Arrested Development

A recent Arrested Development marathon around these parts has left a surprising impression on me. Murray wrapped watching the whole series last week, yet I am still thinking about it. Pure comedy, unbridled idiocy, total genius.

I know Michael Cera has had a major resurgence for his recent role in Scott Pilgrim (Side note: Check out this photoshop competition – scroll down to the comments for maximum laffs. I love that shit. And, also, he was born and raised in Canada, so all Canadians everywhere will forever claim him as one of “Ours.” *sigh*

But I will mainly remember Mr. Cera for this:

As it was intended, I’m sure. Anyway, the whole point of this post was because my new love for Arrested Development reminded me of this time backstage at the Siren Festival in Coney Island. I don’t think it was the year we were playing, but we were hanging out with soms palz, including Stacey M. when we also saw David Cross, who very graciously joined us for this:

At the time we were in love with him for his brilliant comedy tape, Shut Up You Fucking Baby, which we listened to dozens of times on tour. Thanks to Rob Benvie for sharing that joint with us, for we still, to this day refer to “The Gator and The Lunatic” in most of our music industry-related conversations.

Thank you, everybody, for the jokes. That is all.

Musical Mnemonics 3: Squeeze

While shopping for back to school clothes for by kid, I found myself in the beige-est of retailers, Old Navy. Usually when I do normal, mall-related things, the music stores play perplexes me. I can’t not listen to it. I know it’s a whole thing now, for a band to have their song included on these playlists. And depending on the store, the musical selections can be totally unremarkable, frustrating, irritating, mind-blowing, delightful, or, on the rare occasion, a reminder of something amazing I haven’t heard in a while.

Whilst wandering the Old Navy in search of white, child-sized polo shirts, I was reminded of Squeeze via Pulling Mussels from the Shell. A classic track.

This instalment of “musical mnemonics” is dedicated to Squeeze: a new wave pop band from the UK, circa late 70’s/early 80’s, who wrote really fucking great songs. Namely: Tempted, Cool for Cats, Pulling Mussels from the Shell, Black Coffee in Bed, Another Nail In My Heart. Go out and purchase their Singles 45s and Under immediately. Especially if you were born in the 90’s, you gotta hear these songs. It’s imperative.

Anyway, this is pretty much the kind of music that belies my white-ness. I mean, check out some of their music videos on YouTube (see below). Holy goofball festival, but I know, I forgive everything. After all it was the 80’s and that decade unfortunately rolled into the 90’s which taken together created the biggest cultural recession the Western Hemisphere has known. Much like the massive cultural cluster-fuck we’re presently living through.

Take a break from it, remember something easy, something good. Something to listen to while drinking beers by the lake somewhere. NO PRETENTION. REMEMBER THAT?

Apparently that’s Jools Holland pushing the piano around…

Underground Sounds

On Monday, August 23rd I’ll be returning to my old stomping ground: CKUT. I spent about 4 years co-hosting Underground Sounds on CKUT with Agata De Santis. Now Agata is leaving the show – after 15 years of holding down the fort. On Monday the dream team reunites as I join Agata as co-host of Underground Sounds.

Underground Sounds has been a show on CKUT since, well, forever. The show mandate is to promote local and independent music, with an overall emphasis on Canadian bands and artists. I learned a lot doing that show, and really liked the rock’n’roll boot camp afforded by volunteering at the station. In addition to hosting the show I was given a weekly stack of promo CDs to listen to and categorise for the station’s music library. I can’t imagine, nearly ten years since I left the station, how they’ve managed to maintain an ever-growing library that was already bursting at the seams, like a mini musical archive, walls lined with vintage vinyl on bowing shelves.

Anything I wanted to hear was there, anything I’d heard about or read about, I could listen to and I felt really lucky to have that privilege…just by being a volunteer. I suppose that these days this isn’t such an exclusive thing – everything is digitised now and can be previewed usually for free on the internet. I was at CKUT between 1996-2000, in the years before the internet broke and the term “MP3” was in its infancy.

All of this “radio talk” has got me to thinking: podcast? The idea’s been floating around in my mind for a few weeks now, but I was always troubled by the idea of what I would fill a podcast with. I’m totally stoked to be going back to CKUT, even if it’s just for one night because it’s got the ideas flowing…maybe I should go back on a more regular basis? And who are the new kids hanging out at the station? What’s the vibe over there? CKUT continues to have some really great music programming: if you haven’t already, consider listening to shows like The Lion’s Den, New Shit, Roots Rock Reggae, Positive Vibes, and the quintessential 90’s Montreal rock show, Aack! Check the programming grid for downloads of all these shows. Consider it a lesson in what makes this city tick.

Radio has certainly changed a lot, since the fall of the “analog” or “physcial” music industry. Everything is digital now, and local radio is less about who is listening locally and more about the city that informs it’s programming. The popularity and portable-ness of online media has pretty much allowed radio to remain relevant. Stations like WFMU in Jersey City really set the bar: local freeform radio without commercial constraints, supported by a far-reaching community of dedicated listeners. Music “culture” has become so sadly diluted by corporate incentives, marketing bravado, hidden subtexts and carbon-copy, cookie cutter bands. And all that totally drains the soul out of art.

CKUT has remained pretty much un-compromised, with music shows curated by music lovers for music lovers. Take a listen, volunteer for an afternoon, support your local station.

Underground Sounds: Tune in and listen: Monday August 23rd from 8-10PM EST on CKUT 90.3 FM in Montreal and online at ckut.ca. I’ll also post a link to the show/podcast once it is archived. Call us while we’re on the air on Monday: 514.448.4013.

Use the comments below to let me know if you think I should make a second go of this radio thing. Would you download/listen to my podcast?

Waiting

Waiting: the lull after the album making frenzy is finished, and the moments before the marketing machine starts up. I imagine this is how a fireman must feel: trained and ready for action but having to just sit there and wait for the call. Wait for the moment when the little light on that red telephone flashes. It’s maddening and the moments of self-doubt are the worst. So then I’m sent into the distractions, I, Robot, Scanners, Red Dead Redemption, Big Bang Theory and dreams of Wil Wheaton and that guy that plays Chief in BSG. Too much time on the internet. The feeling of staring up towards an unseen goal at the top of a mountain I’m about to climb.

It’s a feeling of endless possibility, and total impossibility. The waiting game. Waiting to conquer.

I saved a draft of an earlier version of this sentiment about a month ago: I was coming down from being in the studio and jumped headfirst into mixing: “This band is like a team of mercenaries, a bunch of guys that just come in for the kill, unforgiving, with destructive force.” Something to look forward to? Or something like this:

Musical Mnemonics 1: Swervedriver

Every now and again I will be going about my day and something quite randomly will trigger a musical memory. Suddenly a song I haven’t heard in years is playing on cerebral repeat. These are usually songs I loved, songs that got me through my adolescence, tweens and teens, through my twenties, songs that brought me somewhere, somehow, to where I stand today. They have inadvertently informed my being, by their own tiny methods, and I can’t ignore their long-term effects. So I’ve decided to start an occasional series where I re-visit a song I haven’t heard in years, give it a re-listen and see how it has fared.

One band I enjoyed immensely before the turn of the century was Swervedriver. For a while in the mid-nineties, they were hands down my favourite band. Even just reading their discography is bringing back some major memories: The Bifteck, Lucky Lagers, general Plateau life magically negating whatever I was learning at school. Now I feel like I’ve forgotten everything about Swervedriver (and, by proxy, university), even though this song often pops into my head:

It totally is not their best song. That would likely be something from Mezcal Head like Last Train to Satansville. If I was to be thorough or at all a completionist I’d go back and listen to their catalogue. Sadly, I lost the majority of my CD collection a decade ago in a post-breakup custody battle. Actually, it wasn’t a battle at all. I just couldn’t be bothered to go through the collection of hundreds of CDs to haggle over whose were whose. So in an act of utter laziness, I gave up all my music and never looked back, never tried to rebuild, and now have decided randomly to start a series of blog posts based on albums no longer in my posession – physically, digitally or otherwise.

This is totally pathetic, I know. But I don’t care. This “internet” place is where us pathetic types go to flourish.

Cultural Timeliness, FAIL or WIN? I give Swervedriver a total WIN! Except for the lead singer’s Counting-Crows-style hair. I never liked it then and I still don’t approve. But he is forgiven, since their major label fuckdown as recounted by Wikipedia is heart-wrenching. Who drops a band after one week? Darsh. I never got into the post/side-projects. Back in the day I gave the Toshack Highway album (the one with the orange cover, self-titled, I believe) a chance, but wasn’t digging on it so just…moved on…

P.S. Darsh = Dark + Harsh. Remember you heard it here first (though I’m pretty sure it is a Liam O’Neil joint).

Do I ♥ Hype Machine?

When I first got into the Hype Machine, I thought it was genius. An aggregator of music blogs that generates a “Top Ten” list every week. Decentralised, not dependent on skewed radio air play or impossible record sales. I discovered new musicn on HypeM, listened to what everyone else was digging on, clicked on the little heart next to the songs and bands I wanted to support. One of my tweets adds 60 points to the chart! Why? I have no idea!

After the novelty wore off, something struck me: cleverness aside, I didn’t want to spend that much time listening to Madonna/The Who and Norotious B.I.G/Miley Cyrus mashups. I wanted to listen to songs the way songwriters created them: not a remix, mashup or basement redux. As musician in a band, I know how much time, effort and resource goes into writing and recording an album. Shouldn’t that effort be recognised, rather than someone else’s whimsy, territorially pissed all over a track?

I propose two lists: 1) original tracks, and 2) everything else. Call me old fashioned. But we, the people, have been ravaged enough by the downloading and file sharing and the like. Now some song feat. the vs. remix mashup edit club version gets more attention than the song itself. How do you split the mechanicals on something like that?

Just kidding. I’m being a raving old person. Stodgy, impatient, unwilling to accept the obvious change that is happening right before my eyes. I really don’t care: I still read the Hype Machine charts, and vote for my friends. As if the politics of high school never ended.

Art inspiring art. A lyric, a beat, a riff, encouraging someone else to keep going, to keep writing, to continue that piece of art. Non-monetized, positive vibes, good times. “Why should I listen to just one song when I can listen to two at the same time?” Ah, in the year 2000.

As an afterthought, I find it ironical (fake word that I use all the time -ed.) that Google recently shut down a bunch of music blogs that share MP3s, while the entire Hype Machine model is based on blogs that share MP3s. Google just didn’t want to deal with the digital mechanicals, I bet.

Science of Music vs. Martin Amis

During a moment spent not freaking out about Facebook removing my civil e-liberties, or analyzing the weird dreams I had last night about ordering an Americano coffee in NYC, I read a compelling book review in the Economist. The last paragraph struck me:

“[The] basic message is encouraging and uplifting: people know much more about music than they think. They start picking up the rules from the day they are born, perhaps even before, by hearing it all around them. Very young children can tell if a tune or harmony is not quite right. One of the joys of listening to music is a general familiarity with the way it is put together: to know roughly what to expect, then to see in what particular ways your expectations will be met or exceeded. Most adults can differentiate between kinds of music even if they have had no training.

Music is completely sui generis. It should not tell a non-musical story; the listener will decode it for himself. Many, perhaps most, people have experienced a sudden rush of emotion on hearing a particular piece of music; a thrill or chill, a sense of excitement or exhilaration, a feeling of being swept away by it. They may even be moved to tears, without being able to tell why. Musical analysts have tried hard to find out how this happens, but with little success. Perhaps some mysteries are best preserved.”

The book is The Music Instinct: How Music Works and Why We Can’t Do Without It by Philip Ball. And while I probably will never read it, this abstract does offer some interesting thoughts, like: Why does music even exist? Why does it make us feel? Maybe if I read the book some of these questions would be answered. But I so rarely read analog media (Economist excluded).

AND their review of the new Martin Amis book was pretty intriguing…for a Martin Amis fan. His best since Money? Come on.

‘Best Of’ Brings Out The Worst Of…Me

The end of the year, end of the decade, time to compile a list of highs and lows. In past years, I haven’t cared, haven’t really bothered: I’ve read the lists, enjoyed them, agreed and disagreed verbally to printed matter. I don’t know why, this time around, I am so not interested.

I was asked to contribute to a handful of lists this year, picking my top artists, bands, albums, shows, etc. And I had to decline. When the requests came in, I considered them, and realised that the past year has been, well, totally beige. Especially in Canada. With the exception of Metric’s Fansaties and a handful of great songs/ideas from others, what could I remember? What was timeless? I didn’t know. I couldn’t think of anything. Was that my fault? Maybe I was lazy this year. Did I not keep up? No: I’ve been worn down by repetition, the references to the references, the derivativity, the lack of soul, a saturated milieu, churning out music devoid of spirit and purpose.

For example, could someone please explain this to me? It 100% boggles my mind.

Times have changed, I suppose. I’ve changed. I’ve changed quite a bit, and philosophically look at music and the music industry in a hyper-evolved way. In four dimensions. And once you achieve that fourth dimension, everything changes. Perspective is paramount, and there’s no going back to the way things were before.

Or the Battlestar Galactica marathon I’m on has clouded my memory.

Pilgrimage Details Announced

This morning I’m making oatmeal for breakfast. I make it the old fashioned way, by boiling oats until they’re cooked. Not with the flavoured instant packets that I grew up on. I have to call it porridge for my daughter to eat it, because that’s what they’re serving up in Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Everything has to be branded for kids these days.

And by “breakfast” I mean “first breakfast” because I’m about to go meet some friends for brunch/second breakfast. Then going to check out the Puces Pop Xmas Sale, where I’m hoping to find some kind of silkscreened 2010 calendar.

There’s been a lot of music floating around the house, and next week Murray and I are taking a trip to Los Angeles. Maybe you’ve noticed my “pilgrimage” twitter posts, well, that’s kind of a joke. Kind of. Part of the trip was timed with going to see Morrissey, which is actually happening, which I’m a little giddy about. Can you tell?

As you may know, I play in a band, so going to see other bands’ shows is kind of like work for me. The venue/club/bar environment is like an office party. Or like a really long coffee break. And the obligatory alcoholism, made mandatory by boredom, gets tired after 30. I’m actually turning into the old joke we made about The Dears being a bunch of brandy-sipping, philosophy-reading, candlelit-bathing snobs. That’s what parenthood does to a person. Bottom line is: you can’t make porridge and watch The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show if you’re hungover. Well, I guess you can…but according to my particular set of values, Hangover+Parenthood=Degenerate Street.

All guilt issues aside, I’m stoked about going to LA. Maybe we’ll go to The Grove and look for celebrities, go swimming in the freezing ocean while Americans correctly observe: “They must be Canadian,” and definitely hang out here.

Go Fuck Yourself…but I Love You!

Such a classic situation. No editorializing comments necessary.

MORRISSEY EJECTS HAMBURGER FROM GIG
Morrissey had a fan thrown out of a gig in Hamburg on Tuesday after
the audience member shouted an insult at him.

The incident happened after Morrissey suggested that people from
Hamburg should be called ‘Hamburgists’, rather than ‘Hamburgers’, so
to break their association with the popular meat delivery system the
fiercely vegetarian singer hates so much. Weak joke supplied, he then
played ‘I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris’.

After finishing the song, Moz announced to the audience: “So, somebody
shouted and told me to go and fuck myself”. He then identified the man
who had thrown the insult and asked him to explain himself. The man
managed to say: “You made a joke about us and I…” before the singer
launched into a tirade against him and had him thrown out by security.

As he was pulled out of the venue, the man shouted: “But I love
you…” to which Morrissey responded: “Well, love me outside”.

And because I love you, I have managed to piece the whole thing
together via the medium of YouTube. Happy Friday:

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_bU4hJz_0I
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBXOc8LAMb0
Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrZyJfqLHzA

– courtesy of http://www.unlimitedmedia.co.uk