Summertime Blues (2017 edition)

July 24, 2017 at 5:56 pm (Uncategorized)

I usually have more free time in the summer. One of the things I promised myself was to update this blog more frequently, and now it’s almost August and I have a lot of stuff to do in August.  I will also be posting music notes (about the only thing which does seem to get one regularly) a little earlier this month.


So, I’m going to post a few short pieces today, and hope that will get me into the mood again. I am thinking of opening a Notes from Underground twitter account for shorter pieces. So, stay tuned.


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A.D. – Life, Death and Memory

July 16, 2017 at 8:02 pm (Uncategorized)

Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire’s collaboration A.D. is now available as a collected volume.  It’s quite a lovely work considering the connections between life and death, and memory. My father-in-law turned 87 today. I turned 53 last week.  The following has a resonance to it:

“And now all I can think about the biological capital of youth. that essence that thing that you have as a kid, a physical element, but a psychological, even spiritual element – a deep, cellular knowledge that you are rich in life. You have the stuff that matters most. You are buoyant with it. Buoyant. You see it in the way teenagers look at you…that sly, slow-blinking way. Like they’re looking down even when they’re looking up at you, like: I might have acne, I might not be having sex yet, I might not have money or freedom or anything, but I’m richer than you, because I am FULL. ”

A.D After Death Book Three

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The Power of Everyday Subversion

July 10, 2017 at 11:47 am (Uncategorized)

It just feels like a Situationist kind of a day


People who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and what is positive in the refusal of constraints, such people have a corpse in their mouth.

Raoul Vaneigem, The Revolution of Everyday Life 

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Music Notes: June 2017

June 30, 2017 at 8:15 pm (Uncategorized)

School’s Out for  Summer, but probably not forever…

1  Chrome – Half Machine Lip Moves

One of the first issues of the New Musical Express that I bought contained a pull-out guide to punk and New Wave . One of the entries was Chrome an grinding post-punk, before that was a thing, pre-industrial, before that was a thing, Krautrock, and that was a thing, band from the US. I ignored it looking for UK punks instead. Wrong. A searing, testing intense album that is utterly compelling.

2. Ultravox – “Hiroshima Mon Amour.”

Seek out the band’s second album Ha Ha Ha. There’s two versions of the song on the record, which neatly chart the band’s future and its past. The alternative version is a lot like Roy Music, the released version, synth-pop. Both great versions of the song, but it’s the synth-pop which is majestic.

3. LCD Soundsystem – “Call the Police “/ “American Dream”

Download single from the band. Listened to it twice, and it’s good. Not great, but maybe enough to convince me that the reunion is not a mistake (although it feels odd given the big dis-band a few years back).  However, I will note that this is usually my reaction to their stuff. Check in next month and I’ll tell you it’s a masterpiece.

4. X-Ray Spex – Germ Free Adolescents

I didn’t buy this when it came out, but picked up the CD years later. And I didn’t realize until last year, the Caroline release plays with the running order and adds tracks. Still, quite wonderful. I feel a need to track down the demos and outtakes.

5. The Kills – “Desperado”

I still have mixed feelings about the studio version of their last album (the songs sounded fine live), but this is great. The Kills take on Rihanna.


6. Alison Mosshart – “The Passenger”

While I was looking for the link to the video above, I came across this cover of Iggy’s “The Passenger.” Better than Siouxsie’s version, but of course, not anywhere as epic as the Ig’s. From the Sons of Anarchy soundtrack.


7. Mojo : Children of  Pepper 

I don’t like the Beatles. There, I’ve said it. It’s not that I hate everything they’ve done. No, I like a lot of their songs and one of my first record buys was the “Red” album. I guess I don’t like the front runner. Still, there’s a good focus piece on Sgt. Pepper  in the new Mojo and a pretty neat CD with it. Not covers, but “inspired by. ” Includes Ty Segall, Cosmonauts, Thee Oh Sees, the Essex Green and more. Worth a listen or two.

8.  The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses 

I plugged this record in a column in 2009. It’s been 8 years, so I think it’s OK to mention it again, especially since they are gigging again. Utterly brilliant. Possibly the greatest British record of all time. Beatles fans and haters, ready your keyboards.

9. The Velvet Underground – “Rock and Roll”

I was in a coffee shop recently, and this song came on. I stopped and listened and waited for it to end before I left the store. When I got home from work, I listened to Loaded. Still remarkable.

10. Ruth Pearson

I didn’t know the name either, but Pearson was a longtime member of the Top of the Pops dance troupe Pan’s People. Not sure how many times I saw TOTP, but pretty much every week until 1980 when I got a job on Thursday night, and they were on for most of that time.  She passed away age 70 on June 27.

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June 14, 2017 at 1:38 am (Uncategorized)

The International Communist Current used to say that Internationalist Perspective had as many perspectives as it had members. The ICC  thought this tremendously witty, and saw the fact that IP often published articles disagreeing with other articles by other IP members as a sign of weakness. We saw it as a sign of strength that we could disagree, btu in fact we were joined around a common set of perspectives.

I’m reading McKenzie Wark’s book The Beach Beneath the Street on the Situationist International. At one ponit, Wark quotes Guy Deborg ‘s thought about the “line” of the organization:

Quite surely, never any doctrine; perspective. A solidarity around these perspectives.

Yeah, I’m down with that.

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I Saw a Frightened Rabbit on the Danforth

June 14, 2017 at 1:30 am (Uncategorized)

OK, this was two weeks back, but I’ve been busy.

I first saw Frightened Rabbit at the Mod Club in October 2012. Then at the Phoenix six months later. And a third time in October 2013 at the Kool Haus. now, I love this band, but by that third show, it felt like a bit too much. Four years later, and it felt fresh to see FR again.

Like the other shows with Frightened Rabbit, it was sold out, and it didn’t take long to realize why: Frightened Rabbit are a fantastic live act. Maybe you’ve seem other bands like this; that create an immediate sense of intimacy, a rapport with the audience. Scott Hutchinson spent a fair bit of time at the beginning of the set being critical of border crossing officers (and anyone who has had to cross boarders surely had sympathy with the band). /and we responded in kind; so quickly we were caught up in that moment, singing along with the songs we knew, and grooving to the ones we didn’t.

A sweaty, glorious eighty minutes of rock and roll.

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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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