by carl wilson

The Sound of Joy Goes HA HA HA HA!

soundofjoy.jpg

Funny that I would have this tussle with Simon (see below) on a day when I have written a piece in The Globe in praise of a very old-skool-style post-punk band, Toronto's own The Creeping Nobodies, and their new album Sound of Joy, launching at the Horseshoe tonight with Jon-Rae's Ryvyr, Wyrd Visions and the five-guitar Wharton Tiers Ensemble. (Tiers, best-known as a frequent producer for Sonic Youth, produced most of the Creeps' new disc.) (See also Kevin Hainey's five-star review of Sound of Joy in Eye.) Tickets for the show were issued on microfiche, which include lyrics, art and notes to the album - inaccessible to most people who don't happen to have a microfiche reader, which is pretty funny, though there are rumours that there will actually be a reader at the show tonight. (Luckily, I work in a place that does have a microfiche reader. Hah!)

Full text of my email interview with the band, full of thoughtful notes on practice and perplex, will follow over the weekend.

How to build a better album

By Carl Wilson
The Globe and Mail
Fri., June 2, 2006

On first hearing Toronto band the Creeping Nobodies, you may feel the urge to take cover. But the hammering, sawing, slashing and grinding of their guitars, drums and keyboards are just the racket of a construction crew at work: They're building an exposition hall to house the grandeurs and, mostly, follies of civilizations past and present -- with annexes for activist seminars, dioramas of poisoned landscapes and inner chambers for more intimate congress.

Architects have joined and left the team, delaying the unveiling. But the torque and contour of the Nobodies' project are clearer on their third full-length album, Sound of Joy, brought to you this week via Toronto's art-rock symposium, the Blocks Recording Club.

A chorus has been rising to demand why, after five years, the Nobodies haven't shared in the breakout success of Canadian indie rock - especially after their arresting 2004 disc Stop Movement Stop Loss. But it's no mystery: Other Canadian collectives have specialized in flamboyant, celebratory displays of feeling. The Nobodies are less apt to march around banging parade drums. Instead they beaver diligently away at their paradoxical pavilion, with exteriors that may look like abattoirs but, inside, vast fields to roam.

Observers also have been misled by the band's beginnings, formed to play a tribute to the Fall, the recondite British outfit Mark E. Smith has led for nearly three decades. Add obvious influences from the likes of Wire and Sonic Youth, and the Nobodies are tagged as a wing of the indie world's revivalism of New York and London post-punk sounds.

Yet as bassist Matthew McDonough points out, immersion in the Toronto scene has been just as formative - whether it's the music of compatriots Anagram or the late Les Mouches, or the hands-on experience of helping organize the early years of the Wavelength weekly music series.

Then there's the ever-shuffling band roster. McDonough and lead vocalist Derek Westerholm are the only original Nobodies in a group that now includes keyboardist Sarah Richardson, guitarist Valerie Uher and drummer Dennis Amos, along with guest James Anderson banging away at found objects.

"The music is entirely based on the dynamics of the band members," says McDonough. "In fact, to a large degree, with each membership change, we have left [behind] all songs written with that group and just wrote new music. That way, you always have the energy of each individual."

Songs are written together during the group's two or three weekly rehearsals - often even the lyrics. Multiple singers are heard in single songs, creating content in counterpoint, much the same way Westerholm's clipped, strangled outbursts contrast with the female members' more mellifluous tones.

As Uher says, "Frequently I'll add lyrics that I feel in some way complement or question words which Derek writes. . . . We usually don't attempt to create a linear narrative or song. It's more of a conversation with tangents and addendums."

The themes of these exchanges are always elusive, but on Sound of Joy they have grown more explicitly political. Westerholm says the images of dark plotting and surveillance partly grow out of the band's recent frequent forays into the United States.

"One tour coincided with the final days of the 2004 presidential election campaign. Another tour was done in the wake of hurricane Katrina, where we were pretty much following FEMA trucks and military convoys on the highways," he says.

"And on yet another U.S. visit, I found myself adding, 'The government loves you,' to the lyrical content of Concrete. That song is based around the idea that concentration camps were actually constructed piece by piece, just like any other building. The general population worked on them, saw them going up. . . . Looking out the window on tour in North America, these questions come up again and again through my mind: How did this all get built? What are all these buildings? What's being manufactured? For what purpose?"

A far less sinister American experience has been connecting with New York's Wharton Tiers, who produced part of Stop Movement and most of Sound of Joy. Tiers's roots are in the 1970s downtown art scene; he went on to record Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr. and Helmet, among others. He brings his own five-guitar Wharton Tiers Ensemble to Toronto and Montreal for the first time this weekend to support the Nobodies' CD launches. "Working with Wharton has been a huge eye-opener for us," McDonough says.

And Sound of Joy is an unusually pellucid indie-rock disc as a result. It opens with the words, "Shadowy shapes call to us/ Lean back, lie down, regress" -- a suspect invitation, but as voices hover luminously over guitars and bass that coil and, yes, creep, a fatally seductive one.

Here's hoping it's enough to lure the world inside the Creeping Nobodies' hacienda. But once within, beware - watch for falling revelations.

The Creeping Nobodies play tonight at 9:30 p.m., $10, at the Horseshoe, 370 Queen St. W., 416-598-4753.

Read More | In Depth | Posted by zoilus on Friday, June 02 at 4:16 PM | Linking Posts

 

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Zoilus by Carl Wilson