Tuesday, December 21, 2004

There was nothing on TV last night, so we got out SCTV Season One and watched the Pledge Week episode. There are several classic bits on this one, including:
Guy Cabellero threatening to broadcast nothing but soccer if not enough money rolls in. The soccer footage he then shows has Toby Charles doing the play by play. It must have been a direct lift from “Big League Soccer,” which PBS used to show (and my dad and I used to watch) every Sunday. What a strange program for PBS to air, now that I think about it.

Mel’s Rock Pile 20th Anniversary Special. Mel reunites the original dancers from the first Rock Pile episode, shows old clips, and faints in the presence of Roy Orbison. John Candy is hilarious and a bit scary as a bitter German fellow trapped in a loveless, childless marriage. It turns out he met his future wife on Mel’s Rock Pile lo those 20 years ago. “Tell them,” he shouts at his wife when Mel catches up with them in the present day. “Tell them all—why you can’t have children!”

Tracking the Unknown with Edith Prickley. This may be my favourite few minutes of television ever. What the hell is it? Who thought this would be a good idea? I don’t know; it’s just one of those completely random things that SCTV would throw at you occasionally. Stitched together from a faded old documentary about India’s Gir Forest, some film of piglets scratching themselves, and footage of Edith “Tracking the Unknown” in an Edmonton park with a tiny, overexcited dog (who steals several scenes) and two disinterested guides, it presents Edith at her most out of control, sputtering and smutty—a sustained freakout that I can’t do justice in words. Andrea Martin is a genius.

Farm Film Report. Where the hosts discuss both foreign and domestic film. Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point gets a nod because everything blows up at the end, while Blow Up is a disappointment because nothing blowed up in it. And the best movie ever is David Cronenberg’s Scanners because of the part where Louis Del Grande’s head blows up.

I sure hope I find season two under the tree next weekend.

(Man, I wanted to see Scanners so badly when I was a kid. I had to settle for reading the novelization, which was a lame substitute for actually seeing someone’s head blow up on the big screen. I barely even considered asking my parents if they’d take me. I remember reading the novelization of Alien, too, and leafing through a picture book about the movie at WH Smith, where I could finally see what it looked like when the alien burst through Harry Dean Stanton’s chest. The equivalent sorts of cool things must be easier for kids to find these days. I’m glad the Web wasn’t around when I was a kid; I’d be a complete sociopath.)

Friday, December 17, 2004

"Jenn Farrell is a writer and editor in Vancouver who cheers for the Canucks. With professional hockey on ice - so to speak - she's struggling to stay positive." She rules the airwaves again.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

What I did on my week off…
Went to Mayne with the belter.
Interviewed Mike from YOB.
Learned how to play “Freelove Freeway.”
Jammed with Tarkake.
Jammed with Smash at the Sanctuary.
Listened to Profound Lore Records.
Bought April Wine/Greatest Hits for 75 cents (“Weeping Widow” is an awesome song, eh?).
Moved a filing cabinet.
Made a picture for the bathroom.
Poured drinks at fancy's hen do.
Watched Elf, Bad Santa, Wisconsin Death Trip and Junk.
Started series 2 of The Office.
Four-tracked a bit.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Here’s an annotated version of the Top 15 of 2004 I submitted to Unrestrained! a couple weeks ago. To avoid second, third and fourth guessing, I assembled this quickly. Aside from the first few albums, don’t read too much into the order of this list. Also, bear in mind that this is Unrestrained!-approved tunage. I’ll have to round up some of my favourite non-metal releases in the near future.

1. Witchcraft - S/T (Rise Above)
For a full review, see U! #25. I need music to take me somewhere else, and this album did it better than any other this year.

2. Anathema - A Natural Disaster (Koch/Music For Nations)
I love Pink Floyd as much as grilled cheese sandwiches, but albums like A Natural Disaster make me not care that Floyd are over and done. The transition between “Balance” and “Closer” is as good as anything on Wish You Were Here, and the title track crushes me with sadness.

3. Woods Of Ypres - Pursuit Of The Sun & Allure Of The Earth (Krankenhaus)
Seasons in the Sun meets Seasons in the Abyss. David Gold’s cottage country black metal is crafted with enthusiasm and class, infused with essences of shuttered-room must and just-dug soil. With melodies that paint scenes as precisely as Colville or Danby, this is my favourite Canadian album of 2004.

4. Mastodon - Leviathan (Relapse)
Suspicious of the hype, I steered clear of their first couple releases. But to hear Mastodon is to love them and be convinced of their importance. They take everything good about heavy metal—power, finesse, ambition, abandon—and make it better. From the album’s opening line (“I think that someone is trying to kill me!”) to the last fading note, I’m pinned down by the overbearing urgency of Leviathan.

5. Isis - Panopticon (Ipecac)
Though it was a fine album (Terrorizer’s album of the year in 2002) I didn’t think Oceanic was quite the breakthrough for Isis that others thought it was. Panopticon does it for me, though. Much like Neurosis, they’ve found the eye of every storm, sticking out a hand occasionally to gauge the surrounding violence, then retreating to the peaceful centre again.

6. TOC - Loss Angeles (InsideOut)
This one came out of nowhere (well, Finland) with a stunningly entertaining and varied batch of songs gleefully exploring expanses inspired by David Lynch and Hunter S Thompson. Like Angel Rat, it has songs that are incredibly sweeping and epic, yet average only five minutes apiece. Neat trick; I wish more bands would learn it.

7. Neurosis - The Eye Of Every Storm (Neurot)
I once read an interview with Neurosis where they said that they’re striving for greatness on the order of Zeppelin or Floyd; otherwise there’s no point in being in a band. As someone who’s done nothing musically but goof off, I pondered that ballsy admission for weeks. A new Neurosis album is an event, and an artifact for serious contemplation and respect. …Every Storm earns it. Unlike disciples Isis, this album isn’t a great leap forward. However, Neurosis made that leap years ago and continues to refine their apocalyptic sludge into a kind of soot-encrusted blues, rich with jagged detail.

8. The Hidden Hand - Mother Teacher Destroyer (Southern Lord)
Really groovy doom rock (not really metal in the modern sense) with strong vocal melodies and thick, smothering production that’s balm for the ears. The combination of Wino and Bruce Falkinburg's songwriting gives the album great depth.

9. Guapo - Five Suns (Cuneiform)
Opens with a gong hit and a turbulent five-part composition that lasts for three quarters of an hour. Bands like this British instrumental keyboard/bass/drums trio are why this blog exists. Progressive rock doesn’t get any more abrasive or demanding. With shows opening for Khanate and Ipecac Records behind them, Guapo will be big in 2005.

10. Wolverine - Cold Light Of Monday (Elitist/Earache)
(cobbled together from U! #24:) Wolverine created an unassuming little progressive rock gem with this well-crafted, tightly arranged concept album. At first, Wolverine seem like slavish adherents to the Anathema/The Gathering school of lush keyboards, tinkling guitars, earnest vocals and the occasional drum loop—but the collision of these elements doesn’t sound forced at all. This album really grew on me.

11. Black Nasa - Deuce (Meteor City)
This album is the cat’s ass with great songs from start to finish. It reminds me a lot of Urge Overkill’s Saturation, as well as Monster Magnet’s more recent straight-up rock direction, minus MM’s sometimes annoying studio gloss. Too bad summer was over when I got this.

12.Clutch - Blast Tyrant (DRT)
It’s been many years since I picked up a new Clutch album, and Blast Tyrant looked too good to pass over. It's a riot.

13. YOB - The Illusion Of Motion (Metal Blade)
Eugene Oregon’s YOB create huge doom metal that alternately grooves and grinds across songs that stretch as wide as the Pacific. With their unique chord voicings, effects, and varied vocals, I find them much more capable and interesting than doom touchstones like Sleep and Electric Wizard.

14. Cult Of Luna - Salvation (Earache)
Salvation stands alongside Panopticon and …Every Storm at times, but after a few listens I’m not sure I enjoy it as much overall. On the positive side, it has atmospheric sections of “eerie b eauty” and a strong sense of dynamics. However, the over-reliance on pounding out 16th-note guitar riffs wears on me after a while and vocal melodies are nonexistent. I’d like to hear them play with time more, the way Isis is starting to do. This was my first real encounter with Cult of Luna. From what I read, the Swedish seven-piece are developing rapidly, so their next album or two should rule the world.

15. Comets On Fire - Blue Cathedral (Sub Pop)
Back to what I said about Witchcraft and Mastodon and records that transport you with their urgency and—above all—abandon. Blue Cathedral just whisks me away into an altered state of Drugachussetts, where the Stooges, Hawkwind, and Sonic Youth jam simultaneously, making music like a spiral sea unending. It’s a glorious noise to get lost in.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Bands reuniting. The Pixies reunion brought out the curmudgeon in me, though I felt a bit of a prick for feeling that way. Despite my friends' excitement, I couldn't forget that in '92 I left what turned out to be their "final" show early, bored by their "paying the bills" live act and turned off by frat boys in the crowd high fivin' to "Debaser" and other hits.

I have nothing against the concept of bands cashing in on their legacy. Indeed, it's their right, especially in an era where a musician's right to control the presentation of his/her art is nonexistent. About the only thing a band can control these days is its very existence as a band.

So yeah, I'm all for bands sticking it to the audience and capitalizing on their sense of entitlement by giving them what they can't pirate—the group's corporeal selves, live on stage. Whether or not I participate in the reunion as an audience member depends on the band.

Two reunions that I care about: Slint and Van der Graaf Generator. I'd be just as happy to see The For Carnation and Peter Hammill again, but if they're going to fly their respective motherships anew, I'll fork out. Live CD? DVD? T-shirt? Send me the frigging order form.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Roadbed (with Ross Vegas and The Feminists) at the Railway, November 26
I refused to take the Roadbed quiz last Friday night. It provokes embarrassment and self-recrimination whenever I get involved, whether I’m winning it or administrating it. Besides, I glanced at the questions, and they were too hard. I did pick up the latest Lynx Paw Courier, however. If I was still in school, I’d clip out page 2 for my portfolio in hopes someone might be impressed by trite rock journalese. I salute Roadbed and their concert-occasioned documentation.

Ross Vegas (featuring Hey Rock, Smash, and Willingdon Black), began the evening. Hey Rock is one helluva singer and an affable bandleader. It’s rare that I’ve been in a band situation where the vocals were not an “issue” inside or outside the band, so I know how valuable a performer Hey Rock is. The group as a whole worked the smoove groove just fine. Even though their music’s not really my thing, they’re bloody good at it. No showboating, yet no passengers. Watching my Tarkake rhythm section partner Smash, I had to wonder how it must be for him to play with a real drummer up there on stage.

Roadbed! I came to see—Roadbed! At the Railway! I hoped the model trains circulating overhead would inspire a killer show. And they did…although this was a particular kind of killer show. Roadbed can turn in a variety of killer shows. Friday night was a solid, hit-song-based killer show, not a jazz holocaust killer show or a punk rock killer show…nor was it a combination of all three, as sometimes happens. I went up and sat on the floor in front of the stage. Not that the passageway at the Railway isn’t a comfortable place to be, but I get enough hallway action every Sunday at our ’kake sessions. They did lots of old tunes—“Deep Fried,” “Carolina,” “Time to Shockk,” et cetera.—with not a lot of “extras,” like extended outro jams or solos. Super Robertson, Shockk and Sim were keeping it on the rails, playing well and name-checking everyone in attendance (Super sent the majestic “King’s Quest” out to me). I don’t want to go on about bass tone in every review that I write, but Smash’s keen SUNN O))) head was doing wonders for Super’s sound.

Midway through the set, I got the Roadbed equivalent of “caught in a mosh” when a chap tried to deliver his completed quiz to the band, only to have a drunk woman wad it up and chuck in the corner. She resumed her “Whee, it’s Friday and I’m druuuuoonk!” dancing while the hapless contestant retrieved his paper from the side of the stage. When she tried to snatch it away from him again, he bodychecked her into a stack of band equipment. I wasn’t certain if I should be alarmed by his rough tactics or relieved that I was momentarily spared from her erratically bobbing, inebriated arse in my face.

I have to mention Super’s puppet show. With musical backing from Mr. Black and Shockk, he opened Roadbed’s set with his most successful display to date—far more coherent than the time he used salt and pepper shakers to perform a skit for me and my bewildered sister at a coffee shop in Burnaby. Tiny Dr. Barb has yet to recover, I think.

The Feminists played until the wee hours. They were good and really original in a natural “this is what the four of us happen to sound like” kind of way, with vocals that reminded me of Mac from Superchunk and heavy driving rhythm patterns that sounded very clever on first hearing. With more exposure, their material’s bound to be quite memorable. I’ll have to check them out again—they shamelessly ingratiated themselves by doing a Pink Floyd cover as an encore. Bastards!

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Isis at Mesa Luna, November 17
The first band was unremarkable. They were thrashy and screamy and knocked mike stands around. I’ll give them an A for being into it and some kudos for getting through their set without anyone losing an eye.

These Arms Are Snakes from Seattle were in the middle slot, playing a spazzy set of whatevercore. The guitarist and bass player both doubled on keyboards—always an entertaining strategy. I heard Smash laugh heartily the first time they swung their guitars aside mid song and started parping away. Their singer had some good moves in the manner of Ian Curtis. I’d like to hear them on record because I couldn’t grasp much of what they were doing live.

Isis provided an elegant contrast to the previous auditory splatter. The fivesome have the patience and courage to explore ideas at a comprehensible pace, resulting in meticulous, relentless music that’s now moved beyond the obvious and overused Neurosis comparisons into Mogwai or Slint territory. That’s the conclusion I drew from their set anyway. They mostly played new songs from Panopticon, and at least one older number (“the beginning and the end“ from Oceanic). The crowd took to the new (and fairly demanding in terms of song length) material quite well, though “the beginning and the end” got a big cheer of recognition a split second after Isis charged into it. Backed by their Stonehenge-like bank of cabinets, they sounded commensurately huge, but having such a massive backline in a small venue overpowered the PA and drowned out Aaron Turner’s vocals. It didn’t detract from the gig though; the shifting musical atmospheres, the important component of Isis’s sound, were fully evident. The bassist was the most valuable player in the band, mainly for the simple yet rare feat of approaching his instrument as a bass in terms of playing and tone. The keyboards suffered the same fate as the vocals, though after hearing how subtly they’re used on Panopticon, it’s no wonder they got lost in the mix.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Gov't Mule at the Commodore Ballroom, November 16, 2004
Last time I saw progressive blues outfit Gov’t Mule, they were promoting their latest album, Dose, opening for Big Sugar at The Rage. We were right up front for their too-brief set and were blown away by the clinic they put on. Bassist Allan Woody died not long afterward, and the band laid low for a while, issuing a series of albums with guest bass players and staying away from Vancouver. They recently gained a new bassist, a keyboard player, and the “jam band” tag, a welcome appellation from my POV, since it gives them a built-in audience and keeps them on the road…all the way up to our sodden city. Willingdon Black, Christian Scum, and I were there to get our long-awaited second dose.

I’d heard rumours of a four-hour set, so I was afraid the gig would be a hard slog. The concert didn’t pan out that way—the rumoured four-hour endurance test turned out to be two tight hour-and-a-quarter sets (we were out of there by 11:30), and instead of endless noodling we were treated to consistently scintillating musicianship and great songs.

The concert opened with “Blind Man in the Dark” and “Thorazine Shuffle”, two songs from Dose that took me right back to the show at The Rage. The band really held back until Haynes’s first solo got everyone’s attention. From then on, the band had the crowd hooked. Drummer Matt Abts seemed to be pacing himself. He’s got a fluid style with a light touch, an economical technique that doesn’t exclude the odd flourish, like two-handed crossovers and fast double-kick workouts. Altogether an amazing player to watch and listen to. The new recruits on bass and keys kept a low profile—the bassist appeared to be in a deep trance most of the night—but were crack players. The keyboardist had a Hammond/Leslie combo and a collection of other instruments that added nice colour. The focus remained on Haynes and Abts, though.

After intermission, the keyboardist struck up a familiar warbly keyboard riff… I didn’t get my hopes up; I guessed it might be a tease. But no, the whole band joined in on “No Quarter.” Aside from the fact that they couldn’t have done a cooler cover version, the choice of song said a lot about Gov’t Mule. They’re a band that can be all things to all people. To Mr. Black, they’re Southern rockers. To Ken Masters, attending his first G. Mule show, they’re like Deep Purple, with Haynes as the Blackmorian guitar hero. In my view, they’re heavy progressive rockers, willing to mess with time signatures and extend standard song structures. Adding the bluesy-heavy-proggy “No Quarter” to the set simply encapsulates and validates all these perceptions.

Having got the Led out, they rocked even harder for the rest of the second set, which included “Don’t Step On the Grass, Sam” (with “Subterranean Homesick Blues”-style cue cards and crowd participation), drum and bass solos, and an extended version of “Mule.” Apts was a sweaty mess by the end, and their one encore was perfectly sufficient to acknowledge the audience’s appreciation of what went down. Everyone was glad Gov’t Mule came to play.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Wilco, November 9 at the Orpheum Theatre
I had a good feeling about this show beforehand, based mainly on Wilco’s latest album, A Ghost is Born, being one of my favourite albums this year. I’m a pretty recent convert to the Wilco cause, though, and I was worried a set list heavy on the back catalogue would leave me out in the cold. The band ended up playing songs mainly from Ghost… and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, the album previous, so the set turned out to be ideal for a newcomer like me.

AC Newman opened up, with a six-piece band who looked like they’d be more comfortable squeezed onto the Railway Club’s stage than spread across the Orpheum’s comparatively vast expanse. Their first couple numbers sounded awful, though the songs improved as they (and the soundman) warmed up. Carl Newman mumbled between tunes, the rest of the band smiled at pals they could pick out in the crowd, and they overcame some occasionally flat material to earn a friendly reception from the audience.

Opening with “Less Than You Think“ (minus its 12-minute ambient noise denoument and featuring the refrain “There’s so much less to this than you think”—a pretty self-deprecating way to start a gig!), Wilco impressed me immediately with their ability to put across such subtle, intimate material in a large venue. You need a band of excellent players to pull that off, and that’s what Wilco are. They rocked out at various points, of course, and disassembled certain songs until they became huge squalls of feedback and noise, but the musicianship never flagged—nor did it stifle the passion in their music. Jeff Tweedy, silent during the first few songs, had some witty quips about the seated venue (comparing the event to “a rock symphony”) and Americans immigrating to Canada. He summed up the rest of the show by promising to play some pop songs to compensate for the songs that “made you want to die.” I was up for some of both—the uber-Beatley “Hummingbird,” “Wishful Thinking,” “Muzzle of Bees” (less delicate than on the album, but still superb), “Theologians,” “I am Trying to Break Your Heart,” “Reservations,” and so on.

Tweedy played both acoustic and electric guitars, using a potent combination of Vox amp stack and Gibson SG equipped with whammy bar. When he gets up a head of steam during a solo he reminds me of Neil Young’s instinct-over-technique approach, although instead of Young’s trademark hunching over his instrument, Tweedy stands straight up and tears at the strings as if struck by sudden jolts of electricity. After each song he’d hand the SG to a roadie in trade for an in-tune model.

While certain factions in the audience were hell bent on standing through the show, everyone else was content to enjoy it with bums planted in cushy Orpheum velvet. Tweedy didn’t seem to mind people sitting as much as the people who insisted on standing did. He did point out one guy in the front row who was slouched back in his chair like he was watching TV, but for the sake of amusement, not ridicule. Maybe the crowd was being lame. On the other hand, this wasn’t exactly a full-on kick out the jams rock show (or Deep Purple, the last show I saw at the Orpheum). After the crazy and magnificent “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” (on the album, the most blissful 10 minutes of music I’ve heard all year), ended the first set, everyone got to their feet and stayed that way till the lights came up.

The staging was simple, with the bonus of projections on a big screen behind the band showing constantly shifting images of buildings, birds, insects, and flowers, in accordance with the traditional/experimental, rural/urban dynamic of Wilco’s music. At show’s end, after two encores, credits for the visuals came up on the screen, cueing our trip to the exits.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

"This is probably impossible, but who cares?"
Modern-day F1 is rubbish, and I blame the circuits—"facilities," in the current parlance. What a miserable, emasculated assortment of go-kart tracks. How can bravery and heroism occur in such sterile environments?

Regular visitors at e-Tracks feel the same way. They even get their own page to submit designs for fantasy tracks, like New Brands Hatch and the awesome Puget Motor Speedway ("The pride of the facility is the daunting and massive 8-mile (approx), 18-turn Grand Prix circuit"). The whole exercise really takes me back to grade 9 (usually in French class).

The site also has a nice feature article on Westwood. It says you can still make out part of the back straight through the trees. I almost wish I never read that; I'm going to have to make a pilgrimage now.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

PJ Harvey, October 30, Vogue Theatre
PJ Harvey is one of my musical heroes. Has anyone strung together six (seven if you count 4-Track Demos) albums of such consistent, uncompromised quality, on a major label no less? She put on a majestic show last weekend at the Vogue. Last time I saw her she was touring for To Bring You My Love. It was a good concert, but I remember being bugged by the lack of rocking that evening, with Polly Jean slinking around, sans guitar, in a pink bodysuit while her band of gentlemen provided sedate backup. The drummer played like he was in Nana Mouskouri’s band, tapping carefully, lest he startle the audience. Not last Saturday. Polly had a new band, a boy band with a gangly mohawked bassist and a grinning kid who thrashed a guitar or a drum kit, depending on the song. Longtimers Rob Ellis (percussion) and Eric Drew Feldman (occasional keyboards) stayed out of our line of sight most of the evening (we got seats off to the side, about six rows back). The show started with Polly on guitar leading the band through “The Life and Death of Mr. Badmouth”—pure bile & bludgeon. She put the guitar down for the next few songs, including “The Whores Hustle and the Hustlers Whore” and “Who the Fuck?” which was the set highlight for me—unbelievably intense, with Polly flinging herself around like mad. The rest of the set calmed down a bit, and drew mainly from the last three albums, reaching back to oldies like “Me Jane,” “I Think I’m a Mother,” “Down By the Water” and “Dress,” during which I felt the full force of Fancy’s enthusiasm as she administered “love taps” to my upper arm. Polly’s not a talkative performer. The songs are the thing. She talked more to the guy running monitors than she did to the crowd. The first set lasted just under an hour, then another half hour of encores, heavy on the hits like “Good Fortune” and “50 Foot Queenie.” She returned for the last time to play “Horses In My Dreams,” sending us home on a calm note. We needed some peace of mind out on the crowded Granville sidewalk, with Hallowe’en in full swing. Best concert of the year.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Yee-haw, I got to field another call from fancy's mom. I've done this every day this week. Tonight's damage survey included old folks' homes, lost dentures, dying children, splitting headaches, bed restraints, burst blood vessel in the eye, earache, and, on the brighter side, shopping, shopping, shopping!

I find myself turning into Sybil Fawlty during these "conversations": "Oh, I know. Oh, I know..."

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Derek Sherinian – Mythology (InsideOut)
I always flinch a bit when I encounter albums like these. Guest-star-laden instrumental projects helmed by an “ex-member of…” often cause me to hate all musicians. I remember hearing a Jordan Rudess album of such pallid, over-processed flimsiness that it made me homicidal in under a minute. Mythology is better than most, though. It’s tasteful, diverse, and brief. Joining keyboardist Sherinian (ex-Dream Theater, ex-Alice Cooper) are a soccer team’s worth of guests, including Zakk Wylde, Steve Stevens (ex-Billy Idol), John Sykes (ex-Whitesnake), Allan Holdsworth (ex-UK), and Jerry Goodman (ex-Mahavishnu Orchestra). They’re let loose on nine tightly composed numbers in various styles, from technical metal (“God of War” and “One Way or the Other”) to flamenco (“El Flamingo Suave”), gospel-cum-Motown (“Goin’ To Church”), and heavy blues (“The River Song”). As you’d expect, these master musicians put on a clinic, with Sherinian proving himself a generous band leader by shifting emphasis away from the keyboards to the guitars—saving the album in the process. When Sherinian does step into the spotlight he usually shares it with one of his guests. A good example would be “Trojan Horse,” a solo-swapping showdown with violinist Jerry Goodman. As I said earlier, the songs are concise and punchy, with hooks and accessible verse/chorus structures—Removal meets Dream Theater, in a sense. The surprising exception is Zakk Wylde’s “The River Song,” the last track on the album and Mythology’s only non-instrumental. It’s a big-bollocked black’n’blues tune, with Mr. Wylde channeling Ozzy or that bloke from Sheavy, that rubs hairy shoulders with Grand Magus and other recent acts that specialize in that sound. Nice one, Derek, for demonstrating that a tasteful, entertaining star-studded, play-your-ass-off solo album isn’t just the stuff of mythology.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Caravan – For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night (Decca)
Caravan make the ultimate comfort music. Every album of theirs I have is like a blanket of the perfect weight that I can pull right up to my chin and start, to quote poet George Fetherling (in his new Anvil Press title Singer, An Elegy), “daydreaming with horrible urgency/of nostalgia never imagined or/needed until now.” The thing about Caravan is, for all their progressive accoutrements—the long songs and long hair, the pretty singing, and so on—they don’t come across like the stadium-scale art-rock giants of the ’70s. I can picture myself walking up Main and catching them in full swing, crammed onto the stage at the Cottage Bistro. They’ve got a strong pub-rock streak. For Girls… is the last album of theirs I bought, another of Decca’s spectacular reissue series. This one came out originally in 1973 and it’s their fifth album, I think. They’d endured some lineup changes, and the humble organ tones that lent a lot of charm to their early sound had been replaced by cutting-edge synthesizers and Geoffrey Richardson’s viola—they even bust out with a full orchestra on the final track—but that ordinary bloke appeal is still intact. They try out some new styles here too, like the uncharacteristically sinister “C’thlu Thlu,” a creepy crawly cave dweller that gets as heavy as Van der Graaf Generator at times. Elsewhere they maintain their knack for effortlessly epic medleys like “Memory Lain, Hugh/Headloss,” an action-packed stormer that ranks right up there with If I Could Do It All Over Again’s “For Richard.” “Surprise, Surprise” and “The Dog, the Dog, He’s At It Again” are the requisite twee numbers, which is all right because criticizing Caravan for being twee is like faulting Judas Priest for being heavy metal. “Hoedown” lives up to its name as a fast-paced lightweight rocker in 7/8 with gang vocals that make it sound like the theme for a Caravan TV show (“We’ll get you when night-time comes along/We’ll get you, we’ll get you with our song”). The last song, “L’Auberge Du Sanglier/A Hunting We Shall Go/Pengola/Backwards/A Hunting We Shall Go (reprise),” comes on eventful and complex, then takes an orchestral detour through more lush surroundings, sounding like theme music to a movie starring Michael York and Jacqueline Bisset. Decca dug up five bonus tracks, consisting of an alternative mix, three early run-throughs, and the superb 11-minute “Derek’s Long Thing.” Longtime fans must have been beside themselves with these unearthed riches. As a relatively newcomer aboard the Caravan, they're enjoyable, but the album proper is intriguing enough for now.

Friday, October 15, 2004

After work Tuesday I took advantage of the fine weather to mow my folks’ lawn. The light wasn’t as cooperative; it was almost completely dark by 7:00, when I finished. I’ll need to rig the mower with headlights if the grass keeps growing into the fall. Perhaps my dad could lay off the fertilizer earlier in the season and prevent the freakish sprouting we’re seeing now…

It’s a little heartbreaking to visit the house now because Electronic Arts, feeling the need to expand, has razed the bush on the other side of the street. They left a row of trees along the edge, but everything 15 feet beyond the curb is gone—chainsawed, bulldozed and fenced off. Some local residents, including Joe Keithley, did their best for years to save it. I guess Burnaby council got sick of listening to them and started thinking about all those lovely taxes. What use is green space when the world needs more video games?

I won’t say anything else about EA because I might need them to give me a job someday.

I guess the bush really has outlived its usefulness, a certain kind of usefulness anyway. The neighbourhood’s population of kids has dwindled since Willingdon Black’s and my fort-building days. We’ve moved on…in my case, alarmingly recently. People starting out raising a family can’t afford to live there. I imagine that the few kids left in the neighbourhood aren’t allowed to play outside without knee and elbow pads, reflective vests, breadbin-sized helmets, pepper spray and surgical masks. Their parents certainly wouldn’t allow them to venture into the trees. No, it’s far safer for kids to stay inside, on the couch, thumbing game controllers till supper time.

I notice a lot more crows flying around the area in recent weeks. Huge flocks of them used to appear out of nowhere. They'd have a crow convention in the bush for an hour, then move on. Now they’re always overhead, like they’re confused at having nowhere to land.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Woods of Ypres — Pursuit of the Sun & Allure of the Earth
We Canadians are obsessed by the weather and the transition of seasons. This is what makes Pursuit of the Sun & Allure of the Earth a very Canadian album, with its themes of seasonal change and contrast of light and shade (both lyrically and musically). Woods of Ypres (AKA Toronto’s David Gold, who handles all lead vocals and instruments, save some keyboards) play an ornate style of black metal—here dubbed "Summer Black Metal"—bending the genre to his own design with well-blended folk and melodic metal styles. The overall approach reminds me of personal favourites such as Primordial, Green Carnation and Agalloch. Opeth are definitely an influence too.

While black metal bands in the past have depicted imagery of the majesty of the night sky or frostbitten realms of winterdemons, WoY have taken a different tack, focusing not on winter (that most Canadian of seasons) but on its direct counterpart, summer. Winter's darkness is scary, to be sure, but it can also be a secure environment—a safe, secret cocoon to nurture one's regret and other negative musings. This album posits that it’s more terrifying to exhume all that ugliness and examine it out in the open. That’s what summer represents: unforgiving light, quickening heat, bravery in confronting unfrozen truths.

“Going after the pleasures of summer
Betray the comforts of our dark little space
Believe their healing will cure all your trauma
Becoming the person you’ve claim to hate
True colors are shining through
Trading the black for the yellow, green and blue.”


On the subject of lyrics, I was taken aback when I saw the reams of text in the CD booklet. This is a very wordy album, but fortunately the words are thoughtful and well integrated into the often-lengthy songs. Gold is a talented wordsmith, best seen on the album’s opening track, “The Looming of the Dust in the Dark (and the illumination)” which works with the image of sunlight piercing a room’s stagnant air, illuminating both the narrator’s surroundings and his inner turmoil. There’s even room for some humorous wordplay on the album, with lines like “I despise the rising of the upsetting sun,” on the alternately balladic and doomy “Allure of the Earth.”

It’s impressive that Gold basically wrote and performed this album by himself. He’s executed these lengthy, multipart songs with great precision, and the light/heavy, acoustic/electric dynamics must have taken painstaking forethought. The production is clear and hefty, with lots of detail, like the handclaps (love ’em!) and tasteful female vocals on “The Gost of Summers Past.” The album suffers nothing from being a one-man undertaking, though in the future I’d like to hear what results Woods of Ypres could get with the kind of instrumental interplay and distinctive individual performances that additional members could offer.

Aside from the novel concept behind Pursuit of the Sun..., the ultimate strength of this album is its songs, which themselves are bolstered by Gold’s singing and sense of melody. He has a plain but appealing singing voice, and a spot-on death/black rasp, as can be heard on the devastatingly heavy “Dragged Across a Forest Floor.” Following this track is the highlight of the album for me—“Summer’s Envy,” which channels the latter-day Amorphis sound, and is so confident of its catchiness that it starts with the chorus, Beatles style. Superb. I can’t get this song out of my head.

With the glut of nondescript underground metal releases these days, this ambitious, intelligent album is a rare pleasure. That it comes from a fellow Canadian who clearly has many more years of producing excellent music ahead of him is a bonus. I’m looking forward to listening to Pursuit of the Sun… into the dark days of winter and for many more seasons to come.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

I jumped the gun yesterday by implying there's a lack of good gigs in Vancouver compared to Toronto. I missed last week's Straight and now I see that we'll be hosting the likes of PJ Harvey, Gov't Mule, Le Tigre and (cough) Billy Corgan reading poetry. We're doing okay.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

I just got back from Toronto, where Fancy and I manned the Anvil Press table at Word on the Street. I hadn't been to Toronto in nine years. I like the place; they seem to have their shit together, and a skim through the upcoming gig listings in NOW made me want to stay a while (at least until after the PJ Harvey show).

Thursday – We left Vancouver on WestJet around lunchtime. I read Traveling Music for the whole flight, finishing it just as the 737 pulled into the terminal at Pearson International. The kid next to me listened to his mixed CD-Rs for the whole flight. I played Name That Tune eavesdropping on his headphone leakage. Metallica, "Sad But True." Frank Black doing that Powerpuff Girls tune. Green Day. The guy across the aisle had a cool little DVD player. He watched five minutes of Rushmore before shutting it down. Maybe he'd run out of batteries. At YYZ we picked up the rental car (Dodge Neon SX) and hit the 401 to Adam and Rain's place near Eglinton and Mt. Pleasant. We couldn't have wished for a better home base for the weekend—comfy bed, parking spot for the car, quiet neighbourhood, beyond generous hospitality, and excellent company during our brief intervals of downtime. Adam and Rain rule.

Friday – The major errand for the day was to pick up our books for WOTS from the University of Toronto Press warehouse in North York. They had everything boxed up and ready to go, so no hassle there. We loaded up the trunk and drove back to Adam and Rain's. We had the rest of the afternoon to kill, so we took the subway downtown and shopped. I love the subway; it's so much cooler than the automated plaything that is SkyTrain. Fancy's primary destination was a big beauty supply store on Yonge, where she got a new wig (so effing cute) and I thrilled to the sight of an actual ladyboy browsing the selection of hair extensions. Alan Partridge would have loved it. We checked out Sam's and Eaton Centre, then went back "home" to get organized for going to the Bonstar Hotel (Anvil writer Bonnie Bowman's place) for the night. We partied with her and Fancy's cool high school friends Joan and Wendy and Wendy's brother Chris, who brought the house down with his impression of Sha Na Na in Festival Express. For a while the conversation centred on high school drug experiences, a topic to which I can contribute nothing. I was never a teenager. Late night; we hit the futon at 4 AM.

Saturday – We left the Bonstar and went for a hip & delicious breakfast at Aunties and Uncles with Wendy. Afterwards, Fancy walked me around Kensington Market before cutting me loose for my rendezvous with my boss at Unrestrained, Adrian "The Energizer" Bromley. Our original plan had been to have lunch. I was still full from breakfast, so I sat with him while he had a burger and spewed figures (sell-through rates, ad revenues, printing charges, etc.) at me until my head spun. He called Martin Popoff's place so I could meet him and buy his Top 500 Heavy Metal Albums book, but he wasn't home. Once The Energizer paid the cheque and dabbed his beard clean, we took the subway to Anjelic Records, "the ONLY international psych and prog rock store in Canada!!!" I found some good stuff (the second Cressida album, a couple Banco records, and the aforementioned Popoff book) and dropped a pile of money. Well worth the trip! The Energizer went back downtown to see Shaun of the Dead and I went back to Adam and Rain's. After Fancy showed up with some Kensington thrift store finds, we took the car to meet Wendy again. Our mission for the evening: go to Guelph and visit Fancy and Wendy's friend Ailsa. Guelph's about an hour of highway driving away. Thanks to Wendy's MapQuest skills, we found Ailsa's house with no problem and set out to find a place to have coffee. Guelph, birthplace of Canadian thrash legends Razor, is a pretty little college town. It reminded us of Victoria. Everything was good until the trip home. They'd closed two lanes of the 401 for construction. We crawled for miles and miles, and it took three hours to reach the outskirts of Toronto. With our long slog at WOTS on Sunday, we'd been looking forward to getting to bed at a decent hour, but that plan was out the window. We got home after 1 AM, completely beat. Adam and Rain were asleep already, but they'd set up our bed for us before retiring. That bed looked so good, Fancy and I nearly cried.

Sunday – Not enough sleep, as my coworker Allegra would say. I got us coffee, made some toast, and we dragged our asses out to the car. We still needed a float for the day's transactions, so finding a Money Mart was our first priority. That wasn't too hard; there was one on our way to Queen's Park, the new venue for WOTS in Toronto. We reached the site, set up our table, and were ready for business by the 11:00 start time. The next seven hours were pretty crazy, so some general observations follow. We sold enough books and mags to pay for Fancy's trip. Between the new "Dead Things"-themed issue of sub-Terrain (or "Subterranean," as people insist on calling it) and my anti-YinYang NoMeansNo shirt, I think we managed to offend a healthy number of festival-goers. Lots of people think that a book-selling stall is a good place to hand you their unsolicited manuscript. Fancy's shining moment came while talking to someone who'd inquired about the wage scale for authors publishing a book with a small press: "I can sum up how much money you can expect to make in two words—Fuck All." Everyone within earshot took a step back from our table. We sold three books to a girl in a Slayer shirt. I was very happy to spot Toronto celebrities such as Daniel Richler and Moe Berg. No Degrassi kids, though (boo). We were shattered by the end of the day, so we spent a quiet evening in with Adam and Rain.

Monday – Another road trip, this time to Fancy's parents' place. I have no idea what to call where they are. Every time I ask I get a different answer: Smithville, Grimsby, Fulton... It's surrounded by fields, anyway. This is not a dis, but I always think of the Rheostatics' "Ballad of Wendel Clark" when I'm there: "Somewhere in the cowshit county." We arrived for lunch, then went into Hamilton to visit Fancy's grandma in the hospital. Grandma's 94 years have finally caught up to her and she's not very mobile at the moment. She was overjoyed to see Jenni again and she even remembered me from my last visit two years ago. She's a very independent, self-sufficient woman, so it was sad to see her on a hospital ward with nothing but a tiny shared room and a hallway to explore. She's not happy there and I can't blame her. I hope the family finds somewhere better for her soon, and I hope that grandma will trust them enough to go there.

Tuesday – Not enough sleep. Drove to the airport, taking a sketchy unmapped toll highway to avoid rush-hour traffic. We took one wrong turn, but got pointed in the right direction quickly enough. After returning the car, we got lost in terminal 1 until we found out we had to take a shuttle bus to terminal 2. YYZ is big. Our flight left on schedule at 11:20. The trip was turbulent but we landed half an hour early. We took a cab home, depressurized on the couch, then had a four-hour nap.

While typing the above I listened to the pile of promos the Energizer laid on me, including:
Napalm Death – Leaders Not Followers: Part 2
grails – redlight
Lilitu – The Delores Lesion
Black Tape for a Blue Girl – Halo Star

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Zombi – Cosmos (Relapse)
Zombi are an instrumental duo with a whole room full of old analog synthesizers along with the good old bass and drums. They play a kind of space rock/horror movie soundtrack music in the style of Italian masters Goblin or, at times, Pink Floyd circa Wish You Were Here. The first track, "Orion," is probably my favourite due to its driving Steve Harris-like bassline. The bass isn't as prominent in the following tracks. "Cetus" is the next track, a busy workout anchored by a pulsing, oddly timed synth pattern, with drums doing a valiant job at keeping up. The same basic elements are at play in "Cassiopea," a brief but disorienting interlude that fades away into a series of sweeping synthesizer hisses. "Side one" of the CD closes with "Serpens," which takes elements from the previous songs and stretches them out into a 9-minute epic jam. Driven along by a one-note pulse, the drums carefully build until they take over the rhythm themselves and start jousting with the lead synthesizer as it solos crazily until about the 7-minute mark, when the instruments return to a looser, wilder version of the opening theme.

Side two (the songs are divided into parts I. and II. in the CD booklet) opens with "Gemini," an 11-minute creepfest/jazz odyssey that reminds me a bit of Djam Karet with its busy rhythm section interplay. The melancholic keyboard interlude "Andromeda" is next, followed by "Taurus," a march-of-the-dead drone into which a chirping synth pattern intrudes, becoming increasingly reverb-laden and discordant—a sonic accompaniment to a time-lapse film of maggots consuming a carcass.

This is an enjoyable release, and it's great to see Relapse branch out into this sort of thing. The musicianship is of a high standard and the production is rich and deep. Though I prefer Morte Macabre's Symphonic Holocaust for Goblin-esque thrills, this album rules in its own way, offering an equally valid take on soundtracks for the undead.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Somebody'sgot to set an example. Paul Baker had a great, if dated in terms of character and plot references, essay on Coronation Street on his web site. In it, he made the point that Corrie is often quite instructional in its portrayal of public behaviour. For example, if a character rode a bicycle, she would always be seen wearing the full complement of protective gear—helmet, reflective vest, clips 'round the trouser cuffs, etc. North Americans like to think that the Street is an oasis of gritty social realism, especially compared to American soaps. In Britain, though, Corrie is just mass entertainment, and about as realistic as any country's mass entertainment is when compared to real life in that country.

I was reminded of the concept of Coronation Street characters as exemplars of proper behaviour last week during the eight-hour post-Olympic mega Corrie omnibus. There was a scene where Martin Platt's mobile starts ringing while he's driving through Manchester. Did he answer the phone and continue driving? Did he heck as like. No, he pulled the car into a convenient parking spot, then picked up the phone. One should always devote one's full attention to driving.

I was impressed. Martin, you're a role model to us all. Except for the fact that you've shacked up with a 16-year-old.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
I've been bookless on transit for the past few weeks. At least I have metal mags to get me through the drought. They make me paranoid though; they blow my cover. I don't want to upset my seatmate when they glance over and get an eyeful of the half page Cattle Decapitation ad in Terrorizer or whatever I'm hunched over.

Fancy came through for me today and scored me a promo copy of Neil Peart's new book, Traveling Music. It came with the unspoken agreement that I'll be reviewing it for sub-T, so I'd better take notes while I read it.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Smash called me this evening to tell me that his girlfriend Mai had found something interesting in the sale bin at the Edmonds branch of the Burnaby Public Library—a cassette entitled Every Form of Refuge Has Its Price. The cover featured a blurry photo of someone who looked a little like me.

I'm sure the artist is touched that his work was housed for a time in this respected institution, just as I bet he's miffed that his music ended up in the bargain bin, probably mixed in with albums by Bim, Luba, or Greg Hawkes. Still, since every copy of Refuge was given away for free (so I heard), its worth has appreciated incalculably.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

When you’re shopping at thrift stores and putting a look together, there’s a fine line between Hipster and Children’s Entertainer. Those neon yellow clogs and that oversized plaid jacket might go great with your androgynous haircut, but don’t be surprised if children swarm you on the street, demanding balloon animals.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

I took Bruce Robinson's Paranoia in the Launderette on the bus with me today. I read it twice; it's only a wee book. The climactic scene contains one of the classic lines of all time: "I'm not in here to hurt anyone. I'm a professional writer."

What makes me paranoid in the launderette is the extractor—that rattling aluminum centrifuge. I don't trust it. Right when it reaches maximum RPMs, I'm afraid it's going to fly apart and pierce me with shrapnel. How well is it maintained? Will that kill switch really work? Does the 50 cents I feed it save me more than 50 cents of drying time, and is that worth the apparent danger?

Saturday, August 28, 2004

I had to look up "Fiji Mermaid" for a story on Mastodon I'm editing this morning. Here's one. Hott!

I think I'll go get the new Mastodon album today. The release date isn't for a few days, but I saw it in stores last weekend.

NP: Melvins – Stag

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

I witnessed a colossal car crash at Commercial and Broadway last Friday. I heard it first. I was on the bus, waiting for the light to cross Commercial. Everyone on the bus stood up and gasped. One guy even put down his cell phone in mid-conversation. I looked over in time to see a minivan roll over onto its side after being t-boned by a sporty sedan that (I think) had run the red light. Someone inside the minivan stuck his arm out the window as it came down to meet the pavement, like they thought they could hold the vehicle upright.

The sound of the crash really struck me. It wasn't just one huge "crash," it was two sounds. The initial impact made a loud popping noise, which was followed by a quick swishing sound of shattered glass hitting the road. POP-swish.

I hope everyone was okay. My bus waited for a minute at the intersection, then started on its route up Broadway. Near Fraser, we passed the ambulance heading to the scene.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Movies are an excellent way to feed your head when you've been cooped up too long. Fancylady and I went to Tinseltown Saturday afternoon to see Napoleon Dynamite, then decided to make it a “revenge-of-the-teenage-nerds” movie weekend by renting Elephant that night. We chose well; they’re both great movies. Napoleon fuses the underdog comedy of Freaks and Geeks with the Nowheresville, USA freakshow elements of Gummo and somehow gets everything right, with humour that isn’t crass or precious, just consistently, painfully hilarious. I’ll never grate cheese the same way again.

Elephant was completely different and just as good. It’s one of the most beautiful horror movies I’ve ever seen.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

That was scary.

Almost as soon as I got fancylady home from Sage Hill, she landed in a pile of female trouble. I'd just logged on at work Friday when I heard that Mel was taking her to emergency. I shut down and went over to VGH. Jenn was laid out in an emergency room, where she stayed for the next nine hours while every doctor and student doctor in the place stopped by to ask her the same questions. They added morphine to her drip at regular intervals, but it wasn't doing the job. At 1:00 AM she went for an exploratory, where the surgeon found something really bad and cut it out.

Despite the aftereffects of surgery and enough morphine to knock out Keith Richards, she was back to her old self on Saturday. God, it was such a huge relief not to see her in pain anymore. The scariest events on Saturday were (for me) phoning fancy's mom, whose reaction was predictible ("This is the last thing I need"), and (for fancy) when her IV vein collapsed and her hand went all puffy. We can smile about it now, but at the time it was terrible.

I brought her back to our place on Sunday. She's mobile over short distances and eating lots of frozen yoghurt. Thanks to Mel for being a good, decisive friend, to Adam and Erin for also being so great, to Jimmy Pattison for his Pavilion, and nurses Trish and Lindsay for not being afraid to open the medicine cabinet and for taking such good care of the belter.

I've tuned my guitar down to B for my new gore-grind number, "Ovarian Torsion and Necrosis."

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

With Fancylady writing like mad in Sage Hill for ten days, I figured I might as well fly somewhere and do something creative too. So I WestJetted to Edmonton last Wednesday night to visit my friend Greg and the rest of the Pohl-Deneka clan. We had five days' worth of jamming and recording in Greg's garage studio, along with our Dead City Radio bandmate Adam. We got a lot done—overdubbing songs we'd recorded the previous two years and writing a half dozen new things. I think we've got enough material now for about three decent-length releases, including the highly anticipated Burgess Shale project due sometime in 2005.

Hanging out with the Pohl-Denekas is always fun. Their place is somewhere in the woods outside Sherwood Park. I lose all sense of direction when I'm out there. The road's out front and the trees are in the back; that's all I know. It's quieter and far more rural than Mayne Island. There, we get deer tiptoeing through the arbutus leaves, whereas Barb and Greg have moose plowing through their back forty, leaving piles of golfball-sized poops behind. We went for a walk through the backyard trails one afternoon, which is when I got most of my bug bites. The mosquitoes are vicious this year, swarming and aggressive, frantically injecting anticoagulants the second they land on you.

Back to the fun. You'd have a hard time finding a cooler family than the Pohl-Denekas. I could almost be persuaded that breeding in the 21st Century is a good idea based on the example they set. Greg and Barb's kids, Amelia (7) and Colin (4) are at a really enjoyable age. Amelia walks around with a habitual giggle that sounds like she's enjoying one of a large stash of private jokes. Colin's into performing whisper-to-a-scream versions of "This Old Man" daily, strumming the open strings of a guitar and stopping when the numbers get too high or he runs out of rhymes ("This old man, he played seven, he played knick-knack on his...Oh no."). They're both good, happy kids, and like their folks, there's nothing about the natural world that they don't know. Thanks to Amelia, I'll never mistake a damselfly for a dragonfly ever again.

So it goes without saying that the parenting is top-notch, but Greg and Barb are both maintaining their own scenes (and, ergo, their sanity)—Barb with her yoga training and Greg with the music. When the adult interests and the child-rearing clash, it's usually pretty funny, such as an incident last week when Greg had to pick a clump of Silly Putty off his reunion tour Pixies hoodie.

Yeah, everything's pretty harmonious out there in the woods, except for the noise we make out in the garage.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

I had to break my boycott of the Five Point last weekend for a friend's surprise birthday party. I didn't let my lapsed principles give me too much angst; after all, I don't get to see this particular friend too often and it turned out to be a fun party.

I have another source of angst now—the party photos that were emailed around today. I've never taken a good photo (nor do I give good oil painting), but these ones take the cake. I'm a husk of a man. The rot has set in, and I haven't cracked 40. From the neck down, I've become Mr. Furley.

I need to get back on track and start reviewing albums again. In the meantime, here's a top 10:
1. Witchcraft – Witchcraft
2. Dead City Radio – rough mixes
3. Neurosis – The Eye of Every Storm
4. Sonic Youth – Sonic Nurse
5. IQ – Dark Matter
6. PJ Harvey – Uh Huh Her
7. Neurosis and Jarboe – Neurosis and Jarboe
8. Brian Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)
9. Ayreon – The Human Equation
10. Voivod – War and Pain box set

Thursday, July 22, 2004

You can take the boy out of Burnaby...
Robert "Rob" Feenie is a neighbourhood kid done good (not that Willingdon Black and I aren't holding our own), especially if one's status is based on accumulated appearances in Malcolm Parry's column. I had to laugh today when I read in the paper that he offers a gourmet hot dog called "Feenie's Weenie" at one of his establishments. I guess the rhymes that made the rounds of the Cascade Heights Elementary playground really left some scars.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

I bought a couple of books from Continuum's 33 1/3 series on my last trip to Victoria. Number 3 in the series is about Neil Young's Harvest, and number 6 is everything you wanted to know about Piper at the Gates of Dawn. I thought they were both pretty useful. Sam Inglis's examination of Harvest not only lays out Young's early career succinctly (I've never had a good grasp of its chronology and the circumstances surrounding his involvement with CSNY), it includes an interesting discussion of the clash between popular success (represented by Harvest) and critical success (Tonight's the Night, for example). Plus it has lots of information about the recording sessions themselves—about non-guitarist Jack Nitzsche playing slide on "Are You Ready For the Country?" and forcing drummer Kenny Buttrey to play the title track with one hand, for example.

John Cavanagh's Pink Floyd book is more of a time capsule, concentrating on the extraordinary era that birthed the band. The historical material (a fair bit of it taken from a 1966/67 CBC Radio piece that I had a tape of for a while) is woven into a track-by-track dissection of Piper...—as with the Neil Young book, all the fine points of recording and songwriting are given plenty of attention. The discussion of The Floyd as musicians is quite funny and reassuring. Producer Norman Smith: "Nick Mason would be the first to admit that he was no kind of technical drummer. I remember recording a number—I can't now recall which one—and there had to be a drum roll, and he didn't have a clue what to do. So, I had to do that." Peter Jenner: "Nick, when all is said and done, was not a very good drummer, but he was a very good Pink Floyd drummer." Of course, a lot of words concern the short-lived genius of their guitarist and main songwriter, but the book avoids pandering to the cult of Barrett. If you want to know how to play "Astronomy Domine" and what the strange noises at the end of "Bike" are, put on your scarlet tunic and curl up with this.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Cypress was packing a CD wallet when she arrived on Saturday, so now we're listening to Let Go by young Avril, that rebellious thrower of the devil horns. This thing's like a mini-pops version of Jagged Little Pill. Alanis has a lot to answer for. I guess Cypress's choice of prefab teen idol could be worse. As Fancy puts it, at least Avril wears clothes.

My sister reports that Owen, my 4-year-old nephew, is turning into a guitar freak. He's having trouble with the lingo, though. According to Owen, an acoustic guitar is an "air guitar." My sister has explained to him what playing air guitar actually means, but he can't grasp the concept. Now he wants an air guitar for his birthday. Can anyone recommend an air luthier? Money's no object; only the finest air instrument will do for my nephew.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Fancy and I spent four excellent days at Mayne last weekend. We needed to go where it’s quiet and the nights are properly dark. We got some sun, barbecued every night, watched eagles and bats fly around, and listened to Harvest a lot. Grandad’s Volaré ran like a dream, and looked badass parked among the Audi SUVs at Miner’s Bay.

The inventory of things to do on Mayne is limited, and we were so hell-bent on relaxing that we let most of them slide. We’ve got the rest of the summer to ride bikes, hike up Mt. Parke, and throw the Frisbee onto
the roof.

We walked out to the point a couple hours before we had to leave on Sunday. The tide was really low—the bay looked like it was in danger of draining away completely—so we decided to go along the shore instead of
taking the overland trail. The beach gets rocky close to the point, and hopping from boulder to boulder is the only way to progress. Jumping down from one rock to another, I heard a little yelp and looked down. There was a little grey seal pup right at my feet, wedged into a crook where three rocks met. From what I could see, one of the seal’s flippers was pinned under its body, and it couldn’t climb out. Otherwise, it looked healthy (if a little dry) and nervous. When Fancy leaned in for a close look it snapped and hissed at her. Fierce. We weren’t equipped to just grab the pup and see if we could work the flipper loose—Fancy suggested an
elaborate system of ropes and pulleys would do the trick—so we walked on, enjoyed the view at the point for half a minute, then hurried home, where I called the vet’s office and asked them to notify the nearest Wildlife
Rescue crew. I hope the little blighter made out okay.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

I stopped by my parents’ place on the way home yesterday and mowed their lawn. Lawn-mowing is good therapy. It’s an opportunity to think deep thoughts while leaving behind a satisfying expanse of well-manicured greenness. I used to write lots of songs while mowing the lawn.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the time I got kicked out of the band. In 1980 we had this band called Upstart, and we had a logo (our name shooting like a mortar shell out of a smoke cloud) and we had band meetings and we contributed to a band fund so we could buy band stuff. Everyone was expected to show up and pay up. In this respect, our band was similar to a golden agers’ Kraft Klub.

If I remember correctly, the guys wanted to get a Radio Shack strobe light for our basement concerts. I thought the idea was counter-productive to our musical progression. Surely we could save our money towards an item more directly related to rocking. I began contributing to the band fund under protest, preferring to spend my lawn-mowing earnings on Queen albums instead.

The band fund eventually split us apart. I stopped paying up and some slight occurred that I took to heart. I formed a grudge against my bandmates. I’m a little scared by my ability to hold a grudge. It’s an inherited trait, I’m afraid, and one that I’ve tried to suppress in recent years. But when I was 14 and I got a grudge on, look out.

Maintaining the grudge was a challenge though because of the concert we all had tickets for. It wasn’t just any concert, it was my first concert: Rush and Saga at the Pacific Coliseum. I was excited beyond belief about it, yet I’d be sitting in the same row as my self-estranged friends. My grudge was badly timed.

It seems that every rite of passage in my life has been complicated by some misjudgment or fuckup on my part. This evening was a good example. When I got to my seat, my friends (and one parent, the Jeff “Skunk” Baxter-like Mr. Sandquist) were already there. I remember them leaning over to say hi to me, and I ignored them. Mr. Sandquist offered me his seat so I could sit with my friends, but I turned him down. I was determined to be a prick.

The concert was amazing and changed my life, etc. My memories of Rush’s Permanent Waves tour are much more vivid than my recollection of the band squabbles at the time.

The day after the concert I got kicked out of the band.

I rolled with it pretty well. My parents had just bought the place on Mayne, so there was lots of work to do. I rode my bike a lot and hacked out some new trails in the bush.

A few months later, Alick and Mark came by and asked me if I wanted to join again. I don’t remember us negotiating any terms. I do remember saying yes, and that I was mowing my parents’ front lawn when they approached me.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Of all bands, I think Budgie come closest to embodying the DiffMusic spirit—eccentric, neglected, and downright heavy as they were. Amassing their catalogue was one of the most enjoyable record collecting quests I've ever embarked on. They made me work for each LP, but not too hard...and the music on every album made the effort well worth it. There's no "sell out" album, no half-assed change of direction that embittered me on first hearing. They did it right, stayed true, and I (along with thousands of other fans) salute them for it.

So I feel damn lucky to have been at the Brickyard last night to see the Pete Boot All-Stars. Pete Boot was Budgie's drummer on their best-selling album, 1974's brilliant In For the Kill. In the decades since, he's been cursed with Parkinson's disease and is now raising funds to fight it via his "Fill Your Head With Rock" campaign.

The gig started with Hooded Fang, a heavy trio with solid (if not stunning) musicianship and better-than-average songs. Good stuff; I wouldn't mind catching them again sometime.

During the break, a tall, balding gentleman set up a double-kick drum kit on stage. Could this be Mr. Boot? Yes. A few minutes later, he and the band (two guitarists—from local bands Sir Hedgehog and STREETS—playing Tony Bourge's parts, and a bass-playing Burke Shelley substitute courtesy of The Feminists) started to play "In For the Kill," which went into "Breadfan"! I've been to some unfathomable gigs in my time, but this one was quickly taking the cake.

Between songs, "Burke" explained that Mr. Boot had heard about some local gigs that had been organized in aid of his charity, and was in town to check things out for himself. Bearing in mind that the band couldn't have had much time to rehearse, the results were quite good. Budgie songs aren't exactly verse-chorus-verse constructions, but the players had obviously done their homework and got most of the change-ups right. And Pete's affliction didn't stop him from giving the kit a good thwacking.

From there they tackled "Hammer and Tongs," "Parents," and "Zoom Club," with a couple covers thrown in: "White Room" and "Moby Dick," closing out the show with a drum solo. At the end, Pete got out from behind the drums, took the mike, and said his bit for World Peace.

Ten Miles Wide, a cranky-sounding sludge trio, played last. Their crabby songs and delivery contrasted with some between-song jocularity. Were the band really as anti-social as they sounded? Their set was about the right length, filling my head with enough rock to tide me over for at least a couple days.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

I went to Roadbed's album release gig at the Railway on Friday. Roger Dean Young and Tin Cup opened up with their laid-back deep woods music and In 3's played last, with a guest violinist and a set of mostly improvised tunes, punctuated with quotes from Radiohead, U2, and a whole Roadbed song.

I marked the Roadbed exam. Super gave me instructions to select the most unique scores for consideration. Well, there was only one perfect score (6/6) and one person who got zero (that would be Shockk), and a huge pile of fives and threes. A couple people had doodled all over their exams, so I decided it should be an art contest instead of a Roadbed trivia quiz, and submitted those to Super when it was time to pick a winner.

What I love about Roadbed is that they play a lot of unrecorded material, and one of the new songs inevitably becomes a new favourite. In the early days it was "Scarb Jacket," (which ended up on Knockout Hits) and lately it's been "King's Quest" (which I only got to hear a couple times live before it showed up on Last Dance @ the Shockcenter). Now my favourite Roadbed song is the one with this crazy Iron Maiden triplet part that comes out of nowhere. No idea what it's called. They played it about three songs in on Friday night.

All in all, a good ploy to keep me coming back for more.

Monday, June 14, 2004

I got one of these, so I can stink up the joint on the quiet.

My sister the tiny doctor got home from her round-the-world trip last week. She surfed in Costa Rica, Holidayed in Cambodia, fell down a crevasse in Nepal, and got swarmed by gypsies in Rome. It's good to have her back, and in one piece too.

Saturday night I hung out with Smash and his stereo. Checked out Motörhead's 156th record (it lives up to Smash's hype, based on the iron fistful of tracks I heard) and got reacquainted with the OSI album. I put on the new Monster Magnet and wished that it sounded like old Pentagram. It has some great songs that could carry a lot more impact if the production and musicianship weren't so faceless.

I spent most of Sunday at my parents' place, watching sport on the television. Michael trounced Ralf in Montreal, then England snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in Portugal. Demoralized, I left to go jam with the Kings of Patrick, but the compound was locked when I got there. I figured festivities had been cancelled, so I went home and listened to the new PJ Harvey instead. Turns out I should have lingered; I missed everyone by a couple of minutes, judging by the post-mortem emails that went around last night.

Fancylady returns from Toronto tomorrow, where she's been sleeping it off in non-luxury accommodations. I can't wait to see her, just as she can't wait to have a bedroom equipped with a clock radio again.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

I took a long bath this morning and listened to the radio. Brent Bambury's Go had an interesting topic: the gap between classical and pop music and how we can bridge the gap between these two solitudes. With all the discussion of music past and present that had attempted to straddle both worlds, I didn't hear the "p" word mentioned once, even disparagingly. Radiohead got a mention, as did Warp Records and IDM. They interviewed Greg Sandow, a modern composer whose stuff sounded like the Dirty Three, but not as good.

I thought they missed a lot of opportunities to talk about music that's right under their noses, like Constellation Records, Godspeed You Black Emperor! & offshoots, and Do Make Say Think. They even could have interviewed me, I suppose, if not for the fact that I can't string two coherent sentences together.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

I spent the beginning of the week in Victoria, where I roadied for Anvil Press. Fancylady and I staffed the book table at the launch for Charles Tidler's Going to New Orleans ("a spiritual book, as well as a dirty one"). It was a boozy good time in the Collard Room at Swan's Brew Pub.

As soon as we got home, Fancy had to take off again to Toronto for a week's worth of Book Expo. I'm missing her like crazy already. I spent most of last evening hiding in the bedroom while my landlord finished installing our stained glass windows. Of course, "finished" is a relative term when Max is involved. There's still some bits of trim that need replacing, but Max reassured me that he'll do them "some day."

At least I can contemplate the stained-glass viking ship in our kitchen window. In the morning light on an overcast day like this, it's a fine, fine thing.

Valhalla, I am coming...

Sunday, June 06, 2004

It's a longstanding joke around the household that I have the whitest record collection in the world. It's a fair cop.

All I'll say is, can you imagine a black person getting teased by his black friends for listening to nothing but black music? Wouldn't the presence of, say, a Yes album cause more of an uproar, and be grounds for social ostracism (just as it is for thousands of white kids)?

Maybe not. NPR's Tom Terrell talks about where he and his friends found the funk.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

My hair is getting long, approaching its David Sanborn/Pat Metheny apogee and requiring maintenance that I don't have time to give it. It's wavier than usual, too. I'm blaming The Dirt, the autobiography of Mötley Crüe, which Smash lent me last weekend. There's scenes in it that would curl Johnny Winter's hair.

It's a good-looking book, though, and edited extremely well by Neil Strauss. The classy presentation bolsters the shock value of its scum-laden, decadent content. Compare it to Paul Dianno's The Beast (which, granted, I've just leafed through at the Sox house) and the Maiden singer's chronicle of violence & sex seems decidedly ho-hum.

Back to the hair. Here's the gospel according to Nikki Sixx: "If there's one genetic trait that automatically disqualifies a man from being able to rock, it's curly hair. Nobody cool has curly hair; people like Richard Simmons, the guy from Greatest American Hero, and the singer from REO Speedwagon have curls. The only exceptions are Ian Hunter from Mott the Hoople, whose hair is more tangled than curly, and Slash, but his hair is fuzzy and that's cool."

See, this is why I retired from the stage. If only Sammy Hagar would take my cue.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Did you hear that thin, atonal whine last night? That was me, practising the world’s smallest violin. I got inspired by Rex Murphy’s report about Western Alienation on The National. Sharrup and join the country already.

Iced Earth with Children of Bodom and Evergrey at the Commodore May 14
Evergrey went over well despite some sludgy warmup act sound. CoB were just okay—the set was a carbon copy of their opening slot on the Nevermore tour. Their act carried a lot more impact on my first exposure. The guitar/keyboard “metalvishnu” duels were still entertaining, especially when you see how the crowd laps it up. Everyone loves solos, and the mania that CoB injects them with is worth experiencing. In between sets everyone made their own fun by singing along to Iron Maiden on the P.A. (Nearly every second person had a Maiden shirt on.) I expected Iced Earth to be a Nevermore-style disappointment, but they delivered surprisingly well. It helps that they’ve got Ripper Owens on board. He’s a proper heavy metal singer, just as Iced Earth are a proper heavy metal band. Despite their skill at fusing the key metal influences of the past 20 years (the epic heaviness of early Metallica, the speedy riffing of Slayer and Iron Maiden’s narrative songwriting and conceptual tendencies) their material becomes generic and indistinguishable after a while, much like a mixture of primary colours that produces a sludgy brown or black. Iced Earth don’t really have enough great songs scattered amongst their umpteen albums to sustain a 2-hour set. For a casual fan like me, their decision to “encore” with their 30-plus-minute Battle of Gettysburg piece was unfortunate, as they’d really run out of songs by that point. Playing what was essentially a second set was a bad move. It was all in one ear and out the other.

Avenged Sevenfold at Richard’s on Richards May 16
A gig for the hell of it, because I didn’t know any of the bands. Openers Noise Ratchet were terrible. I’d hope that kids these days would set their sights higher than Soul Asylum and the Goo Goo Dolls. Apparently not. A7x were ferocious all right, but they didn’t connect with me. Certain elements appealed—the twin leads, their self-assurance on stage, the dry ice. A7x are a crack outfit, no question. But it was a little pat, and as Smash noted, the kids in the band looked too clean and healthy to generate any true scum intrigue. It didn't matter how much ink they had or how much eyeliner they caked on. The pit loved A7x’s whole deal, singing along with every chorus. As Smash said to me later, "I can definitely see the appeal if you knew the tunes and lyrics." As it was, I just felt like a wallflower at a very loud party hosted by friends of a friend of a friend.

Monday, May 31, 2004

With fancylady in Winnipeg, I was on my own all weekend. I kept my spirits up by reading her guestbook (more devastating zingers from Nelson’s Lululem*n coven) and hanging out with Smash on Saturday night. We got into some USA Is a Monster (an amazing Henry Cow-core duo we saw opening for Vialka and Raking Bombs at the Brickyard a month or two ago) and Guapo and Voivod and Neurosis. That kind of sustained heaviness is good for what ails you.

Sunday bloody Sunday. I had a rough morning. Caution: this is gross. I hadn’t slept well and I’d worked up a sizable blood blister inside my mouth overnight. I thought it was a lesion on first inspection. Great. They'd have to amputate my face to stop it spreading. Then I poked at it some more and brought on a small haemorrhage. Sure it looked cool, like Gene Simmons chomping on his blood capsules before “God of Thunder,” but in the context of my medical emergency I couldn’t appreciate the effect to its fullest. I also had a phone interview to do with a guy from Finland in 10 minutes, and I couldn’t face it. “Sorry, dude, I’d love to discuss your musical influences, but I’m drooling blood onto the handset.”

I got stood up for my interview and the blister situation sorted itself out before I lost consciousness. I described the incident to my mum, certified teethgrinder and sleep disorder authority, when I went over for Sunday dinner with the folks. It was old hat to her, which was comforting...yet not comforting.

Friday, May 21, 2004

What's in my bag?

Since Christmas I've been taking music to work. It helps me manage my time. This is what I'm hauling around this week:

Knuckletracks LXXVIII
What is that, 78?Not a lot of good stuff on this. Listening to it, I realized there's a lot of unnecessary metalcore out there. Martin Popoff deserves some kinda prize for the blurbs he generates for the sleevenotes for the Knuckletracks every month. "If you wish to peer into the crinkled crease of goth metal's future, then look no deeper than this insanely intellectually electronically textured Italian cabal." Sold.

Cryonic Temple: Blood, Guts and Glory
I got this promo in the mail, and I'm still so naive that I feel I must listen carefully to everything I get for free. This is power metal, with song titles containing the words "sword" (twice), "steel," "thunder," "warriors," and “metal.” This doesn’t really float my (long)boat.

Gothic Knights: Up From the Ashes
Another power metal promo. Songs include the words “warrior” (twice), “flames,” “ashes,” and “vampyre.” The first tune is called “Power and the Glory,” but it’s not a Saxon cover. Dammit. Again, not my thing. I own Walls of Jericho already.

Tiles: Window Dressing
The new Tiles album is great. I need to review this in full soon.

TOC: Loss Angeles
An interesting “Let’s throw it against the wall and see what sticks” kind of album. Sentenced/Amorphis metal, a power ballad, Entombed-type death metal, and “Smoke on the Water.” I’m going to interview these guys next week.

Roadbed: Last Dance @ the Shockcenter
This one cheers me up quite a bit. Another one I have to review in full when I get the time.

Spring: s/t
I’ve been seeking this for a while, and found it at A&B last weekend. Spring’s one album must have sold in the dozens in 1971, and here it is with three bonus tracks. Very cool mellow/dark early prog featuring Pat Moran (who went on to record Rush, Van der Graaf, and others at Rockfield Studios) and original Dire Straits drummer Pick Withers.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Saturday morning we walked over to Trout Lake for the first farmers’ market of the season. We got some groovy vegetables, some groovy grains, and some groovy meat (if meat can be groovy). I also got a Hershey’s Kiss and a maple leaf pin from Libby Davies. My friend Brian from work was there, busking with his pal Dave and one of the smallest dogs in the world. It was a good way to begin Fancylady’s cancer walk training. The round trip must have been around 8K.

Speaking of meat and its preparation, I became obsessed with liquid smoke a couple weeks ago. What the hell is liquid smoke? What’s in it? It can’t be good to pour smoke on food, can it? I picked up a bottle I found in the IGA's BBQ sauce section and scanned the ingredients. I regretted it immediately.

“Ingredients: Liquid smoke.”

Sunday, May 16, 2004

"'Cold Gin', too, deserves special analysis. Drinking straight gin is no one's idea of fun, and it's hard to imagine how the song could refer to it being 'Cold gin time again' when it's so unlikely that there ever would have been a first time."

An excellent appreciation of Kiss: Alive!. Takes me back to the days when we suspected Paul Stanley was black.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

I need to step away from the news for a while. I’m increasingly unable to deal with what’s going on. Every week brings a new nadir. Even though I think it’s my responsibility to find out what’s happening in the world, all I’m feeling is frustration to the point of dementia. Everything starts to feed into that state of mind. Freelance prison guards in Iraq are the same as drivers running the red at my crosswalk are the same as Ralph Klein presenting his plagiarized essay is the same as the woman who chides the paraplegic for hogging the sidewalk in his wheelchair is the same as a hooded guerilla with a machete…and so on. It’s not good.

So I’ll consider turning off the news until I hear suicide bombers detonating down the block, but I don't think I can. Rumsfeld's the one who's stopped reading the papers.

While I’m in this buoyant mood, the belter’s mom calls tonight with the following story. A segment of the extended family—some cousins or other from Saskatchewan—cash in their Air Miles and go to California for a “last hurrah,” as the old woman puts it. At an amusement park, the eldest daughter goes on a ride that fuses her contact lenses to her eyes. The high G-forces did it, apparently. Back at the hotel, she tries to remove her contacts and rips out her corneas. Post-surgery, she may get some of her sight back. But according to fancylady’s mom, “She screamed night and day. There was nothing they could give her for the pain.”

Always a treat to talk to Debbie Downer.

Tonight I’m going to read some more of my new library book. I'm up for it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Hey, fancylady is getting fitted for a fanny pack in preparation for the Weekend to End Breast Cancer 60 K walk, so I urge all five of you to cash in yer empties and give.

I think one of you may have already.

I just got back from the Sanctuary, where I was returning a mike & stand to Super Robertson. Super's always got plans, though I never fully understand what they are. Tonight it was something about the Robertson Chronicles and the Canada Lynx site. Before we left he directed my attention to the centrally located four-track and played me a storming new song. God, I wish I had a storming new song.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Urge Overkill May 3, Richard’s on Richards
I’m one of those grumpy people who didn’t get on board with the Pixies reunion. If I had to succumb to early '90s nostalgia, then a show by the 2/3 reunited Urge Overkill would do it, mostly because I never saw them during their eight months of glory. Besides, their low-key emergence from the “where are they now?” file had a sketchy underdog appeal that I felt like supporting.

Openers The Last Vegas wore Kiss and Motley Crue shirts and did their best to rock properly. Too bad they were mired in Goddo-like mediocrity, playing an overlong set of originals that I wished had been covers. The muddy sound didn’t help their cause.

Urge’s set didn’t sound much better, but at least they had the songs. As I expected, most of the tunes were pulled from the Geffen albums. The band consisted of Nash and King fronting a rhythm section that included the drummer from The Last Vegas. Although some of the songs’ finer points got lost in the ruckus, it was easy to get caught up in the good-natured Cheap Trickery on display. King worked hard, sweating through his suit while Nash kept cool in a white tank top/satin trousers ensemble, completing the dishevelled bar-band glam look with a silver Paul Stanley guitar.

Urge deserved more hits than they had...or if not more hits, then different hits. I’m still annoyed that most people remember the band because of that lame Neil Diamond cover. They dispensed with it during the first encore, then brought the show to a power-pop saturation point with “Crack Babies,” “Sister Havana,” and (finally!) “Stalker.” That's all I needed to leave happy.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

I saw Roadbed last Friday at Café Deux Soleils. They played a short set of mostly new songs, along with old numbers like "Gibbering Fool" and "Scarb Jacket" (played at 2x speed). I was curious to see how they were making out with their new drummer, SIMIAN. He's acquired the requisite Roadbed nickname, now how does he compare to the departed Two-Sticks Hobbs? Well, he's a different primate entirely. While Hobbs had a relaxed presence and light touch (both qualities that I admired), SIM is a more boisterous musical entity, putting an authoritative stamp on the old material and injecting lots of his own ideas into the new stuff (as far as I could tell). He's also a seriously versatile singer. Quite a find.

I will try to review the new album, Last Dance at the Shockk Centre, soon. It's a belter.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

I hope everyone enjoyed BC Book and Magazine Week. Fancylady and I managed to do a lot. I also made time for some rock.

Monday: Readings at Cuppa Joe on 4th for a joint subTerrain/Event magazine launch. The subTerrain readers covered stuff from the previous issue of the mag, including the latest Lush Triumphant contest winner and runner up. On the Event side, Jeremiah Aherne entertained us with his tales of rampant alcohol abuse. He tells a good story. It was good to see WB and the closer there, along with my old captioning colleague Wayne, husband of Cathy from Event. Small world.

Wednesday: headed straight to Vibes Lounge after work for an Anvil/Talonbooks/New Star reading. The scary-smart and very cool Mary Lou Rowley read from her brand-new Anvil collection, Viral Suite. I like her poems; they incorporate a lot of hard science that she’s adapted from the medical reportage she’s done. I became a bigger fan after meeting her and learning that she’s already picked out which Viral Suite poem would work best for Poetry in Transit. With fancy’s help, “Casual Mythology IV” could be enlightening commuters next season. (Thanks to SR for lending the mic + stand.)

Later on Wednesday I went to The Drink with Smash and Mai to see 24Unity and “support the resurgence of arena rock.” That’s how MMO from 24U put it in his pre-show emails, anyway, and how could I not heed his call to arms? The opening bands blew, so we played Ted Nugent pinball as the mediocrity raged behind us. Judging by my scores, the Nuge could obviously sense that a commie peacenik was working the flippers. Yet he smiled upon Smash, who doesn’t have a loincloth or crossbow to his name (as far as I know), but who does have a couple decades of pinball wizardry behind him. 24U redeemed the evening with their quality songs and MMO’s frankly amazing guitar playing. Hooray for arena rock (even when it’s played in front of 20 people in a dance club).

Thursday: The BCAMP Cabaret at the Five Point on Main, presented by CBC Radio and hosted by Sheryl MacKay. A lot of folks from Monday night were there, along with the excellent Adam and Rain and John Vigna, whose friend Nancy Lee read a story from Dead Girls during the first half of the evening. It might have been a great event if it weren’t for the venue. Apparently at the last minute the Five Point backed out of its agreement to host the cabaret exclusively that night, and so we had to endure the farce of one half of the room watching the hockey game and raising a ruckus while the other half of the room strained to hear the readers. It was awful for the readers, audience, and organizers, who got rogered soundly by the idiot who runs the Five Point. By the time the final reader got on stage, the place had been fully invaded by gel monkeys and assorted Shannons and the grossest kind of pod people slumming it on Main Street. Boycott the Five Point; they’re the enemy.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Drift, Saturday, April 17 at the Ridge
The theatre was about 2/3 full, and the atmosphere was strange. Were we here for a concert? Were we here for a film? Two 16-mm projectors and a sound board were set up in the middle of the theatre. A chair, a guitar and an amplifier sat on stage left. Lee Ranaldo came up, sat down, and shuffled papers around for a minute or two. He fiddled with a box to his right and got some ambient sounds going. Two images appeared side by side on the screen behind him—leaves in sunlight. The pictures changed like slides at various rates on each side. I could hear the projectors go tick…tick…tick, tick-tick-tick, tickticktick as their speed altered. They provided the beat, audibly and visually.

Lee picked up his guitar (Fender Mustang or equivalent) and added to the soundscape. It had a very Sonic tuning, and little fragments of SY songs came into my head at times (isn’t that “Teenage Riot”?). He leaned it into the amp, scraped the headstock along the floor, tapped it with a drumstick, and (this was cool) spun the tremolo arm around so that it sounded like a single empty train car going past. On the screen, an antique doll came apart and reassembled itself, while a firework pinwheel spun forwards and backwards sending out, then sucking in, smoke and sparks. At various points, Lee put down his guitar and read some poetry or what sounded like diary entries. The centrepiece of the show was a section about Lee’s impressions of the days after 9/11 as a citizen of NYC. It went from worrying about the air quality, to a bike ride through surreal Manhattan streets, and finally to finding, near the WTC site, several piles of office workers’ shoes on the sidewalk. It was one of those rare 9/11 pieces that did not suck.

“Drift” was a suitable name for this show. All the elements flowed without interruption for 70 minutes or so. I’m sure the show changes a lot from night to night, with different “happy accidents” that only the performers would be aware of during each performance. I think describing it like I’ve tried to here doesn’t really capture Drift’s more ephemeral qualities. Maybe if I got to see it again…

Saturday, April 10, 2004

I had a good chat with Henrik, guitarist for Evergrey, yesterday for the next Unrestrained! mag. I still don't think I'm the most scintillating interviewer yet, but I felt pretty good about the whole thing. So far I've lucked out by talking to people who know how the game works and who are well used to talking to inarticulate metal geeks. You can just steer them around to a general topic, and away they go. Of course I have higher goals as an interviewer than that, but I'll take whatever works for now.

The new Evergrey album, The Inner Circle, is really strong. I took the promo disk to work and after half a dozen listens or so, it grew on me quite a bit. The songs are catchy yet complex, and don't adhere to the Dream Theater/Helloween template that kills most prog-metal dead for me. For a concept album it's well-executed. It has a good flow and seems to be split into two halves like albums of yore...and it's a relatively restrained 48 minutes long. It's also very dark and Euro-melodramatic, with samples of different voices popping up at various points to bolster the storyline. There's a good balance of elements, and it's obvious they put a lot of hard work into it. I respect that it took me a few tries to get into, and that it's not the easiest pill to swallow. A concept album about religious cults and infanticide shouldn't be an effortlessly digestable confection.
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This morning I overheard Fancy and Cypress talking about music. Cypress claimed that the Swiffer song is one of the catchiest songs ever. We need some Devo in this house, but I'm afraid it's too late. "She's deliberately trying to make me feel a thousand years old," says Fancy.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

No Limit Cat Burn With Fruit
part thumb at taste science though edge knowledge only left kiss he through then number broken tail almost name roll

I'm getting this sort of magnetic poetry/Melvins lyrics-style spam these days. It would be cool if it wasn't so evil and annoying.

shoe belief machine degree natural neck right cheap blow small tail bridge book for with doubt potato quiet rest position nerve not almost kiss kick organization wing female angry violent jump sneeze advertisement twist jump no limit cat burn with fruit humorice milk system see tree bright harbor other detail judge normal snake

Empire Games
On a side trip this morning to Benwell-Atkins, I walked down Glen Street past the VCC King Edward Campus. There's a little historical plaque at Glen and 8th that I've never noticed before. It pays homage to the Empire Oval, the velodrome built for the 1954 British Empire Games and demolished in 1980 to make way for the college.

The plaque features a tranquil and mysterious B&W photo of the empty racetrack, with its banked corners shining in the sunlight. I remember driving by it as a kid, but I never saw it up close. The velodrome was clearly a beautiful thing and I'm sure a lot of people were sad to see it join the other obsolete and dismantled sports facilities that litter this city.

I have the feeling that British Empire Games defined Vancouver in a way that Expo didn't and that the 2010 Olympics won't. Everybody knows about Landy and Bannister, but the games must have generated a lot of other compelling stories. Perhaps ACM can point me to the appropriate resources.

Other than stories, is there anything left of the 1954 Games? I think Empire Games Pool is still a going concern. There's the Miracle Mile Statue on the PNE grounds near Empire Stadium, which itself is long gone, bulldozed and trucked to the landfills like most of Vancouver's history.

And I guess the British Empire became the less Imperialist-sounding British Commonwealth. The task of modern-day empire building, as we're seeing, has been taken on by a bunch of amateurs.