Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Can – Tago Mago (Spoon)
This is what happens: “Paperhouse” is a gently swinging, pretty song for the first two minutes. Waves of radio interference try to intrude, but can’t disrupt the gentle flow. At the two-minute mark, however, the drums ramp up into a pulsing war beat, signaling a fierce jam with battling guitars, reminding of the Stones at their most midnight ramblin’ depraved. The song settles into a restless reprisal of the introduction before there's a quick edit into more war drums. Just as I think the song is coming to rest, there’s another edit into “Mushroom,” funky reverberating drum beat, ebbing and surging in synch with Damo Suzuki’s whispered and screamed rantings while guitars and organ send tentacles into the sky, which explodes to repel the intrusion. Static rains down, out of which “Oh yeah” emerges. Suzuki sings backwards and reversed cymbals hiss over a brisk beat. The organ keeps airbrushing the sky. After the next spate of thunder, the vocals turn the right way around again, although I still can’t understand a word. The music fades to mark the end of side one.

"Halleluhwah" doesn’t ask for an invitation; it just starts, bass and drums locked in for the duration, laying down what Miles Davis and co. would do “On the Corner” a few years later. Suzuki free associates for a bit about a moon shadow coming down, finding riffs and melodies just as the other instruments do. Percussion overdubs roll over top, a violin streaks across it all. The drummer’s a machine; he’s not letting go of that beat. The rest of the band relaxes and begins throwing in everything they can think of, positive this thing’s not going to wreck. Eventually the drums join the party, taking the band up and up, climbing to a point you know they’ll have to jump and when they do, it’s just right; a little of the cacophony lingers when that beat starts again. The party fades abruptly because the side’s over.

“Amugn” is random and spooky; far more ill-willed than anything Pink Floyd ever put on record. As the tape begins rolling, all instruments are thrown into an echo chamber, where insects devour them. The band observes from behind the mixing board, randomly twisting the pan pots. Satan himself steps up to the mike and moans into the abyss. The insects stop eating the instruments and begin learning to play them. They link limbs and form prehensile clusters resembling human appendages. There’s a dog loose in the studio! The insects concentrate on the drums, bashing them with their massed exoskeletons. Their excited buggy shrieks cross the threshold of human hearing. The documentary of their accelerated evolution lasts 17:37.

Damo Suzuki and the rest of the band enter the echo chamber for “Peking O,” for more jarring space improv. A keyboard demo bossa nova pattern strikes up, Suzuki croons over top. Screaming takes over, as he converses with the other instruments...the electric drum device thumps like a helicopter overhead...someone hammers boards in the background. With a couple minutes to go, they find a pulsing groove to follow and the song at least finds a beat. “Bring Me Coffee Or Tea” is a comparatively calming raga with buzzing pseudo-sitar and drums that skitter over top the drone, almost erasing the distress that the second half of the album has wrought. It picks up momentum as it goes and it sounds like the band is having fun using their freakout talents for good, not evil. That's what happened. It was 1971.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Anvil Press launched a new book last Saturday, which means I have something to read on the bus this week. Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer is a collection of columns that Stuart Ross wrote for Word: Toronto's Literary Calendar. You get Stuart’s thoughts on small press publishing, poetry, the writerly existence, and so on. It’s a book for the publishing in-crowd, which is not to say that you won't get something out of it. It’s actually full of stuff that any writer can relate to. Better yet, most of the pieces are brilliantly funny. Even though a lot of his jokes and references swoosh over me like an errant Frisbee, he manages to couch them (and repeat them) in a way that I eventually “get it.” Stuart’s also very quotable—Anvil uses a blurb from the book in their spring catalogue. I'd like to quote all of "How Not To Write" (page 76) here because it's so funny and true, but I think I'd be violating copyright. I cracked a smile a bunch of times reading it, a remarkable feat when I've got my "bus face" on.

Stuart writes a bit about music in this book, and I'm on comfortable ground again when I see the names he drops. I definitely get it when he says "Robert Wyatt fucks my brain up." I got inspired to put Cuckooland on when I got up today...sort of like a morning shag for me head.

The launch, though not well attended, was a happy convergence of people and objects. Purolator delivered the books from the printers in Saskatchewan that morning and Stuart arrived at his launch having driven 87 hours from New Denver. Whew! on both accounts.

Friday, April 15, 2005

I went to see Motorhead at the Commodore last night. Good old Motorhead. I think I wrote a review last time they were in town, so go read that if you can find it; I’m sure the bulk of it still applies. This was their 30th anniversary tour, but there weren’t any real surprises like, say, a guest spot with Fast Eddie or a Hawkwind medley or something. The biggest novelty was probably the acoustic encore of “Whorehouse Blues” with Phil and Mikkey on guitars and Lemmy blowing a harmonica. Once they’d dispensed with that, it was back to "Ace of Spades," "Overkill" with its nine false endings, then lights up, go home.

Of the openers, we caught the last half of the last song of Damn 13 (the show started earlier than advertised in the Straight). Three Inches of Blood did fine with the hometown crowd, but weren’t my cup of mead. Corrosion of Conformity delivered their ferocious doom boogie like the chops-monster rock stars they are.

Between COC and Motorhead I was accosted by a tall bearded guy. “Hey, I used to book you at The Waterfront. You were the drummer in that fuckin’ awesome band, what was it called—Decline of the Western World!” Well, it was Decline of the English Murder, but I’d never expect anyone to remember that. As for my memories, I don’t recall feeling too awesome playing at the holding pen for societal casualties that was The Waterfront. I tried my best to bring Mr. Kick up to date on my and Alick’s activities before he gave me a flyer for his new band and took off back to the bar. It was a night for people who are in it for the long haul.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Dead Meadow with Jennifer Gentle and The Out Crowd at The Brickyard, April 8

Great to have DC’s Dead Meadow in town. Their excellent new album, Feathers, perfects the refinements they’d begun with Shivering King and Others, attaining a fine, if improbable, melding of Sabbath and Galaxie 500. I was looking forward to the show.

Of the first two bands, The Out Crowd played a short, enjoyable set, sounding like Teenage Fanclub or the Posies with a serious garage-rock bent. Jennifer Gentle had some genuinely interesting songs (Syd Barrett’s unpredictable melodies colliding with “Harold the Barrel”-style restlessness) spoiled by genuinely annoying singing (Elmer Fudd does Kurt Cobain). Their set ended with a long drone jam that used up my reserves of good will.

Starting off with the stuttering trudge of “I Love You Too,” Dead Meadow were extremely loud. The bassist played a Rickenbacker through an Orange stack that overpowered everything else. Though I enjoyed the vibrations for a while, the volume wasn’t serving the material very well. The vocals for instance, already ethereal and disembodied on record, were almost obliterated. They did songs from all four studio albums, with the riff-heavy early material working well alongside the mellower new material. They do have a lot of great tunes, but I imagine the fine points of individual numbers all blended into a vast pool of fuzz and wah for a casual listener. It wasn’t enough for me that they played well and seemed a nice bunch of kids. The gig didn’t have that spark of brilliant musicianship or connection with the crowd to take it to the next level. They also played with no stage lights, where they could have benefitted from some visuals to suit the heavy psychedelia they churned out. After an extended version of signature tune “Sleepy Silver Door” (a song so good they recorded it again on Feathers), Dead Meadow left the stage, before returning to play an unnecessary encore to a scattering of loyal (or simply inert) fans.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Another bus ad staring me in the face this morning—this one for Rogers video phones.

Girlfriend spits gum out window.
Window is closed.

…It’s funnier to see it on video

However, some wag with a felt pen changed one consonant in one noun, rendering the whole scenario obscene yet hilarious in a grade 9 way. Considering this smut-minded young adbuster's editing work, I’m not sure it would have been funnier to see the revised version on video.

When I can't find some random filth to enjoy, I wish I had an alternative to staring at ads on the bus. What this city really needs is a free daily newspaper in a handy size, where I can read about local scandals and celebrity crimes in the time it takes me to get from Commercial Drive to Production Way. I’d prefer it have a layout and design similar to Highlights for Children. CanWest and the Pattison Group should take that ball and run with it.

Monday, April 04, 2005

I just got back from the Railway Club and the first Super Robertson Show, a weekly happening that our local linchpin/kingpin/kingbee is hosting. I nursed a pint and enjoyed an hour's entertainment. 21 Tandem Repeats (feat. drum kit linchpin Brock Pytel) started a four or five-song set with "Wishing Machine" and sounded fine. Roger Dean Young and Tin Cup (with Super on bass and minus Chris Rippon) played a few tunes. Speaking of heavy dudes, RDY's one of the heaviest. Whenever I tune into his lyrics for a while I have let myself tune out again and focus on his finger picking or the fact that he plays Peter Hammill's Meurglys III guitar or something. Those words, they blow me away every time. Between the second and third sets, Super held a dog imitation contest for which he had to concede defeat. Super does a great dog imitation, though. I wouldn't want to go toe to toe (or muzzle to muzzle) with him. 21 TR played a few more songs to close out the evening. The music was solid, and although the non-musical elements of the event didn't really gel, Super accepted the blame and all was good.

Friday, April 01, 2005

This bus ad for Dove Sensitive Essentials struck me as rather macabre:
Better get used to hearing,
“I’d love to have your skin.”

It sounds like something Ed Gein might whisper in your ear after sticking you on a meathook.