Feed Your Habit


Older than I'd like to be,younger than I'd like to be. Still raging against mass culture/conformity .. to be continued

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Sweet and The Canadian Football League

Odd partners?

An extremely brief snippet of “Fox on the Run” by “The Sweet” overheard sandwiched between plays in one helluva exciting 2005 CFL Grey Cup game contested by Edmonton and Montreal. A game with moments of true artistry displayed by Quarterbacks. Is there anything more wondrous than seeing that floating ball dropped into the hands of the receiver or the 96-yard punt return of Tompkins weaving his way past defenders with his teammates perfectly timed blocking?

Moments like these transcend the grunts and thuds of the blocking and tackling aspects of football and oddly enough there are moments when “The Sweet” rose above their teenybopper origins to reach some form of artistic peak. It’s an arguable point though which is illustrated by the schizophrenic nature of “Live At The Rainbow 1973”

I hauled it off the shelf after the game placed it in the portable and turned the volume up. There you are at The Rainbow Theatre in London nearly 32 years ago with mostly girly teenybopper screams punctuating the in-between song segments. It’s a rough raw live document alternating between hard rock anthems and poppy cartoon glam hits (and an interminable drum solo) with the band barreling along, guitar riffs blasting out of the overamped speakers but it also features some of rock music’s most misogynistic lyrics.

Their ode to groupies “If We don’t F**K You Someone Else Will” while strangely honest on some practical level must have had the mums in the audience cringing and what on earth did the young teenyboppers think at the time? They were also capable of showing their sensitive side with the acoustic “You’re Not Wrong For Loving Me” “Shh this is serious” is Brian Connolly’s introduction. Cue immaculate harmonizing one of this bands strong suits. They could all sing and Brian Connolly before the ravages of alcohol took hold combined with an injured throat from an altercation outside a bar is one of “the” Rock voices. In addition if you think the "Bee Gees" had a stranglehold on Falsetto vocals you haven’t heard Guitarist Andy Scott yet!

The band lasted 15 years or so in various permutations. Brian Connolly died from an alcohol related illness. Drummer Mick Tucker succumbed to a blood disorder.
Guitarist Andy Scott has been in the music business for almost 40 years now and still actively tours although on the Oldies circuit mostly trotting out the Glam hits. He fairly recently released a new CD containing new songs but it was decidedly 70’s retro flavored.
Bassist Steve Priest resides in LA occasionally popping onto the “Sweet Message Board” where he seems to get quite a few people riled up at his comments.

“Fox On The Run” is still played to the best of my knowledge at most if not all NHL and CFL games in Canada. “Ballroom Blitz” is still guaranteed to pack the dance floor.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

JG Ballard and Super-Cannes

Ballard once again explores the netherworld of gated communities this time in Super-Cannes the Eden-Olympia of Business Parks where the elite have gathered to realize their full potential. It is here that work becomes leisure and the outside world and all it’s problems are removed from daily existence. It truly is paradise looking down from on high.

Ballard I think has tapped into that slightly uneasy feeling or perhaps the tacit arrangement that the elite has with the underprivileged masses surrounding the enclaves of wealth (Barbed wire wealthy communities for instance in many Third World countries)

It’s to some degree a Heart of Darkness for the new Millennium with Ballard’s standard slightly detached and alienated protagonist delving beneath the glittering surface and attempting to understand why a formerly trusted Resident Doctor (caregiver) had embarked on a shooting spree that left 6 elite members of the business park dead.

Ballard has a knack for writing in an almost dreamlike narcotic state yet the novel is structured along very basic Murder Mystery novelistic lines with a detective trying to unravel the facts. However it’s very loosely structured. He pays attention to the details of the murders but in contrasting fashion when you’re reading the novel the details become almost irrelevant.

It’s a mind game played out by executives who having removed all sense of danger from their lives have lost their moral compass. Their work itself suffers and Wilder Penrose the Park’s resident psychologist steps in to revive the flagging work ethic by devising a psychological scheme which will involve interactions between the elite and the mostly immigrant and criminal class in the town below. Those interactions suffice to say do not involve charitable deeds.

Thought provoking novel which connects on many levels and continues the theme he first explored in “Cocaine Nights”

Next up “Ordinary Wolves” by “Seth Kantner”. Raved about by the Publishers rep and also recommended by a Reviewer in Vancouver Sun I think who reviewed the 2005 Governor’s General award winning novel A Perfect Night to Go to China by David Gilmour mostly unfavorably as it turns out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Courtney Taylor and the Art of the Immaculate Putdown

AKA The Dandy Warhols come to Town
Hat perched insouciantly on his head, floppy fringe falling directly down over his eyes and reaching the bridge of his nose, pouty lips and louche look in his eyes, Courtney Taylor is the consummate dandy rock star. His angular physique and languid rock star pose while singing into his 2 microphones set up, all scream look at me. “I’m a Rock Star”. Frankly it works and I’m not a horny 19-year-old girl like the one behind me emitting piercing shrieks of “Anton” uh-wrong band hope it works out for you though.

DiG! Casts a long shadow over the Dandy Warhols, every preview mentioned it and the band must surely be sick of answering questions about it yet preconceived notions of artists personalities can and probably do affect ones level of enjoyment of the art on a purely visceral level. Let the mystery be I say.

So I came to the show not having seen DiG! but having read a lot about it and furthermore have yet to pick up the last 2 releases. Indeed my first introduction to their live show was a long gone Web cast where the band finished with a 10 min maelstrom wall of guitar sound. Yet what do I find but a pop band with a martial bent? (Sadly the Dandy’s Trumpeter was left at the border due to custom issues). No stodgy amateur marching band but a band with spring in their steps “Knees up Mother Brown” a “sproingy” sound most evident in “Bohemian Like You” which at the 60 min mark when the show finally took off came bouncing out of the speakers trampoline style. It’s their most readily accessible and identifiable tune but the groundwork was laid for the shows energetic up-tick by “Boys Better” which features those rapid chord changes which propel this song (and others in their repertoire) along in a finely tuned synchromesh fashion. No surprise then that they cover “Hells Bells” by the masters of riff based rock AC/DC.

“Boys Better” also highlights another of the bands strengths. I’m no musician myself but I couldn’t help thinking how tight they were. Drummer Brent De Boer who surely has the best rock star hairdo around, stick your fingers in the electric socket afro style was spot on throughout the show and contributed a lot of melodic harmonizing vocals especially as Courtney’s voice sounded somewhat hoarse and broken. Zia who finished the show off with “Daisy on My Toe” is personality personified (and sexy as all heck) on keyboards and sundry weird sounds and guitarist Peter Holmstron understated but an integral part of the team.

Oh and if you want to heckle a rock star then be prepared for a slow turn in your direction, eyes slowly seeking the source, mouth forming words to reply but rather a lazily raised eyebrow with top left lip curling in derision. Ah the art of the immaculate putdown.

Thanks to Keri for the great pics as usual.
Go here for some more excellent pics and leave some comments!

The Dandy Warhols played the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver BC on Nov 15 2005

Coming soon (hopefully!) some thoughts on
Juliette and the Licks
Liz Phair

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Walmart and The Death of Small Town America

Years ago while travelling through the States we were struck by the amount of small-towns with central business districts which were almost dead with shuttered/boarded up storefronts and shattered broken glass reflecting the emptiness surrounding them.

It was an eerie feeling travelling through some of these towns which appeared not to be ghost towns so much as deserted, abandoned, derelict places that nobody cared about anymore.

It struck me at the time that nearly all these small towns contained a grey behemoth located on the edge of town. A monolithic structure with no architectural redeeming qualities that I could ascertain surrounded by a massive parking lot. Small-town America had migrated to Walmart on the outskirts of town.

Now much has been written about urbanisation and the migration to big cities and my first thought was that indeed with the advent of the Interstates, consumers/shoppers had decided to drive the hour or so to the nearest big city to purchase hard and soft goods.

Certainly Walmart is not the only reason for the decline of small-town America but what was most interesting was that citizens hadn't abandoned their downtowns for the next big city but rather the Walmart on the outskirts of town i.e. there was still money in town but it was all going to Walmart.

So I was fascinated to find this quote from the Director of Walmart:The Movie where he says "One particular section that quickly came alive utilized footage of deserted towns and main streets all across America, many that had been affected by Wal-Mart and other big box stores moving in and causing destruction."

So all these years later a Documentary movie has been made which looks at Walmart and at least in one section addresses that strange sinking feeling we had all those years ago.

For further reading another fascinating book is Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed (On Not) Getting By In America

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Magic Numbers show so good necessitates second review

Here's Kate P's take on the Magic Numbers @ Richards On Richards Nov 6, 2005

Second Coming of the Beatles or the Poppy Family Revisited?

Based on the shrill sounds of girly screams the other night at Richard’s on Richards you’d have thought the Beatles, circa 1964, were upon us. Instead it was the UK’s latest four-member sensation, the Magic Numbers singing some of the crowd’s favourites like Forever Lost and I See You, You See Me. Fresh and full of pop singing influences from the Poppy Family to the Mamas and the Papas, their sweet vocal harmonies in Love Me Like You inspired a full-on musical love-in. Rare as these moments can be among Vancouver’s cooler-than-cool laid back music scenesters, it completely humbled the endearing lead singer, songwriter and guitarist Romeo Stodart. Nothing could stop the love, especially when a well-utilized melodica played by vocalist Angela Gannon filled out a sparse cover of Destiny’s Child’s Crazy in Love. Accompanied by those awfully endearing uh-oh, uh-oh, uh-ohs, it was hard not to get caught up in a sickly sweet audience sing-along. Proclaiming this their best tour stop so far out of six others, they rewarded the audience with a decent sized encore. It ended with a trailblazer of a rockabilly ditty, highlighting the great interplay between Romeo on guitar and sister Michele on bass. I certainly could have hung on for more in this vein, so here’s hoping they’ll be a little more diverse in the studio next time and find some new ways to highlight those wonderful girl vocal harmonies.

Vancouver’s The Parallels started off the evening with a short, but exceptionally tight and well played set. These cute, nerdy boys just keep getting better and better – blasting off one Attractions-influenced number after another. Keep ‘em coming I say!
- Kate P.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Mass affection infects Vancouver audience at Magic Numbers concert

Oh the love! Never before scenes of mass approval sent from audience to performer and back permeated the atmosphere at Richards on Richards for the Canadian live debut of “The Magic Numbers”. I’ve never experienced quite the love and crowd sing alongs that this band received from the audience last night. Roars of approval in-between the verses sung by Angela in “I See You You See Me provoked a shy, amused but slightly unsure smile while her harmonies dovetailed beautifully with Romeo.

Romeo’s guitar and singing enhanced by the girls harmonizing reached pure pop perfection most especially on “ Love’s Just a Game” as the girls ended the song with Ooh Aah Wooo’s. Be still my beating heart!

Before I’m accused of gushing let me state that although the hype had at first brought the band to my attention I was distinctly under-whelmed by the 2 videos I caught on Much Music’s The Wedge where the band came across as lightweight and somewhat fey. Live their sound was beefed up and melodically muscular with Romeo’s tuneful vocals and strong guitar playing leading the way. Michele his bass playing sister harmonized beautifully throughout the show. Tight band interplay between guitar, drums and bass all band members interacting with each other onstage playing off each other and as a unit fed off the crowd appreciation being sent their way.

So how many bands could get away with a cover of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” and turn it into a sing along with most of Vancouver’s concert going hipsters young and old? Yes indeed the show drew a healthy mix of age groups from 50 years on down, a sure sign of their ability to appeal to more than the indie hipster.

Hands down contender for best concert of 2005.

Keri has some far better pics here.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Anne Fleming "Anomaly"

Six years from a collection of short stories to her first novel might seem a long time and of course raises expectations, which may not be fulfilled. (If it took that long to write well it had better be good) Interestingly with true hyperbolic aplomb the advance reading copy maintains the novel is ‘pyrotechnically’ well-written. Thankfully Anne Fleming’s novel “Anomaly” succeeds on all fronts.

Strong characterization coupled to an intriguing storyline centered around 2 young sisters, their mother and an aging Spinster friend struggling to come to terms with her life and make sense of it all. The sisters grow up under the shadow of sibling rivalry, which threatens to tear them apart irrevocably. How they and their mother negotiate this intense struggle is immaculately portrayed by Fleming.

She remarks in This Magazine “Everything I read that has perfect sentences influences me to want to rival them.” Finely detailed scenes explore events from all angles in the early parts of the novel with a descriptive beauty second to none. These finely wrought scenes fade gently into the novel as it picks up pace heading towards the novels denouement reflecting the characters lives as they grow older and events unfold at a faster pace. See this review for a contradictory opinion.

Fleming along with her eagle eye has a demonstrable connection with her characters. You can tell she’s in love with them as they themselves fall in and out of love struggling to find their place in the world.

Well her novel should find a place in your bookshelf, highly recommended.

Currently reading “Super-Cannes” by JG Ballard

Listening to:
C’mon DJMr Airplane Man (Superb mix of Blues/60’s girlgroup/punk absolutely outstanding)
Live in AnversAlex Chilton (It’s too loud isn’t it, it’s killing me)
Whip It OnThe Raveonettes (See if you can drive the speed limit with “Do You Believe Her” at full volume.)
Band RedKaito UK (Shouty Girl punk gotta love it)

Friday, November 04, 2005

Liz Phair and Happiness

A bleak blustery day, sheets of gun-metal layering the sky, rain driving across the industrial warehouse landscape, squirrel thump, thump, scratch, scratch in the ceiling settling down for an afternoon nap or perhaps just organizing the unruly teenage fleas which had me a-thinking Liz Phair and happiness.

The perpetual grin etched on her face for the entire show, could it be bottled, sold traded for perhaps even borrowed for a while on a winter’s day? California dreaming.

I’d resisted till the end until the irrepressible unending grin drew me in and there I was down the front with all the other happy clappers grinning back at her.

Baptist Church Revival, witness Jessie Jackson hopping up and down at Rosa Park’s funeral as the Baptist minister gesticulated, contorted, rapid-fire rhythmical words pouring from his mouth.

Why so happy Liz? Happy to be onstage singing songs critically reviled, a torrent of press all negative but still that grin (was she on something, did it matter?) or were the critics right. Should we all be up front frowning as Liz turned into Britney Spears for a slightly older generation?

Here’s John Fox of The Seattle Sinner “…. I had this idea that she was going to rock but she sang a bunch of ballads and was so off key that I couldn’t avoid the horrid screeching that was her singing voice from any point in the entire venue”

Still, bottle it, roll it on, spray it on, weather the storm, Liz Phair and happiness, methinks I’ll have some of that to go.

Liz Phair plays The Commodore Ballroom Nov 11, 2005