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Archive for June, 2010

SOUNDTRACK: ROB SZABO-“If I Could Do It All Again” (2003).

Rob Szabo is a singer-songwriter.  And this song is a pretty traditional singer-songwriter song.  It’s got some humor, it’s got some cliches.  In some ways he reminds me of Jill Sobule (lyrically, not vocally, obviously) or maybe Loudon Wainwright III.

Szabo has a number of albums out already.  I listened to a few others songs on his radio station and I enjoyed them.  He strikes me as the kind of musician that the more you listen, and the more carefully you listen, the more rewarding his music is.

I wasn’t all that impressed by “If I Could Do It All Again,” but the other tracks were certainly good.  And I could easily enjoy listening to his stuff when the mood was right.

[READ: June 15, 2010] “Stet”

This was probably my favorite story of the bunch.  It’s funny, it’s dark and its very Canadian.  I suppose that if you want to write a “Canadian story” it’s easy to set it where he does (so you can mention a LOT of Canadiana) but this story works beyond the surface.

And the surface is that this story is set in a Canadian newspaper.  Mansour, Fabien and Matt are trying to meet a deadline.  They bemoan their late hours, their hard work, their horrible bosses and the inevitable decline of newspapers. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HURON-“Corktown” (2010).

Huron‘s “Corktown” opens with a guitar riff that sounds like classic 70s rock (hello Thin Lizzy!).  But when the song kicks in for good, the verses are a light, jangly pop.  It makes for a really interesting mix of styles and it works really well.

Some of the other tracks include the screaming rock of “Big Dig” (which has chord progressions of Neil Young but sounds nothing like Neil Young).  It also features some wonderfully stupid fat bass sounds as the song nears its conclusion.  “Bloodfire” has another great guitar solo.  And the vocalist sounds an awful lot like one of the guys from Sloan (who knew Sloan could be so influential?)

Thanks CBC Radio 3 for introducing me to this great band.

[READ: June 15, 2010] “Sun Na, Bird”

This final piece is at the same time the bleakest and yet most hopeful story of the group.

It is the near future and in this suburban Canadian town, all the humans have fled, with no intention of returning (the TV is still on in the house where the story takes place). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MASTODON-Leviathan (2004).

This is the CD that started it all.  Well, for me and Moby Dick- related music, anyhow. My friend Andrew asked if I would be reviewing it along with Moby Dick.  And, yes I am.

Leviathan is sort of a concept album about Moby Dick. I say sort of because it’s not entirely about Moby Dick.  The opener, “Blood and Thunder” features the chorus: “White Whale.  Holy Grail.  And it also features lyrics that seem to come straight from the book: “break your backs and crack your oars, men.”  There’s also the tracks “I am Ahab” and “Seabeast,” the latter features the lyrics: “Dear Mr Queequeg you have been informed your life’s been saved”

And yet, not everything is about Melville’s saga: “Island” bears no resemblance that I can see and the final track, a slow instrumental is called Joseph Merrick (who was the elephant man).

Musically the disc runs from bludgeoning metal (“Island”) to complex and intricate bludgeoning metal (“Iron Tusk,” which features a stereophonic drum solo opening).  “Blood and Thunder” has some great catchy riffs with some vocals that demand a lyric sheet for clarity.  “I am Ahab” features some extended vocal notes!  But there’s more to it than that.  “Seabeast” has a great slow intro guitar solo and features a two different vocalists to very good effect.

And the whole disc is chock full of time changes, crazy drum fills (how can he play so many different drums so quickly?).  “Megalodon” has a great odd guitar riff in the middle break section (and has nothing to do with Moby Dick at all).

As you near the middle of the album you get a couple of amazingly complex tracks.  “Naked Burn” features a great melodic middle section (coupled with really catchy vocals, too).  And the highlight is the thirteen plus minute “Hearts Alive.”  It begins as a very pretty acoustic guitar piece.  After about two minutes the heavy guitars kick in and there’s several different middle sections with varying degrees of melody.  By the midway point we’ve heard a few more very beautiful picked guitar sections, until it ends with some strong heavy guitar chords that slowly fade away.

So it’s a super heavy progressive rock/speed metal concept album for people who don’t like real concept albums (but who like their metal literate).  Who would have guessed it would have made so many best of the year lists?

[READ: Week of June 28, 2010] Moby-Dick [Chapters 111-End]

The end is here and BOY did I not see that coming.  I honestly had no idea how the book ended (how is it I knew the basics of the story but didn’t know the ending?  Talk about everyone agreeing to the spoiler alert!).  The other thing that surprised me was how damned exciting those last 70 pages were.  Now it could be a simple build up from the slowly paced early chapters–we were all lulled by the waves and the diversions–but man, when Melville wanted to, he produced the goods.  If you want young people to read this book, just assign them the last 70 pages.  I realize that all the art and such will be lost, but if they read just the end parts, they’ll come away with a much better perception of the book, and maybe they’ll want to read the rest later.  [I’m not a fan of abridged things of course, so I’d want them to read the original full text, just the end of it].

And I absolutely cannot believe [spoiler alert–okay the whole post is a spoiler, even if I didn’t know, the book is over 150 years old, so chances are you may have heard…] (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SAID THE WHALE-“Gentleman” (2009).

This song starts out simply enough, a folky bouncey song.  It’s an almost harmless song, almost easily forgotten.  And yet there’s something about it that raises it above songs that typically sound like this.  Enough, that is to make me want to listen to it again.

When I investigated the Said the Whale page on CBC Radio 3, I learned that they’re from Vancouver.  But more importantly I learned that they have a number of songs with great titles.

Delightfully, “Wanting like Varuna” lives up to its title.  It’s evidently on their 2009 Christmas EP.  It’s a wild rollicking song with an awesomely catchy chorus, “everybody wants: they want, they want, they want, they waaant.”  And about half way through, the song switches directions completely: a new time signature, from a slow pop song to a wild syncopated jazzy motif.

That song appears to be an anomaly as the third song I chose was their most popular on the station: “This City’s a Mess.”  It starts again as a slow folky number.  But it gradually gets louder and more chaotic.  It’s very catchy, and also more interesting than “Gentleman.”

I’m not sure I’d set out to listen to them, but I enjoyed hearing the songs.

[READ: June 15, 2010] “Billy Bennett”

These stories continue to get darker and darker.  What does this say about Canadian writers, or people’s opinions of their homeland?

Billy Bennett is a ne’er do well.  He has a criminal record, several smashed cars in his recent past and a drinking problem. (more…)

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This magazine will self destruct

I recently realized that I had not received an issue of Geek Monthly for a while.  I assumed my subscription had lapsed (it does that).  But when I went to their web site,well, let’s just say don’t bother.

The folding has been confirmed by Blog Magazine.  And I’m embarrassed to see that they folded in January.  Really?  It took me 6 months to notice?  Well, even though I adored the magazine, I always took it to be more sporadic than its monthly title suggested. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHUMBAWAMBA-Anarchy (1994).

Long before Chumbawamba were Tubthumping up the charts, they were a bunch of squatting anarchists.  In fact their history as a collective is fascinating  in and of itself (they had even started a record label called Agit-Prop).

This album was their sixth, and the cover was not the only controversial thing about it.  It opens with the supremely catchy “Give the Anarchist a Cigarette” which features the delightfully sing a long: “Nothing ever burns down by itself/ Ever fire needs a little bit of help.”

From this disc on (their previous albums were a mish mash of samples and dance beats) they set about writing catchy electronic rock songs.  Simple beats that you could dance to, but with subversive lyrics up the wazoo.  They tackled Homophobia: “homophobia the worst disease you can’t love who you want to love in times like these.”  It’s an a capella track with an arr. trad. melody and (like “Tubthumping”) it was also set in a pub:  “In the pubs and clubs and burger bars, breeding pens for pigs Alcohol, testosterone, and ignorance and fists.”

I’ve enjoyed this disc for as long as I’ve had it.  It’s a catchy mix of different styles with a surprisingly strong sounding multi-voiced chorus.  (For all of Chumbawamba’s ups and downs, their harmonies have always been spot on).

The disc also features a number of 30 second snippets of TV (one is called “D’oh”) and commercials.  Songs also reference The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, as well as local politics and general awareness: “open your eyes, time to wake up, enough is enough is enough is enough” (from the song “Enough is Enough,” which is decidedly not a cover of the disco hit).

Because I have the sense of humor of a five-year old, I have always loved the lyrics of the wholly danceable “Mouthful of Shit” “Can’t hear you ’cause your mouth’s full of shit, do something about it. ” Also like “Tubthumping,” it features a solo female vocal coming out of the din, delicately singing, “You think you’re Gods gift, you’re a liar.  I wouldn’t piss on you if you were on fire.”  It’s fun to sing along to, just be mindful of where you are when yo do it!

[READ: Week of June 25, 2010] Letters of Insurgents [Third Letters]

The hardest thing about writing up posts about this book is trying to limit my quotes!  There are so many good ones, and ones that so encapsulate what I want to say that it just seems easier to use his words.  So, Insurgent Summer readers, I apologize for all of the blocks.  Fredy writes too well not  to share it.

And so begins the third letters: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GALAXIE 500-“Big Bang” (2006).

When I saw this band come up on CBC Radio 3, I thought, I didn’t know that Galaxie 500 were Canadian.  Well, they’re not.  At least the early 90’s band Galaxie 500 aren’t.  But THIS Galaxie 500 are from Montreal.

Now, I understand that there are a lot of bands with the same name.  It’s prettyinevitable as there’s only so many permutations of common words.  But “Galaxie 500?”  How could they not know there was another band with that name, especially as seminal an act as Galaxie 500 was?  So, what is their name?  A tribute?  I just don’t get it.

And so I was prepared to hate this band on principle. But then I heard the song.  It’s noisy, crazy, brash and ballsy.  It’s not exactly punk, it’s sort of a garage band with sound effects (in many places it sounds like the more raucous Sloan songs).

They also sing in French (which means they have more right to the spelling of Galaxie than the previous incarnation of the band).  Even though “Big Bang” comes from the top album Le Temps au Point Mort, I really enjoy this lower album cover more (and the songs from it (which you can hear on the band’s website) are also great.  As is the video (available there, too).

[READ: June 15, 2010] “A Few Acres of Snow”

This story starts out in reality and slowly shifts into a  more fanciful realm.  As it opens, a man arrives at a cabin. His intention is to write a book called One Hundred and Twenty-Seven Paintings To See Before You Die (I love the conceit of this, a sort of lazy man’s guide to touring the world).

He is isolated (which is what he wants), with no phone or contact with the outside word (or his family).  And then it starts snowing.  It snows harder and harder and plies up to his windows.  And then it goes higher still. (more…)

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