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Archive for the ‘Constantines’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JENNIFER CASTLE-Live at Massey Hall (November 23, 2017).

I didn’t think I knew Jennifer Castle, but I see that she has appeared as a guest singer on a whole bunch of records by artists that I know: Eric Chenaux, Bry Webb, Constantines and Fucked Up.

She has an unusual voice–soaring, delicate and whispery with a slight warble and yet you know she could belt out if she wanted to.

She starts the show saying Toronto has incredible beautiful old buildings and its rare these days to go inside one.  Inside Massey Hall it’s lit up to be another member of the band and to be part of the show.

I found the music to be incredibly spare–too spare in fact.  It is primarily piano and her vocals (with backing singers), but the piano (Jonathan Adjemian) is not a primary instrument, it is simply playing chords for her to sing over.  The sparseness was a little disconcerting.  But the backing vocalists (Victoria Cheeong and Isla Craig) are stellar–they really add a lot to the music and their voices soar in their own right.

But I think that sparseness allows her lyrics to really come through.  “Like a Gun” has the lyric “he was lik e gun [hah, from lovely backing vocalists] he was always going off.”

“Nature” has even better lyrics

Despite all my feelings of life parallel
Nature is happening without my goodwill
I called my friend up and she said it still
Happens to you even when you are ill

and ends with this interesting conceit

I lift my skirt for the economy

“Texas” is played on guitar with a very catchy “hoo hoo hoo hoo” clap-along.

I go down to Texas
To kiss my grandmother goodbye
She forgets things
But when I look her in the eye
I see my father
And he’s been gone so very long
In the name of time travel
Help him to hear to my little song

Jennifer plays electric guitar on “Truth is the Freshest Fruit” which changes the whole dynamic of her songs.  She plays guitar with piano accompaniment on “Sailing Away.”

She is the first person to mention the renovations Massey Hall is currently undergoing:

I know that Massey is going to go through a great big change but it feels good to play while the history is still on the paint.

The final song is absolutely wonderful.  She says she wrote “Please Take Me (I’m Broken)” because she knew they were coming to Massey and it celebrates the school of Greek mythology

The backing vocalists sing a verse by themselves and they sound great.  I love the chorus

Please take me cause something don’t seem right; something don’t compute.  I don’t belong here.
Please take me I’m broken;  I’ve woken up and I should be dreaming.
Please take me back to those other realms they seem much kinder on a dreamer like me.
I’ve always looked up to those ancient Greek stories.
I love the thrill of the scale; I like the the roll of the chorus.

A thoughtful and unique performer.

[READ: July 17, 2018] “Now More Than Ever”

I  feel like Zadie Smith’s recent stories have been exploring a new style for her, a more “in the present” kind of vibe.  This story has meta-elements and is very much an of the moment piece.  It seems to address current hot button issues and her own inability to fully wrap her head around them.

It begins: “There is an urge to be good. To be seen to be good. To be seen.  Also to be.”

This is what she told Mary.  She also told Mary that no one is called Marty these days.  “Could you get the hell out of here?”  So Mary left.  Then Scout came by–a great improvement.

Scout is active and alert on all platforms. She;s usually no later than the 300th person to see something.  The narrator was “the ten million two hundred and sixth person to see that thing.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ELLIOTT BROOD-Live at Massey Hall (April 8, 2017).

Elliot BROOD formed in 2002 as an alt-country band although their style has been described as “death country” or “frontier rock,” which I rather like.

The more I hear alt-country bands and the more alt-country bands that I like the more I realize what I dislike about country music primarily is the vocalist.  I hate twangy singers.  And most Canadians don’t have a Southern twang, so that solves that for me.  And just to settle it, Elliott Brood rips and rocks and stomps and it is awesome.

They say they always thought it would be amazing to play Massey Hall.  It’s a pinnacle.  They’re really excited–friends and family are coming from all over.  They say they play a lot of places late at night but “we’re not going to edit ourselves for 8 o’clock.”

They open asking “Can we get some claps” for “Without Again.”  After an un, dos… un, dos, tres, quatro, Mark Sasso starts singing lead vocals and playing banjo (and banjo, ukulele, and harmonica).  He has a rough gravelly voice that is instantly appealing to me.  This is a catchy stomping sing along.

“Nothing Left” is a breakup song.  Stephen Pitkin on drums opens the song on keyboards, playing a melody that sounds like toy piano on the sampler.  For a breakup song, it rocks even harder with Sasso switching to acoustic guitar and Casey Laforet playing electric guitar.

Their friend Aaron Goldstein comes out to play pedal steel drums for the next few songs.

He introduces “If I Get Old” by saying it’s been 100 years since Vimy Ridge.  “We’re not a perfect country yet, but we’re pretty lucky to be in this one.”  They wrote a record a few years back about WWI.  We’re lucky to be this age and to not have been in a war.  This song is for the WWI soldiers, it’s called “If I Get Old.”  It is touching and lovely.

“Oh Alberta” is a wonderfully fun song with lots of slide guitar.  The lyrics are playful and funny:

Oh Alberta, don’t you cry, listen to me, it’ll be alright, uh huh oh yeah
Don’t hate Saskatchewan, never meant no harm to anyone
Manitoba, don’t you know you’re out where you won’t make it home
Back to Ontario

And it ends with this funny twist

North Dakota, don’t you that you don’t belong in this song
Where did we go wrong?

“The Banjo Song” is a shorter one that’s “about the life of a banjo.  It’s a hard life they lead.”  Hey “cheap seats, help us out like this,” [clap, clap] “expensive seats too….  We need more handclaps and footstomps if you please.”

The title of their album Work and Love comes from a Constantines song:

work and love will make a man out of you, work and love are the things that will take your childhood away from you.  Your focus changes to your children, you start writing from a different point of view.

“Fingers and Tongues” has a rocking loud sound, it’s a rollicking end to a great show.

[READ: January 9, 2017] “The King’s Teacup at Rest”

I often enjoy stories that are, simply put, odd.  But I like the story to have either some grounding in the familiar or none whatsoever.  It’s the stories that seem like they are part of something I should be familiar with but which are ultimately really divorced from reality that give me a problem.

And this is one of those stories. There are two threads to this story, each one is equally strange.

As it opens we encounter His Royal Highness, the King of Retired Amusements.  He has just purchased? acquired? Liebling’s Sunday Morning Carnival and Midway.  Of course he has a retinue with him–a steward, a scout, and a dancing bear (with a fez and a ruff, balanced n a ball).

They explore the carnival, and the king tells them to find refreshment.  The refreshment proves to be very very old hot dogs “a few bloated green wieners still floating in a steel pond of brine.”  The king insists on eating them despite the steward’s warnings.  The king declares them passable and then goes on the rides.

Pretty weird, but possible. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CONSTANTINES-Live at Massey Hall (May 27, 2015).

From the clips I’ve seen, Constantines are (were?) an incredible live band.  They have so much intensity.

In the opening, they are asked  Are you guys nervous?  They don’t seem to be although they concede that “Nervous is good, it keeps you on your toes.”

At some point we decided to run the band where we would play anywhere with a three-pronged outlet.  It led to playing a lot of amazing spaces…non-performance spaces like skate shops and basements and art galleries.  This feels like an incredible extension of that to play Massey Hall… a historic venue.

“Draw Us Lines” opens the show with thunderous drums and squalling feedback as the band gets the audience clapping along to a simple rhythm while Bry Webb sings in his deep raspy voice.  I love how much noise the keyboardist makes just pounding on keys–at times leaning on the machine with his whole arm.

“Our Age” has martial beats and an interesting low riff that runs through the verses–but the choruses burst forth really catchy.  “On to You” was a single I believe.  It has loud verses and a quiet, understated chorus.  I love how much they raise their guitars–the bassist even plays with the instrument raised over his head

“Young Offenders” rocks as hard as anything else they play, but it adds the surprising lyric: “young hearts be free tonight … time is on your side,” before launching into the heady section with the crowd shouting “Can I get a witness.”

“Nighttime/Anytime {It’s Alright)” has a great slinky guitar intro and sounds very familiar–as if it’s quoting another song, but I can’t figure out what.

More thumping drums (the drummer must be exhausted) and some distortion and feedback introduce “Young Lions” which starts as kind of catchy rocks song but features wonderful noise section in which everyone plays with feedback and the keyboardist actually sits on the keys before returning to that really catchy section.

The show ends with “National Hum,” a blistering loud track with discordant chords and intense vocals.  The drums just seem to go faster and faster as the song goes on.

They play this show like it’s the most important show they’ve ever played.  And the crowd responds accordingly.  It’s unclear to me if Constantines are broken up or not, but if they ever come around, they are a must-see show.

[READ: June 2, 2018] “What is Possible”

This issue of the New Yorker had a section entitled “Parenting.”  Five authors tell a story about their own parents.  Since each author had a very different upbringing the comparison and contrasting of the stories is really interesting.

I love the opening of this essay in which Mohsin says that his mom worked an entry-level job at what would now be considered a Silicon Valley tech business.  They made audiocassettes.

His father made peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches and picked Mohsin up from school on his bike.  His dad had a mustache and sideburns but no hair.  They went to the university where his father was studying.  Or they went home to watch cartoons on the small black and white TV.

Mohsin says he always saw colors on it “though I was told by friends that this wasn’t possible.”  I relate to this because I had a black and white TV in my room growing up and I was sure it was color until one day when I went to my parents TV and compared sided by side and saw just how colorful their TV was. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 8 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 15, 2005).

This was the 8th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  Guest Vocalist Night.  Ford Pier on keyboards.

This guest vocalist night is a bit smaller than previous ones.  There aren’t twenty-six singers.  There’s only fourteen in total and a bunch of them sing two songs.  The show also runs just over 2 hours with the band singing some of their own songs at the end.   It’s like a tight, efficient guest night rather than a sprawling one.

Ford calls it “karaoke night.”  Dave nixes that, “Lets not call it that.  You have to be far more hammered to do that.”  Ford: “This is more like Star Search.  Mike sets forth the terms: “henceforth, we will be effectively mute except in support roles.”

As usual, they open with an instrumental “Four Little Songs.”  It’s always really interesting to hear this multi-part song with just the music.

“Produce the first victim!”

Here’s Selina Martin singing “Soul Glue” which segues into a very pretty “California Dreamline” (also by Selina).

Next up are Nick and Graham from Belleville.  Dave asks, “How’s Belleville?”  “No snow there.”  “It’s the Winter Nationals Pro-Am” as they sing “Fat” and do a terrific job.

Jennifer Foster comes out to sing “The Woods Are Full Of Cuckoos.”  Tim says, “Jen’s trying to play ‘stump the band.'”  Ford jokes, “Maybe you’ll wind up playing keyboard next year.”  Dave: “Coz we’re firing Ford’s ass.”  It is such a shame the mic gets staticky and cuts out because she does a good job with this hard song.  She notes, “its cutting in and out.”  Tim:”So were our brains.”

Then there’s a double shot of Don Kerr.  He says he’s going to do a double shot from his favorite album.  A terrific “Introducing Happiness” is followed by a change of selection.  He says he changed it just today.  They do “Fan Letter To Michael Philip.”  Don says it’s a real fan letter.  Dave: Don Kerr will personalize  a song to you for a small fee.”

Some of the lyrics:

I have all your records/
I have even helped you make a few
Among my favorite producers would be
Tchad Blake and you

I  would like a fan club letter/
but one of your Juno awards would suit me better

When i joined the Rheostastics / I was met by a lot of Dave Clark fanatics
I know they did the same thing to you / but just like me you made it through

During the end there are backing vocal chants of “Wojewoda.”  He must have been pretty overwhelmed.

Patrick Finch comes on to sing “Junction Foil Ball.”  Dave asks him, “And how’s that go exactly?”  Patrick: “It’s nice.”  And they do a great version.

I am amused to hear that someone is shouting requests.

Sarah Harmer comes out two songs.  A sweet “Loving Arms” (I love that Tim adds the spoken “Jeez, I don’t know” line, which is part of the song but it sounds amusing and sweet.  Mike: “That somehow just sounded right.”  It’s followed by a wonderful “Claire.”

Paul McLeod comes out and Ford says, “This guys isn’t as good-looking at the last one.”  Dave, “I don’t know, have you ever seen him in bicycle shorts?”  He does an excellent version of “Jesus Was Once A Teenager Too.”

Sean Cullen comes out for two songs.  “Power Ballad For Ozzy Osbourne” has a terrific voice for this rather silly song.  At the end, he scream/sings “he’s going off the rails.”   Then Cullen does a lengthy improvised Christmas Song.  It’s very funny and a twisted retelling of the Jesus story.  Some amusing lines:

Joseph was good with his hands and good with the ladies.
There was going to be a huge new tax. What an asshole Caesar was.
100s of men with their young pregnant wives clogging the roads.
They put him in a manger, which was weird, because cows were trying to eat.
The horse said to the turkey, you look ridiculous, look at you.  Sit down and shut up (the horse was a real asshole).
The turkey said I’m going to fight for Jesus.
The temple guard laughed because it was a turkey.  The guards fought and killed him, filled him with seasoned bread and threw him on the fire.
The angel came down and said you bastards.
The guards said, lets eat it and take a bit of him home with us.
We dream of that first Christmas where a turkey gave his life.  And the horse was an asshole.
It’s the Christmas turkey on Christmas day.  Thank you turkey for fighting for Jesus.
Dave: “I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.”
Mike: “What album was that off of?”

Robin Lowe comes out to sing “Sweet Rich Beautiful and Mine.”  Robin has been selling stuff for us this week.  Public congratulations, Robin got married to Steve Clarkson, our sound man, this week.  Robin sings a duet with Martin.  Dave: “Well, isn’t that sort of cheating, Robin?”  Robin hits some amazing high notes.  They sound great together.  This version gives me chills.

“Take Me In Your Hand” is sung by Howard Druckman and Beverly Kreller.  Howard is one of our oldest and dearest friends.  Dave: “I’ve been demoted to bass.”  They’re giving the rest of the band a break.”  The song ends with penny whistle and bongos.

Yawd Sylvester comes out to sing Tim’s song “Row.”  Tim Vesely, Yawd’s rhythm guitarist.  Yawd went on tour with Violet Archers and Tim promised it would  be Rheos-free.  But after the encore, Yawd would go out for a smoke and Tim would do “Row” as an encore.  It’s a bit too slow and the world is incredibly rude throughout the quietness.

Ida Nilsen comes out to sing Marginalized.  It’s a little too un-intense.   Tim Sings the Vic Chesnutt song “Little Caesar” at the end.”

Paul Linklater from Justice, Manitoba, the Scribbled Out Man, comes out to sing “Horses.”  He’s great for the song. At some point Paul starts chanting “Put away wet” for some reason.  Dave says guys, throw it into G for a second.  Dave starts playing a simple riff which Ford turns into “Hang on Sloopy.”  Which he sings: “I don’t know the words to hang on sloopy / that’s okay it’s not a Rheostatics song / so we shouldn’t do it / It’s all wrong.
“Back to B minor.  Now its a Tragically Hip song.”   Paul is really intense at the end.

Someone shouts, “Soul Glue.”  Dave replied, “we did it the first song!”

Justin Rutledge utterly rips through “Feed Yourself.”  It is just rocking and intense.

Ron Koop comes up and Dave says, “Mennonites are the most ticklish people.  Ron, you’re so ticklish.  I don’t mean to generalize, but generally…”

Oddly, someone keeps shouting “Hey, it’s Christmas, play The River, please.  C’mon Gordy, save us.  The River!”  Mike mutters: “shut up.”

Ron sings a lovely “Making Progress.”  And at the end she says, “How about the best band in Canada.”  Dave: “Are the Constantines here?”

They come back for an encore and say “we’ll do a couple where we sing just to mix things up and get ready for tomorrow.”

Dave also asks, “Shauna, can we get some new flowers.  Are replacement flowers in the budget?  They’re starting to bum me out.”  Martin: “Strangely just yours are dying, Dave.”

“PIN it up, Marty.”   In the middle Dave sings “I want some flowers.”  Tim notes: Thanks to Great Aunt Ida for opening tonight.  They were awesome.”

In the audience, that ass is still screaming for The River.  So Ford sings.

When I speak the words I repeat
Are lost within this roaring

I know the one by No Means No, it takes about 9 minutes to play, but it can be done.

They end the nearly two and a half hour show with “Stolen Car.”  Tim starts by playing “Jingle Bells” on the bass really quietly.  But then the song rocks out to the end.

A final note from Darrin, who posts all of these shows:

10 Years later I randomly met Robin Lowe on Sept 4th, sold Jennifer Foster my spare ticket for the Saturday night AGO show on Sept 5 2015, and Selina sang with the band on Sept 6 at the Monarch Tavern after AGO Party.

[READ: July 27, 2017] “Making Scents”

My nine-year-old daughter Tabby liked this book.  And I know that because as I was complaining about the massive problems I had with it, she said she liked it.  So, I guess its good for nine-year-olds.

But I like a lot of books that are good for nine-year-olds.  And I did not like this one.

The premise is a weird one to start: Mickey’s parents raise bloodhounds.  As such, they teach him to be a great sniffer as well.  Cute, right?

The story begins with Mickey writing his life story: “First I was born.”  Next half of the sentence… “then I was put in a tree.”

What?  So he is an abandoned baby and someone thought it would be smart to put him in a tree in the woods?

The next scene puzzled me even more. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: The Believer June 2005 Music Issue CD (2005).

The second annual Believer CD ups the ante from the first by featuring all previously unreleased songs. And, just to put more of a twist on things, the artists were asked to do covers of songs that they have been listening to lately. There was only one song that I knew the original of (The Constantines’ track), so I can’t say a thing about how well the covers were covered.

This becomes something of a fun rarities mix CD. As with the previous one, there’s not a huge amount of diversity in the musicians, but given the target audience of The Believer, it all seems to make sense.

We get The Decemberists (actually Colin Meloy solo) covering Joanna Newsom (who I don’t know but whose song I liked quite a bit). The most interesting track to me was by a band called CocoRosie who I’m totally unfamiliar with. The song is recorded as if it they were using a 19th century recording machine. It sounds so far away and yet it feels modern at the same time. I have no idea what they normally sound like, but I’m certainly intrigued.

There’s a few parings that are practically predestined: The Mountain Goats cover The Silver Jews, The Shins cover The Postal Service and Devandra Banhart covers Antony & the Johnsons. There’s also a track from Wolf Parade, a band I have recently gotten into. Only two bands perform and are covered on the disc: Ida and The Constantines.

It’s an interesting assortment of songs. As with any cover, it’s hard to know if you would like the original artist or if you just enjoy the new artist’s’ interpretation. But a song like “Surprise, AZ” by Richard Buckner is so well written that I don’t think it matters what Cynthia G. Mason’s cover sounds like (which is quite good).

The disc is largely folky/alt-rock, but once again, it’s a good distillation of the genre, and a very enjoyable collection.  The track listing is available here.

[READ: December 10, 2009] “Kawabata”

This story had the (in my estimation) fascinating attribute of reading as if it were written a long time ago. The writing was very formal. It also centered around a man and a woman who meet at a bed and breakfast and do little more than walk around town. Since no real clues as to the time it is set are ever given, I could imagine them dressed in nearly turn of the (20th) century garb.

A few things do dispel this fantasy: the use of the word “tits” for one, and the fact that no married woman would have been seen out with a widower while her husband was away. But despite that, I enjoyed the formality of the story. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: The Believer June 2004 Music Issue CD (2004).

Every year since 2004, The Believer magazine has published a Music Issue which comes with a CD.

I recently received the 2009 CD, but I thought it might be fun to go back through the previous ones and see what kind of music they put on them since the beginning.  I was delighted to see how many bands I like now that I was either introduced to or SHOULD have been introduced to by these discs.

The inaugural issue was a fantastic collection of then-underground alt-rock (the issue also featured interviews with a few of the artists–you can see the Colin Meloy interview here).

The collection contains all previously released songs (I think).  But for me it was a great introduction to a number of bands that I didn’t know: The Walkmen, The Mountain Goats, Ted Leo + Pharmacists.  It also contained a new release by a band I did know, The Constantines.   And, this was my introduction to a band that turned out to be one of my new favorites: Death Cab for Cutie.

There’s a lot of great songs on here, and it would make a great hanging-out-at-a-party-with-friends soundtrack.  There’s not a lot of diversity on the disc which is a bit of  a bummer (although it’s good for a mellow party).  However, the 19 second blast of “You Got the Right” by the Tiny Hawks does break things up a bit.

But with a great collection of songs it would be wrong to complain.  For a complete listing (and another review) check out this page.

[READ: December 9, 2009] “The Use of Poetry”

Ian McEwan writes fantastically engaging stories about relatively simple things, oftentimes relationships.  And he has these relationships so well sussed out that a simple six-page story like this can pack in a ton of humanity.

In a post some time ago I wrote about how World War II affected Britain much more than it affected the U.S.  And, how artists of a certain age have found great drama from the war.  This story is no exception.  Except that the war veteran is not the main character.  But I loved this summary of the main character’s dad, the typical “stoic British man.”

Like many men of his generation, he did not speak of his experiences and he relished the ordinariness of postwar life, its tranquil routines, its tidiness and rising material well-being, and above all, its lack of danger–everything that would later appear stifling to those born in the first years of the peace.

That’s an amazing encapsulation of a generation of men.  And it rings very true to me.  But what’s more amazing is that that description is not even about the main character Michael, it’s about his dad, Henry. (more…)

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eggSOUNDTRACK: CONSTANTINES-Kensington Heights (2008).

kensingtonThe Constantines hail from Guelph, Ontario.  And I’m mostly pointing that out because I wanted to write the word Guelph.  While I know there are funny sounding or fun to say towns in America, I’m quite fond of many of the Canadian ones: Guelph, Moose Jaw, Regina.

Anyhow, the Constantines play a kind of classic rock with a punk edge that puts them just outside of the mainstream. Their first three albums are fast and loud and quite sparse.  And the first track off this album, “Hard Feelings” sounds a lot like those first three discs.  But the Constantines have expanded their sound somewhat on this album.  They’ve added keyboards, and where they used to have stark guitars and bass, they have filled in the sound more.  They basically sound a bit more mainstream in places.  In fact, their mellower pieces seem almost commercially viable.  And the second half of the disc has a number of mellower tracks.

These mellow tracks remind me a lot of the Replacements’ mid-period songs.  Not their ballads, but not their heavier speedy songs either.  Their singer, Bryan Webb, sounds a lot like Paul Westerberg in fact (although not the later balladeer Westerberg).

I don’t know if this was an intentional attempt at commercial success, or if the band is just maturing somewhat.  The record is still better than a lot of hard rock stuff out there–somehow Canadian indie bands keep it real even when they’re close to hitting it big–but if you want to experience full Constantines, go for their earlier discs.

[READ: June 2, 2009] “The Egg”

I read Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio (or most of it, anyhow) a few years ago for a creative writing class.  Anderson’s stories are “small” in that nothing overly dramatic happens; there is no sensationalism.  They cover ordinary people in small town America.  This is not to say that they are dull, because his writing is wonderful and he immediately sucks you int the characters’ lives.  But you’re more liked to be moved, rather than blown away by his stories.

I only read this story because in McSweeney’s #4 Rick Moody does a “cover” of it and I wanted to see how close Moody’s story was to the original.  Interestingly enough, the stories are almost identical. Moody turns the eggs from chicken into ostrich, but the major plot points remain the same.  It’s as if Moody was making a movie version of it: every thing’s bigger, better, louder, funnier. (more…)

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