Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Fancy and I were all set to see The Decemberists last Sunday night when I stumbled across the news (at another blog) that the gig was postponed until—appropriately enough—December. Too bad, but at least it gives Fancy a chance to get over her cold, and me some more opportunities to listen to The Crane Wife, a fine, fine album that gets a lot of play around here when I'm away at the office. I managed to sneak it out of the house a few weeks ago and add it to my iTunes at work.

Robert Altman, RIP
My favourite of his movies is the mind-bendingly odd and brilliant Three Women (which I first chanced upon on Bravo! many years ago...gotta rent that Criterion edition again) followed by Nashville (which I first saw in a film class at UBC). They don't make them like that anymore. Trivia note, six degrees of separation-style: my former boss, an old hand in the BC film industry, played a corpse in McCabe and Mrs. Miller.
It's been a wet November around here, and after various sewer backups, floods and water-shed landslides, we've been advised to boil our water for the past few days. Still, anyone who says, "I feel like we're living in a third-world country" (as I heard on the radio this morning) should f**k right off...and actually try living in a third-world country.

Monday, November 20, 2006

"Things are pretty quiet on the Difficult Music, eh, Mule?" said Super Robertson after I intercepted him and Kaiya walking up to the IGA yesterday. Very true. Thing is, it's never quiet anywhere else with me. If I could translate just a fraction of the noise I subject myself to every day onto this page, I'd be happy.

So where have I been?

1. Edmonton—While fancylady was away on her book tour, I went to visit my friend Greg (Dead City Radio) and his family and had a long weekend jamfest out in his Sherwood Park studio. His entomology summer student Brock joined us on bass (bringing along most of the riffage), and we got a fair amount recorded for future tweaking and overdubs.

2. In front of this computer—Finishing up the next Unrestrained! My stuff came together at the last minute as always. I should have four stories in this issue: Estradasphere (a fantastically uncategorizable Santa Cruz instrumental band), Noway's White Willow (another great email interview with Jacob Holm-Lupo), Antiquus (a local band who've just released an impressive album, Eleutheria, through Cruz del Sur), and Toronto writer Yashin Blake, of Titanium Punch fame. I was especially happy to get Yashin in the mag, because I've wanted to interview him for years now and never had the right forum until I got my Media Blitz column. He delivered one of the best email interviews I've ever received. It worked so well, I decided to present it as a straightforward Q & A. I barely had to touch it.

3. Blind Guardian at the Commodore—I barely know this band's material at all (in fact, "Into the Storm" is the only song I recognized, and they opened with it!), but I had a great time. They drew a good crowd of metalheads, most of whom knew every word. I would have never guessed there were so many BG fans here, but I suppose any band that's been around for close to 20 years and released eight albums is going to pick up a following. I thought they had a definite charm. Hansi Kursch is a gruff-but-lovable singer—definitely not the usual power metal castrato—and the rest of the band were rock solid. With the full-on staging, slides and projections, it was the closest thing to a mini-Wacken or Dynamo Festival I'll ever experience.

4. At the movies—Well, a movie. We went to see For Your Consideration Saturday night. Never mind the middling reviews, this is brilliant and hilarious. I'll admit that Christopher Guest's premise—egos flare up during the filming of a humble family drama after a rumour gets out that the lead actress (Catherine O'Hara) might get an Oscar nomination—isn't the most outrageous, nor are the characters as precisely drawn as they were in Waiting For Guffman or Best In Show, but overall the movie hit its (rather broad) targets effortlessly. I think of Guest's movies, with their humane-yet-pointed humour and the presence of O'Hara and Eugene Levy, as the continuation of the spirit of SCTV, and as such, I'll always be there to watch whenever that cast gets together. Also, Fred Willard gets a decent amount of screen time here, and he's completely out of control. To me, he's one of the funniest people on the planet. When's Fernwood 2Night coming out on DVD? Do I have to go look it up on YouTube?

Geez, look at this article, which draws parallels between Fernwood 2Night and Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge, which I was just watching this evening. On that bombshell of synchronicity, I'd better get to bed.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

By the way, you Canadians might enjoy Canada Week over at Heavy Metal Time Machine. Check it out; the inimitable Metal Mark has selected an interesting trio of albums to review, and added some edumacational comments from a couple Canuck bloggers about the Canadian music industry and metal scene.
The Top 15 Albums of 2006 (Unrestrained! magazine version)
With deadlines approaching for the year-end issue, I had to come up with a top 15 for the year. I wouldn't mind having another few weeks to mull this over...maybe give that Celtic Frost album another listen, or find out if that Gathering album had any staying power. But the best thing to do is not to think about it too hard, sort out a list that looks valid as of tonight, and fire it off. Here's what I submitted.

1. Comets On Fire—Avatar (Sub Pop)
2. Six Organs Of Admittance—The Sun Awakens (Drag City)
3. Devin Townsend Band—Synchestra (InsideOut)
4. Napalm Death—Smear Campaign (Century Media)

5. The Brought Low—Right On Time (Small Stone)
6. Mastodon—Blood Mountain (Warner Brothers)
7. Zombi—Surface To Air (Relapse)
8. Kayo Dot—Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue (Robotic Empire)
9. Voivod—Katorz (The End)
10. Estradasphere—Palace Of Mirrors (The End)
11. Dysrhythmia—Barriers And Passages (Relapse)

12. Tragedy—Nerve Damage (Tragedy)
13. OSI—Free (InsideOut)
14. Anata—The Conductor’s Departure (Wicked World)
15. Madder Mortem—Desiderata (Peaceville)

They also served: Enslaved—Ruun, Katatonia—The Great Cold Distance, Agalloch—Ashes Against The Grain, The Gathering—Home, Melvins—A Senile Animal, Mogwai—Mr. Beast, Pearls and Brass—The Indian Tower

Monday, November 06, 2006

PJ Harvey—The Peel Sessions (Island)
It’s PJ Harvey freakout time again, with a release that I’ve hoped to hear for a long time now. The Peel Sessions rounds up a dozen tracks from 1991 to 2004 as Polly's way of saying thank you to her long-time supporter John Peel (RIP). “John’s opinion mattered to me,” she writes in the booklet. “More than I would ever care to admit, for fear of embarrassment on both sides.” The sessions appear in chronological order, starting with four songs from 1991. “Oh My Lover” is raw and anguished, “Victory” and “Sheela-Na-Gig” are fiercely rendered, and while “Water” was never one of my favourite songs off Dry, it stands out on its own here with its stutter beat and spartan yet dynamic presentation. Stephen Vaughan's steely bass lines in particular take this song over the top. The ’93 session (presumably round the time of Rid of Me) features two tracks that never made it onto an album—the riotous “Naked Cousin” and a cover of Willie Dixon’s “Wang Dang Doodle,” which is just completely salacious. I’ve wanted to hear this track for ages. I think it came out as a b-side back in the day, but I was too slack to track it down at the time. (PJH has always put out great b-sides.) In 1996 she recorded—along with John Parish, her partner for that year’s Dance Hall at Louse Point—another obscurity, "Losing Ground" (dig that throaty Telecaster sound…it must be a Telecaster), "Snake" (sounding just as caustic as the original 4-Track Demo), and “That Was My Veil,” pretty much the first time the album eases off the throttle. “This Wicked Tongue” and “Beautiful Feeling” follow from 2000, and the album closes with “You Come Through” from the John Peel Tribute Concert in 2004. As I said, I’ve wished for a PJ Harvey Peel Sessions album for years. There’s a lot of love in these songs’ presentation, and as a thank you and tribute to a fine gentleman and an important figure in music, it’s perfect.