Music Notes: May 2017

May 31, 2017 at 10:30 pm (Uncategorized)

 OK, here we go. 

1. The Damned: Don’t You Wish that We Were Dead

Despite near misses with fame, the Damned never really got the popular recognition they were due as one of the great original punk bands, and the creators of two absolutely excellent records, Damned, Damned, Damned and Machine Gun Etiquette. If you weren’t a fan of the band, you might wonder what all the fuss was about, but if you are a fan, this documentary is what you’ve waited for. Some really nice footage behind what is a rather sad story. Quick anecdote then. After the schism between Rat Scabies and Captain Sensible, Rat teamed up with Brian James to tour periodically and play the old songs. One time they were scheduled to play Lee’s Palace, and I bought a ticket. When the show was cancelled, I went down to Soundscapes to get a refund. Turns out Soundscapes had only sold one ticket, mine. Ah well. great film though.

2. Wire – Behind the Curtain 

And speaking of old punks who continue, Wire. unlike the Damned who haven’t released new material in over a decade, Wire continue to record and tour. Listening to this collection of early Wire versions, I’m reminded of my favourite one liner about the band: Imagine the Ramones if they had been raised on Cahier du Cinema instead of Mad Magazine. In the punk explosion, Wire were moving so fast it was hard to pin them down, but this 31 track recording does a good job of charting their progress from minimalist punks to something quite lush and beautiful. Try to snag a ticket for their upcoming Lee’s show if you can.

3. Resistance Radio – Soundtrack

The soundtrack to the Amazon TV show The Man in the High Castle. Loved the Philip K Dick novel, but haven’t seen the show. The album is a collection of 50’s and 60’s covers featuring the likes of Beck, Karen O, Norah Jones, Angel Olsen, Benjamin Booker and more. Terrific.

4. Rolling Blackouts C.F. – The French Press

Six song EP from Australia’s Rolling Blackouts. Jangle-pop.  It’s almost summer, and it sounds great in the car.

5. Mitski – Puberty 

I saw Mitski last year at the Mod Club. Pretty much what you’d expect after listening to this powerful, guitar driven, extremely personal record.

6. The Stooges – Fun House (Deluxe edition)

I understand the need to release albums with bonus tracks including different takes, and the Stooges are as good candidates as anyone, but with three versions of “Loose”, two versions of “Fun House” and three versions of “Down on the Street,” it can dull the brutal efficiency of the original album. Not to say you shouldn’t listen to these versions (You absolutely should), but you’ll likely spend more time with the classic original album versions.

7. The Jesus and Mary Chain – Damage and Joy

Something old, something new; something borrowed and something blue. A new album from your old favourite band. Now, admit it. You were nervous about the prospect of a reunion dulling the legacy. Never fear, this new record will never replace Psychocandy or Darklands, but it’s nothing to be embarrassed by. Worth more than a listen.

8. The Bangles – Ladies and Gentlemen…

Nice little collection of early material (some from when they were the Bangs) and demos. Probably won’t appeal to those who want the hits, but it’s impressive enough to snag more than the devoted fan

9.  Mercury Rev – Yerself is Steam 

Here’s something I haven’t listened to in a while. Swirling psychedelic Butthole Surfers noise-pop. Very trippy. My copy has a bonus six song EP with a Peel session on it.

10. Gimme Danger

Jim Jarmusch’s loving tribute to a band that most people hated when they were around, but claim to love later (add that to the list). Amazing archival footage. If you like music, see this film.

Till next time.

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Communicating Vessels #28

May 23, 2017 at 4:16 pm (Uncategorized)

Communicating Vessels is one of those publications which isn’t in my mind too often. And then, an issue appears in my mail box, and I fall in love with it all over again.  Each issue contains personal essays on the nature of existence in capitalist society (we are in it, but not of it) and the spaces which still exist. The issues are beautifully laid out, and contain poems , illustrations and epigrams to provoke and to puzzle. The only oddity  in this issues is the generally positive review of Jan Valtin’s  rather dubious Out of the Night, a book which has been described by one of its recent publishers as a work on “fictional biography” for its creative and factual liberties.

There’s no web site or email. If you want a copy send some dollars to Anthony at PO Box 2048, Tuscon, Arizona, 85702, USA

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What is Alienation?

May 23, 2017 at 4:15 pm (Uncategorized)

“Alienation – I know it is there whenever I sing a love song or recite a poem, whenever I handle a banknote or enter a shop, whenever I glance at a poster or read a newspaper. At the very moment the human is defined as ‘having possessions,’ I know it is there, dispossessing the human.”

Henri Lefebvre – The Critique of Everyday Life

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Back to the Garage: Boss Hog in Toronto

May 23, 2017 at 4:15 pm (Uncategorized)

A funny thing  happened as I reached Lee’s Place on Friday night; I was asked for ID by the guy on the door. “How old are you?” I asked, “Because,  I’m 52.” The other guy mumbled something about being asked for insurance purposes, but in any event, in I went. Phew!

CatL were already on stage. Damn! I’d wanted to get there before their set started, but ended up having to park further away than planned. For those who don’t know, catL are a garage-punk blues duo of guitar and drums (once a duo, then a trio, now a duo albeit of a different composition than the first) . They’ve released four albums, all of them great, but as good as they are on record, the live shows are better. There’s just something about the stripped down line-up, percussion heavy with  a savage guitar sound that makes them unmissable (next Toronto show is at the Dakota Tavern on June 8) . Short set for a small crowd, but I loved every second.

Danny & the Darleans are led by Danny Kroha, a founding member of Detroits’s The Gories. Like catL before them and Boss Hog after them on the night’s bill, Danny & the Darleans play rock ‘n’n roll with a heavy garage blues sound. THere’s little than can be said about this style. It’s short bursts of music thatmove you through its simplicity nad its idrectness. The band played a forty minute set, and we were ready for the main attraction.

Boss Hog formed in the late 1980s, and are fronted by the punk rock power-duo Jon Spencer and Christine Martinez.  The couple are associated with many great bands including Pussy Galore, the Honeymoon Killers, Unsane and of course Spencer’s own Blues Explosion. I saw the band sometime in the early 1990’s at the long-defunct Apocalypse Club on College (a block west of the Mod Club)  promoting their self-titled major label debut for Geffen. The marriage never seemed right, and their next release White Out appeared on In the Red. Then a recording hiatus of 17 years before Brood X appeared as if nothing had happened.

The band took the stage on time (I’ll admit to loving bands that are punctual) , and bang, frantic blues-punk. Martinez stalks the stage, while Spencer plays back up, occasionally taking lead along with Hollis Queens. Their set was short (45 minutes although there were a generous number of encores), but intense. Let’s hope it’s not another 17 years before they release new material (I’ll be 69 then)

Three great bands for twenty and change. How could you not be happy, and if you were at the show, I hope you’ll forgive the heresy: CatL were the best!


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For May Day

May 1, 2017 at 9:38 pm (Uncategorized)

In the third manuscript of the so-called Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844,  Karl Marx argued in a section entitled “Private Property and Communism” …

… If you love without evoking love in return – if through the vital expression of yourself as a loving person you fail to become a loved person, then your love is impotent, it is a misfortune.
Private Property and Communism, 1844

It’s easy to concentrate on the political or the economic aspects of Marx’s thought. But it’s sometimes useful to remember the social, the personal. If you love, but can’t spread it, then you may never be able to make that better world we all want.

Enjoy May Day


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Music Notes April 2017

May 1, 2017 at 9:29 pm (Uncategorized)

Ha! Probably too busy thinking about May day. I’m a day late, but never mind. 

1 Sallie Ford – Soul Sick

Sallie Ford sings rock and roll. Nuff said. Another terrific album.

2 Emel Mathlouthi – Kelmti Horra

I discovered this singer recently, and this is my favourite album this week. From Tunisia and possessing an amazing voice, Mathlouthi sings traditional North African music as well as electronica influenced sounds.

3 Molly Burch – Please Be Mine

I saw Burch a few weeks ago opening for Sallie Ford at the Horseshoe in Toronto. Sort Mazzy Rock shoegazer vibe. Bought the record during the break and didn’t look back. Seductive, smokey love songs.

4  Various artists – Back to Mono

Hauled this one out after a while. OK, Phil Spector might be nuts, but he’s responsible for some of the most amazing pop music ever. Hit after hit here.

5 Original soundtrack  – Gimme Danger

The soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch’s film forms a Stooges greatest hits package and includes a few rarities as well (demos, outtakes, an Iguanas and Prime Movers Blues Band tracks). If you’re a Stooges fan, you probably have all of this anyway, but it’s a nice little collection.

6 Nikki Lane – Highway Queen

Saw her on one of the late night shows a little while back and thought it might be worth a listen. To be honest though, the record doesn’t do it for me. Good hooks and all, but the overall sound is just a little too close to the middle for me.

7 The Sleaford Mods – English Tapas

I cannot stop listening to this record. Absolutely fantastic . Bitting wit. Just the thing you need to hear if you’re angry at the world, and even if you’re not.

8 Hurray for the Riff Raff – Small Town Heroes

After listening to this, I was super excited that  the band is playing Toronto this summer, but then I realized I’ll be away that week. Punky folk sounds with a lot of politics. Mmm.

9 Gillian Welch – Boots no. 1

A two disc set of outtakes, demos and alternative versions of Welch’s debut Revival. You don’t have to be familiar with Revival to love the sweet and bitter guitar tunes and the achingly poignant vocals on this set. Lovely.

10 HMV

Yes, I know, corporate rock chain goes under, boo hoo.  I do remember when the HMV mega-store opened on Yonge Street. You could get a lot of very cool stuff there, and they carried a lot of independent artists (Bare Naked Ladies I’m talking to you) . I spent a lot of time and money in that store. Somewhere along the way, HMV more or less stopped selling music and it was graphic novels, DVDs and merch. As digital sharing took over, HMV sank. Still, it’s disappearance will mean that the local mall music outlet will disappear too. Fine if you’re in Toronto, less so if you’re in a small town. Yes, the internet. Yes, Amazon, but there’s still a joy in browsing and finding something cool. Even if it is in a corporate rock store.


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