Thursday, December 24, 2009

IT'S CHRIIIIIST-MAAAAASSSSS!!!

Waitaminit, that St Nick looks vaguely familiar...

Dearest Friends, here's wishing you a very Happy Christmas and Season's Greetings (as appropriate). I can think of no better way to tell you how wonderful I think you all are than to share with you five of my all-time favourite Chrimbo choonz. If you were here in past years you'll know they're reposts, but enjoy them anyway.

May you get exactly what you want in your stocking. See you after the hols.

The Vandals -
Oi To The World (buy here or e-here)
Peter & The Test Tube Babies -
I'm Getting Pissed For Christmas (buy here or e-here)
Jacob Miller -
All I Want For Ismas (buy here or e-here)
Holly Golightly -
Christmas Tree On Fire (buy e-here)
Heat Miser -
The Heat Miser Song (buy here)

P.S. There is no Slade here. Apologies to those who were deceived by the title.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Christmas Invasion


A Roswell reindeer. I barely escaped with my life.

Whoa, so, like, what is it about Chrimbo that makes folks do alien things? Like, drink appalling concoctions such as Baileys, eggnog, and gingerbread lattes. Or spend mind-numbing hours packed into sickening malls along with thousands of others? Or think that a Chia Obama makes the perfect gift??

It must be them space reindeer. Once they lull us into a holiday stupor, they'll laser us with their shiny noses and use us as fodder for their young.

But it doesn't have to be that way; the resistance can start right here:

Just say "No" to eggnog...

Shonen Knife - Space Christmas (buy here)
The Bellrays - Rocket Ship Santa (buy e-here)
Alien Sex Fiend - Stuff The Turkey (buy here or e-here)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Don't Need No Spirit



So this is Christmas. No no, please don't scurry away, I promise you: no more John Lennon!! OK? Are we friends again? Have you stopped screaming?? Good.

I was looking back at my Chrimbo posts from last year and I was struck by how Grinchian and grumpy they were! My goodness, pre-visitation Scrooge had NOTHING on FiL circa December 2008. Much of that was due to circumstances; I shan't go into details, but it was one of those burdensome Yuletides where I knew no matter what happened it was likely to end in stress and tears. Paint that over my inherent dislike of the frenetic consumerism of the season and the overpowering imperative to get into the CHRISTMAS SPIRIT, and I think that just about explains my attitude.

This year it ain't so bad. Our plans are very simple and revolve around our nuclear family. Moreover, I've decided that if the spirit moves me, great. If not, that's fine too. What I'm trying to focus on instead is finding opportunities amongst the Xmas hubbub to share time and enjoy being with thems that matter to me. And so far it's been so good; last weekend I went shopping with Darling Daughter on one of my favourite drags, Main Street. We shopped here and here and here, then we went to the Rhizome Cafe where we had an excellent brunch and I told her about community activism and the power of art. Right on. Then tomorrow morning the whole family is ascending Grouse Mountain for a party thrown by my workplace. There will be lashings of pancakes and eggs and sausages and bacon, and Santa will appear and give out presents. And tomorrow evening Dearest Wife & I are off to a kids-free Chrimbo knees-up. Shit, this year is looking OK...

Since I'm of such good humour at the moment, Dearest Friends, may I invite you to share some noisy good cheer in the garage? I always like to venture in there at least once during the season.

The Dollyrots - (buy here)
Wild Billy Childish & The Musicians of the British Empire - Dear Santa Claus (buy here or e-here)
New Bomb Turks - Christmas [Baby, Please Come Home] (buy here)
The Chesterfield Kings - Hey Santa Claus (buy here or e-here)
The Fleshtones - Run, Rudolph, Run (buy here or e-here)

Saturday, December 05, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Toystore

Pieces of childhood

Little Man has been having a few issues at school as of late. An incompetent teacher with the organizational skills of a headless chicken. Work that's frankly waaay too advanced for 75% of the class. And classmates who've taken to taunting him so as to provoke a reaction that usually gets him into trouble.

Sigh. It's tough being seven.

At a meeting between Dearest Wife, myself, Mrs Headless Chicken and The School Principal (who is an awesome steel fist in a velvet glove), it came out that Little Man really enjoys playing with the class supply of Lego. So that got me thinking...

Back at home, I stood on my tippy-tip-toes and pulled down a large, dusty plastic bag from our bedroom closet. I called out to Little Man that he should shut his eyes tight, then I went to the playroom where he was desperately trying not to peek. I gave him the bag, and let him look. His eyes grew wide...

Inside was my entire childhood collection of Lego, a multicoloured jumble of plastic bricks 'n' bits with which I used to construct entire universes. I had brought the whole lot over to Vancouver from New York after years of nagging from Mother to "deal with my stuff in the basement." I had been long intending to pass it on to Little Man, but the right moment had never presented itself. Until now.

We immediately embarked on building a police station, complete with windows, swingy doors, and Lego homunculi. As I rummaged through the bag, looking for THAT precise piece, I began to find bits of unexpected flotsam from my childhood.

A quiver from a Playmobil Indian.

A wooden Tinkertoy connector.

A skipole from a GI Joe arctic warfare set.

A rocket from a James Bond "The Spy Who Loved Me" Lotus Esprit Sportscar Submarine.

Tokens from a London Underground boardgame.

Each unexpected artefact brought with it a concentrated shot of memories, nostalgia, and vivid feelings. It was all actually a bit disconcerting. Thank goodness I had Little Man and a half-built police station to keep me anchored.

Pianosaurus - A Funny Thing Happened On The way To The Toystore (buy here or e-here)
The Maccabees - Lego (buy here)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tra La La La La I'm Not Listening



Oh, for fuck's sake. I know I've been preoccupied with this 'n' that as of late (children - can't you put them on autopilot or something??), but I wasn't expecting this quite so soon. No, not at all. You see, I was starting to come to grips with the falling leaves and the falling temperatures and the early falling of darkness. I was falling into Fall. But just as I thought I had the fall under control, I was mugged. Most brutally and painfully.

Little Man & I had popped into our local Shoppers Drug Mart (yes folks, it's true, here in laid-back Vancouver we have retail stores selling weed, shrooms, and skag on open shelves) to pick up some codeine tabs for Dearest Wife and her irrepressible bronchitis cough. As we wended our way through aisles of pomade, unguent, powders and carbolic soap, my gaze was wrenched by a display of Toffifee boxes with smiling, rosy-cheeked fat men in red suits.

OMFG! IT'S STARTED!! THEY'RE SELLING CHRISTMAS!! ALREADY!!!

As I reeled in amazement, I was sucker-punched in the ears by a mawkishly mewled version of that bane of Yuletide music: Last Christmas. To make it worse, it was some dreadful cover version - The Cheetah Girls, I think. It were 'orrible, it were.

Sigh. It all seems so desperate, so tawdry: c'mon folks, get into the Chrimbo spirit! Do your bit to prop up global capitalism! Spend spend SPEND your way outta recession! Here, start with this delicious Toffifee...

And THAT song!! Argh!! Truth be told, there are some fine versions of it out there, which I suppose means that the tune itself has some merit. Shame Messrs Ridgeway and Michaels butchered it from the get go. Here, have a listen to these (if you've not been round here for Xmas before), whack one or two on your Xmas partee playlist, and watch Aunt Edna whizz it up:

Xmas Massacre - Last Christmas (buy e-here)
A pretty ripping take by a mysterious Norwegian ska-punk outfit

The Revolvers - Last Christmas (dunno where you can get it, but it looks like this)
Best. Version. Ever. Even if it's by some superannuated German punks.

Jimmy Eat World - Last Christmas (buy here or e-here)
We wish you an emo Christmas...

Sigh again. Christmas has always been something I prefer far more in theory than in practice...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Streaming


6:50 AM, 16/10/09

So the past two weeks have been one blurry stream of numbers and anxiety and cortisol pump pump pumping through my screaming veins, sweeping all else aside. A bitter soup that fed deep, not wholly rational fears. A contrast medium that highlighted my shortcomings.

Heh. And just when I thought I was getting back on track round here.

But yesterday a high water mark was reached and the flow has subsided. For now. And I shall use the clarity afforded to consider those shortcomings...

But this morning, driving to work through a phosphene image of street light traffic light tail light against the a dark, rainy predawn of a dawn that ended up never really breaking, I could still feel the slightly sickening buzz at the back of my head. Twin Crystals provided a focus. Of sorts.

Twin Crystals - Children (buy here or here)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Champagne, Girls, & Hearts

Ich trinke champers mit Herzfisch, sagt niddynoo...

I took yesterday's weather as a sign that it was finally time to purge the last of the summer backlog and get on with matters at hand. The day had started abysmally: suffocated by a smoky grey pall of clouds and drenched in the hard, cold rain that the Pacific Northwest does so well. By mid-morning I was convinced it'd never get truly light, and the subsequent fierce gritting of pea-hail that set off the car alarms outside seemed purely gratuitous. I was musing that summer was well and truly over, when the clouds and hail and rain were suddenly ripped off like a dirty bandage to reveal a newly healed blue sky and a defiantly bright sun.

So one more chance, then.

Lest you think from previous posts that the summer was spent in a hippy-folk haze, I'll have you know that I found time in my schedule for other popular beat combos, thank you very much. In late July I toodled down The Biltmore (a venue I like more in theory than in practice) to see The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, with whom I had fallen in love earlier in the year. I shan't wax prolific, but suffice to say that they were charming and lovely and wonderful. Their fuzzy dreampop washed off the stage and over the audience like frothy waves of happy ache and yearning, while the band members themselves were graciously sincere and seemed genuinely pleased to be playing to us. Big, warm hugs all round.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Young Adult Friction (buy here or e-here)

Then there were the opening bands. First up were TPOBPAH labelmates Champagne Socialists, who I mistrusted from the start. Several slightly awkward lads (one apparently of rather good Glaswegian gang Bricolage) strummed and drummed, while a singer with a passing resemblance to Amy Winehouse went through the motions in an uncomfortably am-dram stylee. Oh dear. So imagine my surprise when I downloaded their 'Teardrop Tattoo' and found that their meh stage presence seemed to have camouflaged a pop song that, while rough around the edges, was actually rather evocative and tweely catchy, what with its "woo-ooo-ooo-ooo-oohs" and all. Apparently in the last month or so they've decided to call themselves Neverever, should you be inclined to investigate further. I might be.

Champagne Socialists - Teardrop Tattoo (a 7-inch single for you here)

Next up we had Girls. No, not those kind - it wasn't that sort of a show. I'm talking about two fellows from San Francisco who spun some fine songs out of strands of dreampop, the 1960s, melancholy, bittersweetness, and shimmer. Truth be told, I was unimpressed at first listen. But as thes stood their ground and worked their magic, I was drawn in and found myself both liking it and wondering why I did, particularly since some of their songs did go on for a while. I guess it was all of those beautiful strands...

Girls - Hellhole Ratrace (debut album slated for release on 6 Oct and you can get it here)

Right, summer is now officially over.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Big 'n' Hairy

Ladies & Gentlemen, whether you like it or not...HEDWIG!!

Dearest Friends, it's time to toss your tresses, shake your split ends, and fluff your fringes, coz this week Contrast Podcast has gone all hairy. Yes, this episode is dedicated to all things hirsute and hispid, so get ready for some Vidal Sassoon stylin' and download the grizzled goodness here.

The full range of tonsorial services on offer:

(00:00) PJ Harvey - Hair
Tim from The face of today

(04:20) The Heart Strings - Nina and her very long hair
Kevin

(08:31) Ron Sexsmith - Strawberry blonde
Jeremy from Fingertips

(13:35) The Who - Cut my hair
Adam from Pretending life is like a song

(18:12) The Pretenders - Don’t cut your hair (live on later)
Chris from Culture Bully

(20:49) Cinderpop - Blonder
Marcy from Lost in your inbox

(24:02) Timbuk3 - Hairstyles and attitudes
The In Crowd from I’m learning to share!

(28:05) The Divine Comedy - Bernice bobs her hair
Robert Todd

(33:07) The Early November - Hair
James from Appetite For Distraction

(36:42) One Trick Pony - Scary hairy song
Tricia

(39:11) Barbagallo - Wait
Eiron from Casting the Net

(44:22) Mikrofisch - Bad hair days
Linda from Speed of Dark

(49:26) Fosca - The Millionaire of your own hair
John Q

(55:40) Hum - I’d like your hair long
Bob from Gimme Tinnitus

(01:01:31) Stevie Nicks - Gold and braid
Greer from A Sweet Unrest

(01:08:32) Still Life Still - Planets
Tart from Love Shack, Baby

(01:13:22) Queensryche - Almost cut my hair
Natalie from Mini-Obs

(01:18:42) Vini Reilly - Hairdresser on fire
JC aka The Vinyl Villian

(01:24:04) Hedwig & The Angry Inch - Wig in a box
FiL from Pogoagogo

I had to go with my choice because I've long wanted to contribute a song from Hedwig, one of my most favourite films of all times. Fantastic music, a glorious plot, journeys, self-doubt, authenticity, inauthenticity, trust, love, betrayal - ZOMG, it has it all. And Hedwig herself is a personal hero of mine. Someday I hope to see it in its original staged incarnation.

But as usual, there were other potential choices:

The Locust - Hairspray Suppository (buy here or e-here)
In the end I figured this bit of speedcore chicanery from San Diego's wierdest might be a bit too much.

The Exploders - Put On Your Wig (buy here or e-here)
I seem to have been submitting a fair bit of garage punk of late, so these Toronto racketeers were denied.

Despite my limited output here on pogo a go-go of late, I never missed a single opportunity to submit to the Contrast Podcast. That's not meant as a brag, but rather as an indication of how wonderful I think the CP Nation is. The folks who contribute are a fantastic group of folks, and the eclectic musical joy they contribute is soul-enhancing. Dearest TiM is a demigod for putting it all together for an amazing three-and-a-half years!! And the chance it offers me to dig deep into the cluttered, absurd depths of my mind to pul out my intros has probably been lifesaving. Several of you have said kind words aboutthem, and it gives me unbridled pleasure to think that you might find them amusing. For those of you who find them tedious, I do apologize and hope that your podcast player of choice has an easily operated fast-forward function.

In celebration of the Contrast Podcast (BTW, in case you've never listened and are having difficulty catching the subtext: GO LISTEN NOW!!! THEN CONTRIBUTE!!!!) and in penance for my silence here, I offer you a smattering of tracks that were recently in the running for submission:

Shonen Knife - Cycling Is Fun (buy here or e-here)
Almost made it into CP 178. I luv Shonen Knife and their "Ramones-meets-Peanut-Sisters" vibe. Off to see them next month - w00t!! Peter & The Test Tube Babies - Banned From The Pub (buy here or e-here)
A contender for CP 180, coz you play darts in pubs, so some classic English pub punk would have been in order.

Stereolab - Outer Bongolia (buy here or e-here)
Possible destination for CP 179, as it was the closest I could get to Mongolia in song (Tuvan throat singing aside). But one day I shall visit for real, oh yes...

The Specials - (The Dawning Of) A New Era (buy here)
Though an old track, I considered it for CP 176. Well, I remember it sounding new and fresh to me at some point in my yoof...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Where The Hell Are You???


Here I am, closer than I appear.


Dearest Friends, that's the question Dearest JC posed below. Short, sweet, and shot straight. And it's one I thought best answered by a comeback, plarticularly since he mentioned me in a very kind post of his a few days ago. But how to make my re-entrance? Where to begin?? What to say???

You don't want the litany of reasons, primarily because it'd be pretty banal. An uninspiring mix of work, laundry, garden watering, erranding, that amounts to the taxing reality of summer bachelorhood. Admittedly, there is also the running, which might be a story worth telling, but not now. Suffice to say I've wanted to spend more time here, and the evidence can be found in the half-formed bits of prose that are moldering in the corners of my Blogger "Edit Posts" box. And in my frustration - les visible, but most tangible.

So, I think I have it now -- it's time for a cleanout, a pump 'n' dump, a spray 'n' pray. They will necessarily be the abridged versions (and there still may be some mold stuck to them), but here's the first from the pile of what might have been over the past weeks/months:

I have a terminal weakness for compilation CDs. They make me feel all savvy & clever, getting a brace of killah-not-fillah tracks from multiple bands, all for the price --sometimes discounted-- of one disc. Yes, I know these days you can achieve the same by trawling the net and sampling its wares. Yes, I admit that often the killah to fillah ratio is low. But yah boo sucks to all that, I still love them.

The problem is that I usually get fixated on two or three tracks, and pay scant attention to the rest. Take the "Yes New York" CD that on a whim I tossed into the car stereo the other week. When I got it back in 2003, I locked in on Radio 4's "Save Your City," "Olio" by The Rapture, and DFA's remix of Le Tigre's "Deceptacon." So tracks 2, 8, and 14 got heavy, heavy rotation. Fast forward to 2009 and imagine my utter surprise when track 4 grabs me by the ears and shouts in my face:

I'VE BEEN HERE ALL ALONG AND I'M TOTALLY FUCKING AWESOME!!!

A squealy intro of feedback. Chugging guitar, Fizzing distort,. Shouty vocals. Densely erudite, eloquent lyrics that sliced straight through flesh to plug directly into my soul.

Today I woke up uncertain
And you know that gives me the fits
So I left this land of fungible convictions
Because it seemed like the pits
And when I say, "conviction" I mean it's something to abjure
And when I say "uncertain" I mean to doubt I'll not turn out a caricature

My God, in a flash I got this song so utterly, so completely. I made that trip. It was a pure epiphany, and the only thing the white light/white heat couldn't completely drown out was the little voice screaming "What the Hell took you so LONG???" at me.

So now I'm somewhat obsessed with this song. Somewhat? I mean totally.

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists - The Ballad Of The Sin Eater (buy here or e-here)

And so begins the return. Thanks, Dearest JC, for kicking me up the jacksie. It feels good to be back. To misquote another track that's had heavy airplay in the FiLmobile of late: I won't fade away...

Joy Division
- Digital (buy here)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I've Been To The Folk Festival

The Rev. Peyton & his lovely wife, Breezy
Vancouver Folk Music Festival, 16 July 2009
Picture nicked from bswift

Dearest Friends, you won’t believe what happened to me! There I was, minding my own business, when all of a sudden I was abducted by a gang of hippies and folkies! It’s true!! I was held captive for three days during which I was fed nothing but patchouli, quinoa, and Pete Seeger. But that was just the beginning! After they had their wicked way with my innocence, they sold me into the slavery of Real Life!! Oh, the horror!! For a brief while I escaped on holiday, but as I was beginning to recuperate, Real Life found me hiding on an island and once again shackled me to a grindstone. Not the least comfortable grindstone I’ve ever been shackled to, but a grindstone nonetheless. Now I’ve been given a ten-minute loo break, which I’ve chosen to share with you, my lovelies!!

Right, I promised last time to tell you all about the Folk Festival, didn’t I? Well, I had a fantastic time - but not really for all the same reasons as previous years. You see, when I first started going to the Fest, it was purely for the music. Then I started volunteering, and my motivation became 80% music and 20% the volunteer “experience.” Well, this year I was surprised to find that I was equally rewarded by both aspects. Upon reflection, this was partly due to the fact that I wasn’t as galvanized by the music as in previous years; some of it left me unmoved, most of it I enjoyed mildly, and almost nothing triggered an epiphany.

Probably what surprised me the most was Arrested Development, who put on a series of intelligent, uplifting, and storming performances. I had long thought that gangsta and corporate bling had exterminated the Daisy Age in the hip hop wars, but I was inspired to see that there is still a guerrilla campaign of positivity being waged. In addition to their stonking headline on Friday’s main stage, AD’s core participated in a soulful Saturday morning session with Jamaican word warrior d’bi young (whose raw, defiant broadside against sexual violence both chilled and inspired), reggae poet Mutabaruka (righteous, if occasionally heavy-handed), and lyrical activist / mother Lisa Garza (who nearly made me cry).

I had wanted to catch Basia Bulat, but scheduling meant I only saw her perform a couple of songs. However, I later bumped into her eating an ice cream (she likes vanilla, BTW) and had a sweet little chat with her about our common Polish heritage. You see, the Fest is like that: you just run into artists, moreso if you're volunteering. In the kitchen tent I had another nice conversation with veteran Glaswegian firebrand folkie Dick Gaughan (reference: he sings with Billy Bragg on 'The Red Flag' off of BB's 'Internationale' EP). I asked him if he was going to play 'Stand Up For Judas,' which a friend of mine gave me in high school on a compilation tape that was one of my earliest exposures to Billy Bragg. He replied that he no longer played it live after discovering years ago that fans were bringing their religious friends to his gigs to shock them with the song. Though he was critical of religion, Dick didn't want to insult for the sake of insulting, even inadvertently, so he dropped the song from his set. Alas, shift timing meant I couldn't listen to what is in his set these days.

Still in Scotland, The Proclaimers put in an appropriately energetic set on Saturday night's Main Stage. Yes, all the songs you'd expect at one of their gigs were performed, including (natch) 'I'm Gonna Be,' which set the folkie crowd dancing in a sorta gawky pogo-helicopter stylee. A big, crowd-pleasing performance it was, and one that I found pleasant, if largely for reasons of nostalgia.

So, what moved me? Well, I was seriously impressed by Matt Andersen, a mountainous bluesman from New Brunswick whose voice he summons up from somewhere elemental Down South. I only saw him for a few songs, but they were something else. I also enjoyed Kate Reid, but not for the reasons you might expect. Kate does a good line in dyke-folk, in a sorta Ferron-meets-Indigo-Girls-meets-Ani-DiFranco-on-the-edge stylee. Which isn't admittedly my favourite idiom. But what got me was that she has soul. By which I mean she was earnest, righteous, determined, vulnerable, uncertain, honest, funny, witty, direct, unabashed, and celebratory, all at once. After seeing her I wanted to go out, right some wrongs , and hug people along the way.

My one moment of pure epiphany came, appropriately enough, on Sunday morning when I attended the hootin' & hollerin' service of Reverend Peyton & His Big Damn Band. Oh yeeeeeaaahhhhh!! With Reverend P pickin' on gee-tarr, his brother Jayme on drums and pickle barrel, and his wife Breezy on washboard, the Big Damn Band pumped out an electrifying mixture of punk, bluegrass, delta blues, country, and moonshine. This was a stompin' revival meeting at which the Holy Spirit Of Music descended and whacked you upside the head until you spoke in tongues and became a true believer! And just to make the point, Breezy set fire to her washboard during the last song. Phew!!

But enough about the music. At least half of the reason I enjoyed the Festival so truly, madly, deeply was that I had a blast hanging out with, and basking in the glory of, all the wild, weird, and wonderful people I met while volunteering. I once heard the Festival described as a sort of Brigadoon: a magical community that appears once every while out of seeming nothingness, then disappears suddenly, leaving you wondering if you ever really had been there. Now, with few exceptions (i.a. Sweeney Todd, Threepenny Opera, Little Shop of Horrors) I despise musicals, but I think the comparison is entirely appropriate. So a big shout-out to the Chess Nut, Frank the Prof, Magnificent Mairghread and her Team Z Commandos (who came to my aid as I shouted for backup chasing a crazed rogue cyclist through the crowd), Jennifer the Space Station Tracker, Mike the Dipsomaniac, Wistaria, Pascal, all of Team G, and the rest of the exotic fauna I omitted to mention. Slumber well until next year.

Right, loo break over - back to the grindstone. But here, have a few of these:

The Rev. Peyton's Big Damn Band - DTs Or The Devil (buy here or e-here)
Are DTs AND the Devil an option? Cuz I think it's both...

Matt Andersen - Tell Me (buy here)
He deserves to be huge.

Arrested Development - Revolution (buy here)
Get on up!

Kate Reid - Uncharted Territory (buy here)
This is the song that sold me on Kate.

Dick Gaughan - Stand Up For Judas (buy here or e-here)
One of those songs that takes what you know and tilts it on it's end for a different view.

Liza Garza - My Everything (cannae find anything of hers for sale!!)
This is the song that choked me up at the Festival. She sang it acapella, and quite frankly I think the backing music lessens the power. Here, look at this instead - this is much more like it. And yes, she choked up at the Fest as well:


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Folksiness

The VFMF mascot, Pete Seagull. Can't beat folky humour...

Egads, where have I been all this time? Well, Dearest Friends, abroad for a good chunk of it. Abroad for me and many of you, in yer backyard for some. You see, I was in the good ole U.S. of A with the family, visiting Mother. Almost two weeks we were there, staying on the upper fluke of Long Island's tail like sea lice on a whale. And I had intended to tell y'all all about it, honest. But the whole trip became so wrapped up and impacted and encased in baggage that the story grew hard to tell without scratchy rawness and muddle and destructive emotions. I did try for the past week, mind you, thinking that forcing it out into the light of blog would disentangle it, make it easier to reconcile the strands. However, all my attempt just ended up in frustratingly tighter knots. Sigh, and fuckit...

So then, let's talk about shinier, happier stuff. And what's shinier and happier than MUSIC, hmm?? This weekend coming up is one I've been looking forward to all year, because it's that of the annual Vancouver Folk Music Festival!! Yay!! As you may recall from here and here, I've grown very fond of the Festival and is broadly stretchy definition of "folk" (Celtic fiddles? Check. Bhangra? Check. Dub? Check.) , so much so that this year will mark my third as a volunteer. In return for 12 hours of putting life & limb on the line as a security pig, I get to go for free and get fed mung bean soup! W to the O to the O to the T!!

Undoubtedly it'll be someone I never heard of who blows me away (cf Old Man Luedecke, Rodney DeCroo, and Abigail Washburn), but as usual there are a few acts in the lineup who I'm interested in seeing for one reason or another. Winnipeg's folk-funk-popsters The Weakerthans I've been keen to see for a while now. Likewise Basia Bulat, over whom many of my lovely blogobuddies have been drooling for some time. Los de Abajo promise to offer up a mix of Mexican mariachiness and ska - how can one resist that?? And it will be interesting to see Arrested Development (yes, Mr Wendel's friends) show off their daisy-age hip hop (remember: "broadly stretchy definition of folk") as they promote their first North American album in 12 years.

And then there are The Proclaimers. Um, yes...

Why the hesitation? Well, as a yoof I loved their debut LP, "This Is The Story" (especially the brilliant rant against linguistic fascism, "Throw the 'R' Away"), their frantically earnest singing, their Red politics, and their engaging live performances. "Sunshine on Leith" didn't do it as much for me, but I still enjoyed the album, particularly "Jean." From then on it all went a bit adrift; I found I didn't relate to their strong, overtly religious stuff, while their strident nationalism --like almost all of its kind-- left me uneasy. Then there was "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)," which, thanks to goddamn Benny & Joon, got stuck in the heads of mononeuronic eedjits everywhere as the beginning and end of all Caledonian lyricism: "Oh, I LOVE Scottish music! I listen to The Proclaimers all the time!! 'I would walk foyve-hundred moyles...' " Now I realise that all of this is my problem, and not that of Messrs Reid & Reid, but it is the monkey that I am bringing with me on my back. But I'm also bringing open ears and an open mind, in the hopes of (once again) being delighted. We shall see.

Dearest Friends, I'll give you a fuller report after the Fest, but in the meantime would you like a smattering of tunes?

The Weakerthans - Tournament of Hearts (buy here)
Los de Abajo - Joder (buy here or e-here)
The Proclaimers - Throw the 'R' Away (buy here)

And as is customary in the run-up to the Festival, please allow me to mock in advance all of the dirty hippies I'll have to endure with their tie-dye, unchecked body hair, sweaty-patchouli stink, and helicopter dancing. They're actually all quite lovely, but I have an image to maintain.

The Dead Milkmen - The Thing That Only Eats Hippies (buy here)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cheese, Glorious Cheese!


Dancing across the Stilton wall, Neal's Yard Dairy.
Snapped by semiotheque


Hello Dearest Friends, remember me?? You do??? How good of you!!! Right, it's time to (re)start this party right, it's time to (re)start it cheesy! Yes, Dearest TiM was gracious enough this week to turn this week's Contrast Podcast over to my favourite foodstuff, le fromage. I can't get enough of the shizz- mind you, I'm talking about tha good stuff, not your waxy Kraft slices toilet paper or Velveeta toejam. No, I mean the molten pungency of Stinking Bishop, the essential goatiness of a log of Golden Cross, the creamy prickle of a slab of Cashel Blue, the better-than-sexness of an Epoisses....

Findings songs about cheese seemed to pose a challenge for the CP Nation, but rose to it they did, and there was some excellent lateral thinking, such as Kevin's choice of the well matured Barry Manilow. You can dowload the whole cheeseboard here, or have a peek below at what's what:

(00:00) The Evaporators - (I’ve got a disease) I’m addicted to cheese
FiL from Pogoagogo
(06:20) Dick ‘Two Ton’ Baker - I like stinky cheese
The In Crowd from I’m learning to share!
(09:13) Chenard Walcker - Cream cheese
Eiron from The S+7 Method
(11:51) The Mouldy Peaches - Cheese
Tricia
(13:40) The UMCs - Blue cheese
Greer from A Sweet Unrest
(18:00) Gong - Dynamite / I am your animal
Chris from Phosphorous.net
(23:09) Heartless Bastards - Done got old
Tart from Love Shack, Baby
(27:13) Cheeseburger - Tiger
Andy from How Marvellous
(30:49) Exploding White Mice - Let the kids dance
Dirk from Sexy Loser
(34:40) Monty Python’s Flying Circus - Cheese shop
Tim from The face of today
(39:20) Bear Hunter - My nemesis the cheesegrater
Linda from Speed of Dark
(45:17) Lyle Lovett - Here I am
Jeremy from Fingertips
(50:00) Stark Effect - Bunnyrabbits, satan, cheese and milk
Rhiannah
(53:02) +44 - Make you smile
James from Appetite For Distraction
(57:48) Richard Cheese - Rape me
Stuart from The Accies Blog
(01:00:31) The Photographic - Millie rode to heaven on the back of an orca
John Q.
(01:07:37) Barry Manilow - Can’t smile without you
Kevin

My pick this week was obvious, I must admit; on top of it being about a cheese addiction, it's served up by local garage band Thee Evaporators, which is fronted by Vancouver's very own madcap, musical savant, Nardwuar the Human Serviette. Nardwuar's become something of a fixture in Vancouver, and indeed nationally in Canada, for his goofy guerrilla interviews with musical luminaries. Rather than explain, have a look at his pisstakey chat with Hilary Duff. Yes, I said Hilary Duff.

I wasn't always a cheese addict, you know. Though I was fond of the curd, it wasn't until I moved to London in the mid-1990s that I became exposed to the full panoply of fantastic fromagery. It started with an epiphany: a visit to Neal's Yard Dairy in Covent Garden. I fell in love instantly with the stacks of Stilton truckles against the wall and the deep, rich smell of dozens of fine British cheeses that suffused the tiny shop. Several years later we moved to southwest London, and my local train station happened to be right next to The Teddington Cheese, another tiny Tardis packed with cheeserifficness from across Europe. I lost my virginity to Stinking Bishop in that shop. I fretted that my move to Vancouver would strip me of ready access to decent cheese, but Providence smiled when She gave me a job within walking distance of Les Amis Du Fromage, and then did so again when two brothers named Benton opened up their labour of love within striking distance of home.

But my Dearest Friends, it is rather paradoxical that this podcast has come out during a time when I am off the cheese and will be so for the next few weeks. You see, as I have begun my journey past the big four-oh, I decided the time had come to take matters corporeal in hand and get myself fit. So I started this running lark (about which more soon) and decided to pay closer attention to what and how much I was stuffing in my gob. With Dearest Mentok as my bodhisattva, I embarked on the unthinkable and started a diet, the South Beach one. I tell you, it's working a treat; I feel miles fitter, have dropped a waist size, and shed around 15 lbs so far. Yes, I miss the cheese, but the regime offers enough diversionary food to allow me to power on through. And I know it'll be waiting for me soon...

But back to the music. Had it not been for Nardwuar, I would have had to think laterally. And this is where my mind would have gone:

Fatima Mansions - Blues for Ceausescu (buy here)
Perhaps he would have fancied a nice gorgonzola, or maybe a sharp Picos blue. BTW, I have been known to run around shouting in falsetto: "I am Nicolae Ceausescu and I want my country back!!" Long story.

Jenn Grant - Blue Skies (buy here or e-here)
An antithesis to the previous song, performed by the wonderfully ethereal, PEI-born Jenn Grant. I really took a shine to her when she played last year's Vancouver Folk Music Festival (more about 2009's fest coming up soon). I think she'd like a more subtle Beenleigh blue.

Stereolab - French Disko (buy here)
I like French discotheques, cos they dance around to synthy pop while noshing on fromage. I think I could quite happily bop to this while enjoying a Mimolette Vieux.

Deen - In The Disco (buy here if you are loaded)
Speaking of discos, let's face it: nothing smells more strongly of cheese than this, Bosnia and Herzegovina's dancetastic entry for the 2004 Eurovision Song Contest. Finished in 9th place - they wuz robbed!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Eat The Rich


Overheard recently:

"The fundraising drive for the construction of the community centre tennis courts was very successful. There's even $20,000 left over which can be used to resurface them in a few years time."

"Oh, I resurface mine every year."

Motörhead - Eat The Rich (buy here or e-here)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Shragadelic




Yes, yes, I know it's been ages since we've gotten together. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Now look, I can fritter my time away explaining how I was held prisoner by Morlocks in the wastelands of Mississauga, then besieged by small people and forced to work in the salt mines, or I can get on with what I came here to do, namely draw your attention to some fine music. The choice is yours.

What's that? You're going for the music?

You sure??

You have chosen wisely...

Dearest Friends, I suppose it was almost three years ago that I came across Shrag's debut single, "Pregnancy Scene," while frolicking through the meadows of the interwebbynet. The dang thing stuck to me like a burr, what with its eerily parping synthline, stalking guitar, and SHOUTY vocals. Rather than pick the thing off my woolly jumper, I left it there, hoping it would grow into more tunes. Alas, though this Brighton-based quintet have released a total of five singles over the past two-plus years, all of them have been on lovely, yet postally inconvenient vinyl. And thus I have had to make do with what I had. So imagine my joy when I discovered the other week (only four months late, I'm sooo cutting edge) that Shrag had finally bundled their singles together, thrown in a couple of extra tracks, and released the whole scrummy, squirming mess on an eponymous album available both as a see-dee AND in newfangled digitalese. Hooray!!

So what will you find when you dig down? Rich, crystalline veins of angular post-punk riffage, dense deposits of bolshy pop attitude, and a mother lode of sardonic savvy. Gems include "Talk To The Left," which sets us all straight on matters of ardour (Did he really say "baby, now I'm heading south"? / Funny, I was almost there / And then he opened his mouth) and "Mark E Smith," which makes a helluva brain-churning racket. But go beyond the upper crust of sarcasm and shoutiness, and you'll find caves full of emotion and feeling as well; "Hopelessly Wasted" is an aching break-up song, while the marvellous "Forty Five 45s" drips with melancholy memories of a relationship entwined with a singles collection. Le sigh.

Then there's their name itself - how deliciously succulent! Go on, say it: "Shrag." Can't you just taste the juiciness? And its very sound brings to mind cheesy 70s carpets, immensely satisfying copulation, shrubbery, goofy sea birds, corrupt elections, and soulful dancing. Oh yes, what a combo! Just forget the prosaic fact that it's actually an acronym for Sussex Heights Roving Artists Group - an in joke, apparently.

In June they'll be playing several UK dates supporting The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, and I'd give vital parts of my anatomy to see one of those shows. But alas, anatomy is no substitute for time and money...

Right, enough verbiage, here's some tuneage:

Shrag - Forty Five 45s (buy here or e-here)

Oh, and while we're at it you might as well also have the ooer, fnarr fnarr video of "Talk To The Left:"

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bad Experience


Origami cleverness from here

When I first saw it, I didn't believe it. I thought it was a joke, something crafted by a latteklatsch of ultra-cool, web-savvy, hyper-ironic hipsters with designer haircuts.

But it's not.

It's real.

And it made me nauseous.

Step right up folks, you too can have the ultimate Rock & Roll Experience. Yes, for a mere $7,999 you'll get to play in a rock band with "world-famous musicians!" Jam with "iconic rockers!" Attend private workshops with "platinum rock stars!!!" What's more, the price of this 5-day package includes luxury hotel accommodation at the four-star Hotel Renew in Honolulu!!!! You will be "treated like a celebrity and catered to accordingly!!!!!" Confirmed rock gods participating are Glen Matlock (he was always the weediest Pistol anyway), Gerard V. Casale (Devolution, indeed) and Wayne Kramer (say it ain't so!!).

Dearest Friends, this is a travesty. This is not rock 'n' roll. This is balding, fiftysomething, system analysts with their remaining strands of hair scraped behind their heads into dork handles. This is Euro trustafarian brats decked out in Bench and Von Dutch. This is the annoying, botox-injected fucker who cut me off today in his Porsche Boxter. This is whore meets john.

Oh my, I think I need a cocktail of proper music on the rocks to clear the taste of sick from my throat...

Chuck Berry - Johnny B. Goode (buy here or e-here)
Subway Sect - Different Story (buy here or e-here)
Dead Kennedys - Pull My Strings (buy here or e-here)
Sex Pistols - The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle (buy here or e-here)

Friday, April 17, 2009

In The Mood For Ska

Rudettes and dansette penned by the mahvellous Bishakh Som © 2009

It's been a lovely Friday, what with it being the end of the week and a glorious, late afternoon burst of sunshine apologizing for the rest of the day's rain & gloom. When it's lovely outside, I feel lovely inside - call me shallow, and I will plead guilty. And so it is I find myself in the mood for some old time ska. Come along, Dearest Friends, the rude girls have cranked up the dansette and as the glorious sunset fades into starry evening, it's time to skank the night away.

Lord Tanamo - I'm In The Mood For Ska (buy here )

The Ethiopians - Train To Skaville (buy here or e-here)

Shenley Duffus
- Rukumbine (buy here)

Dandy Livingstone - Rudy, A Message To You (buy here)

The Bleechers - Check Him Out (buy here)

Derrick & Patsy - Housewife's Choice (buy here or e-here)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Resolution Revisited


Dearest Friends, you may recall that back in January I was rash enough to put into cyber-print my resolutions for the year. Ignore for the moment items two through five, which are still in various stages of completion (er, like between 0% and 20%), and let's focus on the first resolution, namely getting in shape for the 2009 Vancouver Sun Run.

Well, roger me sideways with a sweaty ferret, but the run is this coming Sunday and methinks I'm going to be set for it.

Hear that slapping? That's the sound of my gob being smacked.

You see, I've tried many times over the years to get into this running lark, but I've always ended up hating, loathing, DESPISING it. I never understood why; it's something you can do alone or with company, it involves no real prep or planning, and I love walking round in The Great Outdoors (urb or rural). But no, no, no, a thousand times no.

This year I was helped along by the lovely Miss J, a work colleague who kindly offered up her running expertise twice a week to lead a training clinic for the Sun Run, which has become something of an institution in Vancouver. I also had an attack of bloody mindedness; dammit, this is something I CAN and WILL do. Finally, I was heartened by the dashing exploits of JaG, who overcame her own inertia to run like the wind (and will do so again, once she sorts out her iron will)!!

So, some ten weeks ago I strapped on my running shoes and set off on my first training run: three minutes running, two minutes walking. I just about died and dissolved into a heap of cramp, asthmatic croaking, and sweat. Fast forward to today, when I finished my second 10K run in a series of 10 minute intervals separated by one minute of walking. We're not talking Chariots of Fire timing here, folks, but I did it and actually felt (gasp!) rather good at the end. Inbetween then and now it's been a mixed bag of bloody fucking pain and flashes of pride.

Now, please excuse me, but I'm going to break out the can opener and open up a tin of corn. You see, Dearest Friends, I've actually learned a shedload from this whole exercise. I'll spare you most of the zen insights, but allow me to relate two:

First off, the pain is manageable. Almost every outing something went wonky: my hips ached, I got a stitch in my side, my calves cramped up, my right knee got all wobbly. At first I focused on what was going wrong, which was, well, wrong. But over time I developed my own sort of R2-D2 in my brain. You know; R2 would sit in the back of Luke's X-Wing fighter and deal with all the bits falling off ("I'm hit, but not bad. R2, see what you can do with it." "R2, try and increase the power."). Well, my R2 tends to all the shit that goes wrong with me so I can stay focused on the run. If my shins cramp, R2 tells them to relax. If I accelerate up a hill, R2 shortens my stride to maintain my pace. So now the discomfort is secondary. Moral of the story: get yourself your own R2 unit.

Second, I'm my own worst enemy. For years I talked myself out of running coz simply because I believed I couldn't do it. And, since we've already strayed into Star Wars territory, let me quote Yoda: "That, is why you fail." I can't afford to forget this lesson.

So now the Sun Run is but four days away, and I'm confident that I can do it. But y'know, even if I don't, I've already won on this resolution.

Right, you'll be wanting some music after all that. So here you go, a clutch of fine running tunes:

Messiah - Temple of Dreams (buy here )
They weren't the messiah, they were two very naughty techno boys named Ali and Mark.

Tones On Tail - Go! (buy here or get the club mix e-here)
Post & pre-Bauhaus goodness. Ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-yaya-ya. You get the picture.

GBH - Race Against Time (buy here )
Kinda hard to run in your 18-hole Doc Martens and levver jacket, but the punks don't care.

The Vivian Girls - Where Do You Run To (buy here or e-here)
Righteous grrl noise straight outta Brooklyn. Eruditely named after a mammoth 15,000-page magnum opus by outsider artist Henry Darger

Markus James & The Wassonrai - Far As I Can Run / Majirica Samba (buy here or e-here)
Think Tom Waits playing those old time blues in Timbuktu. Yes, it's that good. Another one of my favourite discoveries at the 2008 Vancouver Folk Music Festival.

No Star Wars music, you'll be happy to hear, but have a look at this and larf until the banthas come home:

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A Walk


Walking man courtesy of mag3737

Dearest Friends, Saturday afternoon I wasn't so fine in either mind or spirit or body. In fact, I was feeling rather crap. I was still emerging, thanks to some heap powerful antibiotics, from a bacterial infection that for two days had drained me of all energy and replaced it with a foul cocktail of chills, aches, and fevered dreams. That day I had also received some rather nasty e-correspondence from a Usual Suspect; it matters not what the content (which was legitimate), but rather the evenomed barbs in which it was wrapped. And finally, we were all absorbing the Friday news of the apparently random murder in broad daylight of a woman out jogging in the forest but a few blocks from where we live. Dearest Wife was rattled; not only does she often walk/jog past the scene of the crime, most recently earlier that day, but also she was followed down that path a few months back and had been sufficiently concerned to file a report with the local Mounties.

And so I moped. "Why don't you take Little Man for a walk?" suggested Dearest Wife as the clock dragged towards 5:00 PM. And so I did.

I was surprised to see that since my last foray outside early on Friday spring seemed to have definitivey sprung; the sun was out and warm, buds were budding, and the grass needed mowing. We wandered for a few blocks talking nonsense and giggling. Passing a front yard, we met a waggy old black lab named Ruby, whose owner invited a happy Little Man to throw a ball for her. We stopped at the supermarket and bought a plump cantaloupe for dessert, then we picked up a yummy, steaming hot pizza and delivered it home for us all to sup on.

That evening, even though I was still too delicate to go see The Beat as I had been planning for months, I felt a whole lot better.

Go for a walk, Dearest Friends. You'll be surprised what a power of good it can do.

Right, some nice 'n' happy music:

The Lovekevins - Happy Happy (buy some of their stuff here)
Jane - It's A Fine Day (buy here or e-here)
Pizzicato 5 - Happy Sad (buy e-here or here)

And this one is for having missed the show... :(

The Beat - Ranking Full Stop (buy here or e-here)

P.S. More joy - Contrast Podcast is serving up eggs this week!! If you can't wait to scramble on over, go ahead and crack it open here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Let's Face The Music And Dance



This is for a Dearest Friend, actually more of a Dearest Brother. The trouble ahead may be trouble now, and there may seem to be no moon. Indeed, there may even be teardrops to shed. But still you must face the music and dance, always dance.

And I'll be pogoing away like mad, right next to you.

Ella Fitzgerald
- Let's Face The Music And Dance (buy here)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Τὸ χόβερκράφτ μου εἶναι γεμᾶτο χέλια

OMD during their rebetiko phase

OK, lemme just say that I don't care what you think, Dearest Friends. Well, actually, let me qualify that: I hope this will give you as much headbanging, horn-throwing, arse-shaking, eighties-worshiping, improbably covertastic pleasure as it gave me when it came, unbidded, on my FiLPod TWICE in two weeks at times just when I needed it most. But if it doesn't, then mock all you want, I don't give a damn. Coz it doesn't get any more ridiculously sublime, any more chalk-n-cheesy delish, than a Greek power metal band doing a motoring version of the fantastic Enola Gay by 80s synth-gods Orchestral Manoevers in the Dark.

Wolfcry - Enola Gay (buy here or e-here)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Reasons to be Cheerful


Cos nothing says "cheerful" more than an otter...

Dearest Friends, if you're feeling less-than-perky, then listen up: I've got a bagful of goodies guaranteed to lift the most flaccid of spirits. No, it's true, hold your cynicism at bay!!

First up, there's Contrast Podcast! Always a cause for yay!! This week our intrepid guide, Young Tim, takes us on a dizzying alpine trek through songs about mountains. Lofty heights are scaled, thanks to our brave contributors, and I'd urge you to get yourself and your crampons, pitons, and carabiners over here to get some mountainous goodness. If you can't wait, download the podcast directly from here.

Now, as I mentioned a few posts back, I ain't gonna tell you what I submitted, though I will let on that it was both the first and the obvious choice for me. Truth be told, I never really considered any other tunes, though had I been more flexible of brain I might have given you this ditty from Vancouver's own poppily whimsical and melodic Cinderpop:

Cinderpop - Vesuvius (buy e-here)
The album cover has a Victorian octopus on the cover. How ace is that???

The second cause for cheer is my serendipitous discovery of the lovely Hooded Fang. You see, I was noodling about the web trying to find something about Herald Nix and clicked through to his page on the CBC Radio 3 website. So I'm reading the blurb, but the music playing doesn't really sound anything like Herald Nix. That's when I realize the page is streaming a playlist of indie-schmindie stuff and WOW, whatever this non-Nixian track is, it's lovely!!

So, long story short, it turns out that what grabbed me by the ears was none other than Hooded Fang, six boys & girls from Toronto with a fetish for Mordecai Richler's off-kilter children's books, jangly guitars, tinkly xylophones, sweet vocals, and fluffy dollop of twee. A perfectly serendipitous find for springtime, dontcha think??

Hooded Fang - Land Of Giants (buy here or e-here)

And finally, the most important reason to be cheerful: Merz is back. HOORAY!! Those of you who've been around for a while and already know him don't need me to tell you why this is such a joyful event. For those Dearest Friends who've not had the pleasure, Merz runs the excellent blog Mars Needs Guitars, which was one of the first ones that I ran across while taking my first, tentative steps into the interwebbybloggynet. If you're looking for fine music, delivered straight up with lots of honesty and not a trace of bullshit or ironic, hip pretense, then you need to get yourself over there right now. And he is a brave fighter; he's been dealing with some very heavy issues for some time now, issues which led him to take an 18 month hiatus from blogging. But Merz has returned - go show him some love.

Merz would be the first to admit that he has a serious shoegaze fetish, so in honour of his return let's have a bit of that stuff; from the poppier end of that genre, here's Berkshire's finest, Chapterhouse, with a wee gem from 1991:

Chapterhouse - Pearl (buy here or e-here)

And sorry, no Ian Dury this time. Don't want to overdo it now, do we??