Music Notes: June 2019

June 30, 2019 at 1:32 pm (Uncategorized)

I missed last month, but here’s June.

1 Endless Boogie

Not going to list any albums because all of them are excellent. Churning, chugging blues-rock jams that just go on until they’re done. Sort of like if John Lee Hooker (from whom the band take their name) was a member of the Velvet Underground when they recorded “Sister Ray.”

2. Thea Gilmore – Small World Turning

I first heard of Thea Gilmore a decade or so back when a friend gave me one of her albums. Very talented English singer-songwriter. Great new record of beautiful songs

3. Aldous Harding – Designer 

OK, New Zealand singer-songwriter. Some might compare to the previous entry on this list, but it’s not at all the same. Excellent songs. Compelling listening.

4. Jon Spencer, CatL and the Layrite Boys at the Horseshoe

The Horseshoe might be my favourite live venue in Toronto, so this turned out to be a wonderful evening with three great bands. The Layrite Boys are a bluegrass duo. Not usually my kind of thing, but they were pretty impressive. CatL are probably my favourite local band. A blues-punk duo who are incredible live. As good as the studio albums are, live is better. And Jon Spencer. Nuff said. Promoting a solo record, Spencer Sings the Hits, and he did.

5. Jon Langford at the Horseshoe

Langford is a founding Mekon, Waco Brother and too many side and solo projects to list. Seeing him play to a small, but appreciative crowd at the Horseshoe was a treat. Always an entertainer!

6. The Heartbreakers – LAMF : The Definitive Edition

Hmm. a 4-CD version of the Heartbreakers’ only album might seem excessive, but it’s still a very cool thing to have. The lost ’77 mixes, the original album cleaned-up, demos and alternative takes, 4 badges and a 44-page booklet all in a clam-shell case. Who wouldn’t want to have this?

7. The White Stripes – The Complete Peel Sessions

Nice live set from the band. Jack’s guitar is outstanding, but Meg’s drums are a little scruffy in the mix. To be honest though, I think my favourite part was hearing John Peel at the start.

8. Here to be Heard – The Story of the Slits 

Terrific documentary on the Slits featuring some amazing early video. Great stuff

9. Richard Thompson – 13 Rivers

Some people only have so many good songs in them. Their first records are great, and then there’s a slow decline punctuated by occasional moments of, “well, that wasn’t so bad.” I’m not talking about Thompson. He is part of that other class of musician who effortlessly creates new and brilliant songs with every record. This is another.

10. The Rolling Thunder Review: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese

The key word is “story.” Scorsese takes archival footage and mixes it with a version of what might have been (Sharon Stone’s segment for example) to create a Dylan version (think I’m Not There). Not for the casual Dylan fan, but well worth the two hour length for those who are serious about their Dylan.

And finally. I don’t think I can let this go by  any longer without comment:  The question of Morrissey. I was a big Smiths fan., and I’m not alone. Morrissey’s lyrics, along with Johnny Marr’s music represent the music of a generation. The Queen is Dead might well be the greatest British album of the eighties. Yet Morrissey’s recent statements in favour of the far-right group For Britain and his statements on race cast a shadow over that work. Should it? Morrissey has often favoured and courted controversy around UK and American politics, and his advocacy of animal rights and vegetarianism have often seemed designed to provoke. The endorsement of an explicitly racist organization seems to go down an altogether different path.

The question of whether you can enjoy the work on an artist or performer whose views of behaviour you abhor is not new. From the list above, I can enjoy Johnny Thunders’ work without sharing his views on the use of heroin. I like the Slits without endorsing Ari-Up’s parenting style or her view on cancer treatment. I still listen to Phil Spector’s records. And Ike Turner. Both were horrible human beings. They are not alone in this. I’m still processing Morrissey’s turn. Nick Cave has written a piece on this question which is worth reading. 

Till next time.


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Democratic Debate Drinking Game

June 26, 2019 at 10:04 pm (Uncategorized)

I’m sure I won’t be watching, but for those of you who are., Rolling Stone has provided a guide

The Official Democratic Debate Drinking Game Rules 

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News of the Weird #2

June 24, 2019 at 9:23 pm (Uncategorized)

I’m not altogether sold on this title, but it’ll do for now.

1 Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario

Rob Ford, the crack-smoking late Mayor of Toronto didn’t really care if people liked him, but he really liked people. His brother, current Ontario Premier Doug Ford, is the opposite: He’s rude, brusque , bully, who clearly wants to be loved. It wasn’t a good week: First he was booed at the Raptors’ victory celebration and was likely inadvertently snubbed by  Masai Ujiri. His cabinet shuffle on Thursday demoted several prominent members of his government in an effort to distance himself from unpopular policies, fooling no one. In the recent shuffle, cabinet was expanded by 4 to make almost 40% of the PCs part of the cabinet. His chief of staff, the widely unpopular Dean French, was forced to resign after a friend of French’s son’s and his wife’s second cousin received and then lost plum patronage posts, and finally the also unpopular Lisa MacLeod announced the traditional Canada Day party on the lawn of the legislature would be cancelled in favour of a different celebration  throughout the province (“PCs Cancel Canada Day” read the headlines – true or not, the optics are terrible).  The policies of vindictive incompetence continue …

2. The Raptors

I don’t care for basketball, but it was nice to see the outpouring of support and the seemingly endless numbers who turned out to cheer the team during a parade on Monday. Marred somewhat by a shooting at Nathan Phillips Square downtown: You’re going to a celebration of the first Canadian team to ever win the NBA championship. It’s a time when everyone is happy. Families, school kids and everyday folk are heading down to be a part of this. Why wouldn’t you be packing? Unbelievable.

3. Pride

Yesterday was the culmination of Pride Month in Toronto. Estimates of over one million people attended. It’s a far cry from its origins as a relatively small event populated by members of the community and leftist supporters. While parade was as much protest as celebration, by the end of the eighties, the shift had been to the celebration.  Corporations were not sponsors and as its budget increased, pride became increasingly less-political. At one event, where I was attending as a member of a leftist group selling newspapers, organizers told all of the leftists they were not welcome at “their event.” and we were pushed away.  And so it goes.

4. Trump

It’s a strange world where, due to the influence of Tucker Carlson (!), the President of the US doesn’t indiscriminately slaughter potentially hundreds of foreign citizens, but expects kudos for not performing an act which could have embroiled the region in war

5. History point then

And on this day in 1929, timber workers in Australia  were defeated in a six-month strike which led to the imposition of a 48-hour week.





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On Theory and Practice

June 20, 2019 at 12:42 pm (Uncategorized)

It is not the purpose of the critique of value to furnish direct pointers for immediate action. This refusal often occasions a certain amount of disappointment on the part of those people eager for radical social critique, but who immediately raise the question of what the practical application of this fine theory might be. It is necessary, however, for critique to avoid succumbing to the demand that it always provide concrete immediate solutions. Although it is legitimate to expect that a critique of capitalist society should also be able to reveal a possible praxis  of supersession, there are good reasons to insist on the necessary autonomy of theory. Indeed, were its corollary in immediate action the only thing allowed to govern everything thought or said, the very formulation of radical theory would no longer be possible. The “categorical break” that forms the background to the critique of value cannot be turned instantly into a political strategy, as is the case for example with theories of the “multitude” or of “alter-globalisation”; nor is instantaneous application to one’s personal life within its gift. On the other hand, conceptualising a break with the basic categories of capitalist socialisation, even if such a break cannot be realised in the here and now, enables a focus to be maintained which goes far beyond the countless proposals in this day and age that seek to change the present without having to change anything.

Anselm Jappe

Preface to The Writing on the Wall

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News of the Weird #1

June 16, 2019 at 11:53 am (Uncategorized)

Even when I had more free time, I found that if I didn’t write something right away, I didn’t get around to it. So, the idea came just to write short pieces on Sunday noting odd lefty or news stuff for the week. Here’s the first.

1 Trump

Of course Trump to start. He occasionally shocks, but doesn’t surprise anymore. No, what shocks me is his defenders. This week, Trump gave an interview where he more or less said to foreign powers, I really want to win, so if you can help me out, I won’t tell on you. His backers responded by criticizing…Hillary Clinton. How sad has bourgeois democracy become in the US?

2. The Toronto Raptors

I’m not a basketball fan, and when people ask about sports, I’m often dismissive: bread and circuses and all that. Still, when Toronto won the NBA championship this week, it was hard not to notice just how happy people were. A real feeling in the air. Maybe that’s the point.

3. Long Holidays in the Summer

A week back, the Ontario Conservative government announced the summer recess. It started on June 7 and stretches all the way to October 28. (Past the Federal election where the Ontario Conservatives unpopularity is expected to hurt their federal counterparts, but I’m sure that’s a coincidence). That’s almost five months. Premier Ford said it was because they had been working so hard and accomplished so much.. (For fun, try this with your boss, and see what happens).  Next time the government talks about lazy teachers and their summer break, they might get ticketed by the Irony Police. (Sadly no such thing exists or we could pay off a lot of debt)

4. Luxury Communism

I’ve ordered my copy from the public library. Don’t know exactly what the author of Fully Automated Luxury Communism has in mind, but it’s an intriguing title.

5. Will Barnes

Will Barnes was an eccentric communist who died in 2012. Internationalist Perspective ran an obit for him. Except that he didn’t die. He just told his wife to pretend that he did because he was annoyed, frustrated, and who the fuck knows about politics. Apparently he’s published material in Insurgent Notes under a pen name. Under several pen names. one replying to something he wrote.  Now, it’s come out he’s alive. Bizarre.  Some details here.


And we’re off.


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Summer’s Upon Us

June 15, 2019 at 8:32 pm (Uncategorized)

May and June are my busiest moths at work, and that’s been reflective in the activity on this blog – almost nothing.

But as we are not half way through June, I’ve a bit more time to devote to it: Movies to mention, politics to critique. All the fun stuff.

See ya soon.

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