Music Notes: September 2017

September 30, 2017 at 11:24 am (Uncategorized)

On time this month.

1 Wire Silver/Lead

I’ll confess, I follow Wire intermittently. I bought this at the recent show at Lee’s in Toronto, and while it sounded better live, the album is still solid. Bubbling dream-like pop, Neo-prog, and even a little T-Rex sit nicely beside each other here. Not Wire’s greatest record, but a good addition to the collection.

2. Cheap Trick – At Budokhan

Arena punk. Too punk for 70s FM radio, but too rock for college radio, still this is an absolutely classic album.  There is a version which has the full set, but this is tighter, and just about perfect.

3. LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

Yes, I  can’t help being a little weirded out by the fact the band reformed after the famous break-up just a few years back, (so did the Damned and they were better) , but go and listen to this record before you make a final decision. Like a maturing wine this band. Better with age. A great dance-punk record (more the former than the latter).

4. Dusty Springfield – Gold

Remember those greatest hits “Gold” CDs that were everywhere a few years back? I listened to the Dusty Springfield one on a road trip, and it really is gold. Such an amazing talent (even on that ill-considered Pet Shop Boys cover of “What have I Done to Deserve This?”). The pop hits, and loads of Dusty in Memphis. Bliss.

5. The Dream Syndicate – How Did I Get to be Here?

A good question Steve Wynn. Speaking of reformed bands, the Dream Syndicate has a new record out. I loved The Days of Wine and Roses and The Medicine Show, but lost interest in the band after that. Heard a few tracks from the new release, and it’s pretty good. They will never top those early recordings, but there’s some great things on this record. And it has Kendra Smith!

6. Stevie Wonder

Takes the knee. Still brilliant. Still got it.

7.  The Professionals

Did you hear Cookie’s getting the band back together. Steve Jones isn’t officially a member, but apparently is a part of the project. Along with Billy Duffy and Marco Pironi. As long as they only release singles, I’m good with it.

8. Alternative TV –  Peel Sessions

Mark Perry started Sniffin Glue, the original punk fanzineafter attending some punk shows.  Then formed a band Alternative TV. Wrote a lot of songs about life.  Really quite wonderful. Listen to that session here 

9. The Reading Festival

Can you believe it’s been a quarter of a century since that Nirvana show? The current issue of Mojo has a big piece on the events of the show along with a neo-grunge CD (without Nirvana naturally). Worth a read beyond simple nostalgia

10 Holgar Czukay

Ending on a sad passing. The bass player from CAN, the man who (maybe) invented sampling, and a tremendous talent passed away September 5.  No more can be said. A genius.


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The New Nazism and its Opponents

September 30, 2017 at 11:24 am (Uncategorized)

Originally published on the Internationalist Perspective site, September 2017.


Charlottesville was not the first time in recent memory the Nazis, the Klan and other “white nationalist” organizations have marched in the streets brazenly proclaiming their vile creed of white supremacy, anti-Semitism and race hatred. Yet, the events in Charlottesville seemed to mark a qualitative difference: A torch light rally accompanied by openly Nazi slogans of “Blood and Soil” and “Jews will not replace us” on August 11 was followed by a daylight rally of hatred which culminated in James Fields, a neo-Nazi who was photographed marching with the Vanguard America group, ramming a car into a crowd of counter-protesters murdering a protester, Heather Heyer.

The Klan was once a powerful force in American politics boasting over 4 million members with senators, governors and even a supreme court judge among its members. However a decades-long decline has reduced the Klan to squabbling factions; explicitly Nazi organizations have never been more than a momentary blip on the news feed. Yet, here were  emboldened rightists, seemingly in ascendance. What could account for this resurgence? Perhaps the belief that one of “their” supporters was in the White House. Former Klan Imperial Grand Wizard David Duke, who was present in Charlottesville, remarked that the neo-Nazis were in Charlottesville to “To take our country back. To fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. ”

But is Trump a fascist? Certainly Trump’s chauvinist “Make American Great Again” and “America First” rhetoric echo the far-right’s nationalism, and  Trump’s seemingly bottomless narcissism is reminiscent of the fascist cult of the leader. In addition, Trump has shown an eagerness to engage in dog whistle politics for his base: his defence of Confederate statues as (white) heritage  and the continued use of the term “globalism” (eerily reminiscent of Nazi code for Jews) have only encouraged the far-right. Yet, Trump remains within the framework of bourgeois democratic politics albeit with an authoritarian bent.

For bourgeois politicians, pro-forma denunciations of explicitly Nazi or racist groups is not unusual, even though successive Republican and Democratic politicians have felt free to plunder elements of the program to suit their needs as well as engaging in nudges and winks to their supporters.  The Republican National Committee unanimously adopted a resolution against white supremacy August 25, yet its platform contains many of the same ideas.

Trump however has broken with this unofficial policy. Much to the delight of the neo-Nazis, such as the Daily Stormer Trump’s initial response was to equivocate between the neo-Nazis and Antifa, arguing  that there was violence in Charlottesville, “on many sides.”  Responding to the pressure from the media his own party, and even within his administration, a tight-lipped Trump read a stronger statement on August 14 denouncing the Nazis and the Klan. This obviously forced-upon statement stood a single day before Trump went back to his original position statement, but went further, arguing that there were “very fine people on both sides” and reiterating the notion that rightists were simply defending history and the heritage of the south. This, like the rhetoric around state’s rights, is a talking point for White supremacists who argue that statues of Lee and his ilk represent the (white) south’s history – a history of lynching and white supremacy. David Duke tweeted to thank Trump for his remarks in identifying the “terrorists” of the left.

The reaction of the media and the political establishment was swift and savage, denouncing  Trump for his even-handed equation of the two sides.  Yet, this was a curious reaction, and certainly not an expected one.  While in the period since the Second World War, the US has shown revulsion for fascism, it has only been when it suited its purpose to do so. Indeed, the US has shown a marked preference for authoritarian and neo-fascist regimes ever since the war; instead a revulsion for “communism” or leftist regimes has been a much more consistent policy.

So why then, did the US ruling class react so strongly against this position? A significant section of the US ruling class, extending beyond the Democratic Party, does not support Trump and would rather have him, if not replaced by a more malleable figure such as Mike Pence, then at least have Trump’s authority reduced in favour of trusted elements within Trump’s administration such as the military.

Since the events of Charlottesville, the state has presented a front of ‘democratic citizens standing up against fascism,’ idealizing and glorifying the Second World War and America ever since as leading the struggle for democracy against fascism. When John McCain is able to write in The Washington Post on September 1, “Most of us share Heather Heyer’s values, not the depravity of the man who took her life, ” there can be no other conclusion.

By concentrating criticism on the neo-Nazi right, the capitalist state (and here we mean not just the state itself, but also the media, the political parties, business, the unions etc.)  seek to further cement that alliance by drawing in protest groups such as Black Lives Matter or Antifa – the embrace of a BLM leader and the Mayor of Boston prior to an anti-White nationalist rally in that city illustrates the point.

With the visible resurgence of organized fascist groups, the flood of patriotic and nostalgic anti-fascism across the internet and social media has been inescapable. Yet, the Second World War was a  war between imperialist powers; it was not a war to fight fascism, not a war to save the Jews, not a war to save the world for democracy, but rather a war to divide the world into new spheres of influence. The workers on all sides were merely cannon fodder.

The real enemy of the state is not neo-Nazi elements. Rather they are being utilized as a pretext to reinforce the state with democracy as the “glue” that holds it together.

What then of Antifa? In a sense it is wrong to speak of Antifa as an organization since, beyond a common commitment to confronting fascist groups, Antifa is locally organized into collectives in a national network. With its current media prominence,  Antifa may become a shorthanded for a broad opposite to racism or fascism, an ideology as ultimately supportive of the liberal state democratic despite Trump’s continued efforts as demonstrated by his bellow at a rally in Phoenix:

“They show up in the helmets and the black masks and they have clubs and everything. Antifa!”

Yet, Fascism is not a mass movement in the United States. Nor is it likely to become one. Trump uses racism, and the cult of a strong leader not to undermine democracy but to divide the exploited and to reinforce nationalism. His friend Steve Bannon, now supporting Trump from outside the government, is not an ideological brother of the Nazis of Charlottesville, whom he was quick to dismiss as “clowns” and “losers, ” but that should give us no comfort. Trump and Bannon are using democracy and all its tools to push the US and the world further on a path towards greater exploitation, more war, more ecological destruction.

The choice today is not fascism or democracy. Both are tools of capital; both are murderous and repressive. The fight against white supremacist and other racist ideologies bears only a perspective of liberation if it’s connected to the struggle to end capitalism. Otherwise, it will be recuperated and turned into an instrument to purify democracy and thereby to reinforce the capitalist state.


September 2017

When Insurrections Die (1998)

“The essence of anti-fascism consists in resisting fascism by defending
democracy: one no longer struggles against capitalism but seeks to
pressure capitalism into renouncing the totalitarian option. Since
socialism is identified with total democracy, and capitalism with an
accelerating tendency to fascism, the antagonisms between proletariat
and capital, communism and wage-labour, proletariat and state, are
rejected for a counterposition of democracy and fascism presented as the
quintessential revolutionary perspective. The official left and far left
tell us that a real change would be the realization, at last, of the
ideals of 1789, endlessly betrayed by the bourgeoisie.”

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September 19, 2017 at 1:23 am (Uncategorized)

 I saw Waxahatchee in August at Lee’s Palace in Toronto. Fantastic show. The power of their music, from slow songs to all -out rockers was overwhelming. Meant to write a review; didn’t. Then I saw this piece in the New York Times a week or so back. No substitute for seeing the band, but if you can’t, get the record. Out in the Storm is amazing. Even better than Ivy Tripp. 

Washington — For over a decade, Allison and Katie Crutchfield have been making music together, on terms of their own making. As teenagers, the twin sisters formed the cheery, poppy punk outfit the Ackleys, and later the more controlled and lyrically ambitious P.S. Eliot. Beginning around five years ago, they began working on their own projects — the confessional Waxahatchee for Katie, the swaggering, now-defunct Swearin’ for Allison — which elevated them from D.I.Y. stalwarts to indie-rock flagbearers.

This year has seen new music from both Crutchfields, 28: Allison released her solo full-length debut album, Tourist in this Town,” in January and Waxahatchee released its fourth album, Out in the Storm in July. They spoke at the 9:30 Club here, where Waxahatchee — with Allison playing as part of the band — was about to perform the final show of its summer tour. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

Katie, there are no men in your band and touring crew. Can you talk about why?

KATIE CRUTCHFIELD With the band, it was specifically because of such horrible experiences that I’ve had. When we were younger, there was a kind of thing that men would not get away saying with saying today, like “Oh you tour with girls, it’s gonna be drama, it’s gonna be annoying.” And I feel like in my experience …

ALLISON CRUTCHFIELD The exact opposite. No problems.

KATIE It’s been pure magic. It really has been pretty life-changing. I don’t think I’ll ever go back.

As you’ve grown out of D.I.Y. spaces into bigger rooms, are you facing the same issues?

ALLISON We literally just played this show in Montreal three nights ago where, as soon as we walked out onstage, this man in the front just goes, “You’re hot!” We flipped on him, you know?

KATIE We went out ready to fight.

ALLISON There’s been a few times where I’ve done stuff like that onstage, and it’s always just, like, some old man that works in the venue being like, “Let me give you a piece of advice” and I’m like, “Let me stop you right there.” That’s my favorite thing to do, is to just tell some old man in a venue, like, “No.”

KATIE I will say I think the D.I.Y. scene has definitely become more equitable than it was when we were participating.

You now have an entire generation younger than you. Do you feel a burden of responsibility to look after them?

KATIE I feel like people have come to me a lot for that kind of advice, and I feel really comfortable with that. I feel really good if people seek that in me and Allison. I’ve probably taken, on this tour, five calls from frontwomen in band

ALLISON Fairy godmother.

At our round table, many women spoke about both the emotional labor of being in a band with men, and the emotional labor of being a confessional, sometimes political songwriter, and how that relates to fans who see themselves in you or want something from you.

ALLISON I’m learning that I don’t like to be an open book in the public eye. I’m happy to tell everyone all of my secrets in a song, but I don’t want to talk about them with a stranger.

What about the emotional labor of touring with dudes, of being the only woman in a van with five guys?

KATIE How much time do you have? Often, especially with male camaraderie, there’s this antagonistic vibe of like, “Oh, we’re gonna make fun of the girl.” It’s just this internalized misogyny that makes men sort of combat femininity with humor. Anytime that you’re, “Oh, I need to do my makeup” or you need to do anything that’s feminine at all, it’s sort of just like, “Pfffffft, yeah.”

ALLISON The internalized misogyny is them equating emotional awareness with weakness.

KATIE Like we’re just frivolity or whatever, you know what I mean? That is, I think, one of the hardest things.

Given that both of you guys are out in front, was there still a power dynamic at play like, “Yes you’re the star, but we’re the men?”

ALLISON 100 percent.

KATIE Full on shots fired: Typically the most replaceable member of the band is the worst about that, you know?

ALLISON With Swearin’, something I dealt with a lot was this sort of general uneasiness about the fact that I was getting a lot more attention because I was the frontperson and main songwriter. I felt definitely like I was having to take a step back and really like, check on everyone and make sure everyone was O.K. It made me feel really insecure within the dynamic of the band because I was feeling like I was having to tiptoe around a lot of hurt egos.

Was there dismissiveness about skill as well?

KATIE I think that, with a lot of women friends, that’s a big reason why they want to play music with other women, because they don’t want to be in that position in the band practice where it’s like, “Oh, so-and-so told me to brush up on this or whatever.”

ALLISON It’s definitely a combination of things that are going on when that sort of thing happens. People not being aware of the space that they’re taking up. People not realizing that they’re mansplaining, or being condescending. And also, they’re most likely a little threatened that that space is not being taken up by…


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On the Extreme Margins on the Centennial of the Russian Revolution

September 12, 2017 at 12:32 am (Uncategorized)

New article by Loren Goldner on the the legacy of the Russian Revolution, 100 years later.

On the Extreme Margins on the Centennial of the Russian Revolution

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On this Labour Day

September 4, 2017 at 7:47 pm (Uncategorized)

The last long weekend of the summer. The day to start packing up the cottage. The day before school restarts (in Canada at least). A day to celebrate labour.

In both Canada and the United States, Labour Day has been celebrated as a day of recognition for the struggles and achievements of working people since the 1880s, but it always feels like the milder little brother (or sister) of May Day. Peaceful legal. May Day always seems a little more radical.

So here’s a thought for this year,

All revolutions run into history, yet history is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers of revolution come, thither they return again

— Guy Debord, Pangyeric volume 2



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Music Notes Labour Day Edition, 2017

September 4, 2017 at 7:46 pm (Uncategorized)

OK, the last weeks of August were extremely busy for me, and the monthly music notes post completely slipped my mind.  So, this isn’t the August pitch, but will serve as a (retro) stopgap. Hope to be back on track in September.

1 Dions- “Runaround Sue”

Now who are those people in the audience, and why does he have his uncles in his band?

2. The Spinners – “The Carnival is Over”

Just a beautiful song.


3.  The Exciters- “Tell Him”

A trip to the zoo with the Exciters



4. Squeeze – “Up the Junction”

A stunning kitchen-sink drama in the form of a three minute pop song.

5.  Shonen Knife – “Riding on the Rocket”

Hilariously awful video masks terrific song


6. The Honeycombs – “Have I the Right? ”

Joe Meek classic with Honey Lantree on drums

7. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “Deena”

Looking totally demonic



8. Gene Chandler – “Duke of Earl”

Nothing can stop…

9. The B-52s – “Give me Back my man”

I love black and white. And this is a great song.


10 Elastica – “Stutter”

In the brief moment they were cool, Elastica were the coolest.


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