Music Notes: April 2016

April 30, 2016 at 3:21 pm (Uncategorized)

The end of the cruelest month then.

1 Primal Scream – Chaosmosis

The received wisdom is that Primal Scream follow a great album with a so-so one. That’s not quite true (remember the run of Vanishing Point, EXTRMNTR and Evil Heat?), but after  More Light, Chaosmosis feels like a bit of a step back. Not that the record is terrible, it just feels a little lighter than previous Scream records. The Sky Ferreira guesting on “Where the Light Gets it” was fun and “”Where the Blackout meets the Fallout” is suitably punky, but my guess is this won’t be your favourite Scream record (but since no two sound alike anyway, who knows?)

2 David Bowie – Lazarus

Even though Bowie’s final album was released months ago, I didn’t get a chance to listen to it fully until a few weeks back. It’s a fitting end to an outstanding career, and it’s one that I like a lot more that his previous, which seem to fade in the second half. Lazarus feels like a much more fully realized final vision of a man who never stopped moving, and even when he was not at the top of his game, was always worth listening to.

3 Gwenno – Y Dydd Olaf

No, I don’t know how to pronounce it either, but this electro-beat Welsh language album by former Pipettes member is really quite stunning. Seek it out.

4 Portishead – “SOS”

Huh. I read about this ABBA cover for the new Tom Hiddleston movie Hi-Rise a few days back, but I was already too slow. It was up on the web and very quickly removed. Apparently it will be in the movie, but not on the soundtrack and will not have an actual release. Well well. The reviews were good.

5 PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project

And then there’s Polly Jean Harvey who never seems to have a problem knocking the ball out of the park every time. A brilliant album surveying the horrors of capitalism in places as diverse as Washington DC (from which the album takes its title), Kosovo and Afghanistan. But at the same time, like Harvey’s other work, it is an intensely personal album. Amazing. Here’s a review by the World Socialist Web Site

6 The Kills – “Heart of a Dog”

The new Kills album Ash and Ice isn’t out until June, but the band has released a couple of tracks. I wasn’t thrilled by  “Doing it to Death” although I did like the video. “Heart of a Dog” is stronger, and both can be seen on the Kills’ site. The Kills play the Danforth Music Hall on May 21, 2016.

7  Le Tigre – “Deceptacon”

OK, so it’s now being used in a commercial for lipstick of something, it’s still a great song. The video not so much. 🙂


8 The Geraldine Fibbers – Lost Somewhere Between the Earth and My Home

The Geraldine Fibbers were an alt-country punk band from the 1990’s, and this one, their major label debut is well worth a listen for its ability to mine the past and create something fresh. Also check out the demos and rarities record What Part of Get Thee Gone Don’t you Understand?

9 The Waco Brothers – Going Down in History

The first new Waco Brothers record in a decade (excluding collaborations, live sets and comps) is certainly cause for celebration. My two favourite Waco lines voiced by fans: “The best country record the Clash never made”and “If the Rolling Stones still made good records, they would sound like these.” Nuff said?

10 Prince

I remember working at CFMU-FM, McMaster’s student radio station, and a friend arguing about how great Prince was. I wasn’t impressed. I was still into post-punk noise and getting into the burgeoning Paisley underground sound. Flash forward a few years and I’m in the car trying to find something on the radio. Hmm. Good song. Good beat. “That was ‘Housequake’ by Prince” says the announcer. OK. I can admit when I’m wrong. Later, the Prince concert movie Sign o’ the Times was the first movie I went to with my wife (by the end of the show, we were the only ones in the theatre). I won’t say I was a huge Prince fan, but his influence and ability make him a towering figure who leaves a significant presence.

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My Life as a Video Game

April 23, 2016 at 12:26 pm (Uncategorized)

Oh no, not one of those eighty dollar PS 4 or X-Box games. No, more like one of those free downloadable one you play on your phone or tablet. Yeah, like Temple Run.

If you’ve never played Temple Run, Sonic, Subway Surf or any of the innumerable variants, the principle is simple. You run. There’s no end.  You just run. You pick up prizes (often coins) or protection which enables you to gain other treasure, run faster etc., but no matter how good you are, you eventually run into something solid, fall over a cliff or something, and die. A lot like life.

Well, gotta go and try to beat the high score…or do I?


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Like a Phoenix: The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair Lives!

April 23, 2016 at 12:18 pm (Uncategorized)

A few weeks back, I wrote asking about the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair which was Missing in Action. Usually the bookfair is super-organized, sending out notices months in advance. This year nothing. Emails were unanswered and no one seemed to know anything. And then two days ago, I got a notice. The Bookfair lives! No idea what happened, but I’m glad it’s going ahead. I’ve already filled out my tabling request.

Tabling requests by May 6

Workshop proposals by May 11

More details: Montreal Anarchist Bookfair





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Thao and the Get Down Stay Down – A Long Overdue Review

April 23, 2016 at 12:11 pm (Uncategorized)

Ah, two things.

One, the last fortnight has been busy for me. No, seriously. Really busy. There have been a couple of major projects that needed to be finished, and another one is due this weekend. But if I don’t get some of these reviews done, I’ll never finish them.

Two, I really like the Adelaide Hall.  I’ve been twice now to this little club off of Adelaide Street on the east side  of the entertainment district. The place holds maybe 250, but the sight lines are great and the sound is good too. The only trouble is that it’s underground. Literally. Two small flights of stairs mean that in the event of a fire or something, we’re unlikely to make it out – yes, I know there are fire exits listed downstairs, but since I’ve never used them, I can’t be certain they lead anywhere. Fingers crossed.

So, with that in mind, to Thao. I almost missed the show. I had it in my note book that the show was the following weekend, but fortunately noticed the night before that it was the 9th not the 16th. And it was an early show although as I got there the line was just starting to move half an hour past the advertised opening time.

Opening band was Little Scream, the project of Iowa-born, Montreal- based musician Laurel Sprengelmeyer.  The crowd certainly liked her, but her 70s pop-rock style left me kind of cold. I may have been distracted by the sparkly shirt  she was wearing, but while the band  seemed into what they were doing, it lacked that symbiosis that makes for an unforgettable show.

Thao and her band, on the other hand, had none of that difficulty. I’d seen her play at Lee’s a couple of years back on the recommendation of a friend and wasn’t disappointed. At the tie of the show I hadn’t listened to her new album and initially was planning to go to the show this time. but the enormously positive review convinced me. And it was worth it, Thao’s brand of funky-folk is instantly appealing. You’re not always sure if you want to just bop your head along with the beat or full out burst into dancing, but it’s impossible not to be drawn into the music.

Not bad for an early show.



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MIA: Montreal Anarchist Bookfair

April 12, 2016 at 11:41 am (Uncategorized)

Hey! Anyone know what’s happening with the Montreal Anarchist Bookfair? The bookfair has run annually every May since 2000. I’ve tabled at every one. Usually, calls go out as early as December or January.

This year nothing. The webpage and social media feeds are from last year; emails have gone unanswered; friends tell me they have “heard” it’s happening, but with a little over a month as to when the bookfair usually occurs, I wonder what’s going on. I imagine at this point I’m not going.

Curious. Anyone know anything?

I should mention though that the Toronto Bookfair will take place on July 23/24 at the Steelworkers Hall.


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There were Savages in Toronto this Week

April 10, 2016 at 9:03 pm (Uncategorized)

OK, the Danforth Music Hall is one of the great venues in the city. Sure, if I have a choice, my preference would be the Horseshoe or Lee’s Palace, but the Music Hall has great sound and it’s always possible to find a good spot to see.

A few nights back, I went down to see post-punk band Savages at the Music Hall. I’d bought both of their albums, but was wondering if I wanted to spend $30 to see them. The appearance on Colbert made me put down cash for the show. Good call.

I got to the venue half way through Brooklyn-based Angus Tarnawsky’s set. Imagine a guy DJ-ing, but creating an experimental electronic wall of sound and beats. Not the kind of thing I want to listen to every day, but it had a hypnotic effect. Quite compelling. Hey, maybe I should listen everyday.

Savages came on about 9:15. Four women. Dressed in black. A light show that projected shadows onto the walls. Post-punk. Intense. Three members of the band barely moved, but singer Jehnny Beth never stopped. I had read that Savages live show was much more intense that their studio recordings, and it was true. There was a passion, a raw emotion that thus far has escaped the recordings (although it comes closer on Adore Life than Silence Yourself). I was a little disappointed that the band didn’t play their cover of Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream,” but I still left pretty pleased with the experience.


I Am Here
Sad Person
City’s Full
Slowing Down the World
Shut Up
She Will
When In Love
I Need Something New
The Answer
Hit Me
No Face


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Guns and Roses in Cleveland and Beyond

April 10, 2016 at 9:03 pm (Uncategorized)

Er, OK, I see the confusion. No not that Guns and Roses. I was referring to the Republican National Conventi0on scheduled to be held in Cleveland in July, 2016.

Recently, I’d heard about a petition that called for open-carry advocates to be allowed to, well, openly carry their weapons at the convention. Given how much of a nasty shit-storm the convention is posed to become, it would almost certainly have meant gun play. After all, how likely is it that the whirlwind of violence that has been growing at Trump’s events will somehow pass by the convention? Trump has more or less threatened riots if he doesn’t get the nomination, so it doesn’t seem too far fetched some of his followers (or Cruz’s for that matter) might succumb to the temptation to deal with matters in a rather direct way. Maybe Trump will pay their legal bills.

It turned out that the petition was the creation of liberal blogger James P Ryan. I don’t know whether to be disappointed or relived. Still 52,000 people signed petition before the Secret Service announced it wasn’t going to happen. Could have had a re-enactment of the Beer Hall Putsch or maybe the burning of the Reich stag.

The other gun story which came to my attention was the one Trevor Noah mentioned on The Daily Show about a gun designer who has designed a gun that looks like a smart phone. Noah joked about expecting people to shoot themselves by accident while mistakenly using the gun. C’mon, how long would it be before people are shot by the police (and when I saw  ‘people” you know who I mean) claiming the “suspect” (target?) was using a gun which turned out to be … a phone? Oh, I’m sure it’s happened already. What I wonder is why isn’t there someone arguing for a gun which has a phone in it. OK, luckily, the few readers of this blog mean I might still have a chance to copyright the idea.

Laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you’re probably looking at the world falling apart. 🙂

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Merle Haggard: 1937-2016

April 7, 2016 at 8:43 pm (Uncategorized)

Merle Haggard was one of those names that I knew, had never a song by, by somehow I knew I didn’t like him. I mean, it was country music, right? Sure I’d dipped my toe into the waters before when I had brought home records by Hank Williams, the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo and Dylan’s Nashville Skyline, but Merle Haggard. Nah.

And then.

I was living in Nova Scotia in the mid-1990s, and at the end of a party, I’m in a basement and listening to a record someone has put on. “Man, this is good. Who is it?” I asked. “Merle Haggard.” OK, I thought, I can admit when I’m wrong. I need to look into this.

The only Haggard record I won is Okie from Muskogee, and whether or not Haggard was serious about the title track, it’s a great album. Sure, I prefer Tom Jones version of “Green Green Grass of Home,” but “Sing me back home” is unbeatable.

Go listen now. 1937-2016

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