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Archive for the ‘The Kids in the Hall’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MICHAEL McDONALD-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #4 (March 26, 2020).

I was never a fan of the Doobie Brothers, although I do like a few of their songs.  To me, especially now, Michael McDonald’s voice has the quintessential mockable tone and style.  If I were to sing in a voice that I thought was funny, it would sound like him.

Now, he sang on the Thundercat album “Drunk” so that gives him some cred for me, but it’s hard for me to listen to this Tiny Desk Home Concert.

Shows what I know, though, since he is hugely popular and is a “five-time Grammy winner and 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.

After Michael McDonald finished “Matters Of The Heart,” the opening song in his Tiny Desk (home) concert, there was a brief pause. The bewilderment on his face was unmistakable. It’s a look I believe we all can relate to in this moment of uncertainty. He sat in his home studio, complete with an illustration of the Tiny Desk drawn by Mr. McDonald himself. That pause, usually reserved for the anticipated applause, was replaced by complete silence.

“Matters” is slow and ponderous.  It lasts nearly 6 minutes and sounds like a ballad I would have hated in the 90s.

I hate to be so mean to him, because he seems like a nice enough guy.  But my comments surely won’t affect him too much.

He then proceeded to play two 1978 Doobie Brothers classics that showcase his still-golden voice: “Minute By Minute” and “What A Fool Believes.”

He jokes: “If you know the words, sing along with me at home,” he said. “I won’t know if you’re singing well or not because I can’t hear you here.”

I enjoy these two Doobie Brothers songs, although  don’t really know the words–I had no idea that the song was called “What a Fool Believes” until about twenty years after I first heard it.  I much prefer the full band to these rather stripped down versions.

[READ: March 10, 2020] The Kids in the Hall: One Dumb Guy

It’s amusing to me that this book by Paul Myers, has an introduction by Seth Meyers and mentions Mike Myers.

Seth says that he was interning at Comedy Central and was doing a great job.  Then he found The Kids in The Hall (which he had never seen before). He became so obsessed with it that he started slacking off.  His boss at Comedy Central said that initially he was planing on offering Seth a job but after all the slacking off he wouldn’t do it.  When Seth told his boss he had been side-tracked by The Kids in the Hall, his boss sais, “There are worse things to throw an opportunity away for.”

So this is an authorized biography of the five Kids in the Hall.  Myers tells the story in a really compelling way. One where, as you read it, you think, gosh I hope everything works out for these guys.  Even though you know they did because well, this book wouldn’t be written about them if it didn’t and because you’re a huge fan of the Kids and you know it all worked out. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TOOL-“Some Days It’s Dark” (2007).

I recently learned that Tool performed this cover of a song from The Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy live.

In the movie Bruce McCullough’s character Grivo’s band Death Lurks plays this very heavy song (written by Craig Northey and performed by Odds).  Lyrically it’s amusingly Dark

Some days it’s dark
Some days I work
I work alone
I walk aloooooooone.

Tool is considered to be one of the most intense metal bands out there with fans taking them very Seriously.  So the fact that they covered this song (in Toronto) is fantastic.

The cover is great (of course).  They get the sound of the original right on, especially when the big heavy part kicks in.  The only problem I would say is Maynard’s delivery.  It’s a little too deadpan,  I’d like it to be a but more over the top.  But maybe that wouldn’t be Maynard’s way.

You can hear it (no video) here.

There’s no word on if they also played “Happiness Pie.”

[READ: January 27, 2020] Extra Credit

When a beloved (and award winning) series nears its end, it is time to put out early and special features collections.  Usually they come once the series has ended, but this one has come early.  Whereas Early Registration was a good collection of early material, this collection is a bit more haphazard.

It collects some Christmas specials and some early “comic strips” from Allison.  Given this seeming completest nature of this collection, I can’t imagine that there’s another volume planned.

The first story is called “What Would Have Happened if Esther, Daisy and Susan Hadn’t Become Friends (and it was Christmas).”  It’s the 2016 Holiday issue drawn by Lissa Treiman.

We zoom in on DAY-ZEE on “the edge of the boundless sweep of space” as she zooms in one the title question.  [It’s important to read Early Registration first as this story references that story].

Esther didn’t help Daisy move in on that first day.  Esther was immediately grabbed by the popular girls.  They are sitting under a tree playing music on their phones which wakes up Susan who curses them out. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS–Humanities Theatre Waterloo ON (January 24, 1997).

Just as I was finishing up all of the newest live Rheostatics recordings, Daron posted a dozen or so more.

This is a pretty awesome soundboard recorded show just following the Rheos tour with The Tragically Hip and about 4 months after the release of The Blue Hysteria. One of the best versions of A Mid Winter Night’s Dream I’ve ever heard. As you can see on the DAT it used to be called Winter’s Tale. People From Earth opened the show. NB both First Rock Concert and RBC are incomplete recordings.

People from Earth opened.

After listening to all of those new recordings, it’s fun to go back to 1997 before they had broken up, while they were touring The Blue Hysteria.  It’s also a little surreal to not really hear the crowd (because this is a soundboard).

This recording is 90 minutes (which means either they were playing shorter shows back then or a lot of it was cut off (which seem more likely).

Martin sounds great, playing a rather slow and hushed version of “California Dreamline.”  I like the way the washes of guitar noise segue in to the acoustic guitar of “Claire.”  Throughout the show I couldn’t help noticing how young Tim sounds (far more so than the other guys).

After a trippy “Digital Beach,” they segue into “Earth/Monstrous Hummingbirds.”  It’s one of their weirder songs with lots of different parts.  It sounds great–certainly a peak time for this kind of song.

There’s a fun boppy version of “Introducing Happiness”–Tim seems to be having a lot of fun with the song.

Dave Bidini says that last night, Martin talked the longest on stage ever in his life before introducing this next song.  “You probably read about it on the internet or something.”  Martin says, “I enjoyed it so much I can’t do it tonight.”  He says that the recording of “Motorino” features the host of channel 47 show Jump cut for young Italian Canadians.  That’s Felicia.  She spoke (rapidly) in Italian for the record.

It’s interesting that this is the first song they’re playing off of the new album and they don’t mention it as such.

“Four Little Songs” is still new so they don;t get too crazy with it, although Martin has fun singing his part.   Dave would like to dedicate his fourth little song to our backdrop the newest member of the Rheostatics.  It’s the angry chickadee or two fish kissing.  Dave asks Tim, “who would win in a fight?  Angry Chickadee or Monstrous Hummingbird?”  Tim: “How big is monstrous?”  Martin: “Like Mothra.”

After not playing anything from Blue Hysteria, the play six new songs in a row.  Martin introduces “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine” as a song “about trying to help someone that you’re in love with….stop killing themselves.  Sorry.”  It’s wonderfully intense and the harmonies are outstanding.  The sound of the guitar taking off half way through is tremendous and Martin hitting those falsetto notes gives me goose bumps.

“Fat” “is as song about having a best friend” (Dave says). It opens with a great slinky bass and Martin saying more drama on the lights–get rid of those white ones.   More great backing vocals from Martin.  It’s followed by Tim’s delicate “An Offer.”  Tim;s voice seems to be much higher than in 2017.

The band loves talking about playing in Kitchener (they are still doing it in 2017).  In 1982/1983 they played there at the Kent Hotel which was a strip joint.

“A Midwinter Nights Dream” is an absolutely stunning flawless performance.  The crowd is great, the band is on fire and it sounds amazing.  This has become one of my favorite Rheos songs and I love hearing it live (even if Dave doesn’t know what it’s called).

This song “Bad Time to Be Poor” is getting played on rock n’ roll radio (but it’s not its commercial radio).   We get invited to radio stations named after animals: The Bear, The Lizard, The Fox, The Marmot (that’s in St. John).  Now we’re getting a lot of guys dressed in denim coming to our shows.  So we’re broadening our horizons.   If someone sparks up a joint, don’t blame the song, blame commercial radio.

There is a rocking and fun “Dope Fiends” to end the set.

They come back for the encore and this recording cuts off the opening of “My First Rock Concert.”  But Dave has fun explaining a lyric.  When his friend was “on his back” it was a popular dance of the time called the worm.  Then they talk about people swan diving to them when they get famous.

The recording ends with “Record Body Count.”  It ends early, but has a nice fade at least.

This is, indeed a great show.

[READ: December 2018] Let’s Start a Riot

I just have to look at Bruce McCulloch on the cover of this book and it makes me laugh.  McCulloch has played some of my favorite characters on Kids in the Hall (although I could never pick a favorite).  But he is especially good at being an asshole.   A very funny asshole.

And what better sums up Bruce than this:

Ever feel like you were once young and cool and then you woke up in the middle of your life, emptying the dishwasher?

What could this book be about (and how did I not even hear of it when it came out?).  Well the answer to the first question is in the subtitle.  There’s no answer for the second one.  But there is an introduction to the book by Paul Feig (which has nothing to do with either of these questions).

Bruce says he always dreamed of writing a book.  “One day.  When I was old.  Luckily, and unluckily, that day had come.”  When he told his family his wife and children Roscoe and Heidi (five and seven, he thinks), they wonder what he’ll write about.  He tells them that he will write about how he was once a young angry punk who crawled out of a crappy family, had this silly show on TV then somehow became a happy man with a pretty good family.  “Why would anyone want to read that?” Heidi asks. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_09_02_13Viva.inddSOUNDTRACK: TYPHOON-“Artificial Light” (2013).

typhoonartSince I mentioned “Artificial Light” the other day, I thought I’d link to it today.

The song opens with a pretty guitar melody punctuated by horns.  The singer’s vocal style is dramatic and often unexpected–especially the way he gets louder mid sentence and then drops to a whisper at other times (reminds me a bit of Wolf Parade or perhaps even Modest Mouse).

There are very pretty moments in the song (especially when the orchestration fills in).  But the horns also give it a kind of Spanish feel, which rides on top of the heavier guitars in the verses.

At about two and a half minutes, the song drops out completely.  It is picked up by some gentle guitar and horns as it builds back up.  By the end the chorus of voices builds the song to new heights and widths.

It’s interesting what you can do with so many band members in five and a half minutes.  This song really runs a breadth of ideas but remains quite pretty throughout.

[READ: September 12, 2013] “The Colonel’s Daughter”

The Kids in the Hall once made a sketch in which there was no beginning or ending, just a middle.

In the sketch, a man in a tutu slaps a man in a scuba diving suit saying.  “Stop it. stop it. I’ve got to stop you and your revolutionaries from taking over this country.”

This story is like the inverse of that sketch.  It has a beginning and an end but no middle.  Interestingly, since it is also about revolutionaries taking over a country, I now just insert that sketch into the story (I’m sure that makes Coover very happy.  I wonder if anyone else mentions this sketch in the review of this story).

I have mixed feeling about Coover’s work in general.  It often feels more style over substance.  And I fear that this one may have been playing with that somewhat. Interestingly as well, there is a lot of substance, but it is played in such as way as to make it almost seem meaningless—unless you are willing to really unpack it (which I wasn’t).

So, the Colonel is intent on overthrowing the President (the country is unnamed).  He has chosen the group of men sitting in the room with him.  Some of them know each other but not all do.  They look around and size each other up.  Indeed, 5/6 of the story is the men sizing each other up.  To me, the men are interchangeable.  I don’t know if that is lazy reading on my part or if it is indeed on purpose.

Each man gets a brief biography—the Deputy Minister, the Police Chief, the biplane pilot, the business man, the professor, the doctor and possibly someone else.

We learn a little about each man and why the Colonel would have chosen him.  We learn about his fears about the mission and who he mistrusts the most.  We also learn that one of the men is a double agent, working for the President.  Like a game of Clue, pieces of information are given that would let you know who the man is, but again, I didn’t feel like doing the work to figure it out.  I am curious to know if you can tell who it is from the story, but not curious enough to do the work (so I should not be rewarded). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKSUPERCHUNK-Superchunk (1990).

Some time ago, I reviewed all of the Superchunk EPs.  After progresing to their most current music, returning to their first album is a bit of a shock.  Superchunk’s first full length album is incredibly raw, with lots of screaming (two vocalists at once, even) and a very grungy attitude.  It has a DIY aestethic, in keeping with the undeground scene at the time.

The first four songs fly past in a pretty quick blur of adrenaline (the longest is just over 3 minutes).  The fifth song, the aptly named “Slow” slows things down and strecthes things out with a five minute track of slow distorted chords and a long solo.

Of course, the pinnacle comes with the next song “Slack Motherfucker” one of the best grunge anthems of all time. 

The last four tracks speed things up again with the bratty attitude that Superchunk is so good at (see especially “Down the Hall”).  But it’s not all just blistering speed.  The band has some dynamics down and there are a couple of tempo changes as well.

The album is a lot of fun to listen to, especially if you’re lookig for grunge before it became Grunge.  Although there’s very little indication that they would become the indie superstars that they eventually became you can clearly hear proto-Superchunk chunks–Mac’s voice is as it ever was and the noise is present but not overpowering.  There are even hints of melody (although nothing as catchy as later albums).  And yet for all that it sounds like a criticism, the album is really quite solid.

[READ: June 15, 2011] The Hollow Planet

Yes, THAT Scott Thompson, from The Kids in the Hall.  I found out about this comic book from my good friend Jessee Thorne at The Grid.

The backstory is that Scott Thompson had been working on this story for years and years.  He imagined it as a movie (starring him, of course).  When that didn’t pan out, he decided to sell it is a comic book.  And while he was recovering from cancer, he worked on it extensively with Kyle Morton–character likenesses and whatnot.  And now we have a cartoon rendering of Scott Thompson!

This story focuses on Scott’s character Danny Husk…

The book opens with Danny and his wife and kids at a carnival.  After a few moments, Danny’s son gets lost on the merry-go-round.  In the next scene we see just how much his wife is estranged from him (she may even be cheating on him), and how little his daughter thinks of him.  Soon after, Danny goes to work, inserts a disc into his laptop and more or less brings down his company.

So far nothing out of the oridnary for this type of  story–henpecked husband on a quest for revenge that he doesn’t know he wants yet.

Then Danny visits with his old friend Steve.  They talk, they bond over Danny’s concern about his wife.  And Danny feels better.  Until he gets home.  After a scene which I won’t spoil, the story suddenly takes off with a high speed car chase (no kidding) and with Danny entering the titular hollowness of the planet. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK
: THE TRAGICALLY HIP-Trouble at the Henhouse (1996).

After the major high of Day for Night, The Hip followed it up with Trouble in the Henhouse.

It opens with “Giftshop” which sounds like it could have come straight from Day for Night.  “Springtime in Vienna” is a marvel.  The opening is quiet with Downie’s almost whispered voice telling a compelling story until it blasts out with a wonderful chorus.  “Ahead by a Century” opens with a catchy acoustic intro.  Again, the harmony vocals add wonders to the verses.

But overall the album feels like the Hip exhausted their angst and anger on Day for Night and have chosen to go with a more mellow sound here.  It almost seems like Day for Lite.  Songs like the final track, “Put It Off” dabble with intensity, but have more atmospherics than powerful guitar and verses.  It’s like the come down after a big party.

The most peculiar song on the disc is “Butts Wigglin” which was used on the Kids in the Hall Brain Candy soundtrack.  It doesn’t really fit on this disc, but it’s such a great song that I understand them not leaving it off.  It’s very silly and musically groovy with  almost no guitars and all keyboards.  It’s a goof, but nice to see the lighter side of the band.

I find Trouble to be really enjoyable in itself, but it kind of pales in comparison to the previous two.  Nevertheless, these three albums are a wonderful trio of discs released by a great Canadian band.

They celebrated this era of the band with a live album the following year.

[READ: January 26, 2011] “An African Sermon”

Of all the stories in this Summer Reading Issue of The Walrus, this one was the most powerful.  (It wasn’t my favorite because it was rather distrubing) but it had a strong impact on me.

The bulk of the stoiry is set on a train in Africa.  Two white men introduce themselves to each other; the older one confides that he hopes no Blacks come into thier car.  Of course a Black does come into thier car and the younger man, who is a preacher, tries to embarass the racist man but immediately shaking the black man’s hand.

The black man is hostile to the young man’s advances, more or less shutting him out entirely.  Indeed, when the young man follows him to the dining car to talk (he is genuinely sympathetic to people, but he’s also very curious about the man and wants to pry a bit) the black man (whose name is Leonard Sagatwa) listens briefly and then, claiming a headche, returns to the cabin  room and goes to sleep.

During the night, the train stops because of a malfunction and it will be some time before it is fixed.  The priest goes out to the landing to find something to occupy himself when Leonard comes down.  He says to the priest that he wants to tell his story.  He wants to tell it once, to a complete stranger so that he can unburden himself and then be done with it.  The priest is tickled to hear the story.

But the story is one of Rwandan genocide:  Hutu vs Tutsi, brothers who turn  against each other; Leonard’s brother turning on him and his family.  Killing family members slowly, cruelly, calling them cockroaches.  It is harrowing and the priest is taken aback by the brutality.

But at the end of the story, the priest is resilient and insists that Leonard can forgive his brother.  Never, says Leonard.

The priest is able to use this story for his very first sermon in Africa.  He pretties up the story somewhat and makes it moral, and it works.  The new congregation accepts him and he feels welcomed to Africa.

When, several months later, the priest sees Leonard again, everything has been turned upside down.  And I’ll just leave it at that.

It is a great story.  Wonderfully powerful.

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Beloved Canadians The Kids in the Hall who were hilarious for five years on their skit show (and who ended their reign while still being very funny) have returned to TV after a sixteen year hiatus (not including their underrated movie Brain Candy and their awesome live tours, naturally).

I was beside myself with excitement when I found out about this show (and I’m rather vexed that I didn’t hear about it until it showed up on IFC recently.  Although I suppose if I had known about it sooner, there’s no way I could have watched it anyhow).   I was also kind of surprised at how little I knew about the show before it started.  How many episodes were there for instance?

So, the details (now that the show has finished its run on IFC, with repeats to come, no doubt): It is an 8 episode mini-series.  All of the Kids are in the show, and they each play multiple roles (although the opening credits and promo stuff suggest that they each play one character).  They play:

Bruce:  Mayor Bowman, “Big City” Lawyer (one of my favorites on the show), and Ricky (an obese man).
Dave: Mrs Bowman, Levon Blanchard (news producer), Dr Porterhouse (The town abortionist), and a wonderfully ambiguously accented, where-the-hell-is-she-from? nurse (my favorite minor character by far).
Kevin: Marnie (a forgetful, middle aged woman), Shaye (the news teams’ sound guy and hipster) and Sam Murray (depressed cat loving DA).
Scott: Crim Hollingsworth (1/16th Native and a great performance by Scott), Heather Weather (the TV weather woman), and Dusty Diamond (town coroner).
Mark: Corrinda Gablechuck (anchorwoman), The Judge, and the titular Death.
Bruce & Mark also play cops, like in the old series.

There are also other actors in the series, and (according to post show interviews) a lot of the locals from Shuckton, Ontario (which is really North Bay) were used as extras.

I admit that I was a little disappointed in the first episode. After the non-stop hilarity of the skit show, this one took some time to get going.  Exposition is a bitch.  But there’s enough humor (the opening with Bruce’s CGI bid for the 2028 Olympics, Death’s arrival on a kids’ bicycle (with a motor), and Dave as the drunken mayor’s wife) to keep the show interesting.

Once the exposition is out of the way though, the story is just fantastic and very funny. (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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SOUNDTRACK: ODDS-Bedbugs (1993).

This CD features the minor “novelty” hit “Heterosexual Man” (the video featured some of the Kids in the Hall in it).

This disc feels like a big step forward from their first disc.  It isn’t radically different, but it feels more accomplished and maybe more confident.

The bluesy tracks feel bluesier (“Car Crash Love”), the rocking tracks feel more rocking (“The Little Death”) and the acoustic songs feels more substantial (“What I Don’t Want”/”Fingertips”) with really nice harmonies.

And of course, there’s “Heterosexual Man” a great, funny rocker with a fantastic sing-along chorus.  Odds are still doing poppy, slightly alternative rock, but they’ve simply gotten better at it.

[READ: September 13 2010] Light Boxes

I received this book from the Penguin Mini at BEA.  It’s been sitting on my shelf tempting me since then and I decided that I would give it a read (even though I am anxious to start the two books that are next on my list).  Well, it was certainly a good book to read first as it is even shorter (and faster) than its tiny size suggests (it’s 150 pages).

I’d never heard of Shane Jones before (he’s a poet and this is his first novel), but the premise sounded so intriguing: a small town is experiencing perpetual February (going on some 900 days now).  It is cold and dark and depressing and for many, sunlight is but a distant memory.

And plotwise, the story is interesting: a spirit/god/being (let’s call him February) is playing tricks on the townsfolk to keep them in this state of February.  He convinces them that someone in town (let’s call him February) is causing the perpetual cold.  He also seems to be inspiring the town’s children to go missing.  And all of this is a punishment for men’s attempts at flight: kites, balloons, even birds are now verboten (and the priests enforce the rule). (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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