Zoilus by Carl Wilson

Archive for October, 2004

I Don’t Want to Get Adjusted to W.’s World

October 30th, 2004

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This week’s column tosses off a few choice curses for the faith-based presidency and gives thanks and praise for those who sing god’s protest songs (Iris DeMent, Buddy Miller) and twice as much for those who locate their faith in “the reality-based community” (The Ex, The Mountain Goats). Check it.

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“I mean, we are all here with our terribly shabby human limitations. What can I possibly do except sing a few of these appallingly simple songs I’ve written?”

October 29th, 2004

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I’ve heard only brief samples of the new Leonard Cohen joint, and confess I’m a bit afraid to hear more: His last disc was pretty scant on revelation and scanter on wit and melody, and according to my colleague Robert Everett-Green in today’s Globe and Mail, as on Ten New Songs, in these 12 more, “mostly Cohen goes for keyboard instrumentals… that are so cheesy as to provoke. Or doesn’t he care about that sort of thing anymore?” The title, Dear Heather, seems similarly half-assed compared to, say, Death of a Ladies’ Man. (Though one can’t help wondering who’s this Heather, at least out of misplaced protectiveness for Suzanne, Marianne, Marita et al.)

I do admire the way the cheese-keys affect a combination of Zen detachment and Montreal mafia-lounge act, but that doesn’t translate to wanting to listen to them. Leon Wieseltier’s liner notes (yeah, you read that right) say the album “revels in its own lack of monumentality,” but again that’s more morality than art: I liked it when Cohen’s songs monumentalized his revelry, sacralized his rancor, wallowed in merriment and dazzled with desperation. How can one not be happy, for his sake, that he is past that? And how can one not be sad, for ours?

So let’s hop in the way-back machine and land in (via Chromewaves) this collection of rare MP3s of live Leonard, mainly from the 1970s, rather than Cohen’s current 70s (plus transcriptions - oh and look here for L.C.’s various introductions and explanations of songs). Most of us younger folks, if we’ve ever witnessed live Cohen, saw rather formal performances, but back in the day he was given to crazy covers, alternate versions and existential-standup improvised digressions in his concerts. Though painfully badly taped, it’s all gold. Check out the unreleased disco-floor-filler Do I Have to Dance All Night?, the extended versions of Chelsea Hotel (with several extra verses), Cohen (truly the Bogart of songwriters) doing As Time Goes By or defending “schmaltz” against an earnest heckler and volunteering to commit suicide “if anybody has a razor”.

Ah, the good old bad young days.

Goat Every Mountain

October 28th, 2004

Hey! I just discovered, via Lalitree, aka Mrs. Darnielle, who made it, that John Darnielle, aka the Mountain Goats, aka Last Plane to Jakarta, has a new Mountain Goats tour-blog-site-thingee.

Which seems as good an occasion as any to plug my column, Overtones, in this weekend’s Globe & Mail, which this week is about faith and music and politics, and includes brief consideration of the Mountain Goats’ Against Pollution from one of the year’s best albums, We Shall All Be Healed - so brief, in fact (compared to, say, this) that we might go on about it here a bit more post-publication. The featured act in the piece, however, aside from the leader of the free world, is Iris DeMent, whose new gospel album Lifeline is released on Tuesday, aka Election Day.

All by way of reminding you that the column is now on Saturdays, since that idea is still sinking in, judging by our carefully vetted scientific polls, among the masses.

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Now Hears This

October 28th, 2004

Sorry about posting brown-outs the past couple of days. Weird scenes inside the data mine. And now the news.

Today Now magazine’s annual “Best of Toronto” issue named Zoilus one of the city’s best blogs. (Along with Neil Lee’s Beatnik Pad and our friends Sean K. Robb’s and David Akin’s sites.) The overall Best Website citation went to Infiltration and you can’t deny that - “the zine about going places you’re not supposed to go” is a mindblower. I do find it funny that PopWherry and Chromewaves weren’t mentioned, considering how much more active they are than, say, Sean K.’s site.

Speaking of PopWherry - all right, Aaron, you’re forcing our hand: We demand more Eminem and less Ashlee. We mean it, maaan: Em’s Mosh is the video of the year, but as Aaron says, it should have come out a few weeks earlier. Don’t know if it’s in time to bump the under-30 U.S. voting rate up 25% now, which was surely its job - along with telling its own self-reflexive meta-tale of how the (always) least frivolous of his generation’s most successful pop stars implicitly rebukes the (sometime) amorality of his earlier records to produce one of the loudest (in weight not volume) public-service announcements his country has heard (ever). If the youth vote isn’t up at least some because of it, it will be because the administration has gamed the system so foxily that ballots cast by the under-30 are reverse-Logan’s-Runned into oblivion. Meanwhile, read this rather up-cheering take on the situation from a self-proc’d “black young’n” on Salon, even though linking to Salon seems so 1999.

As for Ashlee: We’re shocked by lipsynching? Really, since when? All right, how ’bout payola? We shocked by that? Have you ever been informed that many great musicians have had bad record contracts? Do you feel desirous to peruse my 10,000-page dissertation on the voice-appropriative disjunctive rupture of Arthur Crudup? Oh and I’m not sure those are Jessica Simpson’s real tits, howzaboutyoo? Uh. Ahem.

Back to Now: Their readers also have kind words for Mrs. Zoilus (for, I think, the third year in a row) and Now’s editors put together a tip sheet on the local music scene.

Of course, we all know these alt-weekly best-of things are just thrown-together advertising-driven hook-and-lure stunts. But lookie, it worked. So one-and-a-half cheers for us.

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He Carried the Holiday in His Eye

October 26th, 2004

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D’ye ken John Peel with his coat so gay,
D’ye ken John Peel at the break of day,
D’ye ken John Peel when he’s far away,
With his hounds and his horn in the morning.
For the sound of his horn brought me from my bed
And the cry of his hounds which he oft times led,
Peel’s ‘view hullo’ would awaken the dead
Or the fox from his lair in the morning.
- 18th-century ballad

So John Peel has had his last session. I can’t say much about Peel that those who grew up with him could not say better. He was too young to die - and not just because he was 65. He would have seemed much too young to die at 90. But at least he was on an adventure - out among the Aztec ruins in Peru - when it happened. It’s the kind of answer you might give if you were asked how you’d like to die, and Peel deserved just that kind, a dream death to cap a dream life, for a man who began as a pirate-radio pioneer and ended up an almost-official international ambassador of new music. “Teenage dreams,” as the Undertones sang in his favourite song - “so hard to beat.”

He mattered to me less as a DJ - since I could never listen to his BBC programs until lately, when the Internet made it possible - than as a literal icon, the embodiment and symbol of what an engaged, never-stiff, never-calcified listener to music and appreciator of culture could be and could do, with never a sniff of snobbery. That’s why he’s always been on the links page here at Zoilus. Emerson might have been writing about him when he said, in Of Manners:

Once or twice in a lifetime we are permitted to enjoy the charm of noble manners, in the presence of a man or woman who have no bar in their nature, but whose character emanates freely in their word and gesture. A beautiful form is better than a beautiful face; a beautiful behavior is better than a beautiful form: it gives a higher pleasure than statues or pictures; it is the finest of the fine arts. A man is but a little thing in the midst of the objects of nature, yet, by the moral quality radiating from his countenance, he may abolish all considerations of magnitude, and in his manners equal the majesty of the world. I have seen an individual, whose manners, though wholly within the conventions of elegant society, were never learned there, but were original and commanding, and held out protection and prosperity; one who did not need the aid of a court-suit, but carried the holiday in his eye; who exhilarated the fancy by flinging wide the doors of new modes of existence; who shook off the captivity of etiquette, with happy, spirited bearing, good-natured and free as Robin Hood; yet with the port of an emperor, ó if need be, calm, serious, and fit to stand the gaze of millions.

Read appreciations of Peel from Sasha, Paul Morley (of the NME and Art of Noise), The Guardian, his BBC colleagues and Peel on Peel. PlusDouglas Wolk on Peel in Slate.

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This Week Can’t-Miss ToRAWKto Action!

October 24th, 2004

This week, as you enjoy the last gasp of the Bush era (and shudder over the coming Million Lawsuit March), Zoilus zealously encourages you to head out to two superfantastical unconventional musical entertainments:

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1. Tin Tin Tin. This WEDNESDAY! The return of my monthly music-scene mash-up series, with:

10 pm - ROB CLUTTON CONDUCTS, large group improv conducted by bassist-composer Rob Clutton (of NOJO, Rob Clutton Group, Shurum Burum Jazz Circus and much more) guiding this hott hott hott band: Ken Aldcroft (guitar), Parmela Attariwala (violin), Tania Gill (keyboards), Mike Hansen (turntables), Vannessa Hanson (voice/keyboard), Tomasz Krakowiak (electronics), John Millard (voice), Paul Newman (saxes), Jayme Stone (banjo), Melissa Stylianou (voice).

11 pm - BLOCKS INSTANT BANDS. The best of the Blocks Recording Club instant-band experiment from Canzine earlier this month, including Iceflow (drone by Colin Bergh, Greg Collins, James Anderson, Matt Smith and Steve Kado), Organ Summit (keyboard madness by Alex (Animalmonster) Snukal, Matt Smith, Peter Venuto, Vanessa Fischer, Mike e.b., Ben Stimpson, Paige Gratland) and JCCR Revival (instant songs by Jon Rae Fletcher, Eugene Slonimerov, Jessie Stein, Alex Snukal). Lineups here subject to change.

11:45 pm. BUSH PARTY: NATHAN LAWR + rYAN kAMSTRA play cracked political songs with electronics by TBA.

Hosted by Carl Wilson. Set design by Margaux Williamson. Between-set dancin’ tunes by the Global Pop Conspiracy. Doors 9 pm, Show 10 pm, PWYC ($5/$10 suggested). Drake Underground, 1150 Queen St. West.

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Playing Cobra at the last Tin Tin Tin in July (with Cobra-Tron)!

which leads us to …

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Misha Glouberman & Joe Sorbara present Open Cobra.

2. Open Cobra! On Monday it’s the second edition of the very popular and massively enjoyable workshop we attended back in June. Zoilus pal and Trampoline Hall host Misha Glouberman, his Room 101 Games series and local drummer-composer-improvisor-organizer Joe Sorbara once again present a participatory peek behind the veil of John Zorn’s seminal composition-cum-sporting-event, Cobra. (Here’s how it works, here’s how it was conceived, here’s a review and here’s Cibo Matto going crazy with it.)

Cobra is a brain-teasing group musical grope & the workshop is most remarkable for making your mind somehow expand to grasp its maddeningly complex set of rules until they fall simply, neatly and surprisingly into place. Musicians and non-musicians alike will have a grand time. Full info here and even fuller info here. It was also named “Best Bet” in a nice piece in Eye this week (scroll down). It’s on Monday, Oct. 25, 7 pm SHARP (doors 6:30) at The Drake Hotel Underground, 1150 Queen W. $12/$6 students door; $5 adv. With Joe Sorbara’s Pickle Juice Orchestra and special guests Steve Kado (Barcelona Pavilion/Blocks Recording Club), Dave Clark (Woodchoppers), Eugene Slonimerov (Lenin i Shumov) and the mighty Cobra-Tron!

PLUS: Here are a few more pics from the last Tin Tin Tin (all shot by Lee Towndrow, as are the two TTT photos above):

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What Do We Want? Moderate Change! When Do We Want It? In Due Course!

October 22nd, 2004


I think Aaron hath mistook me: By no means was I offering a “Canada knows best” speech. Canada knows shit! Look who we elect. Nothing to boast about. Should the U.S. offer Canadians a vote I would give mine up and pass it along to a Palestinian or an Iraqi as fast as G-Dub giving up his flu shot. But I’m a little mystified why Aaron feels the need to masquerade as an anonymous guy in Ohio in order to say “why don’t you come down here and say that?”

Nobody is saying Americans are stupid and cannot individually make wise choices. Neither, however, do we think that democracy somehow imbues everyone with grand magnanimity and universality of perspective. Americans vote the way they feel their interests lie, and representative government more or less responds. Yet this particular government massively affects the interests of people it doesn’t represent - way more than the governments of “Russia, China, Britain, Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Saudia Arabia” etc. do (well, maybe not China, but that’s another subject).

So it is a frustrating thing that there is no mechanism by which to express this global set of interests, in part because the U.S. does not participate in good faith in the United Nations and other international bodies. (Listen to G-Dub crowing unprompted in two out of the three debates about how he gave the finger to the international criminal court.) And so, we pilgrims seek a vessel through which to communicate our perspective. On this day, the Lord seems to have given us Barlow. (This is because the Lord is sadistic and delights to mock us.)

Anyway, whether it’s Barlow or Naomi Klein, it does not seem unreasonable for us, the citizens of foreign nations to go over to the U.S. and say “this is how it seems from where I’m from, and maybe this will give you a little pause when you come to vote.” In most of the world I don’t think there would be an instant of controversy about that idea. But in Canada we are so adapted to our feeling of being naturally born as disenfranchised second-class American citizens that it would be getting above our raisin’ to criticize or urge our superior, more authentic American cousins to do anything other than what they damn well please.

As for the remark in the comments about “if Union Station were to get nuked, who would we go a-runnin’ to” … this is, again, just silliness. I’m not expressing opinions much different than those held by millions of likeminded Americans. (Here is one of the smartest, calling the lies lies when they happened, rather than after the fact.) I suppose if they nuked, say, Vermont, the White House would do well to just let those faggot pinkos stew in their own radioactive juices, too. That’ll teach them to speak their minds to their betters.

And I suppose that if someone did nuke Union Station, that would be because of Canada’s relations to the rest of the world and would have nothing to do with our alliance to the United States.

By the way, I’m sure Aaron’s right that the guy from Barlow is a tool. But that doesn’t mean there’s any reason he can’t go sing songs at a rally if poor Planned Parenthood is dumb enough to want to hear them, just because he has the “wrong” stamp on his increasingly meaningless passport. Maybe the Kerry forces are just after the cheap drugs. I hear Canada’s holdin’.

End of political ranting for the week. Once again, the (not-so-felicitously named) Freedom from Fear event is at Cinecycle tonight.

In other news: Early adapter David Akin outs the closet bloggers in Canadian mainstream journalism, with exceedingly kind words for Zoilus. Many humble thanks.

Won’t You Follow Me Down to the Rose Parade?

October 21st, 2004

On a more sombre note, Frank at Chromewaves reminds us that today is the first anniversary of the still-unsolved death of Elliott Smith last year at 34. I’ve yet to hear Basement on the Hill, Smith’s final collection released this week. But a reflection on Smith’s life and death was my first-ever post to Zoilus. It was written the day of his death but posted a week later, when the site first went up. Since few of you were in the neighbourhood to read it at the time, I thought I’d link to it again today, in memorium, here.

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Doodling? Dandy

October 21st, 2004

Aaron is upset that some Canadian band I’ve never heard of called Barlow is playing a Planned Parenthood event for Kerry.

“If the American equivalent of Barlow (whatever that would be) showed up on our doorsteps tomorrow, as part of an explicitly political event, singing his support for the American equivalent of John Kerry (Paul Martin, I suppose), we’d all be suitably outraged and offended that some damn Yank would ever think of telling us what to do.”

Right, because no damn Yank ever thinks of telling us what to do.

You can’t just flip the script and play do-unto-others here. It’s silly. I suspect we’d be thrilled if some nutso American band cared enough about Canadian politics to express an opinion. (edited to add: As the Comments point out, were you really upset about Paul Martin & Bono?) It always seems to make Billy Bragg fans happy at his shows, for instance, that he knows who’s prime minister here. But if we did get upset about Americans pushing us around, it has a bit to do with being afraid of Americans pushing us around. Americans getting upset about Canadians pushing them around would just be nationalists being sucky babies, because we have no power to push them around.

As I see it, national borders can’t be the borders of our free speech and our consciences now, if they ever could. Really, the whole world ought to get to vote on who becomes the U.S. president, because in the current balance of power he’s the president of the frigging world. In the absence of that right (which would be difficult to swing, I admit), it’s absurd to say we can’t even express an opinion. Why should we pussyfoot about “interfering” in the election of a leader who has no compunction in “interfering” anywhere in the world he desires? We are de facto colonies of a global empire. Last I recall, being a colony with no political representation at the centre was something Americans used to consider objectionable, circa 1776.

What does this have to do with music, aside from catchy fife-and-drum tunes? Well, there’s actually an event going on in Toronto tomorrow that rocks my non-vote:

“The founding principle of Freedom From Fear is that the upcoming American election will affect everyone, not just Americans, and that even though Canadians cannot participate in the election directly, we can and should look for ways to make our voices heard. … The rally will feature performances by Bleep and 100% Wool, as well as appearances by DJs Nemo Burbank and Matt Blair. The rally will begin this Friday at 9:00 at Cinecycle, which is located off the alley at 129 Spadina Avenue. There will be a minimum $5.00 donation to attend, with all proceeds to benefit the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Voting and Democracy, two American organizations that are working to protect the future of the democratic process.”

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It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Blogging)

October 21st, 2004

John Turtletop continues the Dylanorama today. Because he’s called out some heavy gunships - hey, hey, Jan Kott is my homeboy, John - we’ll carry on, but you have to be careful with this stuff. If Chronicles tells us anything, it’s: Don’t feed the Dylanologists, man, they’ll chew off yer arm.

John says: “I think he overstates when he says that Dylanís latching onto the strongest images in a politically engaged story ‘is not how a political person thinks’.”

Are you really saying a political person thinks the best way to write a song meant to help get a guy off death row is to start with the most vivid image of the prisoner committing a series of brutal rapes? No, a political person would start with a vivid image of the gas chamber he’s condemned to. Or a vivid image of the guy’s deprived childhood. Anything but those red lights. It’s the songwriter who knows the red lights would be the best way to make a myth and lets the moral fall where it may.

Comparing that to the kind of stagecraft we saw at the Republican clusterfuck in August illustrates in soaking wet red paint just how far apart from convention-al politics Dylan is. [...]

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