Thursday, February 24, 2005

With fancylady holed up on the island working on The Book, I'm living a humble life of disarray this week. I'm eating dinner at 9, watching movies and worrying about a burning sensation in my right foot, which I think was caused by new shoes and drumming for Tarkake a week ago today. I don't like it.

I wanna post something, so here's what's in my bag this week:
Blood Red Throne – Altered Genesis
New from Earache/Wicked World. This harks back to the classic Sunlight Studios Swedish DM sound with mass power chords and headcrushing midrange. Although the execution is ultimately a little sterile, this has a few great songs that have stuck with me and keep me coming back to it.

Xasthur – Telepathic With the Deceased
Xasthur tend to polarize people. They're either swept away by the grim atmosphere or bored to death. My colleague ChaoticTate compared them to Neurosis in that respect. I've decided I fall into the latter camp. I'm not getting any sense of communication from this music and, most importantly, it doesn't rock. Neurosis, whatever mode they're in during a given song, always rocks.

Lost Soul – Chaostream
Another Wicked World jobby, this one from Poland. I've just given this one good listen, so can't say much about it.

Wetnurse – s/t
Look for a full review of this in a bit. Great stuff.

Miles Davis – Black Magus
Takes a while to find its evil groove, but when it does, there is none more grim. True telepathy with the deceased.

Tarkake liveoffthefloor stuff
So I can pick it apart and torture myself.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Smash and I went to the Ridge last Friday to see End of the Century: The Story of The Ramones. It was a good documentary—a grainy, entertaining mishmash of material from various sources. It had some good laughs (most of them provided by Dee Dee) and plenty of sadness (Joey and Dee Dee are dead by movie’s end), and I learned a lot about the arc of their lengthy career. The Ramones were one of those bands that were just kind of “there” when I was a teenager. I liked what little Ramones material I heard, or saw, via Nite Dreems on channel 10. I hadn’t really considered that the Ramones had the potential to “break big” in the early days. They did what they could, packing albums with strong material and expanding their sound by hiring producers like Phil Spector. But when it became clear to them that they’d never crack the mainstream (no thanks to radio programmers), they knuckled under, stayed out on the road, and did pretty well. Hey, you could argue they invented punk rock and the entire American ’80s underground music scene, so you have to respect The Ramones.

Obligatory progressive rock connection: the movie shows a clip of ELP playing “Knife Edge” as an example of the bad old days when virtuosos ruled the rock scene. Fair enough—point taken. Most rock bands probably shouldn’t bother tackling Janacek and Mussorgsky. However, I thought the filmmakers could have used a better example of the sorry state of the musical status quo, because the ELP clip was insanely rocking.

After the Ridge, we headed east to the Cottage Bistro, arriving in plenty of time to catch 21 Tandem Repeats, who are Super Robertson, Alick Macaulay, and Two-Sticks Hobbs. It’s an interesting lineup—two guitars (one acoustic, one electric) and drums—that results in a fairly full sound. Super’s acoustic guitar provides a decent bottom end. They played a mix of Super songs and Roadbed material and went over well despite the high level of chatter in the room.

I was glad to see that my friend JR got out of the house to attend the show, but his presence made the evening a bit hazardous. Super was doing a meet-and-greet, making his way towards us at the back of the Bistro. When it was our turn, JR gave him a Bear hug and complimented Super on his brick shithouse physique. Witnessing this self-assured display of manly physicality, I was overcome with discomfort and could offer only a limp handshake when the Paternal Postman turned to me. I can smile about it now, but at the time it was terrible.

I’m getting rides to work these days from a coworker who likes to ask big tough questions. She hit me with “what music would you like them to play at your funeral?” last week. I really couldn’t begin to answer it other than to say that I couldn’t bring myself to inflict my musical tastes on a captive audience, even after my death. I decided I’d prefer to have a wake at the Cottage Bistro where my friends could all play for each other. Every band I’d ever performed with – from Upstart to Huxley, from Logan Sox to Tarkake—could do a couple numbers. I thought about the funereal power of having a drum kit onstage with no one to play it—the empty stool would be an unsubtle reminder of my absence. That would be a drag though. Everyone would have to have a go at the drums that night, just as I’ve been having a go for the last 25 years.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Clutch w/ Removal at the Commodore Ballroom, February 5
Good bill, eh? Two monster bands with their own twists on the heavy rock. Removal brings their instrumental punkprog fistinyourface while Clutch has developed into a kind of Sabbath-meets-Coltrane outfit over the years. Before the show, Smash told me to check out this page, which has hard evidence that Clutch are our sort of people.

We ate at the venue, and I was working on a chicken burger when Removal came on and began slaying. Trying to chew while paying attention to Removal is no mean feat, I tell you. It was great to see them on the big stage in front of so many people, and they sounded huge. With samples and triggered instruments being such a big part of their sound, I wasn’t sure if those elements would come across, but they did. They even had the slide show going. When “We’re Removal from Vancouver, BC” appeared projected behind them, they got a big cheer. As Smash pointed out, as far as much of the crowd knew, Removal might as well have been from Milwaukee...or Mars. I’m sure they made a lot of new friends, including Clutch’s drummer, whom I saw bopping away by the side of the stage during “Frankenstein.” Removal!

It’s amazing how well Clutch do in Vancouver. It helps that they play here often. It’s a bit of the old “chicken-or-egg?” Do they play here so often because they have a lot of fans, or have they gained all these fans because they play here a lot? These followers are genuine know-every-word types, too. Looking at the crowd, I couldn’t see the usual clusters of tourists who turn up because the Rough Guide to Vancouver says the Commodore is the place to go on a Saturday night. No, it was a sea of diehards out on the floor.

Neil Fallon (well into the Beard Rock stage of his career) is the people’s poet and “Mob Goes Wild” is already an all-time hoser anthem, slotting its endearingly cranky bulk alongside “Tom Sawyer”, “Riff Raff,” and Max Webster’s “Hangover.” The set list seemed fairly standard, with all the hits from their classic self-titled album (“Spacegrass” was an obvious encore), plus a couple from Elephant Riders and a good chunk of last year's tremendous Blast Tyrant. Their lineup has expanded to include keyboards on this tour for that extra Heep/Purple vibe. The new guy added some nice shading at various points, but he could have been featured more prominently, especially when you consider that the keys had the potential to take the jamming into Govt Mule territory. Maybe next time.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

My favourite song right now is "Nature Boy" by Nick Cave off Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus. It rocks gently and evenly—one of his more uptempo tunes overall. Although it doesn't sound like a showstopping centrepiece, it struck me the first time I heard it as a perfect song. The verse is just three chords, with a little vamp thrown in at the end of the progression. The words (fine, fine words) kind of ramble casually over the top, but the phrasing never falters. Neat trick to sound so nonchalant yet be bang on with each line. The chorus is just three more chords—it might even use one of the chords from the verses; I haven't tried it out on guitar yet—with another lilt added to the last one. Those three chords are, again, perfect. Hearing them, you realize they couldn't be any other three chords.

This song also makes me think of fancylady and what a belter she is. It's her birthday today!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

I always check out the Staff Picks rack at A&B Sound to get a sense of what’s going on out there. Every store has its own particular scene, and judging by what I see, A&B’s scene is mighty strange. Along with the standard nerd-approved stuff you’d expect, like the latest Guided By Voices or Robert Pollard side project, Death From Above 1979, or a boffo expanded Pavement reissue (making me feel really old), there’s always something that seems placed there just to spook me. The Witchcraft album, an album I’ve never actually seen in their regular racks, resided there for a time, and on my last visit I spotted a copy of The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other sitting out in plain view of women and children. What’s going on with that, and on what sort of weird hipster level (if any) has this staff picker been embracing the White Hammer of Love? Am I going to chance upon a band at the Brickyard featuring a “heavily modified B3" and guy honking on two saxes through a distortion box sometime soon? I live in hope.