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!
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