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Archive for the ‘Corner Gas’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JANN ARDEN-“Leave the Light On” (2018).

Jann Arden is a Canadian singer-songwriter who I know pretty much exclusively from her 1994 song “Insensitive.”  Arden has also made numerous media appearances over the years, including showing up on Corner Gas, Robson Arms and other shows that I haven’t seen.  She also appeared extensively on Rick Mercer Report (I found out by reading the book).

“Insensitive” is a slow song with a bit of mid-90s production.  The melody is catchy and the lyrics are great:

Oh, I really should have known
By the time you drove me home
By the vagueness in your eyes, your casual goodbyes
By the chill in your embrace
The expression on your face, told me
Maybe, you might have some advice to give
On how to be insensitive, insensitive, ooh, insensitive

Now, nearly 25 years later, Arden has other things on her mind.  I don’t know much about Arden, but evidently both of her parents suffered significant health problems in the last decade.  Her father passed and shortly after that her mother began a battle with Alzheimer’s as well.

“Leave the Light On” is a beautiful song about her mother.

A slow piano opens before Arden starts singing–her voice sounds wonderful–powerful and exposed.

I never pictured life
Alone in a house
Surrounded by trees
That you’d forget yourself
Lose track of time
Not recognize me

The bridge comes in with a harmony voice that shows even more pain.

Then the chorus kicks in and a song that could be maudlin or easily schmaltzy goes in exactly the right place to prevent that.  It shouts a sense of optimism that’s the only way people can keep going sometimes

A four note melody picks up the pace and uses a perfect parenthetical voice (the first voice is quieter, almost internal)

(Out of the dark)
I leave the light on
(In through the cold)
I leave the light on now
(Safe from the night)
I keep my eye on the road
(Good for the soul)
For when you come home to me

What is so compelling about the song is how musically understated it is.  While it could go big and heartbreaky with strings and over the tops effects, it stays quiet with the piano and a quiet electric guitar playing a melody deep in the background.  And really once the drums kick in, it’s almost like the drums are the only instrument–like Arden’s voice is the melody and the piano and guitar are there purely as support.

There’s a short bit near the end of the song that is a real gut punch though.  After a short guitar solo, she sings following the guitar, “do you know my name, do you know my name?”

Dang.  It’s a starkly beautiful song.

It also showcases what a great songwriter she is because she is apparently a truly fun person to hang out (according to Rick Mercer).

[READ: December 2019] Rick Mercer Final Report

I read The Mercer Report: The Book over ten years ago.  I had been a fan of Rick Mercer Report on Canadian TV (we used to be able to get Canadian satellite down here).  As an introduction to that book I wrote

Rick Mercer is a great political comedian.  He puts all American political commentators to shame. I’m sure that much of this difference is the way Canada is structured. There seems to be so much more access to politicians there than in our system.  While politicians do appear on our TV shows, on the Mercer Report, Rick goes white-water rafting with the head of the Liberal party. Rick has a sleepover at the Prime Minister’s house.  For reasons I can’t fathom, all of these politicians agree to hang out with Rick even though in the next segment he will rant about their incompetence.

It’s these rants that were a highlight of his show.  Every episode, he would stand in an alley and go off for 90 some seconds about the issue of the week.  His rants are astute, funny, and right on the mark.  He takes aim at all sides by ranting against incompetence and hypocrisy.  The only disappointing thing is that since this book covers the lifetime of the show and some of the topics have appeared multiple times, I guess it shows that his rants didn’t accomplish their goals.  But they made us feel better, anyhow.

The book is organized in reverse chronological order, with the final rants (April 3, 2018) coming first.

Topics in the final year included how run down the Prime Minister’s residence is.  Justin Trudeau said “The place is filled with mould and lead–I’m not raising my children there.  Typical Liberal.”  Also payday loan sharks; the Paralympics (Mercer was a huge supporter) and technology. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 22, 2015] Art of Time Ensemble

aotWhen I saw that the Art of Time Ensemble was coming to RVCC I was crazy excited.  Especially when I saw that Steven Page and Craig Northey would be singing with them.  I didn’t even care what it was they were doing, but when I saw that they’d be playing Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, I immediately got seats (3rd row!) and then tried to explain to Sarah what we’d be seeing.

The Art of Time Ensemble does many things although my exposure to them is through their string performances of rock songs

Led by Artistic Director Andrew Burashko, Art of Time Ensemble transforms the way you experience music. Fusing high art and popular culture in concerts that juxtapose the best of each genre, Art of Time entertains as it enlightens, revealing the universal qualities that lie at the heart of all great music.

This show was a string and brass (and piano, guitar, drum and possibly sitar) version of the classic Beatles album.  But it was more than just a symphonic version of the record.  The Art of Time Ensemble created new arrangements of the songs.  There were enough changes that it wasn’t always evident what song was being played–even though they played the album start to finish. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Odds-nest (1996).

My friend Amber from Vancouver copied this disc onto cassette for me sometime around when it came out.   I had heard “Heterosexual Man” when it was a minor novelty hit in the early 90s, but Amber wanted me to hear more from this Vancouver band.

Since the Odds dissolved, Craig Northey has become a proficient soundtrack man (Corner Gas, Kids in the Hall, and much more). But back in the 90s, Northey was simply put, a great pop songwriter (his bandmate Steven Drake was no slouch either).

“Someone Who’s Cool” is a fantastic song that should have been huge: powerful pop with a hint of 90’s rock added to keep it from being treacly.  And, of course, Northey’s voice is great.  There’s nothing particularly notable about it: it’s not whiny or deep or twangy or anything, it’s just a good singing voice (which is kind of unusual these days).

“Make You Mad” and “Hurt Me” have really catchy opening guitar riffs (and are a bit heavier than “Cool,” and yet they feature choruses that are full of harmonies and sing alongs.

“Tears & Laughter” has a jagged, wild guitar sound that, while not overtly heavy or anything, really rocks on this disc. “Nothing Beautiful” should have been a huge indie rock hit, but maybe it was too polished for indie cred.  It’s a great minor key song with, yes, a very catchy chorus.

This was the final Odds record.  It’s a solid collection of songs.  Of course, the band has recently sort of reunited as the New Odds, so we’ve not heard the last from them.

[READ: September 11, 2010] “My Kushy New Job”

This article sees Wells Tower heading off to Amsterdam for a crash course in learning to sell drugs.  He is assigned a two-week job as a dealer in a Dutch coffeeshop.

I’ve been to Amsterdam and I checked out a coffeeshop while I was there, but this article provides more information than I ever knew about them (and suggests that they are trying to spruce up their image since then). It seems that the selling of pot in Amsterdam is still a nebulous area, legally.

Shops can only have a certain amount of supply on hand (which means that most stores have offsite premises where they keep their extra stash; they house more than the legal amount and are therefore illegal.  And, technically, the people who transport the stash from offsite to onsite can be arrested up until the moment they enter the shop.  Customers can only by a small amount at time and, strangely enough, coffeshops cannot advertise (more on this later).

Tower finds the whole experience to be far less “woah, cool man” than everyone who hears about the job thinks it will be.  First, he finds that the buyers are really intense (and don’t appreciate how long it takes him to measure a gram of hash).  But by the end, he finds most of them to be simply rude and a little dead inside. (more…)

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This is my final TV recap post.  It was the first entry on my TV page (except for TV I have killed, which will come shortly.  2010 comments are in brackets.

Down below Soon, you’ll see the TV shows that I have killed. It was a sad day when two of my favorite shows were canceled for good last year. However, we move on. And so, this is our current [circa 2007] household lineup: (more…)

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I’m continuing to move all of the old TV Posts from my TV Tab to individual posts. So here’s some thoughts from the 2008 TV season.  There were some updates midway through on this one, but I’ll add some updated thoughts as necessary.

With the Fall 2008 Lineup mostly underway, I’m listing the shows that we are giving a chance this year.  There are some new ones, but mostly its a continuation of last year: (more…)

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I’m moving all of the old TV Posts from my TV Tab to individual posts. Why?  I’m not sure.  But here’s the one from last season.  I’m going to put any thoughts from today at the end of each post, as necessary.

[ORIGINAL POST BEGINS]

Okay, the TV season is half over, shows got canceled by the networks and also got canceled by us.  So, we have pruned ourselves down to just a few shows, mostly sitcoms. The really bad news is that our Canadian satellite is no longer active.  Bell Expressvue has kicked us out so we no longer have our access to TV up north.  Sigh.  Wither Corner Gas? (more…)

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in hereSOUNDTRACK: THE TRAGICALLY HIP-We Are the Same (2009).

Itragically hip first heard of The Hip when I saw their video for “Nautical Disaster.” This is back in the day when I first got Canada’s MuchMusic on my Brighton, MA cable system, and when I actually watched Music channels. Anyhow, the song was intense and very cool and it built to a great climax, and I was totally hooked.

I got their back catalog and continued to get their new releases.  Since then they’ve released some really good songs, and some pretty good discs.  It almost feels like since their live disc they decided to switch from intense songwriting to more simple, straightforward rock. This is a little disappointing to fans of their intense stuff, and yet if you accept the change in style, the music is quite solid.

So this disc seems to be shooting for an even broader, more commercial appeal.  And, in the first half, at least, they emphasize a more folksy/country feel.  All of this should make me flee from the disc, and I think longtime fans are pretty disappointed by it.  And yet, I can’t get over how much I like it. There’s something slightly off about the Tragically Hip that keeps them from being overtly commercial.  So that even when they release a disc like this, which is quite mellow in places, it still sounds alternative.  Maybe it’s Gord Downie’s voice, maybe it’s something in the melodies; whatever it is, it keeps this disc from being blah.

The final track, Country Day” seems to sum up the overall feel of the disc: meandering country roads.  And “Queen of the Furrows” is about farming.  The opening few songs have a Neil Young folkish feel, since “Morning Moon” and “Honey Please” have big catchy choruses with folky verses

“Coffee Girl” actually reminds me of a serious Barenaked Ladies type song, which is disconcerting coming from the Hip, but could possibly become a hit (it’s probably their most overtly commercial song I can think of since “My Music at Work”).  Actually, I take that back, one of the final tracks on the disc, “Love is  a Curse” sounds like it’s their last ditch attempt to have a big hit in the States.  And if they were a more well known (or on a bigger label) it would be a huge hit.  It rocks pretty hard and screams radio friendly.

The Hip of old do surface on two songs though: “Now the Struggle Has a Name” is one of those great sounding Hip songs:  as you’re singing along to the swelling chorus you wonder why they aren’t huge down here, and then you realize the song is 6 minutes long and will never get on the radio.   There’s also a 9 minute song, and the good news is that it doesn’t get boring (no mean feat).

The second half of the disc has more loud guitars.  The cool riff of “The Exact Feeling” is pretty great.  While “Frozen in My Tracks” is probably the weirdest track on the disc, with a very cool, off-sounding chorus.

So yeah, the disc has horns and strings and is maybe a little too polished and produced.  But the songwriting is still stellar.  I’m sure that if I had heard these songs now without knowing the Hip, I wouldn’t be all that impressed.  Maybe as I get older I’m less critical, or maybe I’m just happy to mellow out a bit more.

[READ: Week of July 20] Infinite Jest (to page 367)

Even though last week I said I would keep to the Spoiler Line Page, I am breaking the promise already.  I just couldn’t stand the thought of leaving a passage unfinished, so I just continued to the section break of Gately’s A.A. meeting.

When I first read IJ way back in 1996 I, like most Americans, didn’t really think too much about Canada.  I liked a lot of Canadian music and The Kids in the Hall were awesome, but beyond that I was pretty oblivious to our neighbors to the north.  Since then, I have become something of a Canuckophile.  I did Curling for two years and have visited up North a number of times.  We even had a Canadian satellite dish where we watched most of our TV (like Corner Gas and The Rick Mercer Report) until that moderately legal company was sued out of business.  Now I subscribe to The Walrus which keeps me well informed. Anyhow, this is all to say that I have a greater understanding of Quebec separatists and the state of US border relations.  This makes this whole Marathe-Steeply section more interesting to me this time around.  I sort of went from Hal (apolitical) to a quarter of the way to Avril in my understanding.

But before we get to that, lets get into the book and learn about Orin. (more…)

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so-youSOUNDTRACK: MIKE FORD-Canada Needs You volume two (2008).

fordThis is the long awaited follow up to Mike Ford’s first Canada Needs You CD.  Volume Two covers Canada’s history in the 20th Century.

The album is more fun than the first because there are several tracks where Ford uses a stylistically appropriate music to go with the songs: “Talkin’ Ten Lost Years” uses a Woody Guthrie-inspired “talking blues” to go along with the Depression-era lyrics.  “Let’s Mobilize” is done in a great swing style for a 1940s/50s era song.  “Joey Smallwood” uses a near-perfect Johnny Cash style (it may not be time-appropriate since Cash is timeless, but it works great for the song).  “Maurice Richard” is a perfect Dylanesque folk song.  And finally, the pièce de résistance is “Expo 67!” It is so wonderfully Burt Bacharach-y, so perfectly late sixties it gets stuck in your head for days! C’est Magnifique!

The rest of the album, especially the first three songs do not try to match a song style to the time it discusses.  Rather, he sings about Canadian history in a folk/rock style ala Moxy Fruvous (Creeping Barrage” and “In Winnipeg”) or in a great R&B/girl group style–with actual female singers, not himself in a falsetto (“Tea Party”) or reggae on “I’m Gonna Roam Again.”

The songs are all great.  And, yes, it’s a great way to learn some history (I’ve already Googled Joey Smallwood, just to see who he was.  I’m trying to get all of the lyrics down, but it’s not always easy, especially if you don’t know the details of what he’s singing about.  Which leads to my only gripe.

My gripe is that the disc packaging doesn’t include much information.  And, since he is essentially teaching people about the history of Canada, I’d think that some details should be included in the packaging.  I realize of course, that he says that the he’ll have the information on his website, but since we’re carrying the disc with us (not the website), it’d be nice to have at least a summary like on Volume One.  Because frankly, I don’t know enough about Canadian history to know what he’s talking about on most of the tracks.

The only problem is that as of this writing he hasn’t put the information on his website yet.  D’oh!

[READ: Christmas 2007] So You Want to Be Canadian

iamcI am Canadian.  Okay, I’m not, but I’ve had the beer, and I’ve seen the commercial (hilarious) and I’ve been there several times. I even have Canadian satellite broadcast into my home (long story).  So, I’ve seen Rick Mercer’s Talking to Americans, and I’ve been a fan of Corner Gas long before it was broadcast down here. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE NEW ODDS-Cheerleader (2008).

Craig Northey, singer of the Odds has written some great songs by himself and with a slew of other projects.  But most notably, he did the theme songs (opening and closing) for Corner Gas.  At last, “My Happy Place” the Closing Credits song has now been released on this disc by The New Odds.  (The Opening Credits song “Not a Lot Goin On” is available on the disc that Northey made with Jesse Valenzuela, cleverly titled Northey Valenzuela.  I mention Corner Gas aside from the fact that it’s a great show, because I mention it in the book write up below as well.  But back to the Odds.

The Odds had a minor hit in 1993 with “Heterosexual Man” (which we all thought was hilarious).  I didn’t really think much about them until my friend Amber from Vancouver sent me a tape of Bedbugs.  I was surprised how much I liked it and how, although the band was funny, they weren’t a novelty act at all.

I’ve enjoyed the Odds very much since then, they’ve appeared on a number of soundtracks, and released four solid albums, especially 1996’s Nest.

The New Odds are, as you might guess, the Odds, only new.  3 of the 4 original members are back, and aside from updating their sound to the twenty-first century, the band isn’t radically different. They play what used to be called college music, but which really is more or less alternative or even just rock music.

As with previous Northey output, the lyrics are witty and clever, with some wordplay in evidence.  There’s a pretty diverse collection of sounds on the record, yet they all stay within the range of alternative guitar pop.  One or two songs rock harder than the others, “Leaders of the Undersea World” sounds like a dose of heavy metal in comparison to the rest of the record.  “Write it in Lightning” is also a pretty good song, and “I Can’t Get You Off” has a wonderfully catchy hook to it.

Northey’s voice is easily described as inoffensive, and the music is catchy but not stick-in-your-head catchy.  It’s not a ringing endorsement, but it’s also not a put-down.  Like meat and potatoes, it’s a good staple to any alternative fans’ collection.

[READ: August 28, 2008] Why I Hate Canadians

I bought this book several years ago, probably in 2000, when I was visiting Montreal.  I remember being very excited to visit Chapters and to see what kind of books they had that weren’t available down south.  I was especially interested in the humor section as I had just started watching Mike Bullard, and I knew he wasn’t available in the States.  I found Bullard’s book as well as two books about Canada by the Fergusons. Why it took me 8 years to read them, I don’t know.

This book is listed as a humour book; the copyright page has it listed as 1. Canada-Humor 2. Canadian wit and humor (English).  But the thing is that the book isn’t very funny.   Even with an outrageous title like that, it’s not very funny.  It is however, a fantastic introduction to the history of Canada written in a style that is (yes) funnier than your average textbook.

DIGRESSION: I will state that I realize that Will Ferguson has a perspective, and quite often he’s very vocal about his perspective.  Most good history is written with an acknowledged bias–trying to hide your bias makes for dull (or hypocritical) history.  So, Ferguson’s history of Canada may not be Accurate, (especially if you are a Quebecois) and of course, I’d be interested to hear from those who disagree with him; however, to an American who is not well versed in the history of Canada, it was pretty enlightening. (more…)

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12.jpgSOUNDTRACK: THE KINKS-Come Dancing with the Kinks (1986) & THE TRAGICALLY HIP-World Container (2006).

kinks.jpgTHE KINKS-Come Dancing with the Kinks: I’m not sure if I’m getting older or more maudlin, but I recall being younger and really disliking “Come Dancing,” the song because it was wimpy. Then as I got a little older I liked it because it was fun, with the surprise “swing” section in the middle. Now, I find I’m really moved by the song. So, yes, I’m getting older. That’s okay.

(more…)

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