Thursday, August 31, 2006
I like to write about music that random visitors to the site might actually buy and hear for themselves, but I have to make an exception for this. Something really nice happened to me last week and writing something about it should help explain the idiot grin I’ve been sporting recently.
For the last two years a couple of my friends (Greg Pohl and Smash) have been secretly working on an album of cover songs... covers of my songs, as it turns out. Don’t ask me why; maybe they thought the music had some potential in the hands of competent musicians—I think my songs, with their basic musicianship, are sort of blank canvases. Greg and Smash solicited contributions from other friends in bands, assembled some odds & ends from old tapes, and ended up with 17 tracks worth of stuff. Smash even managed to trick me into giving him a new tune. I really had no idea until Smash sat me down at his place last Tuesday before the Tool/Isis show, poured us each a measure of The Balvenie (a recent gift from Willingdon Black), and fired up this disc.
For those who don’t know me, a bit of musical history. I’ve been playing drums since I was 12, though you wouldn’t know this if you saw or heard me. Good drummers are athletes, and I haven’t got a jock bone in my body. After playing in neighbourhood bands, always with my friend Willingdon Black, I realized that being a gigging musician was not for me, and I dropped out for the first time around age 22. I was into music more than ever, though, and needed an outlet more true to my introverted self. Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth and Peter Hammill provided the songwriting lessons, pawnshops provided the guitars, my oft-vacationing parents supplied the recording space, and I got to work with my new Tascam 424. I was into the idea of creating artifacts—tapes with my own songs and packaging. Trade ‘em with your friends! I got the recording bug, and started living for those few minutes when I’d finish tracking a song, give it a quick mixdown, then blast the result through the living room. Sometimes I’d laugh my head off—I liked those songs the best. It’s like what Stuart Ross said about his writing: “…I’ll look at what I’ve written and say, ‘That’s some weird shit I write.’ And that’s what writing poetry is all about.” That’s what my songs are all about. They’re just me being weird, and having something to show for the insane amounts of leisure time with which I've been blessed during my lifetime.
Fortunately my friends are just as weird. Look at this track listing! The Shockker (ex-Roadbed, currently of punk kings Mongoose) gives “Fort” a good thrashing, coerces Mongoose frontman RC to help turn my song fragment “Alison Reynolds” into a breezy little pop tune, then crashes a 21 Tandem Repeats rehearsal, reforms Roadbed with Two-Sticks and Super Robertson, and blows through an insanely great version of “Grandad’s Volare,” which always needed a full-band treatment. There’s no better combo than Roadbed to do it. Greg Pohl takes control for a Red House Painterly treatment of “TDK SA90” and a sped-up Cure-like take on “Dead Meat Cindy,” a song I’d completely forgotten about. Willingdon Black as Snake Island Salvage faithfully recreates “No One New” with additional ultra-tasty guitar/bass/drums arrangements. Nice! As always, his guitar orchestrations are magnificent. Maia Azur really rocked me back on my heels with her smokin’ recasting of “Toyah” as a smouldering PJ Harvey-esque piano ballad. Finally, Tarkake, my Sunday afternoon band, working in secret with Smash and Sox’s girlfriend alongside, further mangle the already malformed party-pooper that is “Waiting for my Skeleton to Grow” with new lyrics to boot. Upsetting in the best possible sense.
These tunes are just the headliners. Interspersed are a seldom-heard bunch of vault-raiding live, rehearsal, and one-off lo-fi jam selections from the same cast in different configurations: The Beggars, Stoke, Logan Sox, In Spite, illuminaut v.x, Electric Religion, and Proctor, Mueller & Byrne. Smash also collected the extensive liner notes with contributions from WB, SR, Smash, Greg, and the mic-shy little belter fancylady. My friends are the best. Thanks to everyone for listening to my crap and for kicking my ass with your talent. Now I stagger off to find an ice pack for my swollen ego.