Music Notes January 2015

January 31, 2015 at 3:18 pm (Uncategorized)

Some good things to hear to take your mind off of the cold weather.

1. Sleaford Mods – Chubbed Up +

How to describe the Sleaford Mods? A rap-electronica  Half Man Half Biscuit with all the bile and more swearing? Maybe. Chubbed Up+ is a singles comp which is definitely worth having. (Originally a download only album, the + was added for the physical release since it contains extra songs)

2. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – “Do the Get Down”

New single from the very wonderful Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. A love letter to New York and a great video

3. Deerhoof – La Isle Bonita

Apparently the album was recorded during an argument about whether it should sound like Joan Jett or Janet Jackson. It’s a mass of sounds ranging from the surrealist garage (“Exit Only”) to more funky numbers like “Paradise Girls.”) Their twelfth release.

4.Abba – Gold

Oh c’mon. Abba is in your DNA. I dare you to listen to any of the singles and not sing along. “Knowing Me Knowing You” is my favourite with “SOS” a close second. OK, I’ll admit the quality dims a little towards the end of their career and I do not care for the movie Mama Mia – the closest you’ll get to seeing A-list stars performing drunken karaoke ūüė¶

5. Vamps et Vampire – the Songs of Serge Gainsbourg

Very cool comp put out by the lovely people at Ace International. 25 classics including songs by Francoise Hardy, Jane Birkin, Catherine Deneurve, Charlotter Gainsbourg and even Brigitte Bardot. For a long time, I’ll admit i didn’t care for French pop. I’m happy to admit I was wrong.

6. Simon and Garfunkel – Wednesday Morning 3A.M.

Now this is a bit of a curio. Two nice middle class Jewish boys sing bland Christian folk songs for their debut album. Largely forgettable, but then there’s “Bleecker Street” which hints of something greater. And then the album closer “The Sound of Silence.” Producer Tom Wilson later adds electric backing. It becomes the lead from the second album and history is made.

7. Sleater Kinney –No Cities to Love

Since Sleater-Kinney never officially broke up, does this album, coming a decade after The Woods, count as a reunion or simply a continuation? In any event, it’s as terrific as any other of their releases. Thrilling riffs, pounding drums, screaming vocals. Stunning.

8. Suzi Quatro – “Warm Leatherette”

Now here’s something interesting. Tough girl Suzi Quatro does the old Normal song. From her box set release.

9. Olivia Jean – Bathtub Love Killings

Debut release from the Black Belles singer which sounds a lot like Jack White, and French ya-ya music, and country, and retro and, oh just listen to it. Loads of fun.

10. Jad Fair

Jad Fair of Half Japanese is one of the under-appreciated geniuses of our time. For a modest sum, he’ll write a song for you. I commissioned a song for my wife’s birthday this year. She was thrilled. I was delighted. You will be too.

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Charlie Hebdo Redux

January 29, 2015 at 10:45 pm (Uncategorized)

A lot of ink has been spilled since the January 7, 2015 attack on the offices and staff of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Probably nothing I’ll write here will add to what else has been written, but it’s interesting to see the¬†number of threads which have dominated the discussion.

The National Unity Drive:¬†Hardly has the events taken place when the empty “freedom of speech” calls began: For France! For Secularism! For Freedom of Speech! Yeah, yeah, lots of talk about democracy and puppies and stuff. It’s fairly revolting to see how quickly states began to move on this. One did love-in for democracy. Hey even countries that don’t love, er, democracy get to get in on the act.

The Inside Job Thesis: ¬†On one discussion list I’m on, the discussion almost immediately devolved into a discussion of the “inside job” thesis (albeit with little evidence beyond the dropping of an identity card) and from there into the 911 conspiracy theories. ¬†A bottomless hole since every piece of “evidence” is presented as the hand of the state and things which cannot be answered as counted as suppressed truths. To suggest that two people can keep a secret if one of them is dead is to over simplify, but for many of the alleged state conspiracies (which would require a significant number of people to carry out), the fact that no one has broken ranks seems unlikely. (Please don’t email me with “proofs” – it’s fool’s gold)

The What Else in the World question: At the same time as a number of well-armed thugs murdered the staff of a now very well-known magazine, a significantly larger and better armed but no less murderous gang in Africa were eliminating perhaps 2,000 people. Did Boko Haram warrant the same coverage? What was that line in Orwell all massacres are equal, but some massacres are more equal than others.

Internationalist Perspective has two articles on our blog dealing with this issue.

Is Everybody Charlie Now?

The Capitalist State and Islamism: The dangers and their Social and Political Origins  

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Miller Williams: Birth of the Blues

January 7, 2015 at 5:42 pm (Uncategorized) ()

I’m not really that familiar with the work of Miller Williams, the poet who passed away on New Year’s Day. Of course, I’m a big fan of his daughter Lucinda (my daughter’s first concert was a performance by Lucinda a few months before she was actually born).

So, after I read about Williams’ death, I read a few. This is my favourite so far.


Birth of the Blues

John Keats never read Dylan Thomas or Yeats.
Dante didn’t know Shakespeare. Neither did Jesus.
I think of those I will never know, from countries
whose languages sound to me like mathematics,
that prince, for instance, who wrote in Siamese
in the seventeenth century, who could well have been
the best of all of us for all I know

I think about that poet born today
in Montreal whose verses will go with vessels
blown by the lights of stars to the curling edge.

I know he is there. Listen. This is the time.
Or she is. Lord. Lord. I feel like Herod.


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The Seductive Allure of Nostalgia

January 6, 2015 at 5:22 pm (Uncategorized)

Driving in the car on Sunday, I was searching for something to listen to on the radio. I came across “the Edge” at 102.1. Can’t remember what the song was, but it was familiar, so I paused. As the song ended, the pre-recorded voice of the announcer came on:

“If you ever went to the Diamond club or saw a show at the Ontario Place Forum, this one’s for you…”

The song started. It was “She ain’t Pretty (She Just looks that way)” by the Northern Pikes. Memories flooded back of Sunday mornings watching MuchMusic at my east end apartment. Hell, I think I saw the Northern Pikes ¬†at the Ontario Place Forum. I sang along to the song knowing every word (my phrasing was a little off, if truth be told). Ah, nostalgia.

Apparently Sundays are now “Spirit of Radio Sundays” showcasing music the station played between 1978 and 1992. ¬†OK, I hate those classic rock stations and golden oldies station, but on a certain level I can dig it.

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Internationalist Perspective 60

January 4, 2015 at 7:02 pm (Uncategorized)

The new issue of Internationalist Perspective is now on-line. Down load it as a PDF from IP’s site:


To Our Readers

A brief account of events and discussions within IP over the past year, so that our readers can have a sense of the issues that we are now confronting.

Heart of Darkness: Modern Imperialism and its Charnel Houses

At this historical conjuncture, the very configuration of inter-imperialist antagonisms has dramatically changed. The old Cold War configuration of two rival blocs that ended with the implosion of the ‚ÄúSoviet‚ÄĚ Union, and the promise of a new, peaceful, unipolar world based on globalization and a Pax Americana, has now come to its own bloody end, again reshaping the imperialist chess board, provoking wars and ethnic and sectarian cleansing on a scale not seen since World War Two and its immediate aftermath.

What is ISIS?

An analysis of the rise and power of the ‚ÄúIslamic State‚ÄĚ in Syria and Iraq, and the Western response, just a little over a year since the last American troops withdrew from Baghdad.

Ukraine: Back to the Future

An analysis of the widening conflict between Russia and the West focused on Ukraine, as Russia pushes back against the spread of NATO ever further east and the West responds to this challenge.


The rapid spread of the Ebola virus throughout West Africa is no natural disaster, but one that the capitalist world will not provide the resources, financial and medical, to stop. At the same time, in a globalized economy, such an epidemic cannot be localized, but has the potential to rapidly spread far beyond its point of origin.

Why Wealth Redistribution Cannot Solve Capitalism’s Crisis

For ‚Äúprogressives‚ÄĚ, and the left of capital, a redistribution of the wealth (taxing the rich, increased wages, massive government spending) is necessary to put the economy back on its feet in the aftermath of the ‚Äúgreat recession.‚ÄĚ This article examines the reasons why such policies, even if implemented, cannot solve capitalism‚Äôs crisis, and it examines the past efforts to respond to the devastating crisis of the ‚Äúgreat depression‚ÄĚ of 1929, the failures of which prepared the way for capital‚Äôs only solution: imperialist war.

The Past Devours the Future

A review of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century in which he analyzes income inequality in the capitalist world over the past two centuries. For Piketty, the present level of income inequality constitutes a danger to the capitalist order today, which capital itself can and must address if it is to save its socio-economic order. Piketty’s recipe for reform is contrasted with the reality of capitalism’s deepening crisis.

Selections from and Commentaries on Michael Heinrich’s An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital

Heinrich, one of the leading exponents of the new reading of Marx, based on the publications of all of Marx’s manuscripts for his critique of political economy, examines the intricacies and subtleties of Marx’s own exposition and unfolding of the categorial foundations of the value-form (the commodity, its value-objectivity, the necessary role of money, commodity fetishism and communism beyond the commodity form). The new reading of Marx closes gaps in Marxist theory that constitute formidable obstacles to a theoretical comprehension of the actual trajectory of capitalist society.

A Debate on Crisis Theory

Starting from a debate between Michael Heinrich and Andrew Kliman as well as others in the pages of Monthly Review, this article investigates whether Marx’s law of the tendential fall of the rate of profit is real or a mistake, and whether Marx had a mature theory of capitalist crisis that is valid today.


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The Permanent Election

January 4, 2015 at 6:59 pm (Uncategorized)

Canada sort of has fixed election dates for federal elections. In 2007, the Conservative government passed a law which meant that general elections would take place on the third Monday in October four years after the previous election starting in 2009. The idea was that this would prevent governments from calling snap election for partisan advantage, although the Prime Minister could still call an election if is “was necessary.” Uh huh.

The next election is due October 19, 2015, so why, you ask am I writing about this boring stuff?¬† Heard my first attack ad against Justin Trudeau this morning based on an out-of-context remark.¬† I live in Toronto and have just suffered through a ten-month mayoralty campaign which hit new lows for poor behaviour from supposed grown ups; now, it’s a ten month federal go-round. Still, I suppose it’s better than the US where the election never ends.

Happy New Year.

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A New Year’s Visit to the Art Gallery

January 1, 2015 at 7:34 pm (Uncategorized)

I never go out for New Year’s Eve. It might be that it’s a young person’s celebration, but it always seems to be a bit of fake holiday (c.f. John Oliver’s hilarious New Year’s advice ) But, having done nothing the night before, we decided to go to the Art Gallery to start the New Year on a high note.

There were two exhibits I wanted to see (actually three, but if we’d done the Michelangelo as well, it would have been too much). First was Alex Colville. I was aware of Colville’s work, but the exhibition really deepened by sense of his work. Colville’s themes are mundane. People standing by railway tracks, animals, cyclists, etc. But there’s a fake quality to the representations. The people look like a manikin. The animals don’t quite look real. It’s as if Colville were pointing to an alienation, a separation between life and the life we live. The other thing which was interesting was the use of his work in film. Wes Anderson, Stanley Kubrick and the Coen Brothers have all made use of his themes and often the work itself in their films. One reviewer of his work noted that Colville’s pictures often have a sense that just beyond the picture, something is about to happen. And it’s not going to be good. The Colville exhibit closes on Sunday.

The second exhibit was a retrospective of Art Spiegleman’s work, and it was the collection I really wanted to see. Strangely enough, I enjoyed the Colville section better, but this may have been that Spiegelman’s work didn’t lend itself to the format of the gallery – if it had been in a book and I could have sat in a chair to read it… Still, that aside, there was a generous selection of his early work, the Raw period, Maus and the 9/11 material.¬† Well worth the trip despite my comments above.

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