Saturday, November 29, 2008

Holy F#%k! Kim Mitchell?

Stephen Harper on the role of the opposition in a minority government. (via Paul Wells @ Macleans) Oh, you see what he's doing there, he means a Conservative opposition. That's why what he said then doesn't line up with what he's doing now.

Martha Wainwright: very good. Great voice, great energy, great band. Biggest surprise of the show: Opener Brian Borcherdt (whose myspace profile pic does him no favours--unless he wants to look like Jared Leto in a Star Wars fanfilm???), best known as one of the founders of T.O. electro-skronk instrumentalists Holy Fuck, has a really great singing voice. He played songs from his new album Coyotes and closed with a sweet Kim Mitchell cover. I've long and loudly argued for a critical second look at Kim Mitchell, so was especially glad to see/hear my cause has found adherents. RIYL: Jason Molina, Chad Vangaalen

mp3: "Easy to Tame" by Kim Mitchell

Friday, November 28, 2008

I know I'm married, but my sister has feelings too

So the Harper gov't thunk twice. But it might be too late for them. Their Stalinist-by-way-of-Tom-Flanagan power play has spurred the long-dormant Liberals into action.

For more LOLZ-Harper, Paul Wells at Macleans laid it on solid yesterday, with bonus awesome photo that will be my new desktop.

Meanwhile, there's a boatload of shows in Vancouver tonight, in case we need something to take our minds of the best political intrigue this country's seen since Gerda Munsinger.
We got AC/DC at GM Place, the Neins Circa at the Western Front, and Martha Wainwright at the Commodore. I'll be at the MW show with my sister, cuz that's the point of having a sister.

mp3: "This Life" by Martha Wainwright
mp3: "Factory" by Martha Wainwright

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Just when you thought they couldn't get any lower...

Bad: Stephen Harper's idiot government is going to try to cut subsidies to political parties, for motives that couldn't be more transparent--to crush the Liberal Party. Because a minority of Canadians elected Harper and his mostly anonymous pals so they could carry out a bullshit vendetta against the Loyal Opposition with a reckless disregard for, y'know, actually running the country during a time when it seems like it really fucking matters to be paying attention. Right?
Worse: Harper's Conservatives are going to sell it as if it's some altruistic belt-tightening in the face of the economic crisis that they're not really ready to admit exists (maybe it has something to do with their fear of science), as if the $30 million savings to taxpayers does anything but pale beside the BILLIONS and BILLIONS Harper & Pals have given to the banks. And hey, banks, while I've got your attention, if you didn't set any money aside for a rainy day during the last decade of constant record-breaking banking profits amid the near annihilation of banking jobs, then fuck you. You deserve nothing. If you can't make ends meet between ATM fees and interest--not to mention those shitty calculators you try to sell me when all I want to do is order new cheques--you don't deserve to call yourselves banks. You're just a bunch of ugly buildings with nice chairs that no one wants to sit on because they're afraid to be comfortable around you.
Worsenator: Of course Harper's Tories are going to make this a Confidence Vote, which means either the Liberals will have to vote in favour of getting shafted bigtime or they'll have to pull the plug on a Parliament that's barely had the chance to make ass-prints in its chairs.

mp3: "All The Money I Had Is Gone" by the Deep Dark Woods

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Bulldozer With Apocrypha: OK You Win All Right

After a full weekend of childbirth class, buying and assembling a crib, and thinking of the future, I return to my living room where I still have too many CDs leftover from nine years as a compulsive record reviewer. Each time I've moved--which has been lots--I've divested myself of giant chunks of the collection, but it's such a giant heap that it's hard to notice any difference.
I like to think that my career as a reviewer was notable more for my appetite than for my taste, which was and is constantly under development.
I didn't keep any souvenirs of those days, aside from the hundreds of CDs that keep the north wall of my living room up. That's really enough, I guess. More than enough, for sure. Every now and then, when I'm about to cook or do dishes or whatever else I do in the kitchen, I grab a CD from the wall that I haven't played for a while and give it a listen to see if it's worth keeping around. This is what I found last night.

Wayne Omaha
Let It Mellow
Transsiberian Music
3.5 stars

This is one of those groups (not a dude) that I know next to nothing about. The liner notes list a bunch of first names and feature a vintage map of Woodstock, Ont. Production was done by Dale Morningstar and Andy Magoffin, which means these dudes are probably at least decently known within Toronto's rock scene. And Wayne Omaha sounds like a Toronto rock band. There's that 416/905 blend of Neil Young & Velvet Underground influences that you used to hear in 13 Engines, Lowest of the Low, Rheostatics, whatever. Which is not to say that Wayne Omaha is just another T.O. rocker combo, even though they kinda are. But they're waaaaay looser--which sets them apart. Sometimes it sounds like they're gonna fall apart, but they hold it together, just barely, with melodica and caulking bought on sale with Canadian Tire Money. It's rugged, ragged and far from right, but it sounds good.

mp3: "It's All Right" by Wayne Omaha
mp3: "OK You Win All Right" by Wayne Omaha

Monday, November 17, 2008

Make Mine Midwives!

November seems to be Midwives Awareness Month or something here in BC, and let me tell you, midwives are pretty awesome. I don't know what it's like to go through this with an OB-GYN, and the real moment of truth (birthing) is yet to come, but based on our experiences so far, I have no reservation about recommending midwives to any expecting parent. Well, not any. Obviously, if your pregnancy is complicated and you need a medical practitioner, that's your best choice.
But if your pregnancy is healthy and problem-free? You owe it to yourself and your community to go with a midwife, or more likely, a group of midwives.
Midwifery has been legal and regulated in BC since 1998, and as such it's covered by the BC Medical Services Plan, which reduces the costs and other strains on the provincial healthcare system. Our team at Westside Midwives has been awesome at providing care and information in a very relaxed and calming way. I've been known to be high strung and super-cynical, especially about so-called alternative healthcare*, but the midwives we've dealt with have allayed all my anxieties and not once caused me to roll my eyes. Admittedly, I'm not the patient in this situation, but they've never treated me as though I shouldn't be there or as if I'm not part of the pregnancy (which some of the So-You've-Decided-To-Become-A-Father books have warned against--Question for discussion at another time: Why do 60-to-80% of all fathering books/websites/resources/etc come across as being created by unbalanced men who own more than three firearms?).

mp3: "Rock the Cradle Alone" by Nimrod Workman

* Don't get me started.

Toronto enough tonight?

Hogtown get ready for the bossest hog of all! Tonight, for one night only, Jesse Matheson & His Midnight Snacks will grace the stage at the legendary Horseshoe Tavern. FOR FREE!

Jesse, if you say it all fancy-like, sounds like French for "I know". Which is what you can say now if someone asks you where Jesse is playing tonight.

My other brother, who lives in Toronto will be there too, which makes me the other brother right now.

mp3: "Nothing at All" by Jesse Matheson

Sunday, November 16, 2008

If you're not the new Dylan, who are you?

A week ago, Sound Salvation Army's Pat bemoaned the, well, Dylan-ness of Dylan. That ultimately punk rock way that Dylan has always managed to command respect and contempt at the same time from the same people. I didn't see the current tour, so I don't know. I saw him ten years ago at what was then called the Agridome, and, well, it was pretty damn cool. It was Dylan, knocking out hot guitar and plowing through a bunch of songs that half the world knows at least some of the words to. This tour saw Dylan play keyboards, which is less hot than guitar, as everyone knows, and also, according to the Winnipeg Sun, Dylan wore leather pants. Which, y'know, not cool, Bob. Leather pants, if you're not actually riding a motorcycle, only put your judgment into question. That's all they do. So this is not to call Pat out for being wrong. He's probably right.
But it got me thinking, I might have a higher tolerance--or even preference for folks who don't sing right. Off tune, off beat, oh yeah, give it to me! And truthfully, there's a case to be made that these singers who aren't blessed with a naturally redolent voice are actually better singers than the ones who were mellifluous to begin with. To create something aesthetically pleasing out of something unpleasant is true craftsmanship, and I'll roll my eyes at anyone who says otherwise.
All of which is just preamble to praise Andre Ethier, who sometimes sounds so much like Bob Dylan that you almost think he's trying to be Leonard Cohen.
Last summer, when I was in Regina, Dave and I were catching up on good records that had come out since last we spoke, and Andre Ethier's On Blue Fog album was one of them. Any Andre Ethier album is a good one and will definitely scratch yr nu-Dillung fever, but still give you a lot more. An Andre Ethier album you might not know about, unless you live in Peterborough (which sounds like a made-up place--I've never met anyone from there), is Dear Stranger, which is actually a Silver Hearts album. The Silver Hearts are a big folk/country band from Ptrbrgh (it looks more authentic w/o vowels) who have made some albums of note (I do remember hearing about that Rain Dogs remake), but seemingly have not toured beyond their little corner of the country, despite playing country/western music. Go figure.

mp3: "Nothing Is Written In Stone" by Andre Ethier
mp3: "Last Real Poet" by the Silver Hearts

EDIT/UPDATE: mp3 link fixed
bonus mp3: "Last Days of Chez Nous" by the Silver Hearts (not an Ethier tune, but 100% worthwhile if you love cruel honkytonk break-up songs)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Roundup

Vancouver: Take your mayoral pick: A dude who skimps on transit fare or a dude who put his personal ambition ahead of his own party's welfare in a way that would even make Paul Martin embarrassed.

The 2010 Olympics want to control your entire life. And not in a good way. Next up: mass evacuation of all Vancouverites who don't work for official Olympic sponsors?

The Danks play at the Biltmore tonight with Two Hours Traffic. But me? I'll be at Louis CK.

mp3: "I Mean, Come On" by the Danks

Thursday, November 13, 2008

(CanWest) Global un-Warming

CanWest Global announced Wednesday they'll be cutting 560 jobs, or 5% of their workforce. Some of the finest people I know work for CanWest, and I hope they're okay.
Further says the CP, "The company will also cut the physical size of some newspapers to reduce costs and focus efforts on expanding digital media operations."
That sounds dismal and calls to mind CanWest's failed Dose commuter tabloid, the horridness of commuter tabloids in general, and usually awful programming on so-called specialty cable.
Commuter tabloids are generally barely worth what you pay for them, unless it's raining and you need something to put between your dry pants and a wet bench on the bus. And don't get me started on their columnists--all of them--but, hey, I like to imagine that since they write for a publication that's handed out for free, the columnists are probably writing on a volunteer-basis, and so I try to cut them a bit of slack.
CanWest has never really had a good grasp on what makes a good newspaper, though the full blame for the National Post can't really be laid entirely at their feet. What people want in a local newspaper, meanwhile, seems so obvious: quality local content. And yet that's what always seems to go on the chopping block whenever convergence rears its head. There are hundreds of places to get national and international news, but there will always be demand for a good local daily newspaper--even in the digital age. With the whole planet at our fingertips online, communities need to know about and see themselves that much more.
Case in point: the two federal elections this fall. Okay, fair enough, the US election was genuinely exciting and historic on a number of levels. But I was appalled at how little heat the Canadian election generated (and obviously, that was part of Harper's gameplan in calling the vote amid the billion-dollar fervour of the US campaign) among Canadians. This shit matters. A lot more than Tina Fey in a bad blazer. But the media seemed just as disinterested in the Canadian election as, well, the nearly 41% of Canadians who didn't even bother voting.

mp3: "Folksong Oblivion" by the Phantom Band

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

You mean I gotta vote on my day off???

Sick of elections yet? Too bad if you live in BC where municipal elections are set to take place this Saturday, November 15. Saturday??? What the heck is that all about? The rest of the country does their voting during the week, which seems natural and good. But BC likes to think of itself as supernatural, so go figure.

Having spent not quite as much time as I'd like lately engrossed in Lee Henderson's The Man Game, a wrasslin' epic set in an alternate universe 1880s Vancouver, I kinda thought there might be some ridiculous reason going back to frontier times. Back in Regina, my go-to-guy on weird and interesting civic/historical factoids was Will Chabun, a veritible warehouse of Saskploitative arcana. But if Will has a Vancouver counterpart, I've yet to meet him or her. So I asked Frances Bula, longtime Vancouver reporter and probably the best blogger on civic issues around. Even the execrable Alex G. Tsukamis reads her blog! Maybe I didn't phrase the question enticingly enough, or maybe I'm the only one who finds this interesting, but here's the complete reply I got from Bula:

Not sure why it is Saturday, but it's been that way forever. Third Saturday in November, written right into the legislation.

At least it's in the fall, and not the spring, like BC's provincial elections.

Saturday or not, we still gotta vote, and to be honest, I've barely got a clue who to vote for, and I'm actually interested in this stuff!

Thank You, Jim Flaherty, For Thinking Of The Banks

Lately, I've been losing sleep, worrying about the well-being of our precious banks. Luckily, I'm not the only who cares. The good ol' Harper gov't has been caring about banks too, why they must have worked through Remembrance Day figuring out this one. Well, back to bed, Canada!

mp3: "The Bank" by Louis CK
mp3: "End of Bank" by Louis CK

P.S. Louis CK is in Vancouver on Friday at the Vogue.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Great Shadows: great song

Josh Reichmann used to be in Tangiers, a kick-ass Toronto band that had one or two former players from the Deadly Snakes. Tangiers released three excellent records of fraught, garage-y soul rock between 2003 and 2005. That's, like, one record a year. Now Josh Reichmann's got a sweaty new band, an Oracle Band, and they've just released their first EP, Life Is Legal, out now on Paper Bag Records. If you were on Paper Bag's mailing list during the week of Oct. 7th, you woulda got a free download of the whole EP. Which is a great reason to sign up now, just in case there's more goodies to come (not necessarily an endorsement)!

Josh Reichmann/Oracle Band is in Vancouver tomorrow night, Nov. 11, at the Media Club.

mp3: "Great Shadows" by Josh Reichmann/Oracle Band
mp3: "Bones to Match the Heart" by Tangiers (from their middle album, Never Bring You Pleasure)

Vancouver City Limits

Went down to watch the brother rock the house at Vancouver City Limits last night. Hosted at the Beaumont Studios at W. 5th & Alberta (incidentally, that's nowhere near the actual Vancouver city limits) every Monday night, VCL is an intimate mostly roots and singer-songwriter music showcase series worth checking out. It's in a rehearsal space with soft seats, and only holds about 50 people. Each show features three acts, and the folks who put it on take video of the concert and then post one nicely edited song from each performance onto the Youtube.
I haven't heard of any of the other performers, and a lot of them seem to be a little outside of my particular tastes in music, but in terms of live music settings, Vancouver City Limits is one of the best venues.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Bulldozer With Apocrypha: Part of What it's There for is to Make People Stupid

Between the Augusts of 1997 and 2006, the main thing I did was write record reviews. I wrote 'em for free and I wrote 'em for pay, and I wrote 'em still when I had nothing to say*. It was, at first, good training for writing. I mean, it was writing, but it was also a bunch of other things. Mainly, it was me teaching myself to write. I've had no instruction in composition since high school, and what mentorship I've had has been indirect. For a long time it felt like I had to rediscover fire with each piece I did, and I wasted a lot time at the top of a hill with twigs in my hands, screaming for the lightning to come.
Eventually, I got pretty good. As a writer. I'm not so foolish that I don't recognize the progress I've made, and I'm not so smug and condescending that I'll pretend otherwise. But I don't think I was ever that good as a reviewer. I don't know that a reviewer who glommed on to Richard Meltzer so early in their career ever really had a chance. I was only just starting to make a little coin from the hustle when Meltzer told me, "I think a lot of work has to be done in ignoring the immensity of it and writing about any little particle of it. It's a big monster, rock. And it exists for certain pre-ordained reasons that were not part of the package once. Part of what it's there for is to make people stupid. To make people cease to resist. It's crowd control."

mp3: "Goodbye Pork Pie Cravat" by Richard Meltzer (last known sighting)

So I pretty much started off wrong. I mean, aside from Meltzer, I barely read any music writing before I started doing it. I had no idea what I was doing, and I didn't really care, just as long as I was doing. Along the way, though, I did start reading other rock-write, and along with the Hemingway, Brautigan, Kerouac, Thompson (both Jim and Hunter S.), Richler, Tosches, and Doestoevsky I was reading back when I was still soft and malleable, it creeped into my own writing and I eventually started to recognize my stuff as actual rock-write, or at least wrock-rite. And then I started doing interviews and profiles and the odd feature (like when I was Santa!), but record reviews were always my bread and free CDs were my butter.
I pretty quickly got to the point where I was getting about 10x more CDs every week than I could ever hope to review, never mind listen to. Most of the time I selected which CD would get the honour of 150 of my words by no less arbitrary means than do I have a good joke I could hang around the album?
I had a lot of good jokes, and probably would've been better off writing record reviews disguised as comedy routines than vice versa, but no one was offering me 10-to-25 cents/word for comedy routines four-to-eight times a month. Do the math, in Regina, in the early 2000s, you could almost pay your rent on that. You couldn't eat or turn on the lights, but you could pay your rent. Wait a minute, I just did the math, you couldn't pay your rent on record reviews, but you could probably pay one bill. Like maybe your phone bill, if you didn't have any friends.
Anyway, good times. I wrote for dailies, weeklies, bi-weeklies, monthlies, bi-monthlies, and I even did one assignment for a quarterly, though I never got paid for it, even though the peice ran (minus my byline, which is why I missed it for over a year, which kinda makes it my fault for not getting paid--well no, it's still Mr. Campbell's fault, and I'd still like the money). And for all the money I wasn't making from my writing (or a variety of dayjobs), I always had a giant box of CDs to sell at the end of the month.
But I also had an ever-growing number of boxes full of CDs that I hadn't yet reviewed for whatever reason, but still loved and intended to review someday.

Joel RL Phelps The Downer Trio
Moneyshot Records
4 stars

Phelps used to be in Silkworm, who may have opened for Shellac in Regina in 1999. But at the time Customs came out, I kept getting Silkworm and Spoon mixed up, so don't count on it. Phelps left the band, moved to the Kootenays or somewhere, and started the Downer Trio. Which is exactly what it sounds like, ie, not a band for your wedding. I mentioned Shellac earlier and now I'm gonna call back to that, because they are/were(?) also a trio that specialized in downers with monstrous percussion. So if you like that, you'll like this. But if you prefer the brutally exposed emotional honesty of the Mountain Goats, you will also like Customs. Phelps treads both the power-rocker and the troubadour (seriously, there's some non-hyphenated folk troubadour stuff on this alb) paths, usually at the same time, and usually with a sense of macho grace that thoroughly distinguishes him from either of the bands I just compared him to.
Customs, like the rest of Phelps's Downer Trio stuff, is currently out of print, which is a fucking shame. Phelps seems to have disappeared from the music bizz altogether in the last four years, which, y'know, good for him/bad for us.

mp3: "From Up Here" by Joel RL Phelps Downer Trio - This is the first cut, and it starts off so tough and crunchy, but then a steel drum comes in doesn't change the tone or tenor, but gives it something unexpected, something perfect.

mp3: "Kelly Grand Forks" by Joel RL Phelps Downer Trio - My parents lived in Grand Forks, BC before I was born. Then, after I was born, I lived not all that far from Grand Forks, ND, though I never went there. This song also features amazing percussion, but I like it even more for the cutting lyrics like "you can freeze your faith and loyalty because that's what winter's for".

*You too can write a country & western hit!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Need vs. Want

The good people of Shazhmm look at Herbie Archives Vol. 1 and make my mouth water. The Fat Fury! Frankenstein! Possible multiple Frankensteins! Hubba 2x.
Of course, the last thing I need right now is $50 collection of comics from the 60s. But a boy can dream, can't he?

mp3: "Sweatshirt Cowboy" by the Woodsmen
mp3: "I Been Rich All My Life" by the Woodsmen

don't talk to me about 2.0

A little over a month ago I went to a party. I know, bad idea. It was mostly okay, work-related, lotsa people I actually like, etc. But somehow I got cornered into a conversation with a fella who seemed intent on impressing me with the fact that he works in "Web 2.0, you know what that is?"

"Um, that means you're on Facebook?"

I spent the next 25 minutes in the year 2006. And yeah, basically the dude sets up Facebook accounts for businesses. Which is fine, but the guy had that evangelical zeal for "interactive online community" that inevitably trumps content or even function. Which is, like, at the corner of Nowhere Street and Whocares Avenue. My unwelcome Ajax tutorial finally ended when I admitted to having a blog but not having a solid SEO strategy.

mp3: "Narrow Minds" by Angil and the Hidden Tracks

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A little late, but still ahead of the release show!

So our ol' pals the Neins Circa have a new rekkid out, and it's a concept EP devoted to the one and only C.S. Rippen, best known as the boffo guitarist of the Tin Cup (as in Roger Dean Young & the...). As you can see, the EP was in stores over a month ago, but I was not in a store until Saturday, so whatcha gonna do?

But the Neins Circa themselves were out on tour across the country all fall, so the CD release show hasn't even happened yet!
You can be a part of the magic on Friday, November 28 at the Western Front, 303 E. 8th. Word around town is that the Ripper himself will be there and will be a solo set. NICE.

mp3: "Little Chris" by the Neins Circa