Tuesday, March 22, 2005

 

You've always got time for . . . The OTHER 50 Tracks Volume Six

Wondering what all this is about? Before you begin, you might want to read days one, two, three, four and five. The List so Far: Round 1 Hockey: Jane Siberry (Mike) Helpless: Neil Young (FC: Keith) I Go Blind: 54-40 (Peter) Nothing at All: Maestro Fresh Wes (Aaron) Tired of Waking Up Tired: The Diodes (Carol) A Case of You: Joni Mitchell (Carl) Round 2: Have Not Been The Same: Slow (Mike) Hallelujah (Live): Leonard Cohen (Keith) Wheat Kings: The Tragically Hip (Pete) Vetoed By Carol Subdivisions: Rush (Carol) Vetoed By Keith Rags and Bones: Nomeansno (Carl) Round 3: One Great City!: The Weakerthans (Mike) Westray: Weeping Tile (Keith) In tonight's debacle: Mike and Pete talk hot showers and Peaches Hockey taunts, Yes! Soccer moms, No! Aaron (the Shadowy Man) returns from Austin (the Shadowy, or at least porkfat-saturated, Planet) Mike: To: Keith re: Weeping Tile Hey, guess what? My iPod also has a healthy selection of Sarah Harmer tracks (remember, woman singing= iPod content) but I don't have stuff from Ms. Harmer's days in Weeping Tile. Perhaps I've grown old and soft, but after listening to Westray I think I may be in the same camp as those thousands of housewives who, according to Keith like their music "not too hard not too soft". Actually, I'm in the camp next to those housewives where we like our music a bit more melodic. I don't know that this song is veto worthy, but I wouldn't put it on a mixed tape or cd for a friend... Keith: Would you give it to an enemy? Does anyone else like the new Sarah Harmer more than the old Sarah Harmer? Should I have spent more time picking my fallback last night? Mike: I think Westray sounds dated. If musicologists were to dig this up in 50, years they wouldn't need the musical equivalent of carbon dating to say - "mid-90s, generic, Canadian indie rock." Compared to the No Means No track, this one hasn't aged terribly well. Carl: Personally I found myself at a bit of a loss for words over the Weeping Tile pick - perhaps speaking to the vagueness of our mandate, I thought, "Well, that's fine, though it doesn't stir me to heights of patriotic fervour." It felt anticlimactic after the choice of One Great City, which I thought an inspired counter-canonical move - the more songs with love-hate geographical themes the better on this kind of list, I thought, and it's a great song. But would I veto Weeping Tile? No, that would just be barbarism. Have we all lapsed into a funk of uncertainty, now, wondering What It's All About? Or are we all just really busy? If the tepid atmosphere keeps up I'm going to have to nominate something godawful. Carol: I've never listened to Sarah Harmer. I've just put her in (wrongly?) the same category as Sarah McLachlin who I can't stand. I don't hate "Westray," though. Harmer demonstrates strong pipes in front of a solid rock band. Could have done with a tich more cowbell, but I digress. Definitely not "soccer mom" music (thank lord christ), but her voice is dead centre between mainstream quirk of Alanis and the rip you to your soul Oh Susanna. I prefer the latter. That said, Weeping Tile deserves a place before solo Sarah. I shan't veto this. Pete: Well, there seems to be a fondness for Weeping Tile around this table that is perplexing to me. The band never excited me. Westray should appeal to me, as I used to live only a mile or so from the mine site, but I hated the track the first time I heard it and I still do today. I immediately tripped over the line "who forgot to let the canary out? will you be there when they're pulling bodies out," and nothing else in the song brought me back. That line is banal and embarrassingly righteous, and the rest of the lyrics fail to reach much higher. "They're ignoring all the signals they could not afford to hear/ private investors in public fear." Puh-leeze. "Private investors in public fear"? What is this, a rock song or a PSAC slogan? Then there are those bits about driving along the coast and is she mad at me and so on. What's that all about? Are they fighting over the mine disaster? Are they private investors on the run up the coast? It's a private-investors-in-love story? It's all a muddle, and no part of it intrigues me enough to want to figure out what it all means. Sarcasm aside, I just don't think it's a very good song. Keith, ol' boy, I feel downright ungracious saying this, as you're our amiable host in this venture, but I can't get behind your pick. Stick a veto in it's ass and turn it over, it's done. Keith: Ouch! Ok, ok. I admit, I tried to sneak one through, Pete. It looks like you were the only one with the backbone enough to spend the vote on what everyone else was thinking. Carl: Yes, Peter acted where I wussed out. Bye bye Weeping Tile. Pete: I figure I've done a service by vetoing you, FC, as everybody else was probably hung up on that veto-the-nice-host thing too. Now you have a big target on your arse, just like the rest of us. Keith: Yeah, bummer of a birthmark, eh Fatcitizen? The line for those of you interested in STILL being nice to the host starts at Pete's left. Speaking of which, Pete, doesn't that make it your pick? Pete: I'll get to that, but before I do. I can tell the Toronto people how to make the Leafs win: each of you has to listen to Bill Barilko first thing every morning until the Leafs bring home the cup again. Of course, that means you have to listen to the Hip. Life is full of tough choices. Mike: Define listen. Could it play in another room while I was showering? Pete: Michael, I love it when you talk like that. Keith: Hate to break up your moment, fellahs, but Pete, do you have a pick? Pete: I was going to pick a certain West Coast trio for my next pick, but we've been so generous to western bands to this point I've decided to bump the easterly candidates up my list to make sure they get in - or, in this world of vetoes, at least get their chance. I'll start with the obvious one, Sloan, though with a less-than-obvious track. Deeper than Beauty is from Twice Removed, the 1994 album, the one they did for Geffen before they opened their own label back in Halifax, and before the rather over-inflated hopes that Halifax would be the next Seattle finally dissipated in a puff of disillusionment for many on the scene. Listen to Deeper Than Beauty Twice Removed was recently voted (again) by Chart magazine as the best Canadian album of all time, and while that title is debatable, there's no denying it's a classic, inspired and vibrant from start to finish. It's more experienced then the prior disc, Smeared, which brought the band to the attention of early fans, and more consistent than the subsequent album, One Chord to Another, which brought the band to mainstream attention with the hit The Good in Everyone. And any of these albums are stronger than anything that came from Sloan later. (It pains me, as a person of region, to dis anything by Sloan, but the recent discs have lost the sound that made the band distinct, and they increasingly sound like a pale copy of themselves.) Deeper than Beauty is two minutes and 41 seconds of absurdly catchy music about a schoolboy lusting for a girl with glasses - although he lusts for her without the glasses. And your glasses Your hideous glasses When you remove them I would rather skip my classes and be caught Than to entertain the thought That someday you'll just put them on again But I can make the best of it until then The lyrics were one thing that marked Sloan as different. Not only do they sing a love song to the girl who apparently isn't, by the measure of conventional beauty, the prettiest girl in class, but they do it without making it some sort of novelty song. There's no formula here - the simple, jangly guitar, the straight-ahead, energetic drums and the syncopated, plaintive vocal come together with a deceptive casualness, as if the three sounds had each been humming away in isolation somewhere and happily managed to merge into one. It's one of the tracks that, for me, defines the Halifax sound of the '90s, and that sound deserves a place on this list. I'm like the rest of them With our thumbs up our asses If you call I will come But I'm about as quick as molasses When I dream of you You're not wearing your glasses La la la la... How can any right-thinking person not get behind a song that ends with la la la la, la la la . . . ? How can anybody hear this song and not hear the exuberance of young, genuinely talented musicians finding their own distinct voice? Mike: The way you were going with the smoove talk, I thought your next pick would be something by Peaches... Keith: Are you sure this is a better track than say, Underwhealmed? I like it, but it's definitely not the first track I think of when Sloan comes up. Mike's gonna like all the "la, la's" though, I bet. Mike: I like Sloan. I like girls with glasses. I like songs with la las (but not as much as woo-woos). I like Underwhelmed better. Pete: You can substitute a woo for a la wherever you please: it works quite well. Keith: Hey, is that. Aaron? Aaron Wherry? Aaron: Yes, I'm back. If not quite yet in spirit, then at least in body. Texas was filling. In spirit and in body. Please sir, no more pork. We're a little behind on the discussion here. We see that the Hip got vetoed. This is a shame. Once we've given the judgment of this court a close read, we'll prepare our epic defense. Until then... Today's pick (the first in my attempt to catch up) is, I think, one of the most distinctive pieces of music in the history of our humble nation. Quinessential Canadiana. Yet entirely counter-culture. And most probably don't even know what it's called (in fact, I had to look it up myself). I speak, of course, of Having An Average Weekend by Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet. Otherwise known as the theme song to Kids In The Hall. Listen to Having an Average Weekend Accomplished surf-rock instrumentalists in their own right, they will forever be linked to, I might argue, Canada's greatest contribution to the funny (something we so often like to hold up as a great cultural strength). But I think both song and show lent each other much - a certain cool, a certain quirk, a certain ambition, a certain understated, unspoken rambunctiousness. There was an attitude of nerdy cool to it all. Something I think you see in everything that has been "cool" about Canadian music over the last 20 years. (None of which is to be confused with humility. Quite the opposite in fact.) And both, together, made that sort of counter-Canadiana (instrumental rock twiddling and penis jokes involving the queen where once we were oh-so-polite) somehow acceptable to the mainstream (read: the CBC). And, if you really wanted to be ambitious about it, you might argue that this right here was history in the making man - the first bold step of what we now consider modern Canadian cool. Keith: Good pick, Aaron, one the CBC bumped from their final list. Peter: Aaron, you getting a new mug logo drawn for the Post after SXSW? You look right thin in that one you've been using. Surely a few days of elbowing up to the roast pig spit in Texas added a few pounds. I read a story today that said cholesterol is bad for your heart but slightly improves cognitive ability. (You have a moment of cerebral clarity just before your chest explodes, I presume.) Anyhow, it hasn't affected your musical sense. The KITH theme song is a fine choice. Aaron: So much friggin meat at that thing. It's everywhere. Seriously. When I came home at night some of my clothes still smelled like bbq. One night I was at an after-party show featuring Queens of the Stone Age. It was 1:30am but they were still serving meat. It was too dark to tell what it was, but I just kept putting it in my mouth. So good. So very wrong. I forgot to do this yesterday, so you get a doubly long shopping list today. Go! Buy a copy of: Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet's: Savvy Show Stoppers Sloan's: Twice Removed Weeping Tile's: Cold Snap No Means No's: Wrong The Weakerthan's: Reconstruction Site There's even more of The OTHER 50 on DAY SEVEN.
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