Friday, February 29, 2008

Learn a thing or two from the Old Dogs

I’m not here to argue the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” I’m here today to tell you, fuck new tricks; you could stand to learn a thing or two from the old dogs. So many people look back on the classic rock era with such nostalgia, as though it were a greater time, when the gods themselves descended from heaven to serenade us with rock and roll like sweet nectar. The thing most of us forget is that this era was only 30 years ago, and most of these herculean demi-gods are still alive, and playing music in some form or another.

No, I’m not going to subject you to a page of Keith Richards jokes, and I’m even going to completely ignore the recent Zeppelin reunion. As is my style, I want you to learn something today, even if it is just an old trick, from a tired old dog.

My dad had a huge record collection, and aside from Don McLean, one of my favorite records to throw on was Idlewild South by the Allman Brothers Band. A band that was initially formed in 1969, and has been playing music in some form or another for the subsequent 39 years, deserves some respect. The band had a ‘revolving door’ lineup over this long time, and specifically, my favorite member (who did not join until 1990) was Warren Haynes. While initially Haynes was a backup slide guitarist with the Bros, he would step to the front in 1994 when he started his own side project Gov’t Mule. Haynes would take along a few members of the Bros. band, and continue to play with both groups. Since this time, Haynes has continued to play with Gov’t Mule, released multiple solo albums, and played with a handful of other amazing bands of the 90’s and 2000’s (for example; The Black Crowes).

Now, here I go again and start getting all foreign and weird and shit. Really, I am nothing more than a pretentious mother fucker who started a blog to feel musically superior to you ants. I’m going to talk about the scandanavians... AGAIN. This time, it’s a Finn by the name of Pekka Pohjola. Pohjola is one of those freaks of nature who is a multi-instrumentalist and composer. He got his start on the bass with the Finnish group Wigwam in the 70’s, but quickly excelled beyond the realms of a mere rock band. Think of Pohjola as a orchestral composer for the modern rock age. You may claim to have never heard of him before, but I guarantee you’ve heard his work. DJ Shadow sampled one of Pekka’s tracks in the song Midnight in a Perfect World, off the highly successful Endtroducing album. The original can be heard here.

Let’s go next door and say ‘hi’ to our friends the Swedes. Anders Osbourne, while being the youngest in this crowd, also has one of the most interesting life stories. Osbourne was born in Sweden in ’66, but left his home at the age of 16 to hitchhike through Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and eventually the US. In 1985, Anders ended up in New Orleans, and within a year, wrote his father a letter saying that he wasn’t coming home. For the next 23 years, Osbourne would root down in Louisianna, and network with a vast array of blues musicians. His gruff, witty blues style was a perfect fit in the down trodden New Orleans, and he would find ultimate refuge playing songs like Stoned, Drunk and Naked in the French quarter.

Lastly, we need pay our respects to an old bluescat who is no longer with us. Many people may say that James Brown was the godfather of soul, and the eventual birth of Hip Hop. R.L. Burnside may have been overlooked because of his southern blues influence, but he had a hand in the funk game as well. Robert Lee Burnside was born in 1926 and spent most of his time around Mississippi. Burnside would play the blues his whole life, however the bulk of his recordings were never released until the 1990s. Come On In, would be one of his most successful albums, however even it would barely see the light of day. Burnside died in 2005, after living a life with a guitar in his hands.

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.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Amme meg pol

I’m not big in Japan, but I’m fucking huge in Norway. Ok, so that’s a blatant lie, but I thought it would be a witty way to introduce a blog all about the country that has been producing some of my favorite music in the last few years. Norway is one of those countries that kinda hides in the nook of that weird ‘whale tail’ looking thing, and gets lumped in with all the death metal of Sweden. Don’t get me wrong; Norway fucking LOVES their metal, but there is also a handful of amazing rock and roll to be had.

The truly unfortunate part of being a part of the western world is that we are disturbingly ethnocentric when it comes to music. For the most part, all we ever hear is artists who come from Canada, US, UK and Australia (around every 10 years). The times we do manage to pick up a ‘foreign’ sound is usually when a major label scoops up a band and transplants them (both in the geographical, and artistic senses) into western music. Far too often we skip over amazing bands, who enjoy outrageous success in their homelands, yet never break beyond their own borders.

I’m not going to attempt to be holier than thou and make you listen to these trippy sounds of water dripping into tuned buckets with ancient Norse chanting in the background. In fact, the bands I want to introduce to you today are incredibly westernized; they simply have yet to break through into the western market. Bigbang is in fact one of the most popular bands in Norway. Their 2003 release Radio Radio TV Sleep, is currently holding as the best selling live album in the country’s history. Go figure; you’ve probably never even heard of them unless I’ve tried peddling my crack to you before. They’ve been playing since 1992 when Oystein Greni (at the time a professional skater) met Erik Tresselt in a hospital after injuring his leg. The two bonded over music, and while recovering, Greni began to immerse himself in songwriting.

The result would be a bloody hurricane of sound. Though the lineup has changed a fair bit over the last 16 years, Greni’s unmistakable guitar riffs and catchy songwriting has turned Bigbang into one of the most important Norwegian bands in history. Check out their myspace and listen to the song Hurricane Boy, off their latest release Too much Yang. Alternatively, watch this video, and stare in awe as Greni dives into a crowd, still soloing as he rides along a sea of hands.

Our next band, I unfortunately must introduce to you posthumously. Span’s time together sadly did not span into 2008 (HAHAHA, I suck). The “Turbo Rock ‘n Roll Commandos” were formed in 2000 and managed to release 2 LPs and a handful of EPs before their ultimate demise in 2005. Their 2004 release Mass Distraction was a powerhouse record with non-stop hits. They combined punk drumming, with grinding guitars and Jarle Bernhofts’ funky vocals. The one break they did have into the western market, was on a Mazda commercial, however this was after the boys had already chosen to split “due to musical differences”. If you'd like to find some of their older, and rarer tracks, you can also check this myspace fan page.

Now, after the band split, obviously such successful and talented musicians weren’t going to just stop. The bulk of the band started an uninspired piece of shit called Dog Almighty; proving where the creativity in songwriting was coming from. Bernhoft on the other hand pulled a complete 180 and has been recording jazz, funk, swing, and soul music under the name Ceramik. While I was initially sad to see Span go, Ceramik has become a more than worthy consolation prize.

Bernhoft is currently in New Jersey recording a full album for a Ceramik release. Whether this album will be aimed at US release or stay to his humble Norweigen roots, can only be told by time.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Podcast 1 - Lohanolicious!

Well, after a full first week of bloging, I came through on my end of the bargain. While I’m still sorting out some technical issues, learning new bits of software, and trying to figure out a time to blog when I’m not hungover, at least I pulled through and got ‘er done.

Here, you can find the link to the Evil Shananigans podcast numero uno. This week’s installment features bits from The Tender Trio, Hot Springs, Hollerado and my boy, Jordan Cook. I’m still trying to figure out the live streaming/iTunes stuff, so for now, you’re simply stuck with a 20 minute long mp3.

Also, for those of you who are stalking me, I'll make your lives a bit easier. I've also started up a main page at, which will feature information and links on a few of the different projects I'm currently keeping myself busy with, as well as some past work. Feel free to browse around and have a few cheap laughs at my expense.

Hope you enjoy!

Friday, February 22, 2008

On Religion

That’s right ladies and gentlemen, we’re only 4 posts deep and I’m already getting controversial. By post 5, we’ll be talking about abortion, and at number 6 I have a quaint little piece planned about what God REALLY thinks about homosexuality in the military. To give you a bit of a preface, it turns out, God actually doesn’t like war, hate crimes, OR sexual discrimination. If this disappoints you, take a cue from our good friends at Picnic Face and FIND A NEW GOD.

This being the case, I may have a suggestion. If like me, music is your religion, then Jordan Cook shall be your new lord and savior. Believe me when I say that as a Manitoban, it is NOT easy bowing down to a Saskquatch (Cook is Saskatoon born and raised) however, when even people like Jeff Healey are saying, “Jordan Cook is the best guitar player in the world today!", one has to give credit.

Cook is one of those people who was born with a guitar in his hand. His father actually claims to having bought Jordan his first guitar when he was 3, so that the little bastard would stop pawing at his Stratocaster. Apparently, the alternative to selling your soul to the devil to become a rock God, is simply practicing all day, every day, from the age of 3 onward. Who the fuck knew?

For someone whom I’m sure you barely know, the industry seems to keep an eye on this kid. At only 24 years old, he’s already shared a stage with the likes of B.B. King (actually, when he was 16), Aretha Franklin, Big Dave McLean, Taj Mahal, and recorded with Ben Shepherd (Soundgarden), and Matt Chamberlain (Pearl Jam). He apparently had his first band and live performance when he was 6, so I wouldn’t say he’s had a fast and easy rise to stardom.

In his late teens, Cook was grabbed up by Sony, who would unfortunately, completely fuck the mission. They linked Cook up with a bassist and a drummer whom he didn’t know and tried to form some sort of supergroup called The New Alone. Throw 3 people with little to no common ground together, and this was obviously to be a short lived venture. While the boys did record a full album, it would never see the light of day, and Sony would refuse to release the recordings to Cook. Cook was even unable to record with a new band for over a year to come, while sorting out legal complications with the Sony contract.

If nothing else, the Sony venture taught Cook two things. (1)Major labels are out to fuck you with no lube. (2) His style started to change. Up until this point, Cook was a bluesman, being raised on the likes of Stevie Ray, Clapton, and Hendrix. Hitting his teens, and linking up with a new group of musicians, Cook learned to take his Blues and blend it with modern rock and even punk influences. By his 20’s, his sound had started to settle into a genre which he would call ‘Punk Blues’.

While I am slowly getting to the man’s current status, there is one other little blip on his radar I should mention. For the last 3 years, Cook has been playing and recording independently with his own bands (friends only). Just this last fall however, he had a crazy idea. Cook grew up in the same neighborhood and was childhood friends with both Shaun Verreault (Wide Mouth Mason), and Curtis Scarrow, a legendry slide guitarist. Getting in touch with his two old friends, Cook would propose to them an idea to end all ideas: Guitarmageddon. The concept was simple; take 3 of Canada’s best guitarists, and start peeling the fucking paint off the wall. I’ve been saying this for years, but maybe now you’ll believe me; there’s something fucked up in the water in Saskatchewan.

Recently, Cook and his band have locked their set into a level of tightness that makes me not even want to joke about 13 year olds. Out of the Sony debacle came one more benefit; the three played together so much that recording likely took about 2 days to finish. They recently polished off the finishing touches on Cook’s FUCKING LONG AWAITED first album, Seven Deadly Sins. It’s set to be released in the late spring, and I’m set to die of sexual exhaustion around the same time.

Rock and Roll is nowhere near dead; Jordan Cook fucking IS rock and roll.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

...and I want to kiss all the boys.

We all have those dark secrets we hide within our music library; those little indulgences that we keep between God, ourselves, and lonely Friday nights. You know exactly what I mean, so don’t, for even a second, try to pretend you’re too cool to listen to shitty music. I for example own almost the entire Sarah MacLachlan discography. So what, you wanna fight about it? ‘Cause, I don’t really, since I’ve been listening to a lot of Sarah lately, and I feel pretty mellow and just want us to be friends.

For a rock and roll guy like me, I’m not ashamed to say I listen to hip hop. Without a doubt, my rock is going to cross over into the heavier worlds of metal, hardcore, and the likes. There is even some more intricate pop that I’ll admit to enjoying. However, the guilt I must hide, if only to protect my beautiful white rock shoes from embarrassment, is the softer shit. I don’t know why; there is a lot of amazing lighter music and yet we ‘rock guys’ feel that knowledge of our more heartfelt indulgences will somehow detract from our black clothing, army caps, and energetic-live-show-head-nodding. Well fuck it.

"I just wanted to let everyone know...that I suck...and that I'm a girl...and I like ribbons in my hair...and I want to kiss all the boys" –Griff

Now that we have that out of the way, I’d first like to you watch this video. Ben Harper was introduced to me at a young age, while I was a camp councilor at my old summer camp. I won’t lie; I didn’t know much about smoking weed, black oppression, or religion, but God DAMN did the man’s music strike the soul. This video in specific I stumbled across about 5 months ago. Shall not Walk Alone was made popular by Harper, however was actually written by the Blind Boys of Alabama. Harper did a joint album with the boys, and while this song never made the final cut of the album, this video was leaked. All I can say is that I shed a tear the first time I watched this, and if you don’t, you are some sort of bastard fish-android with blocked tear ducts and a hand grenade made of feces for a heart.

Now that I’m done insulting fish, I want to dig even deeper into my childhood. Growing up, my father was a huge Simon & Garfunkel fan. Undoubtedly, any child that grows up in a house of music, is bound to have their tastes influenced by those of their parents. S&G was always associated with light hearted happiness for me (thank Christ I never understood their lyrics, eh?). As such, when I stumbled upon Joshua Radin, I almost wet my adult diaper with youthful delight. Everything about S&G that had made me happy when I was a child (the simple fingerpicked guitar, the basic yet gorgeous vocal thirds) was there with Radin. Specifically, if you can track down the song Star Mile you’ll note the unmistakable connection.

The last thing I want to talk about today is a little less light, but still definitely falls into the closet category. Our Lady Peace was once a cool band (that time was called Naveed). Since then, the band has chased a progressive downward spiral into the realm of suckdom and destroyed all love I used to have of screaming “I can’t live here anymore”. This adventure into the depths of Satan’s ovaries is what made me particularly surprised when I listened to Raine Maida’s solo album. It was fresh, original, catchy, modern, diverse, witty, and impeccably well put together. Maida finds a way to blend traditional folk with slam poetry and as strange as it sounds: hip hop beats. It was almost as though he had been trapped into a formula which was OLP, and once he was given free range on his music (he wrote all parts, and played 90% of the instrumentation) he found a way to revive his doomed soul. The title The Hunter’s Lullaby is a tribute to an old Cohen song, and does the name justice. No shitting, this is one of the most original albums I’ve heard since Refused’s Shape of Punk to Come.

That wraps things up for my little adventure. If at this point, you think I’m some testicle-less pansy, well fuck you, I still worship this man first and foremost.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

As Live As Your FACE!

To those of you who aren’t a big fan of the cold, I have this to say: bite my frozen Manitoban ass. I get sick and tired of hearing people bitch, piss and moan about how freezing it is. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no stranger to letting out a little shiver now and then, but I also appreciate all of the good that comes along with winter.

However, the one depressing part of our months of frozen wasteland is the live music situation. It seems as though everyone simply decides it’s too damned cold to live, let alone put on a show and expect people to come out. That or all the bands I like are just pansies and decided to tour south of the Mason-Dixon line to keep their balls warm. While you may have just missed the a rocker thrown on stage for you by my own band Paper Street, and our good friends The Doppler Effect, I’m here to show you that the live scene is not currently dead, It’s just hibernating… but beginning to awaken.

The award for shameless plug goes to our good friends in Shaking Judy. This Saturday, Feb 23, the boys are heading a show at Bar St. Laurent 2 (5550 St. Laurent). As though tall-boy bottles for $6 wasn’t enough motivation to go, they’re also playing with a couple amazing bands; Bass Lions from the Hammer, and the local Heros and Villans.

The award for most anticipated album is going to Hollerado. We had a lucky chance to share the stage with these guys and Bullmoose back in fall ’07, and the only bad thing I can say about these gentleman is that they drink beer as fast as Paper Street, and kept stealing all the beer (however, since we stole it all from a frosh event, I guess we can’t be mad). Headed by a former Delegate (of the Delegates infamy) the guys make music energetic, accessible fun. They are releasing their new album on Friday, Feb 29, at the good ‘ol barfly (4062a St. Laurent). If you need any more convincing, check out their site and take a listen to ‘Americana’.

The award for sproinging my doinging goes to Giselle Webber of Hot Springs. I don’t know what it is about rock goddesses, but they always seem to tingle my bathing suit area. I recently stumbled upon the Springs and have been salivating at what little recordings I’m able to track down. Once I’d learned that their recent album was produced by Cummins (Bionic) my strange, unrelenting obsession suddenly made sense. After lurking over their site for the last few weeks waiting for a show, they’ve finally announced a Montreal date to be played Sat., March 1 at Lion d’or (1676 Ontario E.).

Next up, whilst not in Montreal, I may still have to make the trip to attend Canadian Music Week in Toronto. The festival spans a number of different venues in the desolate wasteland of T. and runs from March 5 – 8. You tell me if this line up is worth going to the city we all hate: Danko Jones, Grady, Slowcoaster, Mongrels, United Steel Workers of Montreal, Hollerado, Hey Rossetta!, Finger 11, Besnard Lakes, New Pornographers, Tokyo Police Club, Tom Fun Orchestra, Shaun Verreault (of Wide Mouth Mason), The Hives, (fuck) Hawksley Workman (douchbag), Black Lungs, Gogol Bordelo and about 200 other bands. Oh, and did I mention that festival passes are only $35. Add to that the $20 return bus ticket and a $700 budget for alcohol, and it sounds like a resounding 'yes' to me!

Our last award of the night is for bands who make me go to big ‘stadium type’ shows. First, I hate them like I hate touching mouldy cheese. The sound sucks, the intimacy is gone, and there are always a fuckload of annoying people who should be made sterile. That being said, I always seem to go to around one a year. Last year, it was Tool, this year’s winner is 311. I’m not going to say they’re even one of my favorite bands that I simply need to go see, however they are one of the most energetic live shows in existence, and this is the first time they’re touring Canada. Add to that the fact that my roommate will kill me in my sleep if I don’t go and...shit, I’M THERE! If you wanna tag along tickets around roughly $30, and the show is at Metropolis on Wed., March 19.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Melon can see?

So go figure; I run my weekly online search through the bowels of the music community and what do I learn? Through some miracle of modern science, the boys from Blind Melon have found a way to resurrect Shannon Hoon, and Blind Melon has been practicing together, and have a new album (For my Friends) to be released the day after my birthday (April 21 - the birthday, April 22 - the melon day).

In actuality, the boys have picked up a new vocalist, one Travis Warren. After listening to a couple things, I’ll admit the guy has some pipes, but simply lacks the twisted yet still powerful voice of Hoon (read: he doesn’t do enough hard drugs). Now, don’t get me wrong, this is akin to saying that the Pats are a horrible team, simply because they lost the Superbowl, thus neglecting their perfect season to that point. However, one can not deny the power and superiority of the Giants, even though they are now almost 13 years dead (ok, I think I took that analogy one step too far).

In the end though, I have to admit to feeling a might bit foolish. I was amazed that one of my most coveted bands of the 90’s, who’s time was ended prematurely, was able to slip under my radar and pull together a reunion. To make matters worse, they’ve apparently been playing together since fall of ’06. I’ll let you be the judge of whether you think this reunion is worth a damn, or just a mad grab at cash with a new, inferior frontman.

After feeling my sense of ‘scene’ had been violated by this stealth, I chose to dig a bit deeper into the lives of the vision impaired fruits. This had me stumble across a few underground gems, the likes of which one grins with delight upon discovery. After Hoon’s OD, one would assume this set of near savant musicians would stumble into something new and interesting: and they did.

Roger Stevens, one of the band’s guitarists, would dabble in a few hardly noteworthy projects (Extra Virgin should have kept her cherry) before teaming up with Royston Langdon, formerly of Spacehog. Langdon, the astral pig’s bassist and voice had a similar convoluted vocal style to Hoon, and it would shine through in the newly formed The Tender Trio (after a brief stint being called ‘The Quick’).

I managed to track down some recordings of The Tender Trio, and found a quaint mix of Stevens’ catchy riffs, with Langdon’s seemingly acid-influenced style. Tracks like ‘All My Money’s Gone’ captured Spacehog’s poppy beats and twangy vocals, with a new driving guitar to push the sound ahead with a bit more edge.

If you’re really bored, you can dig even deeper and check out Langdon’s band (Arckid) after Stevens left the band for the Blind Melon, but be warned; it was quite obvious where the creative juices were flowing from in Tender’s lineup.

Keep an eye out for the first podcast late this week or early next week, where I’ll try to include a few of these gems.