by carl wilson

NYT Goes to Montreal in its Way-Back Machine


Blogasmic blather will be at a minimum today because the Zoilus household partied its ass off this weekend, but we cannot help but note that our former home town of Montreal has been declared the new Atlantis or Pompeii of rock'n'roll in a remarkably badly written New York Times article, on the heels of similar claims by Spin magazine, etc.,, etc.

The fact-checkin' nerd in me would point out that only one or two out of all the bands mentioned in the piece are doing any better than interesting bands in Toronto, or various cities all over North America. More importantly, for all his windy theorizing, there's barely a single thing in that article that does not sound a decade out of date. I left Montreal six years ago and there is nothing in this article to account for why the music scene there is healthier than it was in 1998, when rents were lower, when there was more bite to the linguistic tensions the writer wants to exoticize (he comes this close to comparing anglo Montreal to apartheid-era black South Africa, a move I thought was reserved for Montreal's English-radio talk-show hosts), etc. Note that the writer has not actually interviewed anyone French, even though many bands are now mixed French and English (eg Godspeed), and several of the bands he cites are actually francophones (eg Les Georges Leningrad), so the whole anglo-ghetto angle is, again, history brought inappropriately back to life.

In fact I suspect the reason the scene is healthier is that there's more money in Montreal now than there has been in 20 years, but that would spoil all the grotto-romance special FX, wouldn't it? I realize surveys of entire music scenes always piss off the insiders, but having been gone so many years I am not one of those, and I really wouldn't complain if he didn't tip his hand with the over-reaching sociological wheatabix. (The sidebar, for instance, was fine.) Fortunately, I'm going to be in Mtl. more than usual for the next few months, so I can find out for myself. Meanwhile, to our friends in foreign lands and all the ships at sea: It's Kool-Aid. Abstain.

No transition except that his name sounds French: There is suddenly life again over at Sasha Frere-Jones's place, after months of near-flatlining. And included in all that activity is the news that jazz artists like Cyrus Chestnut and James Carter are making an album of Pavement covers. As I've written extensively in past columns, I'm down with the program of converting rock/pop into contemporary jazz, even though I'm not a big fan of what I've heard of the Bad Plus, and the Chestnut version of Trigger Cut on the site is good, and the wiggliness of Pavement has its jazz-sympa side, but they still seem light on the requisites for this treatment, such as melodies, changes and rhythms. (Note: I like Pavement.)

The Juno Award nominations were announced today. It's an honour just to not care.

The Writ | Posted by zoilus on Monday, February 07 at 6:37 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (5)



O.Spin - I wouldn't extend myself to speculate on Chestnut's Pavement knowledge or interests (musicians often have tastes off their own apparent tracks that would surprise you), but I would hazard a guess that the origins of the project have more to do with Carter, who has made eclecticism his hallmark throughout his career and who played with Lester Bowie, who was raiding the most unlikely parts of the pop charts before any of the present suspects. I agree with you about Mehldau's intelligent pop covers, however, and would add to the list Jason Moran, who has covered Bjork and Afrika Bambaataa. It's an interesting and in many ways necessary development, tho I wish someone could find a way to slough off the 'novelty' stigma that attends it...

Posted by zoilus on February 8, 2005 2:10 PM



yeah that article is pretty unconvincing and (as you succintly pointed out) ignores the francophone element in favour of supporting its "thesis".

Posted by luca on February 8, 2005 11:39 AM



Further to treatments with an e - do you actually think Cyrus Chestnut has HEARD of Pavement? Sounds like a top-down kind of project to me - if Cyrus isn't playing gospel he's playing for money. Forget about it.

Posted by original spin on February 8, 2005 7:40 AM



Have you listened to what Brad Mehldau is doing with rock/pop and jazz? His epic solo treatements of Radiohead's Paranoid Android are something to behold and his Beatles work never gets maudlin or sentimental. And his Paul Simon stuff is magic. The Bad Plus are a live thing or a car with windows down thing.

Posted by original spin on February 8, 2005 7:36 AM



i think the writer of that article suffers from some kind of exoticization fetish. i would move that the NYT redress this blatant void of an article by filling it next month with a toronto piece.


Posted by steve birek on February 7, 2005 8:27 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson