that I will be able to table both days, but this time of year is busy for me, and I always seem to flake out. Ahh, next year.

My sales were up a little from last year, and I had some very interesting conversations with attendees. I did see a few more Zapatista t-shirts than previous year (not a good thing in my opinion), but such is life. This is still oee of the big events of the year for me.

When I opened up my in box this morning there was a reminder about the Toronto bookfair which is taking place in July 19. Hope to see you there.

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Anarchy in Montreal: 2014

May 20, 2014 at 5:47 pm (Uncategorized)

Yup, it’s just a few days away, the 2014 Anarchist Bookfair in Montreal.

I’ve tabled at the bookfair every year (this will be the 15th), and it’s always a thrill. (You can check out the program at the bookfair site). As always lots of cool stuff and interesting events.

Come by the Notes from Underground table and say hello.


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Get Your Blood Red Shoes…At the Garrison

May 17, 2014 at 2:48 pm (Uncategorized)

Down to the Garrison last night for the Blood Red Shoes there. Saw BRS last year at the Horseshoe, and they are a fantastic live band. It was my first time at the Garrison. It’s a small venue a little bigger than the Rivoli on Dundas west of  Ossington, but it was the perfect size to appreciate the band.

Opening band Radkey arr a three-piece from St. Joseph, Missouri. They played a savage forty minute set which seems to have three distinct styles throughout. Hardcore speed which veered into metal territory, slow sludgey numbers, and then more melodic mid-tempo stuff (my preferred style).  The audience was sparse at the start, but by Radkey’s last song, the crowd had grown measurably and seemed impressed by the set. You can download a free song from Radkey’s web page if you’re so inclined.

After a forty minute wait, BRS came on at 10:45. Blood Red Shoes are a two-piece from Brighton with a self-titled fourth record out now (I bought a CD at the merch table.  I asked the guy for the new one, but when I got home, I realized it was the old one – s’ok. I don’t have it, and it’s a pretty good record) With just guitar and drums, some backing tapes and both Laura-Mary and Steven singing, the band make an incredibly full sound complete with pounding drums, slashing guitar and catchy songs. There’s drone sound to them which pulls the audience in. The band played for a little under an hour, followed by a two-song encore and concluding with the epic “Colours Fade.”

At the risk of repeating myself, I still wonder why this band isn’t more popular. The Garrison was less than half-full, although the front of the stage was densely packed. Oh and one final nitpick. By the end of the set, there were fewer people than at the beginning of the show: It’s Friday; it’s not a school night!  At 49, I’m at the older end of the audience spectrum, but I was there until the house lights came on. I tell you, the younger generation these days doesn’t have the stamina. Seriously though: spend your money on this band. They deserve it, and you will be happy with your decision.

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Angel Olsen at Lee’s – A Quick Review

May 16, 2014 at 12:41 pm (Uncategorized)

Went down to Lee’s last week to see Angel Olsen. The show was originally  scheduled for the Garrison, but I guess it sold out too quickly, and the promoter moved it to Lee’s. No matter, Lee’s is a great venue, and I’ll be heading to the Garrison tonight to see Blood Red Shoes.

The openers, Promised Land Sound are a country grungy four-piece from Nashville who recall the harmonies and sound of the Jayhawks. They played a solid thirty minute set only occasionally veering into sounthern boogie sounds.

If you haven’t heard Angel Olsen’s second album, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, you really need to get on that. The album contains a vast array of sounds from folk to country to garage all with a heavy debt to Leonard Cohen. Quite stunning.

And so it was with her set. A four-piece band which thrilled us with a variety of sounds including all of the above to an almost Elvis rock ‘n’ roll. At the centre Ms. Olsen played her guitar, sang her sad songs and talked to us about them. A good time was had by all.

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In the Beautiful Half-Light of 1934

May 12, 2014 at 12:35 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

A few weeks back, I got a copy of David Walsh’s book of film reviews and criticism The Sky Between the Leaves. In the preface, Walsh mentions the title is derived from a poem by Andre Breton. Here it is. 

In the beautiful half-light of 1934″

The air was a splendid pink the color of red mullet
And the forest when I prepared to enter it
Began with a tree with cigarette paper leaves
Because I was waiting for you
And if you come for a walk with me
No matter where
Your mouth is the incredible all-spice
From which the blue wheel diffuse and broken endlessly sets out and rises
Turning pale in the rut
All the marvels hurried to meet me
A squirrel had come to press its white belly against my heart
I don't know how he made himself do it
But the earth was filled with reflections deeper than those in water
As if metal had finally shaken off its shell
And you lying on the frightening ocean of precious gems
Were turning
In a huge sun of fireworks
I saw you slowly evolving from the radiolarians
Even the shells of the sea urchins I was there
Wait a minute I wasn't there any more
I had raised my head because the living jewel box of white velvet had left me
And I was sad 
The sky between the leaves was shining haggard and hard like a dragonfly
I was going to shut my eyes
When two wooden booms which had suddenly swung apart came crashing down
Without a sound
Like the two center leaves of an immense lily-of-the-valley
Of a flower capable of containing the whole night
I was where you see me now
In the set-all-the-bells-a-ringing perfume
Before they could return as they do each day to fickle life
I just had time to place my lips
On your glass thighs


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TCAF 2014

May 7, 2014 at 6:29 pm (Uncategorized)

The Toronto Comics Arts Festival takes places this weekend at the Toronto Reference Library. The event starts Friday night and runs through the weekend…and it’s free.

As opposed to Fan Expo and Comic-Con which deal with SF, superheroes and fantasy in general, TCAF focuses on graphic novels, their creators, and yes, comic books too.

Which really forces the question what is a graphic novel? There are several competing claims to be the first “graphic novel,” (maybe Will Eisner’s A Contract with God gets the prize), but one definition might be a graphic work of fiction or autobiography published as a single book. OK, but what about Watchmen? Though conceived as a single volume it was published as individual installments.  Or V for Vendetta?  Or Maus? Ah, it’s complicated.

Nowadays of course the term is used very broadly, and sometimes even extended to the trade paperback comic anthologies like whatever Batman book is on the shelves now. As Alan Moore put it:

It’s a marketing term… that I never had any sympathy with. The term ‘comic’ does just as well for me… The problem is that ‘graphic novel’ just came to mean ‘expensive comic book’ and so what you’d get is people like DC Comics or Marvel Comics—because ‘graphic novels’ were getting some attention, they’d stick six issues of whatever worthless piece of crap they happened to be publishing lately under a glossy cover and call it The She-Hulk Graphic Novel….”

But I digress.

A harder pill for many to swallow is the notion of comics as…literature. It’s a form of snobbery. Yes, there are dreadful things published in comic format: Poor storytelling and shoddy artwork. However, there are complex stories with beautiful art which put many “genuine” novels to shame.

At this year’s event are many fantastic story-tellers, and I mean no disrespect to others. But, I’m pretty excited that Ed Brubaker will be there. Brubaker is the guy who wrote the stories which Captain America 2 is based on, but his Criminal, Fatale and Incognito are noir masterpieces. Likewise Darwyn Cooke, well-known for his work with DC but who has quietly been adapting Donald Westlake’s Parker stories. Raina Telgemeier (Smile) is also attending, but I’m interesting to meet Fanny Britt and Isobelle Arsenault who created the poignant story Jane, The Fox and Me.

Have  a look.

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Ontario Provincial Election: Let the Laughs Begin

May 4, 2014 at 2:30 pm (Uncategorized)

A few days day, the Ontario New Democratic Party announced they would not be supporting the minority Liberal government’s budget automatically triggering an election. The election was then called for June 12, and probably the only good thing is that it will be over before summer starts.

The Liberals under Kathleen Wynn didn’t really want an election. Wynn, who was chosen by her party to lead the province after Dalton McGuinty resigned, has done well to restore the reputation of her party after a series of scandals, but it’s likely too little too late, especially since she was a supporter of all of the policies of that leader. Although I should mention that Wynn is my provincial representative and actually knocked on my front door last time. We argued, and tagging me as a “progressive,” her final argument was that I should vote for her because the NDP couldn’t win, and the Conservatives would be worse than her party. And people call me a cynic.

Tim Hudak, the Progressive Conservative leader has been jonesin’ for an election since his party was defeated last time. Hudak has a wet-dream about a return to the glory years of Mike Harris’  “Common Sense Revolution” (of which his wife was a policy architect). Hudak though comes across of the dimmest of the three leaders. He’s always struck me as James Gregory’s character Sen John Yerkes Islin in The Manchurian Candidate, full of fire but really being fed other people’s words, and only somethings being aware of it. But even Hudak must surely know if he fails to win, his party will devour him.

Andrea Howarth of the New Democrats has the most to win and the most to lose. While she can stay on as leader even if she loses (no expects much of her party), she has gambled this is the time for growth for her party. This of course paints her as an opportunist less concerned about politics than her own standing  (perhaps she just showverdosed on House of Cards).  And like the federal party, the ONDP is moving to the political centre, downplaying unions and the S word (although happy to take money and activists) is order to be respectable. Of course, the days of even rhetorical commitment to radicalism are long gone. I do look forward to the point in the campaign when the NDP admits it can’t win, and also the arguments of the left as to why these fakes ought to be supported.

And me? Well, the choice between strawberry, chocolate and vanilla ice-cream is all very well, but if I’m lactose intolerant or simply want a healthier option means it isn’t much of a choice.

Still, maybe they’ll be a few laughs along the way.

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Holly Golightly Returns to the Horseshoe

May 4, 2014 at 2:08 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

I’m a bit late writing this one – the show was ten days back, but ironically, today would have been Audrey Hepburn’s 85th birthday., and while our Holly was named for the book character rather than the movie, it seems like an interesting co-incidence.

It’s been almost six years  since Holly Golightly and Lawyer Dan (AKA the Brokeoffs) played Toronto, but the wait was worth it.  Out to promote the new album All Her Fault Holly and Dan rocked the Horseshoe Tavern to a small but appreciative audience.

I owe an apology to Danny Laj and the Looks. When they opened for Jim Jones in January, I arrived to hear them say good night. “Right” I thought, “this time I’ll check them out.” The spirit was willing, but the flesh was tardy and I arrived to hear maybe a minute of their set. Next time, I promise!

Second band of the night were Freeman Dre and the Kitchen Party. Hard to pin this one band. At times, they reminded me of Leonard Cohen performing Tom Wait’s Rain Dogs,but then there was that Irish jig about Moses.  It might have been me, since the audience had clearly come to see them. The band just seemed to pull in too many directions; and while diversity is often a strength, here it was a distraction.

And inexplicable, to me anyway, the crowd grew smaller while we waited for Holly. OK, I understand it was a school night, but people you missed a treat. The two-piece tore through a selection from the new album and old classics (you should really try to track down the official bootleg No One Will Be There for a sense of their live show) filtered through a garage rockabilly sensibility.  As my mate Chris remarked, “give me some slide guitar and a trucker’s hat and I’m happy.” Woven into the show were tales of nutty neighbours in rural Georgia and of border crossings.  Short ,all too short a set, but still I did the fanboy thing and waited to get autographs.

Great night. Great band. Now, why weren’t more people there?

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