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Archive for the ‘Rheostatics’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BETTY WHO-Tiny Desk Concert #861 (June 26, 2019).

I had never heard of Betty Who before this show and my word did she win me over.  She is so much fun, so entertaining that it makes me want to explore her music (and maybe even see her live show).

However,  Betty Who is an Australian cellist who plays dance pop music.

Her third LP, Betty, falls squarely in the … sun’s-out, buns-out pop genre.

I suspect that as with most of the pop stars who play quietly at Tiny Desk, I will probably much prefer these version to the original–so maybe I should just leave it here.

Some background

She grew up in Sydney, Australia, and started playing [cello] at the age of four (just like Yo-Yo Ma). Maybe it had something to do with her mom being in the room, but emotions ran high for the charismatic and chatty singer. “I didn’t want to be the girl who played cello and sang,” she told the crowd gathered to watch. “‘Cause that girl feels really far away from ass-out, sparkle-covered pop-star me.”

I would not have guessed her pop star ambitions as the first song starts with just her voice and cello.

When all the studio production is stripped away, what’s left are intricate melodies that soar through Betty’s impressive vocal range and relatable lyrics. As the audio engineer for the Tiny Desk concert series [Josh Rogosin], I’m always curious how the vocals will translate without the aid of pitch correction and tons of effects you hear on the album. I’m a sucker for great melody and Betty Who’s raw vocal performance at her Tiny Desk had me in a state of aural ecstasy.

It sounds fantastic.

She plucks the cello for the beginning.  She has a terrific voice, although she sings a little too pop for my full appreciation.  After the first verse, Myla Bocage adds some keyboard notes to flesh out the song.  After another verse, Jemila Dunham adds some cool bass lines.  Her bass throughout the show is pretty excellent.

After a chorus or two, she throws in a bowed cello solo which works perfectly (and sounds great of course).

After the song she is so bouncy and bright and energetic.

She tells us that she always wanted to be a pop star–she likes sparkles and have her ass out.  She wanted to be the love child of Beyonce and Britney Spears.  But she studied classical music since she was little.  She says, “I told myself I would commit to pop star life and dance and do what I always wanted to do and make that vision come true.  And then one day I’d just whip out my cello and say oh P.S. By the way.…  And this is the first time I’ve been able to do this.”

One of my favorite things about Tiny Desk concerts is that artists are often inspired to experiment. Betty Who was in town recently for a three-night residency at D.C.’s famed 9:30 Club where her sound was larger than life. The subwoofers cranked out backing tracks you could feel in your gut and dancers flanked the pop star, punctuating every pulsating beat. But she began her Tiny Desk performance with only her cello and her voice — the first time she’s ever accompanied one of her original songs with the instrument.

Song two is “Friend Like Me,” which is one of her favorite songs she’s written.

She wanted to wrote a song that said, I love you but you make me fucking crazy and I want to punch you in the face or I love you so much but you’re your own worst enemy and you’re taking yourself down.

It’s just her on the acoustic guitar and her voice is really lovely (less loud and poppy)  After a couple of verses Bocage adds some keyboard twinkles.  Some bass fleshes out the song, but it remains a very pretty ballad.

Before the final song, “I Remember,” she introduces the band and says “Ian Barnett on the [drum] pad.  You should come see us, he does much more than this.”

Betty Who says she dreamed of having a Tiny Desk concert ever since she was a teenager. She chose to end hers by asking everyone to sing along to the track, “I Remember.”

Dancing under the stars
Kissing you in the dark
I remember your love, oh
Never giving you up, giving you up, oh.

I love that she gives hand motions and massive encouragement as she teaches everyone the words.  She says she has three plants in the audience.  They’re going to sing loud and you can all mumble along if you want.

She says this song is about real couples “not kind of Instagram we love each other so much.  People who don’t fight, ick, what is that.  The best couples know each other the best and can push each other’s buttons.  It’s an amazing feeling to love someone so much but also want to strangle the life out of them,  They make you the most crazy, but that’s what makes you love them so much.

Betty’s reaction to their singing is wonderful.

She’s great and I hope she starts selling bigger venues.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “Bad Dream Job”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1978: Dave Bidini got his first job working in a record store at the Albion Mall (made famous (to me) in the Rheostatics’ song “Jesus Was Once a Teenager Too”).

It was a dream job–that’s where he bought his 45s and LPs.  It was right across from an Orange Julius! (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-“Here Come the Wolves” (2019).

This is the first new officially released Rheostatics song in 15 years.  And it’s a doozy. A six and a half minute epic with a few different parts and styles within.

I’ve heard this song on a few of the the recent RheostatcisLive recordings, but this studio version explores depth and detail in a way that the live version could not.  And it’s really fantastic.

The video is also cool because it shows guitarist/singer Martin Tielli in a timelapse video finishing the cover art.

Starting with a menacing riff including Hugh Marsh on violin (and some interesting whoos! in the distance), the chorus opens the song.  Then comes a stomping series of catchy verses.

After 2 and a half minutes, the song slows down and Martin picks up a quietly sung middle section.  He sings over some eerie violins and keys before the guitars slowly build.  Quietly picked acoustic guitar flesh out the song as Martin continues.

After two minutes of this quieter section, it picks up again with a piano-based version of the melody.  This takes on a more uplifting feel as Martin sings in his whispered vocals.

The song has a nice climax and then a short denouement.

It’s nowhere near as weird as some of my favorite songs by them, although it is far from a guaranteed radio hit.  Nevertheless it is pure Rheostatics, and I love it.

I’m delighted to have them back making new music and holy cow, if I have to go to Toronto to see them play live, so be it.

[READ: June 24, 2019] “Back Then”

This is a story of a woman looking back on her burgeoning adulthood.

In the summers she and her family would go to a lake (in Ohio).  The story begins with them watching the Perseids.  She and her sister wanted to go down to the lake to see them fall into the water, but her mom always said no.

The story is full of sweet details–her sister peeing behind the furnace in her grandmother’s room, walking in flip-flops to buy the paper for their dad, the goat in the neighbor’s yard, even the trailer park.  They had enforced lunch and “quiet time.”  Quiet time was supposedly to prevent them from getting cramps, but it was really just for their mom to have some peace.  And how the last day always brought a double feeling of wanting to stay forever and wanting to go home. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Siboney Club, Toronto, ON (November 17, 1988).

I thought I had listened to every show on Rheostatics Live and then I saw today that Daron had posted this new (very old) show.  This show is from before they released their second album Melville.  Most of these songs would appear on Melville, but a couple wouldn’t be released until their third album Whale Music.

This is a live cassette recording of Rheostatics at The Siboney club in Toronto November 17 1988 provided by Tom Parry. It is the earliest live versions I’ve heard so far of Christopher, RBC, The Royal Albert, Greensprouts, Horses, Chanson, What’s Going On, Queer and a one off song which I’m not even sure what it is called. Something about Space? The sound quality is rough but it is an interesting document due to the early nature of these songs – Queer in particular.

This show starts off with a TV show (I guess) about the history of hockey with a story that Bobby Hull has signed a contract with the new World Hockey Association and then a clip of Canada v Russia.  I can’t tell if the reaction to the Canadian goal is from the TV or the people in the room.  It goes for about three minutes and then the ripping guitars come in to start “Christopher.”  The first part of the guitar solo is very different from the sound that Martin would eventually get–although the second half of it is pretty raging.

“RBC” is quick and to the point.  Someone (Dave?) starts the intro to “Dope Fiends” but Tim slaps some bass as Dave says they’re going to play “The Royal Albert (Joey 2)” which I didn’t think was written for a few years.

“Dope Fiends” feels faster than usual.  In fact the whole show feels kind of fast.  Is the tape sped up or did they just play faster back then?

Martin starts playing the Green Sprouts Theme Dong with a crazy hopped up vibrato which actually sounds like munchkins.

Dave: Welcome folks!  Hot dogs only $1.75 Dijon mustard is an extra 30 cents.  It’s hand carved by Dave’s Irish grandmother.

I don’t love the song “Ditch Pigs” (from Greatest Hits) but I always like when they play it because by now it’s such a novelty.   There’s a jamming end section in which someone (Bidini?) is singing about the good food “I want an egg salads sandwich and a box of popcorn”.

DB: It’s poetry time from Clark.  Will it be a winsome poem or a lonesome poem.
Clark: It’s not necessarily a poem.  This is more of a lyric than a poem.  I wrote for a friend and it about if you’ve ever worked for somebody who is kinda dumb and they’re mean to you because they feel threatened by you when you just want to be their friend.

It begins: Don’t call me pal or buddy when your not really my friend…

“Horses” is remarkably slow with a thumping bass.  The chorus is almost painfully slow.  But the ending is really intense.  Martin does some great soloing as Dave screams the end, but there’s very little in the way of horse sounds.

“Chanson Les Ruelles” is loose and fun–Tim’s “French” is quite good.   Dave rambles about some kind of voodoo that he put on the Baltimore Orioles pitcher.  And it worked!

Then out comes Tim with the accordion for “What’s Going On Around Here.”  It all sounds quite good even though the tape is sounding worse.

The last three songs sounds pretty bad (in quality).  The song that Daron says he doesn’t know sounds like Dave calls it “Space Arm.”  It’s a stomping heavy song with some ripping guitars.  Wonder whatever happened to it.

“Queer” sounds very different in so many ways.  It has a really long introduction and a decidedly honky-tonk/country feel to the verses.  The verses end with a kind of old-timey rock n roll bah-bah-bah-bah.  And there’s no ending part.  I’m so glad they fixed it up.

The final song is cut off.  It’s a slow song that I recognize but can’t place called “Seems Like.”  I see that it was only ever released on a Green Sprouts music compilation.

This is a great find–one of their earliest shows where you can hear what their new sound is going to be like.

[READ: May 8, 2019] So Much Longing in So Little Space

Karl Ove Knausgaard just never stops writing.  And he never stops exploring the world around him–through words or, in this case, art.

This book is divided into three parts, although unlike his massive tomes, this one is only 233 pages (with pictures).  Before the parts, he offers a little introduction about how he sees art and how he has always been moved by an (admittedly) simple painting by Edvard Munch called Cabbage Field.

There is a longing in this painting of the cabbage field, a longing to disappear and become one with the world.  And that longing…fulfilled the painting for him.  That is why the painting is so good, what disappears re-emerges in what comes into being as he finished the painting, it is still represented in the picture, which fills us again and again with its emptiness.

In Part One he gives a brief biography of Munch.  Everyone knows The Scream of course, but that represented only one brief phase of Munch’s life-long career as a painter.  Indeed, he started painting when he was a teenager, making small pictures of potted plants and interiors and he continued painting until he was eighty years old.

The years are divided somewhat into phases.  First was the apprentice years during which he painted his first masterpiece, The Sick Child, when he was twenty-two.  In the second phase he was searching and trying many styles–from realistic harbor scenes to Impressionist street scenes.   Then comes the period for which he is most famous (The Scream and more).  The final phase was less abstract and more painterly. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-Copps Coliseum, Hamilton, ON (December 11, 1996).

This is the 22nd night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour.  This is the last date of the tour (so far) for which there are recordings.

The show opens with a great “Midwinter Night’s Dream” followed by a rocking “Fat.”  As the song ends with the “bye byes” Dave save “see you in the next song, Martin.”

“All the Same Eyes” is a rocking good time.  And then, after a little riff, Martin starts “Motorino” which sounds great.

Dave says, “Hi we’re the Rheostatics, not to be confused with The Howl Brothers–they couldn’t make it.  But we’ve got their jackets.”  He mentions that they have a new album out, “get it before its reduced to clear.”

During “Bad Time to Be Poor” after “feeling winter through a crack in the door,” Tim goes brrrrrr.  More Tim on “Claire” with some great soaring harmony vocals before Martin’s rather grunting solo.  Although at the end, instead of spelling C-L-A-I-R-E, Tim seems to be singing Steve L.A. yea yea yea confides in me”

The set ends with two scorching tracks.  A terrific “California Dreamline” and a roaring “Feed Yourself” (with a really intense ending).

As the feedback fades, Dave says, “Thanks to the Tragically Hip.  God bless.”

It’s a nice way to end the tour–but maybe someday we’ll hear those last two shows.

[READ: April 9, 2019] “The Unexpected”

This was a darkly amusing story (yes, it is Joyce Carol Oates) that I had to wonder if it was in any way autobiographical or just horrifyingly possible.

The story is about a writer receiving an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the community college near her home town in update New York.  She left and never came back, but has been writing about her home town for much of her career.

She is awkward from the start, “Thank you for the honor.  I am very–honored.”

She receives applause–not thunderous, but polite, even warm .  But her speech seems to fall flat (if it can even be heard over the fighter jets).  But when she is finished, she pauses and the response is enthusiastic and she wonders “Is there where I belong now?” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-Molson Centre Montreal, QC (December 9, 1996).

This is the 21st night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour. According to this host of the RheostaticsLive site: This in my opinion is the best show of the tour.

This show opens with the recording of the French language hockey game.  This time you can clearly hear him shouting Esposito!  After the recording fades,

It opens in a very amusing way.  I imagine that Dave and Martin are lying on the stage, because Dave asks, “Martin can you sleep?  I should have been asleep hours ago.”
Martin: “No, I can’t sleep.  I was up all night listening to the Local Rabbits.  Those riffs will keep anybody awake.”
[Tim starts playing the bass].
Dave “I had this weird dream we were playing in a giant rock stadium, opening for Ringo’s All Stars.  It felt really weird.  And everyone was speaking a different language.”
Martin: “Ringo’s really giving it this tour.”
Dave: “I’m just gonna get out of bed and see what Tim and Don are doing.”

They launch into “Fat.”  I really like the nice little bass tag Tim adds to the end while Martin sings “Bye Bye.”

“Aliens” is a nice surprise–I feel they just don’t play it all that much.  The feedbacking guitar segues nicely into a rocking “All the Same Eyes.”

It’s followed by a fun and bouncy “Michael Jackson.”  At the end, Martin says, “It feels good to be alive.”  Tim deadpans, “sometimes.”

Thanks to CSRG & CHUM FM and C5 for coming down and talking to us today.  This is a song [“Bad Time to Be Poor”] that’s getting played on the radio in all the finer dentist offices in the land.

Some cool sounds from Martin open up “California Dreamline.”  The ending part totally rocks until the denouement where it sounds like someone rocks so hard they may have de-tuned their guitar.

They wish Happy birthday to Gary Stokes, the finest soundman in the land.  Which leads to a lovely “Claire” that segues into a quiet intro for “Horses.”  It builds slowly and powerfully.   Lots of repeated lyrics in the middle–threaten to chop, chop.  These signs will wilt–they’re just paper ink and paper.

While martin ends with some wailing horse noises, Dave sings the first two lines of “Another Brick in the Wall” to end the show.

[READ: April 9, 2019] “Both Sides Now”

This is an excerpt from Gainza’s novel Optic Nerve which was translated by Thomas Bunstead.

It’s a little hard to guess what the whole novel is about since the excerpt worked so well by itself.

The narrator notes that one day you develop a fear of flying.

Before you turned twenty-five, flying seemed natural, but now it seems insane.  Nevertheless, you are supposed to fly to an art convention in Geneva. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Scotiabank Centre Halifax NS (December 07, 1996).

This is the 19th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour.

The show starts with Dorothy introducing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and then she begins singing the song.  After a verse, the acoustic guitar comes strumming in and Tim announces that “This one’s for Wilf Carter.”  [Wilf Carter, known as Montana Slim in the United States, was a Canadian Country and Western singer, songwriter, guitarist, and yodeller. Widely acknowledged as the father of Canadian country music.  He died on Dec 5].

It sounds great.  the final strains of guitar lead into a beautiful “California Dreamline.”  It’s followed by a “Fan Letter to Michael Jackson” that features a middle “dance” section, with Dave chanting: “Tuesday night at the discotheque, I can dance, what the heck.  I’m an Uzbek.  Wer’e all freakin’ Uzbeks.

The ending feedback segues into the introductory noises of “Motorino.”  Martin says it comes from their new album.  “It’s called The Blue Hysteria its about not having much money.  Dave: “That’s the green hysteria, martin.”  Tim:  “Blue hysteria as about playing your stereo too loud and blowing it up.”  That’s a sort of introduction to “Bad Time to be Poor.”

Dave says “It’s great to be in hockey rink, The Moosehead Dome.  We played in the Devonshire Arena last night, a private affair.  It was hockey though, not rock.  We’re all a little sore, a little better off, a little stronger in character.

Up next is “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine,” during which Martin drops out of an entire verse–the music sounds great through.  You hear someone asks “want to do it again?”  but they press on and martin platys the noisy guitars that lead into RICH!

Then comes “two big songs back to back,” a ripping “Feed Yourself”  followed by a full 8 minute “A Mid-Winter Night’s Dream.”  It begins with a pretty, meandering guitar melody that Martin songs along to (in a high falsetto, la la l a)–its  quite lovely.  Then it segues into a roaring version of “Midwinter.”  The band sounds great and the feedbacking noise martin generates before the end is just amazing.

This might be my favorite version of the song.  It’s a show-stopper indeed.

[READ: March 20, 2019] Science Comics: Robots and Drones

I have enjoyed every Science Comic that has come out.  Most of them seem almost too full of information.  But this one was actually one of the less jam-packed books.  And that was kind of nice.

After an introduction from Sabine Hauert, the co-founder of Robohub.org, we are taken to a prototype robot from 350 BCE (!).  In Tarentum Italy, we see a “mechanical” bird created by Archytas.  It flies (perhaps on a string) and crashes instantly.   The bird snaps out of it and introduces himself –call him Pouli.  Pouli was the first machine to ever fly and he will take us through the past and future of robots and drones.

Pouli tries to break our familiarity with what a robot is by showing a simple robot–the coffeemaker.  It has as simple job.  It’s a modern version of the automaton.  Of course we have more sophisticated R/C cars and roombas now.  Some day soon there will be self-driving cars. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Memorial Stadium, St John’s, NL (December 04, 1996).

This is the 18th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour. Only recording of “Record Body Count” from the tour.

The opening music for this show is “Good Times” by Chic.  And they jump right in with the opening of “Fan Letter.”  Dave says, “Nice to see you again, we’re the Rheostatics and we want to be your friend.”  It’s a terrific version and the end segues beautifully into Martin playing the intro to “California Dreamline.”  He gets lost in the lyrics for the first verse and then comes out of it just fine.

Washes of guitar end the song which segues in a wonderfully weird way into “Claire.”  It’s like a minute of whale songs before the guitar for “Claire” starts.   The solo is an almost synth chorus sound from martin before going into a more typically wild Martin solo.

While chatting, Martin says, “scruncheons.”  He continues: “they’re not small people, are they?  I mean the scruncheons.”  Whatever he’s talking about I have no idea.  Then he says, It’s great to be in St Johns.  This is a song about death.  “Feed Yourself” has some whispering in the middle but nothing too intense.   But the crashing chords near the end totally rock out.  The noisy feedback segues into “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine.”

Dave says “we played in a place called Boomers last time we were in St John’s–an Australian themed bar on Water Street.  Unusual place.  Some people wanted us to play there again and we’re not.  We’re sorry we’re not.   Those who emailed us… those people waving their arms, I’m guessing.  Good arm waving.  The best in Canada.”

A solid “Bad Time” is followed by that solitary “Record Body Count,” which the crowd loves.  It goes out to “our new friend Darren, good luck in PEI.”

After hearing this RBC, it sends home just how long most of the songs are that they are playing–many of them running six and seven minutes.  Not exactly pop radio friendly.  Like the set-ending “Fat,” which sound great and stretched out comfortably.  There’s some great bass lines at the end of this song, too.  Tim is n his heyday.

[READ: April 3, 2019] Idle Days

This story started really dark and I wasn’t sure I was going to like it.  But the combination of the stunning art from Simon LeClerc and the fascinatingly intriguing story from Desaulniers-Brousseau proved to be fantastic.

World War II is crashing to its end.  This story is set in Canada and we hear about the final weeks on radio broadcasts.  Jerome Beauvais is a Quebecois deserter from the Canadian Forces.  It’s a strange setup.  Because his desertion doesn’t exactly have anything to do with the story of the plot.

He is back home but he is not living at home.  His mother has sent him to live with his moody grandfather in the woods to avoid any detection.  In fact, as the book opens, his mother is very unhappy to see him in town.  She knows (and he knows) that if he is spotted he will be arrested for desertion.  Signs say, “See someone hiding? Help your country.  Get Cash.”

His grandfather is rebuilding an old house that he bought.  The house has a history–rumored and real–of death (the woman commuted suicide) and a possible haunting.  So Jerome is there to help.  He’s kind of useless, but is becoming more practical and useful to his snarky grandfather. (more…)

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