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Life Outraces Satire, Again

Constricting vision slowly .... I feel guilty that this (via Alex) reminds me so much of this.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, October 27 at 02:06 PM | Comments (0)


It's Their Party (Gore v. Phair)

Nice catchup with Lesley Gore - feminist, lesbian, Democratic activist and singer of bubblegum hit It's My Party in 1963 - in The New York Times today. Whodathunk? And on that note ...

I sympathize with those who find the current incarnation of Liz Phair unconvincing, but I think the hoax "Liz Phair Week" over at The Mystical Beast is excessively meanspirited - implying not only disrespect for Phair's choices (as is Dana's right) but contempt for anyone who does like the last two albums, with an adopted voice that strongly implies "stupid young girl naif," a repugnant level of snobbery. (Edit: Okay, on second glance I'm not sure what made me think it was meant to be a girl's voice, except that it would be typical-rockist-etc.)

That said, it was a clever move, applying the mock-blog technique (a la Harriet Miers) to music criticism. [... continues, with Liz Phair's take on The Star-Spangled Banner ...]

I haven't really read the Beast much before, so it took me a day to clue in (see my overcredulous comment on the first post linked above). The best element is the running commentary formed by the accompanying MP3's, with the likes of Kicking Giant, Barbara Manning etc. as counterexamples to what Dana obvs considers Phair's crass turn.

S/he makes a more judicious case in an earlier post: "I know that there are any number of 'betrayal' issues relating to the Liz Phair backlash, but what always strikes me is that she seems like a 'small' artist (small voice, small stature, poor live performance, songs about little things) who looks slightly ridiculous trying to play a rock star." There's some truth to that - but there would also be some truth in saying Phair has also always had the magnetism on record of a rock star, and to some degree seemed awkwardly crammed into her own "smallness."

In any case the sourness of the blog prank seems much more the work of someone who does feel personally betrayed, which is a more childish reaction than thinking (as her blog persona is made to) that wearing a CBGBs t-shirt is significant one way or another.

I won't be at Phair's show tonight in Toronto but if you do I bet you'll enjoy it - her live performance skills are so much better than in the old days, and she always plays a spectrum of material to please "the bride's side and the groom's side," as she's described her divided audiences. Anyone got video of her baseball-game God Bless America rendition yesterday? Going by this Believer interview, too bad she wasn't asked instead to perform The Star Spangled Banner. I don't yearn to hear her straining for the high note ("freeeee!") but I like her take:

"I think the National Anthem is a really genius song. It's so radical if you think about it. It's about war; it's truly, authetically about people who are in the midst of a very scary situation. It's really inspiring. It's got an intense melody; it's not structured. Think about it: [Sings] Oh say can you see, by the... They probably lost half of the men they knew yesterday in that battle. What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming. It was beautiful. It's so moving if you think of it as real. If you don't just take it as what you hear at sports games, but rather think about who's involved in singing it. Is that flag still there, and all that it means? And that's that moment. They're not saying, 'What a great flag we have. In battle we follow it.' They're actually bringing you into it. Cut into the middle of the movie after the big-ass battle. Imagine Hollywood doing it: it's their big last brawl and people have lost their brothers and they're weary and in the trenches and it has symbolism and the flag is a symbol for it. It's just such a moving, brilliant song. It kind of awes me because I don't think anything I ever write has that kind of intensity to it. Okay, so I had a bad night with a guy. It's different than fighting for your life next to your brothers for a symbol, for an America that doesn't even exist yet. It's just a dream, and it's embodied in a piece of cloth. It's so intense that you come up after this battle in the morning, just at the crack of dawn, where you're sort of gathering the losses and trying to figure out what really happened and how you feel about that. Is it worth your life, or your brother's life, or these peoples' bloodshed for this thing that's just a symbol? And then the melody goes soaring up to a point you can barely even reach and I appreciate that because I think the song itself should be a struggle to make you realize what you're singing about. It shouldn't be an easy toss-off song, and it does that without seeming to. I think it's a brilliant song.

Not someone to dismiss as a bimbo, even if you dislike her tactics.

Posted by zoilus on Sunday, October 23 at 05:24 PM | Comments (11)


Blind Items! True Lies!

C. What U.S. newspaper of record has assigned an American writer (best known for her account of how teenagers are "branded") to chronicle the Toronto music scene for its Sunday magazine, with research already underway? Does it have anything to do with their shame and embarrassment over this? Let's hope it works out better than last time.

U. What public radio service of a nation known for its unfortunate dental hygiene is devoting a two-part series to the music of its former colony, "The Maple Music Revolution, from Joni Mitchell ... to the Arcade Fire"? (See lower half of first page.) Given this picture (note the dentistry), which side of that range is expected to get more of its due? And what true patriot music label seems to be getting a bit of a boost here?

R. Meanwhile, which of the hardest-working men in Torontopia has so had it with the commercialization of "indie" music that he is considering moving to Vienna and launching a squash magazine (about the racquet sport, not the root vegetable) called Physical Chess?

I. And what Nashville label is crying "BLAME CANADA!" over its own demise?

O. What minimalist composer who is not Philip Glass will be delivering a lecture to supplement his concert in Toronto next week?

U. What area band made our day by finally putting an end to their miserable reign, though their lead singer has yet to guarantee that he won't turn any more local autonomous music events into absurd fiascos? (A reference to what happened here - the documentation of which, tragically, disappeared with the demise of that message board.)

S. What ex-critic from a newspaper mentioned above, and more recently former organizer of a fantastic event at one very shiny boondoggle of a museum in Seattle, has taken advantage of her newfound free time to start a blog, thereby making us a little happier? When will her rock-crit husband, laid off from the same institution, follow suit?

Y. Likewise, which fine local avant-garde jazz radio program has made our lives brighter by launching a podcast?

E. What other radio program that I've previously covered here, this one produced by a national broadcaster closer to home, won a prestigious international award while its staff was locked out, but is now at least getting another airing of its eight episodes (beginning, forgive me, last weekend, but continuing the next two months) on Sundays at 4 pm, 4:30 pm in Newfoundland?

T. What website devotes itself to the memory of Honeymoon Killers, Voice Farm, The Nails and other unlikely objects of veneration circa 1980-1985, with a new pick each week?

?. And finally, which harp-plucking songwriter, invariably described as "elfin" and much admired on this blog, recently told an Australian publication what a "nightmare" it has been to deal with the misinterpretations of herself and her work that are rife: "... I'll read something about unicorns, fairies, princesses, things that're supposedly in my music, but there's not a single line in any song that I've ever written that refers, directly or indirectly, to any of those things," she says. "A lot gets written about the innocence that the songs contain, but innocence most certainly is not an idea that I'm interested in, musically speaking. ... [My songs] are the product of just living on Earth, which make them the exact opposite of innocence." Her next album will consist of 10-minute-plus songs primarily about "longing and death," which ought to rattle a few tin ears.

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, October 18 at 10:00 PM | Comments (8)


Scratch, Blur, Burn


This weekend left me weakened: It was like some kind of travelling salesmen's convention - no sleep, hotel rooms, endless cocktails, a lot of American strangers and yelling. So I come to the internerd today creeping on wobbly knees. All for good reasons though - a wedding that ranks as pretty much the most joyful nuptials I've ever had the pleasure to witness. Congrats to Bez and Hannah. And they had a great klezmer band, too, with lead vox by Dave Wall (of the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band, the Bourbon Tabernacle Choir & much more) - as well as a Russian Vegas-meets-turbo-folk band that was, well, something to remember. The musical highlight was the bride and groom's own duet on a Russian song they wrote together (not that the bride speaks Russian, but she sure can sing) that was kinda thrash-polka, and whose chorus sounds like "Put it in your boots! Put it in your boots!" I suppose you had to be there. Drunken groupsinging in the shuttle bus at 1:30 in the morning, ranging from Till There Was You to hammy Marlene Dietrich parodies to Guns'N'Roses and Meatloaf was - well, I adore drunken groupsinging, and yes, it was a very white crowd.

While I'm being chummy, I should also shout out a hurrah to my pals Doug and Liz on being divebombed by the stork this weekend: And then there's Maud!

Beyond the bonhommie, I had a couple of fine musical experiences: On Saturday night, as part of the Soundplay festival, I saw the French group Cellule d’Intervention Metamkine at the Latvian House on College: It's an ensemble (or, as they so frenchly say, "variable geometric structure gathering different musicians and cineastes") that, at least in this performance, improvised with two projectionists using multiple 8- and 16-mm projectors bounced off mirrors onto a feature-film-sized screen, various supplementary light sources and piles of film stock that they scratch, blur and burn, along with Jérôme Noetinger making electroacoustic music on tape recorders, synthesizers and effects pedals. So far, so 20th-century-avant-garde, I know, but the experience was so immersive and hypnotic, so unpredictable and (to use an overabused term, but it truly applies here) synaesthesic, I felt like my brain was pumping out the myelin, forming new neural connections every second of the 40 mins. or so they "played." (For one thing considering the aura of film as opposed to video, its materiality, the volatility of its chemistry, and how the wonder of its capturing image and light is totally forgotten when you're watching a narrative movie.) As well, as many people have noticed (and pardon my rockism), even though two work with image and one with sound, they're so interlocked that it's a lot like a band. Albeit a band you can't really find because they're all scattered around the room sitting on the floor in heaps of equipment. See them if ever you can.

The same night we hit Maggie MacDonald's benefit show for her upcoming Brechtian-indie-rock-theatre opus The Rat King (website not yet live) (see what Sally McKay had to say when the project made its rough-draft debut in my Tin Tin Tin series last year). Metamkine made me late for Mrs. Zoilus's reading, but I arrived in time to hear the faboolus Phonemes lay down the most rawked-out, bite-yer-ear-off rendition of their sweet quiet bilingual music ever, despite having James from the Singing Saw Shadow Show filling in for Mathias on drums with darting lights of panic in his eyes and bassist Liz's microphone being turned down too low for her harmonies to be heard. When I asked singer Magali after the show why the sudden fierceness, she gave the credit to her stomach infection. Intestinal fiyah! (During the set, she said, "I have just one message for you here tonight: Wash your hands. Often.") Magali is, by the way, the lead actress in The Rat King. They were followed by a stripped down version of the playwright's own band, Republic of Safety - sans their two bassists, with just guitar drums and voice. The trio was in peak form (especially drummer Evan, who at one point made a joke about fruit roll-ups and Maggie's vagina to which I cannot possibly do justice). RoS sounded about twice as punk as usual in this trebly configuration, and they noticed it, too - somewhere late in the set there was a spontaneous Minor Threat Wire cover. Watch for The Rat King at Toronto theatres in January.

Posted by zoilus on Monday, October 17 at 03:16 PM | Comments (3)


Gobble Gobble

Running out the door to cover the Paul McCartney show tonight (goddam these early evening Toronto shows!) but wanted to pop in and say Happy Thanksgiving a la Canadienne to you. Had a grand time at the New Pornographers/Destroyer show last night (missed all but a moment of the Immaculate Machines, so can't say much about that) - if you like either band, catching this tour is worthwhile because I very much doubt you will ever see them assembled at full eightfold strength again, with both Neko and Dan in tow, except perhaps if you live in Vancouver. The encore performance of Testament to Youth in Verse was the glowing moment - I felt the audience collectively hold its breath during the "the bells ring no no no no no no no no no no no no no ..." coda. Because of the Gorgeousness.

Meanwhile there's renewed action over at Aaron's place, where he is saying things I agree with about Tangiers as a distinctively Torontonian band (although I worry that fashion is going to work against them on this album, as it will be seen as too 2002-2003 in its garage tendencies) and things I am shocked and appalled by about Franz Ferdinand being today's Beatles. (And the Fiery Furnaces being a "very serious band" - er, a very very serious band that writes operettas about pirate ships and does duets with their grandmother!?) And then he goes on to make a list of the world's greatest bands I can't begin to make sense out of, unless "great" means "frequently mentioned". We'll fight more later. Meanwhile, enjoy your turkey - and I'll be at the Macca show enjoying that turkey. (Hey, I think he's today's Beatle!)

Posted by zoilus on Monday, October 10 at 04:25 PM | Comments (6)


Teevee Dinners


I hear that the new Showtime series Weeds (Mary-Louise Parker as the Desperately Pot-Dealing Housewife) prominently featured The Mountain Goats' Cotton in its latest episode. Given the drug-troubles theme of both the show and the tMG album in question (We Shall All Be Healed), that seems fitting. (In fact, can anyone explain to me what the "stick pins and cotton" in the song would have been used for? I yam naif.) But any music programmer who can find a way to fit the Goats' febrile, not-at-all-backgroundy stylings into their bedtracks has to be congratulated. Indieologists can continue to tally up the "O.C. Effect" tv-soundtrack stats as illusory evidence of either their progress toward world domination or the onset of the apocalypse. Need any more evidence? I heard M.I.A. in a car commercial over the weekend, too.

Also just came across a blog today devoted to the music of Veronica Mars, which provides an excuse to post the above photo. The second-season debut aired in the U.S. last weekend, and I've seen it, but won't despoil any plot out of kindness to my fellow Canuck VM-crushers. Suffice to say there's a lot of complicated "how I spent my summer vacation" VMVO (Veronica Mars Voice-Over) and a slow accumulation of elements for the S2 mystery.

Posted by zoilus on Monday, October 03 at 04:29 PM | Comments (7)


Get Yer Hot Links!

Best of the week:

The Van Morrison improvised contractual obligation album of 1967, featuring such anti-hits as Ring Worm, Blowin' Your Nose, Nose in Your Blow and You Say France, and I'll Whistle.

The Shining recut as the trailer to a family-friendly romantic comedy.

Scariest version of Love Will Tear Us Apart evah, performed by a Tuvan throatsinger. (RealAudio - more good badness courtesy WFMU's blog).

This New Orleans audioblog. Tom Waits said at a benefit last week, "There's so much music in New Orleans, you can hold a trumpet above your head and it will play itself."

Update: All right, a little more, just because I've just found the best low-budget DIY video concept of the year: Ex-Toronto homeboy Mocky's video constructed wholly out of Google Image Search. (Makin' the process the object, yo.)

And the best Stillepost post maybe ever: Bill Cosby Explains The Arcade Fire.

(And now I am going on an Internet diet.)

Posted by zoilus on Friday, September 30 at 01:57 PM | Comments (5)




Sorry for the multi-multi-posts, but am I the last one to find out that Robert Christgau has a podcast?! Sadly it's on the dullish subject of what's on in New York this week, but. Still.

I've listened to half and, so far, no disquieting glimpses of vulva.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, September 29 at 11:07 PM | Comments (2)


Thursday Reading: R.I.P.?

You don't care if I do any more of those Thursday Reading roundups, do you? They're labour intensive, and rather listy as posts go. The upcoming redesign will feature a fresh-links sidebar that should fulfill some of the same urges. Unless you just adore Thursday Reading. Let me know.

Meanwhile: Warren Kinsella, read this. I spotted it in Harper's Readings but Eppy pointed the way to the complete document. Ah, sweet vindication - it never tasted so much like boiled socks.

I listed some favourite Toronto-and-environs blogs for this on-line sidebar in Toronto Life. I can only offer my regrets that it is related to a Robert Fulford article.

And now some silly love songs: Sasha on Kanye in The New Yorker, awhile back, has now been annotated and updated with some bloggendums. Dave Morris on high-school-band-geek chic in Eye, which also has a tear-dowsing interview with Bettye Lavette and an intriguing one with South Africa's Tumi & the Volume. NOW thinks Architecture in Helsinki are wannabe Canadians (and they do at least seem to wish they'd gone to Degrassi High). And, hey!, four shiny NNNN's for the Foggy Hogtown Boys.

I imagine people like Alex will have things to say about this Nation piece on classical music's perpetual crisis. Is this the best stereo component ever? The trouble with cracking down on "kiddie porn" is of course the usual crackdown problem - they just go after anybody "weird" instead, such as the Suicide Girls. (I think there's a coherent critique to be made of SGs, but not this one!) Harvey Danger joins the free-album-download revolution - so is this the brilliant music marketing coup it dresses up as, or the felo de se of the business? And what is pop surrealism? (Those last four all via Boing Boing.)

This is old but Matthew Fluxblog's P-fork interview with Carl Newman of the New Pornographers is a truly enjoyable, intelligent conversation.

K-Punk says: "Jessica Rylan is the future of noise, in the way that men are the past of machines." Look back in dismay: Tom Ewing revisits his best of the 1990s. And this just in: The Clap Your Hands Say Yeah conspiracy.

The Ben Marcus versus Jonathan Franzen lit-war that is kicked off in Harper's this month is a Big 'Un, that rare worthwhile bookish bunfight, but it's also a deadlock since neither side really even recognizes the legitimacy of the other. It's a literary Gaza Strip. If you've read any commentary that gets us to Camp David - or escalates the confrontation entertainingly - I'd love to hear about it. (PS: I heart Ben Marcus, but he doesn't quite nail it here.)

ILM jumps the shark again, and this time, it may not make it back.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, September 29 at 09:52 PM | Comments (4)


Word on the Me

Just a reminder to locals of this bloggerati panel this afternoon at Word on the Street at 4:15. ... In less self-centred news remember that the exciting Interface improv series with Achim Kauffman, Michael Moore, Dylan van der Schyff, and Wolter Wierbos begins today. Wish I'd known sooner about Martin Arnold's noon lecture - I may harass him for notes that I can share with you. Speaking of sharing, a refreshed late-September and October calendar will pop up on the site later today.

Edited to add: Pictures and reports on the blog panel at Daily Dose of Imagery, I Am Chris Nolan and this Flickr page. Addenda to their remarks: 1. The time shortage was really severe due to screen-set-up delay and a tendency on some parts (such as yours truly's) to exposition too much at the top. 2. The dog stank.

Posted by zoilus on Sunday, September 25 at 12:35 PM | Comments (5)


BOB's My Uncle (Plus: Final Fantasy Video!)

Video capture swiped from Michael.

Some kind soul has nominated Zoilus for a "BOB", the Best of Blogs awards run by Deutsche Welle International in Germany. I don't think you have to vote or anything; no Idol-style competition will ensue. But it's nice.

On a related tangent: Have you checked out this new Google blog-search function? So useful. For instance, it just led me, step by step, to the new, sweet & hott Final Fantasy video for This is the Dream of Win & Regine by Sara (link in bottom right corner of the page). (Torontopians - watch for the Greg Collins cameo!)

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, September 20 at 04:48 PM | Comments (6)


These Just In: Mr. Moody/SNFU, Too Old to Rock;
Ms. Mars/Mr. Migone, Not


Salon gives Veronica Mars its second-annual "Buffy" anti-Emmy for underappreciated TV. Hopefully some Canadian network will hustle to pick up the VM second season when one of their stupider new shows stiffs. The Buffy comparison may not be quite right, though - I like Salon's alternate description of a Phillip Marlowe who "sometimes favours pigtails." (And if anybody can direct me to online video of Kristen Bell singing on last night's awards, I will be ... embarrassed, but grateful.)

UbuWeb is back, hurrah - and with a new Christof Migone section. Check out one of Canada's pointiest (expat) audio provocateurs and welcome the avant-garde hub of the Internet back to active duty. (Thanx to Robert for the heads-up.)


As for me, still recuperating from post-fire exhaustion, but slowly remounting the usual hobbyhorses and kicking in my spurs. Should be back to fighting trim by week's end, I figger.

And author and all-too-frequent rambler-on-about-music Rick Moody says he might have outgrown rock'n'roll (and "the next thing, which... is not hip hop"). I think I speak for rock'n'roll when I say, Thank god almighty, free at last. Hip-hop, you never had it so good.

Posted by zoilus on Monday, September 19 at 03:08 PM | Comments (2)


Kicked to the Ground

Sleater-Kinney, not coming soon to a CNE-grounds music festival near you (or at least not near me).

So for the second year in a row, a well-programmed summer-season music festival at the CNE grounds in Toronto has been deep-sixed. Yeah, I'm talkin' about Ear to the Ground, which was to have featured everyone from Sleater-Kinney to the Hidden Cameras (see crossed-out entries in the gig guide), is no more. Brief flailing attempts to schedule compensatory club shows have gone nowhere. There looks to still be an okay show Thurs at the Gladstone and I think also Friday at the Phoenix (the latter put together by Dan Burke rather than by the festival organizers, w/ Ninja High School, RJD2, Kid Koala, Zoobombs). Too bad - the festival had a good blend of acts (i.e. it was not all rock, which is a shock in this town's music-festival biz - there were good electronics and hip-hop/r&b; components) and a high quality average. Mixing with the CNE does not look to be a good bet for festival promoters. But neither does getting in over your head financially. Bads on both sides? Seems like it.

Speaking of festivals: Can anyone make a convincing argument about why anyone from Toronto would drive up for Pop Montreal this year (aside from just to hang out)? I don't see much on the schedule that persuades me I'll miss out on musical essentials if I don't go. What do you think?

Meanwhile the benefitingest of New Orleans benefits is on tonight at the Comfort Zone, again organized by the inimitable Dan Burke and featuring the aforementioned High School of the Ninjas along with Don Matsuo of the Zoobombs, Anagram, Camouflage Nights, Lenin i Shumov, Clydesdale, Passionate Man and DJ Selective Sergery. 8 pm, $10 (or more if you like). Do it! (And if that's a bit too high-volume for you - Zoilus pal Ryan Kamstra is opening for the New Kings tonight at the Cameron House at 9 pm sharp.)

Sorry for the exclusively local-functional content. Post-fire-brain needs to evolve back up to the intellectual state of humanity after the invention of the written word before I can actually write about ideas again.

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, September 14 at 03:57 PM | Comments (7)


Woooo wooooo woooooo ...

I'm afraid the planned Guelph wrapup report was pre-empted by the little matter of the Zoilus house catching fire. It's okay - no one was hurt, but we are displaced persons for the next x number of weeks while contractors and smokefighters tromp through our digs. It's a massive drag, but it doesn't seem so bad when we think of New Orleans, and it could have - just as fires go - been so much worse. It won't derail Zoilusian activity for long. Talk to you within a day, two tops.

Posted by zoilus on Monday, September 12 at 08:19 PM | Comments (4)


Overtones, R.I.P.


My announcement really isn't that dramatic to anybody but myself - it's that I am retiring my column from The Globe and Mail. I've been writing a weekly music column for the Toronto-based paper, first as "Scene" on Thursdays and then as "Overtones" on the weekends, since November of 1999. It's been a huge part of my life in all that time, connecting me to musicians and readers and other writers, and in many ways giving rise to this website. Few writers are fortunate enough to be given carte blanche with a choice amount of newspaper real estate on the regular.

It was difficult to decide to put it to rest - I like to think the past year has been its strongest period yet, and it still had a lot of life in it (witness the recent Warren Kinsella flap, f'rinstance). But my father's death and other personal developments have reminded me of my mortality, and of all the other things I'd like to do. I've been getting more and more offers to write for other publications, and to consider larger projects, and none of that is possible while I'm chained to a weekly column on top of my editing day (and some nights) job at the Globe. I'll still be contributing to the paper's arts coverage, and Zoilus will keep on keepin' on, but this will give me space to think and write more broadly and in other venues.

Zoilus readers should benefit by my liberation from the punishing early-Wednesday-morning deadlines too. This is my first week (aside from vacations) not having to pull an all-nighter to deliver a column for a nine a.m. deadline, and I can't believe the difference. I feel about 30 pounds lighter and 5 years younger, more alert and energetic. I suspect you'll see the results on the blog in the next few months. Meanwhile, you needn't look for me on Saturdays in The Globe anymore. I'll let you know when and where I do have pieces.

Thanks to my editors for their support over the past five-plus years; to my friends and, most of all, Mrs. Zoilus for putting up with the crazy schedule; and to everybody who read and responded to the column. xo xo xo.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, September 08 at 06:00 PM | Comments (16)


Democratic Ticket '08:
Wynton Marsalis/Roscoe Mitchell?

The campaign has begun.

Anybody who can point me to a transcript or video of Marsalis's Charlie Rose appearance, please do. It sounds galvanizing. And I'm all worn out with hating on him - a reason to (re-)admire the guy would be welcome, and anybody who speaks truth to the current "don't play the blame game" bull out of Washington deserves it. And Roscoe would make such a perfect running mate. (Subliminal plug: AACM this weekend at the Guelph Jazz Festival; Zoilus live blogging from Guelph...)

Come to think of it: A NOLA-born candidate, at least for VP, would be a real coup for the Dems in '08, wouldn't it?

(FYI: Today's NY Times discussed the prospects for music-cultural recovery there.)

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, September 07 at 07:14 PM | Comments (3)


Damn & Double Damn


Misinformed by Stillepost's open-source calendar (trust issues!), I gotta tell you that the Blow/Yacht/Anna Oxygen and now Hank Collective show is not, repeat not, tonight, but Oct. 7.

And underinformed by being out of town and not checking Stillepost, I didn't know that fuckin' Lightning Bolt was in town on Monday night. What was I doing Monday night? Watching Six Feet Under dvds and making a concert calendar. Ahh, bitter irony. I'm never leaving town again. For the lowdown and some post-show smackdowns, check out this thread. Looking forward to the new LB disc, though!

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, September 07 at 12:15 PM | Comments (0)


Waterblogged Musicians, Redux

Alex Chilton is apparently okay, at least insofar as he ever was.

[Update: For more hurricane-meets-music info, see here.]

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, September 06 at 02:25 PM | Comments (0)


Praise You


And thank you, too, John Darnielle.

Posted by zoilus on Monday, September 05 at 08:43 PM | Comments (0)


In My Absence


This site will get back to normal activity levels, including the belated September calendar, come Monday. This weekend is a bit of a sad occasion, as we're interring my father's ashes in a small ceremony, so it will be quiet in Zoilusville. Meanwhile, I note that Michael and Brian have had no such bouts of late-summer neglect. Get yer T-dot musicbloggin' goodness there. (Note particularly the link to Jason McBride's Toronto Life profile of Metric mistress Emily Haines.) And happy blogday, Frank. Meanwhile, Popsheep posts the song that's been most on my mind.

As well, the Village Voice blog Riff Raff talks to the man I've most wanted to hear from on the cultural side of the disaster, Ned Sublette: ""Everything from documents to recordings to things that are in private hands [are lost]. Many of the more serious archives are on higher floors--presumably many of them have survived the flood waters. But what condition are they in? How quickly will cultural workers be able to get in and rescue the patrimony which is very important in understanding where American music came from?" Also check out this impassioned post by Mark Sinker.

(Note to those who think there's something wrong with bringing up that concern while people are suffering: Disasters happen, and of course what people are undergoing is awful, but culture still matters, and it is a trust to be preserved, including in emergencies. Music is important in New Orleans the way archaeological sites are important in Iraq. I'm not an aid worker. It's this site's job to care about this stuff.)

Meanwhile in the weeklies: Eye has a moving Ninjalicious obit, takes you to heavy-metal grad school, gives high smart praise to Kanye and Boozoo Bajou (plus some K.West gossip), remembers Bran Van, and writes rather ambivalently about Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. (NOW does likewise, though with more enthusiasm.) NOW also wins the battle of the Jaguar Wright profiles and gives major props to the new Fembots album, about which you'll hear more here soon. (They also dig the new Wayne Shorter and Waco Bros. discs.) Peace out.

Posted by zoilus on Friday, September 02 at 01:09 PM | Comments (2)


Crossing Things Like Hearts & Fingers


Fats Domino and Irma Thomas are both still missing in New Orleans. I hope they've either left town or climbed up high on Blueberry Hill. Obviously famous musicians matter no more than everyone else, but envisioning these familiar, beloved and now elderly figures lost in the flood brings the thing home in a horrifying way.

High water risin', six inches 'bove my head
Coffins droppin' in the street
Like balloons made out of lead
Water pourin' into Vicksburg, don't know what I'm going to do
"Don't reach out for me," she said
"Can't you see I'm drownin' too?"
It's rough out there
High water everywhere

- Bob Dylan, High Water (for Charley Patton)

Update: Fats found. [10:15 pm]

Friday update: Irma Thomas has been located too. Thank goodness. Here is an email she reportedly sent, which is making the rounds: "Hello Jef, I am doing as well as expected under the conditions. I am in Gonzales, LA with my husband's Aunt. You may send some money to help my daughter who lost everything. She is out here with my sister-in-law untill she can get fare to go to California, until we can get back into New Orleans. I am doing okay for now but I don't know how long it will be before I can get help from FEMA. Thanks for being concerned. You may send help to: P.O. Box 1274, Gonzales, LA 70707-1274. Tell all of my Fans I thank them. Love, Irma."

On the other hand, as mentioned in the Comments, the condition of Alex Chilton is still uncertain.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, September 01 at 06:16 PM | Comments (11)


'Mark Mothersbaugh's Body
Lies A-Moulderin' in the Grave'


With the mostly welcome news of a potential Devo reunion - they were a band whose overarching "thing" extended beyond punk ephemerality, and Mark Mothersbaugh continues to do the occasional bit of good work, so I think they can do it without humilitating themelves (that is, better than they did in the final years before their breakup) - I give you this terrific Cat and Girl comic on teaching devolution in the schools. (In a similar spirit: Flying Spaghetti Monsterism and "Intelligent Falling.")

And yes, I am geek enough that this looked like fun.

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, August 23 at 03:51 PM | Comments (0)


I Hate to Say It, but... D'ohh!

So much to talk about. First things first: If you've posted a comment in the past week or so, you might notice it's vanished. Somebody in the Zoilusian Central Nervous System had a Homer Simpsonesque moment and pushed the big red button. He sends his apologies from the pit of hounds! (No, seriously, he does; his name is Bill and he is my web-design guru guy.) We're working to reconstruct them. This was a casualty of Bill's tireless work to delete comment spam on Zoilus; with the new redesign in (mid?) September, we'll have a better security system in place! We really value your comments and contributions.

Please note in the live guide that Wed.'s Percy Sledge gig in Toronto has, damn damn damn, been cancelled. Let's hope it gets re-skedded. True love travels on a gravel road.

Amazing find over on Said the Gramophone (where, by the way, Zoilus will be guestposting next week): Possibly the best charidee single of ever, though that's not saying much of anything: Do They Know It's Hallowe'en, orchestrated by Nicholas Diamonds (ex-Unicorns, now Islands), and featuring corny indie fuxx such as members of the Arcade Fire, Beck, Sonic Youth, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sloan, Peaches, Feist, Devendra Banhart, Wolf Parade, Postal Service, Buck 65, Sparks, Elvira, Gino Washington, Roky Erickson, Tagaq and even David Cross.

Speaking of David Cross, he also appears in the new New Pornographers video for Use It, directed by the NPs' own Blaine Thurier, which I caught previewed on MuchMusic last night. It's at least as good, in the same rough-hewn way, as the All For Swinging You Around clip and the FUBAR-based Your Daddy Don't Know video (a 1982 hit by the band Toronto, by the way). ... Cross is one of several figures who use the NPs as human marionettes throughout the clip, each of them unable to move of their own volition. This motif of menacing black-clad figures physically manipulating band members into performing is something this clip shares with the Mountain Goats' video, which suggests not-so-subtle themes of corny-indie-fuxx ambivalence about being "put into the position" of having to do a video, alienation from inner self as a performer, etc. Thoughts on this theme may be submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a PhD. from Zoilus U. Also note Carl Newman is wearing a Chris Ware WFMU t-shirt.

In the news: Bob Moog dies, of a brain tumour at 71; Steve Earle has married for the sixth or seventh! time (counting is complicated by the fact that he married one ex-wife twice), to the fine singer, songwriter and foxxx Allison Moorer; Mos Def has reportedly also married, and in Toronto!; Kanye West also kickin' up T-dot dust (and his album doesn't suck) (both those last via Del); there will be a Spike (of Buffy fame) TV movie but, sadly, tragically, criminally, no Ripper series; and a breakthrough deal on downloading that might finally bring some sanity to this whole overblown mess... which, frankly, sounds too good to be true. It's no accident this has happened in the U.K., not the U.S., where shit counts.

Posted by zoilus on Monday, August 22 at 06:18 PM | Comments (1)


Remember When?

1. Remember when I was complaining about the term "outsider music"? Further evidence in this week's SF Weekly: "For the uninitiated, outsider music is created by unknown, isolated individuals - often emotionally volatile and/or stridently weird - who exist totally outside of all culture, mainstream and underground."

Take a memo: There is no such thing as "individuals... who exist totally outside of all culture." (With the possible exception of feral children. Even extreme schizophrenics exist within a culture, which is often the source material for their delusions - a family culture at least, if they are sufficiently odd to be cut off from a popular culture.) (For instance: Where did they find out about music?) This is exactly the breed of nonsense that makes me think the term should be trashed and replaced with absolutely nothing except precise case-by-case descriptions such as "music by eccentric amateurs," or "music by the mentally ill." In that first category, by the way, the Shaggs musical is opening next month. I don't know whether to cheer or cringe. No clear news on the long-rumoured Shaggs movie, written and directed by Katherine Dieckmann, based on the Susan Orlean New Yorker article linked above.

2. Remember when we mourned the death of Kevin Coyne? Last night in Chicago, I find out a little late, Jon Langford (of the Mekons, Waco Bros. and sometimes [Toronto content] the Sadies) hosted a show honouring Coyne that was also the launch of their collaborative album One Day in Chicago. Jon-boy also has plans for more Coyne tributes to come. (Songwriter duo discs seem to be Langford's new hobby, given his recent collaboration with Richard Buckner. Who will be next? I nominate Dizzee Rascal!)

3. Remember when Jon Caramanica wrote a great piece in the Sunday Times about the sparkly-promising undiscovered-Jewish-archival-music label Reboot Stereophonic? Well, no, you wouldn't, because it doesn't happen till tomorrow morning. But look for it. The label is the project of a bunch of savvy Ashkenazi tuneheadz including critic-academic-blogger Josh Kun and writer Jody Rosen, and what they have coming will make you plotz (I want to the be the first of a thousand writers to make that joke), including the current Bagels and Bongos collection of 1950s Jewish mambo, the upcoming God is a Moog (the Shabbat service as a moog rock opera, circa 1968), a brand new version of Fiddler on the Roof done as Latino music, and other projects on African-American/Jewish crossover music (in more specific form than just "all American pop music post-1929") and the ultimate "Jewface" collection. (I'll let you just wonder what that is.)

4. Remember when we loved the Mountain Goats? Here's one more reason, the first ever (!?) tMGs music video, for This Year. Simple but killer.

5. Remember when I missed the Murdered City Music Festival all this week at the fantabulous Ford Plant in my hometown of Brantford? Fill the gap in my life and tell me all about it! If you are in the area and can still make it there, the festival continues till Sunday night. Sunday programming includes a "secret location" (but find out by going to the club) 1 pm show with Jon Rae Fletcher and Neil Haverty, and then in the evening, Silent Film Soundtrack, Magneta Lange, From Fiction, Controller Controller and Wolf Parade, all starting at 7:30 pm.

6. And remember this afternoon, when we went to the Three Gut Records Anniversary and Farewell show this afternoon at the Tranzac? It was a tearjerkin' but festive occasion with short acoustic sets by various Three Gut alumni (I think Bry Webb of the Constantines' set was my favourite, but I was impressed with the two members of Oneida offshoot Oakley Hall as well, including their acoustic two-part harmony'd Constantines cover!, and of course all the usual suspects), plus full sets by Jim Guthrie and Gentleman Reg, and probably an all-star-jam rouser at the end but I couldn't stay quite that long. And cake! I am also missing the climactic Cons/Oneida blowout tonight, but I'm sure it is at this very moment overstimulating many people's pineal glands.

Posted by zoilus on Saturday, August 20 at 08:33 PM | Comments (4)


Go To Sleep, Little Babies

For Monday's terrific Trampoline Hall special show about sleep and sleep disorders, I made a four-CD soundtrack set of songs about circadian rhythms and their discontents. As host Misha Glouberman said, it turns out all the best songs actually aren't about love, heartbreak, the way rock'n'roll will never die and which rapper is the baddest - they're about sleeping. The tunes on the mix represent about half the ones I found - I emphasized the more familiar and funny choices, since more obscure ones would slip by too easily if you were in the audience of a show, drinking and chatting with friends.

The Trampoline Hall 'Sleep and Sleeplessness' Show

torontonightair (anonymous field recording found on the 'net)
Crickets & Water (Wilderness River: The Natural Sounds Of The Wilderness)
I'm So Tired (The Beatles)
Enter Sandman (Metallica)
Wake Up Little Susie (Everly Brothers)
Dreaming (Blondie)
I Woke Up In Love This Morning (Partridge Family)
I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night (Electric Prunes)

Good Morning Good Morning (The Beatles)
Wake Up (Cordelia's Dad)
The Lion Sleeps Tonight (The Tokens)
Enter Sandman (Pat Boone)
Sleep On The Left Side (Cornershop)
Go To Work (Revolution Compared To What [The Funky 16 Corners])
Pissed Off 2 A.M. (Alejandro Escovedo)
Sleepwalking (Lyle Lovett)
My Mind's Playing Tricks on Me (Geto Boys)

I'm Only Sleeping (The Beatles)
Wake Me Up Before You Go Go (Wham)
Where Did You Sleep Last Night (Leadbelly)
Up All Night (Slaughter)
Dream A Little Dream Of Me (Jim Jones of My Morning Jacket, on an obscure comp called From Iceland To Kentucky)
No Sleep Blues (Incredible String Band)
I Dreamed I Had to Take a Test… (Laurie Anderson)
Color In Your Cheeks (The Mountain Goats)
Tossin' and Turnin' (Bobby Lewis)
Tired of Waking Up Tired (Diodes)
Go To Sleep Little Baby (Gillian Welch et al, O Brother Where Art Thou?)
Stay Up Late (Talking Heads)

Good Night (The Beatles)
Wake Up (The Arcade Fire)
Sleeping Is the Only Love (Silver Jews)
Lullaby (Tom Waits)
Up At Night (SS Cardiacs)
Good Night Sweetheart (Al Bowlly - Ray Nobel)
Asleep and Dreaming (Magnetic Fields)
When I Wake Up To Sleep No More (Ralph Stanley and Friends)
Palmcorder Yajna (The Mountain Goats)
The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Eek-A-Mouse)
2:45 A.M. (Elliott Smith)
4 a.m. (Richard Buckner)
Walking After Midnight (Patsy Cline)
The Big Light (Elvis Costello)
Heaps of Sheeps (Robert Wyatt)
Hyperballad (Bjork)
Insomniac Trance (Brian Eno)
True Patriot Love (Joel Plaskett Emergency )
Rocks Off (Rolling Stones)

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, August 18 at 02:02 PM | Comments (1)


Leonard Cohen Has Gone Broke!

Leonard Cohen has gone broke!
I was reading the news and suddenly
everything had gone to shit and shame
and you said it was embezzlement
but embezzlement hits you on the head
hard so it was really fraud and shit
and shame and I was in such a hurry
to tell you but my telephone
was as off the hook as the tax lawyer
and suddenly I see a headline
there is no shame in Hollywood
there is no shit on Mount Baldy
I have been to lots of monasteries
and taken many vows of poverty
but I never actually went broke
oh Leonard Cohen we love you get up

The Canadian government should establish a line item in the budget to give Leonard Cohen $10-million a year for the rest of his life just because. If that requires us to close down the Museum of Civilization or something, fine.

(Apologies to Frank O'Hara. Really sincere ones.)

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, August 16 at 06:42 PM | Comments (1)


Gurkophones, Apple Dumplings, Ornette Coleman Stoves


Meet the Viennese vegetable orchestra or the Gemüseorchester (more, um, gemüsingly), whose arsenal includes the Cucumberophone (in German, the "gurkophone"), the Radish Marimba and the Carrot Recorder: " Ten musicians in black suits play a concert program ... on vegetable-instruments. In doing so, the social structure of a traditional orchestra is reflected, imitated and adjusted to the stylistic necessities of the individual pieces. After the concert, the stage is left to the cooks who then work the instruments into a tasty vegetable soup which the audience and musicians consume together."

I think a theme is developing. Who'll be next onto the edible-music bandwagon?

Don't neglect to listen to the samples. And consider this John Cageian poetic thought from their FAQ page: "If you are really looking for a vegetable orchestra in holland, u.k., usa, mars, alpha centauri etc. go to the next vegetable market and listen very closely. you will hear the delicate sounds all vegetables make. there are millions of vegetable orchestras in the world. and there also bread orchestras, food can orchestras, car orchestras, cell phone orchestras, shoe orchestras etc." (Via Mimi Smartypants.) (Read more here.)

Moving from vegetables to fruit: Fiona Apple has re-recorded Extraordinary Machine without Jon Brion, which to me automatically implies it won't be as good as the web-leaked original. Granted, I'm much more of a Jon Brion fan than I am an Apple fan. (Can't wait for the Jon & Kanye collaboration to be unveiled.) But isn't Jeff Leeds of the Times stretching the truth when he claims the response to the leak on-line was "muted" (I've never heard so much about Fiona Apple in my life!) and that therefore "to many," Fiona and/or Sony were right to send it back to the kitchen? Who is this "many"? Or, to paraphrase Josef Stalin, how many divisions has Jeff Leeds?

And from fruit to nuts: Love has fired Arthur Lee. That just ain't right.

But this is. Ornette Coleman is coming to Toronto. That's right. Ornette Coleman. (I love these PBS Kids' Jazz Greats pages. It's like "See Ornette. See Ornette blow. See audiences run. Run, audience, run!") Saturday, October 29, at 8 pm at Massey Hall. Pricey ($89.50– $39.50) but worth it. See Ornette. See Ornette at 75 with Greg Cohen and Tony Falanga both on bass (!) and Denardo Coleman on drums. Yeah, that's Ornette's son, who's been playing with his dad since he was 10 (on The Empty Foxhole, 1966). I have nothing to add to the "Ornette Coleman Stove" joke in the headline. If you've been reading all this way hoping for more, sorry. Try checking out the (official?) Harmolodics website - the tagline, "For the equal access to the information expression," is worth a chuckle at least.

Meanwhile, tonight: Party on the subway, woo!

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, August 16 at 03:46 PM | Comments (1)


Ode to Billy Joe

I'll be doing an on-stage interview with outlaw-country legend Billy Joe Shaver tonight at 6:30 at Harbourfront. There's a fine documentary on Billy Joe showing first, at 5:30. C'mon out if you can - he's a wonderful songwriter, and a very moving person.

Posted by zoilus on Saturday, August 13 at 02:28 PM | Comments (1)


Zen & The Art of Zoilus Repair


I'm toiling away on a few design revisions, mostly minor (with the help of site-meister Bill Douglas). If you're a regular visitor to Zoilus, or just an opinionated busybody, I'd be happy to hear comments on what would make the site work better for you. Again, I mean design, not content:

  • Are the sidebar categories useful, do they make sense, are there others that would be more practical? (For instance would it help to have them organized into related music genres as well or instead, and if so what would they be -- maybe jazz/avant, pop, dance/hip-hop, 'indie,' 'trad.'? Pigeonholes are hard to work with, as a lot of what I cover straddles genres. Are there better indices?)
  • Does the links page breakdown and ordering work for you? (And do you use the links page?)
  • Can you read the print okay?
  • Would you like to be notified of new posts by email?
  • Any other bright ideas?

Your input honestly would be useful. Email me or use the comments. Thanks.

Posted by zoilus on Friday, August 12 at 01:58 PM | Comments (10)


Through the Roof & Underground


Sometimes I think that gypsy punk music is a big prank, a conspiracy someone organized just to please me. If I don't write about it more often it is due to this nagging suspicion.

But now that Gogol Bordello's lead singer (and "eternal foe of the American work ethic") Eugene Hutz is appearing as the translator character in the movie of Jonathan Safron Foer's Everything Is Illuminated, as confirmed by the trailer, I may have to accept that he's real. I mean, I don't think Elijah Wood was made up for my benefit... was he?

In other news - updates may be sparse this week, to ease the pains of midsummer burnout. Be patient and I'll be back at full-throttle soon.

Posted by zoilus on Monday, August 08 at 02:41 PM | Comments (4)


The Blues Got the Blues

Nathaniel Mayer's gig in Toronto tonight is cancelled because, I am told, he has had a stroke, though reportedly not a severe one. See my colleague Brad Wheeler's interview with Mayer in today's Globe.

And RIP to Little Milton, Chess/Stax R&B; star, who died yesterday at age 71.

Posted by zoilus on Friday, August 05 at 03:29 PM | Comments (0)


Get Well Ron G.


Word comes today that Ron Gaskin of Rough Idea, the man responsible for half the free-jazz/improv programming in Toronto for the past decade at least, is in hospital for two transplant operations, after a long struggle with his health on various fronts. If all goes well, he should be out again in a couple of weeks. Please send good harmolodic vibrations his way.

Update, Sunday: I'm told that the double transplant was successful and Ron is recuperating now. Fantastic.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, August 04 at 06:34 PM | Comments (5)


Hey Asshole, or, Final Fantasy Rumour Quashing

Hear ye, hear ye: Yes, I got taken in by some idiot on Owen "Final Fantasy" Pallett's fan-message-board who's been posting under Owen's name and spreading false info, which led me to do the same. If you check the comments below, you'll see that rumours of the Final Fantasy's sales being in the tens plus tens plus tens plus tens of thousands are horseshit, as I should have realized (I suspected but was credulous). (Owen hasn't said how much they really are, as is his privilege, but my guess would be about a 10th of that?)

Annoyingly now it is very difficult to use those boards, where Owen does post on the regular, as sources of reliable information. Rely only on the official-like site - and on Zoilus, who will from now on check facts.

The moral here: Dear Internet Fan Psycho, Please do not fucking take advantage of musicians who communicate with their fans on a normal human level and treat them with respect and transparency, exploiting their good will in order to perpetuate your delusions of grandeur or single-white-violinist projective identity-disorders, s'il. vous. plait! You mess up shit for everyone. You are the reason PR flaks and sick papparrazzi and the other revolting symptoms of contemporary celebrity culture exist. Well, you and money, which is likewise sociopathic. Yuck, ech, spit, puke.

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, August 03 at 08:01 PM | Comments (0)


Stalking Owen Pallett, Episode 21

Final Fantasy at Ottawa Bluesfest, photo by Mariel Kelly, with her kind permission (and her email link, by request).

In anticipation of Friday's Final Fantasy set (opening for Wooden Stars with Bell Orchestre) which I suspect will be one of the last live local FF sightings the next few months (except the Ear to the Ground festival?), I realized it had been awhile since the last installment of Stalking Owen Pallett on Zoilus Reality TV.

Previously on Stalking Owen Pallett, as you might recall, I went into totally justified histrionics about the Final Fantasy Music Gallery gig in June. To prove how justified they were, Owen recently has tidied up two tracks from that session and posted them online: Illusion Song and If I Was a Carp. I'll append the lyrics to the end of the post (click the dotdotdots at the end of the entry) for your perusing pleasures.

Unfortunately, if that whets your gluttony for a feast on the full-scale Final Fantasy magic-and-necromancy cycle He Poos Clouds, there's unhappy news: The recording and release of the album have been pushed back by other commitments, so it will not be coming out until sometime in spring of 2006. Shitdamn. I assume it will be on Blocks in Canada but in the rest of the world it will be on Tomlab, the Koln, Germany, label that has recently taken a fancy to the Toronto and Montreal massives (it also has Les Georges Leningrad, Mantler and Ninja High School on its roster [the latter with a new single and upcoming full-length Young Adults Against Suicide], along with non-Canucks such as the Books and Patrick Wolf). Owen is meanwhile on tour with the Arcade Fire (that oh-so-pretty millstone around FF-anatics' necks) and on his own through Europe in October.

However, there are many consolation prizes, he proclaims on his website: "For example! The long-promised 7"s!* Now in the manufacturing stage! A collaborative EP with Animalmonster! Contributions to the Grizzly Bear remix album! Contributions to the Enya tribute album!" ... *The seven-inch vinyl fetish objects to which he refers are: Young Canadian Mothers on Escapegoat Records, featuring This Is The Dream Of Emma & Cam, The Sea, Spell For A Weak Heart and the at-long-last official recording of Owen's unimpeachable (sorry) cover of Joanna Newsom's Peach, Plum, Pear; and The George Cedric Metcalf Foundation 7" on It's A Disaster! Records with What Do You Think Will Happen Next?, Many Lives for 49 Mana Points and Honour The Dead, Or Else...! (all of them stunning, and all parts of He Poos Clouds, unless Owen, as he's wont to do, changes his mind). Not included are Owen's covers of Jann Arden's Good Mother and Mariah Carey's Fantasy, which is why live shows exist.

Most supersad of all is the information that "Les Mouches are finito. The now lifeless corpse was divided between the family and eated. Too bad, too. There were some good songs that we never got around to recording." You can hear fairly easily that the new FF material is more Mouchesesque than Has a Good Home! was, so it's as though Owen is consolidating his songwriting mojo into one stiff wand (er, bow). Still, Les Mouches had a nice clattery (if perhaps too Xiu Xiu-ish) sonic kingdom of their own and it will be missed. Then again, the Final Fantasy record, despite its inevitable-under-bizarre-rocketing-out-of-obscurity-on-Arcade Fire's-comet-trail-circumstances uneven release and distribution, has already sold a remarkable 40 to 50 thousand copies (!). So that seems to be the wand (er, bow) to waggle. No complaints here. [Edit: Damn. Disinformation. Please see this and/or that.]

And that's it for this episode of Stalking Owen Pallett. Stay tuned for a message from those lyrics. [...]


All the boys I've ever loved have been digital
I've been a guest on a screen, in a book
I move him with my thumbs

He swam! To the edge! Of the wall! Of the world!
Followed my, followed my voice! And he cried!
"Master! Your answer is maybe, maybe not!
Maybe not! Maybe not!
Gotta fulfill the seven prophecies
Gotta be a friend to my grandmother
Gotta rescue my girl from the white witch
Gotta find and kill my shadow self
Gotta dig up every secret seashell
You may have been made for love
But I'm just made"


Hey ho! Farewell to the quay! Merry sailors, sailors we
The horizon is our proscenium, and our dead will come to know the sea
Our cook is a wanted man, 1000 thalers for each hand
Our captain lost his good sense listening to Lazarus' words

Have you not been told of Lazarus? He felt the icy grip
And was brought back by a morphine drip, to tell the captain this:

"Tragedy! Tragedy! Death has you fooled!
No throne of bone, subterranean pools, no scythe, no cowl, no skeletons
His greatest trophy is his myth!
Every sailor man and every carp will swim upriver to the source
Only the dead will know its course
And furthermore
Do you really want to know of the afterworld?"

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, August 02 at 02:29 PM | Comments (0)


Fearful Rock

After the non-talk talk about "indie music" this week, I've been thinking about what people mean most of the time today when they use the term, converting it from economic category into genre, this new loose genre that encompasses the likes of Arcade Fire, Death Cab, the Shins, Iron & Wine, etc. Often what unites them is a fearfulness, a sense of vulnerability, preciousness, fragility - but also a kind of open, eager curiosity, at their best (and emo suckiness at their worst). And then I suppose there's the escapist indie-kids-dancing complement to that, along with the internal art-noise opposition. It's all very different than the skeptical anger of the last alternative-goes-mainstream crop a decade ago, aka grunge, and I do think you can use these things as cultural mood rings - their shading can indicate something about what the population that's listening to the music (educated white kids) is feeling, what they generally hear as an accurate self portrait. I can't actually think of any time in rock history where fearfulness was so part of the music - paranoia channelled into aggression, sure, but not this shrinking-violet affect, with its isolationist overtones and so on. (For instance there's a claim that the generation coming of age right now is super-confident and assertive, so self-deprecation and a sense of encroaching doom may serve as the usual kind of peer-group dissent/outlet. And of course there's the new-millennial terror/losing-side-of-the-culture-war element.) I'm not eager to praise or condemn it tonight, just chalking its outlines on the board, wondering where it intersects the rest of the diagram.

But man, what a terrible, terrible baseball team the Arcade Fire would be.

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, July 27 at 11:58 PM | Comments (0)


Proposition Retracted

Nah. You're right, I'm wrong - the list of prime targets does show that hip-hop's not under any special scrutiny here - and Clear Channel is. I think the campaign may have resonance with the current anti-entertainment-industry waves in Washington, but mainly Spitzer seems like an A-1 consumer-advocate type.

It was just the kind of lazy thought that wobbles across the mind in late afternoon.

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, July 27 at 11:15 PM | Comments (0)



Just speculating, here, and I don't know if it will lead anywhere. But given that the famous 50s-60s payola scandal was, as much as anything else, a political attack on rock'n'roll - is it possible that the current one is in some part an attack on hip-hop?

The rhetoric of it doesn't lead me to think so, necessarily, but it seems a question worth raising.

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, July 27 at 06:07 PM | Comments (0)


Crispin Glover Love


As we ponder what to make of the payola scandal, as in whether payola possibly actually makes radio less boring than it would otherwise be (I will either back this up later or not, if it proves an unsustainable burst of contrarianism; unrelated favourite detail, beyond the trips and laptops and plasma-screen TVs handed out like lollipops for being good little drones: when Sony via Epic Promotions was having staff call in to make fake requests to radio stations, the promoter complained that radio guys were telling him, "[The girls] are not inspired enough to be put on the air. They've got to be excited. They need to be going out, or getting drunk, or going in the hot tub, or going clubbing... You get the idea" - the idea being, HIRE MORE PORN STARS), this exciting bit of non-musical news provides a welcome distraction:

Crispin Glover film and slide show, Bloor Cinema, Aug. 28: "Crispin Glover will conduct a Q&A; following the screening of his film and Big Slide Show ... as an official guest with Rue Morgue's Festival of Fear. ... What Is It? is the first in a trilogy of surreal, inter-connected features directed, edited and financed by the eccentric character actor Crispin Hellion Glover. This August 28th 2005 at 9pm, sees the long-awaited Canadian premiere of the completed film in a blown-up 35mm print. Told almost entirely with a cast of Down's Syndrome actors and including the voice of Faruza Balk. What Is It? is about the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are salt, snails, a pipe, and how to get home, as tormented by an hubristic inner psyche. Crispin Hellion Glover's 'Big Slide Show' is a multimedia presentation/performance Crispin mounts using images from his beautifully bound hardcover art-books, audio sampling from his album The Big Problem and text read aloud. Victorian precedents are recalled with the creepy, sinewy etchings and, expository titles (What It Is and How It Is Done; Concrete Inspection and A Family Story Where a Mother Is Looking for Something & Finds It), but all modified through Crispin's own highly developed aesthetic."

Zoilus has been a nervous admirer of Crispin Glover ever since The River's Edge, ever since the Letterman-show "I - I - I can kick!" extravagonzo, ever since he gave the best silent-film performance of the age in the middle of the Charlie's Angels movie (how did that happen?). Sometimes I suspect he is going too California cutesy-weirdo, but I'll keep the faith and check this out. It's better than a Las Vegas "flyaway" for which you have to pay with your soul, i.e. by playing Celine Dion.

PLUS - nearly forgot - there's a musical appendix: An After-Party with Mr. Glover himself as well as, Jaymz Bee, DJ Shannon, DJ Video Dave and (what an appropriate matchup) Mr. Wax Mannequin, at the Drake that night (again, Aug. 28), 11 pm, 10 bucks.

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, July 27 at 04:13 PM | Comments (0)


Rhapsody in Hamilton

I'm working when I'd rather just be reading Harry Potter, but for why would you care about my summer bummer? You don't. You may, however, care for this Junior Boys news that I haven't spotted making the rounds very much in blogsville (which goes to show how blogsville has changed) but did spot, belatedly, in Billboard. News from Jeremy Greenspan: 1. New album, early '06. 2. "We're trying to strip things down a bit. I'm trying to shed any part of our sound that is too highly edited, as I think that approach will become dated quickly." 3. "The pervasive influence of classic Tin Pan Alley/Gershwin-esque songwriting." See previous Zoilage on the JBs.

Posted by zoilus on Monday, July 18 at 07:25 PM | Comments (0)


One Liners


I have a brief review of the excellent recent box set on early country-music pioneer Charlie Poole in today's Globe and Mail. (See below.)

Daphne settles the fiction-writer-as-critic debate (sparked by this) quite handily and with a fairly unique lack of snottiness, while managing to send chills through me about the low ceiling on a critic's prospects.

The Dears are having a baby, or specifically Natalia and Murray are, and are thus taking a touring break.

Meanwhile some-ones in der Broken Social Scene seem to have been busted for pot purchasing in New York - Aaron is tracking developments so I don't have to.

Goodbye Joe we gotta go me-oh-my-oh.

CD of the WEEK

The original country music star

15 July 2005
The Globe and Mail

You Ain't Talkin' to Me:
Charlie Poole & the Roots of Country Music
Box Set, Sony/Legacy

★ ★ ★ ★

Perhaps no instrument has a history so muddled in pride and spite as the banjo, appropriated from African-American slaves as a minstrel-show instrument, then damned as the musical weapon of choice for white rural rednecks, and later sanctified as an emblem of folk-revivalist idealism.

A chapter in that chronicle has to go to 1920s singer and banjoist Charlie Poole, a truly proud and spiteful character. He pioneered the three-finger-roll picking that became Earl Scruggs's classic bluegrass style, but out of necessity rather than choice — having broken and bent his fingers catching a baseball bare-handed on a drunken bet. Poole also had his front teeth knocked out one night by a half-dodged bullet and died at age 39 after a two-week alcoholic binge.

Brawler and wastrel that he was, though, he was the first country-music star. If it hadn't been for the 100,000-plus sales of his 1925 record Don't Let Your Deal Go Down Blues, a record exec like Roy Acuff might never have gone hunting for hayseed hit-makers such as the Carter Family.

Some say Poole is to country what Robert Johnson is to the blues, but despite his mill-worker roots, Poole was a more cosmopolitan figure. He blended old-timey fiddle music, Victorian parlour songs, white gospel, minstrel “coon songs” and the pop ballads of the day, buttoning them all into a suit and tie (usually with his North Carolina Ramblers string trio) and seeding a half-dozen subgenres of the future.

This three-CD set creatively matches Poole's best recordings with tracks from his influences and imitators. Housed in an ersatz battered cigar box with a sharp Poole portrait by cartoonist (and old-time 78 collector) Robert Crumb, and accompanied by an award-worthy 50-page booklet, it's the most rollicking graduate course in early musical Americana you could demand.

Caution: The 80-year-old recordings are lovingly restored, but inevitably there's a little scratchiness. Don't let it cheat you out of such a lively listen.

Posted by zoilus on Friday, July 15 at 04:52 PM | Comments (0)


Slack MoFo, or 'Semiotic Lumberjack'?


I know I look like I've been slacking, but in fact I just figured that early-mid-July is a fine time to get right with the links page. The whole thing is very, very updated, phew. A few tidbits that I've been hording meanwhile:

Yes, we have bananas, total binoculars bananas, in the form of this massive Getting Up hip-hop festival with Ludacris, Kanye, Nas, Lil Jon, Ciara, Mos Def etc etc on Aug 13-14. Yes, it's all corporate promotion, what did you expect, but if the T-dot was ever feeling a little off the hip-hop map, we can stop now. Also note that Aug. 5, the Bump'n'Hustle team is bringing Caron Wheeler to the Sunnyside Pavilion - yeah, the Soul II Soul, Keep on Movin' Caron Wheeler, first time ever in Toronto. We're having an amazing summer for that kind of visit, what with Ari Up and ESG having preceded her. Hooray for the show putter-onners.

Well, most of them. There's a controversy going on over allegations of wrongdoing by the owner of one of the city's best new-ish venues [Edit] going on over at the virtual hangout. [edit]. I'm glad it's getting such (mostly) mature and open discussion. My take is that while what happened is crappy and reprehensible, it's also endemic to bar culture, and the bookers sound like they've been exceptionally responsible (it's unfortunate that it's so exceptional, but it certainly is) in acting upon it. Unless it gets repeated, boycott talk seems out of place. Better to stay, fight and help scour out the crap - that's how things change.

Tune in to Guelph's CFRU tomorrow (Wed) morning at about 8 a.m. for what promises to be an excellent Final Fantasy interview.

And finally J Niimi, on Perfect Sound Forever, takes us on a nostalgia-for-a-couple-months-ago trip with a retrospective on this spring's EMP Conference that sympathetically sums up Zoilus' paper, with reasonable misgivings that motivate me to do a better revision of it, as is typical of his sober, not-for-eggheads-only p.o.v. on the proceedings. He describes the quivering-fault-line tensions of the final Sunday-morning session especially well, including the jolt caused by Erik Davis' attempt to summon a demon. Back on his own site, J. also has photos, with a caption describing me as an, uh, "semiotic lumberjack"! (But an "admirable" one!)

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, July 12 at 07:45 PM | Comments (6)


From One Atrocity to Another


Ugly-assed summer festival poster of the year goes to Pattonsburg, Missouri's Big Creek Festival. The funny-creepy porn picture would be enough without the unreadable and incongruous retro-psych font... If you've got a summer-festival poster that can top it, drop a line - this seems to me like an unexplored gallery of design horrors.

Thought everybody could use some comic relief on this grim day. Greetings to readers and blog-friends in London. Hope you and yours and theirs are all right.

One of the most upsetting things about this event is the way it takes basically all pressure off the G8 leaders on Africa this week. Yeah, you're for the oppressed peoples, you fucking religious fanatics. [Clarification: By this I mean al-Qaeda etc., not the G8, who are mostly money fanatics instead.] Not to minimize what took place this morning, but the death and injury toll there is still just a normal mortality rate of a day in the death of impoverished African kids. Snap... Snap.... Snap.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, July 07 at 01:20 PM | Comments (3)


Housekeeping. So Emo

Updating the links page is a slow, sticky process (due to idiosyncracies of our web interface). It is made sadder by discovering in the process that a linkee has made confusingly pissy remarks about Zoilus, but at least it was just one. For the record - there is no reason why you and I should have the same "agendas," though we think really words such as "tastes," "interests" and "friends" would be clearer stand-ins for a noun that makes me sound like I am Power Corp. or maybe the Fraser Institute.

Anyway the point is that there are great new things in the Toronto links section now, like Pop Sheep and Nate Dorward. There are not-so-great new things too because Zoilus tries to be thorough about its Toronto links, tho some may slowly be deleted or need reclassifying (Sherwin does not write about music and he doesn't live here anymore, but we love him - that's our agenda). If you look and you think, I belong in those lists, holla. Also: Other sections yet to be updated. And: Sorry for the ugglies - the density prevents the page from getting to be methuselah-beardishly long.

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, July 06 at 10:30 PM | Comments (0)


I've Been Good For Nothing


Summer laziness and rashes of busyness are taking turns fighting for our attention but there are a few things to share:

* A new Freakwater album is coming out, their first in six years. Janet Bean and Catherine Irwin once more seek to divide the roots-rock weirdos from the alt-country goons with Carter Family harmonies gone through the cosmic scrambler and homespun lyrics gone god-defying and devil-womany. It is entitled Thinking of You and is due Sept. 13. Califone plays backup unit throughout.

* John Darnielle recently made an in-studio Mountain Goats appearance at Seattle's KEXP. The results are now up on their archive page - click the "Interview" link to hear the whole thing, the others for individual live songs Deinara Crush (from Sweden), the new album's You or Your Memory, Song for Dennis Brown (which Darnielle explains as an adolescent suicide fantasy in the interview, though somehow that seems only half the story of how it fits in) and Dilaudid, as well as The Mummy's Hand, a song Darnielle says he wrote the morning of the interview, and obviously part of the "monster" series he's mentioned here and there lately.

* There are many developments you should be watching in the Zoilus July gig guide, including a three-night stand by A Silver Mt. Zion at the Tranzac with many special guests, a visit from San Francisco's exciting-sounding Extra Action Marching Band and lots else. I also continue to remind you of Sheila Heti's marathon Ticknor reading on Friday with bass by Rob Clutton and more.

* If you haven't seen the funniest I Love Music board thread ever, in which various famous albums are photoshopped to promote corporations (Ray Charles promoting Ray-Bans, the Velvet Underground "banana" cover with a Chiquita logo, and many more that are much less obvious), do it now.

* Likewise if you have never seen the animated video for (no kidding) Don Ho covering Shock the Monkey.

* If I had to lay odds on which would be more effective - the Live8 concerts' noisy attempts to sway the G8 nations' foreign policies, or this anti-Walmart CD which is part of a campaign to persuade the city council of Guelph not to let the big-box retailer build at the corner of two graveyards and a Jesuit retreat/organic farm... my bet's with Guelph. (Sadly enough.) But even their chances seem slim, as Guelph council has turned to the reactionary side. The Guelph effort, led by a fine fellow named Sam Turton, has a benefit concert on July 14. It is too folkie for Zoilus's tastes (where are the Barmitzvah Brothers?) but not, most likely, for the crunchy country people of Guelph. Somehow I think the current council might have been more responsive to an Yngwie Malmsteem-style shredder. Or some other kind of shredder. (Cough, cough.)

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, July 05 at 08:14 PM | Comments (1)


Available for Weddings, Birthday Parties, Trips to Mars

DJs! Art y'selves up with these limited edition Christian Marclay slipmats, available only from Toronto's Art Metropole! Because it's always fun to think about Christian Marclay!

Passing notes:

Zoilus sends heartfelt hurrays in the sunshiney direction of Magali Meagher (of The Phonemes) and Bob Wiseman (of Bob Wiseman), two true-true-true Toronto talents who were wed last Sunday. May you have a gay marriage.

Last chance to get in on the movement to get Anthony Braxton a really nice 60th birthday present. I believe June 30 is the final day for donations. You may remember Anthony Braxton from Zoilus entries and Overtones columns past, or his appearance on the Cosby Show.

I haven't bitched about Live8 in a while, because it's being done to such excess all over the place (mostly based on wildly overstated notions of Arcade Fire and K-Os's popularity). But I have to say: You wait until the last minute, when it's long-since sold out, to tell us Neil Young is on the bill? Oh, Canada, please shove a maple tree up it. Prediction: The mass of the talent gap between Neil and most of the other performers will produce a wrinkle in the space-time flux, through which Molson Park itself may be vacuumed into a hell dimension forever. (Yes, one even worse than Barrie.) Obviously Celine had advance warning, thus the satellite feed. Tip to organizers: Position Gordon Lightfoot at the balance point between Neil Young and all the other bands, and you may be able to avert disaster. Do not allow any Barenaked Ladies to touch Neil.

Speaking of hell dimensions - although it took a mostly misplaced Buffy comparison to do it, I'm very pleased to hear Chromewaves has seen the Veronica Mars light. But folks, if you go rushing in there in search of a BtVS revival meeting, you'll be disappointed. BtVS's strengths were in the writing, the jokes, imagery, ensemble playing and working at an overall allegorical conceptual level way out of TV's usual leagues. Veronica Mars is a much more kitchen-sink drama whose strengths are in suspense, tight plotting, wit (but not really jokes), steering clear of teen-soap cliches, an unusual frankness about the brutality of class dynamics in teenage life (and boy did BtVS suck on that front), a sophisticated father-daughter relationship, a bit of nice detective-genre gimcrackery, and most of all the performance of Kristen Bell, who carries the show by communicating an intelligence and integrity few youth actors ever manage. I bear no animosity for Sarah Michelle Gellar, at least not till overacted stridency took over in the final couple of seasons, but she never had a tenth what Bell's got. Plus: Way better music on Veronica Mars, though that's unfair competition - BtVS came up in the post-grunge hangover and sounds it, while VM is in the TV-becomes-eclectic soundtrack semi-renaissance. Still, Old 97s, the Streets, Dandy Warhols, Miriam Makeba, Ivy - they don't break too emo, unlike a lot of shows, though they did have a Postal Service Such Great Heights moment that made me think there ought to be FCC regulation of how many shows are permitted to use the same damn track by the same damn band. <-- Ahem. Tangent. In any case, Veronica Mars, for smart-teen-TV addicts like Zoilus, is your one-shop rerun stop this summer.

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, June 29 at 08:36 PM | Comments (0)


Sit, Ubu, Sit


I'm gloomy to hear that UbuWeb, a truly stunning collection of texts, sounds, sights and sensations from avant-garde culture, especially poetry and sound poetry, is kaput. It's been active since 1996. An archive will be placed on line in the near future but no new content is to come. We'll have to look elsewhere for things like the score to F.T. Marinetti's DUNE from now on, not to mention that aberrant audio epic, the 365 Days Project, with its nuggets of sonic nonsense such as Mother Goose Songs for Jewish Children. This is me blowing Taps through a drainpipe in your memory, UbuWeb.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, June 16 at 06:01 PM | Comments (2)


Not-So-Great White North

Everyone's abuzz about the Live8 Canada concert. Toronto, not Ottawa, and maybe in Downsview, and maybe, I'm hearing but don't quote me, free. Which would make sense, since it's about awareness and political pressure rather than fundraising. With Billy Talent, The Barenaked Ladies, Jann Arden and Our Lady Peace so far named as possible headliners, I may be raising my own awareness right up to the level of oblivious. If you thought the other countries' Live8 bills were too damn white, well, Official Canada can always do whiter!

Just as north, just as white, but much much greater: Check out the porny new Paris-Hilton-night-vision Gentleman Reg video, directed by Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene. (You may not want to watch it at work.)

A couple of quick Thursday Reading picks from the weeklies: Tabassum Siddiqui's piece in eye (look down after the NXNE recap) is a nice slice-of-life look at the forces that shuttered the humble 360 in downtown Toronto. Stuart Berman talks to Sleater-Kinney, whom I'll be seeing and reviewing this weekend. Denise Benson discovers Dragonette, who share a marquee next week with NOW cover girls Hunter Valentine. Haven't heard either, but I'm curious. Emiliana Torrini, the Icelandic-Italian siren I plan to go see tomorrow night, is listening to the Slits (Ari Up coming to Toronto in July!), Pete Miser and Lifesavas. And Jason Richards really likes the new Mathematics and Lyrics Born albums.

My apologies for the slap-and-dash nature of this post.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, June 16 at 02:35 PM | Comments (3)



Funny this never came up at EMP: Mos Def in blackface.

Helen Spitzer says: "I must meekly admit that i've had some wistful longings for the days when the Zoilus was not quite so quick or first on his block or au courant and a little less hyperlinky (and really, read more like a nice-smelling book)." I am mulling these comments over, as I would hate to be in any way unlike a musty old tome. Further thoughts from faithful readuhs? Meanwhile, sorry, more quick hyperlinkies:

A. Mos Def is playing Harbourfront in Toronto on June 23, just adding to the hot thick pressure of back-to-back can't-miss shows that pack out the rest of the month, starting with tomorrow night's Richard Youngs gig at New Works Studio. Check the show guide for details, or start your slow slide and be snails!

B. My paper from the Experience Music Project "Pop Conference" awhile back is finally here. In brief it's about "bandonyms" - solo artists who go under band pseudonyms, such as Smog, Destroyer, the Mountain Goats, Sebadoh, Bright Eyes or Palace Bros. - and how this has to do with postmodern poetry and masculine self-loathing in the fin de siecle. (Don't say I didn't warn you!) It's a rough draft, but your comments are welcome. And be sure to check out the other hot texts there!

C. Meanwhile, speaking of Destroyer - no Toronto date for the long-awaited Destroyer meets New Pornographers tour this fall, which begins in Vancouver on Sept. 23 and crawls northeastward but never reaches NYC or us. This must be corrected. The tour follows upon the August release of the Pornos' Twin Cinema which reportedly offers a more generous heaping of Bejarisms than the last NPs disc. We beseech and demand that our needs be serviced! It would also be an opportunity finally to air that Neko Case cover of No Cease Fires!, about which she hinted and teased so cruelly all those years ago.

D. Somebody I met at EMP, Franklin Bruno, offers keen listening - various soul sources, thematic cousins and curious covers related to Elvis Costello's Armed Forces, the subject of the new book FB's written, in the fine 33 1/3 series from Continuum books. (At the superstimulating Moistworks group-audio-blog.)

E. If you'd rather be yelling and hitting your space bar, go play the Yo La Tengo video game. The most pleasurable thing about it is hearing the YLT classics from their recent Prisoners of Love collection translated to bleepy Nintendo-esque soundtracks. But the plopping drops of blood creep me out.

Posted by zoilus on Monday, June 13 at 04:44 PM | Comments (5)


A Blow To The Three Gut


Word comes this morning that Three Gut Records, one of the primary sources of the Toronto indie rock explosion, will cease operations after the Oct. 11 release of the new Constantines record, Tournament of Hearts. Three Gut has been the home of such bands as the Cons, Royal City (the likely-defunct band that has included Aaron Riches, Jim Guthrie, Leslie Feist, Nathan Lawr and more), Jim Guthrie, Gentleman Reg, Sea Snakes, Cuff the Duke and lately Oneida. It has its origins in the unexpected genius spirit of Guelph, Ontario, and it was founded by Guthrie and the sparkly-fantastical Tyler Clark Burke, soon joined by the intrepid Lisa Moran, around and about the year 2000. The two women, who quickly assumed supervisory roles, harvested gorgeously produced and packaged sheafs of surprising and infectious music which sprouted between the orderly rows of expectation, not to mention bushels of art-rock parties and other compost mulch of community motivation. They served as inspiration and model for Arts & Crafts, Paper Bag and Blocks and all the other family-project-meets-feisty-entrepreneur labels that have bloomed here in recent years. Tyler left about a year-and-a-half ago to concentrate on her own artwork (which continues to grace 3G releases) and Lisa has carried on but understandably wants to explore other options. There will be commemorative parties and champagne toasts and tears. I just want to express my gratitude and admiration for what Three Gut's accomplished. This town (and country) would not be the same without them.

Posted by zoilus on Monday, June 13 at 01:01 PM | Comments (6)


No Joy In Mudville

Cinecycle photo pilfered from We Must Abuse the Broadband.

Sad news around home: Two Toronto venues went down the spout this week: The legion-hall-turned-home-of-all-ages-punk shows the 360 - which is very bad timing, as it's supposed to be a NXNE venue this weekend. Call ahead to check on any shows. (Strangely enough, I was just there for the first time in years, for the Republic of Safety set at a brain-injury benefit show on Friday.) But also, much more traumatically for me, the capital of Torontopia, Cinecycle, is shutting its doors, at least to music. C-cycle has hosted so many great shows, including the Blocks all-day marathons, as well as a Trampoline Hall or two. I don't know if it will go on housing the great Pleasure Dome film collective or not. Perhaps this will be temporary - word on Stillepost is that owner Martin apparently lost his patience after a punk show got out of hand last week. Maybe he'll rethink if we all buy him whiskey and flowers?

(Also, we hear that the Sea Snakes are breaking up. Not my favourite Toronto band, but one with many admirers hereabouts. A quiet round of Taps for you, boys.) (Later: Might be true, might be just a rumour. This is a weblog. We don't do no stinkin' factchecks.)

On a more upbeat note: Using a subtler knife, SFJ satisfyingly eviscerates the new Coldplay. So it can be done. It just can't be done tantrum-style.

Oh, and as long as you're reading things, Mrs. Zoilus has something great up on her site. If it doesn't cheer you up, you should get your cheer ducts checked.

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, June 07 at 06:24 PM | Comments (2)


Jack Be Quick


Zoilus normally is not a celeb-gossip site, but I couldn't resist showing you the bum of the apparent new Mrs. Jack White. This is honestly one of the least dirty pictures of her I could find. Personally I feel more comfortable now that milkfed Renee Z., with her cowboy beau, has hied her back to the land of the wholesome from whence she came and Jack W. has returned to the realm of the Sleez.

Now that I have your attention, the Zoilus June gig guide has been updated to new heights of absurd thoroughosity. Don't forget Bobby Few tonight at the Rex, 6:30 pm - who'll join me?

Also note North by Northeast festival picks from me and Robert Everett-Green in today's Globe.

And Funtimeok has more Xiu Xiu, or more accurately Jamie Stewart with a very rare, nearly "straight" (except for the clown horn) cover of the Pixies' Gigantic from way before Xiu Xiu's time (circa 1995). Xiu Xiu plays Toronto, June 25 at the Poor Alex; I'm quite proud of my piece on Xiu Xiu from last year; also see this live Zoilus review.

Posted by zoilus on Friday, June 03 at 12:25 PM | Comments (1)




It's officially a trend. All the noise bands at Victoriaville were doing it, and now I find (via Funtimeok) the guy from Les Savy Fav doing the same thing in this arty, Lucien Freud-esque image: Singing with a microphone held in your mouth. When did this start and where will it lead, don't you get electric shocks, and what if you suddenly find yourself dying to use a fricative consonant?

(Funtimeok also has a couple of MP3s of pre-Xiu Xiu versions of Xiu Xiu songs being played by Ten in the Swear Jar, which are worth auditioning. A XitSJ compilation is apparently in the works somewhere sometime.)

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, June 02 at 10:32 PM | Comments (5)


G8-Eyed Spy

I feel a bit vindicated, or at least gratified, that the new Not Live Aid project from Sir Bob Geldof and co-sponsored by Bono, as announced this week, heads exactly in the direction I discussed in my column attacking "charidee" earlier this year - focusing on debt and the G8 and global anti-poverty rather than often-retrogressive emergency-aid efforts. There are rumours that besides the locations already announced for the July 2 concerts, a Canadian venue might be in the offing (one within shouting distance of a close personal Canadian friend of Bono's).

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, May 31 at 04:44 PM | Comments (1)


If We're In Love, Why Can't We Stay On Topic?

Roisin Murphy of Moloko. Whew.

This just in from my southwestern-Ontario correspondent (aka Spitzer), on dark dorky doings in Zoilus's motherland, the freestanding homestead of Brantford, Ont. (as previously pictured): "Yes, I know it seems crazy, but sometimes crazy is true. Irwin Chusid, legendary radio host, producer, author & endearing crank is going to be rocking Brantford with the best band in the world, The Republic of Safety! [...] He'll be speaking at the National Campus Radio Conference in Guelph on Tuesday, June 7 at the University of Guelph campus - this is hosted by CFRU, and Irwin's talk is open to non-delegates as well for a measly $5. * and * Chusid is inordinately fond of small, weird towns and will be participating in a crazy rock n talk mashup we like to call Republic of Chusid, Monday, June 6th at the legendary Ford Plant in Brantford. It's an early show - Irwin at 7pm - Republic of Safety rock at 9pm. Again, it's a measly $5!"

Chusid's way of writing about "outsider music" sends me to Qualm City - stressing the wacky, verging on freakshow - but I heart his work as a reissue king (Raymond Scott, Esquivel, Langley Schools). Besides, if anybody can sit him face-down and give him a proper ideological spankathon, RoS's Maggie, Kate and Kat can, with three hands tied up in mic cords and six legs being borne aloft by slavish fans (or at least me).

In other news: Chromewaves today pinched our ears about Cliptip, a relatively new blog that hosts videos instead of mp3s. He was hyping the Metric Dead Disco video - y'know, hear hear, and I note that Cliptip does a lot of CanCon, where's he based? - but I really recommend you get over there to see the loopily luscious video by Roisin Murphy of Moloko, an Oz-tastic orgy of colour backing up a song that's one part Kate Bush, one part Talking Heads, one part Donna Summer and all parts scrumptious.

I haven't seen much on the Cowboy Troy phenom that contextualizes him in the history of black folks in country, but this comp might help.

Incidentally if things seem very ADDled 'round here this week, it's because besides everything else that's been going on around here, I quit smoking - for reals, this time - a few weeks ago, and the blogging concentration has been difficult to muster between running in circles, grinding teeth and drinking glasses of water. I trust this effect is impermanent - in fact, check in this weekend and I might try to cobble together a post on Drone Science to warm us all up for Sunday's 8-Hour Drone Show (which I'm told will include some prom favourites!) - but it may be awhile before lengthy subject-focused postings are once again a regular feature in this space. Betcha can't wait.

Happy weekend! May yours be full of post-death-metal Hammond Organ music I'm not kidding!

Posted by zoilus on Friday, May 27 at 05:17 PM | Comments (2)


Or, You Know, A Solar Anus


I hate to link to VICE for any reason but they've got the new Boredoms album there for you to listen to, and even if the recording cannot remotely compare to the third-eye-squeegeying effects of the live full-body-rub the band gave us at Victo on Monday, I have to capitulate my compunctions and conscientiously hook you up, because if you haven't seen this tour yet you've missed it - it ended in NYC last night. Check Sasha hyperventilating over the 'doms today. (Wonder if they forced him metaphysically to get drunk and lose his notebook, like they did me?) It was also interesting to see Eye pushing a baby stroller down the Victoriaville main drag - apparently in order to bring the band there, the festival had to fly the whole extended-family commune to Quebec. That's just the deal. So remember never to book the Raelians to play your music fest. Also This post tells me that the reason for the circular-drum formation they play in now is that they "view themselves more as a turntable." Huh. I'd figured "post-digital tribal-fire circle." The more fool I.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, May 26 at 08:44 PM | Comments (3)


They Win!

Centre: The Gligorijevic-Collins sacramental moment, as captured by Amber.

Zoilus extends effusive congratulations on a knot successfully tied! to Katarina Gligorijevic (of Barcelona Pavilion, who by-the-way have a new bitchin' micro-EP, and Toronto-band-of-the-year Republic of Safety) and Matt Collins (of Ninja High School, Manhunt and Jennifer Lopez Knife records and formerly of Currently in These United States). We weren't able to attend the nuptials themselves in bucolic Milton, Ont., as pictured above, but we did go to the most indie-rock wedding reception ever, last night at Sneaky Dee's, featuring a welcoming barrage of silly string for the newlyweds, then Steve Kado and Greg Collins (of Ninja High School, Blocks Recording Club and dozens of other local bands between them) as MANSHIT playing Elvis and Bruce Springsteen covers for slow-dance shoutalongs to start the night, and then the electro-make-out music of Kids on TV and a whole helluva lot of fog-machine, climaxing with a mass half-naked half-drunk audience-on-stage dance frenzy (followed by more dancing courtesy of DJ Jonny Dovercourt). Plus indoors smoking, and cake. Zoilus is so very happy for the new Prince and Princess of Dee's. As Misha said, "Just when I think this whole 'Torontopia' thing is overstated, something like tonight comes along that makes me think Toronto really is the greatest place in the world." Mazel tov, mes amis.

The "Matterina" getaway car, bearing, though you can't quite see it in this pic, one of the few marital tributes to Captain Beefheart ever made - it says "This is the Best Batch Yet!" Thanks again, Amber.

Aforementioned fake-fogged dance frenzy. Arm of Zoilus, with striped cuff, seen at right.
Pic by Merckeda on the Stillepost wed-thread.

Also today, Pitchfork's campaign to distance Pitchfork from Pitchfork goes into hyperdrive. (At first I accidentally typed hyperdrivel, which is a pretty great phrase to apply to Pitchfork, tho not to David Cross usually.) A subtributary to the campaign can also be found in their Robbie Fulks review, which goes out of its way to praise mainstream country at the expense of alt-country, although it somewhat gives the game away by characterizing the likes of Roger Miller and Don Williams as having voices with "coarse grain" - Williams being an ol' smoothie and Miller's voice being pretty much as "nasal" as Fulks'. I haven't heard the Fulks disc yet but word is that it's much stronger as a country disc than P'fork would have you believe.

And: Let's think good thoughts, not even the usual dirty ones, for Kylie Minogue, who has breast cancer.

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, May 17 at 01:50 PM | Comments (10)


Grammar Bammer Slammer Time


Dammit, I know I've been distracted with the grieving and all, but why o why didn't anybody tell me about this, the Frightenstein Con here last weekend? Anybody who did attend, reports here would be appreciated. I think 6:30 a.m. Saturday sightings of Hilarious House of Frightenstein formed my introduction to the proto-punk monster-movie trash-cultcha consciousness that David Thomas addressed in his Pop Conference presentation. (Billy Van as Southern Ontario's Ghoulardi? Perhaps not quite, but in that vicinity. Pere Ubu, incidentally, has been touring occasionally with live "underscores" for B-flicks such as X, The Man With the X-Ray Eyes and It Came From Outer Space: "The genre had an incalculable effect on the third generation of Young Rock Giants who emerged in the 70s. Now it's time to honor our debt.") HHoF also featured a Wolfman Jack imitation (with a literal wolfman) and cameos by Vincent Price.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, proceed here to view a typical Frightenstein episode. Other clips are on the comprehensive Frightenstein fan site. (Question: Is this the geekiest post I've ever made? Quite possibly.)

It also seems an opportune time to note that various other Pop Conference presentations are now available as PDFs from the EMP warehouse. The chatter on whether there will be another conference next year is sounding grim, so enjoy while you can.

PS: RIP Jimmy Martin: The ornery ol' bluegrass king bastard will be missed.

Posted by zoilus on Monday, May 16 at 01:44 PM | Comments (3)


And thank you

.... to everyone who's written, on and off site, with condolences on my father's passing. Your good wishes are much cherished.

Posted by zoilus on Friday, May 13 at 12:06 AM | Comments (7)


Away Game


Family trouble going on. I'll be gone a few days.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, May 05 at 03:51 PM | Comments (1)


What Do You Think the Words 'Foot Fetish' Do for Ye Olde Hit Count?


Because Zoilus has been locked in a hall of mirrors thinking recombinantly about the "The Sunset Tree problem" problem, and gradually coming to the conclusion that said problem was no problem and primarily in my speaking-too-soon noggin, we yam been mum. (Gentlemen, when all the women disagree, it is officially time to scour the brainpan.) Meanwhile you go look at some rock star feet. (Merci, Mimi Smartypants.)

By the way the exercise of writing simultaneously about John Darnielle and songs that are/are not "true" is making Spandau Ballet run through my head non-stop. Darnielle's classic Spandau piece is no longer up at Last Plane to Jakarta but you can - all the better, all the more mindfuckingly - listen to him perform that piece with the link at the bottom of this page here. (The good-but-not-as-good sequel is here.)

If I were the Wizard of Web, I would now show you Spandau Ballet's feet. Nyet: The picture above is the best I could do.

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, May 04 at 12:25 PM | Comments (0)


Monday Morning (er, Mid-Afternoon) Coming Down


Gig alert: In my colleague Mark Miller's well-balanced review of Quinsin Nachoff's gig in this morning's Globe, he notes that Ernst Reijseger, the Dutch cellist who played with Nachoff on Sat. night, has a solo gig tonight, presented by Rough Idea at New Works Studio, 319 Spadina Ave. (upstairs). Doors are at 7:30 pm. (Rough Idea, aka Sir Ron Gaskin, also presents the VTO5 festival May 15-21.)

WaPo on Patsy Cline's slutty youth. (I'm using "slutty" as a term of approbation here, btw. As in, if Kathleen Hanna can collaborate with Paris Hilton...)

Bright Eyes on Leno tonight, reportedly singing When the President Talks to God. Think they'll let him sing the final words, "bullshit" and all? Let's spend some time together....

Spent some quality time with The Mountain Goats' The Sunset Tree on train rides this weekend. It has incredible moments (This Year, Song for Dennis Brown, the wrenching Pale Green Things... a helluva lot of them in fact) but I am still struggling with the explicitness of the subject matter - childhood abuse, specifically during adolescence, a story John Darnielle's made clear is autobiographical. The facticity of it isn't so crucial, but what made We Shall All Be Healed one of the best TMG discs ever for me was that it was very powerful on its given subject (late-adolescent drug abuse; in a sense this album feels like the prequel to WSABH; effects tracing back to causes) but at the same time it was freely tangential and ambiguous in its imagery and narrative stages; it struck with a direct confidence but still with the feeling of the best earlier TMGs songs of being hit hard in the head by a stone but never knowing what angle or direction it was coming from. On Sunset Tree, I generally know where the stone is coming from and its velocity - and perhaps too often I hear it coming in advance. I wonder if Darnielle wanted to render with a greater transparency in order to make it more confrontational, and more cathartic, and perhaps more a point of identification for those who are or have been in abusive situations? (He dedicates the record both to his late stepfather - a very moving gesture in itself - but also to "any young men and women anywhere who live with people who abuse them, with the following good news: you are going to make it out of there alive; you will live to tell your story; never lose hope.") If that is the intention, point taken, but is it doing social work at the expense of artfulness? These are just listening notes: There are layers of complexity, too, and I haven't resolved the question yet for myself; many people, including Kelefa Sanneh, have argued it's his best record. One thing's sure, it has the best arrangements since Darnielle started doing anything you could call "arrangements," with Erik Friedlander's cello unsurprisingly topping the list, but also with enormously well-honed choices on keyboard from Franklin Bruno. The Mountain Goats, of course, is/are in Toronto on May 11. (See the nearly finished gig guide.)

Speaking of strings: A fine fine interview with Owen (Final Fantasy) Pallett with Owen's trademark concatenation of loose-cannon and sharp-shooter insights on subjects such as Montreal vs. Toronto, the ineluctable feminine x of Joanna Newsom, and making "like, a not-fake, but an entirely genuine attempt at a Damien Rice-style record."

Stereogum has a new New Pornographers' track, Twin Cinema. I had a great cinematic weekend myself. I saw The Ballad of Jack & Rose and Kung Fu Hustle, which make a weird but worthwhile double-bill. The leads in J&R; are very fine, but the standout was Canada's own Ryan McDonald as the gently hulking would-be stepbrother and aspiring hairdresser. His farewell scene with Camilla Belle's Rose hits the perfect pitch of that impossible wild teenage emotional generosity, telling her, in case he never sees her again, that she is "stupendous" - assuring her that he sees her, despite the fact that she's been little else but batshit crazy the whole time. Jena Malone plays fine counterpoint to him as a bleached blond googly-eyed teen runaway. KFH, on the other hand, is just batshit itself, romping over your eyeballs and into your brainstem up on stilts, its ass hanging out and on fire. As well, lying on the rug in Mrs. Zoilus's apartment, I saw Alain Tanner's superbly charming (albeit seventies-politics-muddled) For Jonah, Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000, which I've wanted to see for years and years, and also was (accidentally) a nice foil to Jack & Rose's double-jointed idealization/condemnation/(or what?) of 1970s communal/back-to-the-lander narratives, a really compelling mess to contemplate (see also Lukas Moodysson's Together and even Von Trier's The Idiots). This year Jonah would be 30!

Also saw Sir Richard Bishop of the Sun City Girls playing at the Casa - mostly a recital of guitar pieces from various traditions, including several Django Reinhart pieces, plus improvisations. I am a hard case on such concerts (I bore too easily) and Bishop wasn't quite glittering enough a guitarist to absorb me intp the exercise. It intensified occasionally to give the brain a little Faheyesque trance-liftoff, but too seldom for my ears; I enjoyed his one sung number, a ribald-absurdist talkin' blues, the most. Still, he did semi-quasi-promise a Sun City Girls appearance at the 2006 edition of the Suoni per il Popolo festival, which news was reason enough to have stuck around.

Jody Rosen's "Much Ado About Annie," or, "When Bad Rockisms Happen to Good Pop Singers." Excellent sotto voce expose from Jody, who manages in this piece to be hella sarcastic without ever once being mean.

Posted by zoilus on Monday, May 02 at 12:42 PM | Comments (9)


20hz Is Dead, Long Live Stillepost.ca

A Hallmark card from ex-20hzer "Franks2000inchTV".

Following up yesterday's post, 20hz.ca has turned into a giant lease-breaking party with everybody dancing and smoking and setting the sofa on fire, while the new landlord frantically tries to whitewash over the damage and pretend nothing's happening, censoring and deleting posts and banning members like crazy, and everyone is packing up their apartments and moving their crates and crates of albums over to Stillepost, a slightly tough name to remember and a place that could use some sprucing up (maybe we could rewire those fonts and put another layer of wax on the icons, honey?), but be it ever so humble, there's no place like a non-censorious, communally managed home.

Pretty entertaining. So does this spell ElMo boycott, folks, or are we keeping the issues separate?

(Update: In response to Ms. Liss's comment, I should say that I'm not advocating a boycott - I just wondered if it had come up. My viewpoint is, Mr. Jahangiri is already reaping what he's sown, he'll lose his bundle and no further action's really needed. However: 20hz ex-members, I advise you to remove your info from there - I couldn't figure out how to delete the profile, so I just changed the email address to a non-existent one. You don't want him using/selling the mailing list.)

Update update: Because shit is a bit out-of-hand getting, let me re-re-clarify: I think a boycott would be a bad idea. I also don't think anybody's thinking of one. There are few enough venues as it is. Sorry I mentioned it. There are good community-connected folk booking good shows at the El Mo, all the time, such as tomorrow's Russian Futurists CD launch. Masia One's M1 Academy happens there. Etc. etc. Jahangiri himself books some silly nonsense that kinda drags the average down, but that's no worse than, y'know, the Drake, with whom I have had my own unholy congress. Meanwhile, 20hz lies in ruins and Stillepost is getting rolling on its training wheels, so that mission's taken care of. We now return you to your friendly neighbourhood cultcha scene, already in progress.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, April 21 at 03:31 PM | Comments (7)


On Home Towns, Actual and Cyber-Style


Take a virtual walk through the downtown of my childhood home, Brantford, Ont. What can I say: These pictures somehow feel like they explain a lot about me.

Meanwhile, the on-line home of Toronto's indie scene, 20hz.ca, seems about to fracture into a whole mess o' competing Internets - which one will be left a rust-belt ghost town? Well, I wouldn't go putting the family fortune into 20hzmusic.com, the new self-styled pseudo-Pitchfork of Canadian indie rock, owned and operated by Abbas Jahangiri, who previously endeared himself to the Toronto music community (uh, not) by taking over one of the most storied nightclubs in town, El Mocambo, and proposing to turn it into a two-tier dance studio. He gradually backed off of that plan and returned it to existence as a music venue, with a spotty but not heinous programming record, and we were about to go all soft on him until he decided to swoop in (after the Spin and NY Times and other media stories that mentioned it) and buy up 20hz, which till now was owned by Brockville indie promoter Ryan Mills and run entirely internally. While Jahangiri claims he plans to leave the message-board community alone, the cheesy features page (full of stolen content and press releases) runs against the grain of what the boards are about, and his one-way communiques on-board (and suddenly appearing yes-men avatars praising his vision) didn't gain sympathy: The likely outcome is that the membership will abscond to the alternative site already under construction, the 20hz name will recede from relevant memory and Jahangiri will be left with an asset of fairly dubious worth and none of that oh-so-capitalizable street cred.

The stupid part is that Jahangiri could easily have built a show-info and band-promotion site much like 20hzmusic under a name like, say, Mocambo Music, provided a useful service for people looking for complete and interactive show listings and other music info (so I wouldn't have to do it!) and taken a respectful and respectable, and probably profitable, place in the community. But as he did in the battle of the Elmo, Jahangiri - who often really seems to have his heart in, if not the right, at least a non-evil place - proves himself tone-deaf to the etiquette and sense of community investment and ownership in cultural institutions, which doesn't have much to do with who's holding the deeds. Now, I just hope that all the different cities and towns with community boards - most of all the link between Montreal and Toronto - aren't lost in the transition. (There's predictable talk of a split on the Montrealshows-linked board, but no good reason given - one poster joked that they should all meet on the Charlottetown board to work it out, except that there is no Charlottetown board.)

There's a cultural-history 101 lesson here about how major labels and other industry entitites treat the grassroots, but like Jahangiri, few of them ever seem likely to learn it. So fan/musician communities continue to manoeuvre to preserve and produce autonomy, and each new evasion results in new cultural moments, and the merry dance proceeds apace at least until new paradigms render past industrial models hollowed-out shells like my hometown - and erstwhile indie kids eventually burn out and move to the outskirts of such towns to make babies and commute and the place turns into just another suburb....

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, April 20 at 05:14 PM | Comments (15)


The Last EMP-anada

Shayla's photos from EMP. I'll stop going on & on about the conference now, unless something especially compelling comes up, but wanted to mention that if anybodies want a copy of my paper, I'll send one along, but only on the QT - it's still up for revision and publishing-attempts sometime down the road.

Also just found out that I didn't get to meet the other Torontonian in the EMP-house. (Her subject was, "What Are YOU Doing Here? The Trials and Tribulations of a Black Female Metalhead.") Laina, hope we can correct that sometime locally. Update: Oh, and you too, Del.

But mostly: Read This.

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, April 20 at 02:35 PM | Comments (1)


That Was Pop

Image by Kai Althoff, aka Workshop.

Because I haven't gotten 'round to the promised final Pop Conference wrap-up (sleep deprivation, work and last night's Trampoline Hall intervening), and because I'm about to get bizzy repurposing the material into this weekend's column, I direct your attention to Franklin Bruno's own EMP review, and not just because he says nice things about my paper in it. Also: I apologize sincerely to my fellow Fake Band panel members that I was still editing my paper while you were talking. It's been awhile since I wrote anything in this style (and length) and so the process was more purgatorial and Sisyphean than it oughta have been... Otherwise the paper felt like it went well, a small crowd because it was a high-traffic time slot, but plenty of crowd response and post-discussion. Ann Powers was especially helpful in directing my attention to the question of whether part of the reason songwriters might use band aliases is also to direct sexuality away from themselves in the rock-audience dynamic. (Ann was contrasting Smog to Cat Power, for instance, whose handle distances and come-hithers simultaneously and thereby moves to enhance rather than erase sex magick.) What started as a paper about a poetic strategy - the band name as a way of problematizing subjectivity - has become a paper in some ways about the abject masculine at the 1990s fin de siecle... I've still got lotsa refining to do on it.

Notice Franklin's mention of the Dance Off, which took place at the War Room: I don't know that I would have summoned the nerve to tag along if I'd known that Drew Daniel was a former go-go dancer on top of being a musician (Matmos, Soft Pink Truth), producer (Bjork), conceptual artist and PhD student, given that Jessica Hopper and Julianne Shepherd were such already-obvs dance-floor pros, but Franklin and I got our older-schlub moves on just fine. (I am the "guy with a beard [Jessica] did not know" - sorry, I am shy with the introductions, and normally I just have stubble.) In general my one main criticism of the Pop Conf is that the social convening is not so well done - an opening cocktail party is basically just like everybody showing up in a bar, and the closing-night gathering asked everybody to come watch (more!) performances, rather than finding ways to promote interaction. Same goes for panels, where we could be encouraged more time talking to one another (as on the opening night plenary) as well as to the audience. We decided lunchtime dance parties would be the best first step!

Footnote to musicologist Peter Mercer-Taylor's grand gloss on Cradle of Filth at "Black Mass" Sunday: Would it make any difference if they were named Shitcrib instead? (See fourth item.)

Best shopping moment: Out on the S-town on Sunday afternoon, finding a CD by Workshop, the semi-non-existent band that was the subject of David Grubbs' intriguing paper during our panel with ear-tickling excerpts that made me want to track them down. I thought it would take a couple of weeks of Internet trawling - nope, Yog Sothoth just jumped up into my hand. Serendip-dip. You can hear some Workshop here.

I was chuffed to meet so many people (including, hors-conference, John from Utopian Turtletop and Jake London, and to see Don and Deb and Lisa from P2 and stage an occupation of Jim Cox's house). But I was sorry I didn't manage to talk to many others, usually due to my own reticence, for instance (with some links to their own post-EMP posts where possible): Sasha (dude, you kept slipping away like a white shadow); Douglas Wolk (whose paper I had to miss, but was from all accounts terrif); Keith Harris (whose paper on how Springsteen lost touch with his audience by shifting out of Jersey voice into Okie voice, and basically talking down rather than to people, and how that contrasts with Toby Keith's political savvy, I really enjoyed); Jess Harvell; Matos, who generously posts his paper, which I didn't get to hear; and everyone else, of course, but with more complete-strangers I at least have a better excuse. I'll try to be less lame next year: And I'm pretty sure I will go again next year whether I'm giving a presentation or not - there's really nothing like this conference, and I hope that should the EMP's fortunes falter (which does seem a possibility) the pop-hop-soul-a-roll-ademia writing massive will find a way to carry this event forward, no matta. It was energizing, inspiring, enlarging. Oh yeah, and exhausting. Zzzz. Later.

Update: Barbara at Flaskaland rounds up the EMP roundups much more thoroughly, although she doesn't seem to be distinguishing previous years from this year.

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, April 19 at 04:41 PM | Comments (1)


Zoso, What's It to Ya?


I'll have a wrap-up of the Pop Conference a little later in the day, but for a teaser, here's a link to a bit of what Erik Davis was talking about in yesterday (Sunday) morning's closing "Black Mass" session, the infernal technologies of Jimmy Page, from his book in the great 33 1/3 series of little books about albums, which now has its own blog. I'm no Zeppelin fan, but Davis managed to make me feel like one, with (as Ann Powers said yesterday) his very rare ability to get deep into these kinds of mythos without losing his "secular head." The excerpt, however, doesn't give you the part where Davis (skinny, bearded, "Hammer of the Gods" t-shirt, leather pants) opened up an Aleister Crowley book that Page's short-lived publishing house reprinted in the early 1970s and shouted out the incantation to call forth a demon to do his bidding. Or Davis's best line, after we watched a very funny clip of a televangelist playing Zep records backwards: "Now, this is in 1981... I think we need to begin to talk about a Christian turntablism."

Posted by zoilus on Monday, April 18 at 11:07 AM | Comments (0)


Pop Confab Day 2

Ghoulardi, spiritual father of the Cleveland 1970s nouvelle vague: See notes on David Thomas's EMP lecture, bottom of this post.

Quick notes from today's proceedings of the Seattle EMP Pop Conference on "Music as Masquerade". After the all-together-now luxury of last night's opener, it was sad to have to choose among three or four panels in each time slot today, so it became less of a full-group shared experience. But without the simultaneous scheduling, of course, there'd be no room for the likes of me. In general, though, the quality of the work is really high and the diversity and passion of the presentations remarkable. And plenty of nice chats with good people along the way.

This morning, I caught Krin Gabbard discussing how Miles Davis's collaborator on his "autobiography," Quincy Troupe, rewrote the transcripts of Davis's interviews, in a way to black it up (worse grammar, more "motherfuckers") and in another way to massage it to serve the self-presentation Davis wanted to make of himself in late life, as the tough but wise old mentor - Gabbard backed this up with a few clips from the remarkably awful Davis movie Dingo, in which Davis plays an old trumpeter who rasps out cryptic aphorisms and encouragement to a young Australian trumpet player trying to make it in Paris. It went right onto the must-see list. In the same panel it was Eric Lott, again, discussing the 50th-birthday live concert by Frank Sinatra at the Sands in Las Vegas, where his patter repeatedly slides into blackface humour (basically imitations of Kingfish from Amos'n'Andy), in part as a strange way of reaching out to his backing band led by Count Basie, and in part as an invocation of black masculine exoticism (as well as "Dagoface" Italian-American working-class realness) to ward off anxieties about aging, the theme of many of the songs he sung that night. Lott wound up with a striking anecdote, too, that at Sinatra's birthday 30 years later, at 80, there was a tribute with star after star singing songs associated with Sinatra - closed out by Bob Dylan, who did his own Restless Farewell (which Lott joked is kind of Dylan's My Way). That seems rude until you find out that Sinatra specifically requested it. Said Lott, "I cannot imagine Frank Sinatra ever sitting down and listening to early Dylan, given their places in culture and society at the time. But that's what makes these masquerades and exchanges so complex." (Someone in the audience later suggested that Sinatra's daughters probably turned him on to it, which feels like a nice homely explanation, but I'd add that musicians almost always are listening to unexpected things and that this should go high on your list of things to like about musicians.) Julianne Shepherd rounded proceedings out with a jeremiad about the done-wrongness of Courtney Love, the new Yoko Ono, the object of an American snuff-film fantasy and moral jeremiad all at once. I wasn't quite convinced that Courtney's in-our-faces meltdown is as much an Artaudian aria of self-liberation as Shepherd wanted to claim, but the point that she is hated as a woman and mother for exactly the mirror image of the irresponsible behaviour that is romanticized and celebrated among male rock stars was smack (pardon the expression) on.

By the way, yesterday when I said Eric Lott's hair was flowing white tresses? That was a strange mental leap. He's actually a greying blond and while it's kind of dramatically present, "flowing tresses" would give you totally the wrong picture. Psychosocial analyses? Wait, don't tell me.

I enjoyed the lunchtime chat about music blogging, featuring Geeta Dayal, Tom Ewing, Jess Harvell, Jay Smooth and mod Michelangelo Matos, but most of it doesn't seem recappable - it was more conversational and banterly, appropriately enough. A couple of thematic hot points: Why is music blogging such a boys' club, when Livejournal, for instance, is loaded with girls and women and one of their top topics of conversation is music? Consequent to that - does the blog-crit-sphere tend to reproduce the conditions of the music press? Do magazines still matter? Who reads blogs? Are we just talking amongst ourselves or is there a non-blogging audience, or does that not matter? Are MP3blogs just a coolness contest? What does your mom think of your blog? And are music bloggers, for some reason, unusually likely to be estranged from their fathers? That seemed to be the pattern on the panel. (It doesn't apply to me.)

I caught a great paper, with video illustrations, by Daphne Carr, on "Disco-Polo" in Poland - the Eurodisco-meets-folk/polka hybrid sound of the Polish sidewalk vendor and wedding dance - but didn't keep notes. She had good stuff on the city mouse-country mouse dynamic but also on the temporal displacement of the immigrant - Polish-Americans still listen to disco-polo while in Poland itself it's basically dead and scorned. Then rushed down to the JBL Theatre - which I realize I keep presuming is named for James Brown in some way, but is probably not - to miss Hua Hsu's paper on Duke Ellington and orientalism and come in partway through Josh Kun's Abie the Fishman, which was a mindblowing, totally beyond summary, riff on Jewish identity, passing, "audio Zeligism as the dominant mode of American Jewish musical performance" and, of course, Dylan, climaxing with a says-it-all audition of Dylan's Talkin' Hava Nagila Blues, in which after saying, "Here's a foreign song I learned in Utah," the ex-Zimmerman basically chokes out the words "Hava Nagila" syllable by syllable tortorously once and then lets out a cowboy yodel. Read Kun's precis and be sorry you missed it. Kun had a strong complement in Jody Rosen's paper on the "Hebrew comedian" circuit - a kind of Semitic minstrel show with the weird twist that it was mostly done by Jews and for Jews. Rosen gave a neat analysis of the entertainment as a transitional rite of the immigrant casting off old identities and rising "above" them, and offered cool musicological analyses of tons of great 78 recordings, mentioning plenty more with titles such as I'm a Yiddish Cowboy by "tough-guy Levi," Under the Matzos Tree, Oh Such a Business! (A Herbaic tale of Woe) and more.

Finally there was the heavy duty panel, "Lessons in Mayhem," featuring Drew Daniel of Matmos (and the Soft Pink Truth, and UC Berkeley) giving a supersonic-brain-flight rapid-fire talk on a Germs reunion/re-enactment concert featuring the actors who were going to play the Germs in an upcoming bio-pic as well as the surviving Germs (minus the suicide Darby Crash) and an audience of survivors and wannabes of various kinds. "Where does the spectacle ever stop?" Daniel asked, quoting a friend who said, "Now we can all jerk off to the futility of his life, as art." Daniel multiplied the mirror imagery and doubleness of the situation like a master prestidigitator, winding up with a video of himself getting a "Germs burn" (the fan shibboleth of a cigarette burn on the wrist), talking about the constitutive wound of mourning and melancholia and the effort to reject and hold on to a loss. Greil Marcus was up next, arguing that cover versions today of old blues and folk songs by Son House and Dock Boggs done by people like the White Stripes, the Eagles of Death Metal and even John Cougar Mellencamp have escaped from the tendencies of the sixties folk revivalists and are actually pretty good, in part because they don't attempt to be reverent - they can be irreverent, astonished, amused, angry, just about anything else, and thereby find their way somewhere closer to the "black holes" within those songs - rather than stumbling into the blackface of the righteous mimic.

And it all wound up (for me for the day) with David Thomas' indescribably hilarious and transporting and enraged and amused paean to Cleveland mid-sixties monster-movie TV show host, the unhinged genius Ernie Anderson aka "Ghoulardi" (later the announcer voice of the Love Boat). There were (and in some places still are) many TV horror hosts, but Ghoulardi was the most original (no fake Bela Lugosi accent etc.): He spoke in Mad-magazine hipster profundities, wore ridiculous fake costumes, blew things up live on TV with firecrackers, dropped his own image into the midst of the movies they were showing, once repeated WHAT ME WORRY for 10 minutes straight in different inflections on air ("tedium as mayhem"), mocked local media commentators and suburban areas and generally, said Thomas in a long, performative speaking-in-tongues tirade accompanied by surf-guitar instrumentals and video footage of the Ghoulardi show so rare that it can hardly be said to exist, inhabited the "rebel without a cause mask," the hypnotic Flibberty Jib Man who undid all assumptions about art and trash, the reliability of the media and the linearity of narrative for a generation of middle-class Cleveland-Akron adolescents - who just happened to go on to form bands such as Devo, the Electric Eels, Mirrors, the Cramps and Thomas's own Pere Ubu. "We were the Ghoulardi kids," says Thomas, dropping into a dog-whimpering whisper. They came to an avant-garde "unencumbered by pretension, elitism and dogma" and gravitated to rock music because, he concluded, stomping, writhing, mopping his face and complaining "my eyes are sweating," rock "provided the most readily available medium through which to pursue artistic mayhem." After a standing ovation, a stunned crowd then attempted a question and answer period, during which Thomas repeated the denunciations of punk rock he's been making for a quarter-century, made fun of audience member's questions and pounded his head against the table. It was just sublime.

Curious footnote, by the way: Besides being the spiritual father of Pere Ubu, Ghoulardi in real life was the father of the boy who grew up to be the movie director P.T. Anderson (Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love). Makes sense to me.

Posted by zoilus on Saturday, April 16 at 12:31 AM | Comments (4)


Pop Goes the Zoilus


How's everybody been? I'm writing from the Courtyard Marriott in Seattle, where I'm presently residing at the graces of the Experience Music Project Pop Conference, the fourth annual Critapalooza of academics, critics and interwebbers at the weirdo Gehry building here. It got swimming this evening with shmoozing and edibles followed by an opening panel revisiting Eric Lott's Love and Theft, the landmark study of minstrelsy and American culture that was published 12 years ago. Sean, you so should have been there.

I'm sure I'm not the only one blogging the Pop conf., and I'm not promising minute by minute updates from the rafters a la the political conventions, but I'll share notes with you from time to time. The first thing you need to know is: Everybody here is still working on their papers. I am still working on my paper, which is why I am here in my hotel room rather than attending tonight's David Thomas and David Grubbs show. (They are both giving papers at the conference, tho, so I'll see them in their more elocutionary guises.) I was talking to Jody Rosen (of the Nation and various websites and a book about White Christmas and one he's working on about the Glass Harmonica), who hasn't finished his paper (which he's giving tomorrow) , told me he went up to introduce himself to Eric Lott and say he was looking forward to hearing Lott's paper, and Lott said, "Me too, if I ever finish it." Welcome to EMP, the home of procrastinators, self-second-guessers and last-minute inspiration.

I'd write more about tonight's panel if not for the homework issue, but it was terrific, with everyone paying tribute to Lott's book's importance (as Bob Dylan did when he named his last album about it - Lott said he's calling his next book Blonde on Blonde). Sasha Frere Jones couldn't make it because his plane was grounded in San Diego(?) - I suppose he'll arrive tomorrow. Eric Lott cuts quite a figure, a hunky type with long flowing white hair. Marybeth Hamilton talked about how anxieties around minstrelsy were later carried over to "race" records, which also were considered not black enough (even though they were made by black artists) compared to field recordings etc. "What is at stake when we contend that some cultural forms are more 'real' than others?" W.T. Lhamon praised Lott with a little tinge of envy (he was working on minstrelsy simultaneously and Lott got there first), talking about how even the questioning of authenticity that happens in minstrelsy studies still uses class and race as stable categories - he talked about minstrelsy as lumpen culture that substituted blacks for the Macheath thug figure in English music hall, making this image of American blackness imaginatively "white" at the core. Daphne Brooks testified for George Walker, in the black minstrel team with the more famous Bert Williams, who wrote about being a black person watching white people play black people in 1906, a reversal of the minstrel "primal scene" of T.D. Rice picking up Jump Jim Crow from a black street performer. Guthrey Ramsey Jr., both a black scholar and a working jazz-R&B-funk; musician, talked about overinterpretation and the overlooking of practicalities in theory, and asked why it's okay for English singers to sing Italian opera but not okay for white people to sing the blues.

Elijah Wald presented some amazing stuff on other ethnic impersonation of the time, quoting a review from a black newspaper saying, "the famous Chink impersonator performed... his Dago is equally strong," and talked about black people doing Jewish imitations. It would take too long to explain but he had a great last line: "I'd like to see a world where I can imagine looking at the top bands in alt-country and punk and them not all having to be white." Then Allen Lowe discussed the minstrel show in the context of the medicine show, the emergence of the professional songwriter, and its relationship to a "sweet music" side to black musical traditions.

Mark Anthony Neal went to town on the subject of Li'l Jon as a blackface clown, what Jeff Chang calls "crunkface," going so far as to call Jon "the first Sambo of the 21st century," and crunk as post-hip-hop, but then he allowed for the fact that crunk functions as dance music, not narrative music, and does it better than any other hip-hop, and that has to be taken seriously - perhaps Lil Jon is a trickster figure who can be followed by a new innovator, a Pied Piper ("not the R. Kelly kind") who, the masses having been led to the dance floor, can lead them from there to somewhere better. Jason King followed up with some scary stuff about race and technology, such as virtual reality that would let you actually "try on" ethnicities and Virtual Performing Program software that would let producers put the "DNA" of any given singer's voice into any song ("you could have Aretha Franklin rapping 50 Cent's whole catalogue"), combine voices, etc., so that the next Sam Phillips wouldn't have to wait for an Elvis to come along - he could just synthesize them.

In a last-minute intervention, Ned Sublette also presented some findings on 18th-century minstrelsy in England and Colonial America, discussing British black-imitator Charles Dibdin, who played a character named Raccoon in a ballad opera and one called Mungo in The Paddock (a huge British hit in the late 1700s that toured the U.S. - Thomas Jefferson would have seen it), and presenting a remarkable Dibdin song called Negro Philosophy about the slave trade, which seemed to me likely to be a post-colonial-war anti-American song by implication, all about white Americans beating slaves and fathering children on their wives (the word "cuccold" even appears in the lyrics).

The question period that followed was a bit scattered, with such a huge panel. Robert Christgau asked something about authenticity and honesty, rather aggressively, and the panel voted unanimously against the concept of authenticity although a couple still claimed that there's such a thing as "inauthenticity" (which seems contradictory to me - the point is that you cannot draw this line). Lott said, and I think this is right on, that the idea of authenticity is only ideological, only used to police boundaries, and that truth or honesty is more an affect than any isolatable quality.

Finally Eric Weisbard read Sasha's emailed comments, which were very suggestive. He talked about DJ Shadow and Diplo, white people who became known as DJs for their expertise and love of black music - but notes that when they each made their own "proper" albums, the music was suddenly loaded up with white signifiers, strings and guitar samples and the like. He asked if these artists are so aware of the argument around appropriation that they don't feel free to express their love (because how can it be distinguished from theft?), and that this may be bad news for pop music, which in America has always been all about this fraught exchange.

That's all for now, folks. Back to writing hell. Let me know if you're into this reportage and I'll keep it up tomorrow, in some measure.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, April 14 at 11:58 PM | Comments (14)


Veda Hille in XTC

vedahille.jpg with_andy.jpg

O.K., not exactly. But that somewhat porny headline indicates that we interrupt this Zoilus hiatus to bring you the news that our friend and songmaking icon Veda Hille has been signed to APE Records, the new label run by XTC's Andy Partridge. It makes perfect sense that a man who once referred to his own band as "ninjas of the mundane" would fall for Veda's work, which consists in leveraging extreme poetic pressure onto tiny everyday objects (melodic and conceptual) until they gleam like prehistoric resin. (Veda would belong in any survey of music that perpetrates theory by other means.) Canada's own ninja of the mundane releases her next album, Return of the Kildeer, on April 23 with a big Vancouver show (at the Van East Cultural Centre), followed by a tour with a show in Toronto on May 5 at the Lula Lounge, and all over. The album guests include members of P:ano, guitarist Eric Chenaux, cellist Peggy Lee, and singers Selina Martin, Christine Duncan, John Millard, Oh Susanna, Kim Barlow and more. It includes pieces from a song cycle about East Vancouver (with some lyrics from Carl Sandburg) as well as two from The Death of the Finance Minister's Mother, a play about now-prime-minister Paul Martin by Zoilus confrere Sean Dixon. Veda's also on a new album by a little Vancouver ensemble named Duplex!, which presents "rock songs for kids", includes three bona fide kids aged 3 to 12 (joining the Pacific Northwest pre-teen band trend), and is almost too adorably titled Ablum. Can't wait to hear that. (Details on P:ano and Duplex! here.)

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, April 07 at 05:09 PM | Comments (0)


Thumbelina-Sized Hiatus


Probably not much blogticipaction in the offing for the next few days, as I'm bearing down on some toadish deadlines. Then again, my attention is easily attracted by flitting butterflies.

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, April 06 at 06:25 PM | Comments (0)


The Gelb-man Cometh (Plus: Juno II, more)


A little bird from Thrill Jockey tells me today that Howe Gelb (of Giant Sand fame, Calexico accomplice, etc.) will play a solo show at the Horseshoe on April 21. In my experience, a Gelb solo show is a supercalifragilistic Thelonious Monk-meets-Mississippi John Hurt-meets-Kerouac kinda spontaneous human combustible shambles, a confusion of entertainments not to overlook. Watch the gig guide for further detailing of the hood and tailfins.

In today's Globe my colleague Robert Everett-Green offers a fine consideration of the results of the Junos on Sunday, beginning with the reflection that "the 34-year-old awards show can still surprise," passing through the fur coat of Elisapie Isaac of Taima ("possibly the most glamorous woman in Canadian music") and the "suffering body" of Neil Young, and ending with the thought that, "This year's swerve toward the margin, commercially speaking, could become next year's singing telegram from those who have already won in the marketplace." The copy editors muddy the issue, though, by claiming in the headlines that what transpired represented "the indie scene's domination" and on the front-page throw, saying something like "the Junos go indie." Of course, the Junos had done nothing of the sort - none of the major winners was actually still on an independent label.... Well, with the exception of Feist, but you can bet that she wouldn't have done so well at the Junos if she were just with Arts & Crafts and weren't already on Universal in Europe and on the Cherry Tree imprint of Interscope in the U.S. Not to take away from her (or A&C;'s) accomplishments, just to say that the Junos have only changed so much - which is why any expectations of Juno bling for the Arcade Fire, who are not only indie but on an American indie, were always dubious. (See Zoiluses passim.)

Housekeeping: Our daily reminder that CanCon-tentious proceedings continue on The OTHER 50 Tracks, some Zoilus readers' misgivings notwithstanding. (Will this become the Canadian music blog equivalent of the Gomery inquiry? Pity our poor corrupted " 'Nuck" souls.)

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, April 05 at 12:35 PM | Comments (4)


The Not-So-Soft Boys (Plus: Juno Who)


If you ever had doubts that the Sadies are Canada's current, twangy version of the Funk Bros. - that is, the backup band supreme - you can lay 'em to rest. ATG announced today that Robyn Hitchcock will follow up his guest appearance on the Sadies' last album with a Toronto show billed as "Robyn Hitchcock & His Sadies." The relationship, which began with a meeting at the Calgary Folk Festival and a gig in Winnipeg, is one of several collaborations Hitchcock's sought out, after a long dismal slide in quality in his solo work - including the Soft Boys reunion and his recent album with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. The Sadies, of course, have made like an instant band for Neko Case, Jon Langford and Andre Williams and who-knows-how-many-others on stage and stereo in recent years. (The show's at Lee's Palace on May 28, All Ages, doors at 7 pm, tickets $26 $17.50 adv, on sale now at Ticketbastard, Rotate, Soundscapes & the Horseshoe.)

Zoilus would like to thank the Junos for not adding to the well of Canadian self-hatred this year. Special congrats to Feist and k-os, as well as to jazz winners Hilario Duran and David Braid (fine, if not mindblowing, choices). Arcade Fire was robbed in the album-design category. And while I see no reason to prefer Billy Talent or Sum 41 to Shania Twain (quite the opposite) or even, really, Sarah Harmer to Sarah McLachlan, Avril remains a far sight superior to Alanis and the further we can distance ourselves from the Dark Days of Celine, the better. And though I didn't catch it with my own peepers, I was glad to hear that kd lang represented for Neil Young, to whom every decent human being, creeping beast and sparrow on the wing wishes a swift recovery, after his recent minimally invasive ministrations from interventional neuroradiologists. (I don't know about you, but I get chills at the very word ... aneurysm. Eek.)

For the 40th straight year, the Nihilist Spasm Band won no Junos. Adding injury to passive neglect, the NSB was for the first time in those many decades also vetoed at The OTHER 50 Tracks. Oh, NO Canada! ("Home of Diefenbaker, who gave his life!") I have threatened to secede and launch "The OTHER Other 50 Tracks" in retaliation. Who's with me?

Posted by zoilus on Monday, April 04 at 05:18 PM | Comments (13)


I Love You All This Much

I miss the 90s indie royal consorts.

Much to share later this afternoon, but first I have to go make some overdue contributions to The Other 50 Tracks. There's a lot to read there, and Keith hasn't even posted my first veto yet! (You should get to see that tomorrow - to my intense satisfaction, I got to be the one to squelch the Barenaked Ladies.)

Who's going to hear Harmony Korine talk tonight? Looks like I won't make it, but I'm going to try to watch the webcast, and then I'm going to see Fred Loberg-Holm et al at Arraymusic. As a warmup for Mondo Korine, someone on 20hz steered me towards Montreal's The Letlowns, who offer a download of their song titled, yes, Harmony Korine (listen). I like it, all wiggly Pavement guitars and mid90s cuddle-gazecore vocals a bit like Zoilus favourites the Spinanes (Rebecca, Rebecca, wherefore hast thou forsaken us, since that nice-but-not-quite-all-that Ruby Series album?!) in what seems to be a simulated conversation between Harmony and Chloe back in the day about what to wear to a party. Sometimes it's great for music to be just footnotes to time, modest and unassuming and sweet.

Family trivia: Gummo is Mrs. Zoilus's favourite movie. Will Korine ever step up so much again? That smattering of mattering, the brief sparkle at the turn of the century, the Sevigny-Korine Era, seems so far off and unreal.

Posted by zoilus on Friday, April 01 at 02:19 PM | Comments (3)


Robert Creeley: Of Some Lost Thrush


Other notes wait in the wings, but I was saddened this afternoon to learn that Robert Creeley died yesterday morning at the age of 78. Others can and will no doubt eulogize him more roundly than I can, but I can say that when I was younger, I was dismissive of Creeley's work, which I thought too full of the mundane for poetry. It took age to appreciate the music of it, its high fidelity to the awkward stutters in which the mind feels thought. Its low fidelity to ease, like a four-track language. He said that the inarticulate is what poetry has as its own now, the way that jazz after Coltrane had the fracture of melody as its material, its home ground. The best way to read him is to hear him, I think, in his creaky voice, suffused with pain and anger and tenderness: You can find examples in abundance at Linebreak. Musicians, of course, heard the tuneliness of his work, as he did of theirs (jazz was a long inspiration): His poems were set to music by Mercury Rev, former students of his at U Buffalo; as well as by Steve Swallow on Home, with vocals by Sheila Jordan; Courage (Steve Swallow, Chris Massey and John Wills) on an album called The Way Out Is Via The Door; another band with Swallow and David Torn and others, on an album called Have We Told You All You'd Thought to Know?; and many times over the years with the late great soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy (read Pierre Joris' fine liner notes to one Lacy-Creeley album, Futurities). You can hear more of Creeley reading here at Kelly Writer's House in Philly.

An NPR obituary for Robert Creeley is here. There's the very moving sight of people exchanging favourite Creeley anecdotes and pomes, as if gathered under a streetlamp, on Metafilter, and an array of links to mourn with at Wood S Lot. A review by Tom Clark of Creeley's book Life & Death, and an appropriate poem:

A Song

I had wanted a quiet testament
and I had wanted, among other things,
a song.
That was to be
of a like monotony.
(A grace
Simply. Very very quiet.
A murmur of some lost
thrush, though I have never seen one.

Which was you then. Sitting
and so, at peace, so very much now this same quiet.

A song.

And of you the sign now, surely, of a gross
(which is not reluctant, or if it is,
it is no longer important.

A song.

Which one sings, if he sings it,
with care.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, March 31 at 04:31 PM | Comments (1)


It Shoulda Been Kenny G., Man

The thought that Elvis Costello conceivably might attend restrains me from making legally dubious jokes about a carefully placed bomb. Instead I will make some variation on this, merely morally dubious, joke:
Q. What do you get when you combine "Canadian" and "Smooth Jazz"?
A. I'm not sure, but its living will says to remove the feeding tube.


The Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards
Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts
April 10, 2005 / 7:30PM

Smooth Jazz - the genre is new to Canada but the music has been serenading the world for decades. The Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards were designed by Mary Kirk (Wave 94.7FM) and John Beaudin (www.smoothjazznow.com) as a vehicle to promote smooth jazz music and its artists. Kenny G, Grover Washington Jr.and George Benson are but a few icons to have led the way. Today, the Canadian Smooth Jazz music scene is alive and vibrant with the outstanding talents of Michael Buble, Rik Emmett, Marc Jordan and Alfie Zappacosta to name a few. The recent addition of this format to Canadian radio has put Smooth Jazz on the airwaves providing a refreshing alternative to current radio programming. Audiences are drawn to the comfort of the format that includes great voices, outstanding instrumentalists and emotive songwriters.

Top nominees for the ceremony include Diana Krall, Eddie Bullen, Brian Hughes, Marc Jordan, Clayton / Scott Group and Alexander Zonjic all with three. Krall is mentioned in the Female Vocalist category as well as Album of the Year for "The Girl in the Other Room" and SOCAN Best Original Composition Award for "Narrow Daylight" co written by her husband Elvis Costello. Alexander Zonjic was nominated in the most diverse categories, the flutist who also happens to host the morning show at V98.7 in Detroit has his name in for the BMO Broadcaster of the Year, Wind Instrumentalist and his "Seldom Blues" CD is up for Album of the Year.

[etc. etc. zzzzz]

This awards show is made possible through the generosity of its sponsors
Wave 94.7FM, www.smoothjazznow.com, BMO Bank of Montreal/BMO Financial Group, Mercedes-Benz Oakville Autohaus, Hyatt Park Toronto, Barbados Tourism Authority, Marville Travel, EMI Music Canada & Universal Music Group.

Ticket Availability: Show only: $110.00 [!!!] Reserve your seat by calling the Oakville PAC Box Office at XXX.XXX.XXX or 1-800-XXX-XXXX. [Numbers deleted to protect the ... everybody.]

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, March 30 at 01:56 PM | Comments (4)


Welcome to Hell, Here Are Your Ice Skates


Brian Eno reportedly has joined the Roxy Music reunion to record their first new album in over 20 years. (Contrary to that story, tho, the RM reunion before now wasn't a one-off - it involved world tours in 2001 and 2003.) Given Eno's previous attitude, this comes as quite a surprise if it's true. And in a funny dovetailing with this weekend's subject matter, Eno is acting as a financial backer to someone who is trying to take Tony Blair's Sedgfield seat in British parliament away from him, over Iraq.

Bryan Ferry is 104.

Update Tuesday: Enoweb says the London Times report was dead wrong. One wonders, then, where it came from? Was this Eno sending up a trial balloon then letting it burst, or the other Roxys trying to stir up interest in the third round of their overextended reunion? I saw the 2003 tour and enjoyed it, but after a certain point there does seem to be a tendency to milk the heifer dry. Um, you can buy a box of Oblique Strategies cards here.

Posted by zoilus on Monday, March 21 at 02:29 PM | Comments (2)


My Kingdom for a List

Over at Pregnant Without Intercourse (Fatcitizen's place, out of Ottawa) I'm going to be participating in a little round robin called "The Other 50 Tracks", a bit of counter-canonical response to the CBC's 50 Essential Canadian Songs exercise. For the record, I think the Ceeb's 50 trax are actually pretty decent overall, and I would have plotzed if Echo Beach hadn't been on the list! (What's wrong, Fatcit? Your job is not very boring? You are not an office clerk? Or what?) Still, it's jolly sport, as we say here in the Commonwealth, and Aaron is playing, and I can't resist arguing with Aaron. (I don't know the other fellas yet.) I'll keep you posted as the bodily fluids are spilled.

(P.S.: That PWI posting also includes an mp3 of The Mountain Goats' Cubs in Five, one of the greatest songs ever sung. Scurry over there for that.)

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, March 15 at 12:13 AM | Comments (1)


Onward Christian Marclay


Christian Marclay has an exhibit on at the Barbican in London that surveys the Swiss-American artist's quarter-century conceptual dance on the border between art and music, from the most extreme kind of turntable improvisation - not so much inspired by hip-hop as coincident with it - to creating whimsical objects like a drum set too gigantic for a human being to play or a pillow woven out of tapes of the complete works of the Beatles. Next week, as part of the exhibition, Marclay will do a live performance of this fantastic thing he made in the '90s, called Graffiti Composition - he posted hundreds of blank sheets of music-composing paper around Berlin and invited the public to mark them up with notes, words, images, whatever they pleased. Marclay took photos of all of them (about 800) and then selected the 150 he found most interesting, which became the "score." Next Tuesday, March 22, he's performing it with Steve Beresford. (As I found out via this piece in the Telegraph.) One of the things I did this weekend was to see the new production of Darren O'Donnell's Suicide Site Guide to the City, and in the discussion afterwards there was some consideration of how a performer can have a more significant human encounter with an audience - one of the subjects of the play, which I very much encourage you to see - without falling into an unrigorous, sixties-happening 'vibe.' Marclay's Berlin project offers its own model of such an exchange, though one at a greater remove. I also think of Toronto turntablist Mike Hansen's Itch performances, in which he distributed turntables to the audience and turned them into a collective orchestra, and New York group Improv Everywhere's very cool sounding "MP3 Experiment," in which the audience is the show, following a performance score that is playing for each of them on headphones. It's a very simple score - they dance, blow bubbles, hug, and the like - but still seems like a hugely fun way to spend an evening. And I could imagine somebody like O'Donnell taking it in more unexpected directions, entwining it with more of a narrative or other sorts of manipulations rather than just making it a little party. But also making it a little party. (The problem of how to create more interesting parties seems quite as legitimate as how to create more enjoyable art.)

Which reminds me to mention that a week from tonight will bring the first Trampoline Hall Lecture Series show of 2005, and the first one since Mrs. Zoilus quit running it in December, three years after she made up the idea. Trampoline Hall has always tried to locate itself somewhere in "the space between a party and a show." This one is March 21 at Sneaky Dee's, as TH resumes its usual monthly schedule. This show is being curated by Buffy Childerhose, and will include lectures on names, children's books and American farm subsidies, all by people with no qualification to address those subjects, followed by questions from the audience. As usual I will be working the door; as usual you'd be wise to get advance tickets.

Posted by zoilus on Monday, March 14 at 03:36 PM | Comments (1)


The Family That Links Together, Stays Together


I am delighted to announce that you now can order Mrs. Zoilus's new novel Ticknor from her publisher Anansi, and other fine Canadian booksellers. No pressure, but honestly you won't regret it. And note her snappy brand-new-as-of-today webzone!

Sheila's launch party, for those of you in the T-dot, is March 24 at 7 pm at Stones' Place on Queen W. in Parkdale. Everybody's invited. Reading, signing, drinking and music by our friends at the Global Pop Conspiracy.

Speaking of literature, JD Considine has had good stuff on his newish blog, Resonance, the past week, about music in the work of Haruki Murakami. (At least I know the first post is good - I've averted my eyes from the second because I haven't yet read Kafka on the Shore.) I'd take issue with Considine's introductory point that "novels tend not to have soundtracks. Not only does background music not play as we read, but there’s often little or no mention of music in the prose." A fair enough assertion, perhaps, in the past, but popular music is playing a bigger and bigger role in contemporary fiction, especially but not exclusively in American fiction. Rock- and post-rock-generation writers such as Rick Moody, Jonathan Lethem, Nick Hornby of course, Dennis Cooper, Neil Gaiman, Salman Rushdie, Thomas McGuane and some others I can't think of right now - they're all music geeks who compulsively drop pop references in their work, with varying degrees of finesse. (I touched on this development last summer in my feature on "lit-rock.") I'd say Murakami is more akin to than unlike the rest here, but he does display one of the finer ears. He pays generally closer attention to the aural dimension in general than many writers, not just music - witness the sound-image of the Wind-up Bird itself, and plot points that turn on hearing, the use of oral history in his Aum Shinrikyo and earthquake writings etc. All objections aside, I'd love to read more by Considine on the subject - indeed, on Japanese literary-musical connections in general, as he clearly has some special science to drop there.

Finally: The Toronto live guide for March has been super-updated. With two-star shows (in a two-star system) happening every two or three days, I think I can stop complaining that it's too quiet: Tonight alone, there's Santa Cruz w/ the Inbreds and Fox the Boombox, Dynamite Soul with Jens Lekman and Republic of Safety, the Radio Kabul Afghani music concert, Guh at the Tranzac, etc. etc. Get out of bed, there'll be no more napping, 'cause you've landed in a place where anything can happen...!!!

Posted by zoilus on Friday, March 11 at 02:20 PM | Comments (4)


Verbatim: "We still need a cover profile and I would prefer if it were of an attractive female artist who will move copies off the rack"

I've stumbled a bit late upon the fact that Coda, a great magazine, and one of Canada's more substantial contributions to jazz culture, is changing ownership, editorship and headspaceship. ("we will be getting away from some of the European avant-garde stuff ...") The new management wants it to become a Globe & Mail insert - or, more annoyingly, a Starbucks tie-in product - with pictures of pretty singers on the cover. The new management ought to give it a different name.

It's not that publishing a mainstream jazz-lifestyle magazine is such a crime, but that's not Coda. As the above-linked Canadian Encyclopedia entry indicates, in its 45-year lifespan Coda has always been a specialized jazz publication, and the hijack is just distasteful. It's not like Coda is such a sexy name that you need it as an asset. Start a new publication, mine Coda's subscriber list for promotion, but let a tiny cultural minority retain at least the memory of their valued institutions. (Seems to be a theme around here this week.) Hmm, what might you call the new rag? Jazz Chicks Monthly?

Zoilus launches a round of fireworks in honour of Stuart Broomer, outgoing Coda editor and gentleman of distinction.

(In related bummers, Montreal's Planet Jazz magazine has recently defuncted.)

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, March 09 at 08:20 PM | Comments (8)


CBC to Indie Culture Fans: Chill Out & Love Up Big Brother


As the sad final issue of CBC Radio 3's web magazine bobs in the ether, many, many, many bloggers and discussion boards out there have been talking, mourning and even stirring to protest over the situation, particularly the potential cancellation of Brave New Waves, the CBC's pioneering overnight underground-music-and-culture program. (As Zoilus reported a week ago.) The Globe also ran a general report on the Radio 3 reorganization.

It's tempting to swallow the Kool Aid, and accept the CBC's assurances that mommy and daddy aren't getting divorced. But all indications are otherwise. Radio 3 is spending the summer getting reorganized - ie., firing everybody and either hiring them back or replacing them - so the likely cut-off for BNW is in the fall, when some new Radio 3 "product" will probably squat its real estate. (One of those products could be named Brave New Waves, without actually being BNW.) The big question is whether the CBC's satellite application gets approved by the CRTC in the fall; if it does, Radio 3 will probably move toward becoming a reality as a paid digital station (a model that seems much more suitable to the current Radio 2, with its affluent middle-aged audience, than to a youth network, which could combine an accessible broadcast model with an interactive Internet model rather than something young people either can't afford or won't control in their family's household, but the CBC isn't up for that much change). But management has made known its intention to proceed with Radio 3-ish activity, "satellite or no satellite." What they haven't done is give any clue as to the kind of content it will carry. Pseudo-hip news a la George Stromb? Do-it-yourself tedium a la Zed? Or just tidied-up college radio, Arcade Fire on rotation 75 times a day? (The figure "75 per cent CanCon" has been bandied about.) The few hints that have been dropped suggest that Radio 3 may be very MuchMusic-in-a-cardigan, rather the way it happened at Radio Canada - get rid of challenging new-music programming, turn it into catch-all "emerging artists" smorgasbord and hire Mitsou. I've heard they are sniffing up Nardwuar's tree, which would be awful. There's a time and a place for Nardwuar (it's called "spring break") but leading the way on your alternative public radio programming ain't it.

Strangely they're undertaking all this moving and shaking even before a high-level study of Radio Two programming and direction that they have commissioned comes out in the fall, which is almost certain to tell them that almost everyone in the country under 50 violently dislikes Radio Two, that Radio Two takes "boring" to new literal plow giant hole through your skull heights. So my question is why mess with one of the few lively successes on Radio Two, the overnight BNW, now, rather than wait until the inevitable revision of Radio Two as a whole comes? Why must BNW be considered part of Radio Three, which doesn't actually functionally exist, just because its audience skews young?

One thing the CBC has never understood about BNW is that it is not really a kids' show. And it's not even exclusively a music show. It's an alternative-culture show. I don't remember hearing the Pixies on it when I was growing up - though I certainly must have - but I sure remember hearing Laurie Anderson and Kathy Acker and Todd Solondz and poet Bill Bissett and other creative non-musicians whom BNW recognized as part of the same kind of networks and projects that underground music was about. It's the same thing now, when BNW is playing noise music from Alien8 in Montreal and interviewing the guys who run the label, or getting Hal Niedzvecki to talk about zines or (as they used to do) Jonathan Goldstein to talk about whatever Jonathan used to talk about when BNW was the first to put him on the radio. That was and is the show's great revelation, that there's a whole other way of thinking and challenging and talking out there which you can be a part of - music is only the bridge it offers so the audience can cross. But it's what the music implies and connects to, that's why BNW changes lives. It's also why an all-CanCon-all-the-time mandate is a bad idea - intellectual, non-profit, artist-run etc etc culture - whatever you want to call it - is an international network and you can only really get what's happening in Canada if you have the reference points and context of what's going on elsewhere, of course in the States most of all. And it's also why Vancouver's not the most promising base - it's too new a place, too isolated - sure, it's got some great artists and musicians, but not in the multi-layered and -leveled way Montreal does (and Toronto does). And incidentally it is also why BNW should not just play more straight indie rock. I realize that many of us Bambury- (and, god help us, LaPaix)-era BNW listeners tune in wanting to hear that material, those familiar touchstones. And to some degree they're still there. (How "obscure" is this, or even this?) Sidebar to my cohort: We're aging, and that stuff has gotten much more mainstream - you want indie, go watch The O.C. - but it's BNW's job to go where the new ideas are, and that's an ever-moving target. (Be honest, are you even up at 1 a.m.?)

Also, I'm not opposed to change in itself. Hell, the show has had a good run, and if the CBC wanted to try something new, something specific and vivid and exciting, that would be different. CBC has to evolve as radio evolves. So far no such thing is on offer, and instead they are discarding the resources they have. (Most likely including most of the show's staff, although that's still in negotiation and none of them will talk publicly about it yet.) You don't let CBGBs die unless you've got a good reason. Which is basically why former Radio 3 head Robert Ouimet quit - he wasn't about to just trash what he'd built and fire good people for the sake of yet another vaguer-than-vague youth strategy. (As people are beginning to discuss.) As he told The Globe this weekend:

"I'm sure the new unit is going to make great items for traditional CBC audiences, but they're not going to be attracting a new audience. And now you have this whole community of freelancers [at Radio Three] who were making really interesting art and stories and editorial positions on everything from Kyoto to new music and they will be gone. They'll be picked up by new-media companies and ad agencies and the whole vision will be lost. ... The private sector is totally into this stuff now and it makes me sad that the CBC doesn't realize the gem they developed. They could carry it so much further, but that would require a vision outside of their traditional fence."

That lack of vision is carrying over into their current stonewalling - I've been told that if you ask you will get a canned answer from the CBC that "there are no plans to cancel Brave New Waves at this time" (bureau-boilerplate for "it will last at least till the end of the week"), and there's the CBC's usual rigid and paranoid fear of any leaks and loss of control (remember the Sook Yin Lee cinematic-sex-scene scandal last year? that kind of paranoia). Rather than communicate with fans of the web magazine, Brave New Waves etc - that is, the very audience they are attempting to entice - and rather than treat their employees, the people who have expertise in creating this kind of content, with any courtesy and respect - the CBC is cooking up its next grand horizon in a focus-group and white-paper microwave, no doubt blasting all the juice and tenderness out of it, and will be right back with a heaping plate of chopped hipster rubber chicken with a squeeze-bottle of insult-your-intelligence sauce. The kids as usual will run screaming from the table. Stuart Maclean will happily sop up the leftovers.

Of course I could be wrong. I may be too alarmist. We'll see. Meanwhile it can't hurt to shout FIRE in a few crowded CBC managers' seminar rooms, can it? Send notes of concern to executive programming director Jennifer McGuire, vice-president of English radio Jane Chalmers and Steve Pratt, the new director of Radio 3.

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, March 08 at 06:33 PM | Comments (12)


Quiet Village


1. Eerily, I had just finished writing a column about (in part) "exotica" when news hit that Martin Denny had died at 94.

2. People keep asking what's the 411 on Brave New Waves. Beyond what I said , I don't know much: As far as I'm aware, the powers that be haven't told the show anything definitive so far. There are union grievances and other complexities involved. If BNW did survive, it seems it would be with a whole different staff, and not in Montreal, and those breaks in continuity would, I think, just make it a new show under the old name. I'll check up on the state of things next week and report here.

3. As rumoured, the delay of M.I.A.'s Arular was due to deal-signin' time. It now will be out March 22, on Interscope, and tour will follow.

Speaking of M.I.A., the way people always are, here's a little report on where she stands back in the homeland, from my main man Doug Saunders, who was in Sri Lanka for awhile post-tsunami:

By the way, people in Colombo wear MIA t-shirts. Of course, in that city they're all either Sinhalese or Muslim Tamil (i.e. anti-Tiger) .... her politics warrant almost no discussion, though her ethno-linguistic identity is well known. In actual Tamil territory, north of the firing line, nobody's heard of her. The Tigers keep everyone so isolated from western culture - it really is a North Korea-style totalitarian quasi-state up there, with picures of the Great Leader on every wall and his slogans on every billboard (The latest: "We support asymmetrical federalism" -- because Bob Rae and David Cameron recently visited and gave them some Canadian ideas) and nobody gets anything from the west. Some of the Tigerettes commandeered our van for a day once (I should say the LTTE Women's Squadron or whatever - maybe 16 years old and perfectly uniformed and carrying AK47s and really scary) and they started giggling when they heard us speaking English, and it emerged that the only cultural figures they knew anything about were U.S. presidents. Not even movie stars, and certanly not anything in music. Back south, I don't think people actually listen to her (M.I.A.) very much - it's not a sound that works well on the local sonic palate, which even among the rebellious tends to the cloying, from my tiny judgement.

Posted by zoilus on Friday, March 04 at 01:58 PM | Comments (7)


"The Wire" on the Wireless (Plus: Save Brave New Waves!)

I've been meaning to tell you that there's a good show on the radio these days. It's a miniseries titled The Wire on CBC Radio 1 on Mondays at 8:05 p.m., through March 28. The theme is the effect of electricity on music - which is an amazingly abstract theme for a radio show that actually makes it to air, and yet also brilliantly appropriate to the medium. I heard Episode 2, about the revolutions in sound caused by the invention of magnetic tape, including an interview with Stockhausen!, on the highway from Montreal a couple of weeks ago in an empty cargo van in the pitch dark and the driving freezing rain, and I would like to thank the show publicly for saving my sanity on that trip, and therefore possibly my life. (How's that shit for maximum nerd factor? - it's not "last night a DJ saved my life," but "last night an audio-documentary program on music technology saved my life.") Tonight's episode, number 4, is about the synthesizer, and features interviews with Bob Moog himself as well as Russian theremenist Lydia Kavina, plus Canada's Bruce Duncan and Gayle Young. (Unedited versions of the interviews are on the show's website.) If it's anything like episode 2, the editing and production will provide a creative sonic echo of the historical themes. However, I hope this time they can manage to get through one episode without playing a Beatles song. Please, just one?

The other cool thing is that they give the tapes of the programs to an electronic-music maker and close each episode with a remix of the show you've just heard. So far they've had Caribou, Ozawa (from the Wabi collective), Meta4 and, tonight, DJ Delerious. Among others, Janek Shaefer is doing the turntable episode March 21, and Akufen the Internet episode on March 28.

A little bright light in the gloom of current CBC programming and internal politics, with the "reorganization" (read gutting) of the nascent Radio 3, which incidentally will bring, very soon, the cancellation of the nation's most vital music program, Brave New Waves. (Why the hell do you have to have all the programmers of a satellite service in the same geographic location, with today's technology?) Perhaps in the long run the changes at R3 will bring all the happy flowers they promise, but given the Corp's history of misfired gestures towards the younger audience, and recent history of careening unruddered programming in general, it's lousy that one of the Ceeb's most solid successes is being killed for the sake of maybe's and hope-so's. For solidarity's sake, turn to the flip to read my tribute to Brave New Waves, written to mark its 20th anniversary a year ago. Note the line about CBC youth strategies that are born and dismembered in their cribs. [...]

Riding 20 years of Waves

The Globe & Mail
Thursday, March 18, 2004

12:05 a.m.: Weather report on CBC Radio Two. Ten inches snow in Toronto, 20 in Hamilton. Damned March. A pause, and then, with a Pavlovian rush, the password: "Hey. This is Brave New Waves."

Outline for coming-of-age story. Author: Me and thousands of other Canadians.

Character -- named Holden, but maybe a girl? -- is stuck in the teen gulag of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. Town is rural, coastal, industrial, suburban, prairie. If in city, draconian overlords pose as parents after true progenitors lost in espionage-related boating mishap (covered up).

Then (luck? tipoff?) Holden discovers a Jekyll-Hyde act on "the classical station" after midnight: It's jammed by pirate signal of harsh, throbbing music, and interviews that seem to be about overthrowing Parliament with a collective whose budget prioritizes acrylic paints, lesbian bath houses and analog synthesizers.

Gradually, Holden learns it's not an interruption but a program: Every weekday! Taxpayer funded! Nurtures a crush on host Augusta LaPaix (1984-85), or Brent Bambury (1985-1995, then wasted by CBC on piffle), or Patti Schmidt (1995-today). Fantasizes what they look like. Is very wrong.

Ingests all six hours nightly (or after 1995, four), despite overlord scoldings. Nods off, ear crushed against low-volume boom box, during final-hour electro-acoustic album feature. Turns the Mozart off fast in the morning. Nighthawk habits will mess up relationships, day jobs for life.

Sells off Rush albums to pay for records, comics, books with surreal, dirty names. (Humorous vignette: "The What-hole Surfers?" says the mall record clerk.)

Moves to big city as soon after high school as possible, if not sooner. Ideally to Montreal, where BNW is produced literally underground at Radio-Canada. There, Holden finds his secret shared by half the people he meets, in class or clubs. Actual life begins.

12:20 a.m.: Here's something. Jazz drums, rock bass, string section, Indonesian-sounding horns. Japanese? I wait for Schmidt to say. BNW has the CBC sense of order: Unlike an automated FM station, or chaotic college radio, you're assured background information . . . unless you're listening on the Internet and it crashes. Damn.

Brave New Waves is toasting 20 years of late-night public mischief since its creation in 1984, by LaPaix and producer Alan Conter. Last month, it replayed historic interviews with the likes of Jello Biafra, Sun Ra, Quentin Tarantino and Public Enemy, and the live, John Peel-style music sessions recorded over the years. This month come marathon concerts in Vancouver last Saturday, at the Drake Hotel in Toronto this Saturday and in Montreal the following Saturday. (See http://www.bravenewwaves.ca.)

Celebration is warranted. How extraordinary for any unpopular-music institution to survive so long, much less at CBC, where "youth strategies" are born and then dismembered in their cribs.

1 a.m.: The nightly profile. Nashville's "alt-country orchestra" Lambchop. With a dozen members including, Schmidt notes, "a guy credited only with playing 'open-ended wrench' and 'paint-thinner can.' "

Why BNW? This show has never pandered. Assuming only a minority of younger people are ever going to bypass MuchMusic for the CBC, it bets they'll want fare as challenging as the best CBC news shows. Probably more so. They're the kids who hunger for a razor inside the apple, not candy coating over it.

Well-wishers criticize the CBC for putting BNW on the graveyard shift. But how else could it last? Other producers don't gun for its real estate. The pressure groups and letter writers who pester the CBC away from half its daring moves seldom hear it. Same for the bureaucrats who squelch the other half.

That unsupervised sensation is one reason people (teens, college students, insomniacs of all ages) receive it so intensely: Host and listeners are up past bedtime together, up to no good.

2 a.m.: Profile wraps with a rare Lambchop side-project track that starts by commanding, "Quiet down, 'cuz he's gonna tell you a muthaf-in' story, okay?" Poetry follows, with a chorus cooing, "Too much rain/ Not enough drain."

Naturally, BNW has had its share of trouble. For one instance, an early-1990s appearance by U.S. performance artist Karen Finley, a flashpoint figure in the American arts-funding wars, brings on an obscenity charge. It is dropped only after the complaint is revealed to come from a CBC employee trying to kill the show. More chronically, budget cuts restrict its range and burn out its staff.

2:20 a.m.: For 10 minutes two guitars have been playing the same three notes. Nice. But.

I wonder if BNW will make its 25th anniversary. Once it was the lone lifeline linking the adventurous but isolated. Now there's the Internet; BNW is folded into CBC's youth-aimed, Web-based Radio Three. College radio has matured. And the indie boom the show helped nourish in the 1980s has become an international force. The program that launched its first broadcast with Simple Minds has grown more esoteric to stay unique.

Yet without it, I might not be writing on music now. Certainly, some friends, including Schmidt, wouldn't have become BNW's second-generation staff.

And I doubt you'd have an indie-rock capital in an outpost like Guelph, Ont. Or it at least not one with such free-thinking projects as Nathan Lawr's Minotaur Orchestra, where the Royal City drummer brings a 13-piece chamber group to his own warmly warped folk-pop, tonight at Toronto's Music Gallery - with an ex-punk-rocker turned avant-guitar improviser, Eric Chenaux, opening.

Whatever happens, all Canada is a Brave New world now.

2:52 a.m.: The Scorch Trio, a free-jazz-meets-Black Sabbath group from the Netherlands. If I didn't have a spouse sleeping upstairs, I'd crank it up. But I do. So I brew a pot of coffee, and trudge the recycling through the snow to the curb.

Posted by zoilus on Monday, February 28 at 05:45 PM | Comments (12)


Good Fights

Photo swiped from Sasha with apologies (and naughty giggles).

One. News broke on Pitchfork this week that the U.S. release of M.I.A.'s Arular has been delayed indefinitely. (Anyone know if it's still coming to Canada?) It was supposed to come out Feb. 22, but her London label XL is claiming there's an issue with clearing a sample... But rumour has it that the real reason for the delay is that she is considering offers from major labels. Personally, Zoilus doubts that she would be better off on a major, at least for her debut - it's dangerous to pump your buzz balloon up too fast, because it can burst and leave everybody covered in tequila and regret. Maya should eat organic. But what's more amazing is that even with all the buzz, much of the biz is still so skittish at something as irreducibly itself as M.I.A.'s grime-ragga-asia-rap-politixxx concoction. A friend of a friend of Zoilus tells us that she questioned a buyer at a very major Canadian record chain and was told that it would not be making a national buy on Arular, whenever it came out - that is, they wouldn't put a single copy in their stores, except (I'm guessing) maybe in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Asked why, the buyer said they "didn't like the record." Um, is that how the fuck they do business? Really? (Apparently something similar transpired when the Arcade Fire first tried to get its discs into the chain's shops.) Zoilus suggests whenever you're walking by a major record shop, wherever you are, you walk in, sing a few bars of Pull Up the People and walk out, Alice's Restaurant-style - or failing that, specifically request they get the M.I.A. album. Do it every couple of days. (Or medically approved email substitute.) (Thanks to John Sakamoto for reading Pitchfork.)

Two. CBC Radio is in the midst of a drawn-out exercise called 50 Tracks, in which (the very good on radio) Jian Ghomeshi and (the very unbearable on radio) Shelagh Rogers and panels of critics and musicians etc. are choosing the 50 "essential" Canadian songs decade by decade. They're up to the 1980s now and Joel Plaskett has nominated The Nils' Scratches and Needles - a true teenage kick from the late Alex Soria et al at the dawn of Canadian punk, and one of the only nominees in the series that recognizes the Canuckderground that's coming to flower today. The public is invited to vote and I urge you to go do it right now. Do it in honour of Alex Soria's memory. It takes five seconds. (Don't be tempted to vote for Rockin' in the Free World instead! Neil Young is already on the list!) (Thanks to John Campbell for the alert.)

Three. A more minor beef: Joanna Newsom is touring the U.S. and Europe but there are no Canadian dates. I know a lot of Torontonians (and I bet Montrealers too) are yearning with a shameful passion to see the divine Ms. N. play here. So drop her booking agent, Ali Giampino at Billions Corp in Chicago a note and tell her so: Email Ali - giampino@billions.com. In other news-om (groan), the BBC has live video of her performing in London, and earlier this month Julianne Shepherd had a nice little tidbit fleshing out a subject previously discussed on Zoilus, the influence of West African kora polyrhythms on Newsom's harp playing. Shepherd pointed to some audio evidence from Toumani Diabete and Ballake Sissoko of Mali. (But with unwarranted mockery.) Anyway, to recap, WE WANT JOANNA. Thank you.

Four. There will be no Overtones column in this weekend's paper. I was taking a mental health day. You are encouraged to send letters of horrified dismay to The Globe and Mail and to the Review section. But wait till Saturday. If you did it now it would look suspicious.

Posted by zoilus on Friday, February 18 at 05:16 PM | Comments (5)


Arts de Faire

Notice to creditors: Zoilus has been out of town. He did not get to the Wavelength parties. (Sounded divine.) He did not see the Grammys. (Sounded like a hubbub.) He had lots of interesting response to the weekend's column, on email and from the likes of Aaron. First things first: MapleMusic, one of the better things in the Canadian music biz, would like you to know they are not an incubator label, except when it comes to Sam Roberts. Call them an ante-incubator: They are good friends with Universal, but not dating; they only screw when Universal gets drunk. (Also from tha biz: A reasoned footnote from interview subject Evan Newman. Unfortunately articles cannot contain all that goes on in an interview.)

It should be noted that this column was if anything pro-, not anti- "selling out." No indie insecurity is in effect. Though at this juncture in history, signing to a major is more likely to destroy a musician's career than to make it, Zoilus still thinks the majors should be trying to sign the real talent instead of the poopyheads. The Times had one good reason on the weekend: "musicians aren't just creating new songs. They're creating future old songs." And record companies actually make more money on old songs than new ones. (Unless, that is, they are from the 1980s, when my pathetic runt of an age cohort had its not-so-golden years. The pissed-on outcasts of that era, like the post-punk bands and the more outre new-wave ones, now stir enthusiasm, while the mainstream stars summon mainly amused contempt, and that's from their 'fans'.)

Furthermore, Aaron: Yes, more people listen to Our Lady Peace now, but the question is, do they get that because it's what they want, or do they want that because that's what they get? (That is, what the labels use their access to TV and radio to push?) The answer depends on some kinda all-out Po-Mo Pop Studies Versus Frankfurt School showdown, ready steady GO. (For the record: Zoilus believes in both cultural hegemony and semiotic democracy. And look, when the revolution comes, I'll volunteer to be first against the wall, all right?)


Meanwhile, Coolfer tries to make a trade dispute out of FACTOR grants, which would be amusing if it weren't so irritating. (Want to talk about Washington subsidies to Hollywood's global ... wait, did I already say hegemony?) Zoilus would like to ask disgruntled Americans kindly to lobby their own governments for better support for independent culture, rather than to destroy ours, okay? Of course, this kind of monocultural bulldozing is exactly what a lot of us were concerned about in Canada when NAFTA was passed.

Later tonight I'll update the concert guide and perhaps provide something more akin to 'content.' Meanwhile, remember when we were talking about James Carter and Cyrus Chestnut making that album of Pavement songs? Well, for more on the game of Rock Paper Jazz (i.e., jazz covers rock, paper covers jazz), it's worth breaching the thoroughly unrevolutionary confines of The New Republic to read David Adler on The Bad Plus (who did not win their Grammy). And now, people like us, we gotta work.

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, February 15 at 04:33 PM | Comments (7)



RIP to the Baron of the B3.

Thomas Bartlett proves himself the biggest fan of Toronto music blogs who doesn't live in Toronto, with the links list on his new Salon audioblog, Audiofile. Many thanks. And beyond that mark of taste and distinction, what's a web-magazine audioblog got that your standard MP3 blog ain't got? It has the disadvantage of having to be legal, but the advantage of a journalistic context of sorts. I hope that it will somehow be more engaged, less isolationist than the Everyblog. I was pleased to see the Jimmy Smith post yesterday, for instance, but it was too bad the only audio link led to a purchasing situation on iTunes. But that's the kind of off-the-news thinking I'd love to hear in Bartlett's daily downloads - even songs that obliquely comment on that day's situation in the Middle East and the like. Again, legality may make it tricky. I'm just blueskying. (Is there another audioblog like that?) In any case, Zoilus retains a rusty fondness for Salon from the Ancient Interweb Age, when I read it every day; in recent years it's had less allure (and not due to the ads, which I don't mind) so it's grand to have this feature to beckon me back.

Speaking of audioblogs, I just noticed that Big Primpin's Rory ThemFinest has one, or rather that that is what what he has is. (Clinton trial 6th anniversary shoutout! We miss sex lies!) Also in the earholes, the Toronto Cream Team, whomever they may be.

Elsewhere in blogainvillea, Chromewaves reviews last night's Bettie Serveert show. I couldn't go and was sick, sick, sick about it. Frank shows how right I was - they haven't been here for nine fucking years. Blaaagh!

Plus, before, when I said that Banjo Banjar wasn't going to be too active yet? Sean made a complete liar of me within minutes. Ch-ch-check it out.

And: Okay, this is funny.

Posted by zoilus on Friday, February 11 at 02:50 PM | Comments (0)



A photo by Nick Kilroy.

Grim word today that Nick Kilroy of KIN records has died of an overdose. I had only brief contact with Nick, but he was a presence in the Internet music world in his own right and on the ILM message boards, and dear to Canadians as the discoverer and promoter of gifted Hamilton, Ont., duo Junior Boys. There are memorials from Jeremy of Junior Boys (who, very sadly, never met him), Philip Sherburne, Mark K-Punk, Silver Dollar Circle, Kon-Tent, and Dissensus, which has gone dark to mark the tragedy. Condolences to all his friends and family.

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, February 08 at 09:05 PM | Comments (1)


Inside You The Time Moves & She Don't Fade


Due to circumstances in the box marked Private Matters, I've missed some of the crucials of the month: Phill Niblock on Sun. at Latvian House and last night's visit by Japan's Yuko Nexus6 (with Sarah Peebles). Did any angels out there tread where this fool neglected to rush in? Reports would be very welcome.

Couple new Toronto blogs to tell you about. The first is Eclectic Sound Basement, by Steve Birek, an outcropping of his show on CIUT. The entertaining twist here? His radio show draws its playlist from the blogosphere - a soundtrack to your blogging week. So the blog brings it full tail-chasing circle. Lean back and laugh. (Under the alias of Guy Stevos, Mr. Birek also has a blog named after a Peter Laughner song and one where he gossips about himself that's named after a bilingual pun/paradox: It's called "Sans Blog," a homonym for the expression "Sans Blague," or, "No Joking," which in its franglais form also translates as "Without Blog" which is some kinda Magritte shit, though somebody else already jumped that bone.)

The other new blogger on the ranch is my pal Sean Dixon, playwright-novelist-boulevardier, who's graduating up from a series of joke blogs to his first earnest one, which turns out to be about music: Banjo Banjar, devoted to his more avocational passion, the clawhammer banjo, and banjo history. His opening salvo is a previously published essay but more hardcore posting action will, he says, not begin until the completion of other projects. Zoilus will keep tabs for you. (Banj'thusiasts, btw, should also check out this fascinating upcoming conference on the journey and folkways of the banjo from Africa through slave culture, minstrelsy and ragtime to somehow become the icon of white American racist atavism a la Deliverance, The Black Banjo Gathering. ... And you banjo-haters can stick it where the drone string don't thrum.)

The Golden Boy weeps: The latest Venetian Snares album is called Winnipeg Is A Frozen Shithole. Given the Weakerthans' One Great City, whose chorus is "I hate Winnipeg," has ever a Canadian town been so slandered in song? (And all by its own residents, no less?) Has even Toronto come in for this much abuse? Why does the humble, noble town of Winnipeg suffer so when the arguably much more deserving Kingston, Vancouver, Edmonton and Moncton escape unscathed? I'm calling a Royal Enquiry.

And finally: Psychedelic Furs playing Lee's Palace in Toronto on March 31 and April 1. Tix on sale on Thurs. at the usual outlets, $28.50. I have a queasy sinking feeling this is something Zoilus readers want to know. Don't fret, darlings, no matter how elongated of tooth, you're still pretty in pink to me.

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, February 08 at 05:03 PM | Comments (9)


And That's My Final Fantasy!


What a blast it was watching Arcade Fire on Conan last night (filling in for Maroon 5!), especially our beloved Owen Pallett (aka Les Mouches/Final Fantasy) falling to his knees and pawing the ass of his fellow violinist Sara, and the various percussionists-in-motorcycle-helmets-drumming-on-each-other moments and the all-round prettiness. I'm glummed that I did not tape it - spent awhile this aft searching for downloads, but they have not surfaced yet (oh, except on avi, which isn't working for me but might for you ). You will be notified. Meanwhile you could watch this more placid studio performance from KCRW in California. (Update: Bit torrent here.)

Owen reports from the road, on 20hz.ca this afternoon: "howdy! the band is all upset about conan, they thought the sound was shit. i thought it was awesooooooome. i didn't get paid or anything, in fact they said i couldn't legally be on the set (no work visa) but it went ahead anyway. conan is super tall and has an enormous head." Owen, tell them the sound was fine - that's how live TV always, always sounds.

A sweet pic of Owen (Final Fantasy) Pallett from Youngna.com.

People are predictably freaking about Owen at the shows and the new Final Fantasy album Has A Good Home. For dumb reasons Zoilus doesn't have his copy yet but soon he will and he will bring the freaking. Meanwhile people are searching for info about Owen and ending up on Zoilus, and emailing me about him, and posting pictures (above, and some more are here), reviews, MP3s (such as Furniture and The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead at Popdrivel, which bafflingly compares him to Jimmy Page!... and also here) and universally agreeing that he has to change the project's name, which I doubt he'll do, and, overall, this is what we call the Fun.

Here, however, a lonely dissenter calls Owen a "frostback." And my giggling, it shall be uncontrollable.

In related Torontopian news, Fluxblog recently creamed for Hank. More blows against the empire...

Update again Also: Last night in NYC, they met David Bowie. And tonight in NYC, they performed with David Byrne, doing (their frequent cover) This Must Be the Place. (Up-update: Photos & sound file here, and avi video clip here.) It's a strange and beautiful world.

From fan site arcadefire.net

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, February 02 at 07:22 PM | Comments (2)


Don't Go Back to Rockton, or, "You Are One of the Few 'I was there!' in the making of Canadian Rock History!"

From the scary world of PR. I regret to say I did not attend. You can't make this shit up:

"*_Tuesday February 1**Today* **NOON* sharp* MENEW guerrilla concert- is a feat of engineering and ingenuity that allows this indie band to perform ... in the sky!

" 'Reach for the sky, while keeping your feet firmly planted on the ground.' A wise adage to live by...and MENEW proves that it can be done! Since their conception, Rockton, Ontario indie band MENEW have built their own rehearsal space[featured in the Hamilton Spectator], financed largely thru CD/DVD sales of The Revolution Behind Their Backs, produced by Scott Matthews [The Beach Boys, Elvis Costello, Eric Clapton...] -sold independently thru their own company and record label; produce their own sold out events, and shot a video to the single /'Can You Feel This?' /with Hans Uhlig,ILM.

"But what truly sets MENEW apart is the creativity,imagination and daredevil approach they take to performing and promoting,as evidenced by the devotion of their ever increasing fans,while reaching for their dreams. July 2004 found them performing an 'impromptu' concert on a 48 foot flatbed at Sony ,much to the delight of staff and nearby construction workers . CMN Magazine (August issue # 156) quotes MENEW:' Who knows what our next stunt will be? '

"A caravan of gear and equipment, an engineer or several, conquering fear of heights and motion sickness, and what have you got? A LUNCH TIME ROCKN'ROLL EXTRAVAGANZA unlike anything you've ever seen before, or likely will again. (no, it's not a roof top thing.) Bring your camera's and your enthusiasm for true rock renegades. Above all,in the true spirit of Rockn'Roll, be entertained!

"SEE MAP BELOW [ed. note: there was no map below] Turn Left onto Consumers Road from Victoria Park, another left on Hallcrown Pl. Location is behind that big building on the corner...

"/Please/ be advised that the entire event will take place in only 15 minutes of the most amazed time you've ever spent! BE SURE not to miss this...you are one of the few " I was there!" in the making of Canadian Rock History!

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, February 01 at 03:02 PM | Comments (0)


Got a Faceful of Ominous Weather


The accumulated CBC Radio 3 Sessions offer a pretty damn comprehensive Baedeker to Canadian indie music 2002-04, and international too - from Add N to X, to Young & Sexy, with 100 more in-between. (It looks difficult to navigate, but sqint yer eyes to the left and you'll see a Table of Contents button.) Note that the next issue will feature Clinic, though you can already stream that concert and many other live shows and studio sessions at Just Concerts. The CBC has issued one anthology of this stuff on CD (see above) but I wish the Official State Radio would go much further and put out some Peel Sessions-style EPs (or full-lengths with 2 or 3 compatible bands); CD booklets should include the complete stories & succulent photo features that accompany the sessions on-line. If you are at all familiar with the CBC, however, you know this will never happen. (Thanks to Chromewaves for the reminder.)

The Minutemen documentary is, sez the website, "one week from completion." Hoot! You fuckin' bahstid!

Luca responds to my throwdown on his M.I.A. diss with balance and equanimity. (Wuss!) He's right to shift his sights from M.I.A. to the blather-around-M.I.A. Howevs, I've still got some bone to splinter here: I sympathize when L.L. says, "It's just heartbreaking and again, frustrating, to see zero public/media interest being paid to the people who make music that is innovative and interesting and the clear influence for the type of music she is making, only because what? is it that its too exotic? its not framed for a comfortable first world music listener as MIA is? could it be that no one is paying attention to it because its made by people that are third world or lower class?" But I wonder if this question makes any sense.

While I don't go so far as to say homogenization and appropriation are non-issues, or that Real World-label "world music" is as good as its source material that has not been re-recorded with Bill Laswell and a bunch of French studio musicians, I think that music is done a great disservice by the myth of the "universal language." The more music I hear the more I'm convinced music is a local language, and that to understand the musical language of other communities (including class configurations as well as ethnic or national ones) does require immersion and study. Luca's obviously done that work (my "nicknames" jibe was just a jibe) but is it fair to expect that of everybody else? And is it such a crime for musicians who are musically multilingual to offer polyglot alternatives, such as M.I.A.'s (to be way too reductive) Global Ghetto 101, which might entice people who just don't feel dancehall or whatchagot to explore it for the first time, or reconsider it, and to brush up their vocabs - or, you know, not? The boundaries of underground/pop or ownership/piracy or native/colonist are already seeded with explosives, so I'm not eager to play the guard in the tower when somebody goes boogying across those borders. I hope I have the stomach, as a critic, to do the autopsies on the majority who fail, but I'm still pulling for Maya A. as nimble enough to make it. (To the degree that making pop music counts for a hill o'beans in this crazy world, shweethearts.)

Is dance music dead or not dead? (Via Aaron.) Eh. Declaring things dead is dead. Black is the new white, war is the new peace, Sex is the new funny-lookin', Bowling for Soup is the Knack. ... I'm much more interested in whether dissonance is the new dissonance, as Kyle Gann writes, which hints that rock is the new classical, i.e., young is the new old (but Downtown isn't the new Uptown). (Via Alex Ross, who wisely is not sure, but does mention the great piece of trivia that he once opened for Sebadoh in a noise band called Miss Teen Schnauzer - can we get a witness?) Anyway, I'll try to come back to this subject with something closer to a "thought" plus tard.

Not music: What Iraqi/Kurd bloggers are saying about the elections. A friend sent me this clip from the New York Times in 1967 which (assuming it's real, which I don't necessarily) strikes a necessary cautionary note: "U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote : Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror by Peter Grose, Special to the New York Times (9/4/1967: p. 2): WASHINGTON, Sept. 3-- United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting. According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong. The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here." (Later: Ah, it turns out to be via Kos. It's real.)

As should go without saying, I do hope things pan out better this time, for the Iraqis' sake. I also hope Seymour Hersh is wrong about USA-->Iran. But lately Hope has been nothing but a dead comedian.

Posted by zoilus on Monday, January 31 at 05:24 PM | Comments (3)


No, You Hang Up. ... No, You Hang Up! (Giggle)

The first best new radio idea of 2005 comes to us from BSR88.1 in Providence, Rhode Island - it's called Phoning It In, and if you click that link you can listen to its first outing, in which John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats performs a short sweet set over the telephone. It's lo-fi heaven.

The telephone and the radio are, of course, one of the world's sexiest couples. The Internet can put on all the podcasting pasties and g-strings it wants, and it still can't compete for va-va-vooms. This is proved by the second- or third-best show on the CBC, Jonathan Goldstein's Wiretap, whose main concept is to celebrate the merry anal coupling of phone and airwaves.

(Criminally, Wiretap has no on-line archive, but the blog Acts of Volition has a rip of one episode featuring Montreal's Constellation/Alien8 guitar-and-oud psychedelician Sam Shalabi. Unfortunately that show is actually devoid of telephonic content, ruining my point, but it's amusing.)

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, January 27 at 05:32 PM | Comments (3)


Are You Experienced? (I Will Be)

Frank Gehry's Experience Music Project in Seattle.

It didn't occur to me until Keith did it to mention that I'm going to be at the EMP Pop Conference in Seattle this April, giving a paper. The theme of the conference this year is "Music as Masquerade: Poseurs, Playas, and Beyond." It'll be my first time there.

My subject will be "Who Was That Masked Singer-Songwriter?" - about indie singer-songwriters of the 90s and 00s who are called things like Smog, Palace, Destroyer or Mountain Goats, compared to singer-songwriters who had names like James and Joni. What I especially want to look at is the attempt to disavow the confessional streak of past singer-songwriters, and in fact to shrug off the whole embarrassing history of "singer-songwriter" as a genre - while still being exactly that - and how this dovetails with the development of modern poetry, the attempt to develop a contemporary "lyricism" that is "post-lyrical," that doesn't buy the sucker's game of the lyric "I" and the uncritical subjectivity (and sentimentality) that went along with it, or at least now seems to have gone along with it.

Er, don't worry: I will deliver this while juggling flaming bowling pins and whistling Well You Needn't in a Batman costume.

Mainly, however, I am excited about meeting fellow music writers and other wenches and rogues - as well as some correspondents from Seattle (John Turtletop, for instance), and visiting this storied city, where I've never been.

Who else is in? (And who's putting me up?!)

Elsewhere: Some advice for my employer. (Where, by the way, I won't have a column this week, because last week's double deadline started me smoking again. So I am taking a breather, literally.)

Also if you are in Tdot tonight and want something to do, we heartily commend dancing to Tyler Clark Burke's MEA CULPA night of Guilty Pleasures at the Drake for no dineros.

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, January 26 at 07:16 PM | Comments (2)


Political Song for Condi Rice to Sing


On this day of narrow-eyed reckoning and obscene self-congratulation (arrgh! thanks, Aaron), I thought I'd share my newfound favourite recent political song. No recording that I know of - if anybody has a bead on a download, do tell. Conor-hatas, keep yer own counsel (more on that tomorrow).

Bright Eyes (Conor Oberst)

When the president talks to God,
are the conversations brief or long?
Does he ask to rape our womens' rights
or to send poor farm kids off to die?
Will the president recommend an oil hike
when the president talks to God?

When the president talks to God,
are the words he chooses hard or soft?
Is he resolute all down the line?
Is every issue black or white?
Does what God says ever change his mind,
when the president talks to God?

When the president talks to God,
does he fake that drawl or merely nod?
Agree which convicts should be killed?
Where the prison's built and filled?
Which voter fraud must be concealed,
when the president talks to God?

When the president talks to God,
I wonder which one plays the better cop:
"We should find some jobs the ghetto's broke."
"No, they're lazy, George, I say we don't.
Just give 'em more liquor stores and dirty coke."
That's what God recommends,
when the president talks to God.

When the president talks to God,
do they drink near-beer and go play golf,
when they pick which country we should invade
and which Muslim souls still can be saved?
Yeah I guess God just calls a spade a spade,
when the president talks to God.

When the president talks to God,
does he ever think that maybe he's not?
That that voice is just inside his head
when he kneels down in the presidential bed?
Does he ever smell his own bullshit
when the president talks to God?

I doubt it.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, January 20 at 07:37 PM | Comments (7)


Someone's About to Be Faaaaamous

Photo from Aperture Enzyme.

I hadn't realized that Owen Pallett aka Final Fantasy was opening for the Arcade Fire on their U.S. tour. That is freak-tastic news. I'm about to hear his new album, too. Feel my heart palpitate! (The downside for Torontonians, all Final Fantasy gigs you've seen on the Toronto gig guide are now, well, not Final Fantasy gigs, including tonight's One-Man Band show at the Music Gallery. Zoilus will fix.)

Meanwhile, I'm here just to remind you that the new Toronto improv-musicians' group the AIMT begins three nights of fundraisers tonight. Other matters plus tard, 'tard. (Cute Bad Joke Alert!)

PS: Woah! Kitchener-Waterloo is a city of about 200,000. I'm not sure it can contain Diamanda Galas!

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, January 13 at 07:31 PM | Comments (2)


The Unicorns Are Dead


Somewhere cute and tiny horns are snapping: RIP, Montreal's The Unicorns. It's unconfirmed but - who would bother creating a rumour like this (okay, one possible exception: The Unicorns.) But if it's true: An obvious case of a band that was too freak to survive (they were famous for trashing venues, becoming homeless while on tour, being really very young), but your Three-Stooges-of-Art-House-Pop-Punk shtick was diverting and promising, and we trust that at least some of you will keep coining melodies while the others go back to school and become professors, or stockbrokers, or something. Cue joke about them all getting haircuts since they are now gone.

The Welsh punk coulda-beens of Mclusky have also called it quits, with the resignation of bassist Jon Chapple. "The reason for this parting is private, though probably not as entertaining as you'd imagine," lead singer Andy Falkous says on the website for the band, who put out one terrific album (Mclusky Do Dallas) and two terrifickish album (My Pain and Sadness Is More Sad and Painful Than Yours and last year's The Difference Between You & Me Is That I'm Not On Fire). Falkous promises, "There'll be more music soon, from all of us."

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, January 11 at 03:40 AM | Comments (0)


This One's For All the Broken People


This just in: Broken Social Scene to hold Asia Earthquake & Tsunami Relief benefit concert. Arts&Crafts; recording artists Broken Social Scene along with fellow label family members will perform later this month in support of the Asian earthquake and tsunami relief efforts. One hundred per cent of proceeds from the show will be donated to the relief effort. The show is at Lee's Palace, Tuesday Jan 25, 9 pm. Tickets are $30 and go on sale this Thursday (Jan 6) at Rotate This, Soundscapes and Ticketmaster at 10 a.m.

Readers are reminded that other Toronto tsunami relief shows are already underway, starting tomorrow (Wed) at the Andy Pool Hall at 7 pm with a phalanx of DJs, as well as Saturday at Studio 99 with another platoon of DJs, and on Jan. 13 with another army of selectors at Supermarket. BSS seems to be the first "live"-music-band-type entity to step up locally. Zoilus would be happy to hear and spread word of more such events. Please see the January Live 2005 guide for details. Torontoist also has details of local vintage/designer-duds doing their part with an emergency jumble sale. (But beware their promotion of a non-existent Tegan and Sara show this week - it's not till February.)

Elsewhere, Willie Nelson is leading the way in Austin (backed by Patty Griffin, Spoon, Joe Ely, Alejandro Escovedo, Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis), a Dutch experimental-music charity springing into (slightly hard to decipher) action, and even the Osbornes spearheading what might become a "Live-Aid-style" effort in the pantheon of the uberstarz. Most impressive of all so far is Linkin Park, who have donated $100,000 U.S. and created Music For Relief to help raise more. I decline every opportunity for sarcasm in this case. (And even in the case of the Boy George-Cliff Richard-and-friends benefit single, with its rather unfortunate title for a bunch of aging pop stars.) The Chicago Sun Times has a roundup.

Canadian readers should know that the federal gov't has now pledged to match individuals' contributions at least till Jan. 11 to the following NGOs, so give up some beer money: Canadian Red Cross, CARE Canada, OXFAM, World Vision, UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders and Save the Children.

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, January 04 at 05:33 PM | Comments (1)


RIP "Big Daddy Mack" Mack Vickery: Caged Heat


Nashville songwriter Mack Vickery died over the holidays (on Dec. 21) at 66. Author of some vintage hits such as The Fireman for George Strait and Rockin' My Life Away for Jerry Lee Lewis, Vickery was also a second-string Sun Records, sub-Elvis performer in his day - and the greatest legacy of that part of his career has to be this 1970 album cover, recalling Johnny Cash at Folsom or San Quentin - but with a shovelful more cayenne-flavoured cheesecake. (Is there a file baked inside it?) According to one news report, Vickery really did do the record at the women's prison:

"He went down and got buddy-buddy with the warden," said Vickery's long-time associate, songwriter Merle Kilgore. "It was a female warden. They had a few drinks together, and he talked her into letting him come down there. He came out onstage like Elvis shaking and them women went wild."

Wonder if that's where Nellie McKay got the idea?

Whether the women on the album cover actually were Alabama prisoners is a question I'll leave to your fetid imaginations.

(Visuals courtesy the guiltily pleasurable Show and Tell Music. See also the rather terrifying official Vickery site. A much sweeter tribute page contains samples of other Vickery-penned hits, including Tanya Tucker's The Jamestown Ferry and Johnny Paycheck's I'm the Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised. Shaun Mather offers a none-too-reverent appreciation at the "Rockabilly Hall of Fame.")

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, January 04 at 03:56 PM | Comments (1)


The Missile That I'm Talkin' 'Bout Is Mistletoe

Yes, you're still on vacation, but for me it's worky worky worky. Go amuse yourself: It's a little late in the season, but this is the funniest boy-band parody since Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay's I Am A Boy Band, though nowhere near so beautiful as that one (pictured above).

"War is so not awesome": Hell, it beats "Do they know it's Christmas?" as a slogan. (Note: When you click the link you have to allow pop-ups, or no present for you.)

In other news did I mention I got an iPod from Mrs Zoilus? I'm thrilled. And now I promise never to mention it again, unlike every other journalist on earth.

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, December 29 at 06:08 PM | Comments (1)


The Death of Irony: Susan Sontag, RIP


Susan Sontag is dead at 71. She succumbed this morning to complications of acute myelogenous leukemia.

Sontag never wrote about music, so far as I know, but her essays about film, literature, politics, fashion, illness and sexuality (among many other subjects) should matter to anyone who reads or practices criticism, and few of us could ever hope to copy the jib she cut doing it. (Imagine being born into a world where there had been no Notes on Camp, and having to be the one to explain it!) She was often wrong - and she was often the one to correct herself.

One of my colleagues, hearing the news, immediately said, "She was a bitch," then laughed self-consciously. (This was a woman, who'd met Sontag.) I was annoyed by the superficiality and disrespect but it was typical of the reactions she provoked. Her obit in the Times includes this paragraph: "Over four decades, public response to Ms. Sontag remained irreconcilably divided. She was described, variously, as explosive, anticlimactic, original, trendy, iconoclastic, captivating, hollow, rhapsodic, naïve, sophisticated, approachable, abrasive, aloof, attention-seeking, charming, condescending, populist, puritanical, sybaritic, sincere, posturing, ascetic, voluptuary, right-wing, left-wing, mannered, formidable, brilliant, profound, superficial, ardent, bloodless, dogmatic, challenging, ambivalent, accessible, lofty, erudite, lucid, inscrutable, solipsistic, intellectual, visceral, reasoned, pretentious, portentous, maddening, lyrical, abstract, narrative, acerbic, opportunistic, chilly, effusive, careerist, sober, gimmicky, relevant, passé, facile, illogical, ambivalent, polemical, didactic, tenacious, slippery, celebratory, banal, untenable, doctrinaire, ecstatic, melancholic, humorous, humorless, deadpan, rhapsodic, aloof, glib, cantankerous and clever. No one ever called her dull."

Now that's the way to have them talk about you when you're gone.

But this should be said too: The very model of the responsible public intellectual, Ms. Sontag would no doubt appreciate donations being made in her name (or anyone else's) for Asian earthquake/tsunami relief. She would also, I suspect, point out that as horrific and dramatic as this natural disaster is, the ongoing manmade disaster in Darfur has killed more people while the world watches, hands folded. Remember her by demanding more talk and more action, as well as humanitarian aid.

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, December 28 at 02:45 PM | Comments (1)


Humbug De-Bugged


It's not quite perfect but compared to your usual all-holiday-gunk radio (as discussed in this week's column), there's certainly superior Xmas listening, if not for the whole family, here at San Francisco's SomaFM. Look down to the bottom of the page for the Xmas in Frisko program stream. A few too many "quirky" remakes of the season's 10-song Greatest Hits List, but in the past hour its playlist has also included Stevie Wonder's Someday At Christmas, Eazy-E's Merry Muthaphuckin' X-mas and the Japanese Kick The Can Crew's Christmas Eve Rap - so there's progress. (Thanks to Brad Bechtel for the tip.) Care to recommend any other on-line alt-xmas listening?

If you're out to the record shop in search of a seasonal soundtrack, you could do much worse than to use Dusty Groove's holiday page as a buyer's guide. (Thanks to John Wendland for the clue.) My craziest discovery there is pictured above. What kind of a Christmas morning can you have to the sounds of Hey Lord by Suicide, It's A Holiday by Material with Nona Hendryx and Christmas With Satan by James Chance? Not sure, but I think there's lighter fluid in the egg nog and everybody's getting a black leather jacket!

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, December 21 at 05:54 PM | Comments (0)


Разом нас багато/ Нас не подолати!

Yesterday I mentioned in passing the Orange Revolution anthem in Ukraine, a hip-pop chant that's not only been the soundtrack of the protests but is actually a transcription of what the protesters were already chanting, set to music by a group called Grinjolly (Sleigh) on the second day of the uprising. (That's an unusual strategy for a political song, though perhaps a more common one for a soccer anthem.) (The music, it must be added, is similarly utilitarian. Should western aid programs be sending Timbaland?)

The key phrase in the chorus, ""Razom nas bagato, nas ne podolati!" (which I think is the title of this post, in cyrillic) is the Ukrainian equivalent of El pueblo unido/ jamás será vencido, which will be familiar to you if you've ever been on a protest march in the western hemisphere ("the people united shall never be defeated"). You can hear it here and read the lyrics here. Also, listen to a report from Public Radio International's The World. And there is other music coming out of the movement as well ... though so far nothing from The Ukrainians.

That, by the way, is Peter Solowka of The Wedding Present and other Ango-Ukrainian friends, playing punked-out Ukrainian songs along with Ukrainian covers of the Smiths and the Sex Pistols. Rather clairvoyantly, they released a best-of album, Istoriya, in early November, and it comes highly recommended. Meanwhile the Wedding Present, like every other great band of the 1980s, has reunited, with a new album due Valentine's Day and a European tour announced, with North America to follow. They played a John Peel tribute show last week on the BBC, and a single is already out. So far as I know, TWP leader David Gedge's sexed-up-orchestral-pop band Cinerama still continues on as well.

Er, and Ющенко, Ющенко! Це наш президент. Так! Так! Так!

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, December 21 at 01:08 PM | Comments (3)


Nils in the Coffin


John Campbell, a close friend of Alex Soria (above right, in a circa-1984 pic from Sugar Diet zine; Alex's death was reported on Zoilus last week) writes to note that I was a little off on Nils history - Alex's brother Carlos did not join the band until 1984. From its formation in 1978, through its first show in 1980, until (I gather) Carlos stepped in, the bassist was Guy Caron (aka Chico Fit).

In other news, a wake was held for Soria last night at the Green Room in Montreal; a memorial concert is planned for the New Year; and Montreal campus-community station CKUT is doing a tribute this afternoon, starting right about now, from 3-5 p.m., with interviews with label laureate Woody Whelan and zine machine Jack Rabid, consummate Nils fans and friends.

Further reading on Alex & the Nils: A long moving thread on the Montreal board of 20hz.ca; the Rock and Roll Report recalls jamming with the Nils; a quite lovely obit from the Ottawa Sun (Patrick Pentland of Sloan: ""The Nils were one of the reasons I kept banging away on the guitar when everyone else in my life was talking about 9-to-5 and what size suit jacket I would have to wear. They were Canadian punk with intelligence and melody, truly inspirational and exciting and heartbreaking all at the same time"; Jim Bryson, singer songwriter and ex-vocalist of Nils-influenced Punchbuggy: "You knew when Alex sang that he'd lived every line of heartbreak"); a Nils Remembered feature from the Montreal Mirror six years ago.

Posted by zoilus on Monday, December 20 at 03:01 PM | Comments (0)


Alex Soria, 1966-2004: "Lets Pretend We Were Joyful, Like Green Fields in Daylight"


And now more from the horrible-news beat: Alex Soria, guitarist and songwriter of The Nils, one of Canada's most crucial post-punk bands, is reported dead at 39 in Montreal, apparently after being hit by a train. Alex and his brother Carlos started playing music together in 1978 - when Alex was 12, began playing live shows in 1980, and put out their first EP Sell Out Young! in 1985. The Nils have been called "the Replacements of Montreal" and "the Big Star of punk rock," both for their influence on other bands and the sheer quality of Alex's hard-pop songwriting, cited by the likes of Bob Mould (Husker Du). There's a tribute record called Scratches and Needles that includes contributions by Down by Law and Punchbuggy. But their biggest impact was on their fellow musicians in Montreal, because Nils were never able to get it quite together enough to reach a larger audience, and the band lasted, in increasingly exhausted form, till the early 1990s, when weariness and drug problems sidelined them.

Alex was off the scene for several years but in the late '90s formed the fine melodic-punk band Chino. The Nils had a brief reunion last year, which led some of us to hope that like other eighties heroes, the Nils would get their due a couple of decades later. It's tragically in line with the Nils' long history of bum luck that now that can never be.

On the Montreal board of 20hz.ca, Rick Trembles (best known as a member of Montreal band American Devices and truly disturbing cartoonist) wrote, "I went to high school with his older bro Carlos & once when I came over (circa late 70’s) he told me Alex was making a punk band. We went to their basement & there he was happily strumming away. I showed him my Electric Vomit riffs & to my surprise he picked them up in seconds (I was still struggling with them). ... I remember after one early scorching gig the pick-guard on his guitar was covered in blood & I wondered what happened. He said it’s because he was playing so hard the strings kinda opened up his fingers but he wasn’t gonna stop playing just because of that. He just sort of shrugged his shoulders like it was a bit of a badge of honor. I wish I took a picture of that blood encrusted pick-guard."

Respect is due Woody Whelan of Mag Wheel Records for keeping the Nils light burning through the years. Woody coordinated the tribute disc, put out the Green Fields in Daylight collection several years ago as well as Chino's disc, and has been at work on a rarities collection. Heartfelt condolences to him and of course to the Soria family and Alex's other family and friends.

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, December 15 at 06:41 PM | Comments (4)


I Saw an URL on a Poster in a Photo on SFJ's Blog, Found These and Figured, What With All The Death, We Could Use Some Comix Relief

ROCK.jpg ROCK2.jpg

Also has there been much updating of the Jolly December Live Gig Guide.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, December 09 at 11:12 PM | Comments (1)


'A Tumbleweed of Grumbly Noise'

hugh4.jpg hugh5.jpg

As I reported yesterday, Hugh McIntyre, bassist of the granddaddy of all noise bands, the Nihilist Spasm Band, died on Monday. His memorial service will be this coming Monday, Dec. 13, at the George Millard Funeral Home, 60 Ridout St. South, London, Ontario ("the same room," Ben Portis tells me, "where final farewells were offered to Greg Curnoe in 1992").

The London Free Press and The Globe and Mail had obituaries today.

Mark at Wood S Lot also pays tribute, and posts a link to an amazing story I totally missed about REM playing with the Nihilist Spasm Band in London last month.

Elsewhere I found a quote on the session from REM bassist Mike Mills: "It was nothing but improvisation. You just get up there and start making noise. That was huge fun for us since we don't really do that on stage. We're not the most improvisational of bands."

If you've never heard the NSB, London campus radio station CHRW offers archival mp3s of these albums: Vol. 2 (1978), 7x~x=x (1984), Live in Japan (1996) and Every Monday Night (1999).

nsbvol2.jpgnsbxx.jpgnsbjapan.JPEG nsbmonday.jpg

Further listening: There is also a tribute album titled NO TRIBUTE: Music of the Nihilist Spasm Band, featuring among others Alan Licht, Wolf Eyes, Reynols (mp3) and Hijokaidan (mp3).

nsbno.jpg hughnorecord.jpg

I haven't heard back from Tim Glasgow, recording engineer for the Nihilist Spasm Band (and Sonic Youth and others), but I am going to take the liberty of posting the message he sent out after Hugh's death on Monday, as touching a tribute as anyone could ask.

nomusic.JPG From: Tim Glasgow
Date: Mon, 6 Dec 2004 20:38:31
Subject: Hugh McIntyre (1936-2004)

i was over at the Old Victoria Hospital this afternoon when Hugh McIntyre died, just a stone's throw away from the Old Vic Tavern (known to most locals as "The Bucket Of Blood") where The Nihilist Spasm Band once held a Monday night residency. He passed away very quietly, surrounded by most of the remaining Spasm Band members and friends.

i held his right hand for a while, and felt the callouses on his fingertips from the just-shy-of forty years of clomping away on his three and-a-half string bass (this hand also occasionally operated the stopwatch that he emphatically used to tell the rest of the band that they had damn well gone on long enough and it was time to start another "number"). As i held his fingers i could feel their warmth and every once in a while he would gasp and take one more breath - and i was struck by how long it seemed to take him to die. As many of you know, Hugh was a big man and (though i never once heard him complain about his own cumbersomeness or fragility) it took a certain amount of patience to go anywhere with him because he moved so slowly. Even though he had technically already passed on i'm sure that the vast majority of his body was still very much alive, and probably remained so for quite some time.

Hugh was an exceptional musician by his own right, and as is fitting for the bass player - he was the band member least afraid of real, steady rhythm. While Murray and Boyle seemed to try to shove sticks into the spokes of any steady cycle of time, Hugh was happy to keep the steady groove going - especially when given a drummer like Aya [Onishi, of Osaka thrash band Sekiri] that would choose to groove with him. But true to Nihilistic form, on occasion he would hammer out a tumbleweed of grumbly noise (my favourite moment in the Spasm Band documentary What About Me, The Rise of the Nihilist Spasm Band is the clip from Rochdale College in the 1960s when Hugh is positively wailing on his bass!).

But more than that, Hugh was an exceptional musicologist, fluent in many languages from early free jazz to way earlier chamber music to Cuban Guajira. One of my favourite memories of Hugh was catching a lift home in his car on cold Monday nights last winter and hearing whatever he had in his car CD player. One day it would be the hardest dub reggae, and the next time it would be something else - and he would always be able to fill the short drive home with a comprehensive explanation of exactly what we were listening to. He was also a fantastic historian who seemed to remember everything that ever happened, anywhere. He would know about some war that happened in Asia in 1127 or something - really far-out stuff. He recently explained the entire political history of Cuba to me in about 20 minutes.

There really hasn't been any discussion as far as i know about what will happen with the Spasm Band. While it seems at times unthinkable to have a Spasm Band without Hugh, i expect the band will soldier on. It was probably as much of a shock when Greg Curnoe died and it kept going then - and the current residency at the Dissent Club here in London is convenient and comfortable. The Spasm Band is such a family that it seems like they/we need our regular time together now as much as ever, with the weekly sermon of music, humour and insight. Especially humour. Leaving the hospital today on the way to the car (parked on the street at a city parking meter) a teary Bill was heard to quip, "That was awfully considerate of Hugh! I still have time on my meter!"

- [london, canada - december 6th, 2004] nomusic.JPG

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, December 08 at 04:00 PM | Comments (2)


Hugh By Nature: RIP, Hugh McIntyre (Nihilist Spasm Band)


"After all, when you eliminate the scale, the key, the repertoire, the category... the traditional rules, and even the breaking of the rules, what is left? We can only rely on each other."

I know Zoilus has been seeming like a deathblog this week, but unfortunately I've received word of another passage that cannot go unmentioned.

Yesterday, Hugh McIntyre, the gentle-giant bass player of the nigh-on-mythic Nihilist Spasm Band, joined former bandmate Greg Curnoe in the realm beyond noise, in the soft perpetual No. Hugh, who died of congestive heart failure, surrounded by friends in London's Victoria Hospital, would have been 68, I think. Until recently he was still playing with the NSB, as the band's mantra has it, "every Monday night."

The NSB are arguably the founders and certainly among the longest-running projects ever in contemporary noise music, beginning in 1965. Hugh was the band's fulcrum, wielding his handmade three-and-a-half-string bass, giving rhythmic drive to its shrill anarchic whirl, and declaring where each "song" would start and stop. What will become of the NSB now is uncertain, though no one should underestimate the project's own stubborn, autonomic will to live.

Many people knew Hugh and the Spasm Band much better than I did - I met him for a few moments here and there and caught the band now and then. But the NSB's heirs are in the Japanese noise scene, such as Merzbow and Hijokaidan; their admirers in bands such as Sonic Youth: "All these people who sort of put themselves on stage and want to be super rock stars. ... There's no way they can ever attain the majesty that Hugh has on stage," said SY's Thurston Moore in 1999.

And then there's my friend Ben Portis, who for years ran the innovative No Music Festival in London, centred around the NSB. Between them, they brought me to a deep appreciation for what the NSB has achieved, in Canada and around the world, all the while opposing any notion of "achievement." And just what a model they are for a way of life. I have written a couple of pieces about them: One when No Music was held in New York in the aftermath, as it turned out, of Sept. 11, 2001; the other when the crosscurrents of Canadian art, music and noise were spotlighted at the last No Music festival and interrelated exhibitions in Toronto.

I encourage you to read them, but also I hope to get permission later today to post an email circulated by Tim Glasgow, a sound engineer, musician and close associate of the band (and of Sonic Youth), beautifully describing and paying tribute to Hugh's passing. Watch this space - it will give you a more direct sense of the man and his cantankerous but expansive, extraordinary character. A sad loss for Hugh's friends and collaborators, for Canadian culture and for music, art and noise lovers around the world. [...]

Anarchy in the U.S.
The Nihilist Spasm Band of London, Ont., tried out their legendary recipe for cacophony on New York, CARL WILSON writes

The Globe and Mail
16 October 2001

A giant, electrified "kazoo," with klaxon horns soldered on. A "violin" without strings. Club-like "drumsticks." Cooking pots, water pipes, thumb pianos, a bass "guitar" strung with half-lengths of piano wire.

Using such handmade implements, the half-dozen-plus non-musician musicians of the Nihilist Spasm Band have laid waste loudly to the pieties of placid Southern Ontario, every single Monday night in London, for 36 years.

Almost without their knowing it, it has made them living legends, the unholy godfathers of a worldwide underground of "noise" musicians -- audio artists, rock and jazz players and assorted sonic storm kings -- that stretches from Tokyo to Toronto to that other London, the one with the Queen. And on this past weekend, they congregated with those admirers at the avant-jazz Tonic nightclub in Manhattan, for a special New York edition of the No Music noise festival, which had a three-year run in their home town.

"New York is a proving ground," says festival curator Ben Portis, a thirtysomething London-born artist who has collaborated on No Music and other projects with the Spasm Band for the past several years. "If the NSB is to have an enduring legacy, it has to demonstrate that under scrutiny of demanding ears -- and challenge standards that unfortunately are all too usual in New York City. 'Free music' there is not as free as it could be."

An unusual situation for a collective whose history is defined by not giving a damn what anyone else thinks. "We are immune to fashion because we are self-motivated," says John Boyle, who plays drums, kazoo and other instruments in the band. "We depend on each other because, until recently, we were the only practitioners of our genre. The fun of creating is the payoff. It's still fun. As long as that is the case, we will continue, whether or not anyone is paying attention."

For a very long time, hardly anyone was. The Nihilist Spasm Band was founded in 1965 by Greg Curnoe, the well-known London visual artist, as a kazoo chorus to provide the soundtrack to an experimental film. In a burst of the harrowing kind of enthusiasm that characterizes them to this day, the little band of nonconformists decided to make noise-making an ongoing avocation. And so the regular Monday-night sessions began, in any London space that would have them, in front of friends or family or no one.

The NSB sound was inspired in part by the New Orleans "spasm bands" that made street-corner music on jerrybuilt instruments amid the ferment of early jazz, and by the dadaists and futurists of modernist art (besides Curnoe, drummer-"guitarist" Murray Favro and Boyle himself were all painters). They looked back to 1913, when Stravinsky's Rite of Spring enraged his audience, when Futurist Luigi Russolo published his Art of Noise manifesto in Italy, and Marcel Duchamp composed his first piece of music using games of chance.

But more important was the group's collective rejection of Canadian inferiority complexes, a determination to make something original, individual and local, not copycating any trends abroad. None of the members have any musical training, and they build their own instruments to specifications that render them physically incapable of playing something, like a scale or a chord, that would be dictated from outside.

Curnoe died in a bicycle accident in 1992, and so, as the band puts it, "plays less often" now. The other members have resisted the pressure of parenthood, day jobs and bouts of ill health to keep their tradition going, Monday after Monday. "There's an old joke," says "violinist" Art Pratten, a former newspaper press technician, "that you have to do more than die to get out of the Spasm Band."

Gradually, as the members retired from careers as librarians, doctors and teachers, they've been able to devote more time to a project they learned was not as obscure as they'd thought, and mix with people who had found their rare old records and considered them an inspiration alongside the likes of Duchamp or radical composers John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen.

Among the highlights was a 1996 tour to record and perform in Japan, documented in Zev Asher's documentary about the NSB, What About Me?, which premiered at last year's Toronto International Film Festival. They have played to eager crowds in American cities such as New York, Pittsburgh and Chicago. They have collaborated -- as they did again this weekend -- with musicians like Sonic Youth guitarists Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore, and they recently recorded an impressive double CD, No Borders, with eminent free-jazz saxophonist Joe McPhee.

And from such connections the No Music festival was born. "The band members discovered a sympathy and context with other musicians for the first time," says Portis. "The idea was to invite some of the NSB's new friends to their home turf. The festival, conceived as a one-off, was so successful in every respect that everyone wanted to do it again. And so it pushed ahead as an annual event."

The festival was based at London's Forest City Gallery, and its range is amply documented in several multi-CD sets recorded there, especially in the late-night "Interplay" jam sessions. But after three years, Portis says, "My sense was that the festival had exhausted its possibilities in London, as we were all fatigued and the audience had reached a plateau."

When the New York offer came last winter, Portis -- who has lived in New York state since 1997 -- jumped at it. "And it appealed to the Spasm Band because they have so much conviction in what they have been doing for the past 36 years. They have something to prove, and not much time left to prove it."

That's why, on the weekend, musicians such as Ranaldo, McPhee and Moore, the noise collective Borbetomagus, pianist Cooper-Moore as well as Toronto's long-running improvisational group CCMC (artist Michael Snow, sound poet Paul Dutton and composer John Oswald) were shaking Tonic's rafters. Sadly, the Japanese artists cancelled out in the wake of the World Trade Center bombing.

"The Japanese artists bring a different mindset to performance, more meditative and mindful of general spirit," says Portis. "This was the principal reason for their withdrawal -- a celebration of their art would be anathema at present."

One wonders if anyone else feels that way. Is a festival of chaotic noise, usually considered confrontational and abrasive, what New Yorkers need to hear right now?

"This is very constructive music," he says, "with an expertise in rubble, piecing together shattered musical bits, already in a state of crisis. I expect it will be effective, inclusive and attuned to what people are feeling. . . . From the outset, the Nihilist Spasm Band always mirrored geopolitical folly in personal foible -- they are more relevant than ever."

The New York festival is likely a one-time event. Boyle says he likes "the guerrilla format of reappearing in a different location each year, if that's possible. It would parallel the Internet-related internationalism of the phenomenon." And, of course, even if the festival dies, the Spasm Band won't be affected.

"The band will go on until there is no one left to play," says Pratten. "Every Monday night."

* * *

Music, visual art and the shrieks that bind them

The Globe & Mail
Sept 25, 2003

Music and visual art are estranged siblings, each wanting what the other one's got enough to stir lifelong resentment. They stirred first in the same cave, we assume, one daubing blood and fruit juice up on the stone and the other picking up a couple of rocks and knocking them to a beat; and they both eventually got sent to the same schools, groomed and jargoned up to the eyeballs and earholes into respectability.

But when they each hit that awkward 20th-century rebellious stage, music went mostly one way -- out of the concert hall and into the nightclub -- and art mostly the other -- deeper into museums and universities.

Art had mostly resolved that low culture could be absorbed into the higher spheres (once properly deconstructed), and music had mostly decided that even the most arcane theoretics could be applied to dance hits (given a snappy genre nickname).

Music is the gregarious party animal, art the wallflower with the better-appointed apartment. Not that some of music's friends aren't agoraphobes and that artists never break plates over their patrons' heads, but the general rule has reasons enough.

One of the most powerful is that visual art usually involves a singular object you stare at in studious contemplation, while even the most outlandish, room-clearing musical abomination is readily reproduced on a mass scale, and can be heard by hundreds at once, many of them inclined to bump or slam or headbang against each other.

Those facts have outmanoeuvred the contrary inclinations of pop-loving artists and obscurantist musicians again and again. Can't help the way you came out, kid. You're just big-boned.

But there are black sheep, and you can find a whole flock in the Soundtracks art exhibit touring Canada (and opening bit by bit this month in seven different Toronto galleries) and at the No Music festival tonight through Saturday at the Forest City Gallery in London, Ont.

In Soundtracks, for instance, you'll discover that such grey or late eminences of Canadian art as Michael Snow and Greg Curnoe devoted themselves for decades to making unruly music as well. For both -- pianist Snow with the Artists' Jazz Band in the 1960s and CCMC from the 1970s to today, and drummer Curnoe with London's Nihilist Spasm Band from 1965 to his death in 1992 -- music could be a communal and political balance to the solitude of painting, sculpture, writing and (in Snow's case) experimental filmmaking.

At No Music, you'd find that the Spasm Band carries on with its weekly sessions of painter John Boyle blowing kazoos into car horns and Murray Favo and Art Pratten playing their hulking sculptural guitars and mutant violins, and retired high-school teacher Bill Exley still bellows his nonsense poems, as they have every Monday night since the mid-1960s.

Around them, from as far away as Seattle and Japan, is gathered an admiring horde of chaos-music-come-latelys who regard these paunchy retirees as founders of the Noise revolution. And a curiously high number of visual artists are among those anarchic faithful.

The festival, now in its fifth and likely final year, is organized by Spasm Band friend and fan Ben Portis, a contemporary-art curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario (and a co-curator of Soundtracks) and among the performers this weekend are not only Michael Snow and his frequent crony in art and noise Nobuo Kubota (architect, sound poet, founder of the Artists' Jazz Band) but American artists Gary Hill and Paul McCarthy as well.

The former is one of the most prominent video-installation creators on the planet, the latter a notorious art-world provocateur: You currently have to pass through the crotch of McCarthy's giant, inflatable black-rubber sculpture Blockhead (modelled partly on Popeye and partly on Pinocchio) to enter the Tate Modern in that other London.

Hill has appeared at No Music before, juggling sound the way he does in his video soundtracks. McCarthy, however, is a coup.

Best known for enactments in which beloved characters such as Santa Claus or Heidi are caught in flagrante delicto and smear themselves with ketchup and mayonnaise in lieu of excreta on the ruins of sets of Gunsmoke or A Family Affair, McCarthy's actually been a noisemaker for years, but he seldom airs his screeching, burping and squealing outside the Los Angeles scene.

It's tempting to think the festival's eponymous directive -- No Music -- is the passkey, that in a margin from which tempo, melody, harmony, every trace of song is banished, there's enough disdain for the commoner to make the art denizens comfy.

A glance at the rest of the Soundtracks roster says otherwise. The folk-music kitsch the Group of Seven embraced, as documented at the McMichael Gallery, and the affectionately snooty pastiches in most of the installations to be shown at the Power Plant and elsewhere show how the art mainstream gets more het up about shoplifting pop iconography and sentiment for art's arch ends.

But noise had its beginnings in the Futurist manifestos and Dada happenings of the teens and twenties. It was incestuous crossbreeding. The artists can't help checking on how the grandkids are doing, and what they find -- for instance in the squall of Japan's extraordinary Incapacitants and Hijokaidan, both flying in for No Music this year, or in Michigan's Wolf Eyes and Brooklyn's Black Dice (who run with the indie-rock kids) -- looks strangely familiar.

While structured music casts its lot with storytelling, comedy and romance, noise is more apt to achieve the perceptual warp: The Incapacitants' storm of dentist-drill shrieks and car-crash wreckage is overwhelming enough that the senses bend and tangle. You begin to see sound paint the air in slashing strokes. It is visual, aural, practically surgical, and can be as lonesome as hearing a chant from the depths of Rothko's reds. As lonesome as a family reunion.

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, December 07 at 01:45 AM | Comments (1)


Coyne of the Realm


News comes this weekend that Kevin Coyne died on Thursday of lung fibrosis, at age 60, in his adopted German home. Coyne's music has been difficult to come by for the past decade or so, and I wouldn't be surprised if few readers ever heard or heard of him. He's perhaps most notorious as the guy who refused to take over Jim Morrison's job in the Doors, but the comparison is misleading. Perhaps imagine Captain Beefheart if he were a British children's-book author, or Johnny Rotten (who cited him as an inspiration) somehow mingled up with Robert Wyatt, or PJ Harvey as a balding older guy, perhaps PJ Harvey playing Joe Cocker in a film biography directed by Bob Dylan. But all such comparisons don't do justice to the singularity of his voice. Alec Bemis in the Chicago Reader five years ago claimed that Coyne might be "the only British musician who ever really had the blues." Coyne bridged the folk-blues-rock of the 1970s with new-wave art-school atavism, the compassion of the former psychiatric-ward worker he was and a sweet drunken-wanderer's romanticism that was all his own. As you may guess from that description, John Peel was an early supporter, releasing a couple of Coyne's first efforts on his own label, Dandelion. More recently, Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy) has shown his devotion. Some of Coyne's albums - out of the 40 or so he made - such as 1973's Marjory Razorblade, 1978's Babble (with Dagmar Krause), 1980's Bursting Bubbles and 1981's Pointing the Finger, stick in my head with a true twisted penetrating claw of heartstrong, headsick poetic potency. He also painted paintings and wrote stories and seemed, despite his psychological and other troubles, to live life as life asks to be lived. You can learn more in this interview, and this later one, this obit or this profile. You can hear a live 1994 performance, if you fastforward the stream past a few minutes of Flemish news. (Belgium is one of the few places Coyne ever had a hit.) And much more. It is sad, and too soon, and goes too much unnoted, but reports are that he died at home in the arms of the woman he loved, and after a restless life there is beauty and comfort in that. As Coyne sang, Learn to swim, learn to drown.

Posted by zoilus on Sunday, December 05 at 06:49 PM | Comments (1)


A Bush Who Gets My Vote


News comes today, from the lips of Peter Gabriel to the Toronto Sun to Zoilus to you, that Kate Bush is casually at work on her first album in 11 years - though when Mojo magazine recently asked how long it will be till it appears, Bush's business manager replied, "How long is a piece of string?"

I maintain an unshakeable adoration of Bush's 80s-era music, a near-guilty level of pleasure in how at once sensual and wigged-out it was, not-quite-prog-rock sometimes built around pop-classical piano chording and sometimes around oneiric sample collages, full of multiple-personality character transformations, literary allusions, British whimsy and sex. From The Kick Inside through Hounds of Love, and particularly on The Dreaming, Bush cultivated a feminine musical vocabulary that was second to no man in wild individualism but didn't feel the need to prove she could rock out like a guy. Sure, she can be blamed (along with 70s-style "womyn's music") for nurturing the Lilith Fair subgenre of woodnymph balladry (Tori Amos is like a decadent emo retread of Bush, Sarah McLachlan is an obvious fan), but she also deserves credit for clearing a path for Bjork, Cat Power or PJ Harvey.

And she's also been named a favourite by Outkast - and by Big Boi, not Andre! - a non-intuitive link, but when you think about it you can hear a Kate-like touch in the textures and catercorners of Outkast's music. Says Big Boi, ""She was so bugged out man! But I felt what she was talking about in the songs. ... I just found out that she was producing all that shit herself! She's so fucking dope and so underrated and off the radar."

"Kate had a son and lost her mom and I think that kept her [occupied]," Gabriel told the Sun. "I spoke to her quite recently in fact and she's just about finished on a new record. It is exciting. She's being a mom and loving it. So, if you like, music's gone from being full-time to being part-time, so that slows you down." Gabriel collaborated with Bush several times, their voices meshing luxuriantly, as on his hit Don't Give Up, a fact immortalized by The French (ex-Hefner) in 2003's maybe-single-of-the-year Gabriel In The Airport: "Don't you wish that you could stay/ Don't you wish that you could say/ You never thought of Kate Bush in a dirty way?"

There are few hints what the new album will sound like whenever it does arrive - will it have the Gurdieff-manic spark of 1980s Kate, or the over-perfumed limpness that came to mar her early-90s efforts? Bassist Mick Karn (ex-Japan) reportedly plays on a track titled How To Be Invisible, percussionist Peter Erskine (Diana Krall, Joni Mitchell, Weather Report, etc.) is on others, and the London Metropolitan Orchestra came out to party too. She began to muck about with it some five years ago.

To egg on her progress and in tribute to her sudden resurfacing in the news, here's a mini-gallery of Kate pics, each one linking to sites maintained by sorry buggers far more fixated than I am, who will tell you everything about Kate Bush you never thought to ask, and also offer an endless supply of her full-on-wacked-out-beautiful photographs:

kbush.jpg kbush4.jpg

kbush.jpg kbush5.jpg


Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, December 01 at 03:24 PM | Comments (3)



The Wu-Tang's time as emperors of the hill maps pretty closely to the long period when I was almost totally checked out of the hip-hop department. So I'm not schooled. But even if you're looking the other way you can't miss somebody like Ol' Dirty Bastard/Big Baby Jesus/Dirt McGirt/Rusty Jones. Until he's gone, and then all you can do is miss him.

Posted by zoilus on Monday, November 15 at 12:36 AM | Comments (1)


About Cheatin'


That's Gretchen Wilson, who, besides her excellent taste in surnames, has released some of the best singles of the year - most recently When I Think About Cheatin', which is the fiddlingest, weeping-steel-guitariest tune to hit the charts in some time, even in this traditionalist-swinging phase of the hardcore/softshell country cycle, yet with just the right flourishes to make it also very Nashvegas 2004. The song's got that true-blue bruised wisdom that you look to country for: "When I think about cheeeeatin'/ I just think about you leeeeavin'," runs the key line, a cause-and-effect calculation that gleams its eye at the temptation (erotically enough, in the verses) but is hip to the price. Yet in the bits of 21st-century-diva sculpture in her way of coming out of the high notes, it has the sumptuousness of country-pop, too, a balancing act that only seems easy when a rare somebody pulls it off.

All of you who needed Jack White's say-so to get into Loretta Lynn, here's where to look for a genuine update of Ms. Loretta's fighting spirit. It's not just Neko Case who can get the job done. (About Neko's new semi-live disc more later, perhaps; it doesn't benefit by being in the twilight zone between concert and studio, and it's a case of can sing the phone book, does sing the phone book, if you know what I mean.)

The old-fashionedness of the Gretchen song is stressed by the vid, which features Wilson beltin' from the stage of the Opry as the Ghosts of Oprys Past materialize around her. Country Music Television tells me it's based on an occasion when she and her husband snuck in and sang on the Opry stage while it was closed, though the fantasy's sweetly outdated since Wilson's now hit the stage there several times over not-for-pretend. Her success would have been hard to imagine a couple of years ago, when country was still on the supermodel-girl-power trip, but now think of it as Reason Number One Not To Hate the Red States. (Case in point: The idea of putting Gretchen up here chased away the temptation to put up the glowering visage of John Ashcroft, who Jon Stewart told me tonight is leaving the White House "to spend more time rounding up and questioning his family." Ding-dong, one witch is dead, no doubt to be replaced by wartier witches yet.)

Also on cheatin': Sorry for the lack of posts this week. I'm trying to break the habit of ranting about politics every time I try to talk about music, and a little abstention is good, the fundies tell me, for the soul, even if it's a lousy substitute for sex education. Oops, I did it again. (Also, I'll have pieces in both Friday's and Saturday's Globe and Mail, so I am working on work instead.) Political joke of the day comes for once not from the Daily Show but from Slavoj Zizek, whose new book Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle derives its title from an old kneeslapper of Dr. Freud's: Q: "Why was my kettle broken when returned it to me?" A: "I never borrowed your kettle. And it was fine when I gave it back to you. And it was already broken when I borrowed it." That's killing 'em in Fallujah this week.

Meanwhile, I've been gradually adding alternative reading to the Links page, so why not click up there and bounce around till I'm calm enough to post without the current sulfurous stink of righteousness?

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, November 10 at 01:42 AM | Comments (3)



That sound you hear is my fucking skull banging against the fucking wall. Zoilus will return tomorrow, when I've gotten some of the current fear and loathing - oh, the loathing - out of my system.

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, November 03 at 01:10 PM | Comments (3)


Like a Blog Over Troubled Waters

Luca's comments on that last post are real good, go read 'em. Meanwhile if you need some non-political brain relief, go over and see Aaron, he'll hook you up with all the sillyhead linx and pix U can bare LOL! He and I will pick up our Eminem discussion later (preview: I don't agree!).

Me, I am cruising the MP3 blogs for aural succor in advance of plunging into the morass tonight and for who knows how long thereafter. Let Said the Gramophone bathe your ears in Ida's Dream Date. Listen to the pop pop pop from one of the countries being irredeemably fucked by the so-called war on so-called terror with Yulduz Usmanova of Uzbekistan's Tak Boom (including a most improbable dancehall break) or the very soothing indeed Chant by Anja Lechner and Vassilis Tsabropoulos, both courtesy of Chris Porter. Fluxblog eases your mind by moving your ass to Eddie Hazel's What About It?.

And, to get back to politics again, seek out the pop-the-vote tune by Chris Stamey and Yo La Tengo (several versions here), the South Park P-Diddy Vote-Bumpin' parody everybody's linking today ("shake them titties when you vote, bitch!"), a hella lot of politicial hip-hop links from Royal Music and a rallying cry from Dan Bern courtesy of Kingblind. You can watch Bruce Springsteen give a better campaign speech than any of the actual candidates (and sure, sing a song, too) here. And you can keep listening to "Music Blogging for Democracy" all day long if you follow the sound of preachin' to Songs:Illinois. (Note: Avoid the Creekdippers' anti-Bush song. It sucks rocks, complete with a flute solo.) The Big Ticket, thankfully, adds Leonard Cohen's Democracy, one of the best, queerest political songs ever - "I'm stubborn as those garbage bags that time cannot decay/ I'm junk but I'm still holdin' up this little wild bouquet:/ Democracy is comin' to the U.S.A." That "visionary flood of alcohol" is gonna sound pretty good at about midnight tonight too. After which it will be appropriate to, a la Animal Collective, Panic.

If time permits, further toonage plus tard. If not, see you in the next era. And if you are American, please do vote today. Over your borders and across the seas, we are counting on you.

Sail on, sail on, O mighty ship of state/ To the shores of Need, past the Reefs of Greed, through the Squalls of Hate/ Sail on, sail on, sail on....

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, November 02 at 03:41 PM | Comments (1)


Real-Life Politics, Episode MMIV

North America's greatest near-unknown torch singer Kelly Hogan offered a different kind of celebrity intervention in the political debate this week when she sent this message out to her mailing list about her 59-year-old dad, a reservist who is being sent to Iraq.

I offer it without comment, while listening to Hogan kicking out the jams as backup vocalist on Neko Case's new live disc, The Tigers Have Spoken, a set of terrific performances (though perhaps not so terrifically recorded).

Hello friends and family -

First off, I apologize for this mass e-mail.

As many of y'all know, after being called up out of National Guard reserves two years ago, my dad (career policeman, age 59, flew helicopters in Viet Nam) is about to be shipped to Iraq in the next few weeks to lead convoys in the desert for Apache warbird "Flying Tigers" Aviation Regiment 8-229th.

It's very hard for me to talk about this issue, and I'm still figuring out how to deal with all the levels of bullshit involved. I also have other friends in Iraq already and I'm sure many of y'all do too.

I feel funny sharing this personal information, and my goal is certainly not sympathetic feedback of any kind - but rather to pass along a screwed-up fact to add to the pile - to increase awareness of the current situation.

I just finished reading an interview with Stan Goff (24-year military vet, Bring Them Home Now campaign, Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace) in the new issue of The Sun magazine - and I wanted to pass along [the] links for y'all.

I know there are many sides of the issue. These are just two more that I felt compelled to share.

Thanks for your time.


Posted by zoilus on Monday, November 01 at 03:24 PM | Comments (0)


Now Hears This

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.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, October 28 at 10:17 AM | Comments (6)


He Carried the Holiday in His Eye


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, — 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.

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, October 26 at 09:08 PM | Comments (1)


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

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.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, October 21 at 07:43 PM | Comments (0)


Now You Scene It... Now You Don't

Hope you'll pardon a bit of megaloblogging, but it's a fairly big week for me:

Since 1999, I have been writing a column called Scene every Thursday in The Globe & Mail in Toronto. Its mandate was to cover live shows in the city, mostly in advance, profiling artists, musing on themes brought up by recent trends, occasionally reporting on changes in the club scene and so forth. As it developed, the thematic musings became more and more central to the approach, and the live-scene coverage rather more incidental. (I think you could have read the column for weeks on end without particularly noticing they were all pegged to live shows).

In September, though, the Globe launched a new Friday tabloid section called "7," a kind of mainstreamed version of an alt-weekly, with listings and articles about upcoming events. To move my column to the tabloid would have meant cutting its length by nearly half, so I wasn't asked to do that. But now my Scene coverage was redundant to what "7" is doing.

The editors and I had some chats, and the result is that this week Scene is no more. It's replaced by Overtones, a column that really focuses on the thematic ideas and analysis of the music world that was a regular part of the mix in Scene. I'll keep covering the mixture of jazz, indie and experimental music that I've always done, but there'll also be a lot more talk about books, the pop charts, movies and especially the Internet - as well as whatever else seems most compelling in the musical world every week.

The new column won't include artist profiles and show previews, which I'll try to find time to do in the regular arts pages and freelancing for other publications. But I feel very very privileged to be given such a free hand at a time when most critics are feeling pressure to pack their work into ever smaller and more gimmicked-up packages.

The other exciting news: Overtones launches this Thursday with a look at the new Bob Dylan book, Chronicles Vol. I, but next week it will move to the more spacious and better-read weekend Review section. That remains an experiment - we'll see if the Saturday edition accommodates it well or whether we were better off on Thursdays after a few weeks - but I'm hopeful it will be a consistent thing.

(Unfortunately, the column is not as Internet-accessible as it used to be, since the Globe's introduced a fee for content. I'll try to slip you tastes on Zoilus when I can, but it's a touchy issue.)

I want to assure the local music community that the new column will still pay plenty of attention to the Toronto scene, and that I'll continue to push for profiles and reviews of local artists' work. A torrential, terrifying flash-flooding shower of thanks to everybody for their support so far.

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, October 05 at 05:15 PM | Comments (8)


Nonesuch Clarification

Alex R. points out that N'Such's roster still has a healthy complement of international artists on it - and I realize I misspoke: What I meant was that what's been most ballyhooed and what the Times writer focused on, Nonesuch's "new" boutique-pop direction, is all palefaces: Witness the illustrating image (from the pages of the Times). It's not that it's wrong for a label to take that direction - them white folks are (mostly) making some pretty noises - but that hyping what they're doing as the only or most significant response to the music-biz crisis is way, way too narrow.

I did get a bit carried away below. Mea culpa, cover me in ashes and blow me north to the Hyperboles.

Posted by zoilus on Monday, October 04 at 04:09 PM | Comments (0)


Zoilus Miscellany, Sunday Edition


1. I flaked out on the Dave Holland show due to Jason Moran's cancellation. Sorry, jazz fans. Instead, my concert-going this weekend came last night, when I took in some of the Magnolia Electric Co. (formerly Songs:Ohia) show at the Horseshoe. It was crammed - when the hell did he get fashionable? - but ultimately disappointing, as to suck out the melancholic marrow of each of Jason Molina's beautifully crafted Neil Young-meets-Will Oldham anthems, you had to stand through four or five, well, adequate guitar solos between verses. The Drive-By Truckers can get away with that, but when the mopey types try it you just risk a nosedive down Deadhead Alley. Powerful lap-steel hooks saved some songs, but others sank in the wank.

I ran into Helen, who said that she thought she'd gotten the perfect balance when she'd seen him in a three-piece group awhile ago. I played my indie-one-upmanship card by recalling his solo NXNE set about five years back at the El Mocambo: near-empty room, baseball cap yanked down over his brow as he laid into these ballads like some medieval troubador beset by visions. So I walked out last night, because I realized that I was kind of spoiling that memory for myself, tho without the contrast I might never have realized just how galldarn great that solo set was. Meanwhile I did enjoy hearing live takes on a couple of the best cuts from that last Magnolia disc - Just Be Simple ("Everything you hated me for/ Honey, there was so much more/ I just didn't get busted") and Almost Was Good Enough, which has a line worth the price of admission: "It didn't used to be so hard... It used to be impossible."

(Tangent I: He looks oddly like Neil Sedaka, or maybe Paul Anka.)

(Tangent II: Which women seem to dig. I dunno when I last saw so many beautiful gals at an indie-rock thingy. It's almost as if he's pulled out ahead of the Old 97s' Rhett Miller in the hangdog-fuckability sweeps.)

(Tangent III: Why would you change your name from Songs:Ohia to Magnolia Electric Co.? It's a marginal improvement, sure, but only about as much as changing from, say, Poindexter to Herman, instead of something kicky like Jasper. Pretty lame for a guy who's good with words. By the way, Zoilus offers a cash prize to the first band that just goes ahead and calls itself Sasha Frere-Jones. You can't beat that fucking name. Extra cash for having a side project called Tobias.)

2. While all blogland (etc.) is talking about the NYT arts and books section redesigns (my verdict: clean, nice, whatever), I'll break from the pack to leap on today's NYT-magazine profile of Nonesuch records, not so recognizably portrayed as the future of music. No slight on N'Such, which has a very cool roster and all, but the article was on the blindered side. Not just for predictable anti-pop kneejerking, but more so: for implicitly writing off all the indie labels that sell the same numbers as N'Such as not the future of music, not to mention the, erm, Internet; for amusingly defending the label's diversity after its discussion of the Magnetic Fields by citing the "two Chinese operas" it has in the works - are these actually not the two Chinese operas written by Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields, but two other Chinese operas? just curious; and for totally overlooking the very white elephant in the room, euphemistically called an "adult" elephant. (See pic above.) The washed-out pallor extends even to the name. Now, of course, N'Such was a pioneer of musical globalization - albeit under the not-so-slightly colonial monicker of "Explorer" - but the redirection hailed in the piece, with the important exception of Buena Vista Social Club, does not do much to expand upon that history. So the feast the writer was making of N'Such here felt like he was uncorking the white wine and pouring Hollandaise over the white asparagus and whitefish. (Question being why I should be surprised.)

3. While we slept, the classical blogsters seem to have turned their pince-nezzes toward Toronto. (Okay, I know they wear normal glasses like the rest of us nerds. Kill me, I liked the image.) The reason is the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's decision to stop mainstreaming its contemporary content with the "normal" kids (you know, Billy Mozart and Larry Beethoven) and put it in a Special Class, as der Globe reported last week. Like protective parents, the contemporary-composer brigades bristle at the ghetto treatment. So maybe it falls to me to say that differently-abled compositions aren't like differently-abled kids, and they don't need exposure to their more socially integrated peers to thrive. In fact, I would go to a special series of 20th and 21st-century music and I never go to regular program concerts, and I think I might not be completely alone among younger music fans. If the TSO does its contemporary series right, it really might be a way of pulling us avant-minded pop fans into the hallowed halls. Alex compares it to past failed attempts at orchestral hipness like "Boulez’s pseudo-psychedelic Rug Concerts" - but c'mon, that was more than 30 years ago - I think generational dynamics have changed just a tetch. Not, I hasten to add, that I've got such deep faith in the TSO doing its contemporary series right.

4. I hear tell that Dave Eggers has written about all things lit-rock (also see Zoiluses passim) in his "And Now For A Less Informed Opinion" column in Spin. (Eggers has a column in Spin?) It's not online, so I'll hit a newsstand sometime soon & maybe it'll take us on a magic carpet ride back to some things that got left unsaid during the summer's contretemps.

Posted by zoilus on Sunday, October 03 at 06:16 PM | Comments (3)


If You Think Lit-Rock is Grim: Don't Forget Rock-Lit

And the press release goes, doot-doo-doot-doo-doot... :

"Billy Corgan’s collection of poetry, Blinking With Fists, lands at bookstores this Friday. Billy to support poetry release with extensive tour featuring book signings and poetry evenings. ... Billy is quoted as saying, 'I think the poems have their own personality and are a lot closer in spirit to me as a person, as opposed to my song lyrics, which I believe deal more in pieces of me.'

"Billy supports the book with a 14-city tour commencing October 12, consisting of signings at major book stores and intimate 'evenings of poetry' [ed. note - quotation marks theirs, but heartily endorsed by Zoilus.com] with special guest Yungchen Lhamo. Details of the schedule are listed below.

October 19
Toronto, ON

Book Signing: Chapters - Festival Hall
142 John St 7:00 PM

Poetry Reading: The Church of the Redeemer
10:00 PM
Purchase Tickets - Password: blinkingwithfists

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, September 30 at 01:15 PM | Comments (0)


Purkkia Liimaa?

Want to imagine you are one of the world's leading music obscurantists, renowned among an audience of dozens? Now you can! In the privacy of your own cubicle! Listen to what the staff of The Wire is listening to. The "office ambience" of the UK new-music bible. Not sure how often the playlist shuffles. Today: Albert Ayler, Can, Le Tigre, Subtle, Wasteland, Wolf Eyes, DJ/rupture, Masaki Batoh, 267 Purkkia Liimaa and Cul De Sac/Damo Suzuki.

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, September 29 at 05:24 PM | Comments (1)


Waiting on Tom

Tom Waits announces a U.S. show to warm up for his Euro tour, and appears tonight on David Letterman, all to hail new disc Real Gone. (It's his first album of new songs since '99's Mule Variations, since 2002's Alice and Blood Money were both collected from stage projects.) A Real Gone preview MP3 is here. It drops a week from today.

(Anybody go to the Waits tribute at the ElMo last night?)

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, September 28 at 01:58 PM | Comments (1)


Speaking of the Future of Music


Seattle's Smoosh: They're 10 and 12 years old, soulful, and singing a song about a Pygmy Motorcycle that the Fiery Furnaces could cover.

And only a little creepy.

(Unlike say Old Skull, who were way creepy, but in a good way.)

Of course, the Buffalo News will probably now go prove that Smoosh are really 14.

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, September 22 at 02:36 PM | Comments (2)


Talk About Country Grammar


Can I call 'em or what?


Sept. 22 - Midwest-based Son Volt, with songwriter Jay Farrar at the helm, will begin recording their fourth full length album at the end of September. Following a five-year hiatus, with the exception of the April 2004 recording of Sometimes for the Alejandro Escovedo tribute album, multi-instrumentalist Dave Boquist, bassist Jim Boquist and drummer Mike Heidorn will reconvene at Farrar's St. Louis studio. Speaking about the Sometimes session, Farrar says: "It felt like we hit the ground running when we recorded Al's song for Por Vida. Five years seemed like five days at that point. It proved that more recording and performing as Son Volt is something that should happen."

As this revered band reconnects, a unique glimpse inside the Son Volt sessions will be offered. Beginning October 1, a webcamera will be placed in the studio to capture a day of pre-production and 16 days of recording. The web camera can be accessed at www.jayfarrar.net/webcam and will feature streaming photos that refresh every 5 seconds.

Blah blah blah Son Volt in 1994 after the dissolution of Uncle Tupelo. With the release of Trace, Straightaways and Wide Swing Tremolo, blah blah blah always pushed the blah blah blah. Son Volt is not currently affiliated with a label and plans to return to the road in early 2005.

All right, actually my piece was about a totally different kind of alt-country revival, but music crits can't resist playing vindicated prophet. For instance: I HAVE SEEN THE FUTURE OF MUSIC AND IT IS THE PAST! That one's always guaranteed to come true. Still, the SV revival is good news to these ears: Straightaways in particular is a favourite album and, while Farrar's solo stuff is strong it always did risk travelling too far down Introvert Alley.

Incidentally I got complaints about leaving Bubba Sparxxx out of that original piece - totally justified. The problem was that I hadn't heard Bubba's latest album and didn't have time to correct that situation when I was working on the piece. I'd originally mentioned it in passing but decided if you can't say something that's something, better to say nothing. Mentally I grouped Bubba under "dirty southern hip-hop," which is mentioned repeatedly, but it's fair to say he addresses the hip-hop-is-alt-country issue more directly than anybody else....

... or at least he did, until Nelly decided to include a duet with Tim McGraw on his new album! Now there you have a thesis that's pretty much graduated to Fact if anything aesthetic ever has.

In other news: This week's column is bumped from tomorrow's Globe and Mail - look for it on Saturday instead. The subject? Owen Pallett, leader of Les Mouches and Final Fantasy, member of the Hidden Cameras, string arranger for the Arcade Fire, Jim Guthrie, Royal City and many others, and all-'round boy genius.

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, September 22 at 10:54 AM | Comments (0)


Tip to Xtian Zealots: Get Your Bus Ticket to Toronto Now

Get a pocketful of rocks and paint up those picket signs, Dan Burke is baiting Christians again.... The Bible burning begins Oct. 11, according to this quite-possibly-prevaricating post from local Show Promoter Dan, Toronto's finest entertainer, on 20hz:

Preachers from the Bible belts of North America used to organize public burnings of rock and roll records as a form of excorcism against the influence of devils like Elvis and Chuck Berry on young people. That was before the CD era, so burning REALLY meant burning! As in bonfire!! And that's what our newfound heroes down in Texas -- BOXCAR SATAN -- have decided to do when they come here on Thanksgiving Day (Oct. 11). The one difference being that instead of burning a heap of LPs and 45s, they're gonna burn bibles. That's right! Bring a bible to the Boxcar Demon show at The Silver Dollar on Mon.Oct.11 and not only will you get in at half price -- we'll burn the fuckin' thing!!! (Bibles are easy to get: you can steal them from just about any hotel room ion North America.) And so as not to be prejudiced or exclusionary, any of our Muslim or Jewish pals and gals can bring books from their cultures. Yeah, we'll add the Koran and Torah to the ash heap. Participants will be free to do anything around the bonfire -- i.e. tell ghost stories, roast marshmallows, smoke crack, copulate homosexually, etc., etc. It's gonna be the best whack of good clean fun we've had in a long time, friends! Long live Commotional Rock and El Fiasco Commotions !!!

Posted by zoilus on Monday, September 20 at 03:44 PM | Comments (0)


MotherCorp Ramone

Not quite.

I was on Newsworld this afternoon at 1:15 or so talking about Johnny Ramone's death, so maybe it'll be rebroadcast later in the day... in case you're channelsurfing, watch out for a guy who didn't realize how hokey it was that he was wearing a leather jacket while discussing the Ramones. (At least it wasn't a motorcycle jacket.)

Things I didn't say on CBC about Johnny Ramone: All-down-stroke guitar style more influential and much more difficult to perform than it seems. Kinda annoying prig, but with a hidden tender heart - consider how hard it would be to be a basically conformist, hardworking, not-so-bright Republican guy in a band with utter bizarros such as Joey and Dee Dee. Would probably have been happier in a different band. And yet, in love with being a Ramone, and probably kept it going longer than it should have. Died surrounded by B-list celebrities, less than a decade after the Ramones' retirement, as if his body didn't really know what else to do but die. Also looked remarkably like my childhood best friend, who had the bowl cut even though we'd never heard of the Ramones back then. The Ramones always seemed like good imaginary friends. Someone should make the animated series about the boy who gets advice and has adventures with the ghosts of the Ramones.

Only Tommy left standing, as I said on the show, no doubt mostly because he got himself off the road as soon as possible.

Posted by zoilus on Sunday, September 19 at 04:46 PM | Comments (0)


The Alt-Country, Red-State, Intellectual-Property, 9/11-Anniversary Blues

So this weekend the blog inexplicably commits hari-kari for a couple days, and more bad news comes in hot pursuit: To access all the articles of mine linked in "In Print" above, due to decisions made by the employers-that-be, you now have to become a Globe and Mail web subscriber. There are some practical reasons why, but it's not real cheap, and many of you won't choose to do so. C'est un drag.

Till I come up with a better solution, I'll try to provide Zoilus readers with enhanced-content editions of selected columns as I go. The first in that series is this piece on the much-pissed-upon genre of "alternative country" - which was, granted, always a lousy idea for a genre, but included some of the past decade's best songwriters, most of whom still matter to me today. The question of why it rose and fell without fulfilling all the hopes placed on it, as well as the zombie afterlife it's just embarked upon, dovetails full-bang with the question of what's gone wrong with American politics, and that's the upshot of this piece.

So if you'll please click on the Read More button, I offer you, "Alt Country Sings the Red-State Blues: The Director's Cut," featuring the Drive-By Truckers, who put on an earsplitting, lipsmacking, asswhupping show at the Horseshoe in Toronto last night. (Frank has pics.)

I think it's worth a read.


Alt-Country Sings the Red-State Blues (The Director's Cut)

Carl Wilson
The Globe & Mail
Sept 11. 2004

It’s the bitter kind of twist you’d expect at the end of a country song, where a guy finally gets sober only to watch his wife take off with his best friend: “Alt-country” music got its biggest endorsement ever this week, but the source made that 1990s musical movement look as redundant as a midwestern industrial worker whose job has taken a swift boat to China.

Republican image czar Mark McKinnon told the New York Times on Monday that George W. Bush’s official campaign soundtrack is “heavy on alternative country ... ‘a little rockier, a little jazzier, a little funkier’ than traditional country.”

The news left alt-country fans in a funk of their own. After all, while both rock and country have always come from collisions of urban and rural sounds, the particular fusion of sizzle and twang that came to be called alt-country was forged in the early-1990s recession that sank Dubya’s dad.

At the time, critic David Cantwell called bands such as the Bottle Rockets, Old 97s, Son Volt and Wilco “the children of Detroit City” - rust-belt troubadors more vexed at how Middle America was being battered by Bush Sr.’s New World Order than by the usual rock’n’roll imperative to get the hell out of the sticks.

They intuited that when the factory shuts down, the family splits up, you live in a cancer cluster and only Wal-Mart is hiring, the effects aren’t so different than when the farm goes bust in a classic country song: Hearts spring leaks and whisky stanches the wounds.

These days you could call it the Red State blues. The Republicans’ vampire kiss to alt-country is part of their dumbfounding claim to be the party of heartland values, even as they help corporations cut off the heartland’s blood supply.

Thomas Frank addresses this paradox in his controversial recent book, What’s the Matter with Kansas?: Why does his working-class home state keep voting for candidates who want to cut taxes for the rich instead of fixing health care? Frank blames Democrats for failing to answer a right-wing “values” strategy that rails about gay marriage or school prayer to bind voters’ loyalties against their own class interests.

In that context, Republican alt-country is as odd as conservative punk – as The Daily Show has put it, “raging for the machine.”

In the 1990s, alt-country prompted some of the most stimulating discussions about music I’ve ever had, mostly on the Internet: Where was the line between appropriating tradition and mocking it? How far could hybrids go before a culture lost its identity? What about race, what about north-south tensions, what about populism?

It seems so Clinton-era now – all that empathy, dialogue, process and synthesis. After the 2000 election and especially the 2001 terrorist attacks, many alt-country fans I knew began retreating to their preferred sides of the hyphen, back to indie rock or deeper into country, and a lot of the artists did too. Like the U.S. electorate, they became polarized.

It was as if the tactics of alternative country – juxtapositions of old and new musical vocabularies, often to weird or ironic effect – had become all too relevant. Dubya said you had to be with America or against it, but alt-country was both. If even the Dixie Chicks’ ambivalence was intolerable, how could a whole genre of love-hate Americana last? As Nashville refugee Allison Moorer laments in her new song All Aboard, “Some restrictions do apply/ Watch your mouth and close your eyes.”

And so the likes of Wilco gave up any hint of twang, Nashville pushed jingo Toby Keith and rock became a recycling depot for liberal pieties. Hip-hop alone was left to do the musical stretching, but with little whiff of politics.

Moorer, who quit her major-label contract last year, is one of several performers with alt-country connections who, as if in a gesture of conscientious objection, are marking this Sept. 11 north of the border. She opens for the Drive-By Truckers at the Horseshoe in Toronto tonight; tomorrow at Lee’s Palace, it’s the Old 97s and Chuck Prophet.

You could call them dinosaur acts, but this year a funny thing happened on the way to the tar pits: Something a lot like alt-country began showing up on the mainstream, from names as big as Brooks & Dunn and Kid Rock – who both played last week’s Republican convention. Rock, a genuine son of Detroit who headlines at the Molson Amphitheatre tonight, has adapted his rap-metal ‘tude to a country mood. He even partnered with Moorer on the country-radio version of his hit Picture.

Fresher still are new records from a clique calling itself the Muzik Mafia, Gretchen Wilson’s No. 1 single Redneck Woman and Big & Rich’s debut album Horse of a Different Colour, which has just gone gold in Canada. Like many 1990s alt-country bands, they draw on southern rock stalwarts like Lynyrd Skynyrd and are more blunt and sarcastic than Nashville usually allows.

Big & Rich offer a goofy and uneven party record, a novelty-stuffed summer jam that could flow as smoothly into Outkast, the Goodie Mob or other “dirty south” rap as into classic rock or the latest four-square Nashvegas country by Tim McGraw – who toured with them this summer, along with their six-foot-four, Spanish-speaking black rapper Cowboy Troy. B&R; videos feature a literal parade of human diversity under the slogan “country music without prejudice” or, more playfully, “expandilism.”

Country and hip-hop today are both reliant on big beats and big personalities, gruff machismo and sass-talking ladies and partying and word play, while paying respect to God and the old school, and most of all representing where they come from – which is often the same deep-southern place. What continues to separate them is the knee-jerk assumption that there are two Americas – Hip-Hop America and Country America – and that they hate each other.

Tastemakers are comfortable with such demographic divides – black and white or blue and red, giving everybody someone to resent. It lets them overlook the real colour line described by vice-presidential candidate John Edwards’ “two Americas” – access to green.

In fact, if alt-country never caught the have-nots’ ears, perhaps it wasn’t eclectic enough. Big and Rich’s success shows how many people are out there wearing Snoop Dogg shirts and Charlie Daniels caps, smoking blunts and blasting Zeppelin.

You won’t sense any of that on the first album in three years by the one-time great pop hopes of alt-country, Texas’s Old 97s. Reviewers have called Drag It Up a homecoming to twang-rock from the band’s power-pop excursions, but the album makes it sound as if home had disappeared by the time the band when they got there. The analogy is grimly literal: Lead singer Rhett Miller and his wife had to flee their downtown New York apartment on 9/11. Yet nothing but a certain weariness testifies to that experience here, as Miller makes a half-hearted return to the smart-aleck “serial lady-killer” persona of his younger days.

Miller is a better writer than that, and the alt-country example he should look to is Georgia’s the Drive-By Truckers, whose new album – cleverly titled The Dirty South – is an illustrated guidebook to John Edwards’ and Thomas Frank’s two Americas. Performed in high-octane, triple-axe Skynyrd mode, it’s a sequence of story-songs about moonshiners and moon launches, Reagan and railway men, demanding to know “why the ones who have so much make the ones who don’t go mad.”

When songwriters Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley and Jason Isbell depict characters who must choose between pious, dutiful penury and living high and hard outside the law, they evoke Tupac Shakur as much as Johnny Cash. As they titled a previous album, it’s Gangstabilly.

The DBTs see a lot more grey than Big & Rich do in the redneck rainbow, but they’re shouting out to the same America, one that after three years of narrowing is yearning for a little expandilism. Despite all his phony yee-haws, that’s bad news for G-Dub: Americans may not listen to much alternative country, but a lot of them seem eager to live in one.

* * *

If you're in a 9/11 anniversary weekend mood for more venting on the subject, see this Vic Chesnutt interview: "It's always been like this. This country has always been run by greedy fuckers." He sounds like he's considering setting the 9/11 Commission report to music.

Posted by zoilus on Sunday, September 12 at 07:02 PM | Comments (0)


Holding Hands After Swimming in a Lake (Plus: Ambitious Arto)


Calvin Johnson (Beat Happening, Dub Narcotic Sound System, K Recs) is in Toronto @ Lee's Palace, Sept. 28. I've never seen him. Will it be super-mutant charm or repulsive twee? (The above pic, to me: charming. To you? Caveat emptor.)

In other news: Franz Ferdinand wins the Merrrrrrrrrrrrr............ sorry, dozed off there. At least Belle & Sebastien's waste of Trevor Horn's time was not rewarded. (Grump!)

ALSO: In Franklin Bruno's otherwise excellent Boston Phoenix piece on Arto Lindsay and the reissued DNA recordings, he poses "an obvious question: how did he travel from there to here?" (In which "there" is abrasive "arch-negationist no wave" and "here" is samba-spined "slick, accessible ... electro-acoustic grooves".)

While Franklin limns the result of that journey with his customary eloquence, there's actually a straight answer to the question he leaves hanging.

In brief: After DNA, Lindsay worked with the likes of Anton Fier, John Lurie, Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, John Zorn and Ryuichi Sakamoto, all of which likely helped sand some of the spike off his style. But the big missing link is the oft-neglected Ambitious Lovers, Lindsay's band with Peter Scherer on keyboard, which stands at a near-exact midground 'tween DNA and O Corpo Subtil. Their Lust, Envy and especially Greed are sharp mashes of Prince, no wave and Braziliana.

Around the same time, Lindsay met Caetano Veloso in NYC, and because of his Brazilian background he got to produce Veloso's album Estrangeiro, which positioned him to be heavily involved in the next decade's worth of Brazilian avant-pop with Marisa Monte, Gal Costa and Carlinhos Brown, bridging to the likes of Juana Molina now, as well as Lindsay's stunning series of seductive 1990s solo works.

And through it all, he's still never really learned to play guitar: Read David Krasnow's neat Bomb interview with Arto.

Edited to add: Franklin also points out a crack Arto story by Douglas Wolk that includes the best description of DNA's sound I've ever read: "poems constructed entirely of punctuation."

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, September 08 at 01:30 PM | Comments (2)


We Are All Just Prisioneros/Prisonaires Here (of Our Own Device)

If you're looking for music tonight and Sonore isn't a must for you, might I suggest you head down to Kool Haus and see Los Prisioneros, a precursor group to today's "Latin Alternative" (or Rock en Espagnol), and also a vital group in Chilean history. To swipe from a historically minded website:

"Their music became popular among young people in the 1980s and was used during early television ads for the NO campaign for the plebiscite [on extending Pinochet's regime - zoilus]. This group is noteworthy because during the Pinochet government, rock music was an underground outlet for those opposed to the dictatorship. The trio formed while they were high school students and they recorded their first CD in 1984, aptly named La voz de los’80 which means the voice of the 80s. Subsequently, they released another CD in 1986 called Pateando piedra, and yet another in 1987 called La cultura de la basura. Songs from La cultura de la basura were used during the for the "NO" television campaign ads. The group broke up in 1991. Since then, two other compilation CDs have been released, Ni por la razón...ni por la fuerza in 1990 and Grandes éxitos in 1991."

(But I guess tonight's concert, their first ever in Canada, means they've reunited.)

By a leap of near-homonymity, that also reminds me that this week saw the passing of Johnny Bragg of the Prisonaires, the jailhouse Sun Records act that did Just Walkin' in the Rain in 1953, and one of the most amazing one-hit wonder stories in pop history. (The link leads to a fine Nashville Scene piece that retells it and reviews a bio of Bragg I'd love to read.)

Recent cultural tie-in: Jonathan Lethem's Fortress of Solitude includes an entertaining chapter in which his music-critic protagonist goes to Hollywood to pitch a Prisonaires movie to a producer (and flops miserably) - based on a long-held fantasy of Jonathan's own. Bitter aftertwist: Reportedly, now there is a Prisonaires movie in the works (though it seems to be languishing), slated to star ... Boyz II Men.

Johnny Bragg was 79.

Posted by zoilus on Friday, September 03 at 04:01 PM | Comments (0)


Zell on Four Wheels

Casual political observers might be unaware that Zell Miller, the Georgian Democrat/Benedict-Arnold who gave the o.t.t. GodZella keynote address at this week's Republican Convention, and then proceeded to challenge Chris Matthews of Hardball to a duel! (which, come to think of it, some echt Democrat should have done long ago) - that guy is also a songwriter. Courtesy of my friend Barry Mazor, writer for No Depression, the Wall Street Journal, etc., here's a 2001 press release detailing one of the Zellanator's artistic triumphs.

Note to country newbies: Zell's cowriter "Cowboy" Jack Clement is a kickass Nashville songsmith, who penned among other hits Johnny Cash's Ballad of a Teenage Queen, George Jones' A Girl I Used to Know and Hank Snow's Miller's Cave - no relation.

7/26/01 -- "Talking Pickup Truck Blues"
A new song by Zell Miller and Jack Clement

Washington D.C. -- A congressional panel voted 29-3 to force light truck manufacturers to save the nation 5 billion gallons of gasoline...John Dingell, D-Michigan, said the bill would be "the equivalent of taking two years of production of SUVs and pickups off the road." Others pointed out that it would add hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, to the vehicle's sticker price. (Dallas Morning News, July 13, 2001)

"You hardly ever see a pickup truck in Washington, D.C." Senator Zell Miller explained. "They're scarce up here and that's why I'm concerned the pickup owners of this nation might get screwed in all this gas guzzler talk about SUVs and vans. That's why we wrote this song."

"Talking Pickup Truck Blues" was written by Miller, a member of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, and his longtime friend and sometimes co-writer Jack Clement, a legendary Nashville character who is a member of the Country Music Song Writers Hall of Fame. Clement also sings the song.

Previously, Miller and Clement collaborated on "Everywhere I've Ever Been Was On My Way Back Home."

Back during the Carter Administration's gas woes of the 1970's, Miller wrote, "You Can't Ration Nothing (That I Ain't Done Without)."

Miller is also the chief sponsor of the music-industry-kiss-up Beethoven for Babies legislation - about which, what the zell, he might even be sincere.

And judging by his latest remarks that he should have stayed home with his dogs instead of going to the RNC, I think he might just be an old trucker who's done one too many runs.

Posted by zoilus on Friday, September 03 at 02:37 PM | Comments (0)


His Pink Moon Also Riseth

Richard Buckner is the latest Nick Drake-style beneficiary of Volkswagen's valiant soundtrack dept, with his years-old tune Ariel Ramirez coming in for the commercial treatment, as found here, and reported on this not-ready-for-prime-time new Buckner site. Several friends have seen it already during Olympics coverage, so the posted Oct. 13 start date is way off - though that is when Rick's new disc Dents and Shells is due from Merge. Track list: 1. A Chance Counsel 2. Firsts 3. Invitation 4. Straight 5. Her 6. Charmers 7. Fuse 8. Rafters 9. Picture Day 10. As The Waves Will Always Roll. Tremendous!

Merge's site also informed me about a fine new feature on Destroyer by Michael Barclay on Radio 3 (click on the "Relaunch Radio 3" button) that quotes my Destroyer piece last year and is accompanied by sumptuous photos and soundtrack of Destroyer-meets-Frog Eyes versions of Your Blues tunes - for those of us who missed their joint tour. They rock in a way that should suit old-school D-yer fans who couldn't hack the ultra-synth of the studio album. Dan's performances are utterly off-the-hook and I love it whenever F.E.'s Carey ululates along.

Also note that the answers to the Lit Rock quiz are now posted below, with annotations. Did you know, for instance, about the James Joyce "Chamber Music Project" album featuring 36 artists, including Mercury Rev, Bardo Pond, Mike Watt, Minus 5 with Peter Buck and Jeff Tweedy, Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley (separately), Bark Psychosis and Jessica Bailiff? No, you did not. So you need to scroll down there and get on the clue bus!

Also note that due to outta-control comment spamming, I'm shuttering that feature, so email if you want to chat, pretty please.

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, August 18 at 05:47 PM


Gossip Brings You Pleasure

Heard on the grapevine, or rather the beervine, at the Communist's Daughter last night: Tangiers (scroll down) are signing to French Kiss Records, home of Les Savy Fav, The Hold Steady, Enon, etc. A fine bit of matchmaking - boho rock aesthetes meeting up a dark NYC alley - that will see the stylish and brainy Toronto rawkers (at least core members James Sayce and Josh Reichmann [pictured], given the band's lineup chaos the past 12 months) heading into a New York studio late this fall to get physical on a followup to this year's hotwired Never Bring You Pleasure. The boys are hopeful their new label friends can introduce them to similarly suave European aid. Future daydreams include a Canadian major deal, though they're certainly open to their friendly neighbourhood indies as well. But before all that happens, they should go on a nice romantic holiday, don't you think? Me too.

And with that newsbite, I'm off for the weekend to Weakerpeg (renamed in honour of the Weakerthans) for a wedding and other family matters. Expect no posts till Tuesday. Meanwhile you can amuse yourself with ILM's Rough Guides to Everything from "the seasons" to "Memphisian hip-hop" to "Queen Street West":

Rough Guide To Toronto's Queen Street West
1. Handsome Ned - Put The Blame On Me
2. Rough Trade - High School Confidential
3. Martha & The Muffins - Echo Beach
4. Jane Siberry - Waitress
5. Parachute Club - Rise Up
6. Blue Rodeo - Try
7. Mary Margaret O'Hara - Year In Song
8. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet - Who Painted Whistler's Mother
9. Bruce McCulloch - These Are The Daves I Know
10. Dinner Is Ruined - Carnival of Sole
11. Change of Heart - Smile
12. Neon Rome - Windowsill
13. Ron Sexsmith - Gonna Get What's Mine
14. Crash Vegas - Pocahontas
15. Cowboy Junkies - Sweet Jane
16. Rheostatics - Dope Fiends & Boozehounds

I think I can bear all of that except No. 5 and No. 15. The very very early Sexsmith track's a nice touch. But while not much can equal Miss No. 7, Toronto music sure has gotten more intriguing and diverse overall. Of course if you were to update it to the same stretch of Queen Street West now (University to Spadina), it would consist mainly of Nelly, Avril, Norah and whatever else they currently play on the sound systems at chain shoe boutiques. Anyone have suggestions for a Rough Guide to West Queen West? I nominate Tangiers' I Wanna Go Out....

And nobody say Tea Party, wise guys.

Posted by zoilus on Friday, August 13 at 12:33 AM | Comments (0)


The No "There" There Kid

The new McSweeney's political-$ raising project Future Dictionary of America features sometimes-funny sometimes-not definitions from the mid-distance future from Kurt Vonnegut, Art Spiegelman, Stephen King, T.C. Boyle, ZZ Packer, Michael Chabon, Jeffrey Eugenides, Jonathan Safran Foer, Joyce Carol Oates, Sarah Vowell, etc., but what concerns us here is the accompanying CD, which is so far as I know the first - and the question is, "of many?" - political-song compilations to come out in this U.S. electoral cycle, Future Soundtrack for America.

[Edited to add: oops, not quite the first; there's also the Rock Against Bush punk compilations, Vol 1. and 2.]

Track listing action:

OK Go : This Will Be Our Year
David Byrne : Ain't Got So Far To Go
Jimmy Eat World : Game of Pricks (BBC evening session)
Death Cab For Cutie : This Temporary Life
Blink-182 : I Miss You (James Guthrie mix)
Mike Doughty : Move On
Ben Kweller : Jerry Falwell Destroyed Earth
Sleater-Kinney : Off With Your Head
R.E.M. : Final Straw (MoveOn mix)
Bright Eyes : Going for the Gold (live)
The Long Winters : The Commander Thinks Aloud (future mix)
will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas : Money
They Might Be Giants : Tippecanoe And Tyler Too
Clem Snide : The Ballad of David Icke
Yeah Yeah Yeahs : Date With the Night (live)
Fountains of Wayne : Everything's Ruined (acoustic)
Nada Surf : Your Legs Grow
The Flaming Lips : Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (live on the BBC)
Old 97's : Northern Line
Laura Cantrell : Sam Stone
Tom Waits : Day After Tomorrow
Elliott Smith : A Distorted Reality Is Now A Necessity To Be Free

You'd have to take about half of that goofy shit off there for me to buy it, but worth tracking for those of us who are watching such developments and wondering if there'll be a pro-administration analogue. Obviously enticing collectors to buy rare tracks is a fine way to raise cash and probably more effective than writing 'political' songs (please see here and here) for most songslingers.

Posted by zoilus on Monday, August 09 at 04:19 PM | Comments (0)


The Only Thing I'm Saying About U.S. Democratic Politics This Week Is

that Barak Obama's theme music is a unique combination of unintentionally hilarious and sincerely moving.

The chorus (are you listening yet? get to it) is especially clever as 1. a chant-along political rallying thing and 2. a subtle solution to the problem that most of your constituents can't figure out how to pronounce your candidate's name. It's 'Hooked on Senatorial Phonics'!

"Ba-RAK! .... Barak o-BA-MA!"

And because it's too kitschy for its own entry: The Interweb is prone to overrating things like William Shatner Reciting Pulp's Common People As A Bad Audition Monologue, I'm well aware. And for the most part the comic effect is shortlived and the irritation factor high; it mostly reminds you how fine the original was. But there is one moment that makes it entirely worthwhile, which is the split second when Joe Jackson enters on the closing chorus and it's so seamlessly done that your ear is fooled for a second into thinking it is Shatner himself suddenly roaring into song, which turns this whole exercise inside out like some cosmic testimony to music. And without all of the anti-musicality and tedium of the track up until then, it could never work. Possibly the best moment in Joe Jackson's career since ... wow, 1986.

Also, a belated thanks to Mr. Jackson for his little salvo last year in the battle for common degeneracy. History is of course against us, and ought to be, but there is no reason not to maintain our totally unviable positional identities for the sake of the decaying culture museums of the unconscious.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, July 29 at 11:44 PM | Comments (2)


Blog Attacked! And Emily Haines Attacked Too

Some robot somewhere has been comment-bombing me - this morning at least 8 new spam comments appeared on every entry on this site, to a total of thousands. Any Jack the Robot Killers out there with tips on cleanup and prevention, they're appreciated. (It's movable type if that's not obvs.)

In other news - at the El Mocambo this weekend, Emily Haines of Metric hits the stage blindfolded and feels her way to a piano in the dark, then proceeds to play 45 minutes' worth of slow creepy music with her back almost turned to the crowd. Frank and Graig have radically different reactions, so much so that their reviews are documentary evidence that there is no such thing as objective aesthetic assessment. I'm so bo-o-ored with crit-i-cal con-sen-sus and add-a-line debate, that I'm drawn to the way total disagreements crack open discursive/wu-li-masters-dancing-mind space.

I wasn't in attendance but from what they say I suspect that I'd be on the pro-slow-creepy-Emily side - I could take or leave every aspect of Metric except her pipes and the theatrical way she uses them, and those qualities would probably be in the black-light spotlight in this kind of show.

(As much as I like big huge showmanship - as at Friday's Hidden Cameras show, which would have been stupendous if there had been better sound (it was bad) and if there had been more between-pews room for dancing (the church up the street is better) - I also like aggressive anti-showmanship like Emily's back-turned grammar here. That slack shit in-between that you get from the other 90 per cent? Hmph.)

Much to talk about from Saturday's alternative-black-music gabfest at Harbourfront with the likes of K-Os and Shawn Hewitt and Graph Nobel and James Spooner and Kandia Crazy Horse - for instance, one of the last statements of the day was that all music critics should just be killed off, hmmm - but sadly no time right now. Dontcha worry, it'll come back to haunt us/ like the ghost of Pocahontas.

Posted by zoilus on Monday, July 26 at 02:31 AM | Comments (2)


If Not Now, Then. Also, Monsters of Rock!

nprtallica.jpgWho says Metallica's gone soft? From here they went right down to the co-op to get some organic goat's blood.... oh. Goat's milk. Whatevs.

If you're following the CRTC's radio-censorship case in Montreal, then the place to be reading is Marc Weisblott's radio blog.

But if you're a music fan, then the radio story you really should follow is the American payola-all-ovah story: Read Jamie Surowiecki's column and on-line dialogue with Ben Greeman at the New Yorker.

If you're waiting desperately for the Hidden Cameras' brilliant new album, then I regret to inform you that problems with cover art will see it delayed it to Aug. 3.

If you're upset the Toronto Blues Festival (like Lollapalooza before it) was cancelled, then take these sops of comfort: The Gram Parsons tribute has relocated to Hugh's Room on Saturday; the Weakerthans have migrated over to the Mod Club, Fri July 23. If you think that doesn't make you feel a damn bit better for missing out on an Earl Scruggs/Big Boi doubleheader, then I'm with you. (And if you have a theory why this seems to be the summer of over-ambitious concerts that go down in flames, then I'm all ears.)

If you heart Franz Ferdinand or like me you're "meh" on 'em, then you should still read the most passed-around piece of rock-crit this week, Rob Sheffield's witty Village Voice screed, "All the Young Dance Whores."

If you're happy-sad to hear that the posthumous Elliott Smith album From a Basement on the Hill is due out in October on Anti-, then don't clap your hands, click this link and listen to Madeline Peyroux sing Smith's Between the Bars. (Via Stereogum.) Nice to hear from Peyroux, with her Billie Holiday-gone-cajun quaver; I've been waiting for the followup to her first album, Dreamland, since it came out in 1996. (By the way, the only interview Elliott Smith will ever give about this album is here and here. Hard to read now. I wonder if the murder/suicide question is ever going to be resolved?)

Finally, if you're going to see the Metallica documentary, then try to avoid jerking your knee in the bully boys' chorus line (there are more but I can't be bothered): "This bunch of touchy-feely pussies started sucking years ago and now they expect us to feel sorry for them, fuuuuuuck thaaaat! heaavvvvy meeeetaaaal!"

Fact is that metal has been about therapy for, like, ever. Separate out the psyche-Sabbath origins and the glam part that's just a giddy mud bath in great gushes of testosterone, and what you have left is sulking about mummy and daddy, once more with bad, bad feeling.

The ascent of metal clocks pretty tight with the spike in the divorce rate, and from Slayer to Slipknot it's all broken-home symphonies. For further discussion, see the best thing Blender's ever printed (certainly the only one that ever made me say, "Shit, man, they stole my idea").

So, if therapy is just the continuation of metal by other means, then will it go on to sap away the rage at metal's molten core (blah blah blah)? Anybody who thinks so hasn't had much contact with therapy - if anything it will just generate more material. (Though the transference does complicate things, just remember to sing "Satan" wherever you feel like singing "Dr. Schwarzman.") What really saps the headbanger's anarchic fury is, well, growing up, and though I haven't seen Some Kind of Monster yet, I'm betting that's the theme it's really running through its looking glass, and if so, then the cultural spinal cord it's tapping has a lot to do with the way machismo a la JD-and-power-chords doesn't equip men very well for that shocker.

Which is a lot more interesting than the fucking Osbournes, which, my friends, was the true disgrace to rock'n'roll.

Please now stab your fingers at your computer in devil-horn formation to properly conclude this blog entry.

Posted by zoilus on Friday, July 16 at 11:45 AM | Comments (1)


How Would You Like It If I Came Over With My Clique?

Notes from all over:

Tiny Mix Tapes reports another round of Destroyer/Frog Eyes dates coming in Sept., including Sept. 28 at the Underground in Hamilton, Sept. 29 at the Mile End Cultural Centre in Montreal, Oct. 3 at the Khyber in Philly, and a bunch of places I'm less likely to be. ([Postscript]: Pitchfork (you don't need no stinkin' link to that) claims these are Frog Eyes-only dates. Which in a way sounds more plausible. P-fork also confirms that Dan and Carey and the clan are going into the studio to do live-style rawkcordings of some of the Your Blues songs as an EP. [/postscript])

TMT also claims Roxy Music is reuniting again - this time with Brian Eno but without Bryan Ferry. Avant-karaoke?

I'm not sure what relates here to there, but the former has this gem, the Hidden Cameras covering Destiny's Child live. The new HCs album, Mississauga Goddam, is one of the records of the year - details to come in der Globe next week.

The Huron Street Hunt Club presents the "Paper Rad Summer 2004 Troll Tour" at the Gladstone on July 24. I don't know most of the performers, but they include the makers of some of the most pleasantly unpleasant un-popular music of our era, Hitz Exprezz, and that's enough for me. With Extreme Animals, Cory Arcangel (Beige), Dr Doo, Natural Reflex, DJ Jenny-Veranda. 10 pm, $6.

And... it's not music, but one of my favourite zines/sites in the world, Infiltration ("the zine about going places you're not supposed to go"), now comes complete with blog.

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, July 13 at 03:27 PM | Comments (5)


In Other Countries, Art and Literature are Left to a Lot of Shabby Bums Feeding on Booze and Spaghetti, but in America the Successful Writer or Picture-painter is Indistinguishable from Any Other Decent Business Man

According to the ombudsman of American National Public Radio, "good cultural journalism" starts with assuming that any pop artist is (a) unimportant and (b) not an artist.

He also finds the Magnetic Fields, Morrissey and W--co "too hip" for NPR listeners. And Timbaland (or was that Justin Timberlake?) too obscure, until he finds out that Timbaland reads the Lord of the Rings, and then, for some reason, everything's okay.

NPR's dilemma (like the CBC's) is being the alternative-but-not radio network, the one with an aging base that is dying off faster than it can be replenished - go for young listeners too aggressively and maybe nobody will end up listening; don't go for young listeners and for sure nobody will end up listening, but it'll take longer, so you might not get blamed. It's pathetic but understandable.

But this goes way past NPR. It is a perfect snapshot of what it's like to work under the editors at any more-or-less-mainstream news outlet as a cultural writer. The real criticism is of using language too aesthetically, in non-journalistic cadences, and daring to assume that art is interesting without reference to some issue/celebrity/cute-gimmick or other non-art "peg" that will make it relevant in news-cycle terms.

Yes, I get irked by this where I work, and yet as far as I can tell we have it about as good as it gets in North America (the Times, as always, excepted). Imagine if you were the NPR critics whose perfectly clear and fine pieces were being mockingly quoted in this column by their network overseer. I think my favourite bit is this:

One of the characteristics of NPR listeners is that they are "open to new ideas."

I love the quotation marks, which act as an invisible hyperlink back to some focus group or listener survey somewhere, and assure us that while NPR listeners have the characteristic of being "open to new ideas," foolhardy staff should not leap to the conclusion that if you start broadcasting any ideas that are, for instance, unfamiliar, somehow listeners will be, potentially, receptively to that. That would just be ridiculous. And mean. And oh yes, you're fired. All right?

Posted by zoilus on Friday, July 02 at 02:10 AM | Comments (2)


Blind Item: Middle C Ain't Nothin' But A Bank Note

An exchange overheard on a listserv today, talking about the Yep Rock band The 45s, naming no names --

Listmember1: >> Picked up *Fight Dirty* for $0.99 the other day; worth owning?
Listmember 2: > Yes, and you should mail the band $9.01.

Wow, music business propaganda is really working. I mean, yes, that'd be very nice, but are we now to feel guilty for buying things second-hand or on sale?

If I buy a pair of shoes second-hand for $20 should I feel obliged to mail $60 to the shoe designer? If I buy a remaindered book, should I tote up the cost as if the book hadn't been remaindered, and send it in to the publisher?

Sure, piracy's a bitch (and a sweet hootchie mama too). But we still live in a market economy, for better and worse. We're allowed to sell each other stuff, in general. (The reason we call file-sharing "piracy" is that it actually breaks the rules, by distributing illicit copies; if you gave up the file whenever you passed it on to someone else, that would be legal, I think.)

Saying, "Do the band a favour and buy it new, if you can possibly afford it" makes sense to me. But saying, "You are a criminal until you have handed over the designated price even if you got your cheap deal in a totally legal way"? That's ideology, and a funny-strange byproduct of the separation of music from its physical embodiment, thanks to the interweb.

Imagine he didn't get a CD but a vinyl record for his $0.99 -- doesn't that reflexively seem somehow more virtuous? Funny the tricks the mind plays when subjected to a years-long campaign by large corporate lobby groups.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, July 01 at 02:10 PM | Comments (2)


"Lookie Lookie" is the new "In My Considered Opinion"

Tin Tin Tin tonight tonight tonight! Doors at nine-o-lio.

Merle Haggard, for one, welcomes our new alien overlords (Willie Nelson is still waiting to hear about their tax policy)

Portents that country and hip-hop are totally on the merge (like you never heard that before)

Vic Chesnutt's best albums being reissued

How Richard Buckner's doing ("overcame what he calls a 'huge fucking block' that lasted nearly two years, making the new album sounds like a cinch)

How Franklin Bruno's thinking (very, very deftly)

Much more tomorrow.

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, June 30 at 03:18 PM | Comments (0)


Small Orchids Like Snakes' Tongues

After six months, it was about time there be some kind of action on the damned links page. So ta-dah. Barely a start, but if you're curious what I read and whom I know - or more likely just about whether I've linked you yet - go spelunk, young surfer.

Posted by zoilus on Sunday, June 27 at 03:06 AM | Comments (1)


It's a Shame about (Both) Rays

A wonderful, unusual cover by Eric Palma on The New Yorker this week puts Ray Charles in his rightful place - on a $10 bill, as the father of a country yet to be dreamt outside the fantastically democratic republic of sound in his country-gospel-soul-jazz-rockin' music. The NY'er seldom does topical covers: The last time I can recall, it was for the fall of the twin towers. How sensitive to make an exception for the fall of this pop titan. As well, it's a nicely restrained Noo Yawkah-style fuck-you to the necro-Reagan-philia and any notion of putting that bastard's face in the same location. (Oh, and it turns out to be a meme.)

Meanwhile, Canada's own late Ray Condo is remembered and celebrated tomorrow (Sun. June 27, $7) at a tribute concert at the Horseshoe Tavern (370 Queen St. West). In fact it starts at the Cameron House, where the Countrypolitans have their own set from 6 to 8 pm, and then Big Rude Jake will lead a "jazz processional" parade over to the 'Shoe. (That also marks the close of the Condo picture exhibition “I Wish That It Had Been A Dream,” by shooter Gayle Hurmuses.)

Most of the bill for the tribute is predictable (as much it should be) -- Jake, the Bebop Cowboys, Steve Ketchen, John Borra, Tom Parker, Scott B., Brian Connolly, Scotty Campbell, etc. etc. - but one highlight is that Gerard Van Herk of the late, cheeze-grated 1980s-Montreal scene kingpins Deja Voodoo (and Og Records) will be on hand. Van Herk has been out of the music game for a long time, a linguistics prof in Ottawa; for him to make an appearance makes this evening all the more special. (Along with the promised pie-baking and honky-tonk fashion contests!)

(You can read my obituary for Condo here.)

Posted by zoilus on Saturday, June 26 at 03:34 PM | Comments (0)


I Noticed that My Opponent is Always on the Go

Meanwhile, over at Aaron's place, he's scored a copy of the suppressed Fiona Apple song whose Jon Brion-isms might have spooked Sony but render it a career best to my ears (staking her own claim on cabaret-queen status along the way). If you'd like to issue some pleas guaranteed to fall on demonstrably deaf ears, hie thee to this nunnery. Fiona72.jpg
And if you want to follow developments keep an ear cocked to this forum.

Posted by zoilus on Friday, June 25 at 01:24 PM | Comments (0)


Lollapalooza Plug Predictably Pulled, Farrell Wallows in Prog-Rock-Worthy Allegories

"To watch something that you put so many hours of love and time into set ablaze sets my pride on fire. But, like the Phoenix, we still intend to rise." — Perry Farrell

Sympathies to Broken Social Scene, especially, on losing this high-profile showcase. But really, in a still-limp economy, what was a lineup like this supposed to do? Morrissey, Flaming Lips, Sonic Youth, Le Tigre, Modest Mouse, BRMC, BSS, Walkmen, Danger Mouse, Polyphonic Spree, The Coup, Elbow, sometimes Wilco or PJ Harvey... Yes, on a cultish level, that's all very impressive, even including some token hip-hop. But with the exception of Mr. Smiths, these bands are more the stuff of big South by Southwest showcases than of a summer stadium tour.

In the heyday of the ole Lolla'Palooka, the headlining bands may have been "alternative" but many of them (Pearl Jam, Chili Peppers, etc.) also had radio hits. Those of us who cleave to the kind of music that was slated for this year are not exactly the daytime summer festival crowd. I, for one, was not going to spend two days at the godforsaken Molson Amphitheatre no matter how tasty the pickings.

Mind you, I never went back in the day, and that was 10 years ago (though I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now, blah blah blah.) In fact, most of the biggest draws this year were also from Column Been-There-Done-That; Farrell was showing his (our) age. The big red light was flashing and the splay-feathered mynah bird of popular culture was screeching "Mismatch! Mismatch!"

(Btw, sorry for the posting vacuum the past few days. My home computer is on the fritz.)

Edited to add: 1. String Cheese Incident in itself was enough reason not to go to Day Two. 2. Some have noted that the show with the Pixies in it, in New York, was the only sellout. Repeat, the bill just wasn't commercial enough. This is not 1993. 3. Nevertheless the industry is fast spinning this as somehow due to its own so-called crisis.

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, June 22 at 11:21 AM | Comments (4)


What'd They Say

My local colleague Aaron Wherry has kindly compiled a lot of the Ray Charles obituaries and tributes. Go linger for awhile. Keep his memory.

Posted by zoilus on Friday, June 11 at 03:16 PM | Comments (1)


Another Day, Another Civil Liberties Emergency

So take a little magical mental journey with me: Imagine that your spouse had a heart attack and died in bed beside you, and that when the medics came the next morning they noticed you had some suspicious art-work around the house, and by the very same afternoon you were under arrest as a "suspected terrorist."

Welcome to the nightmare of Prof. Steven Kurtz of the Critical Art Ensemble, a long-standing visual and performance art and writing group. (Which, of course, steers heavy to the left.) Other members of the group have also been subpoenaed by the FBI.

Ah, what a sweet, touching way to memorialize those glorious Reagan years, and Papa Bush's presidency, too. (See under Mapplethorpe, Finlay, Acker, Tipper Gore, pornography commission, NEA, etc.)

To update that lovely old slogan for the George W. era:

"It's morning in America, your wife is dead, and you're under arrest."

(You can and should sign the support letter here.)

Posted by zoilus on Friday, June 11 at 03:11 PM | Comments (1)


Shows More

Lots else to get to sometime today but a simple note that on Monday, Magali Meagher of the Phonemes (and ex-Hidden Cameras) is playing Holy Joe's, 651 Queen Street West, at Bathurst, 10-10:30 p.m., pay what you can. Magali's in my Toronto Music Yearbook tagged Most Likely to Succeed in the songwriting section. In the Singing section she's already busted that sucka. Steve Kado refers to her work as a "lesson in language learning, massive historical guilt, various animals and eating utensils," though (characteristically) he left one thing out: love. Yes, Steve, love.

If you miss this one, you can catch MM again with the Phonemes on June 26, in the worthy yet cool Cahoots Theatre Summer Youth Projects Benefit feat. Sea Snakes, Phonemes, Final Fantasy @ The Theatre Centre at Queen & Dovercourt. $8.

camraz.jpg The Hidden Cameras: That's Magali (as well as Mathias, far left) of the Phonemes on drums second from left. (The others are: Maggie McDonald, of the debuting-on-Wednesday-at-the-Drake-Hotel new band Republic of Safety, Justin, Gentleman Reg, Joel, Graham, Owen of Les Mouches/Final Fantasy (also appearing at Wednesday's RoS world premiere), Bob Wiseman.) Photo by Guntar Kravis, stolen from the Cameras' website. Guiltily.

Posted by zoilus on Friday, June 11 at 02:53 PM | Comments (1)


Goodnight, Brother Ray

Somehow, I'd never thought about how this one would feel.

It feels horrible.

The month's death roll now stands: Ray Charles, Steve Lacy, Robert Quine, Bill Lowery (legendary southern music impresario), Elvin Jones and Ronald Reagan. One to five, and we're losing.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, June 10 at 03:25 PM | Comments (0)


The Statistical Top 10

It's never too early to start playing this game. The Top 10 albums so far this year by Metacritic ranking (meaning best-reviewed in the prototypical magazines and web sites) are:

1. Loretta Lynn, Van Lear Rose
2. Madvillain, Madvillainy
3. Dizzee Rascal, Boy In Da Corner
4. The Streets, Grand Don't Come For Free
5. Kanye West, College Dropout
6. Animal Collective, Sung Tongs
7. Les Savy Fav, Inches
8. Sufjan Stevens, Seven Swans
9. Franz Ferdinand, Franz Ferdinand
10. Devendra Banhart, Rejoicing In The Hands

Opinions? [...]

I can say at least that it's a damn sight better than earlier in the year, when Franz Ferdinand was actually No. 1, aside from the fact that no. 3 is a 2003 release. But I wish there were a Metacritic that actually measured a broader spectrum, including more hip-hop sites, mainstream reviews, Billboard charts, Soundscan - and laid those charts out side by side. It'd be a handy resource.

By comparison, here's the top of Sasha Frere-Jones' most recent draft of his best-albums-of-2004 list (from the beginning of May):

1. Keren Ann, Not Going Anywhere (Blue Note)
2. The Streets, A Grand Don’t Come For Free (Vice)
3. Madvillain, Madvillainy (Stones Throw)
4. DJ Olive, Bodega (theagriculture.com)
5. Lodger Hi-F, High Lights Down Low (One Eyed)
6. Lhasa The Living Road (Nettwerk)
7. Kanye West, College Dropout (Roc-A-Fella)
8. The Mountain Goats, We Shall All Be Healed (4AD/Beggars)
9. Juana Molina, Tres Cosas (Domino)
10. Andy Bey, American Song (Savoy)
11. Jadakiss, The Champ Is Here (DJ Green Lantern)
12. DNA, DNA on DNA (No More Records)
13. PJ Harvey, Uh Huh Her (Island)
14. Sloan, Action Pact (Koch)
15. Ghostface Killah, Hidden Darts 2 (J-Love)
16. Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Funeral For A Friend (Ropeadope/Artemis)
17. Text of Light (Starlight Furniture Company)
18. The Hold Steady, The Hold Steady Almost Killed Me (French Kiss)
19. DJ /Rupture vs. Mutamassik, Shotgun Wedding Vol. 1: The Bidoun Sessions (Violent Turd)
20. Pan Sonic, Kesto (234.48:4) (Mute)

That, by the way, is the first clue I've had that there's a new disc by DJ Olive, my all-time favourite turntablist if John Cage doesn't count. Must, must, must find.

As for my list? I'm aiming for early July to make a first stab. So far I suspect it would include the Mountain Goats and Destroyer (as any Zoilus reader could guess), the Without Kim disc by most of Sonic Youth with Mats Gustafsson, and probably the Mission of Burma album, but that's just speculation.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, June 10 at 02:30 PM | Comments (0)


Reagan Rock, RIP

While Ronald Reagan was a bad actor, McCarthyite, horrible politician and awful man who deserves none of the credit for character or diplomacy that he's getting this week - damn, was he ever good to write songs about. [...]

(Like his UK counterpart, Maggie Thatcher.)

Here's a little gathering of great (and less-great) songs from the era that pretty directly aim themselves at "Ronnie" - if I'd sifted more through the hardcore-punk back catalogue, I could have found ten times this many, and same goes if I'd just used a looser definition of Reagan-relevancy, as songs about the Reagan era's mentality were written all the time (in hip-hop, for example, which gets short shrift in the list below - but I'd love to hear any examples you can remember of Reagan-dissing in eighties rap).

Why does the energy of current political music pale in comparison? I imagine it's easier to write about a shift in the wind than the wind just getting steadily worse. But does Rock Against Reagan ever need to be matched by today's Bands Against Bush.

Translator: Ronnie Ray-Gun Blues
Joe Jackson: Right and Wrong
Billy Bragg: I Don't Need This Pressure, Ron
Dick Gaughn: Think Again
Gil Scott-Heron: B Movie
Van Dyke Parks: Trade War
Camper Van Beethoven: Sweethearts, Cowboys From Hollywood
Carmaig de Forest: Hey Judas
Ramones: Bonzo Goes to Bitburg
Shattered Faith: Reagan Country
Dead Kennedys: California Über Alles (In God We Trust, Inc. version)
Public Enemy: Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos
Hasil Adkins: Reagan Blues
The Minutemen: If Reagan Played Disco
Robyn Hitchcock: The President
Non Phixon: I Shot Reagan
A.P.P.L.E.: Impeach Reagan
D.O.A: Fucked Up Ronnie
D.R.I.: Reaganomics
Wasted Youth: Reagan's In
The Fartz: Battle Hymn of Ronald Reagan
Prince: Ronnie Talk 2 Russia
INXS: Guns in the Sky
Dead Kennedys: Moral Majority
D.I.: Reagan's Der Fuhrer
Prince: Ronnie Talk to Russia
Reagan Youth: Reagan Youth
Joseph Beuys: Sun Instead of Reagan
TSOL: Abolish Government/ Silent Majority
Bruce Cockburn: People See Through You
R.E.M.: Ignoreland
NOFX: Reagan Sucks
Suicidal Tendencies: I Shot the Devil
Gil Scott-Heron: Re-Ron
Violent Femmes: Old Mother Reagan
Austin Lounge Lizards: Ballad of Ronald Reagan
Frankie Goes to Hollywood: Two Tribes
Reathel Bean & The DBC (aka Garry Trudeau): Rapmaster Ronnie
Demented Youth: Assassination Attempt
NOFX - Reagan Sucks
Tesla: Modern Day Cowboy
Iron Maiden: Two Minutes To Midnite
Sick of It All: We Want the Truth
Midnight Oil: Minutes to Midnight
Loudon Wainwright III: Talking Ronald Reagan Blues
Bonzo Goes to Washington: (We Begin Bombing in) 5 Minutes
Old Skull: Homeless
CCCP: American/Soviets
XTC: Living Through Another Cuba

(Thanks to Carl Zimring and the fearnwhiskey list for the assist).

More on Punk Against Reagan here.

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, June 08 at 05:27 PM | Comments (2)


Cobra Dissected, Games Played with Cold, Dead Remains = Fun!

An announcement from my gifted amigo Misha Glouberman* for a special musical event in his series at the Drake Hotel. This idea comes in response in part to the Cobra dilemma I wrote about some months back, and the animator of that show, Joe Sorbara, is part of this project, as is local hero Steve Kado.

* shown here with Mrs. Zoilus.

Open Cobra Vol. 1
An explanatory/participatory music event
Based on John Zorn's Cobra
Sunday June 13 at the Drake Hotel in Toronto
7 pm sharp, $tba

Cobra is the best known of John Zorn's "Game Pieces", experimental music compositions structured as games played by improvising musicians.

The rules are ornate, with cue cards, hand signals, and even headbands and hats, all used to indicate structural changes of sound and arrangement. The rules have never been published, and traditionally, when the piece is performed, they are left unexplained to the audience. Open Cobra is a variation of Cobra designed to take an opposite approach: the high mystery of Cobra is replaced with high accessibility and participation.

Open Cobra
Open Cobra Volume I takes place in a single evening, and is divided into two parts.

Part One : Spectate
Part One is a show. There will be a detailed explanation of
the rules of Cobra, along with Q&A;, followed by a performance
of the game by the PJO and guests.

Part Two : Participate
Part Two is a series of fully participatory sound games
leading to a performance of Cobra by all those attending.
It will be an all-vocal performance. Nonmusicians are
strongly encouraged to participate, regardless of experience
or musical ability. Musicians are also allowed.
No instruments.

NOTE: To attend Part Two, you must be willing to participate.
No spectators. We welcome people to attend Part One only, or
to attend both parts. You can decide once you're there.

Open Cobra is part of Room 101 Games, a series of events at the Drake Hotel in Toronto based around games and play. Previous nights have been organized around board games and charades.

Open Cobra is created by Misha Gouberman and Joe Sorbara, with performances by the Pickle Juice Orchestra and special guest Steve Kado.

Learn more about Room 101 Games.
Learn more about Open Cobra.

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, June 02 at 06:05 PM | Comments (2)



How to assess the U.S. Pulitzer Prize committee's crying "Uncle" today to long-standing complaints from the jazz and experimental-music worlds about its annual composition prizes? Meaningless for the Pulitzers, and bad for jazz.

Look, if the committee is only now, in 2004, agreeing to recognize music with "elements of improvisation" as open to consideration - in the same gesture as recognizing Hollywood soundtracks - and still not considering pop music, it just makes it look like jazz is lying still and dead enough to be handled with the Pulitzer's kid gloves.

Since the prizes have consistently ignored the most important music that was eligible under the previous definition, don't expect the new guidelines to bring sudden recognition to Matthew Shipp, or even Dave Holland. And what is a small step for the Pulitzers is just another lameassed leap for Wynton Marsalis: Like Ken Burns' infamous PBS Jazz series, it implicitly takes up (past Pulitzer winner) Marsalis's culture-war rebranding of jazz as "American classical music."

Recommended reading: Gary Giddins' supple evisceration of the Pulitzers in the Village Voice this time last year, mentioning such non-winners as: John Cage, Morton Feldman, Harry Partch, Conlon Nancarrow, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Terry Riley, Meredith Monk, Thelonious Monk, Laurie Anderson, George Crumb, Steve Reich, Wayne Shorter, Randy Weston, Max Roach, Modern Jazz Quartet, Dizzy Gillespie, Muhal Richard Abrams, Cecil Taylor, and Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, Bob Dylan, Benny Carter, George Russell, B.B. King, Lee Konitz, Henry Threadgill, Abbey Lincoln, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Andrew Hill, Jim Hall, Chuck Berry, Roy Haynes, Pete Seeger, James Brown, and David Murray.

Just for starters. And why should you care? Giddins makes a good case for that too.

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, June 01 at 07:07 PM | Comments (2)


So Long, and Thanks For All The Music

It isn't ironic, but sad and a bit eerie, that one of my last posts before my vacation was about Elvin Jones, and then he died while we were on hiatus. This morning, albeit a week late, the Globe ran this fine obituary for him, taken from The Guardian. But I do wish we would write our own obituaries more often for non-Canadian luminaries, rather than relying on the British and American newswires - I'm sure our jazz critic Mark Miller could have done a superb job.

Posted by zoilus on Monday, May 31 at 02:16 PM | Comments (0)


Berlin Notebook: No, Really, I Am Back

As previously mentioned and as Aaron perhaps slightly prematurely announced (to some of his readers' irritation, due to my admittedly negligent error of not being Leslie Feist), I am back. Took me a few days to get my North America legs again, after a few weeks in Europe. Now I will try to be, um, more back.

Much to catch up on. What did I catch in Europe - not the cold I'm still shaking, but musically? [...]

In Prague: People dancing to the mixed CDs I brought to dear old friends Sean Dixon and Katerina Cizek's wedding, and the next night a Serbian nationalist band that sounded like Puddle of Mudd at a beautiful old theatre club in the city Stare Mesto area (some kind of mixup got us there). But quite a bit more in Berlin:

* At a quaint old Communist-era community centre/beerhall way east in the city, German free-jazz pianist Alex Von Schlippenbach with Australian drummer Tony Buck and a bassist whose name I didn't catch (he was filling in for Joe Williamson, who could not be there for reasons explained in German). Two pretty top-notch sets - Von Schlippenbach was great but perhaps less inspired than he's capable of, but Buck picked up any slack with seemingly inexhaustible energy. The young bassist held his own too. I was surprised there wasn't more of an audience there - I wondered if Von Schlippenbach were less famous in Germany than he is here, because there were certainly more people out at his Goethe Institut show in Toronto last year, or if he played out so much that it was easy for fans to give it a miss; later I found out that the biggest show of the Amplify festival was going on the same night, and frankly if I'd known that I might have not gone to the trio concert either. I'm glad that I did.

(On the other hand, Nina Hagen was also playing that night with a "big band," whatever that means coming from East Germany's nunsexpunkrock goddess, and while circumstances were inconvenient, I do regret missing that. And by the way, amid all the Gwyneth/Chris Martin baby-naming hooplah: Hagen's daughter, an actress, is named Cosma Shiva Hagen. Apple? Big effin' deal.)

* I had been advised by Toronto electro-acoustic turntablist Mike Hansen at the last Tin Tin Tin that Amplify 2004 (see this, not to be confused with that) was going on. But when I got to Berlin I couldn't remember the name of the festival and there was no apparent coverage of it in the entertainment magazines (the Berlin equivalents of North American alt-weeklies are biweekly magazines such as Tip). If only I had made my trip to Gelbe Musik earlier.

Gelbe Musik (gelbe, I gather, means "yellow" - anyone know why that name?) at Schaperstrasse 11 in Wilmersdorf, Berlin, is one of the most remarkable record stores I've ever been to, specializing in contemporary composers, improvisors, sound art and electronics. It's small, a little gallery-like, but any fan of those musics could get lost in their shelves for hours. I restricted myself to five or six purchases, but could hardly restrain myself from buying whatever they put on the sound system - I did actually buy a limited-edition improv record with Sonic Youth (minus Kim Gordon) and reeds player Mats Gustafsson - the store's only copy outside the much more expensive Black Box - straight out of their changer. I can't help bragging - it's one of only 100 or 150 copies issued, and it's one of the most furious, best Thurston Moore/Lee Ranaldo-related improv sessions I've ever heard.

And of course, anyplace there is a record store like that, you will find out everything you need to know about events going on in town. When you're in Berlin, do not make my error and wait a week before hitting Gelbe. I immediately found the flyer for Amplify, which I'd begun to think was a myth. Sure enough I had missed the main festival, including Christian Fennesz, John Butcher and others I really would have liked to see. but there was still time to go to the final night of the off-festival that Wednesday (May 19).

* Wednesday's show was at a former squat called Ausland, in Prenzaluer Berg, the trendy-but-fun area just east of Mitte where Sheila and I kept finding ourselves, almost against our will, day after day. As an ex-squat it was quite a contrast to the very developed but self-consciously punky Tacheles, nearby where we were staying, to wit:


Cafe Zapata (bar on the ground floor of Tacheles, which closes at about 5 a.m. and where I spent a late night drinking, reading and watching people dance and flirt)


In Ausland's case, the squat has been converted to apartments or perhaps condos (it was unclear to me which), but a kind of semi-attached basement bunker has been kept as an arts space. When I entered it was already crammed with people, chattering away in English, German, Dutch, French and Japanese (to name the tongues I distinctly noticed), and it only got more crammed after that. The atmosphere was a little feverish but the globalism was dizzyingly sweet. I ended up striking up a conversation with someone from the neighbouring building - who at first was expressing his puzzlement about the music, making me think he had just kind of wandered in "off the street," so to speak, but gradually it emerged that he was a very smart Berlin-based, Italian novelist named Fabio (Favio? Googling has produced no results) who is a big free-jazz fan (we had a nice exchange about Cecil Taylor, and a less cheerful one about Berlusconi) but generally unfamiliar with electro-acoustic improvisation. It turned out to be a convenient perspective to see the event through, prompting me to wonder how a newcomer to the form would take the sets, all of which were to celebrate new discs being released.

The first was by Japanese circuitry-and-stereo-inputs improvisors Sachiko M, Toshi Nakamura and Otomo Yoshihide, and I can best describe it as "crickets." I've seen Otomo, especially, be ferocious before, but that was distinctly absent here. The second was Keith Rowe on tabletop guitar with trumpeters Axel Dörner and Franz Hautzinger (both with electronically altered horns), and this one had a bit more motive force, though only now and then. Fabio/Favio and I discussed how this very minimal music seems to retread the ground of John Cage, and then asked ourselves what exactly was wrong with retreading the ground of John Cage, or anyone else, a question that made me re-examine some of my mind-wandering boredom over the two sets (maybe it wasn't boredom but actually fun?).

No question that the final set by Berliners Burkhard Stangl and Christof Kurzmann was fun, though: Terrible poetry in English recited over cheesy folk-jazz chords, followed by little sung choruses, followed by rounds of guitar-and-electronic improv, then back to the terrible poetry again. It was just about to get tedious when the choruses were joined by a three-voice choir drinking beer at the top of the back stairs, and the whole thing built to an absurdly joyous climax, followed by the longest ovation of the night. The play-it-for-laughs aspect of German music is enormous, as you'll gather rifling through any stack of electro and rock in Berlin; there's an exasperating element of evasion in it, as if there remains something too dangerous about staking out any position in earnest in the culture, and the safe route is to be either terribly abstract or defensively jokey. In this case, though, the laughs were humane rather than cartoonish - the lovelorn poetry might even have been meant completely seriously, but the sophistication of the improv passages prompted me to assume that it was only half-seriously, which still implies more depth than the brand of German yuks that lately have influenced Montreal groups like Lederhosen Lucil and Les Georges Leningrad.

I would have liked to stick around afterwards and chat with the international crowd - including Montreal turntablist Martin Tetreault, who played the festival one of the nights I missed - but shyness overwhelmed. My apologies to Fabio/Favio, if he should somehow find this, for slipping away without saying goodbye.

By the way, there's a recent interview with Jon Abbey, the festival organizer, who also runs Erstwhile Records.

* The other concert I made it to was Xiu Xiu at the Bastard@Prater (a club adjacent to one of the city's most storied beer gardens, where Rosa Luxembourg used to rally the workers). The venue is great:

bastard.jpg (outside)

bastard1g.jpg (inside)

Unfortunately our sojurn there was brief: We had been to a play at the Berlin Volksbuhne earlier that evening (the most enjoyably fucked-up version of Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth you'd ever care to see, called Forever Young, complete with jokes about canadians) and didn't make it in time for the opening band, and supposed headliner Scout Niblet from Secretly Canadian had cancelled, so all I saw was Xiu Xiu.

Fine show, but with a sound mix much muddier than at their Toronto show and the crowd sympathies not so finely attuned, Jamie's subtleties were diffused and the general impact blunted. Oh well.

* Our other musical discovery, which Sheila made by getting hooked on the background music during our brunch at Cafe Berio in Schoneberg, was 1920s-30s revivalist Max Raabe of the Palast Orchester. We tried to go see him at a west-end cabaret, but it turned out we'd misread the listings and were a week early. (It's amazing how much time we spent in Berlin simply Getting It Wrong.) We compensated by finding one of his English-language albums to take home, though not the one with the 1920s-style Abba cover. (Was it Super Trooper, Sheila? I forget now.)

*Oh, and one night I ended up in a bar where an excellent punk DJ was helping launch the German edition of Legs McNeil's Please Kill Me, but it was an accident, and I don't know exactly where we were.

That's all the vacation snaps from me. Nonmusically, I can recommend to you Daniel Liebeskind's Jewish Museum, the Hamburger Banhof museum (stunning contemporary galleries with amazing Anselm Kiefers), and the Assel on Oranienberger Str., among much more. Berlin was an extremely copacetic city. It was my first European trip in years and no doubt my last for awhile - indeed, we've come home so broke, I suspect I'll have a lot of extra time to spend on the site in the next few months, as I'm practically confined to quarters until the credit cards are paid off.

Next: What's up in Toronto anyway?

Posted by zoilus on Sunday, May 30 at 07:27 PM | Comments (1)


It's Tonight


Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, May 26 at 03:54 PM | Comments (0)


Zoilus on Semi-Hiatus

Apologies for the scant posts of late - I've been busy getting ready for today, when I'm flying off (in two hours!) to Prague and then Berlin. I'll try to post musical notes from abroad sometime during the next few weeks, as well as news about Tin Tin Tin but updates will be scant, I suspect. See you in late May.

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, May 04 at 05:00 PM | Comments (0)


Toronto, Rock City

CNtower.jpg In today's column: Has Toronto really become a great music town? Hella! Do bears shit in the woods? Is the CN tower a gigantic stone-hard boner? Yesssss. Also, Bonhomme Goes Wild, and a helpful gig guide to May. But I'll put a more complete one here over the weekend.

(For those unclear on the Bonhomme concept, find out here, where you'll also learn why Quebec is "the gayest city on the continent" and how Brooke Shields once made the carnival queen cry.)

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, April 29 at 09:28 PM | Comments (0)


Throbbing Error

Doing weekly articles on artists from all over, it can be tough to get yourself schooled up overnight. [...]

This week, I knew that I wasn't clear on the whole backstory of Kraftwerk, so I read the relevant parts of five or six books and a couple of hundred pages of clippings to make sure I didn't mess up. Predictably, I then went ahead and got an important detail wrong in the section of the column that was about a band I've followed more closely, Einsturzende Neubauten.

My mistake was gently corrected by an unimpeachable source, Toronto's own Greg Clow, who hosts the Feedback Monitor program on CIUT radio, stages shows as Stained Productions and releases music as Piehead Records, and probably saves the starving children of Botswana in his spare time. Greg writes:

Great article, Carl, especially for an old electro/industrial head like me. Just one small nit-pick...

>Not surprisingly, Neubauten has never had a pop hit. But it had an
>influence: Its scrapes and screeches were mixed with electro in
>"industrial" music by Throbbing Gristle, Ministry, Canada's Skinny Puppy,
>and eventually Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson.

Throbbing Gristle actually formed in 1975/76 - several years before
Neubauten - and they split in 1981 before EN had made much of an impact. So
it's more likely that TG influenced EN, not vice-versa.

The damnable thing is that I did have a little bell - or maybe it was an amplified cement mixer - go off in my head when I put TG in that list, but forgot to double-check my chronology. My apologies to Greg and to all of you, and most of all to Mr. Genesis P-Orridge, who, once again, has been wronged.

By the way, Throbbing Gristle is doing a special one-time-only (they say emphatically) reunion festival called RE-TG on May 14-16 at Pontin's Holiday Resort, Camber Sands (in Kent), England, with all four original TG members -
- and industrial-music royalty such as Coil, Neubauten's F.M. Einheit, The Normal (of Warm Leatherette fame) as a DJ, Richard H. Kirk, and such unpleasant-music heirs as Pansonic, Matmos, Merzbow, Scanner, Black Dice and others. Oh, and lamentably, a site-specific artwork by the Chapman Brothers (Genesis has never had good taste in associates). If I could afford it, I'd thank Greg for his attention by sending him a ticket - but prices range from 500 to over 1,000 pounds sterling, including accommodations.

While we're on the subject, didja know that former Neubauten bassist Mark Chung is now a vice-president at Sony Records? It's a sad and beautiful world, Bob.

Posted by zoilus on Friday, April 23 at 01:12 AM | Comments (1)


"A Couple of Naps, Then a Nap, and He's Ready for Bed"

Today's best reason for living.

The band is NOFX, by the way. (Or is it NoFX? ... NoFx? ... NofX? ... What a brave new world, with such shitty band names in it.) I gather the song is bonus material on their new album.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, April 22 at 08:46 PM | Comments (0)


Double Deutsch

Today's column is about these guys

and these guys. kraft5.jpg

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, April 22 at 03:42 PM | Comments (0)


The Ray Condo Story

That was the title of a film that the late Mr. Condo's comrade in the Hardrock Goners, Peter Sandmark, was working on a few years ago, but I don't think it ever got done. And now it likely never will, so for today my obituary for him in the Globe will have to do.

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, April 21 at 01:08 PM | Comments (1)


Collect 'Em All

The Tin Tin Tin poster is ready for your eye-feasting, downloading, copying and posting in place of work, favourite record/book shop, school or private residence. The word o' the day is disseminate! (And a squicky word it is too.)

Posted by zoilus on Monday, April 19 at 05:21 PM | Comments (0)


Last Roundup for Ray Condo

Canadian rockabilly/honky-tonk barroom idol Ray Condo is reported dead. Apparently he passed away last night, but his family is currently keeping the cause of death private. I have very fond memories of beer-soaked nights in Montreal, Toronto and elsewhere listening and dancing to Ray's bands, good-time music that never neglected to be musical. True sympathy to his family, friends and fans.

Some details from his managers' press release:

Since he first picked up the guitar at age 12, Ray Condo was rock'n'roll. Born in Hull Quebec (now Gatineau) and raised listening to Ronnie Hawkins, Elvis Presley, and Hank Williams, Condo joined the music scene in Vancouver in the mid 1970s, with a punk band called the Secret V's. In 1984 he found himself in Montreal where he formed the seminal indie group the Hardrock Goners, mixing rockabilly with blues, traditional country, and Western swing. Eleven years and many records and tours later, Condo headed back west to Vancouver to front the Ricochets. Condo's death comes as a complete shock to those who knew him. Condo had many upcoming shows planned, including tours in Australia, Europe, and the United States. Memorials are being planned across the country. In the Vancouver area, there will be an impromptu wake at the Rockabilly Jam at the Railway Club (579 Dunsmuir Street) on Saturday April 17 (from about 4:00-7:00). In Montreal, there will be a tribute at the rockabilly show on Saturday April 17 at the Wheel Club (3373 Cavendish Blvd). In Toronto, photographer Gayle Hurmuses is planning an exhibition in his memory to coincide with what would have been his 54th birthday, Sunday May 6.

Posted by zoilus on Friday, April 16 at 01:59 PM | Comments (2)



veda.jpg I've just found out that Veda Hille from Vancouver will be here for the next Tin Tin Tin and has kindly agreed to participate in the show. Haven't figured out the configurations of all the groups yet, but it's going to be an exciting evening!

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, April 15 at 03:44 PM | Comments (0)


Erik Friedlander, unexpurgated


The rock band I was playing with had a drummer and I took her on a date there to see Stan Getz, this group he had that was an unsuccessful attempt at being 'modern.' After the gig the drummer went to talk to their drummer and I talked to Harvie Swartz, who calls himself Harvie S. now. I told him I was playing cello and he said he'd written something for cello. So he had me over to this loft - and that was the beginning. I started playing with Randy Brecker and a lot of well-known musicians. We performed at Seventh Avenue South. It was mindblowing. I was in way over my head.
A little advantage was playing an instrument that was rarely seen in jazz. My contribution was very tailored. I was painfully aware of what I wasn't able to do, but he was cagey enough to create a role that added to the music in a big way. I was playing a lot of the melodies, but I wasn't a featured sololst or anything. I wish I could go back and do it again!
After that it became kind of an onslaught to become a more accomplished musician. I needed to get my classical playing together, and I spent 10 years just refining my classical approach. I was getting jobs working orchestras, commercials, movie scores. It was a case of 'be careful what you wish for.' I got very busy but got more and more miserable because I had no creative outlet.
A group I joined, a trio called Framework, started playing the Knitting Factory after that. I started meeting Marty Ehrlich and Dave Douglas and John Zorn, and that opened up a whole situation for me... My job was to try and open up possibilities for myself in each of those groups. Then the next step was to create my own bands.

Me: Can you describe the differences, aside from personnel, between your groups Chimera and Topaz? Is Chimera still active?
EF: It's not really. It's more like seeing them on the timeline. Chimera was an early band and there was certainly a lot of compositional ambitions I was wrestling with. It was good for me, creating improvising structures without a percussion instrument. You need to figure out ways of stretching out, soloing, accompaniment, an inseresting build, to get a lot of energy without drums. But then I found that I didn't want to be playing cello in anything people were calling 'chamber jazz.' I couldn't stand that. So I chose to move on to something with more drums. I've gotten compositionally more savvy, can do more with less. My most recent band record, Quake, has much fewer notes per tune. The band is looking at five lines of score that they use to play six or seven minutes of music. But the seed is still there.

Me: Your band work all has a lot of international or multicultural sources and influences. Did that begin from working with Dave Douglas and John Zorn, who are also known for that approach?
EF: You know, you're in - Montreal? no, Toronto - and when you're in a big city, you're just surrounded by streams of input, musical, artistic, worldly. It's just part of your life. Working with Zorn, working with Dave Douglas, influenced me a lot, but it's also part of what 21st-century life is about. Also I look it as my job to search for inspiration. I've got to find it, not just sit back and wait for it. If I'm gonna find it in Bali, in Persian music, in pop music, then that's what I'm going to do.
Me: Is there anything especially helpful in looking at foreign traditions for the cello, being able to look at techniques from non-western stringed instruments and so on?
EF: Sometimes. I'm not sure if it's the cello or just whatever sounds I respond to. There have been things I've tried that haven't worked, but in a writing zone, when I'm looking for inspiration, I have a certain set of eyeglasses on that screen out what I can't use. But I suppose those stringed instruments are more idiomatic to the cello than trying to be a saxophone, even if it's just a certain way of playing a violin.

Me: What effect do you think you can achieve with solo performance and recording different than an ensemble?
EF: I'm waiting to discover that. There is something about solo performances, I don't know if it's just the cello or what, that when I sit down to play, people pay attention. But I've only done maybe five solo concerts. What I try to do is what I do with any group, to find stuff that will work and create a concert that has some variety - a performance that tells it's own story. I have 11 concerts in 12 days now, so I'll know a lot more after that. One thing is that it demands as much as I can do to make musical sense, because it needs variety. I have to pizz[icato], I have to bow, to use all the techniques on both of those, use mutes... The last thing I want is to be thinking to myself, 'Oh God, that's kind of like what I did last time.' Whereas with a band I can create orchestration - this is cello and bass, this is cello and alto, I have percussion, I don't have percussion.

Me: You've started to work more in scoring films and television. Is that a financial concern or is there something about the form that interests you?
EF: Oh, I completely love it. Working with pictures. And working with radio too, there's someone I'm doing music for radio drama with. It's similar to any other composition, but more overtly about telling a story, which is what's so attractive to me in creating music. But also with my background, my father [Lee Friedlander] as a photographer, there's something about scoring a picture.... I feel I have a rapport with it. To bring out, to etch what's happening with the picture in the music is so satisfying to me, setting up an event with the right music.

Me:It seems there are more and more cellists in the improvising world. Do you all talk to each other, or is there a sense of competition for scarce work?
EF: There's so little work for anyone. We're all struggling for whatever we can do. It's hard for everybody. It's always nice when I see another cellist. We're not exactly accepted like a guitarist or sax player.
Me: I notice you have cello lessons and tips on your website.
EF: I'm trying to reach out. A lot of people are going to music school and graduating and there's a huge disconnect between what they really want to express and what they're actually doing.

Me: Do you think the mood, the politics and general situation in the city since 9/11 has changed the New York improv commmunity in any way?
EF: Things are just much harder now. I'm not sure. Some people latch on to being very political, but many who've never been motivated by that, they haven't changed. I think it's harder to make records, get them out, sell them. People are having to take more jobs, teaching, that's just a dampening effect on everybody. At the same time I think it's interesting to see Myra Melford going to teach at Berklee, and things like that. People are doing what they have to do, but the community is still here. It's as much about economics as anything. All the work we had in Europe has more or less disappeared. People are having a hard time sustaining it. And yet, even five years ago I wouldn't have been able to tour the U.S. this much, so I find this [solo tour] kind of heartening. I was talking about this with someone the other day, that there's so much ability to recreate instruments using synthesizers and so on, maybe there's been too much of the same and people are ready for something different. I was amazed when I went to Austin [for SXSW]. I was dreading I would be like a bug on the windshield there... but as long as I had the energy, they were way into it.


Posted by zoilus on Thursday, April 15 at 12:49 PM | Comments (3)


Scene Unseen

There won't be a Globe column tomorrow due to my lingering sickness and a bunch of other factors beyond my control. Apologies to the faithful masses.

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, April 07 at 10:43 AM | Comments (0)


Until the Fat (or Just Curvy?) Lady Sings

Okay, this is non-music-related but I can't resist posting it. Given the sudden new prominence of Jamie-Lynn DiScala on several magazine covers this month, and the general dodge-'em predilections of The Sopranos as a series.... has it occurred to anyone else that the last season might end with Tony whacked or otherwise incapacitated, and Meadow taking over as boss? I mean, who else is even plausibly smart enough? AJ would be the more obvious cycle-of-destruction candidate, but for a fixatedly Freudian series, Meadow has the more Electra-tragic credentials - and the only mind anywhere around up to the task. How they'd get her there from here is a good question, but never underestimate the perversity of David Chase... Anyway, aside from the series' convenient title and constantly interesting soundtrack, this is of course a tangent, so [/digression] here.

Posted by zoilus on Monday, April 05 at 12:56 AM | Comments (0)



I shouldn't let the week end without letting you know how Tin Tin Tin went on Wednesday.

It had a rough start but ended up soaring. [...]

As expected the Constantines show (and to a lesser degree, but in unfortunate cases, the Rodney Graham opening) sapped away attendees. It started out sparse, and with a chaotically delayed sound check, and with a strange, huge stage extension that had been built for a dance show that was opening at the Drake the next day, which (due to some sound system restrictions) baffled us until we hit on the solution of putting seating for the audience up on the stage, when it actually turned into an enjoyable novelty.

Stage seating was especially perfect for the banjo-tabla duet of Sean Dixon and Gurpreet Chana, who had the hushed attention of the whole room for their renditions of folk classics such as The Cuckoo and Darlin' Cory as well as a couple of originals like Sean's Chrome Orpheus. I'd seen them do their southern-eastern-western-northern thing before, but those who hadn't greeted it with excited surprise that reverberated to the end of the night.

The second set was the most thrilling for me. Nick and Rose of LAL together with poet Christian Bok and violinist Julie Penner (who's worked with Fembots, Broken Social Scene, Ron Hawkins and many more, as well as her own singer-songwriter stuff). None of the three elements were familiar with each other until they got on stage, and as a shared creative project began to emerge - with Christian making his phonetic sound poems as much rhythm section as lead, and Rose finding places to echo and then overtake him, and Julie adding beautiful accents in the first pure improvisation she's ever done in public, and Nick (aka Murr) fueling the whole thing with beats and textures - their own wide-eyed glee in what was transpiring was a joy to witness. That was what Tin Tin Tin is all about. This was the set that had me resolve to record the shows from now on.

And by the end of that set, I looked around, and lo, the room was filling up, with curiosity-seekers from upstairs mostly. Reader, I exhaled.

Finally, we had soul-jazz band The Quartertones (including the excellent DJ Serious) collaborating with vocalist Christine Duncan, trombonist Doug Tielli, Rob Mosher on soprano sax and Colin Fischer on tenor. This was the Difficult Third Set (just as the whole night was the Difficult Second Show). The Q-tones sound was so big and full - and so dance-party oriented - that it was a real challenge for the improvisors to find their place in it. The results were sometimes more jam band than Blue Series, sometimes almost comically stalemated... other times they were transcendent.

Much of the credit for those moments went to Christine, who with her vocalese was able to weave in, grab some unnoticed element that was going on in the piece and transmute it into gold. In fact, the night sort of belonged to the female singers - she and Rose each had people saying, "Who was that woman? She's amazing!" But each of the other improvisors hit the right vein at other times, as when Rob Mosher was able to turn some sort of disco cover into a free-klezmer-raga-disco testament, and Fisher and Tielli each were able to fragment straightahead grooves into spiralling streams of algebra.

So by the end of the night? No regrets, only ideas for improving on the series in the future and a reassurance that this concept has a place in the city's musical spectrum that's more than worth continuing to build on.

Anyone who took pictures please get in touch. I'll throw them up here. (see the "contact" button up top? push that!)

Thanks to Duncan and Jeff at the Drake, to Tyler Clark Burke for more superb set decor, to all the musicians, to Sean K Robb and Sheila Heti for manning the door (and Sheila for postermaking and, well, everything), Misha Glouberman and Julia Rosenberg for aid and comfort, and everyone else who helped. See you April 28.

Posted by zoilus on Sunday, April 04 at 12:32 AM | Comments (0)


Virtual Lyrical Ninja Fight

Post music columnist Aaron Wherry (whose blog I really enjoy) picked up my none-too-subtly-thrown-down gauntlet (see below) and countered my Rodney G. quote with some Nellie M. lyrics.

Beef if you want, boyo, but what I read doesn't convince me. [...]

The first verse you quote, from I Wanna Get Married, is the kind of feminist sarcastic satire that Nancy White used to do on the CBC. But okay, that's her popular, novelty-type song. The second long spiel you cite is much better, a rap-damaged stretch with some pretty impressive turns of vocab:

when you’re female and you’re fenced in and
phen-phened to no end
and no zen guide to men will help you fend off the brethren
and then the pen appears
and better than the oxygen network
or the sword or the spear or the fork
or the bored pork-fed horde
it’s a mooring post
the whore you’ll miss the most when you’re away
when you’re in Snowshoe PA

... but then it gets into this adolescent thing about selling out that loses me.

What I was praising about the Rodney Graham lyrics is their mordant world-weariness, which is what I meant by "pungent." They stink of unwashed shirts and unmade beds where broken-spined books splay themselves open like aging trollops, and nearby a man who knows that he should be "better" than he is, but also that he's not planning it any time soon, cackles at his own face in a cracked mirror.

Your Nellie, on the other hand, has all the fresh lemon scent of precocious rebellion and dinner-table debate. It's not about youth or age or any sort of identity thing at all. Hell, in real life my man Graham's a wealthy, internationally celebrated artist. But he's still dead aware of the twisted loser behind the successful mask, and that capacity for double-consciousness is something that on my cursory listens (and readings) I don't think Nellie's developed so far. So if I'm going to make a Randy Newman comparison, I think we're closer with the cranky conceptual Freudian than the drama-school wit.

I ain't saying she's no good. She's clearly some kind of virtuoso. But virtuosity often throws up a barrier to the underlying stillness you need for the listener to enter a work's depths. No surprise if Nellie usurps the spot Rufus Wainwright wanted (while I like Rufus, he's got an even worse case of prodigy syndrome). And I aim to give her a chance. But really, when it comes to mixing up old cabaret-style standard songcraft with contemporary mishmashed influences, I bet nobody this decade is going to outdo Stephin Merritt.

If I really were trying to best my fellow crit in this lyrical-ninja fight by proxy, I'd shoot back with a Magnetic Fields song. But since readers probably know all those already, here's another good one from Rodney G.:

Why is it that bad things seem to
Happen on my watch?
First you hear the foghorn moan,
Next you hit the rocks.
What can you say when bad things happen?
(And bad things happen more and more.)
There's the situation - end of conversation.
That was my year on the lighthouse station:
Ever so high and lonesome.
Incontrovertible fact:
I took a significant whack,
Ended up more or less flat out on my back.
Constant irritation, for quite a lengthy spell -
You know I turned a short vacation
Into one long living hell.
That was my year on the lighthouse station:
So high and so lonesome.
I'm high and I'm lonesome.

Posted by zoilus on Friday, April 02 at 06:03 PM | Comments (0)


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.

I haven't been able to give Nellie McKay a proper listen yet, but I'd like to ask her boosters if she can manage anything near as pungent as that.

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.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, April 01 at 05:48 PM | Comments (0)


Droppin (Political) Science

Today's column in The Globe and Mail deals with Ted Leo/Pharmacists (tonight at the Horseshoe) and Matias Rozenberg's Consumption Records party (tomorrow at the Blue Moon) and the worldness of the world as such.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, March 25 at 12:11 PM | Comments (0)


4th Pyramid Penetrates 49th Parallel

It's a milestone for Canadian hip-hop, undie division, as Toronto's 4th Pyramid becomes the first northerner signed to Definitive Jux. Typically, of course, I've never heard 4th Pyramid, but I'll be correcting that asap.

Other corrections to be made: New posts, after a barren pause, coming soon to a Zoilus near you. Not just tomorrow's column link, but my new feature, One Track, Mined - in which your gentle host attempts to weasel around the impossibility of having enough time to do intelligent reviews of his huge pile of recent albums by instead reviewing one track at semi-random from each of said albums.

One Track, Mined: The seminal voice in near-certainly misleading music criticism.

Also coming soon: The new Destroyer album properly discussed, after I had to recuse myself from reviewing it for the Globe (as I'll explain). How soon? I'm aiming for tonight. (EDIT: Okay, I failed, falling into a blissful but Zoilus-free sleep. So on the weekend, for sure.)

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, March 24 at 03:17 PM | Comments (0)


Happy Birthday, Brave New Waves

In today's Globe column, my loving tribute to CBC's all-night new-music beacon Brave New Waves. It's here, and a bit structurally baroque. Persevere. Persevere.

Info on the Brave New Waves 20th-anniversary parties across the country (in Toronto, this Saturday at the Drake) is here.

See you there.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, March 18 at 01:34 PM | Comments (0)


Xiu Xiu Shoo-Bop

Today's column is on the confessional rock of Xiu Xiu, the now Seattle-based band that plays a surprise Wavelength at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto this Sunday and in Ottawa and Montreal the two days after that.

Since it was cut from the metro edition version of the story, you might be interested to know that Xiu Xiu (pronounced "shoe shoe") draws its name from Joan Chen's 1999 Chinese film Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl, about a young woman assigned to rural labour in the Cultural Revolution era who whores herself out to countryside Communist officials in an effort to procure a permit to return to the city. Of course they never give it to her. Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu has said they chose the name because the film is so difficult to watch, so free of redemption and resolution, just as he intends his songs to be.

In my piece, this information should have fallen in between the explanation of how the name is pronounced and the bits about Kurt Cobain and Ian Curtis. It links one cultural-revolution reference to another (from the movie to Stewart's favourite book, the Cambodian story with which I begin the piece) and this question of resolution, of finality, should explain why I then begin to talk about suicides, including, later in the piece, those of (RIP) Spalding Gray and Tooker Gomberg this week.

Ah, the newspaperman business.

Xiu Xiu's non-fiction take on all that happened

The Globe & Mail
Thursday, March 11, 2004

"It is one thing to suffer to live, another thing to suffer only to die."

So resolved Cambodian banker Mey Komphot in July, 1975. He had been sent down by the Khmer Rouge to the rice paddies.

And so, he spent his days scrounging for snails and banana leaves; his nights, hearing bodies dragged away outside his hut.

And so, "I decided to give it two years. If nothing had changed, I would commit suicide."

And so his tale is told in 1998's When the War Was Over, by Elizabeth Becker, reportedly the favourite non-fiction book of Jamie Stewart, 32.

And so Stewart's band, Xiu Xiu, first in California's Bay Area and now Seattle, has one prime directive: That its songs be non-fiction.

And so the measlier atrocities he sings about - incest, abuse, abandonment, disgrace - all happened. To past and present Xiu Xiu members, friends, families, even the preschoolers Stewart used to teach.

And so the notorious sticker affixed to 2002 debut Knife Play: "When my mom died, I listened to Henry Cowell, Joy Division, Detroit techno, the Smiths, Takemitsu, Sabbath, gamelan, Black Angels, and Cecil Taylor."

And so you might think the dead mother was Stewart's. She was not. It was the other core member, producer Cory McCulloch, who stocked his mourner's jukebox with modern composition, British mope-pop, Indonesian percussion, free jazz, heavy metal and dance music.

And so Xiu Xiu at its grandest is like all that music at once, though McCulloch omitted Simon and Garfunkel, and the snail's-pace, whispered cover of Tracy Chapman's Fast Car. Stewart has said that 1988 folk-rock hit has it all: story, vagueness, tears. Though it is conspicuously short on gongs and electronic noise explosions.

And so, wait, how do you say Xiu Xiu? It is pronounced like two "shoes."

And so in April comes the 10th anniversary of the day Kurt Cobain kissed a gun in Stewart's newly adopted city. And so, too, in May, the 24th anniversary of Ian Curtis of Joy Division hanging himself in Manchester.

And so 2003's Xiu Xiu CD A Promise concludes with a song titled, in willful bad taste, Ian Curtis Wish List, a plea for an unrequited crush that ends on Stewart shouting, "Jane S., I am kidding! I'm just kidding!"

And so he means, "Is it too late to take it all back?" But knows it is.

And so Xiu Xiu songs forever stop up emotional proclamations with more extreme declarations, "too much information" for polite company. (Internet forums end up debating, "Does Jamie have AIDS?") Its musical mix is a velveteen mess the French would call jolie-laide and Stewart bluntly terms "retarded."

And so when people do not embrace it, they despise it.

And so one female band member got punched after a show. Instruments got stolen.

And so they continue to provoke. In complete sincerity. A Promise is fronted by a nude shot of a male Vietnamese prostitute holding a plastic doll. Stewart, who is bisexual, said he photographed the boy as an alternative to sex. A former social worker, he realized the cover may be exploitive. He chose to find out.

And so now it is 20 years since the release of The Killing Fields, Hollywood's big Cambodia movie, with actor-monologuist Spalding Gray as the U.S. consul.

And so three years later he described the shoot in his one-man film, Swimming to Cambodia, with its prostitutes and its "perfect moments." His other works include Gray's Anatomy, Monster in a Box and Sex and Death to the Age 14. (And now Stewart is writing a book about his own erotic exploits from 6 to 30, Sex Life of Self-Destruction.)

And so Gray, like Xiu Xiu, is famed for baring his traumas. For his notebook and water glass at a desk on a stage. With his patrician gentility, he had a gift for simulating intimacy, no matter how squalid the subject. Maybe it was a matter of perspective. Even on his mother's suicide.

And so he was robbed of his perspective by an eye disease and then hapless surgeons. And perhaps, too, by time, that accumulation of incident beyond all narrative.

And so his last monologue was called Life, Interrupted. He disappeared in January. This week, Gray's anatomy, 62, was found in the East River in Brooklyn, wearing black corduroys. He is presumed to have dived from the ferry deck, not to swim but to sink in the dark waters.

And so the accumulation of incident: Another man last week vanished into another body of water. Tooker Gomberg, 48, is presumed to have jumped from the Angus Macdonald Bridge into Halifax Harbour. He had been out to save the world, an environmental activist in Montreal, city councillor in Edmonton and in one Toronto mayoral election, the sole rival to Mel Lastman on whose lawn he dumped a pile of composted garbage.

And so he was last seen with his bicycle helmet on.

And so, meanwhile, there is a new Xiu Xiu album, Fabulous Muscles. Meanwhile, in 2002, Stewart's father died. Michael Stewart, 57, led San Francisco folk group We Five (You Were On My Mind, No. 1, 1965) and produced hit albums (Billy Joel's Piano Man, 1973). "After a long illness," said the papers. In fact, a suicide.

And so it was that longest illness, life. That imperfect moment.

And so what good is polite company?

And so the last song on the new album is Mike. It begins, "Dad, what was Nigel supposed to do with your body?" It ends, "Pull my finger."

And so Stewart's mother "went crazy." His sister had a girl, to whom he sings an anti-lullaby about the family curse. One of Stewart's preschoolers - "Brian the Vampire" - was being molested by a brother. Fabulous Muscles is less fabulous musically because much of the band quit. This all happened.

And so did this: In that year, Stewart fell in love. In Little Panda McElroy he breathes to her, "I can stop hating my own heart/ I can do it because of you." His first love song.

And so Mey Komphot escaped to Canada in 1979 and survived. The Khmer Rouge fell.

And so, this music hints, if you must try to shoot or stab yourself, also do your best to miss.

It is one thing to suffer to die, another to suffer and live.

Xiu Xiu (just Stewart and McCulloch) appear in Wavelength at the Gladstone in Toronto on Sunday, at Club SAW in Ottawa on Monday, and Tuesday at La Salla Rossa in Montreal.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, March 11 at 12:30 PM | Comments (0)


Tin Type

NOW this week has a nice writeup on Tin TiN TIN, though they missed Burdocks and took my imaginary name for Sandro, Chris and Great Bob's project much too seriously. (For the record, the term "baboon tunes" was never endorsed by the musicians.) Here's what it said: [...]

"The launch of music columnist Carl Wilson 's indie rock mash-up series Tin Tin Tin stuffed the newly renovated Drake Hotel 's Underground with Toronto's indie rock elite, including Tyler Clarke Burke , whose dreamy painted visuals created a backdrop for the night's frankenbands. Three Ring Circuits, with Jonny Dovercourt , mn-l, QuasiMojo and Jenny (Barmitzvah Brothers) cranked out droning, spaced-out melodies. Baboon Tunes, an amalgamation of Polmo Polpo , Great Bob Scott and Chris Gartener, jammed beside a movie screen showing images of baboons frolicking and then fleeing like hell from hungry hyenas.

"Highlight of the night was Hidden Camera and Barcelona Pavillion member Maggie MacDonald 's 25-minute rock mini-opera Rat King, a parody of 20th-century rationalism in which a man is driven to destroy his family because it seems like the logical thing to do. Hank frontman and filmmaker Jes Singer was captivating as the patriarch, well supported by Phonemes' Magali Meagher as his daughter and Second City performer John Caffrey as the love interest. Gentleman Reg Vermue , Tara Azzopardi , Luis Jacob and Kit Malo joined the chorus."

"Post-opera, Global Pop Conspiracy spun tunes.

"Check out Wilson's weblog at www.zoilus.com for information on upcoming Tin Tin Tin extravaganzas."

As a footnote: Proposals and wish lists are actively sought for the next Tin Tin Tin, coming March 31.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, February 26 at 04:00 PM | Comments (0)


All Day & All Of the Night

Today's Globe & Mail column delves into the history of why the rock shows start after 10 at night even on school nights, and the not-so-random reason that makes us all feel cool, and why feeling cool is maybe just feeling like an aristocrat 18th-century style. And then it says that's how come the new Toronto is Great! compilation is going to launch itself in the full light of day, in fact at 10 a.m. on Sunday Feb. 29 at Cinecycle, because you can't truly be great if you're too busy being cool. With asides on the history of artificial lighting & etc. Read it!

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, February 26 at 11:12 AM | Comments (0)


Grey Tuesday

(from the folks who brought you Blue Monday)

Along with 150+ other music sites, Zoilus (which wakes up a little late in the day) is happy to join in with today's Grey Tuesday civil-disobedience action.

I haven't yet cracked the MP3 hosting trick for my own site, but look here for a copy of DangerMouse's remix of Jay-Z's The Black Album with The Beatles' The White Album - of course, The Grey Album. (It's password protected but the information you need is on the page.)

The leading source is here but it has been overloaded much of the day. And meanwhile there is this cease and desist letter to worry about - received today by the participating sites.

I should mention that the DangerMouse suite itself is uneven - some solidly inspired mashes side-by-each with some that are a bit jokey or token - but much more than worth hearing.

In any case the overall principle that corporations like EMI and their street-bully lawyers should not have the right to prevent artists from using existing work for appropriation and creative satire, recontextualization and metacriticism is pretty much the centre of the current cultural cycle. It's a fight that's been fought for a long while now, going back through the Plunderphonics and Negativland cases, and still needs to be fought every day - at the same time as defending the rights of artists (and their business partners, sure) to be compensated for their original work as a consumer item.

The difference between what DangerMouse has done & what a bootlegger selling burned CDs on the street - and even what your average downloader does - is vast and obvious. There are hairs to be split and contradictions to be resolved about downloading and copying in general. But when it comes to making new music out of old, in my opinion there's not even a legitimate counterargument: No harm done, we all benefit, and that's what culture has always been. A blues song, for instance, is almost always made up of two stolen riffs and one new one, two canonical rhymes and one new twist - new technologies change nothing there.

For more information or to add your site to the protest, go here.

Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, February 24 at 01:55 PM | Comments (1)


The Mannequin Never Wanes

The Wax Mannequin column is coming. The Wax Mannequin column is coming. The Wax Mannequin column is here. Meet the man who is to irony as the Maytag repairman is to dryers.

If you are in the Toronto area, do yourself a favour and do not miss Wax at the Rivoli tonight; if you are in the Canada area, don't miss him when he comes your way sometime between now and April. "Rock 'n' roll will never die, rock'n'roll will never die./ The rock won't stop, the roll won't stop, the rock won't stop rock'n'roll." Sometimes I more than half-believe it.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, February 19 at 03:44 AM | Comments (1)


Waxing the Mannequin

Sounds like "spanking the bishop," doesn't it? But get yer minds out of the gutter. The subject of my column this week is the extraordinary Wax Mannequin, Hamilton, Ont.'s gift to the history of rock'n'roll hyperbole and chameleonic performance a la David Bowie, David Byrne in his Big Suit, the Legendary Stardust Cowboy and the Unknown Comic. I had a fine interview with his alias, Chris Adeney, last night, and you can read the results tomorrow.

But what to do meanwhile? Well, go to Tin Tin Tin of course (see below), but if you're out of town, or it's not 8:00 yet, I thought you might like to preview some of Wax's music, which you can do here and/or here.

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, February 18 at 02:11 PM | Comments (0)



Searching for the elusive 'third-place' hangout

The Globe & Mail
Thursday, February 12, 2004

Culture nerds of every stripe have their personal Meccas. They may make their pilgrimages to art palaces such as the Louvre, the Guggenheim Bilbao and the Grand Ole Opry; or to biographical hot spots such as Graceland or the Père Lachaise cemetery, the posthumous pied-à-terre of Chopin, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Molière and Proust.

But my own list is of the legendary hangouts, where conversations happened and movements began. I remember the nerve buzz of walking the first time into San Francisco's City Lights bookshop, or New York's Whitehorse Tavern, CBGB's and Knitting Factory, or the Prague pub where novelist and political prankster Jaroslav Hasek held court. I also still feel the chill I caught one night in a half-heated, overpriced room at the Chelsea Hotel. But if our devotions didn't make suckers of us sometimes, what would they be worth?

These buildings are charmed because they conjure up neither private lives nor finished products, but the passage between, culture in process -- ideas getting hammered out, or just getting hammered. It's not merely that so-and-so was here, but that if they hadn't been, crucial collaborations, arguments and fist fights may never have occurred.

They're places that matter because they are the kind of places U.S. sociologist Ray Oldenburg famously called "the third place," a zone that is neither work nor home, where connections are developed day by day. Oldenburg argues these spaces are indispensable -- relieving pressure on work and family life and rounding out our public selves -- and that they too often are dispensed with in contemporary North America. His "great good places" might be cafés, taverns, piazzas or barber shops. But they can be arts hubs too.


In Canada, such centres seldom seem to last long before they are torn down, converted to condominiums or Burger Kings. But this week marks several significant shifts in the third-place geography of Toronto's musical life.

Toronto's Music Gallery, for instance, has gathered local makers and devotees of experimental music since 1976. But it's had to do it from a changing set of locales: It lost its last, best home in 2000, when the owners of its Richmond Street digs in the theatre district chose to sell out to the coming condo glut. After roaming the city as the "guerrilla gallery" for a while, logistics eventually saw the MG cast in its lot with St. George the Martyr Church on John Street. A creative but awkward deal slots in concerts whenever the chapel isn't in use by the congregation. The old church has great sound -- at least for the acoustic-music third of the programming -- but it lacks all the hangout appeal that used to make the MG distinct.

As artistic director Jim Montgomery says, it's tough on the artists, whose plans (for rehearsals, stagings, extended runs) are limited by the restricted access. It's tough on the MG, which used to pay the bills by renting out itsspace. And tough on audiences, who get the feeling they have to come in, listen, then get out.

Attracting customers for contemporary composition, "out" jazz and other outlandish audio is never easy, and harder now than in 1976, when fewer other media competed with live music for attention, and adventurous weirdness may have been a bit more in vogue. Plus, some of the most radical musical action now is on the fringe of dance music, and an antique church doesn't suit techno-glitch shows sonically or socially.

So, despite healthy, overdue steps to expand outreach in co-operation with other city new-music outfits, attendance has dropped. "And the fallout," says Montgomery, "is that the arts councils aren't very happy with us." Even as it prepared to move to another venue -- yet to be announced, but one with 24/7 access and a liquor licence -- grant cuts threw the MG into turmoil. Three out of four staff members have been laid off from late November until March 1. Already half what it was in the Richmond St. days, some programming has been cancelled. "You have something that is already marginal and under-represented, and now you're exposing it even less, which is obviously not the right direction," says Montgomery.

This Sunday at 8 p.m., the MG holds a fundraiser at St. George-the-Martyr with Halifax-born Janice Jackson, a soprano with a formidable international reputation, and Montgomery's own Canadian Electronic Ensemble -- the world's longest-standing live electro-acoustic group. What's at stake is survival. "We feel we're running about as fast as we can," he says, "but it's going to be a race."

Tonight, the MG also hosts the opening of the Wavelength 200 festival -- a fourth-anniversary, four-night, four-bands-a-night celebration of the series that lines 'em up around the block each Sunday, the gravitational centre of the local indie-music universe. (WL200 then moves to Dovercourt House, Rockit and series home Sneaky Dee's -- see http://www.wavelengthtoronto.com.)

Is Wavelength a "third place"? Virtually, but not one you can drop by on your way home from work -- it only pops in and out of existence for a few hours every Sunday night. There's been chatter in the past year about whether such energies could be turned to an artist-run music venue, perhaps on the model of the original Music Gallery -- but rents are higher and volunteer time seemingly more scarce today.

Perhaps the established-but-aging and burgeoning-but-unstable institutions ought to pool their efforts? After all, one of the senior agents of the Wavelength conspiracy, Jonathan Bunce (a.k.a. Jonny Dovercourt), is already Music Gallery publicist and host of the MG's community-radio show.

Another Wavelength veteran, host Duncan MacDonell (a.k.a. Doc Pickles), is on the programming staff at the new Drake Hotel at 1150 Queen St. W., whose long-delayed opening arrives this weekend. Third-place aspirations are central to entrepreneur Jeff Stober's enormous "art hotel" project. In fact, it self-consciously emulates the historic art hangouts I've mentioned. The complex includes a hotel, a café, a bar, a restaurant and, in the basement, a spacious nightclub, the Drake Underground. Depending how it's run, it could become a landmark. (Full disclosure: I am curating a monthly series of cross-genre experiments there called Tin Tin Tin, starting Wednesday; for obvious reasons, that's the last you'll hear of it here.)

Oldenburg's criteria for a third place include that it be in an accessible location, have a base of regulars, yet be welcoming to strangers, and be reasonably inexpensive -- which may be the sticking point: In the 2004 economy, can the Drake do all Stober hopes, yet also set cheap enough ticket and drink prices that seldom-flush gangs of artists, musicians, writers and directors -- not just their agents and publicists -- can afford to appoint it their home away from home?

If the Drake can add that one up, in a decade or two Toronto may have new pilgrims coming, to drink in the aura of whatever turns out to have happened there.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, February 12 at 04:18 AM | Comments (0)


Your Knickers in a Notwist

My Globe and Mail column this week rambles on about cyborgs, memory, figs and prosciutto, the Notwist and the Wrens (who are at Lee's Palace and the Horseshoe on Saturday night in what booker Amy calls the "Streetcar Series"). In the cybernetic spirit, feedback is welcome; that's the way we evolve.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, February 05 at 03:03 PM | Comments (1)


Tin Tin Tin-itus

My Drake Hotel series begins in a couple of short weeks. Here are the "deets," as my "peeps" have of late been prone to quoth. There will be many of these annoucements. Many.

curated by Carl Wilson
Wed. Feb 18 2004
@ the Drake Underground
- Joe Sorbara's Pickle Juice Orchestra & Deep Dark United do Christian Wolff's "Burdocks" or possibly John Zorn's "Cobra"
- The Three Ring Circuits: Jonny Dovercourt (guitar), mn-l (electronics), QuasiMojo (more electronics), possibly plus Jenny from the Bar Mitzvah Brothers
- Polmo Polpo, Great Bob Scott, Chris Gartner and maybe Mary Margaret O'Hara improvise to movies about baboons
- the PREMIERE of Maggie MacDonald's Rat King Mini-Rock-Opera featuring members of the Hidden Cameras, Phonemes, Kids on TV, Hank, Gentleman Reg
- Visuals by Tyler Clark Burke
- Dancing courtesy of the Global Pop Conspiracy selectors

Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, February 04 at 05:33 PM | Comments (1)


Hungry Like Christian Wolff

My Globe and Mail column this week is a quick introduction to the work of Christian Wolff, the last surviving member of the New York School of composers (the others were John Cage, Morton Feldman and Earle Brown). Wolff has been composing since he studied with Cage at 16 (!) - and he turns 70 this year - so he embodies a very rare degree of depth of experience in the experimental-music world.

Unfortunately, it's difficult to get very much said about this kind of material in a newspaper article; you can't assume any background on your readers' part, so by the time you've explained what's the what, there's precious little space left for discussion of it. Special thanks to Toronto composer Martin Arnold for providing pithy quotes on what sets Wolff apart from the, er, pack. If you're around Toronto, you can see Martin improvise a set with Wolff as part of the Arraymusic Scratch! festival this week, running through Saturday.

Also in today's Globe and Mail is a very short review of the recent Sun Kil Moon album by Mark Kozelek of Red House Painters fame - pegged to Kozelek's gig at the Horseshoe on Friday night.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, January 29 at 05:22 PM | Comments (0)


The Destroyer/Frog Eyes Axis of Evil

This just in from the desk of Destroyer: Dan Bejar is currently rehearsing with Frog Eyes for a joint tour of North America, April-June, in much-warranted celebration of Yer Blues, the upcoming new Destroyer disc on Merge.

The intriguing fact here is that after their opening set, the Frog Eyes musicians will mutate into the new Destroyer band and back Dan on his set. Two of Zoilus's favourite bands join forces! It should make for a dramatically different sound than the live band from the previous Destroyer record (This Night) and from the solo-crooner-with-synthesized-orchestra that's to be found on the recorded version of Yer Blues. (Which, by the way, you can sample at the Merge site by clicking on the link above.)

For future updates keep yer peepers trained on Zoilus.com, the first name in Destroyer news.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, January 22 at 05:07 PM | Comments (1)


Straight Outta Tuva

This week's stories, a column on vanishing cultures and Tuvan throat singing, and a feature on the Hidden Cameras' new show with the Toronto Dance Theatre, which from word-of-mouth so far sounds better than I'd even imagined, and what I'd imagined was pretty fucking great. I'm seeing it on Friday. If you're in the neighbourhood buy tickets now. By the way in the Tuva piece I accidentally call Huun-Huur-Tu a trio; they're a quartet. Mea culpa.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, January 22 at 04:05 AM | Comments (0)


In My Undie

Prince Paul, undie vs. mainstream hip-hop and a beginner's guide to rockism are the subject of a pseudo-Platonic dialogue in this week's Scene column in The Globe and Mail. A pretty surface-skimming one, I'm afraid, but it's attracted some interesting debate and embellishment from readers already by early afternoon -- the lighter side of publishing a kinda half-baked column.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, January 15 at 01:53 PM | Comments (0)


The Top 25 of 2003

In a nutshell. Comments follow. You get a star* for being Canadian.

25. The Blow - The Concussive Caress, or Casey Caught Her Mom Singing Along With The Vacuum
24. Aesop Rock - Bazooka Tooth
23. The Blue Series Continuum - Good and Evil Sessions
22. VA - Livin' Lovin' Losin': Songs of the Louvin Brothers
21. The Gossip - Movement
20. Neil Michael Hagerty - The Howling Hex
19. Outkast - Speakerboxx/The Love Below
18. British Sea Power - The Decline of British Sea Power
17. Califone - Quicksand/Cradlesnakes
16. The Notwist - Neon Golden
15. The New Pornographers - Electric Version *
14. PW Long - Remembered
13. The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow
12. The Reigning Sound - Time Bomb High School
11. Songs:Ohia - The Magnolia Electric Co.
10. The Hidden Cameras -The Smell of Our Own *
9. John Oswald - Aparanthesi *
8. The Constantines - Shine a Light *
7. Lightning Bolt - Wonderful Rainbow
6. Drive-By Truckers - Decoration Day
5. Vic Chesnutt - Silver Lake
4. Robert Wyatt - Cuckooland
3. The MF Doom albums: King Geedorah - Take Me to Your Leader and Viktor Vaughn - Vaudeville Villain
2.The Barcelona Pavilion - It's the Barcelona Pavilion*
1. Frog Eyes - The Golden River*

Posted by zoilus on Saturday, January 10 at 02:17 AM | Comments (2)


Best of 2003

Here it comes - just a week or so late - the mammoth end-of-year list. I'll forego generalizations about the great year in music that was 2003, as plenty gets said in the list itself. But it was a very good year.

Posted by zoilus on Friday, January 09 at 03:42 PM | Comments (0)


Today's Column

My Scene column in The Globe and Mail today is about the Darkness, eighties hair metal and the politics of dumb fun.

Posted by zoilus on Thursday, January 08 at 12:45 PM | Comments (1)


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