Archive for August, 2004
August 31st, 2004
It’s that time already. I got obsessive-compulsive about this list in the past week, with the result that I think it might be the most comprehensive list of live music in the month of September 2004 in Toronto you can read anywhere. I don’t promise ever to do that again, but I’ll try to update this list this month to maintain its glowering superiority. (Corrections also welcome.)
Highlights known for the month so far include:
- Sonore (Peter Brotzmann/ Ken Vandermark/ Mats Gustaffson), Goethe Institut, Sept 3
- Jake Fairley (Berlin/Toronto, Uncut), Revival, Sept 3
- Talib Kweli at CNE bandshell, Sept 4
- Fred Eaglesmith, Roots festival, Distillery District Sept 4
- Black Ox Orkestar (Montreal, inc. members of Silver Mt. Zion, ex-Sackville), Wavelength, Sneaky Dee’s, Sept 5
- Ashkenaz, Harbourfront all next week
- The Microphones (backed by Sea Snakes), Guitarkestra, the Music Gallery Sept 6
- Guelph Jazz Festival, Sept 8-12 (day by day details below)
- Leftover Daylight w/guests Ron Samworth and Kate Hammett-Vaughn, Arraymusic, Sept 10
- Drive-By Truckers and Alison Moorer [pictured up top], Horseshoe, Sept 11
- Fiery Furnaces, Mod Club, Sept 12
- Old 97s, Chuck Prophet, Lee’s Palace, Sept 12 (strange this isn’t at the Horseshoe)
- Nick Lowe, Lee’s, Sept. 15
- Kensington Rocks! and Good Grooming for Girls launch and Sadies two-night stand, all the weekend of Sept 17-18
- Junior Boys cd launch (at last!) with Solvent, Horseshoe, Sept. 22
- NOJO with Sam Rivers at the Rex Hotel, Sept. 22
- John Coltrane birthday tribute, the Rex Hotel, Sept 23-25
- Creeping Nobodies cd release with Les Mouches, Cinecycle, Sept 25
- Frog Eyes, Horseshoe, Sept 27
- Tin Tin Tin, Drake, Sept 29
- Kool Keith, Funhaus, Sept 30
WED SEPT 1
MATT WOLFE, JAKE CHISOLM @ Drake PWYC 9pm
DAVID OCCHIPINTI QUARTET @ Top o the Senator thru Sun. Sept 5
CLASSIC ALBUMS LIVE @ CNE (The White Album)
August 31st, 2004
Close readers may have noticed over the past year-plus that I am no big Broken Social Scene fan, unlike the 5,000 people I got samwiched by at Harbourfront on Friday night. General verdict: more guitars does not necessarily make more music. To my ears it is an indie version of too-many-riffs arena stylee, sounding a bit more by committee than by collective, on the far side of my preferred songs-to-texture ratio; at best a crack backing band to Emily Haines. I don’t fault BSS and their fans - except for said fans’ irritatingly high average height - but for me they’re more fun to hear about than to hear. (See for example Sarah Liss’s blissfully lissfully melodramatic BSS feature in Now last week.) What gets much respect is the warm loving waves they’ve managed to emanate out to this fair city, far beyond the usual broken inner circle, and Friday night was great evidence for that. (Oh and PS, Jim Guthrie, his ukelele [shades of Stephin Merritt!], Owen [Mouches, Cameras, Final Fantasy] Pallett and the rest of Guthrie’s crew owned!)
However, I got to hear BSS member Andrew Whiteman’s new project Apostle of Hustle live at Soundscapes on Sunday night, and I’m seriously considering converting to his shimmyshaking faith: sinuous cubanismo textures interwoven into indie rock with nary a shade of world-music blobbism, loops and percussion and horns and touching fragmentary breathy boy lyrics (leggo my emo!) and rhythmrhythmrhythm. I’ll surely be writing something lengthier and printier soon.
Speaking of lengthier: Epic Motherfuckin’ Literary Lyrics Battle Throwdown is still to come. But I had to get over one (1) case of the howlin’ fantods and one (1) case of the late-summer langours first, and now everything has gone column-deadline-shaped (Peter Brotzmann action coming your way), so it will have to wait a couple more precious days.
Nonetheless, I will have some shots to fire at their scurrying behinds.
August 26th, 2004
In today’s column, the valor, the horror, and the Fake Prom.
August 25th, 2004
What remains to be done, T.O.-live-show-wise, for the balance of August. More notes on words vs. music later tonight in all probability. But first: Live! music! weekend! of! the! summer! How, how do you choose? I do not know. Let us proceed. All of this action is at least a little recommended.
Note Mrs. Zoilus’s appearance with One Ring Zero on Friday night, 11 pm at Harbourfront. I swear I did not remotely know this was up until after the lit-rock-article fact. In deference to the blog-borg, she promises not to attempt singing or lyrics or anything that apparently is the domain of specialists who are of the volk, but just read to woozy accordion accompaniment. Oh wait, was I getting back into it there? Ahem. Also note that Margaret Atwood herself is apparently guesting with ORZ on theremin the following night. Okay, so that one makes even me a little queasy. [...]
August 24th, 2004
Sorry to return to a previous reference but “commitment to concealment” leads to one inevitable answer:Pere Ubu. David Thomas very deliberately developed a singing style in the mid-70s in which many of the words were incomprehensible, part of a philosophy that persists to this day (even though he now sings much more clearly) that the sense of the words is secondary to their sound, that sound is the medium of rock and it is best if the “poetry” does not interfere with the beyond-language level: When asked what he thought of Peter (Bauhaus) Murphy’s cover version of the best-known 1970s Ubu song, Final Solution, Thomas said, “Everyone who covers that song makes the mistake of singing the words so they can be understood.”
As if speaking directly to Franklin Bruno, Thomas has said: “Rock music as an art is designed to communicate that which is beyond words. It’s visionary, nonlinear, nonverbal, non-narrative, inarticulate. We’re dedicated to the art of cohesive, intelligent, nonverbal communication…. I wouldn’t know a thought if it came up and bit me. When you ask a question the answer springs out of nothingness and I flap my gums. If I like the sound of what my voice speaks then I learn it by rote so that I can roll it out like a monkey the next time. The form of the words triggers a recognition of meaning.”
I think the precedent you’d track for that stance has to be Louie Louie. This seems to me very different than the hardcore punk/metal versions of incomprehensibility that followed.
I’d love it if somebody essayed a reply to Franklin’s question about whether there are MCs who are beloved as writers but not so much as performers (to paraphrase what he said) - where it might make sense to say, “I’d like to hear somebody else cover that,” the way one does of Randy Newman or Stephin Merritt even tho I prefer their versions to anyone else’s. Does a rap exist as a text and a song outside of its specific recorded version? Is there any precedent for that?
Is it sampling that renders hip-hop a kind of songwriting where cover versions would be absurd or is it something else?
In John Darnielle’s comment to the entry below he seems afraid I’ll use his latest LPTJ post to drag him into all this. Which I’m afraid I will. That and more to come in the morning when the week’s columnizing is done.
August 24th, 2004
Administrivia: A fistful of new Toronto-and-area music sites added to the links page, courtesy mostly of Aaron. Merci beaucoup.
August 23rd, 2004
While contemplating Franklin’s latest, some sidebars:
That “college” phrase got read wrong. Or probably, stated wrong. What I meant is - if 20 year olds become the most influential element of the music-biz audience, will you get demand and supply of a different kind of writing than you do when 14 year olds are the heavies? Not better or worse, but more of the “writerly” affect and a shift in subject interest (to politics for instance). College was meant as shorthand for young-adult not the classroom - for Pet Sounds rather than Fun Fun Fun or Springsteen rather than the Monkees. (This could also be a bad thing.) But I was not meaning to project that curiosity/desire onto anybody but me.
Likewise the argument that there’s been a divergence between the lyric style of rock hits and the lyric style of the anti-hit-list was mine and mine alone. But I think it’s true. It’s like a single body that split in half, each taking extreme and unbalanced parts of the personality with it. But the pompous meaninglessness of a certain dominant style of mainstream rock lyrics circa 1994-2003 (generally bad U2 imitations) is conspicuous: If we’re talking about “what kind of lyrics changed how,” mainstream rock lyrics indulged in a whole complex of reactions to/for/against hip-hop and resurgent pop. And in that light I’m unsure if in any conversation about “trends and ontology” indie rock has a place. (Hmm, maybe that one’s not a sidebar.)
“Jocks vs. geeks” was not meant literally but to flag a certain tone that creeps in when the pop defenders make mockery of indie a tactic - the assumption that indie is an elite is on one hand semi-accurate and on the other kind of a conspiracy theory ascribing improbable power to a dispossessed minority as far as the pop-market is concerned. Yes critics care about indie but who cares about critics, that’s the dirty little secret. Anyway I knew it would get a rise - I suppose I could be accused of teasing.
One Ring Zero’s album may be the geekiest record ever made, a bunch of authors supplying lyrics to a band that uses accordion, claviola and theremin as its primary axes, and that’s one of the reasons I found it fun to write about, even if it is too geeky to spawn any lineage.
All right, it is possible to get geekier: Seattle band Bloodhag plays “edu-core,” heavy metal songs entirely about science-fiction authors and tours the northwest-coast library system in the summertimes. Choice quote, in their song about HG Wells: “Writers still swipe from your most famous books/Yet they forget the social satire of your later works.” Rawwwwk!
Can you tell I’m just burning off unused research? Here’s something that might be useful/amusing: An index of songs inspired by literature.
And there are two recent CDs raising cash for literacy with songs inspired by stories/novels/etc, with David Bowie, Springsteen, Tom Waits, Rosanne Cash and a bunch of unknowns.
August 23rd, 2004
Mark says wisely: “It’s not all that useful to indict songwriters when its their mode that you’re alienated from.”
And then maybe a bit-less-wisely: “Given that the fine art of rock lyricism is in some ways more limited than that of Haiku-writing, is it so completely batshit to suggest that, as a form, it might not be exempt from the law of diminishing returns?”
Maybe it wouldn’t be if your given was actually a given, but in what way is a form that takes in all the people whose names we were batting around over the weekend - plus, oh, Captain Beefheart and Chuck Berry - more limited than a 17-syllable observational lyric? The fact that even haiku can be renewed is actually a counterdemonstration that a dry spell doesn’t equal desertificiation. And lyrically, rock has covered so much territory in the past half-century that saying it is played out is like saying that songwriting itself is played out. It ain’t the form it’s the culture. If rock, mostly, especially mainstream rock, hasn’t much new to say, it’s not because it’s all been said already but because the people with new to say aren’t inclined to use rock (or jazz or folk) to say it.
There’s no purchase in arguing that hip-hop lyrics are inherently any more or less limited than rock ones. It’s just that hip-hop is feeling fresher as a mode now. Though I don’t think she’s The One, what Nellie McKay demonstrates is that totally unexpected crosspollinations of hip-hop, rock and other pop forms are not only possible, they are inevitable. Don’t go all Fukuyama on hip-hop; it’s not the End of History.
August 22nd, 2004
While I was away the discussion didn’t so much die out as commit suicide.
I can see why Sasha hit the brake, with folks getting passionate in their defence of something he didn’t mean to be attacking, and while I still think there’s juice in figuring out what we’re talking about when we talk about lyrics, as far as SFJ’s original point’s concerned, Douglas Wolk nudged in the right direction when he mentioned “hits” - in rock, good lyrics eventually became one of the main things that separates the underground from the radio. In fact lyrics are one of the main things that keeps otherwise palatable stuff (say, Ted Leo) off the radio. I don’t think that separation existed so much 20 years back. There may have been differences of kind but not so much of quality, just the way that there’s one sort of good lyrics in hip-hop hits now and another sort in the undie scene. This is one of those trends I hope will shift when the demographic bulge that brought us Britney-etc. starts amassing in higher education and clamors for college-appropriate rock. That’s my personal ticket to Fantasy Island.
Thanks also to Douglas for pointing out the Dog Faced Hermans‘ use of Angela Carter - and in general for keeping the great DFH’s flame. (That’s them in the pic above.) Douglas also has a nice Seattle Weekly piece on the place of narrative in the Fiery Furnaces and Ken Stringfellow’s work that seems germane to dreams of Lit Rock.
I have some further ideas and fun trivia to add later but I’ll cleave like a courtly lover to short-sweet and dodge like the draft any junior-debater mode.