Tuesday, April 29, 2008

a level or point at which something would start or cease to happen or come into effect

bulldozer in the sun

Threshold #1: Vancouver has a drug problem.
Threshold #2: Vancouver has a poverty problem.
Threshold #3: Vancouver's real estate market is "healthy".
Threshold #4: Some of my favourite people are leaving. People whose company I haven't properly made time to enjoy. It's starting to feel like Regina all over again, with all the things I like, all the things that make me want to feel engaged with my surroundings getting further and further out of reach.

Yesterday, I crossed the bridge and looked back at my neighbourhood from the other side. I sat there in Yaletown until it rained, and then I sat there some more. I covered my novel (the one I was reading, not the one I'm writing--I feel I have to make the distinction sometimes, esp. when uttering the phrase "I'm almost done my novel", that one will mean the novel I'm reading for some time yet) with newspaper and watched the women with ridiculous dogs head for cover. Then I made tracks myself when it started to hail. There was even thunder, which is rare here, and made me long for the dramatic thunderstorms of the plains. I thought about the night we sat under the Broadway Bridge, watching a sheet lightning light up the Meewasin Valley. I thought about all of our secret places in Saskatoon, about how wide open the city was when we were young and couldn't get in to bars.

I think about Saskatoon, I've been invited back for a visit. An old friend is getting married. We are all old friends now. I think about what Roger said to me, a little over a year ago at a house party in a single-unit, unattached home: "I'm old, bald and married. What do I have to lose?" I'm not as old, not as bald, and not as married as Roger, but I'm getting there. I'm getting there. I'm finding the security of self-knowledge, the inner saintliness of being who I know I am. The freedom of having made a few good choices and of having been the object of someone else's good choices.

I still act in poor judgment, the four stitches at the top of my head are proof of that, but I'm getting there.

I'm getting there.

mp3: "Threshold" by Roger Dean Young & the Tin Cup

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Writing's On the Wall, and the Writing is in BLOOD!

For a few months now, my co-worker Timmy has been telling me at all the wrong moments about this band. "Yeah, yeah, I'll check 'em out," I tell him, rolling my eyes. And then when I'm ready to check them out, I completely blank on their name.

But finally, I remembered. At first I thought they were called "Stoner Jam", but that's just the name of one of their songs and the name of their neglected blog. It's nearly, but not quite, an accurate description of the band. For one, the songs are way too short to be considered jams. For two, the songs are way too short to be considered stoner.

The name of the band is Blood on the Wall. And Timmy was right. They are all kinds of kick-ass. They were on tour with Black Mountain earlier this year (which might be how Timmy came across them, I don't know, I forgot to ask), and they kinda remind me of a cross between Dinosaur Jr. and The Jesus and Mary Chain, with a bit of the Kills, which, um yeah, would veer them sorta into stoner jam territory.

They've got a new album out called Liferz, and they're going to be in Vancouver on April 22 (that's a week from RIGHT NOW) at Pat's Pub. See you there, Timmy!

mp3: "Hibernation" by Blood on the Wall
mp3: "Lightning Song" by Blood on the Wall

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Get Thee To A Record Store

As if we needed a reason to spend a Saturday at the record shop, today is RECORD STORE DAY. Record stores are awesome. Especially the ones that kick-ass. Dave Kuzenko's X-Ray Records in Regina is one such kick-ass, awesome record store.

When I was forced to move to Regina at age 15, Dave's shop (then a Records on Wheels) was the first place I went after I signed up for high school. Othen than school and eventually workplaces, I doubt I spent more time in Regina outside of my home anywhere else but X-Ray.

I still remember that first visit. I didn't buy anything, but I saw lots that I wanted. There was a black t-shirt with art from Lou Reed's Transformer album on the wall, in the high north corner at the front. I wanted it so bad, and eventually guilted my mother into buying it for me about a week later. After all, I'd been sooooo traumatized by the move. (As if, I saw an opportunity and exploited it.)

When I wore that shirt to my new school for the first time, everybody knew where I stood on the Lou Reed issue. I made a lot of friends because of that shirt. Let's see, there was the guy with the Lenny Bruce shirt, the guy with the Mudhoney shirt, and the guy with the KISS shirt. We all knew where one another stood. On one of my weekend visits back to Saskatoon, I wore the shirt when I saw a band called I Am Joe's Lung (featuring a guitarist who would go on to play in Vancouver's Nasty On) at the Unitarian Centre. Midway through their set, they played a cover of "Sweet Jane" and I looked at the singer and pointed to my shirt, so that he would know where I stood on the issue.

I didn't buy a lot of other shirts from Dave (though I did buy a really sweet Jon Spencer Blues Explosion t-shirt with a blue naked lady on the front with my first paycheque from my first post-high school job--selling time-share vacations in the basement of the Travelodge). But I did buy a lot of music there. I even bought an album from him the day before I moved to Vancouver. Even though Dave's the kind of friend you end up giving money to almost every time you hang out with, I always looked forward to heading over to X-Ray whenever I could. For a while, I actually had to walk by the store on my way home from work. That was awesome. I got a lot of great music outta that.

My favourite way of shopping at X-Ray was to spend about 90 minutes looking through the racks and then picking out something based purely on how bad-ass the cover art was. Dave would always be able to tell all kinds of stuff about the album and nine times out of ten, it was awesome. I got a lot of wicked blues and jazz albums that way. I also bought a lot of stuff based on recommendations from either Dave or the handful of dudes who occasionally worked there.

Dave was also always real supportive and encouraging of my writing, even in the early days when I sucked even more than I do now.

From the way I'm talking, it sounds like Dave's not there anymore, but guess what? He is. If you're in Regina today, stop in and chew the fat. Buy a damn record for a change. He'll probably be watching the Jays on his laptop. Tell him Mathesoy says hey.

mp3: "Save Yourself" by the Make-Up
mp3: "Blossom (Got to Get it Out)" by Komeda

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I'm a wild howler

"Sewer main work will be done on your street over the following week," the flyer slipped under my door read. "Please do not flush your toilet between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. There are four men working down there, and they've got problems of their own."

They've got problems? At least the City Engineering Dept. saw fit to supply them with a port-a-potty just like the dozen already lining my block. Sometimes I feel like I'm at the world's longest outdoor music festival and Einstuerzende Neubauten is the only act who showed up.

Oh well, better them than the Spin Doctors. There's a concert I'm glad I've mostly forgotten.

The good thing about not being able to use the toilet during the few hours I'm both awake and at home is that I've quit drinking coffee. During the time I'm both awake and at home, at least.

Quitting coffee in the early part of the day has been surprisingly easy. I had a few days full of headaches, but that's about it. Over the last month, I've gone from about eight cups a day to no more than two. And when I do sip it, I make sure it's a good cup of coffee. I've grown quite fond of Our Town at Broadway and Kingsway, just up from Main. There's a lot of places to get some coffee around there, which also happens to be a transit hub, so, like, ace. Lugz is also very excellent. But here's what has me head over heels for Our Town: they serve your Americano in two containers. One has your shot of espresso, which is rich and velvety, the other is a small metal creamer with your hot water. So you get to mix the water and espresso yourself. It's like being God.
Speaking of East(ish) Vancouver, The Great Outdoors are playing tonight at the Biltmore. They've a got a new EP coming out on April 29 called Spring. The Great Outdoors is a sprawling collective led by the unlikely-named Adam Nation, who just might be the personification of gregarious. They make ambitious art-folk that's usually not as dire as the term ambitious art-folk sounds. "Spring Flower", the track we bring you today, is just about a perfect song. Its terrific dynamics, including some of the best swells and multi-voice back-ups you're gonna hear this month, are gonna fill you with all those spring-y feelings of optimism and openness.
If you can't make to the Biltmore tonight, you can catch one iteration or another of the Great Outdoors three times in May:
May 3 at the Princeton Pub
May 16 at the Railway
May 17 at Logan's in Victoria

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Small world, about the size of a poppy seed

Last night I watched Greg and Gentillon, an admirable little film that finally brings some much-deserved glory to Aylmer, Quebec. It's a mockumentary about a small town comedy duo that sets out to conquer the Big City. My jaw nearly dropped when Gentillon went for a guitar lesson and was met by none other than Keith Carman! If you've ever spent any amount of time in the shallow pool that is the Canadian music press (and I think I mean that in a good way), you've probably crossed paths with Carman. His writing has appeared in notable mags like Exclaim! and Chart!, and probably lots of other places as well. He also plays guitar for a kick-ass rock and roll outfit called Maximum RNR. Mostly I knew Max RNR's other guitar playing Keith, Keith Maurik, who was at one time (and maybe still is?) a publicist for Epitaph Records. Despite the fact that they look like total scuzzbags, the two Keiths of Maximum RNR are actually some of the nicest folks you'll ever want to meet.
Keith Maurik is in a few scenes in Greg and Gentillon, but Keith Carman has a pretty large role, in which he not only shines, but gets across the exact impression I got of him the one time I met him face to face (when Max RNR played the Gaslight Saloon in Regina a few years ago): a sincerely nice guy who plays really loud music.

mp3: "I Hate the Cold" by Maximum RNR

Aside from making Keith Carman look good, and providing lots of laffs (especially the fight in the alley), Greg and Gentillon also, surprisingly, made Toronto look really good. Not as good as the Scott Pilgrim books make it look, but, hmmm, Toronto. It's a city that looks not bad. Of all the outdoor scenes in Hogtown, it only rained once. Something to think about.

In the meantime, Vancouver's not so awful. Unless you count the staggering housing costs and consequential epidemic of homelessness (an aside, Frances Bula's City States blog at the Vancouver Sun website is pretty great). But the Black Angels are coming on June 10, and they're bringing the Warlocks! The Black Angels' new album Directions To See A Ghost is out today for your digital downloading, and will be in finer record stores on May 13. If you liked Passover...

mp3: "Science Killer" by the Black Angels

finally, an update on some bands we've previously covered here at ABWAWBA:

Jesse Matheson and the Midnight Snacks will be releasing their brand new CD Pleasure Pounds this Saturday, April 19 at Rime in Vancouver.

The Fake Fictions will be releasing their brand new CD Krakatoa this Friday, April 18 at the Empty Bottle in Chicago.

If you can make it to both shows, you are well on your way to awesomeness.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thursday are for Jazz

Slow week. Busy week.

I've got a few submissions from musical people sitting in my inbox, but haven't really been making/taking the time to listen to them and figure things out. Working. Writing. Posing for pictures. Thinking about the future. Working towards it.

Wade over at Signal Response has launched a new feature called Today. It's kinda like Twitter, but also not. Wade also recently linked to a conversation between ABWAWBA fave Douglas Wolk and David Hadju, author of The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America. I would like to read that book, and I'm sure that one day I will.

Who do I call at Universal Music to come pick up those Hawksley Workman Christmas albums?

I finished Ian Rankin's Strip Jack earlier this week. My fourth Rebus novel. I'm not sure how I liked it. It definitely takes for granted that you are already interested in Rebus and his environs, since the crime angle is not quite as interesting or thrilling as in the other books. I mean, there's not even a corpse until page 65. The character work, however, is very enjoyable and makes the book worth reading for if you're into the series.

Taking a break from Rebus and Edinburgh, I've launched into Dan Fesperman's latest, The Amateur Spy. I suppose it's only a matter of time before we start seeing terrible movies based on Fesperman's excellent novels.

As you already know, we're going to see Wanda Sykes tomorrow night. This is doubly good because A) I like Wanda Sykes and B) it means I'm not going to be at work tomorrow night. It's not that I don't like being at work, it's just that I like not being at work even more.

Walking home last night/this morning, I saw many bats. In the stillness of pre-dawn Vancouver, they seemed huge, but not terrifying like they can seem in the August night out at Buffalo Pound Lake.

Is there a sweeter song in all of jazzdom than Roland Kirk's "The Creole Love Call"? I doubt it. If I was forced by some bizarre new federal law intended to impose someone else's warped morality on the nation insiduously tacked on to an Income Tax amendment to only listen to one artist for the rest of my earthly days, I would probably pick Roland Kirk. So far, no such law exists, but with this government, anything's possible. Eric Dolphy's "Iron Man" is pretty wicked, but not exactly sweet in the same way.

mp3: "The Creole Love Call" by Roland Kirk
mp3: "Iron Man" by Eric Dolphy

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Laundry Day Blues

Bulldozer Non-Required Reading List Spring OH-ATE:

Ron Petrie meditates on the "The Mystery of the Wayward Grocery Cart". It's probably my favourite thing that I've read in the Leader-Post in 7 years. It kinda makes me homesick. Anyway, I think it's just plain old brilliant.

Bryan Lee O'Malley speaks ! NPR's Fair Game talks to the creator of Scott Pilgrim. If you've yet to read Scott Pilgrim, check it out here for free.

Can anyone truly own Superman?
(Speaking of which, springtime is here, and that means my birthday is fast approaching. Need ideas for a gift?)

Just when you think the Sask Party couldn't smell worse (I'm thinking of the 40 or so Google-hits this blog has rec'd over the last six weeks for the search terms Ken Love Saskatchewan Party), Larry Spencer starts offering them advice. Ouch.

[music content deleted at artist's request]