Monday, March 31, 2008
When I was a kid, it was easy to make fun of Deadheads. Since I was sure I was a punk (I'm pretty sure now that I wasn't), and I had seen Sid & Nancy (several times), I recognized hippies as my natural enemies. I'm not sure whether the fact that my parents were, or had been, hippies added or took away from this belief. And who was a more archetypal hippy than a Deadhead?
What really made it easy to make fun of Deadheads, though, was that I didn't know any. They were just abstract scapegoats that I couldn't understand, and didn't want to. The whole fascination with trading tapes of Grateful Dead concerts was beyond me. At the time, per my limited worldview, it seemed as though it was just easy to actually see the Dead as it was to get your hands on a tape of them. All you needed was the desire.
I eventually overcame my distrust of the Grateful Dead and those who followed them (or wished they had). I even became good friends with a few people who actively considered themselves Jerry Garcia fans. And maybe, just maybe, I came to admit that the Dead was actually a pretty great jugband when they wanted to be. (The same might said of yams, but that's a different story.)
But I've never really gotten into recordings of shows. I guess there's some secret snob inside me (ho, ho, you say, it's not that secret, Emmet) that considers them poor surrogates to the almighty Live Experience. I could probably count the live albums I own on one and a half hands, and anybody who's ever been to my house knows I own a lot of albums. Anybody who's ever lived in my house (other than me) would even say I own too many albums. Pish posh to that, I say.
Thankfully, Richard the Soundmann doesn't share my narrow-minded view of live recordings. He's just some music fan in Waterloo with a very plain and wonderful website where he posts clips of recordings he's made at concerts he's been to. I was turned on (as the kids say) to his site by Andrew Vincent's MySpace page. I'm just starting to listen to his many offerings, but, what the hell, he's making a convert outta me.
Richard's got clips of shows by a veritable Who's Who of CanRock luminaries, from Caribou and Rock Plaza Central to the Sadies and Dan Mangan. If you're the type of kindred spirit who considers logging on to CBC Radio 3 the only way to make the workday bearable, you'll enjoy what Richard has to offer.
All this CanRock talk is reminding me of Have Not Been The Same: The CanRock Renaissance, a fine book written by Michael Barclay, Ian A.D. Jack and Jason Schneider--who edited the handful of reviews I wrote for Exclaim! and seemed on the phone and through email to be a thoroughly decent fellow. The book, which focused on Canadian rock music between 1985 and 1995, came out in 2001, a time when not a whole lot was going on, CanRock-wise. Shows were really, really poorly attended. Indie rock had become something of a slur, even as major labels were wholesale downsizing to the point where even last year's shittiest corporate radio Canadian Content hitmakers were now calling themselves "indie". But there was still, in my opinion, lots of great music happening. It just seemed like I was the only one who cared. I remember the final chapter of the book didn't seem too hopeful about what would come next for CanRock, or maybe I was just playing that Western Canadian alienated Old Dutch-chip-on-my-shoulder thing that I used as a crutch back then. Either way, you should read the book, it's great, even if it may or may not give short shrift to anyone who never opened for the Rheostatics (who are kind of the Toronto gen-Xer version of the Dead). What you should also do is start collecting your notes and files for Citizens of Tomorrow: What CanRock Did Next.
mp3: "Cover It Up/Diane" by Andrew Vincent
Thursday, March 27, 2008
When I was young--when I was younger--I wanted to seem important and interesting. What I didn't yet realize was that in order to be important and interesting, you had to actually do important and interesting things.
Since my childhood experiences were fairly undistinguished--swimming lessons, action figures, comic books, etc.--I quickly began to create a fantastical, infinitely more interesting autobiography.
- Softball : the Saskatoon Slugger
- Track : Speedo
- Karate : Karate Kid (hey, I'm about to say my fantasy life was satisfying, not original)
- Drama Class : who has a nickname in drama class? Get real, Matheson!
- Spelling: The Wizard of Words (I have always been preternaturally good at spelling, so while the nickname is fictional, the merit of one is not)
- Swimming: Dolphin or Shark, I couldn't decide whether my pretend excellence at swimming was flashy and playful or swift and deadly)
Sometimes, I would blur the line between what was a rich and satisfying imagination, creatively developing my mental prowess, and my humdrum quotidian existence. One wintry day while I was in Kindergarten, amid a fingerpainting project with three classmates, the subject of birthdays came up. Tommy said that his birthday was coming up soon, Matt said his was too. Chris said his was coming up in only twelve sleeps. My birthday was months and months away. I felt different and inadequate. "Oh yeah," I said defiantly, my cheeks hot with five-year-old indignity. "Well, it's my birthday today."
Before I knew it, what had been meant as simple one-upsmanship of my fingerpainting table had spiralled out of my control and the entire class was singing "Happy Birthday" to me...in French. It was embarrassing, but also flattering. My brain told me it was wrong, but the adulation of my peers told me it was so right.
Le lendemain (as we who went to French Kindergarten say when we feel like "The next day" sounds trite), I figured the whole thing would have blown over. As I had already a whole hand of fingers' experience with them, I knew that birthdays are a big deal; the day after is not. But I underestimated how much my stock had risen on my fake birthday. Chris, who had been at the fingerpainting table with me when I made my bold deception, had brought a gift. Wrapped it and everything.
In a move that subconsciously laid the groundwork for my brief career in entertainment journalism, I figured out that if I could somehow connect myself with someone that other people liked, other people would ipso facto like me. (Yes, I used the phrase ipso facto in the 8th Grade--is it any wonder I had to make up fake reasons for people to like me?) And who that I could plausibly associate myself with did people like and admire more than almost anyone else? And that's how Mike Myers became my uncle.
It wasn't such wild lie. I really did (and still do) have a show business uncle who has at various times been based out of the Toronto area. He just doesn't happen to be Mike Myers.
Sadie Mendelson arched her eyebrow at this revelation, and I'm sure that I could see a new respect for me in her eyes. "Really? Wow."
And that was it. I had completely betrayed my real family to further my own questionable agenda, like Peter did to Jesus before the rooster crowed.
Being the fake nephew of Mike Myers paid absolutely no dividends. Sadie Mendelson just wasn't into me. Sensing what a dud of a claim it was, I didn't repeat the lie for the rest of the school year. I went to a different high school than the rest of my 8th Grade classmates, and a year later left Saskatoon completely.
Strangely, when I moved to Regina at 15, a complete unknown free to create a whole new backstory entirely of my own creation, I managed to get by socially without the help of my imagination.
As the 90s wore on, I, along with the rest of the world, pretty much forgot about my fake uncle Mike Myers. So I Married An Axe Murderer had its moments, but it wasn't really worth selling out my family in order to seem interesting.
I eventually grew up...some. I did some interesting things, travelled some, had some esoteric jobs. I became, ridiculously, a writer. I mean, not a good one, or a well-known one, but I was actually making a very small amount of money on a regular basis from writing. I had finally become the interesting person I had always pretended to be (which is maybe an argument in favour of being full of shit for the first part of your life--at the very least, it gives you practice). And so it was that a carload of my cool and interesting friends and my cool and interesting self ventured up to Saskatoon one blustery night in the late 90s, a year or two after the first Austin Powers movie was released, to see some indie rock awesomeness too cool to book a show in Regina.
Of all the people in all the world I never expected to see at some indie rock show in Saskatoon, there was Sadie Mendelson (I actually would have been more surprised if it was Chris from Kindergarten--though how a five-year-old could get into a bar is beyond me--or the guy who hit me with his car, but what the hey? This is a real true story here, not some fake fiction, I can't force symmetry on it), with her still-arched eyebrow (perhaps it was a muscular dysfunction, and not a representation of hip cynicism after all), recognizing me even though I'm about 20 now, instead of 13, and it feels like an entire lifetime has passed since I last saw her. Really, it has been a lifetime, so many major events happen between 13 and 20, none of which merit great detail here. There's so much I want to tell her about the man I've become, about the things I've done. I want to impress her, I want to show her and the world how I've transcended all the inadequacy, all the shitty, ugly, awkward things I felt about myself when I was 13. I want someone who knew me then to see me now and bask in the glory of all I've become.
But what does she say to me? What are the first words out of her mouth after we acknowledge one another? What is the one thing about me that stands out in her mind after all this time?
"So, I see your uncle's still doing well for himself," she says.
All the self-growth, all the personal development, all the things I've accomplished--a beard, I can grow a beard now!!!--THE INTERESTING AND IMPORTANT PERSON I'VE FINALLY BECOME disappears and I'm reminded that I'm nothing but a lousy lying liar.
I don't know what any of that means, but Chicago's the Fake Fictions have a new album called Krakatoa coming out soon on Comptroller Records, and they were kind enough to send a couple of mp3s along for me to share with all y'all as a sneak peek. In terms of fuzz-pop trios from the American Midwest, they're pretty much the pips. At least that's what they tell me.
mp3: "(Don't Drink The) Office Coffee" by the Fake Fictions - okay, this is quickly becoming one of my favourite songs of the year, easily the best song of Spring 2008. There's a wicked bit of Historia De La Musica Rock trashcan rock vibe under Nick Ammerman's desperate wail about being "skeletons with personal computers" full of malice and menace. It almost makes me wish I worked in an office again so that I could adopt it as a theme song.
Because I like you, and because you've come this far with me today, I'm going to throw in a bonus MP3 from the Eff-Effs' 2005 Experimental Cheerleading EP (available as a free d/l in its entirety at the Eff-Effs' website!).
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Jack Irwin (1916-2008) was remembered on Monday in Saskatoon. He was my grandfather's brother, which makes him my great-uncle. I only met him twice as an adult (as an adult myself; for sure, he was an adult long before I was even born), but he made an impression in the best possible way. Jack was a jokester. I don't know if he had them ready, or if they just came to him. But even pushing 90, which would have been when I last saw him, he was the sharpest guy in the room when it came to jokes. Meeting Nicole, who then worked at a bank, he cracked: "I knew a girl who worked a bank once. I would have kissed her, but I knew she was a teller."
Then, letting a beat go by, "Did you hear about the blind carpenter? He picked up his hammer and saw."
My mom told me that she never heard Jack repeat a joke. In just over 91 years, I've gotta believe he had a few favourites that he told around town. But having spent just a very small amount of time with him, I wouldn't be surprised at all if my mom's claim was true.
He first caught my attention at my grandfather's 90th birthday party. My aunt Laurel (his neice) was happily snapping pictures of what was really a fine and happy day, and he said to her, "Oh, you're into photography? Why don't we go into a dark room and see what develops?"
Nevermind that Laurel was using a digital camera.
I never got the chance--I never made the chance to ask Jack why he told so many jokes. I never got to ask how it started, or where they came from. I can only surmise from what little I know about his life that his humour was a tool of his trade. Like my grandfather, Jack had a shoestore.
My favourite joke of his, one that he told to me specifically, spurred by me telling him what I was doing for a living at the time, is: "You know the problem with photocopiers? They never do anything original."
Jack Irwin was no photocopier. The source of his material is a secret he takes with him (though if you're interested in the secret origins of jokes in general, I cannot recommend strongly enough Anthony Horowitz's The Killing Joke), but the laughter he left behind inspires me daily.
MP3: "Last of My Kind" by Paul Burch
MP3: "Neon Filler" by Howe Gelb
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
The first thing I do when I wake up in the late morning is check out the Hollywood Reporter to see if one of my favourite TV stars is teaming up with one of my favourite movie directors to make a filmic adaptation of one of my favourite comic book series. Today I hit the jackpot!
Mr. Michael Cera (of Arrested Development, and other things) is in "final talks" to play the title role in the Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) take on Bryan Lee O'Malley's inconceivably brilliant graphic novel Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life.
mp3: "Untitled Composition by Scott Pilgrim" (aka "Scott Pilgrim's Sad Restaurant Song") by Matthew Seely
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
-Arthur C. Clarke, 1917-2008 - Jesse hated 2001: A Space Odyssey, but I think that's just I made him watch it when he was 12.
-"Science is like an unfinished painting" - Which reminds me to link to an awesome, Canadian, online sci-mag called Seed that was first brought to my attention via SignalResponse.
-Andrew Matte has a worse time at an Avril Lavigne concert than I ever did, but still manages to get in a Tommy Hunter reference. Sometimes, I really miss the LP entertainment desk.
-High housing costs in BC unaffected by world markets "turmoil".
I don't know what to make of it. Should I call a hotline? I'm glad I didn't pick up, because I cry easily. Not as easily as this kid, but still... That kid's grandpa's a jerk.
mp3: "Sad Phone Call" by Unknown Caller, left on my phone Saturday afternoon.
Obviously, the April 6 Black Keys show here in town is SOLD OUT. I don't have tickets. If you wanna give me some, I will take them. The 'Keys have a new album coming on the first of next month (April), Attack & Release. Based on the first single, produced by Danger Mouse, it sounds like a hot one. If you go to there website, you can play a video game where the point is to kill nerds "B4 they kill you". Hot damn.
mp3: "Strange Times" by the Black Keys
Monday, March 17, 2008
I guess I came out even.
Just heard from Marc Maron. I guess the ads in last week's Georgia Straight were incorrect. He is not, repeat NOT, coming to Vancouver. He's going to Australia instead. I can see how you'd make the mistake.
But Wanda Sykes is coming to Vancouver (well, Richmond), and we got tix.
It might be as close to being in the same room as Larry David as I'll get this year.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
"Canada's Most Dangerous City?"
"You'd have to be an idiot to buy right now in [city]."
Okay, it's not really that fun of a game, or much of a game at all. But really, what does Regina expect when it hosts its very own crystal meth carnival? Speaking of which, have the Harper Tories been taking their drug war cues from Jack Chick? Their new campaign re: drug lingo is kinda sad (especially the under-equipped "Drug Name Search" function).
mp3: "Barely Friends" by Hayden
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
I live in a nice neighbourhood. What that means, in this town, is that after 9 p.m., I have to walk a fair way to get a cup of coffee. It also means that on this walk I will see no more than half a dozen homeless people snuggled in for the night in storefront nooks, between dumpsters, and beside the shrubs outside the bank. Oh, I'm sure there are more then six of them out there, but because I live in a nice neighbourhood, only a handful are visible. I walk past the bombed out taco restaurant, but it's still not exactly Beirut over here.
I'm a little worried about finishing Tooth & Nail. I'm finding it difficult to sort out the order of the Rebus books, so I'm not sure which to read next. And I'm not sure if I should read the next one next. At the rate I'm going, I'll be done the entire series (or at least caught up to Exit Music, which seems like it might be the end?) by the end of the year. And where will that leave me? I've got another book anyway. Perfect From Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life by John Sellers. Which seems to be some sort of Guided By Voices love letter. Which, I don't know, am I really that into it? Do I want to read a book about someone who is like me, rather than someone who seems like me? Rebus I can relate to on a metaphoric level...I've never brought down a serial killer, but I have alienated the people around me while striving to achieve something I didn't really have a lot of faith I could achieve anyway. Sellers, maybe it just cuts to close to the bone.
The book opens with a chapter about why Sellers hates Bob Dylan (amusing enough), which leads to a chapter where Sellers sits at his computer and listens to music. And there are asides dressed up as footnotes. Oh yes, there are. A friend told me recently, "I hate footnotes. Can't stand 'em." At the time, I thought he was out of line. Now, not so much.
Friday, March 07, 2008
From his MySpace page, Ole Mikey looks to be somewhere between the ages of 17 and 22, and looks variously like a supporting player from a Harmony Korine movie or John Mayer's skinny kid brother.
Wells's sound is pure freak power. Like Roky Erickson meets Adam Green in, well, a field in Wisconson. The songs are winningly rugged, and when the effects come in, well, it's all kinds of fun.
If you find yourself in North Fond Du Lac, Wisc. tonight, head on down to Marghael's Banquet Hall (N7688 Van Dyne Road) and see him for yourself.
mp3: "Lovefish" by Michael Wells
mp3: "I'm the One" by Michael Wells
Thursday, March 06, 2008
mp3: "Cape Crusader" Michael Chabon interviewed by the New Yorker.
Interestingly enough, this all coincides with the release of photos of characters in their full unitard glory from the forthcoming Watchmen film, which opens in exactly one year. Maybe. And once you read Chabon's essay and listen to what he has to say, all of your gut feelings about the pictures linked to above will resonated true and strong.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
I first met Jesse Matheson on a blustery Tuesday in November. I remember it was the day Ronald Reagan was elected President. In a world like the one I could sense was approaching, it felt good to have another howling lunatic in my life. Eventually, he stopped howling quite so much, and even learned a few words. Before I knew it he was putting every word he knew into songs, and now he's got an album.
Pleasure Pounds won't be officially released until April, but the kind, simple folks of Western Canada are getting a sneak peek over the next week as Jesse Matheson & the Midnight Snacks take their rock & roll orgy to the people.
If you feel a little uncomfortable taking a recommendation of this guy and his band from me, if you question my objectivity, well, listen to what Craig Norris of CBC Radio 3 had to say about Jesse (and then listen to the song!).
mp3: "Son of a Gun" by Jesse Matheson (includes CBC3 intro by Craig Norris)
JESSE MATHESON & THE MIDNIGHT SNACKS TOUR DATES:
Thurs., Mar. 6: Grant MacEwan College Cafeteria, 11:30 a.m., Edmonton, AB
Thurs., Mar. 6: Wunderbar Hofbrauhaus, nighttime, Edmonton, AB
Fri., Mar. 7: McNally Robinson - Prairie Ink, 8 p.m., Saskatoon, SK
Sat. Mar. 8: Candor Music & Gifts, 8 p.m., Winnipeg, MB
Sun., Mar. 9: The Exchange (with Geronimo), 8 p.m., Regina SK
Tues., Mar. 11: Minstrel Cafe, 8 p.m., Kelowna
and then back in Vancouver on March 27 at the Astoria Hotel with The Attachments. The official CD release for Pleasure Pounds will be April 19, at Lime (formerly Rime).
mp3: "Orgy in Portland" by Jesse Matheson
mp3: "Make Out" by Jesse Matheson
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Dear Amazon Customer,
As someone who has purchased or rated books by Jon Stewart, you might like to know that Kierkegaard and His German Contemporaries: Literature and Aesthetics (Kierkegaard Research: Sources, Reception and Resources) is now available. You can order yours for just $114.95 by following the link below.
February's theme here at Bulldozer/Wreckingball was CITIES. Too late we noticed that Caleb Stull of Vancouver's Parlour Steps has posted an interesting essay on his blog regarding The Myth of the Creative City. This is why his band calls themselves thought rock. The Steps have just released their Ambiguoso album in the USA on Nine Mile Records. It's a pretty hot album, full of hot romance, and also "Hot Romance".
mp3: "Hot Romance" by Parlour Steps
Sadly, no tourdates yet outside of Calgary. But Christ, if you live in Calgary, at least you have something to look forward to now.
mp3: "We Don't Pretend" by Aaron Booth
mp3: "Couldn't Wait" by Aaron Booth
Steven Jesse Bernstein won't be coming to a town near you anytime soon either. He's been dead nearly two decades. I was first told I looked like him when I was 15-yrs-old, and trying to look like Lorne Greene. Then a couple of years later, I was told again, and so I got his amazing album Prison, produced by Steve Fisk. Dave at X-Ray (I think it was still ROW, then) had written on the wrapper, in white grease pencil, "Like Wm S. Burroughs in a knife fight with himself".
mp3: "No No Man (Part 1)" by Steven Jesse Bernstein
Okay, Lorrie Matheson might be related to me. Another Calgary-based singer-songwriter, he's originally from the Prince Albert area of Saskatchewan, where I have some family, or at least family roots. Matheson hasn't released anything since 2004's A Dime At A Time, which I quite liked. One Saturday afternoon, while I was doing a Spo-Dee O'Dee fill-in at CJTR, I played "Ribbon of Red Taillights" (see below), one of my favourite songs from the album. A listener called in and claimed it was "the worst song I've ever heard". When I went back on the air, I mused about what sort of privileged and sheltered life the listener must have been leading in order for that, a lonesome road song that references Gillian Welch, to be the worst song he'd ever heard.
mp3: "Ribbon of Red Taillights" by Lorrie Matheson
mp3: "I Think I See the Light" by Lorrie Matheson
If you've guessed that all of this establishing of who isn't related to me is just a prelude to something else, something about someone who is related to me, you have guessed correctedly. Stay tuned.
Saturday, March 01, 2008
Marc Maron is coming! I just missed him in 2006, but he'll be doing three nights in April at Yuk Yuk's (of all places).
The Raveonettes are at the Plaza Club March 8.
Ace Frehley at the Commodore March 19.
Acid Mothers Temple at Pat's Pub (of all places) on April 4.