Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Dear Super Robertson,

I enjoyed last night's Roadbed show. No, I don't think there were too many solos, considering the circumstances—new drummer and everything. Sam seemed eager to give it his all. He was like Tony Williams up there. I think the crowd appreciated it. All credit to you and the Shockker for holding the riffs down while he went at it.

It was a different kind of Roadbed show for sure...the usual balance of yer rhythm section was tilted somewhat, but it's early days yet. If you stick with Sam I'm sure you'll find equilibrium after a few more shows.

"Kill the Loudmouth" was really, really, really great.

Keep them mowing blades sharp,

Monday, October 27, 2003

Kindergarten of Rock
Jennifer van Evra in Saturday’s Vancouver Sun reviewing Mike Watt’s trio: “I never knew there was such a thing as a wailing organ solo.” Oh Lord.

The belter brought home a copy of Vice magazine this weekend. It’s so goddamn hip I can barely understand it. It’s written in code designed to exclude nonentities like myself. It has album reviews though. Album of the month is Sleep’s Dopesmoker, a fearsome thing that I’ve been staring down for the past few months, sneaking headphone listens when I can ignore the outside world and lay siege to my brainpan for an hour. I thought it was a brave, sorta out-of-the-blue choice—an original mix of a barely released album by a defunct band. Minor claim to fame: they were on the Gummo soundtrack.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Here’s some recent records I like.

Enslaved Below the Lights (Osmose/The End)
Enslaved are making the kind of music I want to hear. For every stinging whirlwind of blasting black/viking metal (of the highest quality, mind) there’s passages of pounding Hawkwind space ritual rock, twee flute gymnastics, and classic Ride the Lightning HM breaks. Oh, yeah, and some of the sickest time-signature twisting riffage ever. It’s heavy, musical, dark, unpredictable…all things good. There’s some brilliant minds at work underneath those pointy horned helmets. Album of the year?

Colour Haze Los Sounds de Krauts (Elektrohasch)
This German trio sounds like a cross between Kyuss and Santana. I don’t mean they inject latin elements into typical stoner rock. I mean they take Sky Valley-type jams and expand upon them, stretching out over long pieces that need 2 CDs to contain them. They must have great ears to be able to pull this stuff off, to listen to each other and get such subtle dynamics happening. The music flows so easily you don’t notice that 15 minutes has gone by. There’s also a brilliant 3-minute hit single called “2 + 7.” It’s (it was) the feelgood hit of the summer. I want to make a video for it using old footage of slot car racing. The cover art is done with felt pens and is super cool.

The Darkness Permission to Land (Atlantic)
Gotta get on this while I can, because The Darkness aren’t going to get any better than this, their debut album. It’s a great album, though, so it should have staying power well after the band disappears. The Darkness basically channel everything 70s and stadium-rocking into cock rock for the new millennium. I want to compare this album with The Cult’s Electric, but Permission to Land isn’t quite so calculated and monochrome. One minute they sound like Whitesnake, the next they sound like Queen (one of those ignored Queen tracks relegated to the middle of side 2…possibly written by John Deacon); sometimes they remind me of Diamond Head. There’s guitar solos and the vocalist’s falsetto sounds like he’s dipping his tackle in ice water. They may be taking the piss and just playing dressup, but I’ve removed the batteries from my irony detector in this instance. It’s all pretty keen, so much so that I’ll forgive them for blatantly ripping off the riff from Urge Overkill’s “Sister Havana” early in the album. I’ve ripped off that riff a couple times myself.

Do Make Say Think Goodbye Enemy Airship the Landlord is Dead (Constellation)
Lonely guitars, scattered drums, loops and other sound manipulation, all recorded in a barn, hopefully with government money. This is up there with the major players of post-rock like Tortoise and Gastr del Sol. I like that it’s not completely obtuse; it’s very approachable in fact. A lot of gung-ho spirit shines though all the art damage. And there’s the odd moment where the saxophone surges forward and it sounds, god help me, just like Van der Graaf Generator. You’ve got no idea how much I want to make music that sounds like this. I want to package music like this, too. Constellation puts out nice stuff. It blows me away that I can go to Scratch and take home such a beautiful object for just 15 bucks.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Guided by Voices, not at the Commodore, Oct. 22, 2003
We arrived at the Commodore to find signs informing us that the venue had changed to The Drink at 368 Richards St. What the hell’s The Drink? Why not the Commodore? So many questions to ponder as the belter and I walked across town. The Drink, it turns out, is not far from Gastown, and this was its first rock show. Apart from some ID-checking fascism at the door (which we escaped because we’re old), the venue wasn’t bad in terms of access, staffing and sightlines. It had a vibe somewhere between Richard’s on Richards and the Starfish Room, except with a bar crammed into every corner—providing full service to the party crowd on regular nights, I guess. The draft selection was pretty dire, and it ran dry long before the night was over.

We saw most of the opening act. I never caught their name. Their singer played keyboard and they had a violin/cello string section along with the usual bass/gtr/drums. The songs were downtempo and inoffensive. I was going to say “unmemorable,” but one of them just popped into my head.

GBV came on after a long break and proceeded to play about 8,000 songs over the next two and a half hours. Robert Pollard drank his case of Bud, whipped his mic around, and extolled the virtues of rock and roll, being 46 years young, Devo, Dayton OH, and “doing it for the kids.” The rest of the band took their cues from him, getting looser as the set wore on and the collective blood alcohol level rose. They never fell apart, however, mainly due to the steady presence of the quiet man on lead guitar, Doug Gillard. He looks like the guy who anchors the whole operation. He’s handy with that Les Paul, too. As a consumer I abandoned trying to keep up with the relentless Pollard/GBV release schedule long ago, so I didn’t recognize large chunks of the set list. That’s okay; it happens every time I see GBV. They did plug the last couple albums pretty heavily, and played most of the hits from the Bee Thousand/Alien Lanes era. I think my friend Gary K, cutting a fine figure in a Wyckyd Sceptre shirt, was disappointed by the absence of “Tractor Rape Chain,” but I couldn’t complain.

Gary drove us home in his fancy new sports coupe. Today I've got 8,000 +1 songs in my head, and my feet hurt.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Try, try, try to understand
We watched The Virgin Suicides last weekend. I rented it to check on what Sophia Coppola had done prior to Lost in Translation. I also wanted to see how she used music in the movie, because I’d owned the soundtrack album (by mellotron merchants Air) for a couple years.

The movie had its good points, but it wasn’t all that focused. I wasn’t sure who or what it was really about. It did have a lot of different components that were nicely done, including the music.

In addition to the expected Air tunes, a couple old Heart songs—“Magic Man” and “Crazy on You”—popped up at crucial moments to inject some mid-’70s ambience.

I get ribbed about “Crazy on You,” because I once admitted that I think it’s a sexy song. Well, it is. Early Heart carried off the mystic carnality of Led Zep pretty well. Both bands put the cock in cocksure while never shying away from a little soft-focus, dewy meadow wistfulness. Robert Plant was always the priapic love god with a limp wrist, while in the space of one verse in “Crazy on You” Ann Wilson goes from singing about being a willow last night in her dream to sounding like she’s about to bite her lover’s head clean off. It sounds strong and fierce and female, and if I can’t associate those qualities with sexiness, then I’d better sit down and rethink some things.

While we’re at it, the middle section in “Magic Man” where the guitar and mini moog trade licks is also quite boner inducing.

Monday, October 20, 2003

The French Grand Prix used to be held near Reims, on a triangular circuit made up of country roads. The straightaways must have been dauntingly fast, and the hairpins were undoubtedly hard on brakes over the typical GP race distance of that era. Grands Prix were twice as long as they are now—real endurance contests.

After Reims, the French GP was held on a number of different circuits, from the amazing Clermont-Ferrand to the dinky confines of its current home, Magny Cours.

Now, if you find yourself in the right area of France, you might pass the decaying grandstands at Reims and imagine the scene on race day, the front-engined single-seaters tearing down those narrow roads.

Friday, October 17, 2003

The AdBot-generated banners that Blogger puts here are usually good for a laugh. The other day it was advertising "Cheap Rick Wakeman tickets." Those are the best kind, trust me.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

I rode a bus this morning that had nothing but Poetry in Transit ads inside. Transit poetry has become almost a genre unto itself, like Oprah Book Club books. Anvil Press never had anything accepted for Poetry in Transit until this year, when the belter took charge and scoured Anvil’s new poetry releases for any transit-friendly passages. Due to the fact that (a) she’d internalized our Print Futures genre studies so deeply, and (b) she’s a genius, Anvil has currently has two Poetry in Transit ads out there. Nice work, fancylady.

I originally typed “I wrote a bus this morning” as the first line.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I finished reading Lemmy’s autobiography White Line Fever (Simon & Schuster) a couple weeks ago. I enjoyed it very much. It’s not great literature by any definition (show don’t tell, Lemmy!), but it delivers the kind of behind-the-scenes dirt that you want from such a book. It’s like listening to the man hold court at the pub for several nights; a kind of booze-soaked lecture series on everything Motorhead-related.

As a fan of British show business, I especially appreciated the book. For a while there, Motorhead must have been a constant presence in the UK media. Lemmy, it seemed, never turned down a single offer to appear somewhere, no matter how ludicrous—kids TV, chat shows, The Young Ones, movies, the lot. (I don’t think he was ever on Coronation Street, although I vaguely remember Les Battersby pissing off all of Weatherfield with “Ace of Spades” once.) He glossed over the time he was on French and Saunders, which is too bad. That was a good one.

Once again I’m amazed at the standard of copyediting and fact-checking at major publishing houses. “Dee Schneider” of Twisted Sister, anyone?

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Few things make me more miserable than listening to myself "conduct" an interview with someone. Despite having weeks of lead time to work on a Morbid Angel story for Unrestrained! I've only just started because I couldn't bring myself to listen to the tape. I made it to the end of my session with Steve Tucker tonight. Now I have to brace myself to transcribe my dismal follow-up chat with Trey Azagthoth. I remember sucking really badly on that one. I've never been pleasantly surprised by an interview tape, either. This won't be fun.

I found a couple good things up the street at Neptoon this weekend:
AC/DC Flick of the Switch: Not the most stunning rarity ever, but it's an album I had a sudden need to hear. It's AC/DC at their most elemental, their leanest and meanest. Nothing rocks harder. Martin Popoff called it the "blinding furious peak of the Bryan Johnson era." The title track always cracks me up, with its ladder-climbing riff. What could be more perfect than that? I noticed that Stoke covers "This House is on Fire" sometimes. That Willingdon Black knows his AC/DC, and I always thought that was an interesting choice of cover. As kids I think we logged more hours listening to (and playing) AC/DC than anything else.

Gracious!: The band, the album. This is from 1970. Gracious toured with the Who in 1968 and put out a couple albums on Vertigo, I think. I'd been looking for this for a while, so I was very happy to find this on a nice Jap CD reissue--one of those mini-LP cover jobbies. Check out the picture in the gatefold! (I'd link to an image if I could find one.) The music itself is well out of order. The style is basically heavy early progressive that never sits still for very long. It reminds me of the progressive Italian bands who sprang up a few years later, having absorbed and warped the influence of their British forerunners. Gracious were warped from the start. I wonder if they toured with that harpsichord?

Monday, October 06, 2003

I saw some beautiful movies last week. We rented Spirited Away, which splattered our brains all over the living room. It was that good. I regret missing it on the big screen. Then on Saturday we saw Lost in Translation. We had a slight Japanese theme going, I guess. I had a few moments during LiT, especially when that song (not to spoil the ending) kicked in during the final scene. Nice.

I often feel like I should see more movies. But that guilt disappears every time I go out to one. Sitting through the previews makes me realize I’m not missing anything by avoiding 99.5% of all movies released each year. Bah. Like on Saturday. Okay, maybe Kill Bill will be cool. The other previews were for that worst of all genres, British movies made for American audiences. All the characters are ever so pleasantly eccentric and comically repressed, until they’re tempted by the possibility of doing something ever so slightly naughty and we're expected to laugh at their embarrassment for the duration. I hate it. How about some characters on heroin? I remember when characters in British movies seemed interesting. How about we have Hugh Grant stammering through a scene not because he’s anxious to make it up to Tara Fitzgerald, but because he’s dying for some heroin? Well, maybe not that, but if it still has to be a light romantic comedy, how about Hugh Laurie instead of Hugh Grant? Let’s mix it up.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

I’m comfortable with the fact that I suck. I still don’t think it’s fair that some people get all the talent though. Nothing like going to the Jazz Cellar for giving your ego a good thrashing. In 3’s were playing there Monday night, so Smash and I went down. I wanted to see a clinic and I got one. Alvaro Rojas switched between guitar and Chapman Stick, playing with great taste on both. He was no Greg Howard on the Stick (who is?), but he approached it perfectly in the context of the band—with restraint and awareness of his own abilities, which were considerable, make no mistake. Hey Kristian held court on a keyboard, some kind of little Korg synth and trumpet—not all at once, but usually at least two things at a time. And Shawn Killaly is a monster, the kind of drummer who makes me wonder how I even dared to play in front of people when I was in bands. He didn’t let his simple setup (pretty near the same as Andy Stoke), limit him in any way. When he got bored with the three drums in front of him, he whacked the rims, his high-hat stand, or the kick-drum shell. Also of note was his saw-blade cymbal, the only one I’ve seen outside of Greg Pohl’s drum kit. I’m not normally a fan of the drummer as entertainer/life of the party, but Shawn’s all right. I’ve got to respect that aspect of his playing because he backs it up with total musicianship.

They ran through a good portion of the album as well as some new things, traversing the spectrum from ultra-smooth grooves to Cryptopsy-style craziness. In 3’s carry no passengers.

Smash and I took it in, perversely enjoying the injustice of it all.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

We took a quick detour through the Sally Ann thrift store this morning. There was a clothing rack inside with a sign that read "Helloween costumes." I tried on the Kai Hansen, but it was too narrow across the shoulders. Down in the basement I found a home-dubbed cassette with Tarkus by ELP on one side and Thick as a Brick on the flip. Clearly made by a friend I'll never meet.

Then we hit the Kingsgate to load up on paper products at Shopper's. No excuses for not cleaning up after ourselves now. As fancylady put it, we can spew fluids at will. I sure love that belter.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

The Communication Age
I took the roundabout way home today, via Brentwood and my parents' house (where they have cable and are nice enough to tape Six Feet Under for me). While I was waiting for the bus at Brentwood I saw some graffiti on a telephone pole.

(wavery, quasi-Crispin Glover script in black Sharpie):
"This was once a majestic tree towering high, miles from here. Now it serves in solitude as a conduit for my power so that I can watch nature shows on tv."

(below in thin green marker, smudged with attempt at erasure):
"This is a telephone pole you moron. Buy a dish."