Music Notes March 2016

March 31, 2016 at 9:32 pm (Uncategorized)

Here we go.

1 Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression

Iggy is hinting this is his last recording, and while I hope otherwise, this would be a great place to end. Iggy’s strongest record in a long time, ably assisted by Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and some of his friends.

2 V/A: Gimme Danger

Named for the Raw Power cut, this collection, free with this month’s Mojo is a great companion to the Pop album mentioned above. Culled from the Desert Sessions, it’s a great bluesy “desert” rock record featuring members of Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal, Unkle, Mark Lanegan and more. .

3 J. Geils Band – Live Full House

Shortly after I moved to Canada, J. Geils struck gold with “Centerfold.” A couple more hits and they broke up. Hah! So much for success. Years later, a friend recommended this live record to me. You’d think it was a different band. Crazy intense R & B.

4 Jon Savage (ed.) – Punk 45

Nice cover table edition of famous and not so famous punk, post-punk and whatever sleeves for 45s. A very interesting look, but a few errors creep in and distract. (“Neat Near Neat” was not the Damned’s third single for instance)

5 Jesus Lizard – Shot

A chance conversation led me to dig this one out of the vault. The first Jesus Lizard record not to be produced by Steve Albini, but never fear, if you like your music full of shrieks and yelps (thanks David Yow) and punishing guitar, drums and bass (the rest of the band), you won’t be disappointed. Disturbed, but not disappointed.

6. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings – It’s a Holiday Soul Party

Ah, who cares that it’s March? The kind of record you should be able to play at any party.  C’mon!

7. The Rich Kids – “Ghosts of Princes in Towers”

An early punk super group. Glen Matlock from the Sex Pistols, Midge Ure ex of Slik (and after Ultravox), Steve New who was almost a second guitar player for the Pistols and Rusty Egan who later ended up as a DJ and member of Visage. Disliked in some certain because they were perceived as being “new wave” rather than punk, this is a great little song.

8.  Calexico – Edge of the Sun

Desert noir, huh? Terrific dreamy, moody, indie-country sounds. Relax, turn off your mind and drive through the desert. Is this an unofficial them for the month?

9. Martin Booth – A Magick Life: A Biography of Aleister Crowley 

Not sure how rock and roll this really is. A few weeks back I read Somerset Maugham’s The Magician whose titular character Oliver Haddo was based on British occultist Aleister Crowley. So after that, I wanted to read a little more about Crowley whose path and influences crosses with a number of rock musicians including the Beatles, David Bowie,  Black Sabbath and of course Jimmy Page. Pretty interesting stuff.

10 Lemmy

Far be it from me to talk about something I haven’t seen or heard, but… my friend Paul liked it. More importantly, the deluxe 2-disc edition of this documentary about Lemmy is on-sale in HMV’s on-line store (Canada at least) for $5. If you’re one of those squares who’s into owning things, this might be a good investment.



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This Be The Verse

March 30, 2016 at 3:34 pm (Uncategorized)

My daughter turns 16 today; I’m not sure if this counts as sage advice, but it is pretty funny. 


Philip Larkin – This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

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Russell Smith on Punk’s Fortieth

March 28, 2016 at 10:09 pm (Uncategorized)

As a child of ’76, er, 77,  I’ll admit, I’m buying into the nostalgia for punk’s fortieth anniversary, but of course I have mixed feelings.  It was both a tremendous musical moment and it was the first experience I had with music, so I’m naturally drawn to the various accounts of those days of year zero; however, the commodification of the period, the re-packaging, the neutering, makes me sad for an art form that I loved (love?) .

On Saturday, my wife was reading the paper, and asked if I had read the piece by Russell Smith on punk’s fortieth. I hadn’t, but when I did my reaction was…huh? Read it for yourself because I still haven’t any idea what point he’s trying to make. Maybe that you ought to start a piece a little earlier before a deadline if you want it make to make sense. But Russell, and I do like your work normally, casually dropping references to the Situationists into your work is sooo old now.

Here’s the link to the article.


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Easter 1916

March 28, 2016 at 9:53 pm (Uncategorized)

Although the actual anniversary isn’t until April 24th, it’s been a century since the Easter Rising in Ireland.  The Rising itself lasted six days before it was put down by British troops and leaders such as James Connolly executed, but the events have continued to ripple through history. Within the Communist movement of the day, differing interpretations were drawn: Karl Radek, who supported Rosa Luxemburg’s position of the national question, denounced it as a putsch, while Lenin, arguing from a position of the right of nations to self-determination, furiously criticized Radek.

In the mid-1980s, I was a member of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International’s Canadian sympathizing section the Alliance for Socialist Action (later Socialist Challenge). One area of work we were involved with was Irish solidarity, which was in part due to one member’s leadership in the now-defunct Irish Freedom Association. While the IFA was not a homogeneous organization (nationalist, Stalinists, and Trotskyists co-existed uneasily), we pretended to ourselves we were influencing and in touch with a Marxist current within the Republican movement.  Of course, there was no such thing. It was nationalism pure and simple.

The International Communist Current recently posted this article on its site which originally appeared in its British section’s newspaper World Revolution in 1978. There’s a lot that’s wrong with this piece – not least its clunky tone and even clunkier periodization of history and revolutionary prospects, yet, it’s worth remembering that the task before us is not national liberation or a rearrangement of the pieces on the chessboard, but the abolition of capitalism itself.

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Rosa Luxemburg: A Graphic Novel

March 27, 2016 at 9:25 pm (Uncategorized)

I read this a couple of weeks back. Written and illustrated by Kate Evans, edited by Paul Buhle, and published by Verso, it’s quite an interesting approach and much better that those Marx, Trotsky etc. for Beginners that were published ages ago. The political theory is downplayed in favour of the personal and broader social critiques, but it’s still a good little read, perhaps whetting the appetite for something deeper. Now go and read the widely available original works. Oh, and if you want a meatier review, go to InsurgentNotes .

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Lucinda Williams at the Opera House

March 27, 2016 at 9:14 pm (Uncategorized)

A few nights back, I went to see Lucinda Williams and her band Buick 6 play the second of two nights at Toronto’s Opera House on Queen Street East. I saw Williams once before at Convocation Hall at University of Toronto in 2000 a short while before my daughter was born. It was an expensive ticket, but the chance to see Williams in a small venue (the Opera House holds about 800) was too good to pass up.

Buick 6 opened the show around 8:30. The band was preceded by a voice telling the audience that Buick 6 were an instrumental band, and that they should kindly shut the fuck up. And for the most part they did. Instrumental bands face an uphill battle.  We’ve been trained to follow lyrics and there absence makes us lazy in paying attention. Instrumental bands opening for a big name, have a doubly hard time. Still, they gave it a good go, and on the way home I regretted not picking up a copy of their CD. Aside from an ill-advised instrumental cover of “The Man who Sold the world,” the set was pretty enthralling.

Williams came on stage at about 9:45, and we were hers.  Having released 11 albums, Williams has an impressive back catalogue to draw on. In addition to songs from her new record Ghosts of Highway 20, Williams played favourites from Essence, Little Honey, Where the Spirit Meets the Bone and Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. 

What’s special about her shows is not just the choice of material and musicianship (along with those amazing vocals), but the sense of intimacy. The sense that here is someone who just loves music.  The sense that here is someone who is glad you came. In addition to the very generous 90-minute set, Williams played two encores or three and two songs (the rather dodgy version of the Clash’s “Should I stay or Should I go” was for me, the low point in an otherwise immaculate show),  before she was off into the night. If you weren’t there, you missed something very good indeed.

Set List


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It’s Garry Shandling’s Show

March 27, 2016 at 8:16 pm (Uncategorized)

Dead at 66. Much too young for a comedian that brought us two brilliant TV shows: The surrealist fourth-wall breaking It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, and the one for which he will likely be remembered The Larry Sanders Show.

Enjoy him on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

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A Toronto Comicon 2016 Kind of Weekend

March 20, 2016 at 10:34 pm (Uncategorized)

So the Boy and I went to Toronto Comicon on the Saturday this year. We’ve been going to Fan Expo for the last five years or so as a multi-day event, but Comicon is usually a one-day affair. for one thing, it’s smaller, and it’s also the end of the March Break so the boy usually has work to finish. This time, he didn’t want to go on the Sunday (which is really quiet).

It was busier. Even though we got there before opening, there were probably 1500 people ahead of us in line. Still, the line moved quickly. I’m always slightly amazed how well-behaved people are at these things – very little ill-will, and when people do bang into me, I invariably get an apology.

Went to a panel with the stars of Killjoys, an SF series about galactic bounty hunters.  One of the hosts, Morgan Hoffman had just returned from LA where she had interviewed the cast of Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. While she wouldn’t give any spoilers, she did say two words: Wonder Woman. THe panel was as interesting as these things go (hey, did you know Hannah who plays Dutch was in Star Wars?).

Then it was a skip through the floor show to pick up a few things. I’m looking for te Jack Kirby Fourth world series, but alas no luck (and I’ve pretty much abandoned any hope of seeing a lyin’ cat t-shirt), but I did get a Dr. Who tie from some nice people from Hamilton, and there were some cool science shirts from Antimatterwhich I will own one day. I did get the Pitiful Human Lizard book from Jason Loo about a superhero set in Toronto. Very good. And that was that. Short and sweet.

Oh, and in that same SF/Super hero vein, I saw Deadpool today. I’ll leave aside the fact that the story is nothing special – origin story +  plus revenge thriller + big fight at the end. But that’s not why people go to see the merc-with-a-mouth’s story; it’s a very funny, though very violent story with lots of clever Easter eggs for the fans (check out the street names for example). And of course, it’s got Morena Bacerin.

Hey, now it’s only two months to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.

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March 17, 2016 at 4:04 pm (Uncategorized)

As we stood waiting to have our tickets checked, the guy on the desk looked at my two kids and cautioned me the Outsiders exhibit at the AGO had mature content.

“It’s OK, ” I replied, “they’re already jaded.”

Outsiders is a collection of photographs and film from the 1950s to the 1980s of an alternative America the undiscovered country. Documented by  photographers such as Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin, Danny Lyon, Gordon Parks, Garry Winogrand, , and filmmakers Kenneth Anger, Shirley Clarke, Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie, and Marie Menken, it presents an America hidden but sometimes in plain view: Beat poets, anti-war protesters, society types, nudists, motorcycle clubs and cross dressers all figure prominently in astonishing exhibition.

The first selection is photographs by  Garry Winogrand. Along one wall, three strips of pictures: the elite at the Centennial Ball, working people going about their lives and then various protests (a guy selling Workers World is visible in one). Wander through scenes of poverty in Harlem, then nudist camps and Casa Susanna. Watch too the Chicago Motorcycle clubs and realize the void in post-war America.

I love back and white photography. Somehow the starkness of the images brings a sense of reality (or should that be unreality?) that colour does not.  Great exhibit. If you’re in Toronto in the next couple of months, it’s worth seeing, perhaps more than once – I didn’t sit through Pull My Daisy, but next time…

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Out on Your Own

March 15, 2016 at 10:04 pm (Uncategorized)

The Manchester band took their name from a Glasgow housing project and their politics from the Revolutionary Communist Party (or was it the Revolutionary Communist Tendency, I forget) . One great album Contenders and one awful one Waiting for the Red Bird.

Always loved this song: Out on Your Own

Here comes a union leader with a brand new deal
To save the industry-talking profitability
Profitability –
What does that mean to me?
Whether a profit or a loss
I’m just working for the boss
Its only foolishness to speak your master’s words
The fool must be put down
The whole thing must be turned around
You’re out on your own

A Labour Party man comes knocking on my door
Around election time once more he’s counting on my loyal support
There’s changes needed he agrees
And there I have his sympathy
But we must think of unity
To get the party on it’s feet
What did his party ever do for me?
If it should sink without a trace
I won’t lose a moment’s sleep
You’re out on your own

Where is the man who’s speaking up for me?
‘Community leaders’ want more black shop keepers
The unions a say in the jobs sold away
And I’m told that my home’s in a nuclear free zone
But that ain’t much help when there’s bills to be paid
‘Police accountability’; ‘Non-nuclear defence strategy’
This foolish ideology has made the fight a mockery!
I ask for nothing only that I should be heard
I know your history and that gives me authority

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