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Archive for the ‘Rheostatics’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: iLe-Tiny Desk Concert #874 (August 3, 2019).

It’s not very often that you hear a song that is all percussion.  But the first song of this set is only percussion and (Spanish) vocals.

iLe is a singer in the Puerto Rican band Calle 13.  Her most recent solo album Almadura:

is filled with metaphors and allegories about the political, social and economic conditions in Puerto Rico.

When vocalist Ileana Cabra Joglar and her band visited the Tiny Desk, they’d just arrived from the front lines of the historic demonstrations taking place in Puerto Rico. Two days earlier, they were part of a crowd of tens of thousands who were on the streets calling for the resignation of embattled Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. (Rosselló recently stepped down, effective August 2.)

Right from the start, it was clear what was on iLe’s mind in her song “Curandera” — “I am a healer / I don’t need candles to illuminate / I bring purifying water to cleanse / Removing pains so they never return” — as congas and percussion shook the room with an Afro-Caribbean beat.

This is the song in which all of the band members play percussion–primarily congas although Ismael Cancel is on the drum kit.  While everyone plays congas, it is Jeren Guzmán who is the most accomplished and who plays the fast conga “solo.”

In the chorus of the slow-burning “Contra Todo,” iLe sings about channeling inner strengths and frustrations to win battles and remake the world. Her lyrics are rich with history, capturing the spirit of the streets of San Juan even as she stood, eyes closed, behind the Tiny Desk. Her entire performance is a startling reflection of this moment in Puerto Rican history.

“Contra Todo” has a rich deep five string bass from Jonathan Gonzalez and two trombones (Joey Oyola and Nicolás Márquez). Two guitars (Bayoán Ríos and Adalberto Rosario) add a kind of percussive strumming and a quiet song-ending riff.  Jeren Guzmán plays the congas with mallets, something I’ve never seen before.

By the time iLe and her band launched into “Sin Masticar,” they’d already captured the full power of protest, as their musical arrangements raged with the intensity of a crowd joined by a shared cause and pulse.

“Sin Masticar” has a super catchy chorus, perhaps the best way to get people involved in a protest.

[READ: August 2019] Midnight Light

Two years ago Dave Bidini co-founded The West End Phoenix, a newspaper that is for people in Toronto’s West End.  It’s print, it’s old school, and it’s pretty awesome.  I don’t think I’ve ever been to the West End, but I find the writing and the content to be interesting and really enjoyable.

It’s no surprise that Bidini has worked in journalism and loved and hated it.

I’ve always loved newspaper: the smell of the ink and the rough of the newsprint weighted in my hands, their broadsheets flapping like Viking sails.  When I was a kid, our family read them all–the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, The Sun, and before that The Telegram–at the kitchen table with each person drawing out whatever they needed: comics, sports, business, entertainment (and yet never Wheels, the Star’s automotive supplement).

He started writing before he picked up a guitar.  When he was 11 he submitted a poem about a hockey player to The Sun‘s “Young Sun” section.  It was accepted and he won a T-shirt.

In 1991, he was asked to write a regular column for a Star satellite weekly called Metropolis.  The day his first piece was to be in print he waited at the nearest newsbox for the delivery man.

But he had no stamina and fewer ideas and he was eventually let go.  Which led to writing books.  But he still wanted to write for the paper and then he remembered: Hey, Yellowknife had a newspaper.

This book is about journalism.  But it’s also about the Canadian North.  And while the journalism stuff is interesting–and the way it ties to the North is interesting too, it’s the outsider’s perspective of this region of the world (that most people don’t even think about) which is just amazing to read about–the people, the landscape, the conditions.  It’s fascinating. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: POSITIVELY STOMPIN’-“Jump on My Wheels” (Moose: The Compilation, 1991).

Back in the 1990s, it was common to buy a compilation or soundtrack or even a band’s album based on one song.  Only to then find that you didn’t really like anything else on it.

Maybe that single sounded like nothing else on the album.  Maybe the movie was almost entirely one genre, but they had that one song that you liked over the credits.  Or maybe the compilation was for something you didn’t know, but a song you really wanted was on it, too.

With streaming music that need not happen anymore.  Except in this case.

I bought this compilation, used, recently exclusively for one song, Rheostatics’ “Woodstuck.”  It’s a goofy song and this is the only place you can get the studio version.  The actual compilation was not well documented, so I didn’t know what the other bands on it might sound like.  It turns out to be a compilation for Ontario based Moose Records which specialized in Rock, Folk, World & Country.  They put out another compilation in 1992 and that’s all I can find out about them.

Positively Stompin’ certainly sounds like a certain kind of music.  So it’s a little surprising how quietly this song starts out with just acoustic guitar.  The song picks up with some slower stomping about midway through although a ripping guitar solo really activates the buzz in the song.

It’s a short lived buzz though as the song more or less settles into a kind of Southern Rock, which is a bit ironic coming from a band from Toronto.  I cant find much out about this band, although they did have an album out called Junk Drawer.

[READ: August 1, 2019] “Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution”

This is an excerpt from Crain’s novel Overthrow. which is about the Occupy movement and protests.

Lief and Matthew were together when Lief’s phone started buzzing.  Lief read the text–its happening. police were everywhere.

They decided to go check it out–many of their friends would be going as well.

They brought earplugs–the police have some kind of sound weapon that they bought after 9/11.

The city was sleepy and quiet. So quiet and still, that it felt abandoned. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE JACK FAMILY-“You Are My Sunshine” (Moose: The Compilation, 1991).

Back in the 1990s, it was common to buy a compilation or soundtrack or even a band’s album based on one song.  Only to then find that you didn’t really like anything else on it.

Maybe that single sounded like nothing else on the album.  Maybe the movie was almost entirely one genre, but they had that one song that you liked over the credits.  Or maybe the compilation was for something you didn’t know, but a song you really wanted was on it, too.

With streaming music that need not happen anymore.  Except in this case.

I bought this compilation, used, recently exclusively for one song, Rheostatics’ “Woodstuck.”  It’s a goofy song and this is the only place you can get the studio version.  The actual compilation was not well documented, so I didn’t know what the other bands on it might sound like.  It turns out to be a compilation for Ontario based Moose Records which specialized in Rock, Folk, World & Country.  They put out another compilation in 1992 and that’s all I can find out about them.

According to Reno Jack’s biography: The Jack Family was a bunch of musicians who jammed out to whichever song was chosen by whoever was singing. Unrehearsed and free floating each member choosing an alias with the last name Jack just having fun away from the pressures of presenting original music. The band had names like Reno Jack, Bunk “Everyone Drums” Jack, Chief Don Jack, Mercedes Jack, Monterey Jack, Nevada Jack, One-Eyed Jack, Y “Tip” Jack and The Jackets backing singers.

This is the slowest, mopiest take on “You Are My Sunshine” I have ever heard.  Reno Jack is know for “country blues” and this version sounds like the most depressing part of both genres.

[READ: July 30, 2019] “The Pancake Supper”

Thomas suggested that all of the teaching analysts go out for a pancake supper twice a year.  Not at the fancy pancake house, but at the modest open-all night Pancake House & Bar.

Because Breakfast foods, except for cereals, that contain inordinate amounts of sugar, have, in my experience, a comforting, antidepressant quality.

The first to arrive was Manuel Escobar who disagreed with that sentiment: “I suppose that is true is you are an American.”

Escobar flirted with the waitress.  He also wanted to make love to Thomas’ wife.  Thomas was introspective about this:

It has occurred to me from time to time that an affair between this man and my wife could be harmless enough, and might solve a variety of problems in my home life.

Up next was Maria who immediately praised Escobar’s work. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LOST & PROFOUND-“All Consuming Mistress” (Moose: The Compilation, 1991).

Back in the 1990s, it was common to buy a compilation or soundtrack or even a band’s album based on one song.  Only to then find that you didn’t really like anything else on it.

Maybe that single sounded like nothing else on the album.  Maybe the movie was almost entirely one genre, but they had that one song that you liked over the credits.  Or maybe the compilation was for something you didn’t know, but a song you really wanted was on it, too.

With streaming music that need not happen anymore.  Except in this case.

I bought this compilation, used, recently exclusively for one song, Rheostatics’ “Woodstuck.”  It’s a goofy song and this is the only place you can get the studio version.  The actual compilation was not well documented, so I didn’t know what the other bands on it might sound like.  It turns out to be a compilation for Ontario based Moose Records which specialized in Rock, Folk, World & Country.  They put out another compilation in 1992 and that’s all I can find out about them.

Lost & Profound has a fantastic name.  They are from Calgary and were originally called The Psychedelic Folk Virgins (quite a different concept). The band is based around the married musicians Lisa Boudreau (vocals) and Terry Tompkins (guitars).

This is a slow song sung by Lisa Boudreau.  The credits don’t list a violin, but it sure sounds like there’s one on the song.  Maybe it’s an e-bow.  This song, a low-key folk song seems to be a good representation of the band’s sound.  A find this a moody and enjoyable song.

[READ: July 20, 2019] “Forbidden”

This is a story of a woman and her mother.  A symbiotic relationship of two women on a farm in Ireland.

In dream, my mother and I are enemies, whereas in life we were so attached we could almost be called lovers.

Her mother was a superstitious woman who looked for augurs and signs.  So that when the narrator began writing, her mother said that literature was a precursor to sin and damnation.

Her mother hated the books she brought home from college and when she wrote fanciful pieces for a railway magazine her mother seethed. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE BOOKMEN-“Huggin’ at My Pillow” (Moose: The Compilation, 1991).

Back in the 1990s, it was common to buy a compilation or soundtrack or even a band’s album based on one song.  Only to then find that you didn’t really like anything else on it.

Maybe that single sounded like nothing else on the album.  Maybe the movie was almost entirely one genre, but they had that one song that you liked over the credits.  Or maybe the compilation was for something you didn’t know, but a song you really wanted was on it, too.

With streaming music that need not happen anymore.  Except in this case.

I bought this compilation, used, recently exclusively for one song, Rheostatics’ “Woodstuck.”  It’s a goofy song and this is the only place you can get the studio version.  The actual compilation was not well documented, so I didn’t know what the other bands on it might sound like.  It turns out to be a compilation for Ontario based Moose Records which specialized in Rock, Folk, World & Country.  They put out another compilation in 1992 and that’s all I can find out about them.

The Bookmen were the creation of legendary Toronto musician and independent music promoter Dave Bookman.  This is a fun bluesy stomper that sounds like a song of lost love, although the final line of the chorus might reveal the truth:

I’m huggin at my pillow but it’s just not the same
My pillow don’t know the score of the Blue Jays game.

I really enjoyed this song, so it’s no surprise to see that the rest of the band consists of Tim Mech, guitar tech for Rheostatics, Tim Vesely bassist for Rheostatics, and Dave Clark drummer for Rheostatics.  Shame I can’t find a copy of their only release Volume One: Delicatessen.

[READ: July 20, 2019] “The Love of My Life”

I have really enjoyed the more recent stories from T.C. Boyle.  I haven’t read one of his older stories in quite some time, so I don’t remember if this story is representative or not, but holy crap was this story dark.

And yet it started so sweetly.

It is the story of two high school students, Jeremy and China who are madly in love.  That spring break, they were planning on going camping–a lovely five day stretch of gorgeous weather and solitude.  The first couple of days were wonderful–they didn’t even bother putting clothes on.

They were ever so much in love. He even practiced his AP Spanish on her: Tu eres el amor de mi vida.  She tried to reply but she was taking French.

They were also excellent students–he was heading to Brown (his father’s alma mater) and she was almost but not quite the class salutatorian. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-“Woodstuck” (Moose: The Compilation, 1991).

Back in the 1990s, it was common to buy a compilation or soundtrack or even a band’s album based on one song.  Only to then find that you didn’t really like anything else on it.

Maybe that single sounded like nothing else on the album.  Maybe the movie was almost entirely one genre, but they had that one song that you liked over the credits.  Or maybe the compilation was for something you didn’t know, but a song you really wanted was on it, too.

With streaming music that need not happen anymore.  Except in this case.

I bought this compilation, used, recently exclusively for one song, Rheostatics’ “Woodstuck.”  It’s a goofy song and this is the only place you can get the studio version.  The actual compilation was not well documented, so I didn’t know what the other bands on it might sound like.  It turns out to be a compilation for Ontario based Moose Records which specialized in Rock, Folk, World & Country.  They put out another compilation in 1992 and that’s all I can find out about them.

I’d heard this song on several live bootlegs, but I was very curious about the original recording.

It’s a stomping folk song with great backing vocals and a very funny chorus.

You can’t go back to Woodstock baby, you were just two years old You weren’t even born

And this wonderful verse

Before they were kissing the earth now they’re washing their cars
Before they were feeling stoned now they’re feeling bored
Sure you shed your clothes but you shed no blood
Poor hippie child don’t sit and wait for another summer of love

Was it worth getting this whole compilation for a two and a half minute joke song?  You bet.

[READ: July 20, 2019] “Just Keep Going North: At the border”

William T. Vollmann continues to amaze me with his dedication to writing about issues that matter.

This lengthy essay is Vollmann’s attempt to discover what is happening at the border after trump warned of migrant caravans coming up from Mexico in February of 2019.

He decided to go to the Arizona border, a place he knew little about, to save himself from prejudgment (he is from California and knows that border situation a little better).  He went to the internationally bifurcated town of Nogales.  Nogales said it would sue the federal government if it did not remove the new coil of razor wire.

He talks to an immigration lawyer from Tucson who says in the old days it was no big deal to cross the border–you could come and go. There were some small changes in the mid-eighties.  Then 9/11 caused big changes.  It had been bad before trump but trump’s policies at least opened peoples eyes to what was happening here. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CAJUN RAMBLERS-“Venez à Louisiane” (Moose: The Compilation, 1991).

Back in the 1990s, it was common to buy a compilation or soundtrack or even a band’s album based on one song.  Only to then find that you didn’t really like anything else on it.

Maybe that single sounded like nothing else on the album.  Maybe the movie was almost entirely one genre, but they had that one song that you liked over the credits.  Or maybe the compilation was for something you didn’t know, but a song you really wanted was on it, too.

With streaming music that need not happen anymore.  Except in this case.

I bought this compilation, used, recently exclusively for one song, Rheostatics’ “Woodstuck.”  It’s a goofy song and this is the only place you can get the studio version.  The actual compilation was not well documented, so I didn’t know what the other bands on it might sound like.  It turns out to be a compilation for Ontario based Moose Records which specialized in Rock, Folk, World & Country.  They put out another compilation in 1992 and that’s all I can find out about them.

Cajun Ramblers’ music sounds like it should–a cajun flare in a bouncy two-step (as the lyrics even say).  There’s even a verse in French.  This song seems so un-Canadian but that’s because Peter Jellard, an English musician, was busking in Paris and heard a recording of the Balfa Brothers, leading to a life long infatuation with Cajun music.  After a six-week trip to Louisiana he founded the Cajun Ramblers who performed a mix of Cajun and Zydeco around Toronto.  He was also in Swamperella

[READ: July 12, 2019] “Something True”

This is the story of a woman returning home.  She has been in Seattle visiting her daughter Wendy.  It had been fun but exhausting, sightseeing everywhere.  She was not looking froward to what she had to return to.

She had had a health scare.  The doctor assured her that she was fine–nothing to worry about–but she was shaken.  The doctor could sense that she was very upset so he invited her for a drink.  And the he called her again the following week to go to an exhibition on Buddhist sculptures.

But she was a sixty year-old married woman, she couldn’t imagine going on a date.  Officially, it wasn’t a date but how could it not be?

After a few more outings she told her husband that she was in love with someone else. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ALLEN BAEKELAND-“Drinkin’ Ex and Askin’ Why” (Moose: The Compilation, 1991).

Back in the 1990s, it was common to buy a compilation or soundtrack or even a band’s album based on one song.  Only to then find that you didn’t really like anything else on it.

Maybe that single sounded like nothing else on the album.  Maybe the movie was almost entirely one genre, but they had that one song that you liked over the credits.  Or maybe the compilation was for something but a song you really wanted was on it, too.

With streaming music that need not happen anymore.  Except in this case.

I bought this compilation used recently exclusively for one song, Rheostatics’ “Woodstuck.”  The compilation was not well documented, so i didn’t know what the other bands on it might sound like.

This is a country song.  You can tell by the fantastic title “Drinkin’ Ex and Askin’ Why”  But it also contains everything else about a country song–slow, kinda mopey, pedal steel guitar and bad grammar with lyric about beer.

There is one saving grace that elevates this above a typical country song. Allen Baekeland is from Toronto and not the south of the U.S.  So his voice doesn’t twang.

This actually sounds kind of like a Negativland song–like a parody of a country song, even though it’s not.

And because it’s from Canada, it’s amusing to hear the line “yea I’m a grown man so I won’t cry / instead I reach into my two-four / for one more / and sit here and get pissed.”

In the 1990s Allen Baekeland started The Rembetika Hipsters who are still active today.

[READ: July 21, 2019] “She Said He Said”

In this story Sushilia was walking in the park.  She saw Mateo and his male assistant sitting on a bench.  Mateo worked for her husband Len for over ten years.

Mateo was very drunk though, and he greeted her by kissing her checks and then asking if she would sleep with him–right now, at his place.  He said he’d always found her sexy but was too nervous to say anything to her.

Obviously, she was shocked by this.  She was friendly with Mateo’s wife Marcie and considered her a confidante.  She chalked this behavior up to drunkenness.

But the next morning Mateo saw her again in the supermarket.  He was sober and yet he reiterated his desire.  He said she must be bored with Len after all these years. She kept her temper but pointedly refused his advances.

Then she called Len and told him what happened. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: POLKA DOGS-“Slag Heap Love” (Moose: The Compilation, 1991).

Back in the 1990s, it was common to buy a compilation or soundtrack or even a band’s album based on one song.  Only to then find that you didn’t really like anything else on it.

Maybe that single sounded like nothing else on the album.  Maybe the movie was almost entirely one genre, but they had that one song that you liked over the credits.  Or maybe the compilation was for something but a song you really wanted was on it, too.

With streaming music that need not happen anymore.  Except in this case.

I bought this compilation, used, recently exclusively for one song, Rheostatics’ “Woodstuck.”  It’s a goofy song and this is the only place you can get the studio version.  The actual compilation was not well documented, so I didn’t know what the other bands on it might sound like.  It turns out to be a compilation for Ontario based Moose Records which specialized in Rock, Folk, World & Country.  They put out another compilation in 1992 and that’s all I can find out about them.

Polka Dogs sounded promising–I imagined a rocking polkafied band.  “Slag Heap Love” sounded like it would be a gritty rocking song.

So imagine my disappointment when the song is propelled by a tinny banjo and the accordions are only used as accompaniment, not for wild soloing.  Even the tuba is slow and ponderous and not used as a fun bass instrument.  Top this off with the vocals which are almost comically crooned and this song proved to not be anything I wanted at all.

About half way through (the song is five minutes long) the song goes to double time, which makes it more interesting. But the vocal style remains the same and nobody does anything more interesting than playing the same stuff in double time.

It doesn’t even really sound like a polka until the last forty seconds when the song picks up into triple time, but by then the song is pretty much over (especially since the lyrics don’t really change for the whole five minuets.  “Slag Heap Love” is pretty unexciting.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “Falling, without You”

The July/August issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue. This year’s issue had two short stories, a memoir, three poems and a fifteen year reflection about a novel as special features.

This is simple poem of loss–of a person falling apart.

I rather liked how visceral this poem was, with each stanza being more explicit as she fears she might fly apart. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PRETTY GREEN-“I’ll Follow the Rain” (Moose: The Compilation, 1991).

Back in the 1990s, it was common to buy a compilation or soundtrack or even a band’s album based on one song.  Only to then find that you didn’t really like anything else on it.

Maybe that single sounded like nothing else on the album.  Maybe the movie was almost entirely one genre, but they had that one song that you liked over the credits.  Or maybe the compilation was for something but a song you really wanted was on it, too.

With streaming music that need not happen anymore.  Except in this case.

I bought this compilation, used, recently exclusively for one song, Rheostatics’ “Woodstuck.”  It’s a goofy song and this is the only place you can get the studio version.  The actual compilation was not well documented, so I didn’t know what the other bands on it might sound like.  It turns out to be a compilation for Ontario based Moose Records which specialized in Rock, Folk, World & Country.  They put out another compilation in 1992 and that’s all I can find out about them.

This song was written and performed almost entirely by Ed Blocki, who I guess is Pretty Green (he has other people play violin and cello).

Blocki is (and maybe was) a producer.  This song sounds so much like a ton like a 1970s folk recording, which must be intentional.

It’s really slow and mellow.  I have to assume it was written as a reaction song to The Beatles’ “I’ll Follow the Sun,” there’s just too much similarity.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “The Space Between Trees”

The July/August issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue. This year’s issue had two short stories, a memoir, three poems and a fifteen year reflection about a novel as special features.

I really enjoyed this short story–the way it juxtaposed two very different jobs.  But the ending was really abrupt and unsatisfying.  There was so much going on that I hope it is an excerpt from a novel because as short story it falls flat.

Benjamin Hertwig is a poet.  This might explain why the language of the story is so good, and maybe also while it feel so elliptical.

This is also yet another story about people (specifically a young woman) planting trees in Canada for a summer job.  I have read at least four stories about this profession and it makes it seem like this is a very common thing that most young Canadian try (and quickly give up because it sucks) at least once in their life. (more…)

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