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Archive for the ‘The Tea Party’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE TEA-PARTY-“Everyday is Like Sunday” (2020).

The Tea Party recently released a cover of Joy Division’s Isolation.  They have now followed it with this cover of a fantastic Morrissey song.

I prefer the guitars in the original just because of the very cool sound that Morrissey’s guitarist got.  But The Tea Party’s guitars are a nice blend of acoustic and electric.  They also add strings (like the original).

Jeff Martin’s vocals couldn’t be much further from Morrissey’s, but they work perfectly with the subject matter.

Morrissey’s been more than a little bit of a horrible person lately, so it’s nice to have another solid version of this great song to listen to.

[READ: May 25, 2020] Department of Mind-Blowing Theories

Tom Gauld is consistently one of my favorite cartoonists. Even though most of his people are stick-figurish, he conveys so much with them.  But more importantly, the content of his cartoons is unfailingly clever and funny.  Some you have to think about to get, which makes them even funnier.

These cartoons are all science-themed and were originally published in New Scientist.

Some examples include Darwin posting The Origin of Species on social media with these comments:

  • MrTomHuxley OMG! This is Amazing!!
  • BishopWilberforce1805 LOL! Totally Fake
  • MorphineEmprium: For the relief of coughs and colds [this post has been flagged as spam]

One of my favorite jokes (which relies on the visual) has a scientist saying “No wonder today’s results have been so poor.  This isn’t growth serum: it’s hand sanitiser!”  The visual it outstanding.

Some pieces that work without seeing them: Comparing covers of the new issue of Utopian Science Quarterly and The Journal of Dystopian Science.  Or seeing the new classic fiction with binary Numbers: The 11 Musketeers; 1100 Angry Men; Catch 10110. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE TEA PARTY-“Isolation” (2020).

It seems like a number of bands have been covering Joy Divison’s “Isolation” lately. It is appropriate after all.

The Tea Party are a Canadian band known for its sound, which blends classic rock and influences from many countries around the world.  I like that they are referred to as “Moroccan Roll.”

Musically this songs sounds quite a lot like the original. I don’t think of The Tea Party has being especially synthy, but they get the synth sound pretty spot on.  Usually The Tea Party has all kinds of middle eastern instrumentation, but there’s nothing like that here.

Jeff Martin has a deep resonant voice that often sounds like Jim Morrison.  Here he gets the same tone as Ian Curtis, but his voice is much better, much more full than Curtis’.  In fact, the whole song sounds bigger–a sound that befits a band that is often compared to Led Zeppelin rather than an indie British club band.

The original certainly conveys “isolation” better (I mean, it is Ian Curtis after all), but this version sound great too and it really rocks.

[READ: May 11, 2020] “The Resident Poet”

I was surprised to realize that I had never read anything by Katherine Dunn.  Her novel Geek Love is one of those books that I feel is always mentioned as being notable.  I always assumed it was about nerds.  I just found out it is about carnies–circus geeks.  My mind is blown.

If I was wrong about the entire premise of her most famous book, I clearly have no idea what the rest of her output is like.

I didn’t realize she was the author of this story (I saw the author’s name but didn’t connect her to anything).  I doubt that knowing she wrote it would have made me think any differently about the story.  Mostly because I don’t know what to think about the story.

Essentially this story follows a college-aged woman as she deliberately degrades herself for a poet who comes to teach at their school.  But she seems empowered by her degradation, so I’m not sure how to read it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto, ON (December 7, 2017).

For the longest time, I thought that these last four shows of 2017 would be the final live shows on the Rheostatics Live website.  But then mid-September, Darrin added more than 20 historical shows to the site.  So, there will be some older shows posted about in the new year.  But for now, while the Rheostatics are recording their next album (!), it’s fun to look back on shows from just one year ago.

First of three shows for the Horseshoe Tavern’s 70th anniversary celebrations. Kindly recorded and provided by Mark Sloggett and Matt Kositsky.

The opening band for this night was Ensign Broderick.

The show opens with “Saskatchewan,” it’s got a two-minute quiet guitar intro before the song proper starts.  It’s a very quiet and chill rendition, with Martin almost whispering.  It’s not until about 10 minutes that the song comes roaring out.

Starting “Supercontroller” is Hugh Marsh with a cool violin solo–a trippy echoing section.  “Supercontroller” is so simple but I really like it, it’s so very catchy.  It shifts to “AC/DC on My Stereo” which is just too simple for my tastes (homage to AC/DC?).  The Clark section is weirdly flat–maybe the sound balance is off?  There’s lots of Hugh and the a crazy sloppy ending.

People shout out requests and then someone says, “You can’t touch the Rheostatics.”  To which Bidini responds, “Literally, it’s in our contract—no touching.”  Clark chimes in, “That’s why we never did a double bill with The Feelies.” [groans]  Clark: “Teacher humor…. I am older you know.”

Tim plays acoustic guitar for a lovely “Rear View,” a pretty acoustic number with a nice beat.  Then DB thanks everyone for coming out on a Thursday night.

Clark asks if a pickerel is a small pike.  Martin gets really into the discussion.  How a walleye is called pickerel.  And that pike is bony, although many species of pike are pickerel they are not related to walleye.  DB: “That concludes our PowerPoint presentation.”  The Clark continues to talk about making rainbow trout in avocado and olive oil, with all the free radicals.

Back to the music, it’s great to hear “The Headless One,” (apparently a Martin request).  There’s some great violin from Hugh and great backing vocals from Martin.  It’s followed by “Michael Jackson” with nice pizzicato strings and a big, soaring ending that totally kills.

Clark says he heard Martin say to DB: “Stop being a  rock n roll grandstander.”  And DB said, “I was being a rock n roll grandpa.”  To which Martin coined, “grandstand grandpa.”

“Mountains and Sea” is a new song featuring Hugh Marsh.  Martins guitar is a little too loud, then about halfway in, they mess up.  DB: “Let’s do that again.   Band meeting.  I can’t remember that chord.”  Live rehearsals… this is extra!   Martin says something about their old live rehearsals at the Rivoli and Martin thought they were jam-packed and he saw a video and found that there were like 14 people there (it’s a video of Martin spanking Dave C on the ass with his guitar for messing up).  Tim: I told you we were gonna fuck it up.

Clark offers a vote: it’s rare in any society that your voice gets heard.  Should they do it from the top of the song or from the A minor part.  [A minor wins].

Clark’s neighbor made the Guinness book of world records for making the worlds smallest playable violin.  And Martin says he really like the name “Tim Gillette.”

Up next is Tim’s “Music is the Message” a slow but pretty song with lots of violin.  It’s followed by “Sickening Song, which sounds great with just accordion.

“Sickening Song” sounded good with just accordion and guitar but then it gets pretty wobbly and they have to stop.  But they get through it happily.  Martin talks about looking for an operetta that he and Tom wrote called “These are things I cannot tell my dad.”  I  thought I found it in my parents house, but it turned out to be us working on “Sickening Song,” playing it 20 times.  Tim: “I think your dad erased that tape.”

PIN sounds good but “they’ll never get the ending.”  That’s why you play three nights because the first night’s always shit.  They start talking about cursing on TV and how you can hear someone say Shit on CBC at 8PM.  Martin jokes that at 8 o’ clock “that’s bullsandwiches” and then you hit 9 and it’s “motherfucker.”

DB: If you came from out of town thank you.  If you’re not from out of town that’s fine too.   Just not quite as awesome.  And thanks for a youthful-looking crowd.  That’s amazing.  Lots of lovely sweaters.  Sir you have a Tea Party shirt you have to stand at least ten feet back from me.  I’m kidding as long as you’re not wearing leather pants.  Clark: I thought he was talking tea party political shit.

Martin begins, “Remember….”
DB: “No not really.”
Clark: “Take us away there Jerry Garcia.”
DB: “I’d like to wish the group good luck as we embark on this next piece.”  “Here Come the Wolves” opens with a deep riff and tribal drums and Martin says, “Speaking of leather pants…”  To which DB concedes, “This is definitely our most Tea Party song for sure.”  This is an unusual song and I love that it’s got heavy parts and I look forward to the recorded official version.

    I like the way it is loud and heavy and then there’s a quiet martin bit

Northern Wish starts out rather quietly, but it sounds great.  It segues into Clark singing “Johnny Had a Secret” acapella.

DB says, “We’re gonna take you home.  We’re gonna stop 3 places along the way.  The first is a slow and moody “Stolen Car.”  The second is a bonkers “Legal Age Life” with the guys barking at each other and DB just rolling his r’s for a good ten seconds.  Clark: “Let’s dedicate that one to Monty Hall.”

While the next song starts, Dave asks, “Martin do you ever have lapel neurosis?”  Martin: Oh, you have lapel bulge—it has no crease.”

DB: Anyone been to California?  Martin: We’re heading down to do our next album in California

Martin tells a long story about Compass Point in the tropics where they recorded their last album together.  He talks about an old roll of film—you tried to make them count but inevitably there are fuckups.  He’s been photographing his old slides with a macro lens.  He found a picture of them swimming at night snorkeling.  The place made Martin weep.  Dave and Dave stayed in Tina Weymouth’s place.  And yet, in front of the apartments is a pool!  The Caribbean Ocean is right there.  It’s luxury overkill.

  This leads to a discussion of magenta.  Does anybody like magenta?  It has to be there but we hate it.  If you’re ready to wear a magenta power suit I would have to bow to you.  Ryan was just changing the lights to magenta–a lighting joke.

“Digital Beach” starts slow, but “Dreamline” takes off.  Martin has a lot of fun with it and it eventually merges into a lovely acoustic “Claire

As the song fades out Dave starts singing Big Bottom and the band doesn’t change the music at all, but Tim sings along with him.

After an encore Clark comes out for a drum solo which leads to a stripped down sounding (but great vocal mix) of “Soul Glue.”  Tim sounds great and the backing vocals are spot on.  The end of the song blends nicely with “Song of Flight.”  The final three minutes are a rollicking crazy sloppy fun lunatic version of “RDA.”

Tim observes, “That was show stopper if I ever heard one.”

[READ: December 1, 2015] “Oktober”

I like Martin Amis a lot.  Although I have to say that this story confused me.  Now, it’s true that Amis can be a trickster when he writes, but this story wasn’t fancy at all, it was just…unsatisfying.  And really long.

Told in first person, the story begins with “I” drinking black tea in a hotel in Munich.  It was the time of Oktoberfest.

Next to him is a businessman, Geoffrey, on his mobile phone.  The man is aggressive and seems angry, speaking about clause 4C and saying things like “I’m accustomed to dealing with people who have some idea of what they’re up to.”

The photographer shows up to take a picture of the narrator.  They talk about Germans and refugees until it’s time to go.  He looks at his phone.  Of the 1800 messages none are from his wife or children. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BIG DIRTY BAND-“I Fought the Law” (2006).

I just found out about this “supergroup” which was created for the Trailer Park Boys Movie.    The group consists of Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson from Rush, drummer Jeff Burrows from The Tea Party and three people I don’t know: the singer from Three Days Grace, the singer/guitarist from Thornley and on lead vocals Care Failure from Die Mannequin.

I have to say that I’m not that excited by this cover.  The song has been covered so many times (some very good: The Clash, some very clever: The Dead Kennedys, and some terrible: many others).  And frankly there’s not much that you can do with this song.  It’s simple in structure with potential for shouting (which everyone likes), but little else.

For Rush fans, you can’t tell that Geddy or Alex are even on it.  So really it’s just a kind of metal-ish version of this old song.

Oh well, they can’t all be zingers.  You can hear it here.

[READ: February 1, 2011] Polaroids from the Dead

After reading Shampoo Planet, I wanted to see if I remembered any of Coupland’s books.  So I read this one.  It’s entirely possible that when I bought this book I was disappointed that it was not a new novel and never read it.  Because I don’t remember a thing about this book.  (This is seriously calling into question my 90’s Coupland-love!).

But I’m glad I read it now.  It’s an interesting time-capsule of the mid-90s.  It’s funny to see how the mid 90s were a time of questioning authority, of trying to unmask fame and corporate mega-ness.  At the time it seemed so rebellious, like everything was changing, that facades were crumbling.  Now, after the 2000s, that attitude seems so quaint.   Reading these essays really makes me long for that time when people were willing to stand up for what they believed in and write books or music about it (sire nothing changed, but the soundtrack was good).

So, this collection is actually not all non-fiction.  Part One is the titular “Postcards from the Dead.”  It comprises ten vignettes about people at a Grateful Dead concert in California in 1991.  As Coupland points out in the intro to the book, this was right around their Shades of Grey album album In the Dark, and huge hit “Touch of Grey”, when they had inexplicable MTV success and it brought in a new generation of future Deadheads.  He also points out that this is before Jerry Garcia died (which is actually helpful at this removed distance).

These stories are what Coupland does best: character studies and brief exposes about people’s lives.  The stories introduce ten very different people, and he is able to create a very complex web of people in the parking lot of the show (we don’t see the concert at all).  As with most Coupland of this era, the characters fret about reality.  But what’s new is that he focuses on older characters more (in the first two novels adults were sort of peripheral, although as we saw in Shampoo, the mother did have millennial crises as well).  But in some of these stories the focus is on older people (Coupland was 30 in 1991, gasp!).  And the older folks fret about aging and status, just like the young kids do. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK : BLACK MOUNTAIN-Wilderness Heart (2010).

As the Tea Party showed, it’s never too late to pay tribute to Led Zeppelin.  Of course in 2010, it seems really uncool.  So, why not go whole hog?  The opener, “The Hair Song” sounds uncannily like Led Zeppelin, from chord structure to guitar sound.  And then just wait until after a verse or two and you get the guitar solo which comes straight from a Led Zep song.  And, amusingly enough, the duet vocals of Stephen McBean and Amber Webber combine to sound an awful lot like Robert Plant.

It may not be fair to compare them to their forebears, but they seem so intent upon referencing them.  “Old Fangs” sounds a ton like Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul” (at least they’re fellow Canadians).  But the wonderfully 70’s-style sound of the keyboards raise the track above any mere copycat.

“Radiant Hearts” is a gorgeous acoustic ballad where you can really appreciate the split vocals of McBean and Webber (and which should make you go back to the first two songs to really listen to how great they sound together.  This is that rare ballad that doesn’t feel like a kind of sell out track.

“Rollercoaster” returns to the 70’s-lovin’ with a monster riff (and a solo) that Tony Iommi would be proud of.  But rather than simply bludgeoning us, the riff stops in its tracks and then slowly builds itself back up.  “Let Spirits Ride” moves out of the 70s and sounds a bit like a Dio riff circa 1983.  But there’s some cool psychedelic vocal processing on the bridge (and a massive organ solo) to really mess with your retro time frame.

“Buried by the Blues” is followed by “The Way to Gone.”  They’re both folkie songs (although “Gone” features a re harder edge).  After the heaviness of the first half of the album , these tracks seem like a bit of surprise but they match the album’s retro feel very nicely.  “The Space of Your Mind” reminds me in many ways of Moxy Fruvous’ “The Drinking Song” (you won’t see that reference too much to this album).  Until the chorus comes in, when it turns into something else entirely.

But it’s not all mellow for the end. The title track has some heavy riffage (and great vocals by Webber–she reminds me of some of the guest vocalists on The Decemberists’ The Hazards of Love, although she really sounds like any number of great 70s rock vocalists).  I love the way the track ends.  The disc ends with “Sadie” another folk song (which makes the album half delicate folk tracks and half heavy rockers). It’s a fine song, but the album is kind of ballad heavy by the end, and the teasing drums and guitars just never bring forth the climax I was looking for.

Despite the obvious homages to classic rock bands, (if you can get past that, the album actually sounds fresh (or maybe preserved is a better word) and strangely original.  Like the preposterous cover, the album is preposterous–over the top and crazy.  Yet unlike the cover, the pieces all work together to form a compelling picture.  Obviously it helps if you like classic rock, but there’s nothing wrong with good classic rock, now is there.

[READ: February 14, 2011] Literary Lapses

Despite the cover picture above, I actually downloaded this book from Google Books (and the cover of that one was boring).

So, obviously, reading the biography of Stephen Leacock made me want to read some of his humorous fiction.  True, I also wanted to read Mordecai Richler, but his books are much longer and I wanted this done by the end of February!

So, according to Margaret MacMillan, it is this book, specifically the first story, “My Financial Career,” that solidified Leacock’s reputation as a humorist.  And I can totally understand what she means (without having read the other books, of course).  “My Financial Career” is indicative of the others stories: not laugh-out-loud funny, but clever, kind of silly and very smile-inducing.  The gist is that the narrator is very nervous about going into a bank with his large amount of cash ($56!).  He asks to speak to the manager who thinks he’s Very Important and then proceeds to embarrass himself further. And further. It’s quite amusing.

“A Christmas Letter” is one of my favorite in the book.  It’s a very snarky look at a friend’s Christmas Party, with a great punchline.  And stories like “How to Make a Million Dollars” or “How to be a Doctor” are wonderfully amusing tales in which the narrator mocks the wealthy and “professionals.”

There are 42 stories in this book, so there’s bound to be a few clunkers.  Some were mildly amusing, some were mere trifles, and some are crazily out of date for a 2011 audience.  This book turned 100 years old last year.  (Neat). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE TEA PARTY-The Edge of Twilight (1995).

In the way that Ian Astbury of The Cult reminded everyone of Jim Morrison, so does Jeff Martin, singer of The Tea Party.  He looks a bit like him and he sings in a baritone voice that, while all his own, sounds like perhaps a 1990s Jim Morrison.

This, their third album, is full of what I think of as their trademark sound: all manner of exotic instrumentation laid over heavy Zeppelinesque riffs.  Opener “Fire in the Head’ is not unlike “Kashmir” in its riff, and what’s funny is that the exotic instrumentation makes it sound even more like “Kashmir” than “Kashmir” does.  Zep didn’t use instruments like the sitar and sarod to make their sound more authentic.  Indeed, authenticity seems to be what the band is going for, as later albums describe them spending time in the middle east where they learned to play these instruments more proficiently.

“The Grand Bazaar” takes that concept further with some really Eastern sounding music within a very heavy rocking track.  And “Ianna,” although not my favorite track, really showcases the Middle Eastern instrumentation in this cool, twisty track.  There’s also a more traditional rock number, “Drawing Down the Moon” which features lengthy blues-guitar solos over a fairly conventional track.

It’s not all heaviness though, as “Correspondences” is a seven minute piano based ballad in which Martin’s voice is right in your ears.  It’s on this track that you decide whether you love his voice or think he’s preposterous.  If the latter, well, then there’s the beautiful instrumental “The Badger.”  And “Shadows on the Mountainside” is a quieter acoustic number in which Martin sings in his much more delicate range.

But perhaps the most over-the-top, and consequently, best track on the disc is “Sister Awake” which features 12-string guitar, sitar, sarod, harmonium and goblet drums.  It starts slowly and quietly and builds into multiple climaxes (complete with loudly whispered “Sister!”).

Whether or not this confers any kind of approval on The Tea Party or not, Roy Harper (as in “Hats Off to Roy”) does a spoken word bonus track at the end of the disc.  I don’t know much about Roy Harper or what he was up to in 1995 (perhaps he’d do anything for a buck?) but it give an air of legitimacy, no?

The Tea Party is a band that splits people into love it or hate it groups.  They have sold millions of copies and yet there are those who despise them.  Their next album Transmission found some success in the U.S. because it was a bit more industrial sounding (with samples and loops), but they never really broke through down here.

[READ: February 4, 2011] Stories from the Vinyl Cafe

I’m not sure how I found out about this book.  I know I bought it in a Chapters in Toronto.  I wonder if it was on a display and I was intrigued by the title.  Or, more likely, I had heard a bit about him in my preparations for my trip and decided to buy his book.   Whatever the case, I didn’t read it until now.

McLean is described in one of the (practically a dozen) pages of praise and advertisements for his other books as a Canadian Garrison Keillor.  And, as lazy as that seems, it’s fairly accurate.  Especially because although McLean is a humorist (he won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humor), like Keillor, who is mostly funny, McLean also deals a lot with serious matters.  Indeed, some of the stories in this collection are utterly unfunny: ending with a dead dog or a dead grandmother.

And here’s the thing.  These stories are slices of people’s lives.  They are incidents that impact them and are worth recollecting, but that don’t cause anyone to change.  They’re like perfect little anecdotes, and I imagine they are excellent to hear aloud. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE TRAGICALLY HIP-Day for Night (1995).

This is the first Hip album that I bought.  In fact, I first learned about them when I saw a video for “Nautical Disaster” on Much Music when I lived in Boston.  That was my first exposure to The Hip–and to another cool Canadian band, The Tea Party–and I’ve loved Much Music ever since (even if I can’t get it anymore).

For me, Day for Night takes the greatness of Fully Completely and ramps it up a notch further.  In part this is probably because the album is almost 60 minutes long instead of just 40, but I think the intensity that The Hip found on Fully is fully matured all over this disc.

The album opens with a great bass intro on “Grace, Too.”  And with Downie’s intensity in the breakdown it’s an amazing opening to a great disc.  “Yawning or Snarling” has even more intensity, with practically snarled verses and a strangely catchy chorus (and great lyrics).  It’s followed by the blistering rocker “Fire in the Hole” which really captures the anger that seems to be brooding under the surface of this disc.

“Thugs” follows, it’s a catchy, quiet song; I love the chorus: “I do the rolling, you do the detail.”  ANd there’s another great opening , with an unexpected twist for “Inevitability of Death.”  Which is followed by “Scared,” another mellow, minor-chord song which is a great lead in to “An Itch an Hour.”

Normally a disc this long can’t hold the listener’s attention for the whole disc.  But the penultimate song, “Titanic Terrarium,” an atmospheric brooding song with a quirky verse melody draws you in to its claustrophobic subject of life in a biosphere.

The Hip had a minor buzz in America with this album and even played Saturday Night Live, where they shaved a minute off of Nautical Disaster, but keep all five minutes of “Grace Too.” Watch it here:

This is a great album, perennially one of my favorites.  It’s only a shame that it never broke through to U.S. audiences, leaving The Hip as one of Canada’s biggest cult bands (in the U.S.).

[READ: January 26, 2010] “Questions Surrounding My Disappearance”

This was the third flash fiction in this 2004 Summer Reading issue of The Walrus.  And of the four, this was my favorite.  It was weird and kind of silly but underneath it had some real angst.

The story opens with a kind of generic dismissal of the Canadian Film and Television Industry (“who should give a shit who wrote or lit or recorded the sound for a television show or a movie….”).  But nevertheless, he’s not too dismissive of it (“There have been…awards”).

As with the other flash fictions in the issue, the set-up is quite long, but unlike the other stories this sort of casual tone continues throughout the story.  And we learn a bit more and more about the narrator and about his opinions of the CBC.

The title obviously comes into play, as we soon learn that when he was, in fact, missing, very few people seemed to be up in arms about it (including his family).  Perhaps the most surprising aspect being that during the time he was reported missing he was interviewed on the radio (true, it was a program dedicated to the arts, but still). (more…)

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