Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Sabbath, Sabbath Everywhere
After The Osbournes last night (highlighted by the spectacular boaking, as they say in Alan Warner novels, of Jack's bulldog) we saw some snippets of a show about Ozzy fanatics on MuchMoreMusic. The fans were a sad and deluded bunch. "I wanna thank Ozzy for inspiring me to become a tattoo artist." "I think if I got to hang out with Ozzy, we'd become best friends." "Ozzy's never ever let me down." And so on. The best bits of the show were the live clips of Ozzy with the reunited Sabbath. The footage was regrettably Ozzy-centric, though. I could see Geezer back there directing traffic, and I caught a glimpse of Bill Ward's bass drums once or twice, but otherwise it was all Ozzy all the time, interspersed with shots of ham-headed bully rockers down "in the pit."

That was okay, because I got a good dose of Sabbath on the weekend—gluesticking mauve polka dots to our bedroom wall to the strains of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. It was a testicle-retention gambit.

Those mid-period Sabbath albums used to daunt me as a kid. I didn't know anyone who was into that stuff. Acmac had Paranoid, which I borrowed and taped some choice cuts from. "Iron Man" and the title track—yes. "Rat Salad," hoo-boy! "Hand of Doom"? Nah. My infrequent friend Glenn had Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, but I never got to listen to it, and Glenn was well on his way to becoming a dirtbag anyhow. It just bolstered my suspicion that getting too deeply into Sabbath would cause one to plunge into waywardness and become Addicted to Drugs.

It's dangerous fucking music, that Volume 4/SBS/Sabotage trilogy. The process of understanding its genius would have taken too much of a toll on my teenage self. At 15 I was one short, sharp shock away from being put on life support (such was my lack of wherewithal and worldliness), so I think if I'd clicked with, say, "A National Acrobat" or "Megalomania" my sense of self-preservation would have stopped me from ever leaving my room again.

I can't say for sure, though. I could hack the likes of Close to the Edge, Brain Salad Surgery, and other musics clearly composed off-planet. The difference between that music and Sabbath, besides the fact that it's bleedin' poncy bollocks, lies in what Prof. Bill Martin identifies as prog rock's optimistic, utopian nature. That was me to a T back then. Sabbath is anything but utopian, and I realize now that that's what disturbed me about their music. Ozzy was wearing a "Kill Hippies" shirt last night, so the Sabbath ethos is alive and well!

I'm glad I was more or less a fully formed adult when I entered the church of Sabbath, which, incidentally, is located in the vicinity of Gilley and Patrick in South Burnaby. There I found guidance and solace as I peered into the Iommi-riffed abyss. I soon took sticks in hand and worked up to performing a credible version of "Cornucopia" with my benevolent mentors. Acting like Black Sabbath, it turns out, is lots of fun.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

I'm gagging to do a decent entry, but this will have to suffice. I got a start on my "music I'm too scared to play" list, so I'll get that up soon. In the meantime I'd like to invite you all over to admire the giant paper orb ceiling light in our living room and the "voice of fire jr." tapestry above the chesterfield, and the polka-dotted wall in our bedroom. It was like frickin' Changing Rooms/Trading Spaces around here last weekend.

Did anyone see Henry Rollins co-hosting that Full Metal Challenge show a few weeks back? Man, every time I have a bad self-esteem moment, I think about that and start to feel much better.

Saturday, October 26, 2002

Visual evidence of my short-lived career as a bluesman, courtesy of It was all a blur.
The Blues Ain’t Nothing But a Botheration On My Mind
Now that I’ve played my final show with Blueshammer, it’s time to move on to something else. I would have stayed with them, but if I’m going to play in a blues cover band, I want to play material that’s way sicker than what we had been playing. After all, what can you do to a Colin James tune except emulate its shiny Caucasian faux-blues façade, working to produce a facsimile of a facsimile of a facsimile until there’s no detail, no discernable craft, no beauty left.

I remember explaining Blueshammer to Diana Wegner, the scarily intelligent Print Futures instructor I’m working with on a presentation for the STC conference. She asked me what kind of blues we played.

“I guess it’s mainstream blues, like Colin James and Stevie Ray Vaughn and stuff.”

“Oh,” she said. “I like the blues, but I don’t like it with too much, um, ‘white man’ in it.”

I had to agree with her. My concept of “real” blues isn’t a very well informed one. I keep coming back to Deep Blues, a documentary I saw on Bravo! a few years ago. It featured Eurythmic Dave Stewart and Rolling Stone writer Robert Palmer visiting the Deep South to investigate the current state of the blues. RL Burnside starred in one segment. A couple years later he hit the mainstream with albums on Matador and Epitaph.

Another segment of the film featured Junior Kimbrough and his band playing in some juke joint. They blew me away. They sounded truly unearthly. The drummer played with sticks—not drumsticks, but sticks he must have pulled off a tree. The top joint of his crash cymbal stand collapsed after his first hit, and he kept whacking the cymbal through the rest of the song anyway. Junior played sitting down, well-weathered and sixtysomething, and sang along with his guitar riffs. He sounded pained and haunted to a degree I can barely imagine, let alone ever express in song. That’s the blues.

But let’s give the white man his due. I recently acquired Red Herring, the latest album from Half Man, a band that expertly straddles the line between blues and heavy rock. They’re Swedish; that’s how white they are. They’re sick, though. They play songs like John-Lee Hooker’s “Sugar Mama”: nine minutes of a three-note progression that not many bands would have the guts to attempt, but Half Man pull it off with soul aplenty. They follow that up with “Departed Souls,” a menacing instrumental with a creeping bass line, tremolo guitar and off-kilter drums that lull the listener for a while before the song ventures into all manner of freakout sections. On their previous album, The Complete Field Guide for Cynics, they had the good taste to cover PJ Harvey (who, for a pasty white woman, definitely has the blues). On Red Herring they cover Frank Zappa’s “Willy the Pimp,” real slow and dirty-like. Occasionally Half Man fall back on too-familiar riff constructions—“Grass Stains” reconfigures Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” riff ever so slightly—but their style is so well-cultivated that I can forgive such small crimes. Half Man is the kind of blues band I want be in.

So I haven’t given up on the blues. As a white boy, though, I recognize my limitations. I know what I like, and I’m happy to enjoy it from the sidelines for now.

Friday, October 25, 2002

Hold Thy Tongue
Mom, Dad, Queen, Country, and Power Trios—I pledge allegiance to them all. I saw a fine example of the latter last night at the Silvertone Tavern.

Removal don’t just play their songs. They also put on a show, which I appreciate. They take being an instrumental trio seriously. This means they have no vocal mikes whatsoever. They’ve got slides (who doesn’t like a slide show?), they’ve got samples to dress up their material and provide segues between tunes. The slides let them communicate the equivalent of “How you all doing tonight?” in text form—hey, closed captioning!—and allow for the display of interesting backdrops. I wonder how we’re supposed to interpret the images. Is this song about crashed cars? Is this song about flowers? Is this song about a little kid holding gun to his head? I don’t think Removal are that literal. Their songs seem to be simply about rocking hard. It’s not like a Neurosis show, where the A/V element prods us into contemplating our animal origins and the basic human need for ritual, scaring the crap out of us in the process.

Removal run a tight ship. I don’t think we got an opportunity to clap until the fourth song. The rest of the set was a mixture of rock fury delectation and “how do they do that?” bafflement. Their drummer appeared to be the busiest of the trio, triggering samples and changing slides, often in mid-song. He smiled through the whole show, so being in Removal is apparently a lot of fun. The last number before the encore was The Winter Group’s “Frankenstein.” They pulled it off well despite the lack of sax and, most sadly, cowbell. They did that song the last time I saw them, so I suppose it’s their signature piece-cum-favourite party trick.

I’ve attended a number of excellent instrumental rock shows over the years, many of which have left me with an appropriate loss for words—Don Caballero, Saul Duck, The Dirty Three, Projekct Four. I think I’ll add Removal to the list.

PS: I forgot to mention the sample that introduced the show—Pat Benatar, a cappella and classic! "We're running with the shadows of the night..." Nice touch.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

I spent tonight trying to write a review of the new Porcupine Tree album. It's wicked, but do you think I can just say that and be done with it? No, I can't. Anyway, I heart the Tree even though I have some reservations about the leadoff single/video. I dread turning on "Loud" sometime and seeing them sandwiched between POD and Disturbed. Argh, major labeldom is a scary thing.

I've also been leafing through Unrestrained! #20. It's hot off the presses and smelling great. I'm bummed that my one measly review didn't make it in. Am I being made to suffer for slagging too much stuff last time out? Have I been blacklisted, as threatened by the Nuclear Blast lady? Nah, my life should be so interesting.

I hereby pledge to write 250 words about every single sound I hear for the next three months and increase my chances of getting my shit into the next U!. "The busker at Commercial Drive station had a real infectious groove going on. His version of 'Greensleeves' was truly face-melting. Watch your step, commuters, or your flesh will be stripped from your bones, and your bones will then be crushed by this awesome display of heaviness." That kinda thing.

Friday, October 18, 2002

An Idea to Entertain
I walked around all day yesterday with my sweater on backwards. That’s the kind of week I’ve had.

I’ve also been unable to distinguish between pasta sauce and salsa, so I’ve eaten a couple of strange lunches along the way.

I got behind the kit again for the Blueshammer charity show at the Bistro last night. I was still very coughy and phlegmy, but I played like the showbiz trooper I am. Our first set was shaky, our second set was more solid, and our third set, true to tradition, was severely cut back. LDB people made up the crowd, and they started filing out around 10:30—gotta go to work in the morning.

Top man Smash did our sound, and Acmac hung out for a while, too. ACM’s become quite the motivational speaker. He’s almost convinced me that putting on a Mule show would be a good idea, and he’s given me a deadline of before Dec. 31. He says I don’t have to sing the stuff, and that drafting people in for the Mule Band would be a snap. I can picture myself playing some drums or strumming a guitar in the background, but I don’t think fronting a band is a viable prospect. Maybe I could stand at a podium and conduct.

One problem with the concept is that everyone who might want to see a Mule show would be on stage with me.

We’d have to do it at the Bistro. ACM suggested Studebaker’s (so that we could play the loud Mule songs), but frankly I’m appalled at the idea. Although…maybe we could open for Dio.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Sick Day
I got the okay to take the day off, which I totally needed. I had to pull an STC presentation out of my ass because Diana and I were to run through it today in front of some Print Futures students. I got up early, disposed of trapped mouse—my "corridor of death" did the trick overnight—and started going through my data. I was aiming for 15–20 minutes of material, and it came together pretty quickly. Then I had to crank out about 30 Power Point slides... The belter pitched in for some of them, bless her. It was hell, though.

I left for the college about 4, met Diana about 5, made a few edits to the slides, got a quick LCD projector lesson, and piled into 1808. The presentation went quite well. I nearly lost my place a few times, and I would have liked a glass o' water, but I survived. They were a soft crowd, too. We'd better shape up for the STC crowd on the 8th.

On the way home we stopped at McDonald's and I drank the best Coke I've had all year.

While I worked today, I finally got to listen to that Yakuza album that the Energizer floated me during the editing of U! #20 (when's that issue coming out, anyway?). It's actually really cool, if metalcore done in a sweepy Jane's Addiction style with saxophone is your thing. The album ends with a 43-minute Bitches Brew/In a Silent Way-style jam. Nice and floaty. You can hear a bit of it in the flash intro of their Web site.

I missed The Osbournes last night because I was on the phone with Diana plotting rhetorical strategies. Feces.

Monday, October 14, 2002

Skippy Slaughter
We've got mice in our building. They usually visit our place at night while we're watching TV. Little black shapes running across our floor into the kitchen. It's impossible to focus on anything else once we've seen one.

These mice are brazen. They used to have parties on top of Mel and Adam's fridge. They've chewed on dirty laundry. They've eaten Christmas presents we lovingly placed under the tree. They have no manners and can't be rehabilitated, so I'm afraid they have to die.

Jenni and I had great luck last year with mousetraps baited with peanut butter. We crushed quite a few mice within a couple days. I think they got the message. When the mice returned this autumn, we got one right away. We haven't had any luck since.

I loaded up a couple traps last night, and placed them in a "V" formation in a known mouse loitering area. This morning I found that the mice had licked the traps clean of all peanut butter without setting them off. Even the bait that I'd packed under the hook of the trigger was gone. These are some painstaking rodents. They have a surgeon's touch. I salute their deftness of tongue and their bravery.

These mice are clearly too svelte. They're not heavy enough to set off the traps. But that's okay. Time is on my side. I've re-armed the traps and placed them in the same spot as last night. They're going to consume a lot of peanut butter in the coming weeks and bulk up. Then there'll be some killin'.
The Boy In the Plastic Bubble
The belter and I have been sick all weekend. Our pestilent apartment echoes with coughing, horking, sneezing, and nose blowing. Used Kleenex piled up like snowdrifts in every corner. I got the disease for real on Saturday night, and spent the whole of Sunday inside. This morning I'm feeling better, but this thing is still not out of my system.

I was late for The Carl Fatman Show on Saturday because of some over-ambitious errand running. In my zeal to get Everything Done Now, I nearly killed the poor belter, and I think in the process I weakened myself enough to let the disease take hold. I got to the venue around 9, had a helluva time getting in, and eventually buzzed Carl right in the middle of an interview (watch for it when the episode is uploaded). I stayed for a couple hours, had a bite to eat, and watched the show, which featured various friends performing, then being interviewed by the Fatman himself. Bruno and Mai did a song. It does my heart good to see those two giving 'er Sonny and Cher style. Stoke played a brief set of "Bad Tattoo," "Orange Cat," and a new one I don't know the title of--is it "Blunt"? There was to be jamming afterwards, but I had to head back home. My throat was killing me.

MVPs this weekend: Red Zinger, Neo Citran, afternoon naps, Father Ted and Mr. Show, Staticbeats Chill, and baked apples.

Friday, October 11, 2002

Never Trust a Rock Star
“I know rock and roll had to start somewhere, but did it have to be so fecking gay?” said Jenni, listening to the Beatles (live on the BBC) playing some slight variation of “Surfin’ USA.”

Yesterday morning I saw our landlady and her loyal subject scraping gig posters from streetlight poles, a type of neighbourhood beautification that leaves the poles looking patchy and scalped, not nice, shiny, and new. I’d like to apologize to all my Rock friends for her actions. When I returned home last night, a fresh layer of posters had been applied, and everything looked much better.

The Spock’s Beard mailing list has been abuzz all week with (a) theological debates and (b) breakup rumours. Well, both threads came together last night when the band released an official announcement. Lead singer/songwriter Neal Morse is leaving because “God wants me to do something else.” Neal’s been all about the Jeebus for a while now, and I’m guessing the CCM scene will become his new stomping ground. Good luck to him, but I hope he remembers that The Beard saved him from a lifetime of playing jazz synthesizer in Holiday Inn lounges.

The rest of the band are gonna keep being the Beard. Nick the drummer can carry a tune. If my worst fears come to pass, maybe he’ll come up front and be Phil Collins. Blargh.

So I just wanted to send out an Abba/Alan Partridge-style “Thank You For the (Secular) Music” to all concerned. Boy, the Glitzy Capers are going to have a field day with this one.

Rock and roll can still be pretty gay. Especially the bands that I like.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Career Day
On the crawl up Burnaby Mountain this morning, I listened to this kid riff on and on and on about how to get recruited by the right accounting firm. He sure had his shit together—did his research, attended “CA Night,” got his face known by people. I wonder what it’s like to be 21 and have it all figured out? When you’re a budding Patrick Bateman like this kid was, it must feel wonderful.

I was a standee through all this, so I couldn’t pull out my book and try to ignore the young number cruncher. I’m reading another hockey book, a novel from the belter’s shelf. Salvage King, Ya! by Mark Anthony Jarman (Anvil Press—plug, plug) follows an aging hockey player as he bounces between the minors and the majors, from hicksville to the city, between his Intended and a certain Waitress X. It’s so beautifully written that I’ve debated whether I should continue reading it. It’s like listening to a virtuoso guitarist solo for three hours. Sooner or later I want to scream, “Hey, Yngwie, trying playing the damn song!” Jarman never lets up. It’s written in first person, and our narrator has to be the most urbane, erudite, literate hockey chump of all time. Compared to this guy, Ken Dryden has the mental capacity of a fruit fly. The narrator drops references to Keats, TS Eliot, stage directions from The Winter’s Tale; he listens to X, Tom Waits, makes tapes from ancient blues 78s. Everyone knows that hockey players only like Our Lady Peace and The Hip. So my sense of credibility is strained, and not just by lines like “Let the galled jade wince, our withers are unrung,” and “And new lambs from the hills, ravens, her navel like a dark bullet hole, a tongue remembered, a cough held and waiting like fleece in amber cathedrals of winter light.” Crikey. As my dad would say, “Just shoot the puck!”

The writing is damn impressive, though. The book is subtitled “A Herky-Jerky Picaresque,” so perhaps I’m not interpreting the narrator’s voice in the spirit the writer intended.

The book also namechecks Harold Snepsts, which made me smile. It was spelled “Snepts.” Jenni, tell Kaufman that Willingdon Black and I will proofread for beer.
The belter's feeling poorly today. I think after yesterday's creative purge her body decided it was okay to rebel. Anyway, the story she shook out of her head is amazing and beautiful, and if it doesn't do anything out there in the world, then there's something terribly wrong.

After Spank/Blueshammer practice last night, I headed downtown to catch Bad Wizard at the Pic. I was carrying my drumstick bag, so I felt like a loser. I got some cash from the Sev on Seymour, then walked down to the club. Well, whaddya know, the band cancelled. I was half expecting it. I've always had bad luck at the Pic. I tried to see High on Fire there last summer, and they didn't show either. The last time I saw anything there was Michael Gira's Angels of Light, which was definitely worth the effort.

I'm now wondering about the likelihood of the Melt Banana show happening. Place your bets now.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Music found me last weekend, rather than vice versa. We drove around a fair bit and took our chances with CISL 650. Musky Welshman Tom Jones asked his special lady to help herself to his lips and also to his arms. She just had to say the word and they’d be hers. Alllll right. Yeah. The Beatles pointed out the inadequacy of the seven-day week for showing how much they care, bookending their observations with an intro and outro of the purest genius. Between songs, the increasingly senile and surreal Red Robinson plugged the Grease DVD so urgently that I suspect his RRSP was indexed to its sales.

Saturday night saw me slipping into a wine and cake-induced coma while watching Jackie Brown, which has a damn fine soundtrack. I would have liked to have seen the whole movie, but I’d done myself an injury.

Seals & Crofts serenaded us over Sunday breakfast at the White Spot. A summer breeze blew through the bacon on my mind. Or something. Phew, that’s a stretch.

That afternoon the stinker (in town for her semi-annual bath) and I made art to the creepy strains of In the Woods. She outclassed and out-produced me, running down the hall every couple minutes to deliver pieces to her favoured clients.

I’m looking forward to this weekend. Super is sending me emails about some kind of Saturday night gala he and the Fatman are cobbling together. I’m afraid I’m expected to participate. I have no idea where this is to take place. As long as it’s not at the Coppertank Grill I think I’ll be okay.

Monday, October 07, 2002

I had a good old-fashioned Mule Saturday morning last week. After chaining the belter to a chair in front of the computer (an act of Tough Love), I went downtown to buy records. Oh, it was good.

I hit A&B first, in search of the new Spock’s Beard album. They had it in stock, but at $35 I decided to pass. I owe the Beard some hard-earned cash after getting their last album as a promo, but right then and there I decided to go the mail-order route for the new release.

After a poke around Noize!, I took a deep breath and visited Al at Crosstown Music. Every time I go there he ends up cornering me with one of his conspiracy theories, but on this morning he was occupied with other customers. I snuck into the back room and hunted around, finding most of what I came for, and something I wasn’t expecting to find.

The rundown:
Kate Bush: Lionheart
This album rounds out my collection of early Kate. We’ve been batting around the topic of “What’s the deal with Kate Bush?” recently. Can you imagine Kate Bush emerging in today’s music scene? “We signed this kid. 19. She’s real easy on the eyes, but she thinks she’s an artiste with those crazy songs and all that dancing around like a fruitcake. I like the leotard, but it ain’t gonna fly with the kids. Lemme call Avril Lavigne’s people, and we’ll get her sorted out.” The pictures in her early album sleeves—all soft focus and glam—indicate that the record company was working the ruby-lipped chanteuse angle, but nobody laughed patronizingly at Kate Bush for taking her music wherever she wanted to take it. Is such artistic continuity still possible? Are female pop stars still allowed to “mature” unless, like the post-“Y Kant Tori Read” Tori Amos and the Glen Ballard-produced Alanis, they’re marketed from the outset as “serious” artists?

Led Zeppelin: In Through the Out Door
We’re replenishing the Zep catalog now that the belter has moved away from her roomates’ record collection. A singular sort of Led Zeppelin album, but weren’t they all? Side one begins with much rocking, then turns playful, what with Fool in the Rain (complete with samba part) and Hot Dog. Side two is heavier, but still rippled with newfangled turn-of-the-’80s keyboards. That solo on All of My Love is sure moogtastic. Despite the new instruments and the couple “novelty” tunes, it sounds as otherworldly as Zeppelin ever did.

Keith Jarrett: The Koln Concert
A find! Two LPs worth of Keith going way out on a pianistic limb in 1975.

Archer Prewitt: Three
Got this at Scratch after reading a review at Pop Matters. I like this best when it busts out the flutes & string section. Despite its inoffensive nature, it’s growing on me.

I returned home to the belter, who had been her usual amazing self and written a buttload of new stuff, split a box of KD for lunch, and fired up the turntable for the rest of the afternoon.

Friday, October 04, 2002

Perfect Youth
I finally read John Armstrong’s Guilty of Everything this week. Actually, I devoured the book like a late lunch of grilled cheese sandwich and fig newtons. He won me over right away with the statement “All musicians are scum.” Hear, hear. Takes one to know one, and Buck knew a few. What follows his preface is an excellent account of Vancouver’s (and White Rock’s) emergent punk scene. The era that the book chronicles has a personal mystique because it was a time when I was just becoming aware of Vancouver’s music scene. I was too young to enjoy or fully understand it (how significant could The K-Tels be compared to Rush and Queen?), but I knew the names of the key players and the places they frequented.

Places like the Smilin’ Buddha. We all knew about the Smilin’ Buddha, but no one I knew had gone there. Years later, in ’88, when Alick and I were in DEM, we refused an offer to play the Buddha. We turned it down based mainly on the reputation of the fellow who made the offer, but we also, I think, factored in our personal safety and the security of our equipment. Not very punk rock, I know. I never did set foot in the place, which is partly why Armstrong has a book out and I’m messing around with this thing.

The book succeeds because, as we like to say around our house, Armstrong doesn’t let the facts interfere with the truth. He tells some good stories, fleshes out situations and conversations for maximum effect, and only admits to memory lapses when they’re caused by severe intoxication. Convenient, but believable.

But out of the chaos, some interesting (purported) facts emerge: Art Bergman stole the song “Hawaii” from the songwriter in his previous band. Burnaby punk bands were into heavy metal, while the White Rock scene was inspired by 60s garage rock. Armstrong wrote the Modernettes’ signature tune “Barbra” after a friend issued him a challenge, and he mispelled Barbra because he was drunk. Fascinamating, no?

The book is short. The detail hound in me wanted something longer, but as a reader I thought the length was about right. Like a Modernettes song, Guilty of Everything is tight and packs a lot into a short space. It would have made an appropriate but lengthy subchapter for Have Not Been the Same—perhaps a digression in that depressing chapter on Art Bergman.

Guilty of Everything was everything I hoped it would be—a trip back to a time when you could get attacked on the street for having short hair, when CFOX grudgingly broadcast live punk shows from Gary Taylor’s Rock Room, when The Pointed Sticks played my sister’s high school, and when some quiet boys played loud little concerts for their siblings and parents in a basement on Huxley Ave.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Tailspin Cycle
I bought a little book by Bruce Robinson called Paranoia in the Launderette at Word on the Street on Sunday. Two bucks well spent. When I say “little” book, I’m serious—3 x 4 inches, 45 pages. A booklet. I started it on the bus this morning. I love it when something I read makes me laugh. I hate it when I’m in public and all I can allow myself is a slight smile.

Robinson, he of Withnail & I fame, finds filth and embarrassment funny. So do I, at least to read about. There’s also something funny about people who are both devastatingly articulate and incompetent. This book is narrated by such a chap. When I left him, he was trying to negotiate his local launderette. I can relate. I’ve been to our laundromat probably 10 times, but I’m buggered if I can remember how everything works. Each time I go now, I watch the belter more carefully, trying to remember when the soap goes in, what orifice on the machine we pour it into, what temperature setting to use, how many quarters to put into the dryers, and so on.

Oh, I’ve done my own laundry before. I’m just not used to doing it in a facility where strangers can observe me. And, like Robinson’s protagonist, I know I’ll be scarred for life if I screw up and wreck something. Visions of the Brady kids engulfed in a roomful of suds, with Alice, hapless and zany as ever, plunging in to rescue them. I’d probably just flood a portion of floor, earning a resentful glance from the employee who has to mop it up.

Nah, forget it. I’m full of crap. I think I’d be fine if left to my own devices. As Alan Partridge might say, “I’m handy! I’m handy!”

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Happy Families
Thanks to the kindness of neighbours, we’ve been watching The Osbournes. Last night’s episode was a laugh, with Sharon in fine form. You might say she was “hamming it up” last night (groan). (She heaved a massive chunk of pork—which she described using words I can’t repeat in this family publication—into her unruly neighbours’ yard during this episode.)

The saddest part of the show is poor Ozzy. He’s either catatonic on the couch, mumbling to his kids, or stumbling around looking for the garbage. And of course the show milks the spectacle for all it’s worth, playing zany background music and adding sound effects, like the dubbed-in snoring that accompanied a brief shot of Ozzy taking a nap. Out of the entire family, I think he’s probably least aware of the cameras, and acting the most naturally. He has no idea where he is, basically.

But it’s Sharon’s show. She’s a tough lady, from tough stock. Her father, Don Arden, was perhaps the most notorious showbiz figure in postwar Britain. This massive article chronicles his rise to the top. It’s interesting to note that Peter Grant, Led Zeppelin’s hellraising pitbull of a manager, was an Arden apprentice.

I was also intrigued to read of Arden’s relationship with fifties/sixties rocker Gene Vincent, whom Arden coaxed along and nurtured through career downturns and alcoholism. To a certain extent it mirrors Sharon’s relationship with Ozzy. Whatever you may think about some of Sharon’s decisions (including her shameful treatment of Lee Kerslake and Bob Daisley, erasing their tracks from the reissues of Ozzy’s solo albums), she’s always done her best for her Ozzy. Keeping him on the road might be killing him, but I suspect it’s killing him more slowly than being at home might.

Here’s an example of Don Arden’s fine-tuned management technique: “Prior to a performance in Manchester, [John Hawken of the Nashville Teens] arranged to collect £120 from his manager’s Carnaby Street office, but, upon arrival, he was handed a cheque for £20. Overcome by reckless indignation, Hawken raised his voice in complaint and demanded the full sum in no uncertain terms. Arden was evidently astounded by his impudent outburst, incensed, he leapt from his chair, seized Hawken by the throat and pinned him against the wall. Staring directly into his eyes, Arden screamed: ‘I have the strength of 10 men in these hands’. Feeling the pressure of Arden’s fingers on his neck, young Hawken realised that this was no idle boast. Within seconds, the agitated Arden had dragged the musician towards his office window, two floors above ground level, and exclaimed wickedly: ‘You’re going over, John, you’re going over’. Fortunately, Hawken managed to free himself from his manager’s grip and fled from his office in a distraught state. Suffice to say, Hawken learned the hard way that a manager of Arden’s stature always demands respect.”

More famously, he gave the same treatment to Robert Stigwood after rumours began circulating that Stigwood’s company planned to poach The Small Faces from Arden.

All in all, I’d say that Sharon’s noisy neighbours got off lightly last night. Jack and Kelly’s grandad might have been staying over.
Review: Destruction and Kreator, Sept 26, Studebaker’s Cabaret
I loved Kerrang! magazine in the mid-’80s. I originally started buying this slim British biweekly for their slavish coverage of ascendant progsters Marillion, but soon a newfangled subgenre called “thrash metal” also caught my imagination. Kerrang! mocked and embraced the movement equally—opinions varied from writer to writer. Depending on who had the floor, Venom, Metallica, Slayer were either clowns or geniuses. Because I’ve always been attracted to the musically freakish and extreme, I bought Kill ’Em All and got on board.

By ’86 the cover of Kerrang! would be as likely to feature Hanneman/King as Tipton/Downing. And inside the magazine you’d probably encounter the likes of Destruction and Kreator—German acts who were as extreme as anything out there. Exciting things were happening. Soon-to-be-classic albums were released every couple weeks, major labels were snatching up the best bands (and, by and large, not interfering with their artistic growth), and new bands were reaching new extremes of speed and heaviness. For probably the first time in my rock-following life, I was in on the ground floor of a new genre.

So last week’s Destruction/Kreator double bill (shall we call this The Antonym Tour?) was a pilgrimage back to those klassic and, indeed, korrosive days. Both bands had visited Vancouver before, but the metal landscape has shifted in the years since. As yet more proof that I’m getting old, thrash metal has become “retro”—hence the “retro-thrash” movement that Terrorizer magazine made note of back in December ’96 (which makes me wonder if we’re due for an onslaught of retro-retro thrash). Metal has always paid homage to itself (because no one else would, I suppose), and so newer bands like Inferno and Usurper have aped Destruction, Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, and so on. Necropolis Records even released a Thrash Metal Holocaust compilation a couple years ago, filled with up-and-coming bands capturing the “authentic” ’80s thrash vibe.

Thursday’s gig was very much a case of giving the old-schoolers what they wanted. I arrived in time to see the start of Destruction’s set. The trio kicked off with “Curse the Gods.” The sound was a mess (too much bass, no guitar), but it quickly got sorted out. Destruction are a funny looking band. Bassist/vocalist Schmier is quite a large fellow, while guitarist Mike is small and slight, with a huge mop of hair and the same peach-fuzz moustache I sported in grade 8. The pair of them crisscrossed the stage, with Schmier going back and forth between two mikes at either side. But did they look metal? Indeed, they looked metal—studded leather vests and bullet belts all around, except for the shirtless, pasty drummer, who would have been making his own gravy if he’d dressed like his bandmates.

They played material both old and new, and heads were banging everywhere I looked.

But when the mighty Kreator came on, it was clear they were in a class of their own. Even though they had more members than Destruction, they were much tighter, and the twin guitar lineup gave them so much more musical flexibility—harmonies, solo tradeoffs, the works. Although Kerrang!’s Malcolm Dome once described them as “Accept warped by the Chernobyl fallout,” to me their style is a fiendish combination of Slayer and Iron Maiden, with speed and harmony and a touch of progressiveness. I loved it. They played “Riot of Violence,” “People of the Lie,” “Flag of Hate,” and many other songs of Kreator at this concert of heavy metal. I took in the spectacle from the edge of the pit.

I’d like to flesh out this review a bit more, but I’ve got to post this today. It’s been too long between entries. I’ll just say that it was a tremendous show, and it was nice to see so many diehards out at Burnaby’s own thrash metal holocaust. Shows like this don’t come around too often, and when they deliver as convincingly as this one did, it’s all the more satisfying.