Archive for the ‘Tim Vesely’ Category

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…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-This Ain’t Hollywood Hamilton ON (December 15 2017).

This is the final Rheostatics concert of 2017.  And it’s the most recent concert available of the Rheostatics Live site.  This entire show is fantastic.  The band is in perfect form.  While they have fun and goof around between songs, the songs themselves sound amazing.

There’s a lengthy, amusing introduction by “Failed Hamilton mayoral candidate Steve Bunn” who describes the band as created by “David Cronenberg who combined the genetic materials from Stompin’ Tom. Joni Mitchell, Martha and the Muffins and Gino Vanelli, giving rise to the founding fathers of the can-rock renaissance.”

As the opening notes of Stolen Care begin, Clark asks: “Can someone turn off the house music in the monitor.”
DB: “We hate Haircut 100.”
Martin: Almost as much as Spandau Ballet.
DB: “Although, our next album is going to have a little bit of house music all the way through it.”

“Stolen Car” is just beautiful.  The band sounds in great form.  martin is having fun, Hugh sounds terrific.  And there’s a long, glorious ending.  It’s followed by a soaring and lovely Soul Glue.”  The next song is one of the best versions of “AC/DC on My Stereo” I’ve heard.  The band seems into it and Tim’s bass makes it a but more interesting than usual.

They start a regional antipathy between the locals.  While in Hamilton, DB says, we’re more into Ancaster ultimately, but it’s nice to be here.  Dundas, that fucking blows. Dunville’s alright  Don Mills?  Burlington sucks shit kind of, though, am I wrong?  I mean it’s great.  Bronte though that’s really the pits.  Here’s another song to divide you further.

It’s a lovely version of “It” with pretty pizzicato from Hugh.  Clark and Martin have this ending that they want to do and the keep forgetting.  They want to just have a short high note.  So they do just the ending.  And then once more.

A delightful version of “The Headless One” follows.  Tim and Martin’s voices are wonderful together.

Audience: Double Dave
DB: I know its confusing, eh?  Considering that we are both excellent drummers we get confused a lot.
Clark: Dave actually is a smoking drummer
DB: Like Bun E Carlos.
Clark: Yes in that style.  I like to learn from him.  I’m always looking for a swinging drummer.

MT: Now we’re gonna do “Take It Easy” by the Eagles which is about…  I was driving down the road trying to loosen by load.  It’ about constipation.
Like the Local Rabbits the protagonist in that song clearly shit in a bag

Audience: Stop talking and play.
Martin: You guys just fucked it up, now we’re gonna talk for ten minutes.
DB: Didn’t you see, the ticket price includes patter: WARNING: may include patter.  Not even good patter.
MT: Music n’ patter.
Clark: Cheerful stage patter.

This leads to a pretty intro for “Michael Jackson.”  The middle section has a wild chanting nonsensical part where they sing “suck out the poison” over and over but the end has a great rocking jam with some pretty funky almost disco bass from Tim.

Thanks to our buddy Dale Morningstar for opening the show and and ripping it up.

A new song by Timothy Warren Vesely which features Dave Bidini on the bass its called “Rear View.”

They talk about their first show in Hamilton. No, before La Luna.  Before The Regal (with The Waltons) The Other Side was pretty weird–it had that freaky mural.  Tim: Where was that place they had to push the pool table aside?  DB: Every place.

Martin: Am I officially a Hamiltonian?  I’ve been here 8 years.  DC: Maybe you’re going to get beat up Toronto boy.  MT: “Toronto boy gets beat up in alley.”

This leads to a lovely “PIN.”

Dave Clark plays a clinking melody (like to one he described at a previous hows pluh duh duh duh ding” which is an introduction to “Northern Wish”  But the music is all wonky.  Thumping bass and drums.  They quickly start it properly and its a beautiful version with a fantastic ending of the whole crowd singing “Land Ho!”

DB: My mother in law is from the North End of Hamilton.  They came from Northernish Italy, the Veneto.  Any one here from the Veneto in Italy?  You never know in Hamilton you’re pretty much always two feet away from an Italian.  Much like Martin and I.  This is a song about people travelling. A pretty “Mountains & The Sea” follows.  The transition is a little rocky but they pull it of. There’s a delightful high-pitched solo from Hugh.

MT: We all went to the school of the entertainment arts in Forest Hill Toronto.  We were told how to project ourselves to the back of the room and to drink water–particularly bottled water.

Clark demonstrates the “proper way” to drink from a water bottle … his thumb is pointing up because I’m feeling great about life when I drink water.  I’m touching just the upper edges of the cap.  I do not want to touch the drinking part with my fingers.  I’ve been touching all kinds of things tonight.

MT: Your iPad is dirtier than the toilet in this joint.

Very fucking pro-Tim Vesely crowd tonight, what’s gong on?  “King of the Past” is fantastic with some great soloing by Hugh and amazing vocals from Tim and Martin.  The end features a little folk jam that’s quite a lot of fun, too.  It segues into a wonderful “Christopher.”

DB: Here’s a song you might have heard on the radio at some point in your radio lives.
Clark: If you listened all day for three weeks at one point in time you might have heard this once.
MT: All five of us have Toyota Echos and we head out on the highway.  This song is about how we head out on the highway in a sort of arrow formation Toyota Echo convoy.

“Claire” sounds lovely with a cool solo from “hometown boy, local legend, martin Tielli.”  They start chanting M-A-R-T-I-N instead of “C-l-a-i-r-e”

We’ll get to all your favorites hopefully before the night is done.  If not that’s why they invented recorded music.

Martin tunes his guitar and then runs through a quick “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”
DB: And this ones called “Who Stole the Kishka.”  Tim: “I’m pretty sure it was that guy.”  DB: “Totally fucking guilty.”  But it’s really a soaring “California Dreamline.”  The wonderful weird noises Martin is making on his guitar are a perfect segue into a totally rocking “Horses.”

And then its time for the encore break.  Amazingly they play for an hour after the encore.

MT: “This is the fake walk off… I just have to change my shirt.”

Clark returned first and sings a capella “I’m Not Afraid,” then he gets behind the kit to do some drumming before “Legal Age LIfe.”

That’s Dylan Hudecki to my left.  Also with them is George Collins and Skye of the Gas Station Islanders.  They all join in on a fun and raucous “Legal Age Life.”

Martin’s in his uber on the QEW.  He’s got to get home to host his late night radio show.  It’s a quasi-religious program.  He plays only Hawaiian gamelan music and reads from the scriptures.

All these years, I had no idea that the 12 bar blues section was an actual song.  It was written by (Canadian) Jack Butwell in 1974 and then covered in 1983 by NRBQ. Although it isn’t played tonight.

Clark: can we do “Supercontroller?” This is a good audience for that.

DB: This is our most Quaalude song ever.
MT: [In total disbelief] Quaaludes?  This is a lots of coffee song.

This segues into the opening notes of “Dope Fiends” which leads to a couple of huge medleys.  “Dope Fiends” winds up being 16+ minutes long. The beautiful soaring end of “Dope Fiends” is shattered bu the roaring guitar of PROD.  Mid song–“Hey Tim, are you ready for your close-up?” (a zippy bass chord solo ensues).  Then there’s a section of Calling out the chords:  G then B flat just for a little bit now back to G then to G sharp.  DB to audience: “That feels right, do you guys like G sharp? It not G it’s not A it’s G sharp.”  Tim: “Now let’s go to A flat  A flat is a downer go back to G sharp.”  Then to D minor. Another bummer.  Lets go to E.  MT: Dave play this one solo … E minor, which Dave turns into “Who Stole the Kishka.”  Go back to G sharp and PROD  When it ends Martin plays the riff to Rush’s “What You’re Doing” and the band joins in.  He tacks on a bit of “Working Man” before it’s over.

DB starts asking for a beer and the audience asks for Wendell Clark.  We haven’t played that …  Only if you’ll sing it.

They start to play Part II.  MT: That’s the part I wrote!  The Ballad Of Wendel Clark Part I and II begins and mid way through Part II, they go to G for a run through of “Bud the Spud.”  DB: shouts “Don’t film this–copyright violation.  Jesus Christ, Daron, have some respect.”   Bud continues: “He knows a sign that rises up in the sun that says Martin Tielli.  …because he’s got his own fucking touring truck that’s filled with potatoes.  Dave says: It was really weird they played a medley of other songs and we wondered when they were going to finish Bud the Spud and play their own songs.

DB: He’s got another big load which is a fucking lyric that outs you in a whole nother…
Tim: Yes, it’s very Eagles.
Clark: Comedy high of the night.

This leads to a discussion of masturbating in the car, which people do.  (MT: There’s people who do everything which the internet has told us.)  Dave tells a story of a hitchhiker from Saskatchewan to Calgary.  And the driver said do you mind if I masturbate while we talk and the friend said.  This leads to an impromptu song called I know “Jerking Off All The Way To Calgary.”  It’s rude and hilarious, with Martin’s line: “That’s a lot of uncomfortable time.”  The y finish off Wendell Clark.

MT: Dave, you’ve gone blue!

Clark: Are we gonna do another song or go home.  DB: I vote go home.
No! Lots of requests especially for “Record Body Count” and lots for “Aliens.”  Also: Superdifficult, Queer, (Clark: queer is a good one). The Jane Siberry song?  And a loud solitary one for “Do You Believe in Life After Love?”

You should all go out and buy Tom Wilson’s book Beautiful Scars.  It’s an amazing Hamilton story.  And there’s copies of the West End Phoenix for sale.

They end the night after all that silliness with a great, solid version of “Self Serve Gas Station.”  It all goes well until Martin gets messed up (laughing) just after the loud section starts (he misses the “morning time has come” high note).

[READ: October 2018] Polish Porno Graphics

So yes, this is a book of graphic sex stories.  I found it at work and thought it was a book of Polish artists depicting pencil drawings of nudes.  I kind of assumed the title was a poor translation because I didn’t imagine our library would have anything quite like this.  I also thought it would be a uniquely Polish look at art (I like looking at Polish books).

But nope, this is a series of largely wordless (although the words which are there are in English) sex comics.  Some are a little cartoony, but for the most part they are pretty realistic and very very explicit.  There’s lots of drawings of people copulating in various, mostly unexpected ways and places.  Don’t read any further if you’re easily offended. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto, ON (December 9, 2017).

Final of three shows for the Horseshoe Tavern’s 70th anniversary celebrations. Kindly recorded and provided by Mark Sloggett and Matt Kositsky. Kevin was playing Massey Hall with Barenaked Ladies but showed up for the encore and played Accordion.  Ensign Broderick opened.

The show opens with a beautiful two shot of Martin-sung songs.  A lovely Stolen Car which starts out quietly and beautifully is followed by a soaring “Northern Wish” which starts and ends quietly but had a nice fast loud section in the middle.

After Clark starts inexplicably singing “Gary Indiana, Gary Indiana,” the band plays a quiet intro to “Michael Jackson.”  There’s some great crazy sounds, I assume from Hugh Marsh, that add an interesting texture to the verses.  The band really fills out the middle with some great soloing from Martin and Hugh and the vocals from Martin and Tim are great too.  The end totally rocks. It’s an awesome version.

It segues into “AC/DC on My Stereo” which is a little sloppy but more fun than other versions.  After a few technical difficulties, there’s two in a row from Tim.  First the mellow “Music is the Message” with great violin from Hugh and then a terrific “Claire.”  DB intros it by asking “How many people have read the novel Whale Music?  Oh not nearly enough, that’s a Christmas order.  Go to your beautiful local library and read it and we’ll talk in like four months.  Deal?”  The sound on this version is crisp and everyone’s instruments sound so clear.

DB: We’ll play longer than usual since its Saturday and no one has to do anything tomorrow.  If you do just give me the number of your boss and Martin will call your boss and pretend he’s you.  Martin: I’ll be up first thing in the morning.  Not hungover.  The Clark and Martin have a pretty darn funny pretend conversation in which Martin quits the company.

This is no a segue into a wonderful “Christopher” that has a terrific Martin and Hugh duo–they try to match each other in sound and scope and it’s just amazing–I would have loved to see that.

Then DB is coming out front to sing “Mountains and the Sea.”  Clark: he’s not Neil Sedaka, he’s not Neil Diamond, uh oh.  Tim: Dave’s fundraising again.  DB: Tim, I put the fun in fundraising.  DB: Anybody got a stool?  Martin: Ah extra casual.  Dave, make sure you’re not flying low.  It’s a lovely quiet version of the song with a fun and funny solo by Hugh.

Clark starts chanting 6-11-11-18.  DB: we’re doing new songs that require counting.  We’re playing them for you tonight because you are elastic and rubbery and forgiving:  Possible names 6-11-11-18 (Tim: that’s way better than 2067), could be called Swipe Right.  Then Martin demonstrates the noise and nonsense that they will be doing for 90 minutes (feedback and slide whistle).

Martin: I’m a temperamental artist.
Clark: I thought you said tempura artist, you work wish sushi.
Martin: I play tantrum rock.
Clark: You’re like Sting, you can go all night long.
Martin: Except mine is just unpleasantness and anger.

This is a set up to Martin’s complicated “Albatross.”  It sounds great and very dramatic.  This is followed by a beautiful acoustic rendition of “Bad Time to Be Poor.”  It winds up being just Tim and Hugh and it’s very pretty.

DB: You’re much more composed than last night’s crowd.  Martin: who were a bunch of louts.  DB: Lout-ish.  Well, one guy was a lout.  And congratulations to the Toronto Football Club for winning the MLS football cup.

Up next is “Supercollider,” with an unusually long and trippy opening from Hugh.  Clark says: “I’d like to dedicate this to my oldest friend on the planet Karen Lindhart and my sister, who are here tonight.  We listened to a lot of music together when we were kids.  Take us into space, Hugh.  A wondrous soaring violin solo ensues before the cool song begins.

DB: Okay, now we’re entering “shank” portion of the concert.  This one features Tim Vesely on … air.  This is an obvious dance party starter, but what the fuck.  Dave starts chanting post-Ptolemaic and when he asks Tim if he;s like to say anything about the Ptolemaic universe, Tim says he wasn’t paying attention.  It’s a wild and somewhat shambolic version of “Legal Age Life.”  But things settle down nicely for Tim’s “Soul Glue: which has some lovely violin as an intro.

They start out a beautiful “California Dreamline” and when it gets to “questionable things like” just before the song takes off, something happens (not sure what) and it crashes to a halt.  Tim says, “that was so fucking close.  I thought the intro was pretty awesome.”  They try to pick it up from where they left off, but it fails.  Martin: Okay lets drop this song, we’ve only played it 14,000 times.  Clark: let’s do a quick palette cleanser.  Which turns out to be a bouncy “Alomar.”  Mid song Martin says “your call will be answered shortly.”  They jump back into “California” and after a few false starts, they play it through with no more hiccups (although a lot of sloppy guitars).  When they get to “All the naked ladies,” Tim interjects, “they’re at Massey Hall tonight.”

DB: This is the birthday of the Horseshoe–70 years ago today.  We (Me, Tim, Dave, and James Gray [of Blue Rodeo]) first played here Halloween in 1982 (or 1983) opening for The Government.  I don’t even know how many years that is.  Audience: “35” DB: “Wow. Thanks… math nerd.”

That kindly story segues into a harsh and rocking version of “Feed Yourself.”  The middle instrumental section where Dave B gets really intense screaming and repeating lyrics is fleshed out even further by some great work from Hugh Marsh.  It’s probably the most intense version of the song I’ve heard.  I wish Martin’s guitar was a little quieter in the mix.  And I wish more than ever that I’d managed to get to see this show.

DB: We have one more song.  Then we’ll go back stage and we’ll have an internal review and you can have an external review.  If you deem it worthy of continuation, perhaps you’ll show some sign of support.  Tim: However if you disapproved of tonight’s show please remain silent.  It would confuse us other otherwise.

Then Tim looks in the audience and asks, “Is that a bumble T-shirt?  Sorry I thought you were promoting your dating website.”

They begin “Shaved Head” and Clark says he wants to play brushes, dammit.  Which he does for the quiet opening.  It’s an amazing song and a great ending to the set.

For the encore, Clark says Kevin is going to come up and play accordion.  Then he sings an a capella (until Tim starts playing the drums) rendition of “My Mind Is On Fire” (“I wanna communicate with you about love… right now” are the whole of the lyrics).

Kevin starts the accordion for a sloppy wild “Who Stole the Kishka” which seems in the wrong key the whole time.  When it’s over: DB: They don’t write any good fucking kisha songs anymore.  Audience guy: “Taking Care of Business.”  DB: “We fucking just took care of business right there.” Audience guy: “There’s something about you guys I really hate.”  DB: “Know what I hate about our audience?  Too many Italians.”

Tim: “Alright, Dim the lights, chill the ham.  Turn the lights way down.  As in off.  Even the wiener roaster, turn that one off.”  And so starts a slow, brooding version of “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”  By the end, the song has gotten huge, including the by-now obligatory “I wish I was back home in Derry” shout outs.

[READ: November 28, 2018] Ambient Comics

I love working in a place where I can see German comics (especially if they are wordless like this one), which I can fully enjoy.

This collection by German artist Nadine Redlich is wonderful.  The introduction by Mahler talks about the urgent question in the study of sequential art: “What lies between the panels” and how this book makes it easy to answer the question.  He says that that which lies between the panels is already within the panels, which explains “why there is so little room in between.”

Each of the pages of this book hosts a six panel cartoon in which literally almost nothing happens. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto, ON (December 8, 2017).

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

The opening music is Echo and the Bunymen’s “Killing Moon” and Jonathan Richman’s “Ice Cream Man” until 1:20 when the guitar for “Stolen Car” starts playing.  It’s a quiet intro section and Martin sounds good.  At 6 minutes the overall sound increases dramatically for about 20 seconds. It’s a shame it doesn’t stay that loud because otherwise the show is too quiet.  An absolutely scorching solo between Martin and High Marsh.

A somewhat subdued and quiet version of “King of the Past,” Hugh adds some soaring violin at the end.

The usually kind of flat “AC/DC on My Stereo” is spruced up by Hugh’s violin.  But the mix is really unfortunate–the overly loud guitar masks the rest of the song.

Dave Bidini: That song was written by Dave Clarke on the drums (and my friend Brodie Lodge)  Clark: a shout out to Davide DiRenzo and our friends in Ensign Broderick–Ensign, Griffy (Gordie Wilson), Danny, Glenn Milichem on the drums.    (Glenn tried to steal martin for his band Vital Sines…it only proved he had great taste) but he got Gordie Wilson and it all worked out.

A solid fun version of “PIN” with a “Dirty Blvd” tag at the end.  It’s followed by a long (nearly 8 minute) jamming (Hugh get a pizzicato violin solo) version of Stompin’ Tom’s “Bridge Came Tumblin’ Down.”  DB: This song would have been played oh 37 years ago on this very stage.  Some songs just stick around longer.

They retell some stories about Vancouver (the song is about Vancouver)–diaper dancers and people stealing wallets.  Vancouver leads the nation in diaper dancers.  A good piece of advice is to take your wallet on stage.  But not in Vancouver!

DB: We’re not a rock band, we’re a public service.  In a plant a seed and watch it grow into a tree sort of way.  Information is our fruit.  Melody is our bark.  Stompin’ Tom is our hero.  Well, one of them.

Someone shouts, “Play [Stompin’ Tom’s] Snowmobile Song.”   DB says, not quite snowmobile weather.  Well, is there snow up north?  Little bit?  Then it’s not even Super Slider Snow Skates weather.  Oh Jesus    Here’s the commercial for the lawsuits waiting to happen.

“Here Come the Wolves” sounds different, but very cool.  I like this version. Clark shouts the verses and Martin sings a quiet verse.  After Clark introduces Bidini with an Italian accent the band launches into an impromptu Italian song.  Bidini says they haven’t done that song in 7000 years, although, ironically Hugh is more Italian than any of us.  Tim: Once you do that kind of thing you’re scarred for life.

Audience check-in moment.  DB: “The customer, the fan is always right…  The fanstomer.”

Clark asks Martin if they are going to do the end of the next song a certain way.  DB: gives away the ending?  Clark:  Asked his bibliophile lady (and her friends)—do you read the last page the book first?  They said yes and it blew his mind.  And then they’re happy to read the book.  Its like having an orgasm without foreplay… or not really actually.   DB: I’ve done that many times myself  MT: You know this sex thing that everyone is talking about…what happens at the end?  DC: You get a little plastic toy out of the bottom of the box. That’s why they call it Cracker Jack.  DB: And then you feel shame.  MT: The shame part I’m comfortable with.

DB to the fan: You realize that by shouting for the next song you’re further delaying the next song, just so you know.  These guys would never do that   they are seasoned fanstomers.  Then inevitably someone shouts “play some music” and that’s when the gig is fucking over.

A quiet and pretty “It” (in which Hugh plays some beautiful soaring sounds) is followed by a raucous “Michael Jackson.”  Instead of Michael Jackson, he sang Auston Matthews a Maple Leafs player.  Mid song they start chanting whoop whoop whoop while Martin plays “Sweet Child of Mine.”  DB: “It’s called having fun it’s what Axl says, it’s what Slash says, it’s what Jimmy Page says, it’s what Eddie Van Halen says, it’s what Kathleen Hannah says, it’s what Patti Smith she says, it’s what Michael Stipe he says, it’s what Gord Downie he said, it’s what Tom Connors he said, it’s about having fun.  It’s hard.  It’s really hard.”  The crowd woo woo woos and sings the “it feels good to be alive” ending.   It’s a cool moment.

I used to be that I’d Used to hear “You rock Dave” and it was for me, but now I’m sharing it with a stage with my best friend Dave Clark.  It’s nice. Not saying I’m comfortable with it I’m saying it’s nice.

Clark goes on about being warm and swaddled and like a child.
Someone shouts: You can never go back.
Clark: Oh yea you can be a child all your life if you got the right ideas.  Age is a matter of the mind–if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

This leads to Tim’s pretty, acoustic “Rear View.”

Someone: “C’mon Martin sing one.”  DB: “Yeah Martin, what the fuck?”

Clark introduces the drum beat of the next song “pluh dee dut dut, pluh dee dut dut ding.”  When someone shouts something inaudible, Clark replies, “Apples and oranges pizza and Popsicles man.”  DB: ” I think you just came up with the name of our next record.”  This is a lead in to Northern Waltz.   Which DB says is a progressive waltz.  Clark: It’s the Ostenick 3/4.  Tim: Another potential album title.  Walter Ostenick, a cool guy who watched them soundcheck.  Tim Mech bought an accordion from him.    They start the song and martin gets choked up–Clark: It’s the ghost of Walter inhibiting you….devil come out!  He tries again and things go well in a beautiful version.

Martin plays a beautiful solo version of Tragically Hip’s “Bobcaygeon.“

During the pause there’s all kinds of weird shouted requests.  “Play some Skydiggers.”  “Play some Blue Rodeo.”  DB: “You’re kinda 0 for 2.  We don’t do those groups.”  Clark: “You realize that those guys are our friends.”

Play “Secret Heart” by Ron Sexsmith!  C’mon do it!”  DB: “You realize we’re not sitting in your car right now, eh.”  Clark: “Thelonious Monk says never engage with hecklers, so here we go.”

“Dope Fiends” sounds great and the band seems really into it with Martin shouting “Why didn’t they stay here? How come, Hugh, why?”  Clark gets a drum solo and it ends with a rollicking conclusion and soaring violins from Hugh.

“Self Serve” opens on a quiet guitar.  I almost didn’t recognize it, the way it was played.  It is very pretty.  The ending gets pretty harsh with Martin snarling “you ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” before a rocking ending with everyone singing “I will be kinglike!”

This encore break exhibits this new thing that I’ve heard people do at shows where they chant “one more song,” which drives me nuts because some bands like the Rheos will actually play half a dozen songs, and you are limiting them, so knock it off!

Audience: “I love you Dave Bidini.”  DB: “I love you too, stranger, strange man.  Are you that strange man that I love?”

Merch plug: Give us your money and we will convert it into rock n roll magic.  You can take the things with you and replay the nights tonight for eternity—ish.  Plug for West End Phoenix.

This leads to a quiet acoustic version of “My First Rock Concert.”  DB: “Dave Clark tell us about your first rock concert.  Dave sings “Don’t Worry, Baby,” about The Beach Boys in 1973 The Surf’s Up tour.  He was 8 years old.  Wicked show!  Ricky Fataar on drums (he also played with the Rutles!).  Martin: My first concert was in 1981.  I went to Convocation Hall and I saw Bruce Cockburn with Murray McLaughlin and in the band was Hugh Marsh.   Tim: That doesn’t sound very rock to me.  In his diary Martin wrote, “This audience is very intelligent,” I thought rock shows would be full of assholes… like tonight. That was my first rock concert.  First and last.  After the song: Was that guy the same Hugh Marsh? Yes and John Goldsmith.

DB: I’m having a shitty lapel weekend.  Martin: Another one?  No, you’re just fixated.  It’s puffy, but it’s not that bad.  Any tailors in the audience?  Dave needs an emergency.

“I am Headless” sounds great.  I love the way Tim and Martin’s vocals interplay with Hugh’s violin.

We’re in Hamilton at This Ain’t Hollywood.  It’s sold out.  There’s still a few tickets for tomorrow night.  Good luck to TFC tomorrow.  Tim: Don’t tell the Thursday night people about tonight’s show because it wasn’t quite as good last night.

Martin starts a chuuga metal riff and Clark says, “What have you got for us, Tony Iommi?”  DB: here’s a song about hockey and also about being gay and living in a small town.  Tom Cochrane do not write it.  It’s a solid “Queer.”  For the second verse, Tim sings Cochrane’s “Big League,” (Sorry I was daydreaming for a second) then DB sings REM’s “I am Superman”  They try for the high note.  DB: “Kinda.”  Clark: “It’s always worth trying.  If you’re not failing, you’re not doing.”  Clark sings “Stepping Stone” which segues into “I’m a Believer.”

After “sometime choices aren’t so clear,” instead of the end it turns into a drum and violin jam which somehow segues into a funky instrumental jam and then into “Alomar” at the end.  Tim says “And what song were we playing? We don’t have to finish that.”  Clark quips: “We don’t even have to Swedish it….  Let’s Latvia alone.  It’s okay, I’m a little Estonia’d right now.”

What do you guys want to hear?  [Horses, Aliens, Palomar, Wreck of the Edmund]

Thanks, we have fed all of the data into the super computer which has come up with the exact right thing to play at this time.

Thanks to Ensign Broderick and everyone in the band Jason for opening the show.

DB: I was going to try to play “Purple Haze” but I don’t now how.  I thought you were doing Buddy Guy.  I don’t know, do we know any Eagles?

Here’s a song by the Eagles called “Horses.”  The Eagles featuring Rabbit Bundrick, Skunk Baxter, Philthy Animal Taylor, Gullible Guinea Pig and Hammy Hamster.  “Horses” starts quietly and intensely (with great backing vox from all present).  After the first “holy mackinaw, Joe,” it totally rocks out.  Dave also calls Red Deer a “fucking shitty town” (!).  They shift briefly into “We don’t need no education (sloppy).”   And the concert roars to an end with Martin making some great horse sounds on his guitar.

[READ: November 28, 2018] When I am King

Demian 5 (Demian Volger) created a hilarious and good-looking webcomic back in 2001 (hard to believe).  It was finally put into print form this year.

I love the clean lines and style that a webcomic (especially one from 2001) necessitated.  It also means the artist is going to have to think of ways to differentiate the characters who, for the most part, look pretty similar.  And Demian 5 does a great job with that.

In the (bilingual) introduction, Demian 5 explains that he has been editing the historical findings of his ancestors for some 15 years, trying to make this account readable and accessible.  “It was my goal to reproduce these historical hieroglyphs without detracting from the information they contain.”

And what that means is a wild and wonderful story about royalty, nudity (amusing and non-detailed), bestiality and flowers. (more…)

Read Full Post »

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…)

Read Full Post »

shackSOUNDTRACK: THE VIOLET ARCHERS-The Anza Club Vancouver, BC (October 22, 2005).

anzaThis is the final show on RheostaticsLive by The Violet Archers.  Tim says this was their first tour and first album.  Ida Nilsen is playing keys throughout the show (and adding backing vocals).  This is the first time she has played live with them for these online shows.

Tim opens the show by saying “We’re the Violet Archers from more or less Toronto, Canada.” He continues, “We have a new album out and the second song [“Coordinates”] goes exactly like this” (although it has kind of a rough start).  In the previous show, Tim sang “All the Good” solo, but it sounds much better with the full band.  Yawd takes a really blistering solo.  Even the drums sound great–he’s really smacking the heck out of them. Tim says it is a “true story with some muscular guitar from Yawd.” Having all of those voices complete this minor chord masterpiece is great.

We learn that Yawd is also in a band called Wayne Omaha.  And that the Archers drove through Beautyland (which I can’t find out anything about!) on their way from Nelson–before then Beautyland was only a picture on a cheap paper place mat.  By the way, Dave and Michele organized the show and are selling beer–the more beer you buy, the more money we make.

“Time to Kill” sounds great–upbeat and catchy.  After the song Tim says, “it’s about waiting for the next Steve Malkmus album to come out.”

In introducing Ida Nilson he says she is from Great Aunt Ida.  You might remember them from oh 15 minutes ago.  Then another member says (and J.P., Scott and Barry.  Tim says “they put the Great in Aunt Ida”).

“The End of Part One” (the title track of their latest album, Tim jokes) really uses the keyboards.  It has lots of backing vocals, including Ida’s which really fleshes out the song (although it sounds slower here than in other shows).

They dedicate a song to someone because it’s her birthday.  “We take requests, do bar mitvahs, corporate functions (bring us some of your corporate dollars–big dollars!).  We don’t do weddings (we don’t believe in the institution of marriage).  Ah hell, we’ll play at weddings (Ida asks, how much?).  This is the intro to a lovely version of “Simple” which is nearly a duet with Tim and Ida.

We also learn that when they were playing in Nelson, Tim taught Spirit Dancing Lessons (another market they cornered–Tim’s giving lessons after the show).  The next song is “Another one for lovers,” which Yawd says is called “Come the Night” although on record it is actually called “A Rising Tide.”  I love the loud chorus, with kind of darker chords.

Interestingly, they play some new songs (from the next album).  They are looking for a title for this song which is now called “new song.” It will eventually be called “Listening.”  It’s quiet and sweet.  Cam Giroux is playing drums tonight (not quite the newest member of the band).

They play their “most political number” called “First the Wheel.”  Then the band starts clapping slowly for Ida to start “Fools Gold Rope” and she asks them to stop–this is a quiet song–she is the singer. It’s mostly just her on the keyboard.  At the end she says I hope you don’t mind if I miss a few chords now and then.

Another song for the new record is the super catchy “Insecure.”  It’s a great duet with Ida and Tim.  On record there’s a horn solo, but the guitars do just as well here.

Scott Remilla on bass is the newest band member, from the band Raising the Fawn.  And coincidentally “Path of Least Resistance” opens with a bass solo.  He takes a long time to start and Tim asks, you want more of an introduction?”  Then they play the upbeat “Life and Then” (which Tim says is sort of about making maple syrup from the blood of trees).

Last call, last song, it’s all coming together.  “Track Display” is about his car stereo.  After a super long intro, Tim sings flat and coughs and laughs and says I need a minute, we could all use a minute.

For the encore, they play another new one called the “Violet Archers Theme Song” (just Tim on guitar and vocals).  And they end the show with “Here Come the Feelings,” a great rocking song to end the set with (they don’t screw up the 5 count this time).

I wish there were more live shows from them, as they are a fun rocking band.  But at least they did get to record a second album.

[READ: June 3, 2015] Shackleton

One of the cool things about reading all of the First Second graphic novels is that I find stuff that I wouldn’t choose to read because of the subject matter.  This book is about an antarctic expedition.  And while it was very good, I never would have picked it up based on that premise alone.  But I really enjoyed the book and was delighted by what I learned from it.

This is the story of Ernest Shackleton, a real explorer (I’d never heard of him) who was determined to explore Antarctica.

He had made two expeditions before this book is set.  The first, the Discovery Expedition 1901-1904, was meant to discover the South Pole.  They got to 78 degrees (the pole is at 90).  Then he crewed the Second Expedition, the Nimrod Expedition 1907-1909, when they got to 88 degrees (about 97 miles from the pole).  Shackleton was knighted but unsatisfied. Especially when Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole in 1910-1912 and then Robert Falcon Scott completed the Terra Nova Expedition 1910-1913 (Amundsen beat them by a month).  Shackleton was furious about losing out to these men so he determined to cross Antarctica on foot.  He set out in 1914.

Read Full Post »

cowlSOUNDTRACK: THE VIOLET ARCHERS-Fall Nationals The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto (November 17, 2003).

veselyThe Violet Archers were (are?) a band formed by Tim Vesely, bassist for Rheostatics.  They released their first album, after the release of Rheostatics’ final album, 2067.  However, given that this show was recorded in 2003 and they talk about an album, it’s clear that Tim was writing stuff all along.

The band released two albums, which I’ve mentioned before: The End of Part One and Sunshine at Night.  They are both poppy and kind of mellow (with some noisy parts). And they are both great.

This show comes not only before the first album was released, it comes before the band even has a name.  It occurs on night 8/13 of the Rheostatics Fall Nationals 2003 at the Horsehoe.  This night was called SoloStatics Night (Martin also does a show).  The band for this set is – Yawd Sylvester (guitar/keyboards), Steve Pitkin (Drums), Bass (Bass).

The show starts with “Coordinates” which “shows of Tim’s hot guitar licks.”  The heavier parts rock pretty loud.  Yawd is playing some wild notes until the song smooths out some.  It also has an ending coda which not on the album.  “Life and Then” is a more upbeat song (with backing vocals).

Tim explains that the name of “The End of Part One” was inspired by his daughter’s speaking part on Harmelodia (she says end of Part 1).  For this song, Yawd plays keyboards.  Then Tim thanks Yawd for wearing pants tonight.  And thanks Bass for having his stomach sewed up before the gig.

“First the Wheel” is a protest song about food and war.  There’s a big guitar sound that sounds a bit more aggressive than the album.

Tim says that we (the band) don’t have a name, but this song does.  “Track Display” is a slow, mellow song with the unfortunate moment that as Tim is singing “things just sound so nice” that he hits a bad chord.  There’s some nice organ sounds and overall the song sound fine.

Some jokey band names shouted out: Marshmallow Room, Jello Enema, Submissions, Beauty Call, Beauty Kong, My Three Bearded Men, The Hairy Beards

“Saved Me” with simulated horns by Tim is quite nice.  Then Tim says the record is almost done, and it’s due out early next year.

The final song is listed as “Come the Night” but later on the record it will be call “A Rising Tide.”  I love the way the chorus turns minor and dramatic (along with Tim’s falsetto vocals).  It’s a good set and a good introduction to this band.

Amazingly, there is also video footage courtesy of Mark Sloggett can be found here.

[READ: May 25, 2015] C.O.W.L.

I saw this book at work and was quite intrigued.  I love a new graphic novel series that seems different.  And one called C.O.W.L. Chicago Organized Workers League sounded promising.

But I have to say that right off the bat I really didn’t like Rod Reis’s artistic style.  The book is set in Chicago 1962 and has a decidedly noir element.  It is translated very well by Reis’ style.  But I just don’t like it–it’s very dark and shadowy and I prefer my comics brighter.  I also found that the book looked like the it was computer designed–like the characters were cut and pasted and sometimes angled by computer–I found it a bit unsettling at times.

But I can get around that if the story is good.  And this one is.  After World War II, a group was assembled to try to bring all of the superheroes together.  It was started by The Grey Raven, Blaze and Sparrow.  They were organized by the titular labor union which also impacts other city workers.  (I love that idea).

And they were very successful.  But now, in 1962, the public is not sure what to do with C.O.W.L.  They have successfully taken down all of the supervillains, so what is their purpose?  This book collects C.O.W.L. issues 1-5. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[ATTENDED: September 5, 2015] Rheostatics

2015-09-05 22.26.36I am a huge fan of the Rheostatics, but I never saw them live before they broke up.  There was an attempt at a reunion a few years ago but it fell through (apparently do to Martin Tielli’s stage fright).

Then earlier in the spring I saw the incredible news.  The band was going to reunite for three nights at the AGO.  They were celebrating the 20th anniversary of their album Music Inspired by the Group of 7 and they were going to play the entire album.  Now, I’ll admit it’s not my favorite Rheos album.  I like it fine, and there’s some good stuff on it, but it is mostly instrumental, and there’s only really 2 “songs” on it.  But who cared?  It was the Rheostatics!

And who cared if the show was in Toronto, an 8 hour drive away.  I knew the venue was small (it sold out pretty fast).  On the day of tickets sales, I arrived late to work so I could order online.  And after I secured them, I thought….now how in the hell am I going to do this?

Well, we decided to make a vacation out of it.  The show was Saturday night, the kids didn’t start school until Tuesday, so I took some days off of work and we drove up to Niagara Falls on the Wed before the show.  We toured the Falls and then drove to Toronto, where we did so much sightseeing, my legs were tired.  And then, when concert time approached, Sarah and I headed off to the AGO. (more…)

Read Full Post »

wpeSOUNDTRACK: An open letter to the Rheostatics (2014).

rheosTo Dave, Martin, Tim and assorted drummers:

I’ve been a fan of the Rheostatics for a long time.  I recall traveling to Toronto from New Jersey back in the 90s and tracking down Introducing Happiness at Sam the Record Man.  And then later driving around the Niagara Falls region listening to the strange and wonderful album. I’ve enjoyed all of the subsequent albums.

You were a unique band with a unique sound.  I was sad when you split up, even if that meant that now there were three solo projects to enjoy.  Of course, there’s been a lot of bands that have broken up, it’s just part of being a fan.  But the thing about the Rheostatics breakup is that you three (or four or five or six) have remained friendly.  You’ve done a few reunion shows since the breakup, which I think that’s super cool.  It’s especially cool because RheostaticsLive tends to post them after a while so that those of us who don’t make the shows can hear them.

I’ve never seen you guys live, and I imagine I never will.  And I’m okay with that.  What I’m mostly bummed about is that there will be no more new music from you.  You put out approximately ten albums (there’s a few miscellaneous things that are hard to qualify).  Those records include soundtracks and live albums and all manner of things, so there’s really seven proper albums (the others are great, don’t get me wrong).  Anyhow, my gut feeling is that there needs to be some new Rheostatics music.  I know you’ve all been doing solo stuff (and I have it), but sometimes the sum is greater, etc.

Clearly I’m getting at that it’s time for a new album from the Rheostatics.  Before you scoff, I’m not talking reuniting for a grand tour, or even any tour, I’m not even talking a live show.  Heck, I’m not even talking about you guys hanging out for more than a couple weeks.  Just an album of new songs.  A decade ago it would have been unthinkable that you would get together for the expense of an album without major label support.  But now, the cost is so much lower and with your fan base expanding, I assume it would be easy to recoup the expenses.

So what do you say?  Since it seems like everyone is still friendly and creative, maybe you can throw some ideas around in the email, see if there’s anything magical happening.  Obviously, if there’s nothing there or you just can’t work together, then don’t continue.  No one wants to hear a crappy Rheostatics album.  But if there’s even a chance that you guys can throw some ideas together and pull out another “Horses,” or “Northern Wish” or “CCYPA,” or holy cow, “King of the Past,” or, hell, anything you’ve done, then it’s absolutely worth it.

I don’t imagine any of you will read this, but maybe if you google yourselves, Tim Vesely, Dave Bidini, Martin Tielli, you’ll see this and think that, yes, dammit, seven records of Rheostatics music is not enough.

Thanks for the music, Paul Debraski.

[READ: January 26, 2014] Worst. Person. Ever.

I told myself that I wanted to read this book before anyone requested it.  And I did.  In fact, I wanted to finish it before the weekend was up, which I did as well.  It’s nice to meet a minor goal.

The last few Coupland books that I read (see last week) were very dark.  Since those books, he has broadened his palette somewhat, including writing a  children’s book and some more non-fiction.  And then we get this.  A vulgar, very funny sendup of modern culture.  The introduction to the book says that it was based on a short story that he wrote for McSweeney’s #31 called “Survivior.”  That story was written in the style known a biji which they described as

Biji is sort of a notebook, which contains legends, anecdotes, scientific notes and local wisdom.  Accounts of everyday life mix with travel narratives as well as lists.  It is meant to represent a picture of the culture at the time of writing.

I thought that this style was well suited to Coupland, because he includes all of that stuff anyway.  And so he has taken that story and fleshed it out into this full novel.

The worst person ever is named Raymond Gunt.  He thinks he’s Jason Bourne, but he’s really just a metaphorical extra in a Bourne movie (one who probably gets killed).  Gunt is a cameraman working in England.  He is divorced.  His wife is a raging harpy (at least from his point of view, which is all we see).  Since their divorce, she has become wildly successful in television production.  He calls in on her at work and she tells him about a job working as a B cameraman on a show called Survival.  He knows that the job must suck or she wouldn’t give it to him, but he needs to work.  Of course, he is most upset at the thought of having to work with Americans (Americans are majorly abused in this story).  Although by its very nature a B cameraman position is not as good as an A cameraman, Ray needs the work, so he agrees to fly to some godforsaken tropical island to watch beautiful people starve and try to have sex with each other.

On his way out of the building he sees a homeless guy.  And since Ray is the worst person ever, he kicks him. But the homeless guy is no pushover and he chases after Ray.  He catches Ray in an alley and pummels him, ultimately pushing his face into some garbage. The man is Neal and although he acts crazy, he’s actually quite sharp (why he is homeless is not addressed).  After forcing Ray to sing the female verses of “Don’t You Want Me,” Neal gives him this sage advice:

“Stop being a cunt to the world and the world will stop being a cunt to you.”

Advice which Ray simply cannot follow.

When ray learns that he needs a personal assistant, um, slave, he immediately thinks of Neal.  So he tracks him down, cleans him up and gives him a job.  And off they jet to make some TV.

In the course of the book, a series of crazy things–the kind of things only Coupland thinks of–sidetrack them from Ray’s goal.  (His real goal is to get laid, naturally).  First, it turns out that Neal, despite being homeless, is a total babe magnet.  And throughout the story, as he gets cleaner and fresher, he becomes irresistible  This, of course, ruins Ray’s plans of bedding hot women.  And as Neal gets cleaner, he becomes less and less Rays assistant and more and more Ray’s equal.

They jet to L.A., (he was supposed to be in first class, but was bumped and is super angry).  He also gets in trouble with the airport bartender, Lacey, who comes back to haunt him in ways one could never predict.  He gets first class seats on the way to Hawaii and he abuses the privilege.  Then, because of unforeseen circumstances, they have to stay in Honolulu (with lots of Spam jokes).  And because of those unforseen circumstances, they need to recast the show, which means Ray’s wife has to jet down and be around them.  And Ray’s wife, Fiona, is delighted to make Ray’s life miserable.  Eventually, they head to their intended island and prepare to set up for the show.

In the meantime, the U.S. has decided to destroy the Great Pacific Garbage Patch–in a very imaginative way.  And ray is on hand to witness the destruction.  This plan causes all manner of trouble with shipping and airplane traffic.  Which has the effect of isolating everyone on the Survivor island–causing a literal survival situation.

Raymond Gunt may not be the worst person ever, but he is pretty darn close. He tries to sleep with anyone.  He tries to screw over everyone else (but never seems to get anywhere).  And he genuinely likes to torment others.  And all the while he repeats his mantra, “I consider myself a reasonable enough citizen.”  Despite Gunt’s personality, he (or at least the story) is funny enough that you want to keep reading (and maybe even to succeed in some of his designs).  And that made this story a major page turner.  And it was very funny as well.

Coupland really gets the feel for writing a British story.  It doesn’t read like any of his other books and while it’s not full of crazy accents or overt Britishisms, his main character is defiantly not American. As I said, all Americans are fat, sweaty, stupid and prudish in Ray’s mind.

This is also the worst person that Coupland has ever written. He is such an abominable person with an incredibly filthy mouth.  The above quote is just one of just many curses in the book.  In fact there’s a whole subplot about how prudish Americans are about people saying “fuck” despite their cavalier acceptance of violence and other things (we say friggin, when everyone knows we mean fucking).

I have to assume Coupland had a ton of fun writing this.  And it really comes through.  I’m also going to guess that a lot of people’ won’t like this book because Gunt is so reprehensible.  But if you can get past that, the story is funny, and makes some pointedly humorous observations about a lot of contemporary life.  Like “Survival [sic] is a popular reality TV show… You’re either into this show or you’re not.  It’s binary.”  or “‘Come on Eileen’ was a single in 1982…What’s weird about this song is that it was so huge at the time and now you listen to it and wonder, what the hell was everyone thinking?  Well, that’s pop culture for you.”  It even has what seem like Wikipedia entries of things throughout in the book (and a YouTube link which is bizarre to see in print).

I really enjoyed this, and I’m thrilled that Coupland has unleashed his inner black humorist.

Watch him talk about the book with Jian Ghomeshi, a great interviewer

Read Full Post »