Music Notes June 2014 (Digging Through the Back File)

June 27, 2014 at 12:53 pm (Uncategorized)

A little early this time as I’m going out-of-town for a few days.

1. Buffalo Daughter – New Rock

Electronica from Japan. Picked this up around 1999. Quirky rock soundtrack over samples and beats. Not essential, but worth a listen.

2.  Jawbox – Novelty

I saw Jawbox at Lee’s Palace in 1992. Bought the CD, ordered the vinyl and a t-shirt (which I still have). Great sonic assault.

3. The Vibrators – Pure Mania

Terrific pop-punk. Stiff Little Fingers took their name from a song on this record. The Vibrators are scheduled to play the Rockpile East in Toronto in August.

4. The Fall – Totale’s Turns (It’s now or Never)

In 1980 or so, I became a fan of the Fall as they entered their Manc-abilly phase with songs like “How I Wrote Plastic Man” and “Totally Wired.” I bought this live album when I was on holiday with my parents in some little seaside town in Devon. It’s a bit of an assault, on the listener and the audience, but no less wonderful for it.

5. Handsome Ned – The Ballad of Handsome Ned

Posthumously released collection of Toronto country star Handsome Ned. Listen to “In spite of the Danger,” which may have been written about a girl and not wonder if he was talking about the heroin which killed him. Also available as a double set My Name is Ned

6. Cub  – Come Out Come Out

Canada’s Shonen Knife? No, that’s unfair. BC minimalist pop trio’s second album featuring Yoko Ono and Go-=Gos covers as well as some pretty nifty originals.

7. The Jesus and Mary Chain – Darklands

When I first heard this record, I thought “Where’s the feedback?” But you know, over the years, I think I prefer this one to Psychocandy. Great pop songs full of menace. I saw the band only once, at the Concert Hall in Toronto in the 1990s, and they were, well, just OK. This however is brilliant.

8. Rocket From the Crypt – All Systems Go!

Some bands make singles, some make albums, some only play live. RFTC are a great live band, but my preferred medium is the single. All Systems Go is their first singles comp and to my ears works better than the albums,. Short blasts of noise.

9. Spacemen 3 – Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To

Whether of not you do take drugs, it’s hard to resist the title of this collection of demos from Spacemen 3. Best song? The rambling minimalist version of Bo Diddley’s “I’m Alright” reworked as “It’s Alright.”

10. Huevos Rancheros – Dig In!

Did you ever wish Shadowy Men were less Surf-guitar and more garage band? Wish no more. Alberta’s Huevos Rancheros provide the perfect instrumental soundtrack to Friday night.





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A Note About the Parquet Courts

June 22, 2014 at 10:47 pm (Uncategorized)

The Parquet Courts are from Brooklyn. And, like a lot of bands, I end up liking, I heard a lot about them before I actually heard them. People with more spare time than me I guess.

The problem with the way we listen to music now, as opposed to the way I did when I was younger, is that whenever you heard a buzz, you can heard it immediately. The problem is that there’s just soooo much to hear now. In the old days, the limited distribution channels prevented them. Doesn’t mean I want to go back, but anyway, I digress.

A more serious problem though is that when you get the music, it’s often shaped by the buzz you heard. So when I first heard of Parquet Courts, words like slacker, and Pavement-influenced surrounded them. And sure, when I listened to Light Up Gold I could hear some of that, but it’s lazy and really unfair to the band.

The band released a new album Sunbathing Animal earlier this year, but I hadn’t heard it when I went to see them at the Horseshoe a few weeks back.  I missed the first couple of bands because it was a Sunday night, and going out is getting harder (OK, Marcela, I admit it!) Alas, even with those opening bands, it was late.

Still, it was worth it. PC (sorry, I’m just to lazy to keep typing out the band’s name), brought a range of sounds. From short snappy punk, to pop sounds, to longer drones (I admit, I liked the latter the best). Very cool, and the nearly full Horseshoe crowd responded in kind. One odd thing that I’ve noticed at a few shows now, bands perform their encores without a break. A longer set, or a quick note and that’s it; house lights come up.

Good experience though.


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Post-Election Blues (or something Like that)

June 22, 2014 at 2:35 pm (Uncategorized)

Erm.  It’s been two weeks since my last post, so I’m going to say the shock of the Ontario Liberals re-election and a majority of that shocked me into silence. Don’t buy it? OK, just busy at work then.

But that, election…To borrow from Dickens, it was the most cynical of times, it was the most cynical of times.:

  • The governing Liberals in power since 2003 and despite a leadership change showing their age and caught up in a series of scandals, present a budget far to the left of previous ones in an attempt to entice the New Democrats to vote for it
  • The New Democrats after having supported earlier rightist budgets say no to this one. Then they run a right-of-Liberal populist campaign (which is largely ineffective)
  • Finally, the Conservatives play to their base, and make no effort to appeal to others. Their strategy seemed to be tack right and try to get out the vote (it didn’t seem to occur that their reduce public payroll by 100,000  might encourage those 100,000 to vote as well)

In the end, an outcome few foresaw, a majority for the Liberals. My hope that Tory leader Tim Hudak would be eaten alive by his party a la Walking Dead, has been unfulfilled, but he was forced out sooner than he wanted.

Of course, in the bigger picture, the Liberals will likely carry out many of the same policies as the Tories. Probably not as brutally, but the end result will differ little. Bread and circuses, rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, feel free to add the cliché you like.

At least the weather is a little nicer now. (and it’s only four months until the Municipal election)

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The CIA’s first Tweet

June 7, 2014 at 9:33 pm (Uncategorized)

“We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.”

Oh very good.

So, if you’re a murderous government agency which has a blood-soaked legacy of assassination, overthrowing “unfriendly” governments and blowbacks including promoting Islamic fundamentalists who were thought to be a lesser problem than leftist secularists, a sense of humour really is important.

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Elections Everywhere. Pass the Bottle.

June 7, 2014 at 9:18 pm (Uncategorized)

While I don’t usually vote, elections still hold a measure of interest for me, and I do like to, uh, participate. It might just be to test my bullshit detector, but it’s more likely just a fascination with the process of how we are managed under capitalism. Currently, I’m facing three elections. A provincial, a union one, and in the fall a municipal one.

The 2014 Ontario provincial election might go down on record as the most boring on record. Not a single piece of campaign literature has come into my mailbox. A few nights ago, I picked up the phone and a recording of the Conservative candidate told me that he was trying to meet every one in the riding, but since that was impossible he was relying on modern technology to reach people. (Erm, the telephone has been around for quite some time actually. Modern is hardly the word I’d use …) Turns out I was invited to participate in a “town hall meeting” (read: calls screened, no real answers offered). When they called back the following evening, my son hung up on them thinking they were telemarketers.  And that was that.

[Actually, a few hours after I wrote the above, the Liberals called to ask if they could count on our votes here]

So the governing Liberals ask voters to forget the years of scandal and essentially say vote for us because Tim Hudak’s Tories are scary. And they are. Hudak, whose shaky grasp of math (a person who works for eight years in a new job does not mean eight new jobs have been created) underscores his degree in the dismal science.  Not to mention the Conservative’s wet dream of cuts, cuts, cuts. And then there’s the NDP who triggered the election because they believed they could displace the Liberals (but seemed OK with Hudak becoming premier), yet have run an incoherent campaign with policies to the right of the Liberals and will likely have fewer seats for their efforts.  The comic relief here is that while the NDP have pissed off their left-wing and distressed sections of their base, the “Trotskyist” left of the International Socialists, Socialist Action and whatever Militant are calling themselves now are still beating the bushes for the party.  So I think, twelve million people or so in Ontario, this is the best bourgeois democracy has to offer?

The union election is comic relief. I work in the public sector and union membership comes with the job. Last month the “cousin” of the union I’m in had its election and the entire executive was re-elected. I can’t believe the members were so happy with the job, they decided to give them all another year of expense accounts; more likely they realized it wouldn’t make any difference who got it. But I digress. Since my local is spread over many workplaces, it’s a mail-in ballot. The day I received my ballot, I also received a letter from the current exec, the purpose of which was to trash the opposition slate. Pretty dreary stuff. The opposition slate promised a number of vague and hard-to-realize demands, “more democracy!”, “more transparency” even though many of them had been union bureaucrats as well. I think I might actually vote for the third candidate for president who included no picture or details on the ballot. Surprise!

Last but not least comes the municipal election later this year, or as it’s sometimes known the Rob Ford show. Ford as you know has received international notice as Toronto’s crackhead Mayor, but he  recently entered rehab. Still, he just can’t seem to stay out of the headlines. His SUV was impounded and the drunken driver (not Ford) arrested just a little while back. And last week, stories emerged that the Fabulous Ford Brothers lobbied the city for contracts for a printer that their family business was also talking to.  More of this gory story can be found in Robyn Doolittle’s depressing book, Crazy Town.

Sad thing this, the Fords’ have already won, because all of the candidates talk like Ford now. No, no, not the racism, the homophobia, the almost pathological aversion to telling the truth, and the bullying boorishness which are Ford trademarks, but the language of respecting the taxpayer and fiscal responsibility is on everyone’s lips. The left’s candidate, Olivia Chow, boasts financial strictness and continually reminds us that as an immigrant, she knows the value of a dollar.

And yet, this seems to be the way, the business of politics is arranged. But more than likely, I will be sitting in front of the TV watching the results (unless of course, there’s something good on another channel)’

Just to change the focus a little here at the end, there’s a very interesting piece posted on Libcom by a member of IP called Towards a Critique of the Democratic Form. It’s not about elections, but it does raise some interesting points about the broader question of organization.

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