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Archive for the ‘The Walrus’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RODRIGO Y GABRIELA-Live in France (2009).

Nothing can prepare you for a Rod y Gab concert, but listening to a live album can give you some idea of the aural pyrotechnics you’re in for.

To say it is “just ” two guitarists playing acoustic guitar, gives you a very specific picture.  If you say that they are amazing at soloing on their instruments, it gives you another picture.  Neither of which is correct.

Rodrigo plays an incredible fast lead guitar while Gabriela plays the most dynamic percussive rhythm I’ve ever seem (or heard) on her hollow bodied guitar.   When listening live, if Gabriela is not playing the rhythmic style, it’s impossible to know who is playing what,

These songs are not just virtuoso show-off pieces. They have terrific melodies that run through them.  The songs are instantly recognizable as Rod y Gab songs, but you also recognize the individual melodies too (although I’ll be damned if I can keep the names of the songs straight in any way).

If I had a complaint, which isn’t really a complaint, it’s that you can never tell when the songs actually end. They often pause mid-song and then resume after ten to 30 seconds.  Some songs could be 3 minutes but end up nearly 6.  It doesn’t really matter because the songs are great and could all be one long song because it’s terrific, it’s just a little hard to keep track sometimes.

For this CD, they play 7 of 11 tracks from 11:11 and 1 from their self-titled album.

“Hanuman” opens the disc.  After a few minutes, the song builds and Rod plays faster and louder chords and then it all drops away.  When the riff comes back in, that’s pretty awesome.  “Triveni” beings with some really heavy riffing from both of them.  “Chac Mool” is the one major exception to everything else on the disc  It’s one minute long and is  very mellow and quite pretty.  Nothing fancy, just a a nice melody.

“Hora Zero” has a few moments where Rod plays some really fast arpegiaos and the consistency of his playing is remarkable. (There’s also some wah wah on this song which always comes as a surprise).  This is one of those songs that feels like it ends after four minutes, but it still has two minutes to go.  It ends with a nod to Metallica with the ending chords.

“Gabriela Solo” and “Rodrigo Solo” are, as they say, opportunities for us to marvel at their individual skills.  Gab does a lot of percussive stuff, but also shows her chops on the strings.  Rod’s solo throws in a lot of recognizable heavy metal riffs in between his beautiful Spanish guitar playing: three from Metallica and one from Slayer.

“Santo Domingo” is one of my favorite songs.  I love the riff that is in a different time signature at the end of each “verse.”  There’s some wonderful percussion from Gab. I really dig the bass sound and heavy riffing that he (or maybe she) gets out of the guitar in the middle of  “Buster Voodoo.”

“11:11” features a very pretty, mellow echoing lead section, its kind of trippy rather than frenetic, and there’s some cool tricks that Rod pulls off that sound fantastic.  “Savitri” has some more great riffs and some cool percussive playing from Gab–it turns into a pretty fast and furious song.

“Tamacun” is from their self titled album and it elicits the biggest response, with Rod teasing out the riff and the audience singing along (to an instrumental).  The end is great with some terrific percussion from Gab as Rod wails away.

This does not compare to actually seeing them, but it’s a terrific performance nonetheless.

[READ: January 22, 2018] “Wheelers”

This rather long story seemed to be one thing and then turned into something else entirely.  As if maybe this is an excerpt from a novel rather than a short story (which I see now that it is).

The story begins with a boy talking about his family–his mother’s maiden name is Wheeler.

He grew up in a house with four sisters.  They were loud and demanding.  He tried to ride a wave between them, allowing hair braiding and the like, but they often turned on him: “You know when you mooned me and Faith? We saw your balls and they looked shrimpy.”

The girls’ were nicknames Itsy, Bitsy, Titsy and Ditsy (the dad changed Titsy to Mitsy, wisely). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE PIERCE BROTHERS-The Records Were Ours, (2017).

The Pierce Brothers was without a doubt the best opening-act-whom-I-hadn’t-heard-of-before.  The two of them (twins!) were an incredibly energetic, exciting and crowd-pleasing act.  They had us clapping, singing along and generally making all kinds of merry.

Jack (drums and more, including guitars) and Patrick (guitars and more) Pierce (and their family, obviously) are from Melbourne.  They have a pretty big following there and yet apparently no Wikipedia page about them!  Go figure.

They have released a number of EPs and this was the first of two in 2017.  They are a bit more subdued on record (especially the couple of mellower songs here).

“Take Me Out” has a terrific, great catchy guitar riff followed by a shout-along chorus of “stand up!” and “take me out.”  This song rocks a lot harder than their other songs (there’s more production as well).  This is a great clap-along and get-up and sing song.

Their other songs are a bit more folkie (live, it’s primarily acoustic guitar and drum kit). But even their folkie songs tend to move fast and have big sing-along choruses.

“The Records Were Ours” has a simple 1,2,3 waltz melody.  It’s incredibly catchy and has a pointed  verse

When you left my house / You took the records and they were ours / You hadn’t broken them up just yet / You got me hooked on these cigarettes

and the best, most understated kiss-off chorus ever:

That’s why / I don’t care much for you / I don’t care much for you anymore

“Rhodes” is a more traditional folk rock song–a simple beat and bouncy guitars.  The big difference is the lengthy guitar solo that ends the song.  It was on this song that I first noticed that Jack (on the left when they play live) sounds more than a bit like Ed from Live.  “Rhodes” is a minor key, darker ballad with a whistling solo that is crazily distorted and more than a little creepy.

“Take a Shot” returns to that big anthemic singalong.  They sing in gruff voices, loudly, and it’s quite catchy.  Later in the EP there’s a live recording from the Syndey Opera House Forecourt in which they introduce the song by saying they wrote it about an [American] fuckwit with a really stupid haircut and we’re all stuck with him for the next four years.

“Keep In Mind” is a slower ballad with interesting percussive sounds.  Jack sings with some falsetto notes that also remind me of Ed from Live.

The final two tracks are live.  The first is that version of “Take a Shot” and the second is a then new song called “Brother” recorded live at Paradiso, Amsterdam.  They tell the audience that “Black Dog” was written for the brother and that “Genevieve” was written for their sister while this song is written for their older brother Justin (“you see my brother his name is Justin Anthony / he was eleven when we were three).  It’s got a big easy chorus that’s basically just a simple melody of whoa whoa oh oh, whoa whoa oh.  Impossible not to sing along to.

They ask, you guys wanna join in?  And do they ever.  The audience is so loud and encouraging that when the song ends, the crowd starts the sing along all over again.  And they guys actually have to start playing the end of the song over again–that’s gotta feel pretty awesome.

And that’s the kind of power they have live.

[READ: December 10, 2017] “The Queen of Zilch”

It is Christmas Eve and the narrator is flaked out in the basement at her dad’s.   She could hear her dad’s new girlfriend Danièle making tons of food for the party.  Danièle had invited “her mother, her million sisters, and god knows who else.”  Her father had only invited a client of his who had just gotten divorced.

Her father didn’t talk to her much.  She had “moved” into the basement.  Her father had taken out the old couch out and replaced it with the one form the den (because the new girlfriend wanted a  new couch).  But he did nothing else to make the place hers–no fridge, no other renovations.  Just a basement.

He came down to give her a warning not to dress crazy or put on make up like a drag queen. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SKATING POLLY-The Big Fit (2014).

The Big Fit is a slicker and more satisfying album from this duo.  Their songs are still noisy and abrasive and neither singer holds back, but overall the songs sound even better (I’m sure it’s the production as well).

“Oddie Moore” starts out quietly with just Peyton singing and then Kelli joining her (showing off some nice singing and harmonies) and a really catchy melody.

But it’s “Perfume for Now” that really shows how much their songwriting has jumped in one album.  It begins quietly with some cool bass lines and Kelli’s quieter singing.  Then comes the chorus in which Kelli sing/screams a line and Peyton basically just melodically screams a punctuation mark.  It’s terrific.  Then just to add to the tension, there’s a quiet bridge: “I know you wanted to be class white trash / Or were you going for class clown?”  And when they join together at the end of the chorus in harmony it’s really great.  I can’t help but feel that this song encapsulates the Skating Polly sound perfectly (and it was amazing live).

“Pretective Boy” switches things up a both with a poppier sound and some cool vocal parts from both singers.  “Cosmetic Skull” (whatever that means) is a piano-based song–a big change of pace with the sweet tribute to their matriarch: “I want to dance with Exene, coz she can lead.”  It’s a quieter song that shows that they’re not just all screams and feedback.  Their dual vocals at the end sound really cool, too.

“Nothing More Than a Body” has a simple, quiet guitar-chugging opening.  But rather than just the chugging chords, each line ends with three picked notes–it’s those little details that elevate these songs.  Kelli’s interesting “oooh” backing vocals that changes styles between lines are also a nice touch.  And then there’s the big chorus with the backing vocals mixed almost creepily in the mix.

“Hey Sweet” is a blistering noisy blast of a song–screamed by Kelli with a relentless bad-ass guitar riff.  Even a fast blast like this is 3 minutes long–these girls do not slouch when it comes to songwriting.

I was puzzled by “Morning Dew” because it sounded so unlike them and seemed so…odd.  I had no idea that it was written in the 1960s by Bonnie Dobson.  I thought it was such an odd song that a person is saying he heard someone and the other voice say she did not (in the Skating Polly version, Kelli screams this section as it turns into blistering punk).  I was really puzzled by the song and have now found out: “The song is a dialogue between the last man and woman left alive following an apocalyptic catastrophe: Dobson has stated that the initial inspiration for “Morning Dew” was the film On the Beach which is focused on the survivors of virtual global annihilation by nuclear holocaust. The actual writing of the song occurred in 1961 while Dobson was staying with a friend in Los Angeles: Dobson would recall how the guests at her friend’s apartment were speculating about a nuclear war’s aftermath and “after everyone went to bed, I sat up and suddenly I just started writing this song [although] I had never written [a song] in my life.”  Creepy.

“Arms & Opinons” bonces back with a piano melody  the middle section with the repeating piano melody and the backing vocals is spooky and very cool.  When both girls sing the next part it sounds tremendous.

Oh, please forget me for my sins
My charming hungriness has got me once again
My father sent me out, he told me what to do
But instead of listening, I filled up his cup to the top with glue
He tried to drink, he tried to swallow
But due to the lack of the air his face was turning dark blue
And I felt bad just for a second
But mainly I was laughing because I just brought the day

“For the View” is a quieter song with Peyton working through many different vocal deliveries–whispering, falsetto, a scream like Corin Tucker, and some good old rage screaming, too.  The drums are heavy on the toms which is also very cool.

“Stop Digging” has so many parts, it’s very neat.  It starts with a simple bass line and Peyton’s drumming.  Kelli sings quietly until the loud chorus which is all distorted.  The third sections sounds really different and catchy and then there’s a quick fourth section.  And then when the song seems like it’s over they add in yet another part with a great heavy distorted riff and big vocals for both of them.  The song could end there, but it adds a coda: “the first rule of holes, stop digging; the first step of getting out of a hole, stop digging.”

“Across the Caves” is a piano song.  It is a little faster than the other with some good drumming.  The disc ends with “Picker of His Words.”  This is a quiet acoustic song with Kelli and Peyton singing alternating verses to each other.  Kelli plays a simple bass riff and Peyton plays an interesting counterpoint guitar line over it.  It sounds pretty sophisticated and really shows off how nice their voices are when unadorned.

Since recording this album, they have added their brother to the band and have done work with Louise and Nina from Veruca Salt.  I’m really curious to see what their new stuff sounds like.  And I really hope I can see them live again–they were tremendous.

[READ: September 20, 2017] “A Recognized Man”

Timothy is a famous actor.  And he has a secret.  Lots of secrets, actually.

He is in love with René “or felt he very soon would be.”  He and Rene would be going to the Award ceremony in a few months but tonight was a special party for Timothy’s birthday.

René was not famous and he still really enjoyed seeing the reactions of people when they recognized Timothy. Timothy had other boyfriends who quickly tired of that adulation,but René did not.

Timothy is looking forward to a quiet night out with René.  He pretends to be surprised that René is taking them to Timothy’s favourite restaurant. But he is genuinely surprised to see that other people are there too. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Copps Coliseum, Hamilton, ON (December 11 1996).

This is the final show on Rheostatics Live in which the band is opening for The Tragically Hip.

For this show, the intro music is also from The Wizard of Oz, but this time it’s Judy singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  It’s just one verse before fading out and then guitars fading in for Martin to play “A Mid Winter Night’s Dream.”

Turns out that this setlist is similar to the one from Buffalo with a lot of new songs.  Although there are a few older/more popular songs in places.

The new songs include “Fat” which sounds great of course.  I gather they are maybe sharing a microphone because at the end Dave says “See you in the next song, Martin.”  “Okay, Dave.”  This leads into a perfect version of “All the Same Eyes.”

Martin says “We are the Rheostatics.”  Dave says “We are the Rheostatics, not to be confused with The Howell Brothers (?).  They couldn’t make it but we got their jackets.  It’s nice of you to come out early.  We’re playing selections from our new record. Get it before it’s reduced to clear.”  (You can hear someone laugh on tape).

This is a segue into the single “Bad Time to Be Poor.”  It’s followed by another Tim song, “Claire” with the acoustic guitar opening in place.  There’s another lengthy guitar solo, although it’s not quiet as exciting as some of the other ones.  But Martin was saving up for a spirited version of “California Dreamline.”

They end their set with a rough rocking “Feed Yourself.”  During the spoken part, they slow things down to just a bass and washes of guitar.  It’s a pretty intense ending and a good preparation for The Tragically Hip.

[READ: June 25, 2017] The Story of Canada in 150 Objects

In celebration of Canada’s 150th year, Canadian Geographic and The Walrus created this special issue–a fun way to describe many elements of Canadian culture through “objects.”

The objects are grouped in vague categories.  Some have just a few words written about them while others get a few pages.  Some are humorous, some are more serious.  Most are happy or amusing, some not so much.  And all of it together paints a diverse and complex portrait of the country–as well as teaching this person from South of the border a number of things I did not know.

It’s with comic pride and humility that the first object is politeness (which is not an object at all, of course).  The amusing thing about this article about “politeness” is that while the author of it is very pleased to be so polite, he also can’t wait for his fellow Canucks to forget to be polite so he can rub it in with a extra smarmy “You’re Welcome.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Molson Centre, Montreal, QC (December 9, 1996).

This is the second and final Quebec show on Rheostatics live.  Once again they are opening for The Tragically Hip and although it still has that stadium feel, this one is a little muffled.

They open the show with a French language clip and once again I have no idea what it is from.

Before the first song starts either the guys are talking to each other or there’s a recording of Martin & Dave talking to each other about dreams.  “I had this weird dream we were in a giant rock stadium.  We were opening for Ringo’s All Stars  All these people were there speaking a  different language.”  “Ringo’s really been giving it all this tour.”

Eventually they start the riff and play a great version of Fat.  I love how the song builds and builds to a cacophonous racket and then quiets down into the slinky riff.

They play “Aliens” and Martin modifies the lyric from “they took you up and put you under” to “they took you up and gave you drugs.”  It’s followed by “All the Same Eyes” which is such a good conventional rocking song.  “Michael Jackson” sounds great with some wailing guitars.  At the end, Martin states, “It feels good to be alive.”  Dave retorts: “Sometimes.”

Then Dave says thanks for CFRG and CFLY (which seems unlikely to play them now) for “coming down here and talking to us today we appreciate it.  This [“Bad Time to Be Poor”] is the song that’s getting played on the radio and in all the finer dentist offices around the land.”

Martin makes some interesting guitar noises before starting a really great “California Dreamline.”  Before Claire, Dave says “Happy birthday, Gary Stokes” (their sound man).  They’ve been adding some great guitar solos into “Claire” and this one is no exception–Martin really stretches.

“Horses” is, as always, really strong.  The version rocks and then during the moody middle section Dave starts chanting about power in the darkness.  Near the end as Martin starts making his horse sounds, Dave chants “we don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control.”

It’s a dark but effective ending.  I assume the Canadian audiences know the band already, but I wonder what they think of them as an opening act.

[READ: June 20, 2017] “The Love Nest”

This is The Walrus‘ Summer Fiction Issue with new fiction & poetry from 6 writers in total.  I won’t be reviewing the poetry, but I’ll be talking about the three short stories.

This story was delightful.  I enjoyed everything about it.

It consists of a series of log book entries at a B&B from October 10, 2013 through August 5, 2015 with a sort of addenda at the end.

It begins with a Russian couple complementing their hosts for their charming B&B in Vermont.  They learned a lot about Vermont in their stay and are happy to share their information.

The next couple mentions how once they had kids they lost all of their single friends.  Another talks about how the B&B’s mason jar cups reminds her of a college “naked party” where she and her now husband met.  Another has a small gripe (no spoilers) that he wants to write in the book–but not on Trip Advisor. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Le Colisee, Quebec City, QC (November 30, 1996).

This is the same show that the Double Live version of “Saskatchewan” was taken from. It is also the show Dave wrote about in On A Cold Road.

This is also one of only two shows on Rheostatics Live that was recorded in Quebec.  Once again, they are opening for The Tragically Hip.

The show opens with some recording in French–no idea what it is–a hockey game?

The “Saskatchewan” is of course beautiful.  I love the way it gets really heavy near the end.  It’s also fun to hear a different recording of it (you can really hear them chanting “home Caroline, home Caroline.”

Next comes “Fat” one of the few songs they also played in Buffalo.  And then after a very brief “Digital Beach” they segue into “Claire.”  This version of “Claire” is really pretty on all counts.

As the band introduces themselves: “We are the Rheostatics,” you can hear someone in the audience shout slowly and clearly: “Bad. Time. To. Be. Poor.”  Dave asks what’s that man shouting?  “Bad. Time. To. Be. Poor.”  Martin shouts: “WHAT?”  The guy then deliberately shouts: “We came here to see you guys.”  I don’t think the band ever heard it, which is a shame as it’s such a nice sentiment and well executed.

The band plays “Four Little Songs” which is always fun live.  Afterwards, Martin says, “See four songs in one.”

Don (who is not as chatty as Dave Clark but does talk quite a bit) tells everyone “This next song [Bad Time to Be Poor] is the current single from our new record which you can buy here at the venue.”  Dave: “Well said, Donnie.”

The crowd is quite enthusiastic about the band prompting Dave to advise: “Save a bit for The Tragically Hip.”

This version of “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine” does not feature Tamara Williamson, but it still sounds good.  Although toward the end of the song things get kind of staticky which is a bummer.  The warpy sound continues for a bit but it clears up near the beginning of “Dope Fiends.”  The song is wonderful.  At the end, Martin repeats “dark side of the moon” first quietly and then a lengthy falsetto on “moooooooooon.”   The guys mutter things during this section: “Pink Floyd,” “Side 2” before launching into the rocking ending.  The roaring song ends with a gentle version of the “You Are Very Star” lullaby, possibly the first version on the site.   There is whistling and falsetto lyrics as the band whispers good night.

It’s like a complete show in miniature.

[READ: June 21, 2017] “In the Palace of Cats”

This is The Walrus‘ Summer Fiction Issue with new fiction & poetry from 6 writers in total.  I won’t be reviewing the poetry, but I’ll be talking about the three short stories.

This story was really fun and weird.  It began as one thing, turned into a few other things and then resolved itself all with bizarre turns without ever losing its internal logic.

The story opens as a teen spy caper with Andrew bringing Hillary a message in secret code.  The message from Andrew is for Hillary so obviously no code is needed,  But they are spies, so everything must be encoded.   She goes off to decipher it–using a dictionary and selecting the word just prior to the word that Andrew wrote.

Greetings Math Princess.  The Candy Ninja is ready to move.

She was amused/dismayed that even copying words out of the dictionary he spelled one wrong: needeled (for needled). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Marine Midland Arena (November 26, 1996).

I’m not sure how many shows Rheostatics opened for The Tragically Hip, but there are quite a few of them available on Rheostatics Live.   I’m also not exactly sure where the tour took these bands, but this show in Buffalo is the only live recording on the entire Rheostatics Live site that was recorded in the U.S.

It’s interesting how different the band sounds in an arena–not their playing, just the bigness of their music.  The fans are clearly there for the Hip (you can hear lots of chanting of Hip! Hip! Hip!which is either obnoxious or fun, depending.  But they get a good reaction at least on recording,

They opened the show to “ding dong the witch is dead” from the Wizard of Oz.   There’s no graceful segue into the music, Martin just starts playing “A Midwinter Night’s Dream.”

This is a weird song (that I love).  It’s 8 minutes long with many different parts and no real catchy melody at all.  What a strange choice to play open an arena show as an opening act in the States.

In fact six of their eight songs comes from their new album.  This makes sense, except that they have actual hits that they could have played for potential fans, right?  Whatever, the show is great and the quality is mostly good.  Occasionally there’s some audible talking by (obnoxious, presumably drunken) men over the quiet parts.  But it’s not too bad.

They play a really good “Fat.”  Then Dave introduces the band in this way:

We’re the Rheostatics from Toronto, Canada.
We’re B.T.O. from Red Deer, Alberta.
We’re The Spoons from Burlington, Ontario.
We are every Canadian band that ever was and some that haven’t even been born yet.

The play “Motorino” which is about a motorcycle or scooter and dedicated it I believe to Brad May, the Buffalo Sabres player.

Tamara Williamson joins them for “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine.”  She and Martin sound great together.  It’s a bummer that during the quiet opening you can hear some meathead complaining about something–best not listen too closely to find out what.  There’s some loud tussling but it subsides.  The song has a great ending–although Martin doesn’t quite pull off the roaring guitar sound after the final Rich.  Strangely, he breathes very heavily into the mic after the song.

Don says “So far all of these songs have been from our brand new record.  And this next one is too.  And I think the only place it’s available in the States is right here in the lobby.”  They play a great “Bad Time to Be Poor” and I feel like Tim emphasizes the “don’t give a shit no more” line.

They finally play an older song with “Self-Serve Gas Station.”  Before playing the final song Dave says “To all those people in the cheap seats, we can hear your cheers.  We appreciate them.”  The final song is “Fan Letter to Michael Jackson.”  Way back when, this was the first song that I’d heard by them and I was instantly hooked.  I had to wonder if the Buffalonians felt the same way.  Although it’s interesting that instead of shouting “Michael” the first time around, Dave shouts “Triumph!”

During the verse, Dave says, “I see two angels with funny lights on their heads in the 11th row.  It’s like some kind of dream or something.”

Rather than doing their cool dissonant harmony ending, they gently fade the song out.  Its’ a very different ending and quite pretty.

It’s a solid 40 minutes of new material.  I’m also intrigued to see that they played a different set almost entirely at each future show.

[READ: June 20, 2017] “Boat Trouble”

This is The Walrus‘ Summer Fiction Issue with new fiction & poetry from 6 writers in total.  I won’t be reviewing the poetry, but I’ll be talking about the three short stories.

Stories in The Walrus have been on the dark side lately but while this one was a source or trouble for the characters, it was more dangerous than disheartening.  Except for the fact that the main character was a woman who was stupid enough to get involved with a cocky know-it-all who almost got them killed (and, even worse, apparently stayed with him for a time after that).

She was a native of Georgian Bay and she met François, a Parisian, at a yoga retreat in the Bahamas.  They maintained a long distance relationship and eventually she invited him out to the Bay. (more…)

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