by carl wilson

They Shoot Horses & Prince: 'These wonderful,
wonderful kids! Still struggling! Still hoping!'


Today in The Globe and Mail, I have an article about They Shoot Horses Don't They, the post-punk marching band from Vancouver - making hay (sorry) of the parallels between their sound and the mood of the 1969, kickass, dance-marathon movie from which they took their name. There are similarities to Frog Eyes or Wolf Parade, but more to the anarcho-squat bands I used to call "circus punk" in the early '90s (the Ex, Dogfaced Hermans, pre-Tubthumping Chumbawamba, and to some extent No Means No, Rhythm Activism, etc.). TSHDT plays Toronto tonight @ Sneaky Dee's, along with the Creeping Nobodies and Anagram - a dance card you couldn't beat with a riding crop. (Read it here.)

Plus, here's a clip of the band in action. But more eyeball-slurping is the video for Sunlight by band artist-in-residence Julia Feyrer.


Also in today's Globe, I have a short (and belated) review of Prince's new album, 3121.

Incidentally, the Vancouver edition of the paper also has a Destroyer profile, not by me but a Vancouver writer hitherto unknown (though it sure feels like I've read it before). Still, Dan's always wryly quotable: "I have probably grown more comfortable with my role as singer, whatever absurdity that role might inhabit. ... So there's kind of a swagger to the music, I think -- even if it is a tipsy old man swagger." And then: "I haven't gone out and bought a summer home or anything. ... But I've got a man on it."

I also noted this piece a few days ago about "circuit-bending music". Agents, does this merit further investigation?

Horses' mad, brisk gallop

The Globe and Mail
April 7, 2006, R19

In the hypnotic 1969 Sydney Pollack movie They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, a ballroom floor full of disparate Depression hard cases (most memorably Jane Fonda) dances out a gruelling month-long marathon that can lead only to a cash prize or death by exhaustion, all for the diversion of callous crowds of punters.

Now, examine the eight radiant faces of the young Vancouver band that takes its name from Pollack's film. They don't seem like they've seen much material want. But they've got a similarly crazed determination to ride a rhythm through the noxiously spoiled faith and usury pervading their era. Their own unlikely deliverance will come howling, shaking maracas, tooting horns, banging on pipes and jitterbugging till it falls to pieces.

Though the Emily Carr art-school grads share some of the post-punk, neurasthenic-preacher cadences of Victoria's Frog Eyes or Montreal's (B.C. expats) Wolf Parade, the sound swirling here has more to do with high-school band class. They start their songs neatly marching and wind up swarming over themselves as the paired-off Noah's Ark of two-by-two beats breeds and becomes a house divided against itself that somehow still can stand. It's an endless fusillade of friendly fire.

The best precedent might be the experimental house bands that came out of 1980s anarchist squats - Scotland's Dog Faced Hermans, Holland's the Ex and England's (pre-Tubthumping) Chumbawamba, or even British Columbia's own No Means No - who all had the same exuberant way of turning junk piles into punk Big Tops, despite the dark rodentine gnawings from below. That's a movement that still has too few followers - among them Toronto's Creeping Nobodies, who share the stage with They Shoot Horses in Toronto tonight.

On this, the most extensive tour in the band's couple of years of life, They Shoot Horses are using their cannonade of energy to convert idle spectators into rambunctious mobs, with all the efficiency of revival-tent veterans. But on Boo Hoo Hoo Boo, their first full-length album (as a rare new signing these days on pivotal northwestern U.S. indie label Kill Rock Stars), the funhouse mirror seems turned inward: The yelling sounds more like a bayhound's yelp, the emergency less in jest. You notice for the first time how vocalist Nut Brown's poetic slogans, full of cracked antitheses, hardly ever slow down to squeeze in words of more than one syllable, as if time and breath were both too short.

And you begin to wonder what kind of inner isolation makes the frantic polymorphous togetherness of They Shoot Horses so urgent: Like many of the other jamboree-sized collectives making music across Canada lately, the band could be called just They They They They They . . ., a cry craving for a "we" to echo back.

They Shoot Horses, Don't They? with the Creeping Nobodies and Anagram, tonight at Sneaky Dee's, 431 College Street, $7.

Read More | In Depth | Posted by zoilus on Friday, April 07 at 2:50 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (4)



That's really freaky...I was just about to say, Luisa Irene interviewed these guys for me, and I posted it at almost exactly the same time as you posted this, apparently.

Anyway, I'm eager to see them live now...I'm glad to hear they live up to the description.

Posted by matthew on April 9, 2006 5:44 PM



I can see what you mean about TSHDT being oddballs in our little scene, but they've really been embraced. Particularly by the under-19's (myself included!) who are hungry for all-ages shows, which TSHDT play more often than most. And there are a few similarly off-kilter groups with whom they tend to play (such as Hot Loins, whom I believe I've mentioned here before), so they're not entirely alone. If they were hesitant last night, I suspect it has to do with tour fatigue, and not with feeling uncomfortable about their Vancouver roots, because they've never (when I've seen them, at least) displayed any sort of malaise about making music atypical of what one would usually find here-- if anything, they revel in it! DIY-type music is happening in Vancouver... just have to dig through the rock to find it!

Anyways. It was funny seeing your profile on the band, because just yesterday I wrote about them for Matt, over at I (Heart) Music.

Posted by luisa irene on April 8, 2006 6:23 PM



It was interesting seeing them. They were showing, I think, a few signs of tour fatigue - the lead singer's voice sounded hoarse between songs, and the marching-band energy was lower than I expected - but they still sounded pretty fantastic, especially on the closing number, Hiccup - I think they got a little more excited because it was a request, showing there were people in the crowd who knew their stuff (as opposed to the hundreds of Anagram fans paying no attention in the back of the room). But there was also a funny sense of hesitation in them that I suspect they wouldn't have in Vancouver - or, I also wondered, might actually be because of Vancouver. Vancouver seems like such a ROCK scene to me from here, and they'd be kind of oddballs relative to everything else. Whereas in Toronto they'd be just another group that had an unusual instrument array and conceptual set-up. I actually thought it might be good for them to come out and spend a few weeks or something, that it might lend them a new perspective. I'm not saying Toronto's superior - Vancouver has a few groups who have no peer here, too, from the New Pornos to the Peggy Lee jazz projects - just that a band like TSHDT might be surprised how comfortably they would fit in here.

Posted by zoilus on April 8, 2006 4:16 PM



How did you like They Shoot Horses last night? I saw them here in Vancouver at their album release party; what a strange, compelling bunch.

(And if you're interested in circuit-bending musicians, Alden Penner has been rewiring children's toys under the stage name 'Dub Intefadah'.)

Posted by luisa irene on April 8, 2006 3:48 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson