Music Notes September 2015

September 30, 2015 at 6:38 pm (Uncategorized)

A little bit of this; a little bit of that 

  1. Wolf Alice – My Love is Cool

Any band that names itself after an Angela Carter short story can’t be all bad can it? Well, yes and no. The album is rather mixed in styles which means that any listener is liked to find some songs that appeal, but not all. I rather like the post-punk garage sounds, but found myself skipping over the ethereal pop numbers at the start of the record. Not bad for a debut.

2.  Chrissie Hynde – Stockholm 

The album got mixed reviews when it came out, but there’s plenty of timeless Pretenders style pop here. And Ms. Hynde still has a great voice.

3. Chrissie Hynde – Reckless: My Life as a Pretender

Just got this and have only read the first chapter (maybe I should have waited?). It’s a good intro and Chrissie Hynde’s is a great story. The superficial reader in me needs to point out some cool punk pictures scattered throughout the book.

4. David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights – End Times Undone 

Fuzzy psyche-pop from the leader of New Zealand’s The Clean. Anything I can add is unnecessary; just listen to it.

5. The Weather Station – Loyalty 

This Canadian folk band is a little too mellow for my tastes, but it’s great Sunday morning music. I’m sure it would be a great road trip soundtrack as well.

6. Spacemen 3 –  “Big City”

On the Simpsons? Spacemen 3? I confess I stopped watching the show years ago, but I’m going to hunt it down now. Here’s an article by Stereogum on the music in the episode. 

7. Michelle Shocked – Arkansas Traveler

Before there was such a thing as Alt-country or Americana, and long before she flipped out, Michelle Shocked recorded this curious little beast. Among the guests on this homage to the musical heritage of the south are Uncle Tupelo and Alison Krause. When it works (“Cotton-eyed joe”) it’s amazing. But some parts are a little embarrassing (“Jump Jim Crow”).

8. Shellac- Dude Incredible 

Oh it’s incredible alright. The latest release from Steve Albini’s minimalist trio. Pounding rhythms, shouted vocals. Abrupt tempo changes. don’t listen to it before going to work. Or maybe do.

9. Van Morrison – Playlist (The Very Best of the Bang Masters)

Interesting little comp of Bang material. Featuring an outstanding “TB Sheets” and an alternate take of Brown Eyed Girl. Well worth a listen.

10. X-Ray Spex – Oh bondage, Up Yours!

One of the greatest things to come out of punk. It was that moment of freedom, of liberation. Still brilliant almost four decades later.



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Ad Astra

September 28, 2015 at 1:52 am (Uncategorized)

I was at the annual Word on the Street festival today at Harbourfront. Imagine, in 2015, you can still have a festival devoted to the idea that there’s still value in putting words on a page (or screen I suppose). Ran into a friend from the Socialist Party of Canada and stopped by the People’s Voice table too.

Wanted to give a shout out to my friends at Ad Astra Comix though who will soon be publishing the North American edition of Drawing the Line: Indian Women Fight Back! Looks good.


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People Ain’t no Good – Part 2

September 28, 2015 at 1:51 am (Uncategorized)

Last week, I was driving to work in the fog. It wasn’t terrible, but visibility was reduced. I had my lights on. Many didn’t. I drove more slowly. Many didn’t. As I drew closer to my exit, signs appeared that all lanes on the highway were closed ahead. Luckily, I exited before the jam. The highway didn’t reopen until 4 in the afternoon.  Turned out that there was an accident in the fog. An SUV was crushed between two tractor trailers. Two people died. Poor visibility due to fog.

You’d think that might cause some to pause to reflect upon driving habits.

The following day as I stopped at a red light just before I took the exit for the highway. I glanced at the car next to me. Usually you see people checking their phones or texting (how busy are you, really?). No. The guy was eating what appeared to be a bowl of oatmeal. It was definitely cereal, but I’m assuming oatmeal because the consistence would reduce spillage. Really?

I guess high-speed death doesn’t cause that pause after all./ Wonder why that is? Is it the culture we live in or something about driving that causes us yo perform some high risk activities without thought for ourselves or the others who might be caught up in the consequences of our activities. That will be another post I think.

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John Cooper Clarke in Toronto; 44 Years in An Open Neck Shirt

September 13, 2015 at 8:04 pm (Uncategorized)

The Garrison is a club pretty much without ambiance. Located just west of Ossington on Dundas, it’s a medium-sized room with a small bar at the back, a stage at the front, a few seats on the sides, and unfortunately given Toronto’s recent weather no air-conditioning to speak of. But maybe that’s an appropriate venue for John Cooper Clarke, the bard of Salford, who came to fame playing alongside punk’s legends. Nothing to distract; just the show.

I came early because of a review I’d read about openers Ronley Teper and the Lipliners. The eight-piece ambled on stage around nine and the band struck up a lazy jazz sound, settling quickly into a groove. So far so good, but when Teper began to sing I flinched. Imagine Gollum grabbing the mic, and you might have an idea of the affected vocals. And it continued, an easy background, and  manufactured distracting vocals. Applause was polite, but audience conversations dominated. You know those shows where you feel the band is having more fun that you? Three songs later, Teper had donned falsies to sing about breast implants, a song which seemed to boil down to her wading through the audience encouraging people to yell out alternative names for breasts. And the band played on.  But then came a surprise. The final number shed the pretentiousness of the rest of the set, and built slowly drawing the audience in. A great end to their set, so why wasn’t the rest like that?

John Cooper Clarke took the stage about fifteen minutes later, and held court for the next 75. When he wasn’t reading his poems, Dr. Clarke was cracking jokes or talking about his long career. Part stand-up comedian, full-time poet and entertainer. Clarke took the audience as he walked on stage, and never let go.

Clarke performed many of his greatest moments including “Beasley Street” (leaving out the great line: “Keith Joseph smiles and a baby dies in a box on Beasley Street”), and the gentrified “Beasley Boulevard”, “I Wanna Be Yours,” and “Chickentown,” at breakneck speed which had him coughing through sections. I know the rapid-fire delivery is a hallmark of his shows, but they had me wishing for the slower versions which appeared on the records with the Invisible Girls.

But one little complaint. In 2015, jokes about Alzheimer’s, necrophilia and misogynist comments about women don’t work. If he’d thrown in a few mother-in-law jokes, I could have imagined I had gone to a Les Dawson show by mistake.  Make no mistake, Clarke is a genius with an amazing gift for language, but these little points made it feel like something I thought we’d left behind.

On October 16, Clarke will be releasing a 3 CD/DVD book set called Anthologia.  Something every home should have.


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