Wednesday, August 31, 2005

 

She's...so...POP-u-lar"

Back in the day, I knew a guy. We called em Skitch (don't ask). He was a strange sort, wore a Peter Newman Greek fisherman's cap, had a pet rat named Ghengis and spent a lot of time listening to the Jazz Butcher. What's Skitch got to do with this year's Pop Montreal fest? (Or the proverbial price of tea in China?) not a ton, except for this. See, Skitch loved Peter Gabriel. In fact, the first time I heard Games Without Frontiers was when he played it for me. Funny thing, though, he thought the famous breathy, French background singer's chant (you know the one: "Jeux...sans...FRON-tee-airs") was actually in English. Specifically, he thought the sexy ladies were sing-chanting "She's...so...POP-u-lar." It's not my favourite misheard lyric (ask me some day about my summer camp roommate who'd made up entirely new verses to The Grape's of Wrath's Piece of Mind) but it does come close. Anyway, Pop Montreal is going to be very POP-u-lar this year. Organizers think there'll be an overflow of volunteers. The associated Film Pop film festival and Pop and Politics conferences seem to have interesting lineups and there's a new PucePop indie swap meet to check out over at Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal. Just like last year, the schedule of music is full of tough choices. Wednesday night I'll likely be volunteering to work a door somewhere and I'll tell you about Thursday later. As for the rest of the week... If you're not at the Dirtbombs show Friday you're going to regret it...maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but some day soon and for the rest of your life...seriously. Saturday is Ted Leo and the Rx-er-cists and Sunday Exclaim! coverboys Cuff the Duke join Matt Mays in opening for The Kings of Leon. (Your scorecard of shows may, of course, vary). Now on Thursday, everyone's going to be heading out to the interpol show. I know I know I know: "I love them so much!!! They're so cool!!! I want Carlos D to give me herpes!!!" Blah, blah, blah. I'm going to be checking out the Kelp Records showcase at Les Minots and you should too. Get there early, though, 'cause if you show up late, you'll miss Ottawa's rock n' roll answer to Hagrid the Giant (right), Flecton's Michel (Meesh) Jette (uh, y'know, left). Meesh used to play guitar with Ottawa's legendary Werbo. The first Flecton full length (Never Took a Wife) is a solo-ish effort featuring members of Califone and the Grifters. Listen to Truce is Stranger than Fiction (Go! Buy the Rekkid!) Truce is Stranger than Fiction is just a fine piece of art. The first time I heard it I got that "damn, how great is it that THIS guy's from Ottawa?" feeling. Then I remembered, I don't LIVE in Ottawa anymore. Look, a real tear. Pregnant Pause Forget Bear vs. Shark and get a ring side seat for "nancy boy" vs. "anti-intellectual" (FWIW, at least Carl's being a grown up...) Speaking of nasty spats, I've just recently started paying close (ok...SOME) attention to the CBC lockout. Turns out some of the folks of CBC Ottawa are keeping a blog, and posting daily podcasts featuring great music (Jim Bryson, Andrew Vincent, The Acorn) from the picket line. And WHAT a picket line. Check out the lovely and talented Ms. Julie Delaney as she tries to shame Robert Rabinovich into making an honest woman out of her. You may not be surprised to hear that Rick Mercer has a blog. What may surprise you is how funny it is. If I had a Word of the Year award, I think I'd give it Chuck D's most recent addition to our language: Dumbassification. (Thanks, Mike)

Monday, August 29, 2005

 

Voices in the Wilderness

What do they call that feeling you get when you realize that the thing you knew abstractly is actually, concretely, tangibly, true? Oh yeah, CLARITY! Spent several hours today with the good people of McGill's CKUT radio and was impressed (really impressed) by how hard it must be to actually get a song on the air. There are something like 70,000 records in the CKUT library with dozens (if not hundreds) of records arriving weekly. Even with a large amount of original music programming (and CKUT has tonnes) the chances of an unknown artist having a DJ pull their record down from the boxes and boxes of promo copies have got to be pretty slim. With that in mind, it's not a surprise that commercial radio -- where voicetracking has eliminated much of the on air talent and DJs haven't picked their play lists since the Reagan administration -- has payola. I mean, why would a Clearchannel pick program director pick his or her own songs when s/he can pick a track that's equally appealing to his/her audience and get paid for it? In fact, I'm not really sure I object to the concept of payola on American commercial radio*. I mean, if we accept that the average top forty pop song is a carefully measured, packaged, tested and marketed product (like soap, soup or sasperilla) why don't we allow the corporations to pay for the shelf space? The people who like music will hunt it out where they can find it (on the internet and through independent radio and record stores) and the rest will continue to take what they're handed. It's with that in mind, that I give over just a bit of my small world of airplay to Saxson Shore one of the dozens of records I saw in that library today which may or may not actually get a home on the radio. Listen to April 14 (Go! Buy the Rekkid!) The music is gentle, atmospheric and currently also getting love from Music For Robots (looks like Mark has a copy of the new Saxon Shore full length, The Exquisite Death of Saxon Shore). Though, like many post-rockers, they seem to have a levity problem. Check out this piece from the new album's press kit: The Exquisite Death of Saxon Shore is...the story of (Saxon Shore's) own hypothetical death complete with a moment of silence to close the album... (it) exhibits the reincarnated, resurrected, resuscitated spirit of the band. Sigh! At least it isn't in recorded in a made-up language. You can buy Saxon Shore's records direct from their web site. * As Carl points out, it's just not the same North of 49. Pregnant Pause David Segal understands EXACTLY why people are drawn to writing about music. Lucky for us, he's written a memoir about it (Thanks, Mike). Did I miss something? Did I go insane on my vacation or did the President of the United States suggest that Intelligent Design get "equal time" in US classrooms? Jeebus! While he's workin on his "bright ideas" list, Dubbyah may want to nominate Pat Robertson for Secretary of State. All you Canadians repeat after me: "There's no place like home. There's no place like home." Then again maybe I've been to hasty on the whole intelligent design thing. With arguments this good, maybe I should just change my take on the subject. I mean, if Gus Frerotte giving himself a concussion by running into a wall isn't proof of a higher power...what is? (Thanks, Arn) People into being critical with their media and understanding the message behind the message (i.e. all you PR and media wonks) will probably be as fascinated with BagnewsNotes as I am. (Thanks again, Mike) Oh, and by the way, PWI is now officially a year old. Happy birthday to me/us/it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

 

Honouring John Peel

Hey folks: I'm off on vacation, but while I'm away my old buddy Mike Forbes has a few words. See you next week. FC I hope FatCitizen doesn't mind, but I'm going to take him up on an age-old invite to guest edit PWI... I thought this would be something readers would be interested in (and it's far easier to post than my original concept - rock stars that looked like the dude on the tail of Air Alaska planes - I ran out of ideas after Don Ho and maybe Bob Marley). Anyways....you can put me squarely in the gigantic mob of countless folks that John Peel had a tremendous impact on. It's likely the same number were just as surprised when Peel passed away last year. Hatful of Hollow, largely based on Peel Sessions, pretty much never left my walkman or turntable during my early goofy teenage years. And it doesn't seem so long ago (18 years?!? Really?) that I picked up Billy Bragg's the Peel Sessions with it's intriguing version of route 66. So I was delighted when my wife e-mailed me a story from today's Guardian announcing that the BBC plans 'Peel Day' tribute to late DJ . As FC's invite didn't include password's for his ftp client, you'll have to settle for a sample of the Undertone's Teenage Kicks (apparently Peel's favourite song) which can be heard here . As FC likes to say, "you can buy the rekkids" here. I hope that the day of gigs planned for October 13 stretches across the Atlantic, it would only be fitting giving the reach of Peel's influence.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

 

Hinterland, that's who

I'm a big dummy for a number of reasons; ask anybody. One of the most recent examples of my dummy-ness is my snoozing (and losing) on tickets to the September 16 Sigur Ros show. Yup, those crazy, pretentious Icelanders that I love so much are sold out both here and in Ottawa. I'm consoling myself with a number of things. First, even if I HAD bought Sigur Ros tickets I might not have been able to make the show (because I'm going to Washington D.C. that week to do this) . Second, as much as I like what I've heard from the new Sigur Ros record (Scenestars are streaming a copy if you're interested) I've come to the conclusion that I don't need Icelandic post rockers as much when there are such good Canadian ones! That, of course, brings me to the subject of Vancouver's Hinterland. I've actually been meaning to write a little bit about them ever since they nominated themselves for a space in the Great Big Book of Onomatopoeic Band Names. Hinterland, they argued, sounds a lot like the hinterland. Now I grew up in the hinterland, and let me assure you, nothing as spacey and wonderful as Michaela Galloway's gently layered vocal tracks ever came out of the clear cuts near my home town. Listen to Portrait of My Invention (Go! Buy the Rekkid!) Nope, this music sounds like those dreams you have when you're floating. Concert News Looks like Ted Leo is headed to Sala October 1. Blue Skies Turn Black have also announced a Death Cab For Cutie show at the Spectrum October 16 (if you're a fan, you better buy your ticket now. I get a feeling there will be radio play in the offing once Plans drops) . November's Blue Skies roster includes The Black Keys on the 17th at La Tulipe (just a few short blocks from Casa di PWI) and the super-mighty Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings at Sala on the 16. (Something tells me I'm going to be signing the September rent cheque over to the ticket guy). Pregnant Pause Forget the battle of the BBQ I spoke about earlier this week. Kevin's sent me this video which can only be called "Dueling Mullets." Kinky Friedman for Governor of Texas....it can't be THAT hard. Forget The Flying Spaghetti Monster Theory of Evolution, I'm campaigning for Intelligent Falling to be taught in Quebec schools. You can buy Hinterland's very entertaining first album Under the Waterline via Zunior.com. (it won "Best Record by a Vancouver artist" in a 2004 poll by the Georgia Straight)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

 

I hate heart Winnipeg

Ok, so maybe it's hard to ACTUALLY love Winnipeg. It's next to impossible to be down with their winters, or the Mosquitoes (yes, that is a capital M) or the whole "10,000 miles from anything except Fargo" vibe. That said, the people are boss (much love, Iris) and the music scene continues to impress. My latest fave is Novillero a four-piece who mix tasty chocolate chunks of soul into into their intelligently-written pop peanut butter. Seriously, who DOESN'T love big fat horn lines? Or lyrics that are adult without being faux-world-weary? Listen to The Hypothesist (Go! Buy the Rekkid!) As great as the track is, it's improved even further by the VERY funny video (itunes required) which takes place at an elementary school science fair. (my personal favourite is the construction paper diorama on The Sweet Science...Brilliant!) Novillero's Aim Right for the Holes in Their Lives is available from itunes and Vancouver's mighty, mighty Mint Records. Pregnant Pause Speaking of Winnipeg, any idea where I can get this on a tee shirt? A number of authors, including Michael Chabon, Stephen King and David Eggers are auctioning off character names in their upcoming works. Proceeds go to the First Amendment Foundation. Chabon - who had a character in one of his novels have sex with a chaise lounge - has reserved the right to refuse a name if it's "offensive, mischievous, ill-intentioned or inappropriate." I'm not sure how bad your name would have to be to fit into one of those categories... As Keltie points out, I've mixed up John Franzen (an author I really like) and Michael Chabon (one whose written several books I've been unable to finish). In other book news, this piece offers a choice between "a weekend of sex and drugs in Edinburgh" and "talk(ing) about suicide with Nick Hornby" (link via Largehearted Boy)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

 

Liberez-nous des spoon solos

I've said it before, save some hard-rockin exceptions I'm still having trouble finding francophone music that I dig. I'm writing part of that off to my lack of command of the language (a difficulty I'm already hard at work trying to address), part of it to lack of knowledge of the scene (ditto) and part of it to the idea that much of Quebec pop music seems to equate "good times" with "crazy washboard/spoon breakdowns." Very little in rock, pop and hip-hop, it seems, is safe from morphing into a down-home jig and reel. Take "the Francophone Beastie Boys" Loco Locass. Liberez Nous des Libereaux ("Liberate us from the Liberals" for all you western-Canadians and 'mericans) is an angry and pretty tight three minutes and 40 seconds of humour and separatist politics with a healthy smidge of smart wordplay (Thanks to my good buddy Carl who explained the tough stuff to me over a lyric sheet). "But wait," you say. "The song is nearly four and a half minutes long. If it's tight as hell for three minutes forty, what happens to the last 45 seconds??" Well, why don't you check it out for yourself? Listen to Liberez Nous des Libereaux (Go! Buy the Rekkid!) Yup, at the 3:40 point the Locos turn Liberez Nous des Libereaux into an episode of Don Messer's Jubilee. Sigh! Pregnant Pause Ever wonder what would happen if Billy Pilgrim were actually a homicidal space marine? The New Yorker knows. (subtitle "MMMMMmmmmm, them's good Martian") I'm not sure what's wrong with the people who own these pets, but the results sure are funny. (via Defamer) As if I needed another reason to hate the Leafs. OK, I know Brit-Brit covers are kinda tired, but Frank's pick of the week is Richard FREAKIN Thompson doing Ooops, I Did It Again. Wicked? Hell YES! Forget Supersize Me. This guy is a warrior. Oh, and I want his job. (Thanks, Mike)

Monday, August 08, 2005

 

What comes after les blues

Pop quiz! What do the following acts have in common: 1) A two-man hip hop group from Pittsburgh who use beats by the Go Go's to rhyme about household cats, colouring contests and the birth of lemonade (invented by Jesus' disciples during the crucifixion...doncha know?) 2) Six rockers using lyrics which define melancholy (if not outright depression) to channel the spirits of Hank Mark I and Crazy Horse? The answer? Not much besides the stage at Sala Rosa last night (oh, and much-justified love for Van Halen). Yes, last night was my heavily-anticipated first opportunity to see Jason Molina and Magnolia Electric Co. Lucky for me, they brought along the surprisingly entertaining Grand Buffet. Despite a nearly complete lack of stage banter, there was a genuine warmth coming from Molina and his five piece backing ensemble. The most pleasant surprise of the evening was the amount of power Magnolia were able to pack into some of the more recent, Neil Young inspired material from the last two full length records (Magnolia Electric Co. and What Comes after the Blues). Listen to The Dark Don't Hide It from Magnolia Electric Co. (Go! Buy the Rekkid!) The full band sound (including a few incidents of concussive, single-note unison attacks) left me closed-eyed, smiling and swaying like a flower-lovin' hippy on more than one occasion. Thank you, gentlemen! As for the opener. Well! You know that wired dude in highschool who made you laugh and feel genuinely uncomfortable at the same time? The one voted "class clown" and "most likely to end up like Ted Kaczynski" Well, the good news is he hasn't hurt anyone. In fact, he's now fronting an underground hip hop act in Pittsburgh. Yes, while Jason Molina was reticent to share much talk with us beyond the occasional "Thank you kindly" Grand Buffet - the self-proclaimed "Kermit and Fozzy of underground Hip Hop" - left all good sense behind as they talked hockey (poorly) politics (embarrassingly) and fast food (surprisingly knowledgably) . Then again, when you're dropping rhymes as absurd as Nate Kulka's History of Lemonade good sense just has to take a back seat to good times. The weekend wasn't ALL about the strange conflict between jokey hiphop and near-retro indie rock. Nope, Saturday night Bell Orchestre (you might know them as The Side Project of a couple of these guys) performed a jazzy, melodic, modern set at Le Local. It was my first time at the industrial space near the Jean Talon Market, but I can say with confidence that Le Local has to go down as one of the hottest clubs ever. Seriously, it must have been 45 degrees in there. Memo to the owners of Le Local: Many people would be willing to pay another 50 cents for their tickets if you used the money to buy fans! All the sweating aside, the show was quite delightful. Openers - Ottawa's lovely and talented Wooden Stars - were a nice reminder of the ole home and Bell Orchestre turn something that could have easily slipped into improved, new-jazz wankery, into emotionally powerful and emotive music that makes you wanna dance. (Listen to Bell Orchestre MP3s here or here) and keep an eye out for their debut full-length on Rough Trade. What's on tonight? Well, Mark Sultan, the man behind Montreal's loudest one-man garage band, the mighty mighty BBQ is the best bet over at Toc Toc (6091 Parc). Until tonight have a taste of BBQ's Outa My Mind. Pregnant Pause I know this is Quebec. I know I've chosen to live in a strange part of the world and I know that the town I used to live in has been holding a Blues Festival for years featuring acts that wouldn't know Robert Johnson if they fell over his tombstone...but can someone please tell me how you can hold a "Blues Festival" and have more performers from Denmark than Chicago? This man claims to have "the most important collection of Mr. T dolls in existence." (I'm not going to object to his claim. Though it does, of course, demand that we ask the question: "Where is the world's SECOND most important collection of Mr. T dolls?") (vi(v)a (le) Boing) I'd be remiss if I didn't briefly mention Jason Molina's desperate need for a little electrolysis...I mean, I don't want to be cruel but that monobrow is pretty hard core.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

 

Hartless Thursday

Yesterday, I promised a picture of former Husker, Grant Hart. As you can see, I've delivered. Now, to be honest, I had every intention of posting a picture that I myself had taken. Unfortunately, dear reader, you are I'm sure fully aware of what they say about the road to hell. Last night that self-same road was paved not only with good intentions but also with vodka tonic (DAMN you Moe and Maryn! All I wanted to do was share the rock with the people...and yet you buried me in the demon liquor!) If anyone DID make the show (and as far as I can tell, not many people did) please tell me about it in the comments. I'd love to hear more about where Grant is than what I already know (i.e. he's off smack. He still hates Bob Mould and they won't ever play together again unless someone else they know gets cancer). As I nurse my hangover, we can chat briefly about music I actually HAVE listened to lately. Leadwillaguthdylasteen revisited I've often wondered how hard it must be for acoustic-slinging singer songwriter types to find a new and true way of expressing themselves. When so much of the ground has already been covered by giants, how do you find your own voice? Justin Rutledge (his friends call him "Derek") stays himself by using a gentle hand in both production and guitar attack. Then he adds evocative lyrics about carnival performers and sculptors that are just a little more melancholy and fantastic than the average folkie. The results are pretty solid. Just listen to The Suffering of Pepe O'Malley (Part III) (Go! Buy the Rekkid!) Justin's first record, No Never Alone, is available from Maple Music. Pregnant Pause Many of us have been caught saying "F**k Stephen Harper!" Just make sure you don't put it on a bumper sticker in Alberta or you might get arrested (it's the last item on the page) Did you hear? Michael Jackson is investing in a Swiss soccer club. (vi(v)a (le) boing) If you didn't read Bad News Richard Posner's analysis of the so-called American "Media Divide" in Sunday's NYT, you really ought to. He makes some pretty excellent points.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

 

Not dead yet...

Just a little slow in unpacking the boxes (and getting the site redesigned and getting the photoshop-capable computer hooked up to the internerd and, and, and...) The redesign is coming! More rock will also come! Is anyone headed to see Grant Hart tonight? If you are, check here for pictures tomorrow. Ciao! Groscitroyen

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