Washed Up In Your Own Home Town
Today's column is a review of the very strange arts-gala-disguised-as-a-club-gig that was Tuesday night's show by Vancouver conceptual artist turned rocker Rodney Graham at the Gladstone in Toronto. The show was put on by the Art Gallery of Ontario, which is doing a major exhibition of Graham's stuff opening this week through June. (Its opening conflicted with Tin Tin Tin, dammit.)
I was asked not to talk too much about his background or his art [...]
so as not to scoop the paper's own profile of Graham, coming this weekend - which resulted in an inevitably narrower piece than I'd have liked. Still, his music is really good, in a surprisingly straightforward indie-rock kind of way. I picked up his new album Rock is Hard and expect to give it a lot of play. Below are the (full) lyrics to one of my favourite tracks. It's amusing partly because Graham became famous in Europe long before he was more than a cult figure (and often a dismissed and derided one) in Canada, even in Vancouver. So the theme of the problematic hometown comes up a few times on the album. But you don't need the insider interpretation to appreciate this:
I need a lyricist to summarize my existence
Well what about this? (And let's be merciless):
"Just too pissed to go the distance."
Start what you finished, it's the same refrain
But you can't cut it in the fast lane
To need a headache and a shave
To be a mess in your old age
More shit-kicked than a rodeo clown...
That's what it feels like
To be washed up in your own home town.
But Graham's art show is even better. I was lucky enough to preview it the day before the opening, and I'm looking forward to going back and spending more serious time with it, especially the video installations - which include the orgy scene from Zabriskie Point put on a loop to Graham's slide-guitar accompaniment ("noodling," he calls it, with a definite wink toward masturbation) - as well as a slide-show-and-soundtrack piece about Kurt Cobain called "Aberdeen." And a lot of stuff that's not rock but still rocks, such as his enormous camera obscura photos of upside-down trees.
If you're ever going to visit Toronto, coming before June 7 to catch this beautifully installed exhibit would be a smart decision.