Music Notes March 2017

March 30, 2017 at 5:32 pm (Uncategorized)


1 Slaves – Take Control

I’ll say again, I don’t really like the name of the band, but the record sounds great. Melodic punk with just, for the most part, drums and guitar. Mike D of the Beastie Boys helps out and is name checked on one of the album’s weaker cuts. Great live band too.

2 The Bangles – Greatest Hits 

Yeah, I know, a crappy greatest hits package is the laziest way to approach a band, but I just had a yen to hear some of their tunes in one collection. Great early stuff which fades over the course of their career. For those with eighties nostalgia.

3 The XX – “I Dare You”

I know I mentioned the album previously, but for a week this month, this was my absolute favourite song.

4 Boss Hog – “Live at KEXP”

New album, new tour.

5 Ron Gallo – Heavy Meta

C’mon, worth a listen if just for the pun. Great Nashville punk sound.

6. Angelic Upstarts- Teenage Warning. 

First there was Sham. Then the Upstarts. And after the Cockney Rejects. The Angelic Upstarts wee the link between the old Sham style punk and Oi! Fiercely anti-racist, fiercely anti-police, and with a pretty fierce sound. Brilliant.

7. Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) 

True confessions time. Wu-Tang was a group that largely passed by me. Sure, I’d heard of them, but I couldn’t name a song or a record if my life depended upon it. Live and learn. A lot of their stuff (and one of their members) showed up on Netflix’s Luke Cage. Here we are. And it’s pretty good (yeah, twenty years late). Intricate sampling and cleverly put together stuff. I stand corrected.

8. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca

Another band that largely escaped my notice, but a series of profiles in places like the New York Times led me to give this a listen. It’s intellectual pop. Not something to grab you on the first listen, but something that’s absorbed over time. But when it is…

9  Louder Tan War

I usually read Mojo and often pick up Uncut, but I’ve noticed Louder Than War on the newsstands recently. Founded in 2015, the website now magazine has pretty good stuff from the punkier side of the street, but at nearly $15 Canadian, it’s a little pricey (true the others I read are the same price, but there’s a free CD with them). Anyway, something to watch.

10. Chuck Berry

I know I did a Chuck Berry piece earlier this month. But are you really complaining?


Next month, Jesus and Mary Chain and the new Boss Hog seem likely for inclusion. And I’ll be seeing the Sleaford Mods, P.J. Harvey and Sallie Ford. April is looking good.

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Habermas on the Internet and Social Media

March 19, 2017 at 7:10 pm (Uncategorized)

“The internet generates a centrifugal force. It releases an archaic wave of highly fragmented circuits of communication that infrequently overlap. Of course, the spontaneous and egalitarian nature of unlimited communication can have subversive effects under authoritarian regimes. But the web itself does not produce any public spheres. Its structure is not suited to focusing the attention of a dispersed public of citizens who form opinions simultaneously on the same topics and contributions which have been scrutinised and filtered by experts.”

—Quoted in Stuart Jeffries, Grand Hotel Abyss. (Verso, 2016)

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Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n Roll

March 19, 2017 at 7:01 pm (Uncategorized)

Sometimes one song is all it takes. If that one song is good enough, it becomes your sound. And if that sound is good enough, it becomes your career; maybe a lot of people’s careers. Look at Johnny Cash. Every song he recorded sounded like a Johnny Cash song, whether it was written by him or not. Or the Ramones. Every Ramones song sounded pretty much like every other Ramones song, but that was okay because it was such a good song. And then a lot of other people made Ramones songs too.

So too Chuck Berry who passed away yesterday aged 90. Listen to any Chuck Berry song, and it’s unquestionably a Chuck Berry song. I’m not a musician, just a music fan, but even someone has talentless as me can spot that certain something about his work. Something that makes it special, unique, timeless. Did Berry create rock ‘n’ roll? I suspect that debate will never be settled, but no one can deny that rock ‘n’ roll would never have been the way it was without him. His passing is the passing of a titan, but he left us with songs that will never be forgotten.

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Everything must Go!

March 14, 2017 at 4:46 pm (Uncategorized)

My kids are in high school, and in high school Marx and Communism come up in a particularly bastardized form. Occasionally, one of the kids will ask, “What’s communism?” and they recoil in horror as I try to give them the short answer (usually about seven hours worth of monologue…) Still, it’s hard to sum it up sometimes.

I used to be a Trotskyist. Now, while there are different versions, some of the main points remain: Trotsky good/Stalin bad, USSR as degenerated workers state, permanent revolution, “Crisis of leadership” blah, blah blah. Well, in the mid 1990s, I began to identify as a council communist. Essentially, this meant a greater emphasis on workers council and a critique of the Leninist vanguardists (yes, Leon you too). In 2005, I joined Internationalist Perspective. IP was a part of the International Communist Current until the mid-80s. Were they left communists? Internationalist communists? Pro-revolutionaries? Anti-state communists?  Neo-councilists? Something else? Argh. Labels. Better to read our stuff for yourself than take someone else’s word for it.

Anyway, I’d like to also suggest people have a look at Everything Must Go a small collection of essays by Bruno Astarian and Gilles Dauve on the abolition of value. Dauve’s essay “The A to Z of Communisation” is quite useful. I don’t agree with everything there, but it’s a good account. Available from LBC Books 

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Slaves play the Garrison: A Quick Review

March 14, 2017 at 4:21 pm (Uncategorized)

OK, OK, two things.

First, this review is a week late, and while I spent some time working on the title, it still feels awkward. It was a great show, and I really like the band, but in pretty much any context, and especially the North American one, two white guys from Kent calling themselves Slaves feels questionable.

Right then.

I’ve been to the Garrison a couple of times, and it’s pretty much a big room behind the restaurant in front. A bit like the Rivoli with less ambiance. But…having said that, the sound is good, it’s easy to find a good spot to stand, and the bands they book are always top-notch. Yah, Garrison. I missed the opening band, arriving about twenty minutes before Slaves took the stage.

Slaves inhabit a punk-rock paradigm: Guitar and drums. that’s about as stripped down as it gets.  True, on their excellent albums they employ other instruments and sidemen (Mike D of the Beastie Boys is on the new album, and it’s highly recommended), but live, it’s just Isaac and Laurie. Sixty minutes of raging punk rock interspersed with commentary that might have been missed. Who knows, too busy enjoying.

Good stuff lads.


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