Thursday, March 27, 2008

Suffer The Little Children

The Easter Bunny scars a child for life, Mayne Island, 24 March 2008

Don't let the title of this post scare you, Dearest Friends, we're all safe and sound. We had a lovely time on Mayne, all in all. Though there were some suffering children.

The weather was magnificently fickle; frequent bouts of lashing wind and cascading hail interspersed with lengthy stretches of gentle sunshine sufficient to allow for refreshing walks in forest and along shore. I also managed to steal an hour to myself, which I spent sitting by the water watching a seal and an otter do their respective things. To add marvel upon marvel, one morning we were visited by a splendid eagle, who sat a spell outside our window. Magic.

CocoRosie - Animals (buy here or e-here)

And the Easter Bunny showed up! First he surreptitiously secreted chocolate ova around the house on Saturday night, much to the Sunday morning joy of Darling Daughter and Little Man. Next, he made an appearance at the Easter afternoon egg hunt put on by the local Lions Club. However, disaster nearly struck when he trampled a wee toddler underpaw while leading the Easter bonnet parade. Thankfully the bairn suffered no serious physical injury, though I suspect the full mental trauma will only manifest itself in years to come.

Later on, back at the house, we set about preparing Easter dinner. As I got ready to barbecue a succulent pair of salmon fillets, Little Man managed to fall off the back of sofa (where he was NOT supposed to be). On the way to the ground, he caught the back of his head on a bookshelf, producing much screaming and Tarantino-esque rivers of blood. We feared stitches would be required, but a call-out to the nurse on duty and a swift trip to the island clinic yielded the good news that it was only a small cut, not a gaping hole. Drama over, we resumed cooking and settled in to a delicious, if delayed, meal.

Nine Inch Nails - Head Like A Hole [Alt Version] (I got it here, but I understand it's the 'Slate' mix that can be found here)

Speaking of violence involving kids, what did I discover upon switching on my PC back in town but this story. Apparently Mexican "punks" and metalheads have taken to bashing emo kids and the problem has become serious enough that riot police have had to intervene in some instances. Now I must admit that at first I found this a bit of a giggle. You know, all a bit Sharks vs Jets, or mods vs rockers down Brighton way seen through rosy, Quadrophenic glasses. But as I read further, I became more unsettled, not least because of the homophobic overtones; the emo-bashers have taken to calling their targets "los emosexuales." This isn't a giggling matter, nor is it a playground spat. This is tribalistic bigotry, folks, and we all know where that leads.

Jimmy Eat World - A Praise Chorus (buy here)
I'm not really an emo fan. I like my Fugazi, but what it all grew into really said nothing to me about my life. Well, except for this song. It came along at a time in my life when I was deeply unhappy about where I was and what I was doing. And its lyrics got me thinking about all that, which ultimately led me some years later to the happier place I am today. So this goes out to the Mexican emo-kids.

Dead Kennedys - Nazi Punks Fuck Off (buy here or e-here)
And this goes out to those so-called punks who get their kicks from kicks. Fuck off, indeed.

Napalm Death - Nazi Punks Fuck Off (buy here or e-here)
And this death metal version goes out to the bigoted metal meatheads. They can fuck right off too.

FRIDAY EDIT: You know, I was thinking about this post today and something sat not quite right in my psyche. I was uncomfortable, but knew not why. After a bit of reflection, I realized what it was: the metalheads and punks wot I told to fuck off need compassion as well. Compassion to help them realize the futility and suffering of hate. Maybe we should organize a festival ("PunxEmoMexTal"??) co-headlined by Motorhead, Fall Out Boy, and GBH?? Shit, all I really want is to give peace , love and kisses out to this whole stinking world...

Carter USM - The Only living Boy In New Cross (buy here)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I Need To Go...

Aboard the Queen of Nanaimo

Dearest Friends, I'm off for the long weekend to cavort with the family and the Easter Bunny (with whom I'm looking forward to a sesh of Cadbury's Creme Eggs and JD chasers) on my beloved Mayne Island. And with the seasonal internet not yet hooked up, I shall be utterly cut off from Cyberia.

I can't wait.

I'm hoping for four days of recharge, rejuvenation, redemption, and possibly resurrection.

After all, isn't that what Easter's all about??

Have a lovely weekend, you lovely people...

Minny Pops - Island (buy here or e-here)
The Magnetic Fields - Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits (buy here or e-here)
The Beat - Sole Salvation (buy here )

That's Just Ridiculous

Gadzooks! Jumpin' Jehosaphat! And other silly exclamations!! Another Contrast Podcast episode is upon us, and this week we see how many ridiculous band names our contributors can come up with. Hint: it's quite a few, and you can hear them all by downloading the 'cast here. Herewith the tomfoolery:

(00:00) Honest Bob and the factory to dealer incentives - All of the cool girls
Tim from The face of today

(03:46) The Fire Hydrant Men featuring The Fabulous Fezettes - I’m in the pits since my racing driver baby left me
Dirk from Sexy Loser

(07:29) Splodgenessabounds - Michael Booth’s talking bum
Conrad from White Car Records

(11:14) Half Man Half Biscuit - Joy Division oven gloves
FiL from Pogoagogo

(16:18) The The - Slow emotion reply
Marcy from Lost in your inbox

(20:43) The Monsoon Bassoon - The king of evil
Chris from

(27:23) Someone still loves you Boris Yeltsin - Anne elephant
Linda from Speed of dark

(32:43) Flock of Seagulls - I ran (so far away) (die krupps remix)
ZB from So the wind won’t blow it all away

(36:45) Double Fish - Clockwork toy
Eiron from A Blog of No Importance

(40:08) Logan Whitehurst and the Junior Science Club - Prosthetic Brain
Alex from Totally True Tales from Texas

(43:54) Harry and The Potters - Cornelius Fudge is an ass
James from Appetite For Distraction

(46:13) Dogs Die in Hot Cars - Apples and oranges
SiD from Too Much Rock

(51:36) On this day we met Gambas Pil Pil - When no-one is around
JC from The Vinyl Villain

(58:49) Prince boo hoo and his little smuts - Rhinestone Cowboy

Half Man Half Biscuit was first to spring to mind when I found out about the theme, and I went with them because a) the name IS ridiculous, but b) the tunes are grand. You see, I didn't want to actually serve up a crap tune. Dearest Dirk from Sexy Loser (N.B. now added, albeit very belatedly, to the blogroll) was concerned that any band submitted this week would automatically be portrayed in a negative light, but I'm not so sure I agree with that. There are plenty of ridiculously named groups who pump out righteous music. Why, just look at what else I considered:

Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong - Sleazy Hughes (buy here )
I mean, how SHITE is that name? Come on, tell me. You can't? Well, let me tell you, it's as shite as shite can be. But Sleazy Hughes is a prickly pear of frantic pop pleasure, and the lads look pretty sharp. Pop over here to see what Dearest Toad had to say about then live in concert.

Kajagoogoo - Too Shy (buy here )
Er, heh, heh, guilty pleasure alert. That hair! The eightiesness oozing from every pore!! And yes, a ree-dee-cue-lus name. They're touring again, if you're keen..

Throbbing Gristle - Zyklon B Zombie (buy here)
I've loved that silliest of band names since the first time I heard it. And I've developed a soft spot for the sonic trials wrought by the promethean Genesis P Orridge and his muckers. I considered posting here Very Friendly, a detailed, 18+ minute, scary-as-fuck masterpiece recounting Ian Brady's and Myra Hindley's axe murder of Edward Evans. But then I thought that'd be a bit much, so I went for this charming ditty about, er, gas chambers. But I promise you, if hear Very Friendly you'll never drink a glass of German wine again without thinking of it...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I Envy, You're Jealous

Green-eyed monstah courtesy of Janice

This week Contrast Podcast goes green, and I don't mean tree-huggy and eco-friendly (though I'm sure our carbon emissions are refreshingly low). No, we're talking about reveling in yet another deadly sin, that of envy. Download the podcast here, listen to what our contributors covet, then tell everyone how envious you are over here. And let me also take this opportunity to say how thrilled I am that Dearest Brad, my ex-roomie and great friend, is making his third appearance on the podcast! Yay!!

(00:00) Intro from Mr G. Letch & Mr A. Thrub

(02:55) Damgok - Penis envy
Tim from The face of today

(05:41) The Dead Milkmen - Everybody’s got nice stuff
SiD from Too Much Rock

(08:58) Reel Big Fish - I want your girlfriend to be my girlfriend
Natalie from Mini-obs

(12:56) Joe Jackson - Is she really going out with him (live acapella)
Brad from Brad’s Blog

(17:33) Pulp - I want you
ZB from So the wind won’t blow it all away

(22:41) Jonathan Richman - No mas por fun
JC from The Vinyl Villain

(25:07) Cat Power - She’s got you
Linda from Speed of dark

(29:18) The Jam - David Watts
FiL from Pogoagogo

(32:20) Envy and Other Sins - Prodigal Son
Crash from Pretending life is like a song

(37:03) Barenaked Ladies - Just a toy (live)
James from Appetite For Distraction

(40:48) The Hellcows - Jealousy
Eiron from A Blog of No Importance

(42:49) Bettye Lavette - I do not want what I haven’t got
Anna from the Music I-Quiz

(45:47) Ash - Envy
Ross from Just gimme indie rock

(49:39) Elliot Smith - Jealous guy (live)
Dirk from Sacred Loser

At first I considered going with a track about jealousy, but then the pedantic old sod in me emerged from the fusty recesses of my brain and reminded me that jealousy and envy are not one and the same. Technically speaking , envy refers to the discomfort caused by fixating on and/or coveting something that someone else has, while jealousy refers to the feeling generated by a perceived threat to something or someone with which one has a relationship. So, for example, I'm envious of you when I realize that you're shacking up with PJ Harvey. You, on the other hand, are jealous when I begin flirting with her and she returns my attentions. Oh, just face it, you're not good enough for her! She really wants to be with ME so just fuck off and leave us to --

Er, ahem. Sorry, got carried away... Anyway, here are the two jealous tracks I was weighing up before David Watts came to me in a revelatory flash:

The Rapture - House of Jealous Lovers (buy here)
I'm telling you, Peej is MINE MINE MINE!! She and I will dance like mad fools to this Noo Yawk No Wave masterpiece. As an aside, I saw The Rapture live twice and both times they were absolutely superlative. Once was on an NME bill along with The Von Bondies and Franz Ferdinand (and headliners Funeral for a Friend, who were so middling I left halfway through). The second time was supporting The Sex Pistols at Crystal Palace. Also on that bill were The Dropkick Murphys, The Libertines ("Pete Doherty Shows Up For Gig Shocker!!"), and And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead (who I'm offering up as a free suggestion for next week's CP episode of "Bands With Ridiculous Names"). That was quite a long aside, wasn't it? And those italics can be hard on the eyes. So, where was I? Oh, PJ Harvey! MINE!!

Black Flag - Jealous Again (buy here or e-here)
Angry young man in seminal angry SoCal hardcore band singing an angry song about an angry girlfriend. There's a soap operatic story behind the recording of this choon, which you can read here. This version has vocal duties performed by Ron Reyes a/k/a Chavo Pederast, who is apparently now a born-again Christian living in my fair city of Vancouver. Ye gods!

You know, Dearest PJ isn't the jealous type. So say if I wanted to take up with Siouxsie Sioux, or a thirtysomething, not dead Audrey Hepburn, I'm sure she'd be cool with that. Don't believe me? Well, listen here:

PJ Harvey - Oh My Lover (buy here )

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Tales From The Double Down, Part Two

Door to the Double Down men's loo, snapped by caseyville

Saturday in Vegas, my third day in that city. Already I'd grown weary of the glitz, the relentlessness, the Ersatz. Earlier in the day Dearest T had left on a jet plane back to the shores of Blighty, leaving me alone in this strange town.

What to do? Why, head on back to the Double Down. Duh.

Truth be told, I was a bit hesitant going on my own. Not because I'm shy, but because I worried (once again) about being the sad, old man at the bar. But what swung it for me was the promise of four bands playing live. Indeed, the Double Down routinely hosts gigs, mostly of the punk, garage, and raucous roll persuasion. There's no cover charge, the bands don't get paid much more than a pittance and some booze, and yet the roster is always full. Why? Cos the Double Down is awesome, that's why.

When I arrived, the place was hopping, again with the most marvelously eclectic mix of punx, tattoed love boyz 'n' girlz, college kids, and regular Joes & Janes. And I needn't have worried about being the solitary gooseberry; folks actually came up and TALKED to me! I had a most engaging conversation with Howie, an Elvis lookalike van driver from, of all places, Vancouver. Amongst other things, we discussed his penchant for corpulent women. And he bought me beers. I also chatted to a hipster dude in town for his stag do, who suggested that when discussing my profession I should refer to it as "BANG-KING" (equal stress on each syllable) so as to convey the idea that it's something vaguely edgy, perhaps even pornographic. A bit later I ended up refereeing a beer shotgunning competition. Dang, this really IS the "Happiest Place On Earth."

And then there was the music. What fun!

Shaun Kama took to the stage (such as it is at the DD) with his Kings of the Wild Frontier, looking like the bastard offspring of Nick Cave and Johnny Cash, all wiry frame, tattoos, careworn face, tight black jeans, and slicked-back hair. And together they belted out some righteous music. Though Kama's pedigree is steeped in punk and metal, the tunes were squarely based in the American West; twangy, country rawk underpinned by crackling energy. The songs spoke of roads traveled, dice rolled, cold hearts, phantoms, death, loneliness. It was all sincere, tight, and most excellent.

Shaun Kama & The Kings Of The Wild Frontier - This One Ends In A Murder (buy here)

Next up were LA's The Cheatin' Kind, and boy did they stir the pot! More country & western, this time served up sassy, trashy, and thrashy with liberal splashes of both honky and tonk. Brassy blonde frontwoman Babs McDonald's vibrant twang was amply backed up by the plucky pickin' of marvelous Miss Melanie Makaiwi on bass, and the gentlemanly duo of Chel T. Rich on skins and Paul Morris on gee-tar. The set was a stompin' romp through covers ("Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad," "Took A Lot Of Pills & Died") and originals, including their affectionate ode to the very bar we all found ourselves in that night.

The Cheatin' Kind - Double Down (Most kindly sent by Miss Melanie. It's not on their 2006 album Turned On Too Long, but you can and should buy that over here)

SoCal punks The Cosmic Creeps fired off some groovy ghoulishness a la Misfits, but to be honest your FiL was still in too much of a Western yee-haa frame of mind to truly appreciate what they had to offer. On top of that, he was hanging out with Howie by the men's room (see photo above) having his umpteenth Red Stripe. So once the Creeps finished sometime after 2AM, FiL called it a night, foregoing the charms of local hardcore outfit The Latchkey Kidz. But thanks to the magic of YouTube, I was able to see some what I missed. You can too!

And so once again I hit the bed in my hotel room, head all a-buzz, thinking about how to get back to the Double Down at least one more time during my stay in Vegas. I had become convinced it was the only way I was going to survive another four days in that town...

P.S. Miss Melanie did a stint with the brilliant Scarling, who recorded an awesome cover of the only Radiohead song I really like, Creep. I've been waiting for an excuse to post it, so now that I have one, here you go:

Scarling - Creep (buy here or e-here)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Have A Heart

Dearest Friends, rush on over right now to The Vinyl Villain. What? You're still here?? You need convincing?? Sigh...

Dearest JC has hatched a brilliant idea to raise money for Quarriers, a Scottish charity that supports children and families facing physical, emotional, and mental issues. Why the campaign? Well, his godson, Kevin, has benefited tremendously from the Quarriers' good work. See the video above.

You're still here? You want to know what's in it for you?? Sigh, OK. Dearest JC has promised that for every pledge of £6 he'll provide the donor with a customized 60-minute CD culled from his extensive collection of Orange Juice rarities. Just take your pick from the listing on his blog. He takes PayPal, so international borders and currency exchange is no problem. Whether you're in Afghanistan or Zimbabwe, you can contribute.

If you're still here, I worry that you may have no heart. Unlike Dearest JC...

The Jam - Solid Bond In Your Heart (buy here)
No, you ain't getting any Orange Juice from me, go pay JC yer £6 for that. But I will give you this delicious early version of Solid Bond, recorded before Weller The Jam split and formed The Style Council.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A Deep Fear Indeed

Scaaary picture courtesy of the very brave G-Na

"You asked me once," said O'Brien, "what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world." -- George Orwell, 1984

Dearest Friends, this week the contributors to Contrast Podcast's episode 101 open up their psyches to reveal to all listeners that which they fear most. And the result is a list of terrors that would chill anyone to the bone, inter alia death, falling, sensory deprivation, and anthropophagic sea creatures with big teeth. Share the scare by downloading the podcast here.

(00:00) Corinne Bailey Rae - Steady as she goes
Tim from The face of today

(03:17) Maria Taylor - Xanax
Marcy from Lost in your inbox

(08:59) R.E.M. - Walk unafraid
Crash from Pretending life is like a song

(13:56) Tindersticks - Milky teeth
JC from The Vinyl Villain

(17:31) Morphine - Sharks
Anna from the Music I-Quiz

(20:10) Fear - Now you’re dead
Ross from Just gimme indie rock

(22:32) The Jam - Down in the tube station at midnight
Dirk from Sexy Loser

(26:28) Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris - Falling down
Linda from Speed of dark

(30:03) Peter Gabriel - I don’t remember
Mark from Cinema Du Lyon

(34:07) The Cocteau Twins - Blind dumb deaf (peel session 1983)
ZB from So the wind won’t blow it all away

(38:48) The Sharks - Short sharp shark
FiL from Pogoagogo

(41:46) Nerf Herder - 5000 ways to die
Thom from Better in the dark

(44:55) Great Lakes Myth Society - Across the bridge
Natalie from Mini-obs

(50:00) Air (feat. Neil Hannon) - Somewhere between waking and sleeping
Eiron from A Blog of No Importance

(55:08) John Mayer - Stop this train
James from Appetite For Distraction

I'm a fretful, but not generally a fearful person. But I do have an irrational fear of sharks. More specifically, I don't like being immersed in an opaque, natural body of water. You see, I instantly begin imagining malevolent, fishy, toothy things swimming up from the dark depths to pluck my legs off like bananas. Curiously, clear, tropical waters (where I would probably be more likely to encounter a FiLeater) are OK. And I don't mind (in fact I thoroughly enjoy) being on dark waters in craft, from huge ferries to weenie kayaks. However, put me in the water and I have to focus on fighting the panic.

You can therefore imagine my unease when last summer I took a kayaking course that involved me regularly flipping my craft over in the murky waters off Vancouver to practice self-rescue. Truth be told, I got a lot more comfortable doing that over time. Rather, I managed to develop a wee rationalizing mental mantra which included the fact that there have only ever been two recorded shark attacks in Canada, and the one near Vancouver in 1972 involved a rather unimpressive spiny dogfish. All that said, I still need to actively manage the fear...

Dearest Anna from the Music I-Quiz appears to share my selachophobia (as the boffins call it), though since she lives in Australia I reckon she's probably more justified in having it than I am (Australia = great whites, Vancouver = spiny dogfish). She also has lovely taste in music, as she picked the tune I had originally wanted to submit. But here's the alternative version I had originally hoped to submit:

Morphine - Sharks Patrol These Waters (off of this)

Sharks definitely top my fear parade, though in the physical world scorpions come a close second, especially those big, black emperor scorpions. Yeuuchhh! But I was hardly going to go with that idea, since I'd have to post a track from a dreadful German soft metal band. In the realm of the less tangible, my top fear would probably be finding myself alone. That would destroy me.

Calexico - Alone Again Or (buy here or e-here)

Next week we return to the land of sin, and explore envy. Find out how you can take part over here.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Tales from the Double Down, Part One

The view from the bar, courtesy of beatnikside

Our first night in Vegas did not begin auspiciously. Dearest T started off the evening with some unimpressive martinis at one of he countless bars in the vast, glitzy bowels of Caesar's Palace. The barman, a smarmy cornfed boy with a monosyllabic name like Chip or Brett, had served them up with a nudge-nudge, wink-wink request to let him know if there was anything --ANYTHING-- else at all he could get for us. We didn't take him up on his offer, and instead migrated to Venice's St Mark's Square (or a fanciful facsimile thereof) for dinner. A post-prandial perambulation took us to some other bar in some other hotel, where we had more dreadful martinis.

By this stage we were cranky drunk, and sometime around 10PM Dearest T mooted the idea of retiring for the night. But damned if I was going to go out like that. For you see, I had a plan:

I wanted to go to the Double Down Saloon.

Dearest T took some convincing, but I cajoled, wheedled, and assured him that it was just a short walk off The Strip. He relented, then assented, and we set out.

A ninety-minute walk through Vegas's ripped backside and several blisters later (I had slightly miscalculated distance, direction, and location), we arrived. The Double Down is an unpreposessing one-story, white box of a building tacked onto a small, low-end strip mall. A shingled awning above the sngle-door entrance proclaims it "The Happiest Place on Earth." The grizzled bear of a bouncer (think Hulk Hogan) politely carded us as we entered. Unfortunately Dearest T had forgotten to bring any ID, but he agreed to the doorman's proposition that if the police busted he place, he'd be escorted by them back to the hotel to verify his age. All very pragmatic and amiable. We entered, slid up to the bar, ordered some beers, and looked around.

I liked what I saw, and loved what I heard.

Psychotically psychedelic and primitive murals featuring skeletons and wild women stared for ceiling and walls. A small, rough stage was stuffed into one corner, along with a couple of well-chewed sofas. In another corner some dykes were playing pool on a battered table. A tin plaque advised a capacity of 157. Two TV monitors played loops of vintage sleazoid horror films, seventies music videos, and clips of Japanese porn. A plastic bottle labeled "Hippy Spray" sat on top of a cooler. Hand-lettered signs hung around the bar: "$5 Bacon Martini," "Graveyard Shift Special 4AM-10AM, $4 Schlitz & Ass Juice," "You Puke, You Clean." And the jukebox --oh, the jukebox!-- belted out a divinely righteous stream of garage, proto-punk, hardcore, and, er, Frank Sinatra.

We chatted aimiably with a voluptuous, slightly pixilated sweetie named Fiona, who, having made an understandable yet erroneous assumption, asked Dearest T and I if we'd prefer to go to a gay bar. We declined the kind suggeston. The room was slowly but steadily filling up with a heady mix of tattoed punks, scruffy college kids, latino greasers, and Betty Page lookalikes.

Then it was time for the evening's featured entertainment: Szandora, the Hula Hoop Chick.


Magenta, pixie-cut hair. Curves like the Indianapolis 500. Skin of alabster.


Dearest T's tongue hung out all the way to the floor as she mounted the pool table and gyrated languidly, hoop spinning casually around her hips as the primal thudding of the Slits' "Heard it Through The Grapevine" pounded from the jukebox. "Such control!" he marvelled, as his eyes popped out on stalks. Then off came her bikini top, and T's tongue plus eyes emerged further. I was not immune to Szandora's multiple charms, but it was the soundtrack that blew me away; the Slits had now given way to the Dead Kennedys' "Police Truck." Absofuckingloutely marvellous.

I don't rightly know what time it was that we left, nor do I recall what time it was when we regained our hotel room. All I remember while lying on my spinning bed, listening to Dearest T puking up martini & beer in the bathroom, was thinking that at the Double Down I had found a slice of heaven amidst the hell of Vegas, and that I had almost a full week to get there again...

The Slits - Heard It On The Grapevine (buy here or e-here)
Dead Kennedys - Police Truck (buy here or e-here)