I love this band. In 2013, they were my album of the year and in 2016, lead singer Kyle Morton's solo album was second on my year-end list. The band have the follow-up to 2013's 'White Lighter', entitled 'Offerings', scheduled for the new year (12 January) but have released the first 'movement' of the album on their website and on youtube; it's entitled "Floodplain" and features four songs from the album - "Wake", "Rorschach", "Empiricist" and "Algernon". The video is hard to watch but the music makes it worthwhile:
The following is a short essay written by a local elementary music teacher; he passed this on to me as a means for processing his own grief and I am happy to post it here:
I found out about the passing of Gord Downie when a friend at work showed me her phone in a hallway full of primary children at 8:47 in the morning. I didn’t take it very seriously, wondering if he was clinging to life like Tom Petty was two weeks earlier. I suppose I wanted to believe that, knowing Gord had been fighting for his life for 18 months. I know I wasn’t the only Gord Downie fan who figured he could win. Throughout the working day, phones and tablets corroborated this was a fact, which I could accept, but had no time to process what it really meant. My final journey home that day was a three minute car ride to bring two of my children home from their piano lessons, and as I turned on the car, “Bobcaygeon” ... and that’s when it hit me.
“Bobcaygeon” is among The Tragically Hip’s very greatest hits. It has always been a beautiful song, but as a result of corporate radio, it is also the Tragically Hip’s most overplayed song. The overplaying of a song often gets the radio station changed, diminishes a song to background music while shopping for laundry detergent, and the very worst, gets it covered by hamfisted rock bands all over the country. “Bobcaygeon” is overplayed but not over-rated. If anything, the overplaying of this song has made it The Tragically Hip’s most underappreciated song. Of all the songs in the Hip’s catalogue, I can think of no better song to eulogize Gord Downie.
The song itself is a perfect example of what Canadian musicologists will revere Gord Downie for: his ability to bring Canadian history to the common man by writing a story about a common man dealing with Canadian history. Guy in a lighthouse (“Nautical Disaster”), kid with a hockey card (“50 Mission Cap”), but in “Bobcaygeon” we have a police officer.
Apparently Gord Downie chose “Bobcaygeon” because it rhymed with constellations, as one of the settings for this song. For those of you who don’t know Bobcaygeon, it is a charming place, located in the Kawarthas an hour or so drive from the GTA. It is hardly ‘The Hamptons’ but a town essential for the functioning of the Trent-Severn waterway. In the story, simple pleasures are revered by the protagonist - Willie Nelson, wine, and the stars coming out one a time, as they often do on those beautiful nights when you can notice such things. Gord Downie suggests strongly that these simple pleasures are worth savouring and as I will describe later, to never take them for granted.
Have you ever seen the video for “Bobcaygeon”? If you didn’t catch the story from the song itself, Downie makes sure you don’t miss it with the video. Downie himself plays a police officer, who was visiting his partner in Bobcaygeon, and then has to go back to work in the city, as so many Ontarians know. “Thought of maybe quittin’, thought of leaving it behind” he sings, clearly contemplating his retirement. He then finds himself in a riot. Downie uses the real Toronto story, (feel free to check for yourself) of the Christie Pits Riot that took place August 16, 1933. The local Jewish community was hosting a fair complete with a baseball game and a dance. A group of Nazi sympathisers showed up to crash the party, and a huge riot ensued. The protagonist in our story is a police officer in the mounted unit and is now in a life and death struggle “riding on horseback and keeping order restored.”
The protagonist doesn’t give in to the adversity, perseveres, and comes out the other end of the riot. Gord Downie, upon hearing of his diagnosis, would do the same. Getting out to tour the country to entertain us all one last time was the second most heroic thing he did, his first being how he used his remaining time, his position, and artistic talent to bring attention to the injustice given to Canada’s Indigenous people for so many years. The protagonist bravely carries out his civic duty. We all have our proverbial Christie Pits Riots to fight through, and we all have a civic duty to advocate for a better Canada. “Bobcaygeon” leaves us with that to contemplate.
“In the middle of that Riot, couldn’t get you off my mind”. The video shows the police officer return to Bobcaygeon to embrace his partner and exhales a sigh of relief that he has made it back. The stars, the wine, the Willie Nelson, and most importantly, the time with loved ones, can disappear in an instant. It takes our own Christie Pits Riots to really appreciate this. It is assumed that the police officer takes his retirement, to never risk these things again.
This past Wednesday, in the late afternoon, Pete Morey, the CBC radio host said, “Gord Downie, died last night surrounded by family at age 53”. Unlike the character in Gord’s story, he won’t have his retirement. He won’t see his kids graduate, move them into their first apartment, see them married, or meet his own grandchildren.
For me, the sun beams through the fall colours of the neighbourhood as I pull into the driveway. My children get out of the car while I try to collect myself. I find my wonderful wife Jennifer in the kitchen, throw my arms around her much like the police officer from the video, and recount far less articulately what I have just written for you. I cried for a man who put himself in the soundtrack of joy for Canada, for a man who reminds us who we are, and who we could be. I cried for a man who was brave, and for the family that deserved to have so much more of him. It took “Bobcaygeon” to bring it all out.
The next day I heard “Bobcaygeon” again, and I was I really glad I did. Listen to the ending. It grooves like hell, arguably the tastiest groove the Tragically Hip have every recorded. It was inspiring and remarkably uplifting to hear “Bobcaygeon” groove long after Gord sings his last note. This is what Gord Downie would want Canada to do.
Pitchfork are not everyone's cup of tea and are often slagged off for being pretentious, but I am loving the (maybe intentional) use of subtle sarcasm in this recent article about Billy Corgan, who now wants to be called William Patrick Corgan. Apparently, he has requested to be called by his official name just because he is contrary and likes winding people up. Where's the sarcasm you ask? Not just the headline itself, but also the top right corner of the page...
This is such a great interview - Liam Gallagher in all his grumpy, gobby glory after an awards show (for Absolute Radio); the best part may be that he actually made an adult-sounding statement about the need for he and Noel to make up and move on before the world ends. Interesting indeed...
Please, for the sheer insanity of it, read the title of this article and tell me the world hasn't gone completely bonkers:
This 'Ultimate Tracklist' was not on my radar per se, but it seems very timely and fitting now that Gord Downie has left us and this nation of millions of fans mourns that loss. I would love to do a full discography of The Hip, but the 90s were and are where they live for me, so for the purposes of this UT, I will focus just on the first seven albums - 'The Tragically Hip' (1987), 'Up to Here' (1989), 'Road Apples' (1991), 'Fully Completely' (1992), 'Day for Night' (1994), 'Trouble at the Henhouse' (1996), and 'Phantom Power' (1998). This last album is probably where my awareness of the band also began to wane and if I can't do the Tracklist justice, then I simply won't go beyond that point.
One very significant point - track 1 on Hip albums is almost always an outrageously good song, and the same can be said for track 3; tracks 5 and 11 on the other hand are quite often weak points. Odd how these patterns develop. Here goes...
The reaction in Canada has been well-documented in terms of its scale and honesty of emotion, and so I will not attempt to put into words what the death of Gord Downie, lead-singer of Canada's most well-respected band The Tragically Hip, means to me personally; instead, here's a selection of articles about the band, about Canada, and about why it all matter so so much...
This song has been getting a lot of airtime at home lately and for good reason - the tin whistle, the horn section, and the incessant thump of the song as a whole are decidedly infectious. Sure, Liam's no big fan (surprise!) but I think it's a great tune...mostly. Here's the thing - the more I hear the song and absorb the lyrics, the more I find it problematic, especially when Noel has claimed in interviews that: "When it became a song back in Belfast it was so joyous, I just had to do it justice. What’s more joyous than being in love, baby? So, I wrote a song about love and it’s one of the best things that I’ve ever done." What bothers me about a song inspired by the joy of love? Give the lyrics a once-over and tell me you don't also see some slightly chauvinistic overtones here...
"Dance dance, if you do that dance
I'm gonna let you join my one man band"
- love is apparently not unconditional then
"You can blow my mind if you're that way inclined"
- permission granted?
"She fell, she fell right under my spell ... she danced, she danced right into my hands"
- clearly Mr Gallagher has an inflated sense of his own powers of attraction ... wait, isn't this about love though?
"Do your thang on the beat of the bang
I'll put a melody inside of your head
No need to shout, what you bitchin' about?
I think those things are better left unsaid"
- so Noel makes the rules here, and there are no exceptions for talking - just do your thang and I will love you (I think)
"She had a look you won't find in a book
and she smells like 1969"
- some websites tell you he says 'smiles' here, but they're definitely not listening closely enough ... and doesn't it sound more and more like he is attracted to her simply because of her appearance?
Thoughts? Making you wonder too? Didn't give it this much thought because you've never heard the song before or because you got your troll on after first listen? No matter the issue, to me it seems like a bit of a one-sided "love song". Peace,
If you're a long time Pearl Jam listener like myself, you no doubt were a bit taken aback when the band released the single "Sirens" from 2013's 'Lightning Bolt' ... this was a band that you had come to know for their adaptability yes, but more so for their vitality, energy, and fearlessness. Then comes "Sirens", the band's obvious reminder that they are not only human, but aging and a little bit frail and just as prone to the uncertainty of all aspects of the human experience as you or I. It was a bit de-stabilizing. What has this got to do with anything? Well, it turns out that Mr Corgan has gone and gotten old too, and unfortunately, what that natural evolution has left us with is a watered down, much less urgent or meaningful version of anything he has done before...
What's worse - I don't know that I really understand the vision behind this album, and I don't know that I care to dig deep enough (assuming there is even that kind of depth in the first place) to figure it out. Sure, you can accuse me of being a lazy reviewer and you'd likely not be totally wrong, but there is nothing on this album that resonates with me in any meaningful way. The fact that I've written this much is generous really.
I won't take anymore of anyone's precious time - if you're a big Corgan and SP fan, then you'll no doubt find something worth listening to here, but I've got nothing. I wish William Patrick no ill will at all, but I also wonder how much longer his career as a frontman will or should last.
(sidenote: would he not be a great producer for some artsy band with a grandiose vision for their second, 'this is gonna be our breakthrough' album?).
Best Song:couldn't find one
Release Date: 13 October, 2017
Br. addendum: my many adoring and fanatical readers are demanding an overall rating so ... it's better than the Japandroids, which I gave a 35% but maybe not as good as Gorillaz, which I gave a 54% so how about 43%?
Beck is one of the truly maverick musicians that has found success in the mainstream because he is a) incredibly talented and b) a bit of a chameleon, often changing shape and style with each new album, even if only subtly. He has been doing so since 2002's 'Sea Change' (aptly named in this case), and in my opinion at least, most successfully with 2008's 'Modern Guilt'. Nothing has changed in terms of his approach to this year's 'Colors' but unfortunately, the shift in musical style offers very little that is either memorable or positive...
The video itself is pretty cheese and very tongue-in-cheek (which, if you know Sarah Silverman, should have been very obvious ahead of time) but the comments on the youtube page are pure gold. Clearly there are a lot of people who either don't get it, are narrow-minded, hold grudges, or are really dumb (okay, you're right, I could have replaced all of that with just the word 'Republican'). Give it a spin and please tell me you understand what she's doing here...
There are so many times, probably daily, where I am thankful to live in Canada. Peace, Br.
Killer Mike, one half of take-no-shit-rap-duo Run the Jewels, is not happy with US Vice President Mike Pence for walking out of yesterday's Colts-49'ers game; Pence symbolically departed (read: because his boss told him to) when some of the 49'ers players decided to #takeaknee as a sign of continued protest against racial inequality in the USA. Here's the text from Killer Mike's Instagram feed (@killermike)
Testify brother Michael, testify. You have got to learn that what you're up against Mr Pence (read: Mr Trump) is nothing less than the united will of not just the American left, but the American social conscience. You cannot win because you cannot oppose common sense and basic decency and then hope to have the support of the nation. Here's hoping you wake up and see America as it truly is - multicultural and expansive, its very existence rooted in the ideals of free speech and rebellion.
The bravado, the twitter-storms, the over-the-top interviews, the Lollapalooza mid-concert walk-off, the "as you were" at the end of every single tweet, and the constant bashing of his older brother are easy to get tired of but if we really want to understand Liam Gallagher, it has to be through this lens - that he is as aware as anyone that he is taking a huge risk by trying (again) to make a name for himself on his own and that if this album is a failure, so might his career as a musician be, potentially for good (he's said as much himself). Keep that in the front of your mind when you listen to this album - the younger Gallagher is taking a big risk on this album and though it's not the "instant classic" that many of his fans claim it to be, I for one can say that the risk just about pays off...
An already somber day has gotten a little darker as news comes out that rock n' roll icon Tom Petty has suffered a heart attack and is "clinging to life" in a hospital in California. Petty is one of the giants who helped shape my love of rock n' roll.
Tom Petty is inseparable for me from my love of music and my father - it was in his car on weekend drives post-divorce that I learned to love not just Tom Petty's 'Full Moon Fever' but also the harmonic wonder that was The Travelling Wilburys. You're a legend Tom. If it is your time then go with peace - you will live long in the hearts, lyrics, and G-chords of musicians and fans everywhere. Peace,
Br. UPDATE: shortly after midnight EST the L.A. Times confirmed Petty’s death. Here is the statement from Petty’s longtime manager:
“On behalf of the Tom Petty family, we are devastated to announce the untimely death of of our father, husband, brother, leader and friend Tom Petty. He suffered cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu in the early hours of this morning and was taken to UCLA Medical Center but could not be revived. He died peacefully at 8:40 p.m. PT surrounded by family, his bandmates and friends.”
True to his particular brand of madness, Billy Corgan is releasing an album this month under his full name William Patrick Corgan called 'Ogilala', which is for-all-intents-and-purposes, a made-up word similar to Ogalalla (an aquifer) or Ogalala (a First Nation in the US); look for the review soon after its release date of 13 October here on the blog. There is no question that the man is an absolute nutcase, nor is there any questioning that he is very likely a musical genius who was directly responsible for some of the most important music of the 1990s (or if you ask him, the most important music ever made). The very best example of his madness/genius combo is without a doubt, 1995's opus 'Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness', which, if memory serves, was chosen as the best album of the year by 102.1 The Edge (the only alt-rock radio station worth listening to in the 90s) in back-to-back years. What?
The challenge though in really breaking down this album is that it's too big a task - there are 25 songs spread across over 2 hours of double disc (remember when people actually bought CDs?!). So, here's our goal - we're going to take this monster of an album and compress it to its very best 13 songs (half the album), a task, which if done by Corgan et al. in 1995, would have most likely resulted in one of the five best alt-rock albums of all-time; as with Radiohead's 'Kid A' and 'Amnesiac' dilemma, 'Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness' has a lot of forgettable songs and/or songs that do not stand the test of time (or nostalgia), and it is an incredibly interesting intellectual exercise to condense it to just the best of the best. We'll avoid track numbers and album placement (and obviously, creative intent) and discuss them as we go. There are bound to be some consensus picks ("Zero"?) and some more contentious ones...
It's hard for me to believe, based on past experience, that an Arcade Fire album was released in the third quarter of this year and I have nothing else beyond that to say about it. Though 'Everything Now' was a disappointment for me, and July and August were pretty tame as a whole (aside from Public Service Broadcasting's exceptional third album 'Every Valley'), September brought some fantastic releases and has likely delivered three of the top five albums of the whole year...