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!