Thursday, May 30, 2002

I felt a bit forlorn this aft, so I drank a load of tea and went for a mailbox run down to creo. It was nice out, so I extended my walk down to Canada Way (looking for bus stops where I could catch a lift up to Burnaby Mountain when I start work on Tuesday) and up Willingdon back home. Lots of crows around these days, which is good because I like crows. Real Love is a crow on a telephone pole with something to say, as the song goes. Right now I’m quite taken with the way they walk. Of all the birds, crows are the best walkers. They fly down, land, then immediately start striding towards something only they can see. Other birds hop daintily about. Crows have a wide, solid Sumo stance that makes them look like they weigh about 80 pounds. I bet if they weren’t so busy with the daily grind of being a crow, they could size you up, start chasing you up the sidewalk, then take a little leap and sink that stout beak* into the tender flesh behind your knee. Then you’d know who’s boss. Crows are rad.

On the return leg up Willingdon I noticed that there’s new signage on the Dogwood Lodge, the long-term geriatric care home where Grandad lived in ’95/’96. Everything reads “creo” now. I decided to find out if the old folks were still around, so I walked up the access road to the patio by the entranceway, where the residents used to catch some rays on nice afternoons like this. There weren’t any seniors milling about, and the foyer inside was done up in creo colours. I could sense the receptionist inside glowering at me, so I casually walked away from the spot where I waved goodbye to Grandad for the last time.

*I unconsciously stole "stout beak" from David Zieroth, whose website the belter and I are working on these days.

I'm spending the day with my guitar and a bunch of old tapes, teaching myself some riffs to take to Edmonton with me on Saturday. Going to be jamming/recording with the Dead City Radios. I'm grateful for the helpful tips I sometimes give myself when I'm recording riffs, so I can figure them out later: "Uh, this is the Scary Ann chord moved up to the fifth fret--no, wait, the third fret. Then it goes to the A power chord on, um, the seventh fret." I'd be lost otherwise. The guitar is still very much a strange and exotic instrument to me.
Things are flying all over the place this week. I’m pining for the belter, who’s working towards literary greatness in Surrey all week. I’m bitter, besides, because I have band practice Thursday, and will miss her reading that night. Grr. My great achievement of the week will be plowing through “Roadhouse Blues” with Blueshammer on Friday night for the shirt-tucking crowd at a Kits pick-up joint. I’m so proud.

So while I contemplate vacating the Blueshammer drum stool, I’ll turn to the more pleasant subject of the difficult music I’m dealing with right now. I was cheered up during a trip to Chapters today by the appearance of a new Bill Martin book. Professor Bill authored the fine Listening to the Future a few years ago, and his latest tome, Avant Rock: Experimental Music from the Beatles to Bjork, deals with music in the same general neighbourhood…at least to my way of thinking (I seem to say this a lot). Whereas LttF had Tull on the cover, this one has Sonic Youth and the wee Icelandic one. Bill is pictured on the back, Rickenbacker four-string in his burly embrace. As a purchase, it was a no-brainer. I started reading this afternoon, and it did not disappoint—lots of philosophy, situationist politics and other things I don’t understand mixed in with solid musical appraisal. I’m interested to see what he makes of Merzbow, who I had much difficulty reviewing for U!

I also picked up a freebie at the belter’s office: an “encyclopedia of northwest music,” which equates to Washington State and Oregon for the purposes of this volume. The thing tries to do too much by including sections on jazz and classical (which seem like afterthoughts tacked onto the big rock section), but there’s some good-to-great bits within. Nice to read Dawn “Backlash” Anderson again, and the coverage of NW metal and hardcore is extensive. The Melvins entry had me listening to Stoner Witch tonight—the guide picked it as perhaps their most beautiful album, and I concur. I was even inspired to put a track from it on the belter’s tape. I would have welcomed an Engine Kid entry, but you can’t have everything.

Back to Melvins: after a couple bottles of Bass last night, I put on Houdini to fall asleep to. I’d forgotten how familiar I was with the album; I could anticipate the sequence of tracks pretty well. As sweet memories of Melvinian shows at the Town Pump congealed into a gloopy mass in my head, I passed out—a track or two before “Spread Eagle Beagle” as luck would have it.

Promo CD Hell Part II
I chipped away at the pile some more. Deadsoul Tribe features the ex-Psychotic Waltz singer (never heard them or him) and they’re being released on InsideOut America. It reminds me of Bruno rock, the nebulous metalgrunge we’d rock out to during the glorious, blurry all-nighters we used to pull. I’m thinking Warrior Soul and Nudeswirl. Smash, I will pass this on to you after I give it another spin. soundisciples didn’t look too promising. First, the album’s called Audio Manifesto, which is pretty gay. Second, the ginger-haired trio who are apparently the soundisciples are pictured on the back with black suits, sunglasses, and (in the middle guy’s grip) a handgun. Yawn. On the other hand, this is on Peaceville Records, who generally rule. And the music itself is passable techno-metal. So scrap the band photos and let the music do the talking. I also spun the new Vanden Plas album, Beyond Daylight. When I’m the mood to dislike prog metal, I really dislike it. I despised this release. There’s supposed to be a Kansas cover as a bonus track on the “real” version of the CD, but it was left off the promo. That really blows, because it would have been nice to have at least one listenable song on the album.

Friday, May 17, 2002

I've neglected this thing for far too long. There comes a point where the fat ass of guilt sits down so hard on me that I’ve no choice but to squeeze out a bunch of words. The writer as whoopee cushion, I suppose.

I’m terrible, because god, there’s no shortage of difficult music around to write about. Actually, I’ve reviewed a bunch of it for Unrestrained! magazine, writing between breaks in copyediting the thing. This is like the 12th issue I’ve done for them, and I’m always impressed by the way their writers can just crank it out…especially Bromley. On the other hand, there’s quite a price to be paid when you’re writing that much that quickly, but I don’t want to get into that here. Suffice it to say that we’d give most of these articles a really hard time in any of our workshops at Douglas.

So yeah, I’ve realized through this latest round of reviewing that the most difficult music of all is music that you didn’t really want in the first place. Though I did luck out with some of the stuff U! sent me (stuff I was actually curious about, like the stellar new Arcturus album and the “reunion” cash-grab by Swedish prog fossils Kaipa), the rest of it was nothing I’d invite into my house under any other circumstances. So writing about music I have no automatic love for is disconcerting, but I had fun with it. Fingers crossed that I don’t come across as an utter tosspot when (or if) my crap makes the hallowed pages of U!

I’m looking at a Purolator box full of promo CDs I’ve received over the last couple years as part-payment for my U! work. It’s piled high with grim, sixth-rate hobby bands that I have no interest in listening to…but I must. It’s the guilt again, its ample posterior packed into stretchy summer shorts, backing towards me, threatening to transform me into a crimson smudge on the office wall (or at least fart in my general direction) if I don’t give these vague semblances of near-art at least a perfunctory airing.

Second War In Heaven by Gonkulator (the band’s logo has pentagrams inside the “O”s) is by far the ugliest thing I’ve got in the pile. The comic art cover painting of an advancing satanic army is oddly sun faded (or perhaps it was rendered in pencil crayon), and the inner painting is equally as bad, featuring a bevy of impaled and bloodied female angels (naked of course) lying amidst the ruins of the gates of heaven. The belter says the band photo looks like it was taken with a pinhole camera…could be a pic from a TV screen too. Band member rundown:
1. Prat in corpse-paint and a Horgh-from-Immortal corset. A sword in each hand completes the ensemble.
2. Darkthrone/Satyricon guy with hair-obscured face wearing gloves that make his hands look skeletal. He brandishes a skull on the end of a stick. Alas! poor Yorick.
3. Female bass player…they’re not just an indie-rock mainstay. “Morbidia Kruel” is no Laura Ballance, however.
4. Short-haired guy with sunglasses and a Brujeria shirt (tucked in). Probably the only member of Gonkulator with a day job. Short-haired guys are a valuable component to any band, as Carcass and Enslaved have proven.

Now for a listen…intro with synthesizers, screams and infernal wheezing. Winds of hell are blowing. Somebody in the band owns a sequencer. Now it’s time to “Banish the Holy Trinity”! Or maybe not. Nice drumming—who taught you, Stephen Hawking? Nice whammy-bar dives, gaylord! Nice fadeouts on the songs. Couldn’t decide on endings during rehearsal? I guess they’ve had a “Volitile (sic) Response to Religious Brainwashing,” which has rendered them incapable of playing their instruments, writing songs and recording them the way God intended. That hasn’t stopped them from trying, though. I’m wondering if Gonkulator are satire-bent art fags (like Gwar), or if they’re a modern-day Shaggs, albeit more Venom-influenced. But I won’t ponder this eternal question for too long. My tea wants warming up.

Another winner from Fudgeworthy Records. Next!