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 . . .
Comments:
How on eart co uld you veto the Spasm band??? Have you no heart? They are the coolest old coots I've ever sat in a dirty room with!
 
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