Music Notes March 2015

March 31, 2015 at 3:56 pm (Uncategorized)

Things of note and interest for your ears

1. The Sleaford Mods – Divide and Exit

Oh oh oh, I love these guys so. The breakthrough album.  Electronica? Rap? Punk? Who cares about labels? A very angry, very funny record full of tunes both caustic and hilarious. Tweet tweet tweet.

2. Benjamin Booker – s/t

Booker is a blues -punk from Virginia. This record, his debut, is a blistering breakneck blues that never quite got out of the garage. Not that it’s amateur hour, but it has that vitality that the best punk has. Standouts would be the single “Violent Shiver,” but I’m also partial to “Have you seen my son?” He’s playing a sold-out show at Lee’s Palace tonight. Looking forward to it.

3. Liz Phair – Exile in Guyville

In interviews promoting the album  Phair commented that it was a reply to Exile on Main Street. Nor sure how true that is, but when I put on the record in the car the other day, it’s greatness flooded back. “Divorce Song” may be the saddest song ever written.

4. The Dum Dum Girls – Too True

Now, it sounds great.  The production by Richard Gottehrer who produced the early Blondie records, and Sune Rose Wagner from the Ravonettes is perfect shimmery pop. But, and you knew that was coming, the tunes themselves are fairly nondescript. I liked listening to the record, but afterwards, I couldn’t remember a song or a lyric to sing along to next time.

5. The Violent Femmes – Hallowed Ground

After the slightly twisted but upbeat folk punk of their debut, Slash records must have thought they were on to a winner. Then the band delivered a dark album which begins with a chirpy song about a guy pushing his daughter down a well. It’s a masterpiece of an album, but needless to say, the religious fundamentalist twist and generally less catchy tunes made it destined to remain only an underground classic

6. Azelai Banks – Broke with Expensive Tastes

OK, I loved that first EP. Then I waited. And waited, and waited. Finally, the album arrived. Was it worth it? Ahh… dunno. To my ears a lot of it sounds the same, and the track which still really jumps is “212” from a couple of years back. Maybe, it’ll take a while to discover its charms.

7. The Pixies – Trompe le Monde

Funny thing is, this was traditionally the weakest Pixies album. But, after a listen last weekend, it sounds pretty fresh. “Planet of Sound”, the cover of “Head On” and “Subaculture” all sound great. Which led to …

8. The Jesus and Mary Chain – Psycho Candy

If you haven’t listened to it in a while. Do it. Remember how great it sounded when you heard it first. It still does.

9. Rhiannon Giddons – It’s My Turn Now

The debut solo record from the Carolina Chocolate Drops front person. A simply stunning collection of covers and one original song. Blues, country, pop, the title is prophetic.

10. Roy Orbison – The Essential

A 2-CD set going back a couple of years. Suddenly, I’m listening to Orbison a lot. There’s just something about that voice. Unless you want to spring for the box set “The Soul of Rock and Roll,” this is a pretty good collection except…the version of “In Dreams” is from the eighties not the original. It’s good, but the original is the one you want.

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Birthday Wishes

March 30, 2015 at 12:01 pm (Uncategorized)

My oldest, M, is 15 today. She used to love to hear the story of her birth. Now she just says “Oh, Dad…” She’s changed quite a bit since she started high school last year. Grown up.  We fight on occasion. But I couldn’t be more proud of her achievements and of her.

Happy Birthday.

Oh, and I should give a shout out to our dog Lester who turns 4 today. Bark! Bark!

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Don’t Mention the Civil War

March 29, 2015 at 7:37 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

No, not the American Civil War. Or the Spanish Civil War. No, the English Civil War.

But I need to back this up a little. My wife and I visit the public library 2-3 times a week (sometimes more). I love the library, and while I try not to accumulate fines, I didn’t really mind paying them. It’s money for an institution I support. Nothing makes me crazier than people who borrow and then destroy library materials: People who scratch CDs or DVDs, who steal inserts or who tear pages from magazines because they are too lazy or too cheap to photocopy them, but I digress. My wife even buys magazines from the library, and she recently picked up two copies of History Today for me.

The February 2014 issue has a piece on Britain’s reluctance to admit it once cut off the head of its king and was for a period of 12 years a republic. True, kings had met untimely ends before Charles I, but this was usually the result of assassination or falling in battle. Never had a sitting monarch been executed. A significant moment.

And yet, it’s something which doesn’t seem to get the attention it should. In 1989, when France was celebrating the 200th anniversary of its Revolution, Thatcher sniffed that the British had had their revolution a hundred years earlier largely without bloodshed. The “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 though was a conservative overthrow of the final Stewart King, James II and a consolidation of the power of parliament and the interests within. It did not open radical possibilities in the same way the Civil was had half a century earlier. From Thatcher’s perspective, that did make sense.

Still, the embarrassment with which these events are viewed today does seem odd, especially when such arch Conservatives as Winston Churchill viewed Cromwell as a hero.

Maybe I should look for more issues of the magazine.  You can read the article “Reluctant Regicides and judge for yourself.

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Basquiat at the Art Gallery of Ontario

March 22, 2015 at 6:27 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s been a a couple of moths since I was at the Art Gallery.

The AGO is hosting Canada’s first major Basquiat exhibition right now. Its a pretty impressive selection of pieces from Basquiat’s short but productive career.

Basquiat claimed three themes were contained in his work: Royalty (the often present crown in his work), heroism, and the street. Basquiat’s early work was in the street and often incorporated found materials into the product. (Basquiat did not refer to himself as a graffiti artist) Throughout his work familiar and repeated images and ideas:  Martin Luther King,  boxing, heroes, mysterious texts.

Walking through the exhibit, it felt as if I was exposed to a mysterious text with with half-finished thoughts and codes. Powerful, evocative.

Also at the AGO right now is a collection of photographs from the Lodz ghetto by Henryk Ross. Ross was a photographer who was assigned to take work permit pictures. In addition, and at high risk to himself and his family, Ross photographed, documented the ghetto in the hope one day the world would see his pictures. Shortly before he and his wife were sent to Auschwitz, he buried the negative. After the camp was liberated, Ross returned to Lodz and retrieved his photographs. The images are chilling. But essential, vital viewing.

Ross’ collection, entitled Memory Unearthed is on display until June 14. Basquiat’s show is until May 10. See both.

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Three Words

March 17, 2015 at 6:47 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Driving home from work the other day. The sun was shining and winter finally seemed to be over. Listening to the Sleaford Mods most recent record. Then out of the speaker:

“Three words: Cage, wheel, hamster.”

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The Pop Group In Toronto

March 16, 2015 at 3:02 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

What was punk all about any way? Was it about destroying the orthodoxy in order to impose a new one, or was it about something new. About allowing new things to emerge, about breaking rules, and seeing what happened as a result. Although the former quickly came to dominate with endless dreary debates about who was more “punk”, punk was really about the latter. As such a lot of bands ho weren’t really “punk” whatever that means, were punk. So the Pop Group, who would not figure in traditional acocunts of what punk was, were a part of that movement. I never saw the Pop Group when they were around in the seventies (though I did see Mark Stewart a few years later), so I didn’t want to miss them this time around.

New Fries came on around 10:00 with three of the members dressed all in white, but the singer-guitarists apparently dressed in civies. Shouted vocals, off-kilter rhythms combined with drone made for lots to love. But there was also a little between song banter that came across as forced, and detracted from the overall effect. Apparently there was a cassette for sale, but I missed out of that. Definitely a band to watch.

Next were Fresh Snow who also played a post-punkish brand of songs with a driving intensity. The songs tended to have experimental intros and then Sonic Youth like blasts of energy. Very cool. Oddly enough though, the banded uttered not a single word to the audience. No words in the songs, no thank yous and not even a goodnight as they left the stage. Two members spent much of the set with their backs to the audience.  Not a problem exactly, just struck me as unusual.

The Pop Group arrived at midnight. As I said, I never saw the band in its original incarnation, but I did buy For How Much Longer when it came out. I might have heard something on Peel or read something in the NME, but I was curious. A lot of strange sounds and certainly like nothing else I’d bought (the Last Poets track was pretty cool though), and the fact it came with four posters was a nice touch. Flash forward and we’re at Lee’s.

And the show was pretty amazing. To begin with the sound at Lee’s was spot on. Sometimes, the mix at Lee’s can be muddy, but last night it was crystal clear. Mark Stewart’s vocals came straight through the sounds. So as you bopped your head or moved on the  floor, you got the message too. The band started with “We are All Prostitutes,” and played an hour of choice cuts from the new album (which sadly they did not have copies for sale) along with old favourites. Who knew old white men could still be so funky?

Set list

1. We are all prostitutes
2. Citizen Zombie
3. Thief of Time
4. Mad Truth
5. S.O.P.H.I.A.
6. Words Disobey Me
7. Don’t Sell your Dreams
8. Nowhere Girl
9. She is Beyond Good and Evil
10. Shadow Child
11. Spanish Inquisition
12. Age of Miracles
13. Trap
14. We are Time

Encore
Where There’s a Will

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International Women’s Day 2015

March 8, 2015 at 11:48 pm (Uncategorized)

The French socialist Charles Fourier put it very simply.

“Social progress and changes of historical period take place in proportion to the advance of women toward liberty, and social decline occurs as a result of the diminution of the liberty of women.”

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