Thursday, April 28, 2005

 

The OTHER 50: Episode 23

Wondering what all this is about? Before you begin, you might want to read days one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty one and twenty two. The List so Far: Round 1: Hockey: Jane Siberry (Mike) Helpless: Neil Young (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) Vetoed By Pete Deeper Than Beauty: Sloan (Pete) Having an Average Weekend: Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet (Aaron) I've Been Everywhere: Hank Snow (Carol) Illegal Bodies: Simply Saucer (Carl) Round 4: Help Me Rhonda: The Langley Schools Music Project (Mike) Vetoed By Pete Secret Heart: Ron Sexsmith (Aaron) (FC's note: Actually Aaron's Round 2 Catch Up Pick!) Daylight: The Nils (Keith) Barrett's Privateers: Stan Rogers (Pete) Vetoed By Mike War in Peace: Skip Spence(Aaron) Vetoed By Carol Static: Terrible Canyons of Static; Chart #3; World Police and Friendly: Godspeed You Black Emperor! (Carol) What About Me? The Nihilist Spasm Band (Carl) Vetoed By Keith Round 5: Blues For Big Scotia: Oscar Peterson (Mike) Sudbury Saturday Night: Stompin' Tom Conners (Keith) Little Girl: Death From Above 1979 (Pete) Brian Wilson (Live): The Barenaked Ladies (Aaron) Vetoed By Carl New York City: The Demics (Carol) Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: Buffy Sainte Marie (Carl) Round 6: Blues for Pablo: Gil Evans with Miles Davis (Mike) O Marie: Daniel Lanois (Keith) Can't You See: The Matt Minglewood Band (Pete) OK Blue Jays: The Bat Boys (Aaron) Vetoed By Keith Put the Blame On Me: Handsome Ned (Carol) Time to Get a Gun: Fred Eaglesmith (Carl) Round 7: Log Driver's Waltz: Kate and Anna McGarrigle (Mike) Curling: The Dik Van Dykes (Keith) The Deep End: Swollen Members (Peter) Theme to Hockey Night in Canada: Dolores Claman (Aaron) Andy: Mike O'Neill (Carol) Cool It: Wayne McGhie & The Sounds of Joy (Carl) Round 8: Rumours of Glory: Bruce Cockburn (Mike) Wake Up: The Arcade Fire (Keith) Fly at Night: Chilliwack (Peter) Vetoed by Carl 10lbs: The Super Friendz (Aaron) Staying in on Weekends: The Grievous Angels (Carol) Power: Plunderphonics (Carl) Round 9: Does your Mama Know About Me?: Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers (Mike) Satellite: Jim Bryson (Keith) Love the OTHER 50? HATE the OTHER 50? Have insightful memories involving Rae Dawn Chong and family photo albums? Leave a comment! In tonight's drive by pop-culturing: We inch ever so much closer to the fiftieth and final track! Keith: Mr. Simpson, you're on the clock! Peter: Bob Snider is the quintessential he-inspired-me obscure musician. He’s constantly praised by other, more commercially successful musicians: a bunch of musicians even got together a few years ago to do a song of Snider covers. And the otherwise tiresomely naughty Ashley MacIsaac had his own finest musical moment (in my opinion, at least) with a cover of Snider’s wickedly piercing satire What an Idiot He Is. (“All he wants to eat is Wonderbread and Cheeeeeeez Whiz/ what an idiot he is . . .”) He has lots of musical friends, and they helped him out when he was almost literally a bum on the streets of Toronto almost 20 years ago. They recognized the depth of his humour and irony, and the unfailing cleverness of his lyrics and music. His 1995 disc Caterwaul & Doggerel is an excellent example of these talents, from Parkette (the opening tale of how a woodlot where all the kids used to go and play is now empty because “They called it a parkette after a politician/ and put up a sign saying "No Ball Playing”/ and nobody ever went there anymore”) to the dangers of politics and business and bad music (Darn Folksinger) to a bad, bad day (Rejection Blues) to my pick, Bums in the Park. (Listen to Bums in the Park) To be honest, I could pick any track from this disc – or, for that matter, any Snider disc – and be perfectly contented. But I’ll pick Bums in the Park just because it’s Snider speaking most directly to the down-and-out folks whose plight he, obviously, understands. And because to my ears it’s simply a beautiful song, all easy laid back vocals, accordion and whimsical guitar. It’s a perfect example of the kind of song that should have Bob Snider’s music on the lips of everybody in this country. For now he remains relatively unknown outside music geeks and critics and the most determined CBC Radio listeners - as CBC Radio has often played his music, heard by the tiny proportion of radio listeners tuned into the Corp at any one time. He wasn’t even discussed as a choice for their list (which, I guess, shows how far being played on CBC Radio will take you). Carol: Like Fred Eaglesmith, I'd heard Bob's name bantered about yet not heard his music. Definitely not what I expected and I was pleasantly surprised. It had the same feel as a Tom Waits number but with Kermit the Frog on vocals. I could totally visualize it and "Bums..." rang with a sense of truth rather than romance. Keith: I liked him a lot better in his days with the Dukes of Hazard. Carl: My next pick is Body's In Trouble by Mary Margaret O'Hara. (Listen to Body's In Trouble) She's of the most original and eccentric voices this country's ever produced (and that's saying something!) with an ear-teasing track from her one full-length album, which still remains one of my favourite Canadian albums ever, and certainly one that's greatly admired among other musicians in jazz, indie and pop circles alike. Sexy, intellectually critical and oddball all at once, this is the equivalent of a Barbara Gowdy novel or an Atom Egoyan film in song. Keith: For my part, this is the first MMO'Hara I've ever heard and, given what has been written about her, I guess I expected it to be weirder. I'm happy to have it as an addition to the list (though I liked Carl's last two picks more). Peter: I think the eagerness of some people (not talking about you, Carl, I thought your description was good) to describe her as weird or way out there in some way does her a disservice, and it discourages the musically timid from ever giving her a chance. I'm not so keen on her stuff as Carl is, but there's no doubt she should be heard by more people. Carol: What a great little voice, good players and a waste of 3 mins. It's not wierd, it's quirky and means to be. I really hate this stuff and I'm sure someone's gonna come knocking down my door for dissing Mary Margaret (who is by all accounts a very sweet person without an ounce of malice). The only good thing I have to say is it's better than Jane Sibbery, but comes from the same artists retreat. I think she's often overlooked and has a good voice; she technically pulls it off on "Body's in Trouble". The slick "jaaaazzz" production makes me cringe. Couldn't you come up something that showcased her voice more? The yelping fragile bird didn't do it for me. Keith: Wow! No love for MMOH . . . is that a veto, Carol? Carol: Veto? I dunno. I'm tired and cranky and likely to veto my mother. Hitting this down feels like killing a newly hatched chick in a nest of flowers while a big eyed Bambi watched. Keith: Put the bomb away for a minute, then. Bring it out tomorrow if you feel like it. Carl: Carol, there are other cuts on Miss America that show off the voice more conventionally - "Keeping You in Mind" is pretty much a jazz track, for instance, and another of my favourites on the album. But I think it's the "yelping fragile bird" stuff that is her most unique and characteristic work. I realize not everybody will like it, but I'm fascinated by the level of anger people are able to work up over singers such as O'Hara and Siberry (and Bjork, for instance) - I write about this in my column this weekend, what it is about eccentric singing by women that makes people so much more emotional than they are about the equivalent from men. A lot of musicians hear what MMO'H does vocally as quite liberating, the ability to wander and explore in and around a song while *not* removing the pop architecture of it. She's very widely respected on that level - and would be much better known, I think, if she weren't so lackadaisical about it herself. I mean, she's never managed to record another proper album, she seldom actually schedules gigs, all of that. But I kind of enjoy the fact that the curious, disordered sensibility of the songs is the same as the way she seems to conduct her life - that's a bit of an answer to this idea of "meaning to be quirky," as if she were trying to put something over on you. (An idea I really don't get - I mean, all songs try to seduce, each in its own way, but why is this style guiltier than any other?) I really like the combination of abstraction and down-to-earthness about this song in particular, the way the form mirrors the content (the melody and rhythm, in their episodic, stop-start style, seem almost to be thwarting the singer the way the body is said to do in the lyrics), and the unpredictability of the structure. I do actually agree with you a little bit about the production - I like the guitar but not the drum sound on here. But that was the eighties, I'm afraid. Carol: what it is about eccentric singing by women that makes people so much more emotional than they are about the equivalent from men. I like singers who are unconventional or engage me with their voice, which is why I credit MM with a great voice; I heard a little growl in the song. Sinead O'Connor and Bjork are among those I like, although the "creative use" can be overdone in the latter case. Remind of a man who does the equivalent? None jumps to mind. Carl: I actually think many male rock singers do, especially in "epic" rock modes, throwing in a lot of "oohs" and "aahs" and such all the way. Bono is the easiest example. Or Jeff Buckley, for instance. It's not the equivalent because it's not considered eccentric. (There are eccentric male singers, of course, like Capt. Beefheart or Tom Waits, but that's another matter altogether.) These little inflections are just considered part of the normal male rock singing style - whereas they're mostly not with women, who are either supposed to sing very sweetly or belt out ballads very dramatically and really restrict any other kind of vocal expression. Not accusing you of any particular bias, Carol, just saying that I think what we are conditioned to expect from women has something to do with this "quirky" category (you could also argue that the "quirky" singers are *meeting* other expectations about women, which would be fair). You can buy Bob Snider's Catterwaul and Doggerel here Mary Margaret O'Hara's Miss America is available here Wanna read the OTHER 50's 24th EPISODE? It's just one click away!

Monday, April 25, 2005

 

The OTHER 50 - 2wenty too

Wondering what all this is about? Before you begin, you might want to read days one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty and twenty one. The List so Far: Round 1: Hockey: Jane Siberry (Mike) Helpless: Neil Young (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) Vetoed By Pete Deeper Than Beauty: Sloan (Pete) Having an Average Weekend: Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet (Aaron) I've Been Everywhere: Hank Snow (Carol) Illegal Bodies: Simply Saucer (Carl) Round 4: Help Me Rhonda: The Langley Schools Music Project (Mike) Vetoed By Pete Secret Heart: Ron Sexsmith (Aaron) (FC's note: Actually Aaron's Round 2 Catch Up Pick!) Daylight: The Nils (Keith) Barrett's Privateers: Stan Rogers (Pete) Vetoed By Mike War in Peace: Skip Spence(Aaron) Vetoed By Carol Static: Terrible Canyons of Static; Chart #3; World Police and Friendly: Godspeed You Black Emperor! (Carol) What About Me? The Nihilist Spasm Band (Carl) Vetoed By Keith Round 5: Blues For Big Scotia: Oscar Peterson (Mike) Sudbury Saturday Night: Stompin' Tom Conners (Keith) Little Girl: Death From Above 1979 (Pete) Brian Wilson (Live): The Barenaked Ladies (Aaron) Vetoed By Carl New York City: The Demics (Carol) Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: Buffy Sainte Marie (Carl) Round 6: Blues for Pablo: Gil Evans with Miles Davis (Mike) O Marie: Daniel Lanois (Keith) Can't You See: The Matt Minglewood Band (Pete) OK Blue Jays: The Bat Boys (Aaron) Vetoed By Keith Put the Blame On Me: Handsome Ned (Carol) Time to Get a Gun: Fred Eaglesmith (Carl) Round 7: Log Driver's Waltz: Kate and Anna McGarrigle (Mike) Curling: The Dik Van Dykes (Keith) The Deep End: Swollen Members (Peter) Theme to Hockey Night in Canada: Dolores Claman (Aaron) Andy: Mike O'Neill (Carol) Cool It: Wayne McGhie & The Sounds of Joy (Carl) Round 8: Rumours of Glory: Bruce Cockburn (Mike) Wake Up: The Arcade Fire (Keith) Fly at Night: Chilliwack (Peter) 10lbs: The Super Friendz (Aaron) Staying in on Weekends: The Grievous Angels (Carol) Power: Plunderphonics (Carl) Round 9: Mike's Pick TK Satellite: Jim Bryson (Keith) Love the OTHER 50? HATE the OTHER 50? Wanna hate on me because I got Arcade Fire tickets? Leave a comment! Carl: But is it too late to veto Chilliwack? I'm not sure if I think so much of the tracks by Superfriend (who seem to be taking up Joel Plaskett's rightful place) or Cockburn (whom I like, but Rumours of Glory just isn't that much of a standout to me), and I would veto Swollen Members too except that it's too late (it seemed like someone else was going to - why not?) but, man, Chilliwack just plain suck. They're exactly what people think of when they think of Canadian rock -- and shudder. They're a one-band argument against Canadian Content rules, the kind of band that without CanCon nobody would ever have heard of, and nobody would have been any the worse or the wiser for it. I know this probably dooms whatever I pick next, but let's maintain some minimal "floor" kind of standards here, despite the over-all slightly random feeling. Keith: No, there's still time. Carol: I always thought Loverboy was the epitome of CanCon ridicule? Peter: No, that was Platinum Blonde. Carol: Didn't Loverboy get mentioned on "South Park"? Hell, I'm surprised they didn't re-issue some drek on that alone complete with an "endorsed by "Terrence and Phillip" sticker! Keith: I always thought the South Parkies were picking on Anne Murray. Carol: Anne Murray and Celine Dion both got picked on. Loverboy got,um, screwed during the "elephant makes love to a pig" episode where the boys attempt to splice DNA for a science project. This infomation I retrieved from an essay hosted at Trent U. Regardless of the attempt at academic analysis, I love me some South Park. Keith: YES!!!! I remember "That song by Loverboy" Pig n' Elephant DNA, just don't splice. . . .good times. Carl: Consider the Chilliwack-wack a done deal. They're sleepin' with the fishes. I mean, if you're gonna go for goofy crass fun, folks, go for it in grand style - I'd much rather have kept Rush on the list. Peter: Well, I agree we should maintain some type of standards, but who's to say what they are? I'd argue that the worst of Cancon is represented by many bands without the pop hooks of Chilliwack. That said, vetoing them will not bring retribution upon your next pick. Keith: Who's to say what they are? Not to be a smart ass but, in this case, Carl's to say. Mike, do you have a pick? Mike: When I think of Edmonton, I think of Gretzky, Whyte Ave and a deep bone chilling cold that the locals refer to fondly as dry as in, "Yes it's minus 54 plus windchill, but it's a dry cold." What I don't tend to assoicate Edmonton with is Tommy Chong, r&b or snow removal (they don't plow! they put sand on top and let all the snow just stick around and they think easterners are nuts - as a secondary paranthetical aside, it's interesting that to Albertans I'm an easterner, not sure what that makes the folks in Atlantic Canada.) Chong was born in Edmonton in 1938 and played in a number of bands including the Shades, who were actually asked to leave town by the mayor of Calgary - must have been one cool band. Chong moved to Vancouver where he eventually eneded up playing with Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers who, in 1965, were discovered by the Supremes and signed to Motown Records. According to Mr. Chong, he and the band also discovered the Jackson 5 and got them signed to Motown too. Their big hit, and my pick for round 82 or whatever the heck we are, is Does Your Mama Know About Me. (Listen to Does Your Mama Know About Me?) Co-written by Chong, the track has been covered by the Supremes and Jermaine Jackson and would make a wonderful addition to Philip and Terrence's repitoire. Carl: Good pick, Mike. By the way, one part of the story that hasn't come up before now - for a few months, in an earlier incarnation of the Vancouvers (circa late 1962-early 1963, whereas this cut is from later in the sixties), their guitarist was a guy named Jimi Hendrix. I don't advise you put yourself through trying to watch that episode of "Pot TV" but the page quotes from Charles Shaar Murray's "Crosstown Traffic," which is *the* Hendrix book: "Hendrix met little Richard in 1962 during a stay in Vancouver, when he was playing with a popular local outfit called The Vancouvers, led by one Bobby Taylor. Taylor was to brush against major success three times in his career without ever attaining it for himself. His partner in The Vancouvers was a Chinese-American singer named Tommy Chong, who later dumped music for comedy and teamed up with 'Cheech' Marin as the suprisingly durable duo Cheech & Chong." However, the true patriot love in this case might be watered down by the fact that Bobby Taylor himself wasn't Canadian, but from California. Check out The OTHER Fifty episode Twenty Three.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

 

More and more of the OTHER Fifty

Wondering what all this is about? Before you begin, you might want to read days one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen and twenty. The List so Far: Round 1: Hockey: Jane Siberry (Mike) Helpless: Neil Young (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) Vetoed By Pete Deeper Than Beauty: Sloan (Pete) Having an Average Weekend: Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet (Aaron) I've Been Everywhere: Hank Snow (Carol) Illegal Bodies: Simply Saucer (Carl) Round 4: Help Me Rhonda: The Langley Schools Music Project (Mike) Vetoed By Pete Secret Heart: Ron Sexsmith (Aaron) (FC's note: Actually Aaron's Round 2 Catch Up Pick!) Daylight: The Nils (Keith) Barrett's Privateers: Stan Rogers (Pete) Vetoed By Mike War in Peace: Skip Spence(Aaron) Vetoed By Carol Static: Terrible Canyons of Static; Chart #3; World Police and Friendly: Godspeed You Black Emperor! (Carol) What About Me? The Nihilist Spasm Band (Carl) Vetoed By Keith Round 5: Blues For Big Scotia: Oscar Peterson (Mike) Sudbury Saturday Night: Stompin' Tom Conners (Keith) Little Girl: Death From Above 1979 (Pete) Brian Wilson (Live): The Barenaked Ladies (Aaron) Vetoed By Carl New York City: The Demics (Carol) Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: Buffy Sainte Marie (Carl) Round 6: Blues for Pablo: Gil Evans with Miles Davis (Mike) O Marie: Daniel Lanois (Keith) Can't You See: The Matt Minglewood Band (Pete) OK Blue Jays: The Bat Boys (Aaron) Vetoed By Keith Put the Blame On Me: Handsome Ned (Carol) Time to Get a Gun: Fred Eaglesmith (Carl) Round 7: Log Driver's Waltz: Kate and Anna McGarrigle (Mike) Curling: The Dik Van Dykes (Keith) The Deep End: Swollen Members (Peter) Theme to Hockey Night in Canada: Dolores Claman (Aaron) Andy: Mike O'Neill (Carol) Cool It: Wayne McGhie & The Sounds of Joy (Carl) Round 8: Rumours of Glory: Bruce Cockburn (Mike) Wake Up: The Arcade Fire (Keith) Peter's Pick TK Aaron's Pick TK Staying in on Weekends: The Grievous Angels (Carol) Power: Plunderphonics (Carl) Love the OTHER 50? HATE the OTHER 50? Leave a comment! In tonight's episdode. Peter's back and Matt Minglewood's fashion sense still sucks! Peter: Why are we kicking ourselves over the presence of a few tracks from this decade on our list? Does anyone who picked a song from this decade doubt the pick has staying power? Did anybody pick a song from this decade without giving serious thought to the relatively recent release of the song? Frankly, I think a year or the better part of it is plenty of time for me to decide whether I believe a song is worth keeping: it's plenty long enough for the novelty of a new thing to wear off and consider the song in full. And one last point: surely nobody would suggest that every older song on this list has had a significant impact on Canadian music. And so be it: some of them are just great tracks that deserve to be heard by more people, regardless of their impact. I'd argue that the Weakerthans, Arcade Fire and DFA79, for example, all fit this description too. Keep in mind that critical buzz and squeals of delight from music geeks such as ourselves are not widespread. Most people have still never heard the music of these bands, and if bringing forward worthy stuff is the purpose of this list, we shouldn't shy away from a track just because it has only been around for a year. Keith: Fair enough, Pete. Do you have a pick? Peter: My next one's relatively older. Back home this week for some sombre business indeed, I found a moment's distraction by asking my oldest brother - the one who twisted me forever when he gave me (when I was 13) a handful of homemade tapes loaded with Mink Deville, Jules Shear, Lou Reed, John Hiatt and the like - what I should put on this list. "Well, I don't know how any list of essential Canadian music can't have some Chilliwack, he said. I had been thinking of that band as a candidate, and that sealed it. That Chilliwack didn't make the Corp's 50 list is an outrage. While it was hardly my favourite band of the '70s - indeed, it's considerably more poppy than the stuff I listened to then or listen to now - there's no denying that Chilliwack did what it did very well, and left an indelible mark on Canadian music. Songs like Lonesome Mary, Crazy Talk, My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone), California Girl and Whatcha Gonna Do are Can-con classics, the sort of songs that get into yourhead and take you back to a buddy's basement or the smoky backseat of a car a long time ago. The song I'm nominating is Fly at Night, the opening track from the band's 1977 album, the unfortunately titled Dreams, Dreams, Dreams. (Listen to Fly at Night) I'm not going to attempt to say anything profound about Fly at Night, as it's not a profound song. It's a pop song. And any pop song that begins "Four men in a rock n roll band . . ." is off to a great start. Being the '70s, there was a grave risk of it then flying off into the lyrical depth (ahem) of the era, crashing into, for example, the Uriah Heep records that I'm a little embarrassed to admit I listened to in those days. But Chilliwack managed to keep the faux-philosophy to a minimum. Indeed, the lads kept any kind of lyrical message to a minimum, their entire statemen being, apparently, that they fly at night because they like it. It's not a profound song, but it's catchy as hell. Who couldn't hear that line - well we fly at night it's like a rocket flight and baby that's just what it's fr - and not see themselves pumping their fist in some shitty hockey rink cum concert hall almost 30 years ago? Jebus, I can still smell the swampy mustiness behind the Zamboni where we went to smoke. Relevant, decisive closing note: At least two of Chilliwack's records sold more than 100,000 copies in Canada, which was extraordinary then and remains a milestone for bands today. Keith: I was going to dump on this track as another example of "The Hip Get Dumped on for being Q107 Friendly but this squeeks by?" ism but then my girl walked into the room singing along. . . she never sings along. Good enough for me. Carol: No argument here. And NEVER be embarrassed by your record collection. It's yours. If somebody else doesn't like, they can buy their own damn records. Peter: Damn straight. I apologize for nuthin. Not even the Osmond Brothers' Crazy Horses. Well, maybe I'll apologize for that one. Aaron: I've got no issue with it and I'm ready to make my next selection. I flirted (figuratively speaking) with this guy previously in this process. What kept me from closing the deal was that I couldn't quite find the words to explain why he should be on this list ahead of, say, a thousand other guys who've written great songs. Then I saw his movie. The other day I was out with a friend and in Soundscapes, Toronto's finest little hipster heaven, and they had the latest Chart-sponsored countdown of the 76 Greatest Albums Ever In The Recorded History Of Canadian Sound Ever. Or whatever. And the album from which this pick is taken was at #33. Which quite surprised me. For whatever reason. That alone wouldn't have meant much, save for the fact that soon thereafter my friend announced she had a copy of this movie I should see. The movie was The Life andHard Times of Guy Terrifico. Starring Matt Murphy, of Superfriendz/Flashing Lights/City Field pseudo-fame, as Guy Terrifico, the greatest Ukranian-born, lotto-winning, country-singing kid from Northern Alberta that never was. The film premiered in Austin at SXSW. Full of meat and sloth, I managed to miss it there. On film, Murphy is gold (my friend would later claim that, in her opinion, he's quite possibly the most on-stage charismatic rock star of his stripe in all of Canada). Slapstick adorable. But what will get people to see the film, and what most will walk away talking about, are the legendary guest spots, including a wonderfully deadpan Kris Kristofferson and a wonderfully bonkers Levon Helm. Which is probably fitting. Or something. It was having seen this that I decided Matt Murphy was under-appreciated. Unjustly so (is there really any other way?). Because, perhaps, then we had Sloan. And now we have Joel Plaskett. That Mock Up, Scale Down snuck on to Chart's list maybe says otherwise. But then there are about 37 Sloan records on there too. And Thrush Hermit came in at 31. Oh, but aren't we all? Under-appreciated that is. That is why we always come back to this narrative, right? So let's set that aside. At least for a moment. Especially because that's hardly the entirety of the argument at hand. If tugging at your heart strings is needed to avoid veto, I'll whine later on behalf of Mr. Murphy. A nice reminder of that messy but endearing time in Halifax, Mock Up... is most famous for Murphy's lone hit, Karate Man, which could probably be released again today and still be cool. At least as far more quirky than it really, maybe, is. That's the obvious choice, but in keeping with our unobvious intentions, I'll go with 10 lbs, the track that precedes it and opens the album. (Listen to 10lbs.) Like all the best songs on the record, it seems to go after a few different pursuits. It's got focus. And it's not really challenging. But maybe it's not quite easy and bold enough. It's smart, but the lyrics aren't suitably smart ass - though refrains like "At least I'm alive" and "I live my life in the hopes" could easily be generational anthems. It's endearing and quietly excellent. Cool, but not quite cool enough. Just kinda brilliant. BONUS COVERAGE: Ah glory days. Here's an unearthed account of the night Mock Up... was released in Halifax, aboard an over-crowded ferry. Mike: I was thinking of nominating 10 lbs, it's a very fun song. Good pick. Keith: I'm with Mike, solid backstory or not 10 lbs is a good track. Does anyone else feel like, as we get to the end of the list, there are fewer "historically significant picks" and more "I think you may not have heard this and you should have" selections. Not that there's not enough good stuff out there (there's quite a bit) but, as Aaron pointed out, there's a gap between "good" even "great" and "justifiably on the list." Peter: Oh man, we're not getting into that difference between good and great debate again are we? Talk about splitting hairs: I, for one, am only picking tracks that I believe should be on the list. Same for "historically significant." Who's to say what is and what isn't? And who's to say that categorizing the list in another way - say, 10 songs from each decade - would be more meaningful in any way? Any way we define this list, and any way we choose the songs, there'll be good points and bad points. I say we forget all such concerns and just talk about the music. Mike: This from a man who nominated Chiliwack. I think we've each approached the list with a different methodology and as such our picks and our analysis of said picks will also differ. To Keith's point, as the list draws to a close I don't think it's so much about gaps or good v. great songs so much as it's personal attachments - I was most passionate about the songs I put forward in the early rounds, the last few - not so much. Same thing with the vetoes, it was easier to get worked up in the earlier rounds. I don't think Matt Minglewood, Arcade Fire or a few others may have dodged the v-bomb had they come out four or five rounds sooner. Peter: There you Upper Canadians go again, dissing Matt Minglewood. A man wears one bad shirt and he's marked for life. My disdain toward the format/good/great discussion is based solely on the pointlessness of it: it's the old angels on a head of a pin debate, with no real answer. And it only goes to follow that we'd all pick first the tracks we're most passionate about, wouldn't you say? Not that passion is the only reason for putting a song on the list. Chilliwack, for example, don't fill me with passion. I just think they did a great job of writing great pop songs that left their mark on Canadian music, and they deserve a place on the list. I'm trying to rise above the limitations of my personal listening preferences. Keith: Actually Pete, I thought what I said earlier was pretty clear, the destinction for me isn't good v. great at this point, it's the methodology question I raised earlier that Mike's brought forward again. Though Mike's right, we're all making our selections using different methodologies I think for the most part they can be boiled down to one one of two ideas: "It was a mistake that this artist/song wasn't on the CBC's list" and; "This song is a hidden Canadian rock gem" I'm arguing that, for me at least, the second justification is getting used more and more as we get down to the end of the list. I'd also argue that my picks are getting weaker (both in overall song quality and in "justifablity") as we get further down the list. To whit (and I'll continue to use some of my own picks so as to not pick on poor ole, hapless, bad hat/shirt/haircut wearin' Matt Minglewood) Helpless = Great = Should Have made the Ceeb's 50. The Arcade Fire = interesting debate = If the CBC had stayed to their methodology and only picked songs from the 20th century it should not have made the list. However, since they included Sam Roberts, perhaps it should have been there ahead of him. (Mike's pick of One Great City! fits this argument even more firmly) Curling = Fun and obscure = Not justifiable as "essential" maybe more justifiable as "The OTHER" I don't think my experience of running out of ideas holds up to all of us. To my ear, Carl's picks have been getting stronger as we move along (his last two have been EXCELLENT, I've listened to Power about 25 times in the last few days). Carl? Do you have any thoughts on this needless bickering? K PS: I'm not an Upper Canadian. Matt Minglewood made a series of bad sartorial choices and deserves his punishment. Peter: Personally, I think the lack of a dominant methodology makes the list as interesting as would any dominant methodology. The corp's list, for example, is artificial, in that it pretends that each decade is as significant as any other. Is it not possible that one decade was more meaningful for Canadian music than another decade? Is it not probable? All I'm saying is that no matter how we define the list, and no matter what 50 tracks we end up with, there'll always be tracks that - depending on who's talking - should have been there and tracks that shouldn't have. At the end of the day, it's just an interesting list, and that's the best we could have hoped for. Keith: I agree, Pete and I'm ready to make my next nomination. I'm still focused on "filling gaps" here. As such I've spent a LOT of time trying to find something from the earliest days of Canadian rock. There's not a whole lot there. The vocal groups of the early fifties are interesting, unfortunately the Corp. got the best track of the bunch (the Crew Cuts' Shaboom) and the second best (Constantinople by the Four Lads) was released in 1953. Guy Lombardo (1930s) and Don Messer (mostly 1940s) are out as well. That left me, like any good bureaucrat, looking at the geographic balance of the list. We've got plenty of GTA and Montreal. There's more than enough Winnipeg and Vancouver/Victoria. Nova Scotia has been given its due. One quick question though, who's reppin' the 6-1-3? (Yes, I know Bruce Cockburn was born in Pembroke. No, this is not a lead in to picking Organized Rhyme) The last few years have been some of the best in my, soon to be ending, 16 as an observer of the music scene in the nation's capital. There are more venues, more bands, more promoters and more opportunities. Despite that, Ottawa doesn't have widely-known torch carrier, a Weakerthans or a Sloan or a Godspeed/Arcade Fire; an act that people across Canada point to and say - however inaccurately - "That's the Ottawa Sound." We don't, but we should. The torch carrier's name should be Jim Bryson. Bryson's a local hero, His song-writing skill has influenced some of Ottawa's bigger names (Kathleen Edwards, come on down!) and his records feature the city's best players and producers (Dave Draves, Peter Von Althen and Ian Lefevre). What to say about the records? Well, I've bought more copies of Bryson's first solo album, The Occasionals, as gifts than I care to count (this is after it was bought for me by another member of this committee. Thanks again for the hook up, Forbes). To my mind, The Occasionals is one of the true undiscovered gems of Canadian rock. The playing is as self assured as the lyrics are hesitant and broken. When Bryson sings "I'm not necessarily very smart" on my nominated song, Satellite he does so with enough sincerity that we believe him, even as the beauty of the sound that he's created around him calls him a liar. (Listen to Satellite) Virtuoso stuff and good enough, at the very least musically, for our list. We're a few links behind on places to buy records so here goes: Andy is available on Mike O'Neill's What Happens Now? The short film of Log Driver's Waltz featured on this DVD. The original version of The Hockey Night in Canada theme is available from Puretracks. You can order Wayne McGhie and the Sounds of joy here. You already have a copy of The Arcade Fire's Funeral don't you? Rumours of Glory appeared on Bruce Cockburn's Humans. Staying in on Weekends is available on The Grievous Angel's One Job Town. Plunderphonic's two disc reissue is available here. Buy a copy of the Super Friendz Mock Up, Scale Down here. You might be interested in a copy of Chilliwack's Greatest Hits. Jim Bryson's The Occasionals is one of my all time faves. Love the Other 50 Twenty Two times baby . . .love it TWENTY TWO times today . . .

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

 

PWI's Own Chinese Democracy: The OTHER 50...Volume 20

Wondering what all this is about? Before you begin, you might want to read days one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen. The List so Far: Round 1: Hockey: Jane Siberry (Mike) Helpless: Neil Young (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) Vetoed By Pete Deeper Than Beauty: Sloan (Pete) Having an Average Weekend: Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet (Aaron) I've Been Everywhere: Hank Snow (Carol) Illegal Bodies: Simply Saucer (Carl) Round 4: Help Me Rhonda: The Langley Schools Music Project (Mike) Vetoed By Pete Secret Heart: Ron Sexsmith (Aaron) (FC's note: Actually Aaron's Round 2 Catch Up Pick!) Daylight: The Nils (Keith) Barrett's Privateers: Stan Rogers (Pete) Vetoed By Mike War in Peace: Skip Spence(Aaron) Vetoed By Carol Static: Terrible Canyons of Static; Chart #3; World Police and Friendly: Godspeed You Black Emperor! (Carol) What About Me? The Nihilist Spasm Band (Carl) Vetoed By Keith Round 5: Blues For Big Scotia: Oscar Peterson (Mike) Sudbury Saturday Night: Stompin' Tom Conners (Keith) Little Girl: Death From Above 1979 (Pete) Brian Wilson (Live): The Barenaked Ladies (Aaron) Vetoed By Carl New York City: The Demics (Carol) Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: Buffy Sainte Marie (Carl) Round 6: Blues for Pablo: Gil Evans with Miles Davis (Mike) O Marie: Daniel Lanois (Keith) Can't You See: The Matt Minglewood Band (Pete) OK Blue Jays: The Bat Boys (Aaron) Vetoed By Keith Put the Blame On Me: Handsome Ned (Carol) Time to Get a Gun: Fred Eaglesmith (Carl) Round 7: Log Driver's Waltz: Kate and Anna McGarrigle (Mike) Curling: The Dik Van Dykes (Keith) The Deep End: Swollen Members (Peter) Theme to Hockey Night in Canada: Dolores Claman (Aaron) Andy: Mike O'Neill (Carol) Cool It: Wayne McGhie & The Sounds of Joy (Carl) Round 8: Rumours of Glory: Bruce Cockburn (Mike) Wake Up: The Arcade Fire (Keith) Love the OTHER 50? HATE the OTHER 50? Want to offer the Fatcitizen tickets to sold out concerts? Leave a comment! In today's installment of the endless saga: Mike shivers, Keith dry heaves and Carol hands off grooming tips. Carol: I'm not a fan of Bruce Cockburn. I suppose he belongs on the list, but for a while you just couldn't get a way from him. This isn't a veto. Carl: Carol, in the last post you said: I rather liked the Y2K rule; it made you dig and avoid many of the critcal darling bands. Don't get me wrong. I really like Broken Social Scene, The Arcade Fire and the one track I've heard from Death from Above 1979. I just don't see them as essential or quintessential yet. I feel they are part of an re-invigorated indie movement in Canada which will likely be documented as well as "Have Not Been The Same" did for the last rennaisance. Am I alone in this? And that's basically right, except that I think the reason "Have Not Been the Same" was necessary was that the indie movement of that period died out before it was ever very well-documented, while I think this one is much more documented in its own time and may carry on and evolve without the big early-1990s collapse that marked the eighties, which related more to economics and the Nirvana effect than anything else. The music is stronger and much more diverse this time around, too, I think, but it remains difficult to claim any perspective on it. I wasn't in favour of the Y2K rule because 2000 actually is five years ago now, so there's potential stuff to talk about in there, and we don't have to be excessively self-restraining because, after all, who are we responsible to, anyway? Still, "nothing from 2004 or 2005" might have been a good rule. Carol: Good point. And I think credit goes to the internet for the last 10 years of documentation. I seems indie music in Canada -- in fact, North America -- has taken the DIY ethos to heart. The 80s local bands creating an infrastructure that wasn't necessarily there for them, supporting the up and comers, technology gets cheaper, and we have happy, healthy, prolific and (very important) internationally touring bands. Its encouraging to see independant music span borders in an clear and obvious way. And so, further to my point, in this warm and fuzzy euphoria, it's very easy to get caught up in the latest favorite afterglow. We should open a window and see if we remember his/her name in the morning. If we do, then, it is a good thing. If not, well it was fun while it lasted. Keith: No argument here on the 2004 cutoff, but that cat is wayyyyy out of the bag now. Just for the sake of interest, I've had a quick look at the list and my back of the napkin decade breakdown looks interesting (more love for the seventies than the nineties?): Fifties: None (The Diamonds, Paul Anka? Anybody?) Sixties: Four Conners, Snow, Peterson, Gil Evans Seventies: Eight Mitchell, Young, Diodes, Saucer, Minglewood, Demics, McGarrigles, Wayne McGhie Eighties: Twelve Siberry, 54-40, Maestro, Slow, Cohen, Nomeansno, Shadowy Men, Nils, Buffy, Dik Van Dykes, Handsome Ned, Cockburn. Nineties: Four (four?) Sloan, Sexsmith, Lanois, Eaglesmith "Aughties": Six Weakerthans, Godspeed (2000), DFA, Arcade Fire, Swollen Members, Mike O'Neill (2000) I think we can admit to some bias (there's a little too much love for the recent stuff) but it's more balanced than I would have guessed. Mike: Back to your pick a second, FC. I'm just back from holidays, in an advanced state of pastry and butter withdrawal, jonesing for a baguette, jet-lagged all to heck and Keith you serve me up the Arcade Fire? Feh. Earlier on in this blog-o-thing, I made jokes about me being officially old. Well, it's no joke and it is official as of today: for the first time ever, my barber trimmed my ears. The other sign that I'm officially old? I really don't get the fuss/bother/hype over Arcade Fire. Maybe I need to see them live, to hear the song as you described it, but as is - that track couldn't give me goosebumps if it was played in Alert in January while I was in my birthday suit. Keith: Forget goosebumps, I think that image just made me throw up in my mouth . . . Seriously though, Mike. You might be right about the need to see Arcade Fire live. The show I caught at The Blacksheep last fall turned me from observer vaguely interested in what all the fuss was about to true believer. The transformation took about three minutes. To be fair to all the other picks I've "veto baited" in the last week or so, it is my duty to remind you that you do have one V-bomb left*. Use it if you must**. * Please PLEASE don't veto my pick. ** Then again if everyone tries to spend ALL their vetos in the next couple of days the final round of picks will take longer than the last few minutes of a Final Four game. . . Carol: that track couldn't give me goosebumps if it was played in Alert in January while I was in my birthday suit. Would that before before or after the barber trim? Heck, ya need all the hair you can get! Mike: Oh hair's not a problem. It's sort of like the 100 monkeys at 100 typewriters...given enough time and limited access to razors or barbers, I could pass for an Allman brother. Keith: On THAT note, I need something to block Forbes as Greg Allman out of my head . . . Do you have a pick, Carl? Carl: Power - Plunderphonics (aka John Oswald) (1975) - reissued in 2004. (Listen to Power) Here you have the mash-up, hip-hop rhythms mixed with a manipulated Led Zeppelin riff, a forerunner of Byrne & Eno's My Life in the Bush of Ghost with the use of the preacher tape loops, and the foreshadowing of all the legal battles about sampling that go on to this day - including the notorious incident in the eighties when another Oswald piece using a Michael Jackson sample ("Dab," ie. Bad backwards) was suppressed and destroyed and thus turned into a cult object by Jackson's record company lawyers - all from a Canadian avant-garde composer, conceptual artist and improvisor who remains active and remains underrated. He got there before just about anybody. Plunderphonics was treated by the record companies as a huge threat and breach of copyright in the 1980s and early 1990s, but when he wanted to collect and reissue the tracks, he was able to negotiate permissions with most of the copyright holders. However, some of the record companies wouldn't return his calls, basically, so the reissue was put out by Negativland's own label as a "pirated" recording, with Oswald feigning (transparently) a lack of involvement. But that was awhile ago now and no legal action has been taken, which kinda suggests that compared to peer-to-peer file sharing the industry is regarding this kind of collage work as relatively unthreatening, or not worth the legal hassles and bad publicity. (Of course they did go after The Grey Album last year but maybe that was because it all came from just two sources.) It's all familiar territory now, but Oswald was one of the first to hack his way into the thicket. Carol: Excellent pick on so many levels! The production and creativity were fantastic. The copywright questions that it raised when I was first made aware of Plunderphonics (late 80s) were mere pablum compared to where we're at now. Remember when Mixus Cassetteus was 6th Horseman of the Apocolypse? The 5th was Ronnie who left before they became famous (see Terry Pratchett's "Thief of Time"). I also have a pick: (Listen to Staying in On Weekends) Chuck Angus started the Grievous Angels two years after his former band, Toronto punk threesome L’Etranger split in 1984. Tired of the scene, he and band mates singer Michelle Rumball and fiddler Peter Jellard made a go of it busking. The band later rounded out with bassist Tim Hadley and former L’Etranger drummer, Peter Duffin Originally from northern Ontario, Angus wanted to return to his ancestral and musical roots. Indeed, he how represents Timmins-James Bay as their MP (NDP) in the House of Commons. Grievous Angel’s 1990 CD, One Job Town serves to remind us that Canada is largely made up of a series of small towns veined with roads. Lots of roads . More roads than towns. And more towns than cities. Yet, a good many of the salt-of-the-earth folks residing in these towns want to circulate to the cities in hopes of a better life or any life at all. Escapist dreams make up the rock canon of North America as they do the bulk of this fine, but depressing record. So, it’s with a sense of relief I came across “Staying in on Weekends”. Reading like a letter to or the meeting of an old boyfriend, the song is devoid of anger or regret. It starts off sounding like every teenager’s nightmare: “And I’ve been staying in on weekends/Don’t see much of my old friends.” Not very rock and roll at all. And it gets worse: Johnny, I don’t feel very Much like dancing And I’m looking like A house-wife More and more these days Who’d want that?! Life is about adventure and rebellion, right? Ok, but after a while, you begin to look like mutton dressed as lamb. A disconnect sets in and your priorities change —drastically: When my little girl Takes my hand Well might not Understand But Johnnie, I like it where I am. A song of which Springsteen would be proud. A song about being in the right place, at the right time for the right reasons. No, I haven't forgotten about putting together links to buy the records! It's late though and I have to go to sleep. Tomorrow, I promise. The NEXT episode is The OTHER 50's Twenty first!

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