Thursday, February 28, 2008

Respect the Tobe

To the untrained eye some people may think the line, “the Guess Who sucked, the Jets were lousy anyway” single-handedly tears up everything that makes Manitoba proud (thank you John K Sampson). In fact this Weakerthans’ anthem is actually the exact opposite of what you may think it is. One Great City! (the motto which appears on all welcome signs to the city of Winnipeg) is actually an attestation to how amazing a city can be, based solely on its people. The fact of the matter is that Winnipeg, and for that matter, the whole of Manitoba, is a difficult place to live. As such, it speaks to the true character of people who can brave some of the harshest conditions in North America, and still live as ‘Friendly Manitobans.’ (Granted, while at times, muttering under their breath, “I hate Winnipeg”)

In the 90’s, grain prices were as low as they had been during the dirty 30’s. This isn’t adjusting for inflation, or exaggerating the point; wheat sold at around $3.50 a bushel whether it was 1993, or 1936. And my father questioned why I wanted to become an engineer, not a farmer.

Snow falls before Halloween, always. I had never heard of ‘Wind Chill’ until I moved to Montreal, because if Manitobans ever heard, “It’s -43 outside, but with the wind, it feels like -62”, the suicide rate would be a lot higher. We have this thing called a ‘Wind Chill Factor’ which is the negative temperature, multiplied by the wind speed. All I know is that if it was worse than 2500, I didn’t have to go to school, but skin would freeze in under 2 minutes. I missed a lot of school when I was younger. The summers of course, still find a way to climb above +40. Apparently, since southern Manitoba is so landlocked, the climate is not moderated by large bodies of water.

Our provincial bird is the mosquito. Almost all of my friends have hit a deer on the highway before (I’ve hit 3). We call jelly filled donuts ‘jambusters’. Winnipeg has the highest per capita consumption of Slurpees in the world. People drive an hour to go for burger runs. The ‘city’ to me growing up was Brandon. The wind is horrendous, since Saskatchewan blows and Ontario sucks.

And I fucking love that little slice of heaven.

It seems that places which fall on hard times have a few things in common. They seem to drink an unreasonable amount of alcohol, bond together as a people, and produce some very good music (see also: the maritimes). Manitoba is no exception to this rule. I was loaded for the first time when I was 13, I get uncontrollably excited whenever I meet a Toban in a bar, and I still love hearing a good keystone band.

I could rifle off a list of incredible musicians who have originated from Manitoba. So I will; The Guess Who, BTO, Neil Young, Tom Cochrane,The Weakerthans, Crash Test Dummies, The Watchmen, Propagandhi, and Chantal Kreviatsuk. However, the purpose of this blog is to introduce you to new music, so here we go.

Duotang is a power-pop duo from the Peg. They formed in ’95 and played together for a round 6 years, and released 3 albums. In 2001, they didn’t so much break up, as they just kinda stopped playing together. Rod Slaughter and Shaun Allum reunited again briefly in 2006 for a show, and also a CBC radio3 session. Currently, both Slaughter and Allum play in different bands, however, given their track record, they could just decide to pop out another show sometime, somewhere. They have no website anymore, but you can likely track down some of their tracks on radio3’s site.

Grand Analog is some funky shit. Led by MC Odario Williams, GA is just over a year old, and has already been turning heads in Canada, and south of the border. With a sound at times compared to A Tribe Called Quest, and at other times to K-os, one can understand the nature of Analog’s fast success. The music is incredibly catchy, and accessible. Check out the video for ‘Touch Your Toes’ and get ready to feel good.

Inward Eye is a tight, brit-rock influenced, trio. I was actually just put onto these guys by a Winnipeg friend. They’re kinda like Jet, with a little less balls. They’re still struggling a lot in North America, but supposedly have become quite popular in the UK. Their songs are hit and miss with me, but the hits are square to the jaw. Check out my personal favorite, Blind Paranoia.

Lastly, I decided shit just needs to get weird. Actually born and raised in Selkirk, MB (yet another shit town in the middle of nowhere), The Farrell Brothers are a hot blast of Rockabilly. Imagine a cross between Horrorpops, and the Dropkick Murphys, and then throw that example the fuck out, because I just realized it’s a shitty example and I don’t feel like comparing a band to the illegitimate love child of a couple of punk bands.