Sunday, September 18, 2016

We Fucked Our Ears, We Fucked Our Throats

I apologize in advance because I am pretty sure that this will end up being a post that is sort of all over the place. Touching on a lot of topics, hinting that I might be getting a bigger idea or sharp take on one of those topics, and then cutting the prose off before I get there is one of my talents. I may as well embrace it in lieu of avoiding it and doing nothing at all.

I had a minor crisis earlier this week pertaining to work. I have started my new, more serious position at my work under the fancy, typically overblown title attached to the position. I am no longer on the ground floor of the gallery interacting with people and have moved into a desk in an office upstairs. This freaked me out. I don't want to get stuck in an office and have it become comfortable. Don't want to settle into a routine and have small project become mountains. Don't want to wake up one day and find that my closet is full of business-casual collared shirts.

While coming home from work in a pair of quasi-dress pants from H&M and an inoffensive patterned button-up, I felt so fucking fake. Didn't feel like myself at all. I felt like I was in a costume and I was betraying myself.

I think a big part of this is that Beat Noir hasn't done anything at all for about a year or so. We wrote and recorded the album and half-assed promoting it for a week, but otherwise have ceased all activity as a band. We haven't practiced for about two months and even when we were jamming, it wasn't like it was for any particular goal. It sometimes (re: most of the time) feels like the writing is on the wall and the band is over. I don't think that we would make a huge statement about not being a band anymore or "break-up" in the traditional sense, but we aren't really doing anything. It feels really bad. A band is a relationship and this certainly does feel a lot like getting broken up with.

I don't want to be a guy who used to be in a band. Or a guy who used to go to shows. That ain't me. Punk still matters to me as much as it ever did. Don't want to be the "alternative guy" in the office with a few tattoos and stretched ears. Settling into that sort of persona scares the fucking shit out of me.

I was in crisis and wondered if I would be able to avoid this at all. I am working at here for the next two years and that is for certain. Would that mean two years or struggling every day against settling and routine? That seems daunting and exhausting and nightmare for mental health.

I managed to get over that hump and rationalize what I was worried about. I am lucky to have my job. Very lucky! It's not as bad as I make it out to be and it is important to contextualize all problems. I will not become someone I don't want to be unless I let that happen. Sure, it may be taxing, as I described above, but if the alternative is turning into something you hate, then it's kind of an obvious choice, no?

One good thing about this job is that I have realized that working in galleries is not my long-term goal. It was something I always thought I would enjoy, especially after positive experiences at KW|AG, and while it is fine for now, it's not for me in the future. My goal is definitely a PhD and teaching at the university level and I'm going to focus on that as much as my life allows me over the next two years.

As for what I said above about Beat Noir, yeah it sucks. I think about it a lot and how different things could have gone, but I can't remedy that now. While I was really sad about it, I watched the first two things I thought of that pertain to the experience of "being in a band" and what that phrase means in a lot of different ways.

The first was The Minutemen documentary We Jam Econo, which, if you haven't seen it, is a masterpiece. It first boils a once-in-a-generation band down to friendship and then builds on it from there. Friendship is the basis for every band and what keeps it together. The audience doesn't really notice that when they're seeing a performance and most of the time the band isn't really thinking about it, but it's true. You start a band because it's something you want to do with your friends and it's easy to forget that.

The documentary is also great because of the touching humanistic look it gives at the oeuvre of The Minutemen. They never compromised on anything and are, without a doubt, a model for all bands to follow in terms of integrity and morals and ethics. After showing you what's fun about being in a band, the doc shows you what's important about being in a band.

We Jam Econo brought up a lot of emotions in me, as it always does, and served as a way for me to lean into my Beat Noir-related sadness. This is funny, because the other thing I decided to watch was Spinal Tap.

After the serious introspection and emotion caused by We Jam Econo, it was nice to watch something that made light of all the stuff I was thinking about. Spinal Tap really is a masterpiece and is so good at laying on tons and tons of jokes, with just enough of them being so specific that you'll only laugh at them if you've played music before. God, what a fucking good movie.

And you know what, even though it's silly and everyone is an idiot, it stills boils down to Nigel jumping back out to play the solo in "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight".

As I said, all over the place.

I started reading a collection of Frankfurt School essays on art called Aesthetics and Politics. Benjamin and Adorno really stuck out to me in grad school while doing critical theory and I find that returning to their work clear my mind out and gives me context a lot more than some of the bigger names in art theory.

"In it, he argued that Wilhelmine Germany, increasingly a society of parasitic rentiers, had been dominated by philosophies (Neo-Kantianism, Machism, Vitalism) that conjured away the connections between ideology and economics or politic, preventing any perception or critique of imperialist society as a whole. Expressionism had been a literary reflection of that obfuscation."

Funny how problems 100 years ago in Germany are still fucking up the world today. Sub in 20-something self-mockingly complaining about mundane things on social media for Expressionism and you've got a scathing critique of contemporary mass media.

Or at least that's how I see it.

Yours in madcappedness, Timmy Chandler

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Don't Forget the Good Parts



From Monday to Wednesday of this week, the Blue Jays played a three game series against the New York Yankees in New York. The Jays entered the series in first place, 6.5 games ahead of the Yankees, but lost all three and now sit a game behind the Boston Red Sox for the division lead and just 3.5 games ahead of the Yankees.

It was a rough series, to be sure, but I think that my days of huffing and puffing and being anxious when the Blue Jays lose are past me. I still always want the Jays to win and I still get that tightness in my chest during close and stressful games, but I don't beat myself up about losses when they happen. A big part of this is that, if we're being realistic, 2015 was the most fun Blue Jays season that I will ever experience. This doesn't mean that there won't be great moments in the future or that I'm not having fun watching the team anymore. It's more that last season came right at the perfect time and was magical and ethereal and unbelievable. It will be hard to recreate that. A lot of the stress I used to tie to the team was due to me always hoping for something like 2015 to happen. Now it has and my experience as a fan is changing.

Case point is the game from which the above photo comes from. The Jays coughed up a late lead and were behind 7-4 when they started an amazing late-inning rally to score two runs and draw close to tying the game. Edwin Encarnacion got boned on a catcher's interference miscall and then did the unthinkable and legged out an infield hit. A few missteps by the Yankees combined to let the Jays draw close to overtaking the lead. Justin Smoak hit a ball very deep, but Bret Gardner jumped to make an amazing catch (pictured above) on a ball that was about a foot away from being a home run and seemed destined to drive in runs.

There was certainly the customary giant exhale after the pressure of a tight ballgame was released, but no anger came. I was more just happy that I got to witness such a great game. After the catch, Gardner yelled and fist-pumped which was very uncharacteristic for the normally stoic and even-keel Yankees. Part of me even liked seeing the Yankees crack and show emotion like that.

I think that this is a sign of me maturing as a baseball fan and continuing further down the path of valuing the narrative of a game over the result. To be sure, I still root as hard as I can for the Jays, but I would rather seeing a pitchers' duel in which the winning run is driven in by Kevin Pillar than a blowout that ensures a win. I think part of this comes from Roger Angell's books which tell the narrative of a team and its season. The personal stories of the players and cities is really the meat of baseball and what keeps fans coming back. Not the trophies.

I would say I've even grown to a point of respecting rivals. I recognize the history and cultural value that surrounds the New York Yankees. As much as I hate how the team has beaten on the Jays consistently throughout my existence, they are the Yankees and that is what they do.

Not Boston though. I think Pedroia will have to retire before I can even begin to start coming around on that shitpile of a franchise.

I could say something like "the last two years have marked a turning point in my life as a baseball fan", but that is just not true. My experience watching and following baseball is an ever-changing journey that takes on a lot of new parts all the time. The true beauty of something that you keep with you your whole life is that it grows with you and changes just like you do.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

California Jam II


"Fuckin' Mahogany Rush man!"

That line is said by Willoughby in Richard Linklater's most recent film Everybody Wants Some!! while four of the main characters are smoking weed in a bedroom and listening to records. Willoughby explains that Mahogany Rush are more philosophical and make you think as much about the space in between the notes as the notes themselves and they aren't just "guys jumping around in spandex". Plummer responds (after taking a bong toke) "I dunno man, Van Halen are pretty fuckin' awesome." which I'm inclined to agree with.

This scene was the type of coincidence that is so rare that you can barely believe it happened. I'll explain why.

*****

My place of work is on Toronto's harbourfront, which means that throughout the course of the summer, we've gotten a fair amount of randoms and weirdos in to see what we have and talk to us. The encounter I'm about to describe is absolutely my favourite of these weirdos and one of the funniest and memorable experiences I've ever had.

I was in the largest gallery, which was a bunch of fabric sculpture. A pretty rough-looking guy, who I assumed was homeless, came in and started asking me about the show, which he thought was pretty weird. This man looked kind of like an 80's metal burnout whose glory days were long behind him. He had a mullet that had grown out a bit and was greasy and stuck to his head, was wearing sunglasses inside, smelled a little bit and had dirty, grown out fingernails. When he was speaking, it seemed like he wasn't really together, and I think he might have been on something.

One of the sculptures that was showing was a letter L hanging on the wall and the man asked if it was "a psychedelic L", which I had to ask him to repeat a few times and then explain. He was wondering if it was a reference to LSD, which is wasn't. After this he asked me if Franz "gets sex, drugs,a nd rock 'n roll. Like, not sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll, but like, sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll. You know?" I had to reply "Oh yeah, of course he does!"

The guy then told me that he plays guitar, mostly at night, so I assumed, because of his appearance, he was a busker and then he rapidfired a ton of stuff at me. He asked me if I was a virgin and when I answered he said that he used to be like a rabbit, jumping from hole to hole. He asked how old I was, and when I said 27, he said that I had my whole life ahead of me and that I wouldn't even know all the shit that was going to happen to me. He brought up drugs, said they were bad and then followed that with "I dabble. I'm not an addict or anything," which I took to mean "I am 100% addicted to heroin.

At one point during this conversation, he turned to me and asked "Do you recognize me?", which I found very confusing and weird.

I figured that this guy would come and talk to me for a few minutes, get his daily need for human interaction out of the way, and then leave, but he surprisingly followed me as I changed positions in the gallery to sit behind one of our reception desks.

Once I had sat down, he again said that he plays guitar and then dropped the bombshell that this whole post revolves around.

"You ever heard of Mahogany Rush?"

"Nah man, I haven't."

*pulls down sunglasses to the tip of his nose and looks at me over them*

"You've never heard of Mahogany Rush?"

"I haven't! I swear."

"Different generation man."

I don't know what I expected Mahogany Rush to be. Maybe a cover band or something? I searched the band on my work computer and, to my astonishment, discovered that they were a popular Can-Con 70's rock band who toured with all of the biggest rock bands of that decade. Before this reveal, I was entertaining this guy as a mostly harmless guest, but this is when I got really interested and really excited about what was happening. He asked me who the website I was looking at said was the singer and I replied "Frank Marino". Though he never told me directly, I concluded, through my powers of deduction, that I was speaking to Frank Marino. If you look at the picture on the site linked in one of the previous sentence, give the guy in that picture 30 years and 30 less pounds and you've got the version of Frank that I saw.

Frank was really interested in how he was described on Wikipedia and so was I. I think it had been a while since he had used the internet, because everything seemed very interesting to him. The article on him was much long than I thought it would be and I was so surprised to see the amount of output he had managed. 17 albums with Mahogany Rush and 4 solo! To go along with numerous appearances on other artists' recordings! Frank was not just a funny minor Toronto character, he was turning into a real lost artefact from the 1970's in front of me. The fact that I had not heard of Mahogany Rush really surprised me.

After this, I started to warm up to Frank a lot and reciprocated my extension of friendship. I told him that I played guitar and he started to tell about why he thought scalloped fretboards were good (with demonstrations!) and run through some of his favourite guitarists. "Man, you know Eric Johnson? He plays those pentatonic scales, man. Stretches his fingers from here to here. Like, I can do that too man, but not like him." "Man, you know Joe Satriani?" He was not a fan of Steve Vai.

Frank eventually worked his way behind the desk and talked to me for a while. We were reading his wikipedia article and he came across a passage which read "He has been criticized by some as a Hendrix clone." That angered Frank and he said "People are always saying shit" and got distant. This set up how the rest of the conversation would go: Frank would be very fun and wild and engaging, but would then say something that was really sad that would show his vulnerability and remind me that, though it was really fun and funny to speak with this relic of a bygone era, the reality of his situation was sad and sobering.

Frank was really interested in his presence on the internet and wanted to see how many pictures of him were floating around. We searched a lot and he would saying things like "I've lost so much weight" that were a bummer. He started running through people he used to know and said "See if there's a picture of me and Stevie Ray Vaughan on there." I was skeptical, but, sure enough, a search yielded a picture of the two together (though I couldn't find it when I tried to for this post). He then asked if there was a picture of him and "Keith". This fucking guy is dropping Keith Richards on a first name basis? There wasn't one, but he did enjoy a caricature of the guitarist that came up.

He started to talk about how he used to play shows at the Docks and brought up Lemmy. "You know magazines? All the shit they say about him in there, it's all true. Hookers everywhere." I was pretty sure that he didn't know that Lemmy died this year, but I didn't want to bring it up and ruin the mood.

Throughout our hour and a half conversation one thing that Frank came back to a lot was boating and the Toronto Islands. He recounted a time when he went on a date with a girl to the islands, but stayed after the last ferry had left because they had drank a lot. They dealt with the situation by stealing a canoe and paddling back to the harbour. When they got back his date tried to stand up in the canoe, but Frank insisted that they didn't. They did anyways and they both fell in. "The lake, it's always cold man!"

Frank also seemed dead set on renting a boat to take out onto Lake Ontario. He asked if it was possible to get one anywhere and I told him about the different marinas in the area, but it seemed like he mostly wanted to was poetic on the topic. He asked how long it would take to make it to Buffalo by boat and I guessed about three hours. He was surprised and responded "I don't know man, I'd be going full-tilt", struck this pose, and imitated a motorboat sound. It was one of his more adorable moments.

He even asked me if I wanted a beer! While I was at work!

But for all the awesome parts, he would also say things like "I just got out of a coma, so my mind is a little."

Frank is originally from Montreal, so at one point he asked me "Parlez-vous français?" in an awful anglicized accent. I responded "Oui, bein sur" which I repeat several times and then translate. He then started on a rant about how Québequois French was a bastardized version of the language that wasn't "true French". All the insults in Québec were about women, whereas all the insults in France were about the Church, which seemed like an oddly informed thing for Frank to say. He said that it was just like how North American English wasn't "True English" like the version spoken in England. Around this time, a group of women came into the gallery who were visiting from Ireland and Frank was convinced that he should go speak to them about how they curse in order to illustrate his point, because in his mind, Ireland was close enough. I overheard them say that they say "feck" instead of "fuck" and when Frank came back to make his report, he was excited about telling me about the Irish girls. "What do they say instead of fuck? Duck?" Close enough, Frank.

Around this point I realized that this conversation with Frank would be one of the more memorable ones I would ever have and one of my best stories, so I started to relish it and egg on Frank a bit. We were both having a really great time.

He showed me a pen with a built-in flashlight in it, which he said was handy for when people ask for autographs at shows and it's dark and hard to see. Frank insisted on giving me the pen, despite my resistence. "I have tons of them! They give them to me for free!" he said, despite there being a health centre logo on the side. I eventually decided to take it and he illustrated its use by signing a program with the flashlight on. In the daytime. What a guy.


Eventually my rotation came around again and it was time for me to a go home. Frank took that as his cue to leave, put on his hat and disappeared.

Friday, September 2, 2016

This One Thing Doesn't Have to Go Away

One of the most popular topics to write about in 2016 has been, without a doubt, celebrity deaths. A wide variety of notable figures across basically every discipline. The two biggest were probably David Bowie and Prince, whose fans mourned and celebrated their accomplishments. When these deaths happened, I wondered which Canadian figure's death would prompt an outpouring of emotions from Canadians similar to the way Minnesotans gathered around Prince, and I sort of got that when Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip announced that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

If I written this post before or shortly after The Hip's final show, my explanation of my slow come-around to their music would have seemed a little more prescient, but I've seen a million of those, so I'll try to temper that topic out of this post. I associated them with jabronis I knew and dismissed them.

One day, I was driving with Duff and we were discussing how we both loved the idea of The Hip as being a picturesque representation of the ebb and flow of life in small town Ontario, but just couldn't get into their actual music at all. We recognized that there was more to them, but couldn't deal with the vaguely alt/classic-rockish style of the their music. This topic came up a few times in conversation and Duff decided that while driving to Ottawa for a trip he was going to bring along the Hip albums he felt like he would be most likely to like and try to dive into them pretense-free. That worked for him.

A few weeks later, we were in Kitchener for the wedding of Beat Noir's drummer. Since both of us were in the wedding party, we had a busy day of errands ahead of us and for that day's soundtrack, Duff chose The Tragically Hip. I have a ton of memories from that weekend and The Hip's Phantom Power is tied to them as the soundtrack. "Something On" played while Duff and I drove to breakfast. "Bobcaygeon" was on while we waited for Mike in his driveway.

We dressed at Colin's house, putting on our matching groomsmen suit and then left for the wedding itself. "My Music at Work" played while we left the driveway and the image of the sun coming through the car and the song blaring while all of us wore matching black suits is branded on my mind. It's my favourite Hip song.

As the date was drawing nearer for The Hip's final show, I started to make plans to watch the concert. A bar near Rebecca and I's new apartment was showing it with sound on throughout the place and it seemed like a logical choice. We thought about making plans with friends, but a few fell through and we ended up staying home because we had both worked and were tired. That turned out to be a great decision because we could just watch it in the comfort of our apartment. It was a very intimate setting and I'm glad I didn't go to a bar to watch a 3 hour Tragically Hip set. As much as I would have loved being able to watch the last set with Duff or my brother, it was nice to be able to have my own moment during this giant cultural eruption.

Several times during the concert I was struck by the actual unbelievability of what was happening. This was the last show for the Tragically Hip, who have been present in my entire life. It didn't matter if I always listened to them, or if I hated them for a little bit, they were always around and an integral part of Canadian music and identity. And, of course, that the band's leader is dying of cancer and responded by leading the band on a national tour to say goodbye, which culminated in a medium-sized city halfway between Toronto and Montreal. I don't think anything like this has ever happened before. Definitely not in Canada. Maybe not in the world. That is why the show was so amazing and captivating. It was completely singular.

Doesn't hurt that the songs are good too.

Though the Tragically Hip have always been "important", I kind of feel like they circled around being true cultural icons for a long time. Everybody was aware of them, but I don't think that the majority of Canadians thought of them as legends really. That changed this year, of course, as now they've cemented themselves in Canada lore and people will speak about the final show, and to a lesser extent the final tour, forever. Regardless of if you're a fan of their music, everyone can say something about the band and, whether you like it or not, that means you're relating to them.

Their relatability is something truly special and wholly uncommon. Here's three people who cried during their last set:

Me, a punk music fan that works in contemporary art.

My brother, a sportswriter. While very much a music fan, sports are without a doubt his main interest over music.

A young guy, probably around my age, who was at the show and was briefly shown on the broadcast by the CBC. He was wearing a Team Canada hockey jersey and a backwards Toronto Blue Jays hat and looked like a typical Canadian bro.

These are three very different types of people who have very different interests, and yet they were all moved to a similar degree by The Tragically Hip's last performance and what the band means to them.

Part of me felt like it was a copout to finally give in and start listening to the band in earnest once Gord announced he was dying (Phantom Power is my favourite) and the band's sentimental popularity was at its highest, but then I came to the conclusion that there is actually no better time to listen to the band than the present and while the band will always be important, their music will never be as significant as it is right now. The country is still glowing from the energy and emotion that overflowed during The Hip's last show and there is no better to channel that than listening to a Tragically Hip record.

This picture, which was taken as the band left the stage for the last time really got me. While it may seem like a typical curtain call shot, it has the subtext of the band rallying around Gord to help him through this last stretch of his life. Understandably, most of the night centred around the frontman and the camera was almost always on him. At the end of the show though, the band said goodbye as a group to remind us that while this most certainly is about Gord, it's also the end of a Canadian cultural institution, the Tragically Hip. It made me think of my own relationship with my band.

Ending a band is a very tough thing to do. While we will remember the records and the many hits they produced, for the band members this was something they did to have fun with their friends. That's what every band is. That's why everybody starts bands:

It's the most fun you can have in the world.



Monday, August 29, 2016

Don't Give Yourself Away

At some point around 2002, the internet, for me, became mainly a vehicle for consuming music. When my brother showed me how Napster worked, I was astounded and immediately started looking into to getting some stuff on there. That's not to say that file-sharing programs were an illuminating, game-changing resource I was waiting for to listen to music, because I never stopped going to the record store, but it did profoundly change the way that I thought about the internet and its use to me (that being songs and boobies).

I feel that this was common for many other people as it was for me, as now the proliferation of music on the internet is higher than it's ever been and it's just kind of always there. Another interesting thing that happened with this was the democratisation of genres. Musical genres were no longer decided by critics or writers, but instead by whoever was filling in the genre tag on Napster. As a result, genre became way more fluid and a lot of pretty different things were called the same thing. Also, a lot of bad punk covers were labelled as NOFX songs. Maybe this all spoke to parallels that artists already shared, or maybe that was forced by listeners. I'm not sure about that.

Now there's a lot of genres of music that a very amorphous. While "Black Metal" might mean one specific thing, "Hardcore" means a million things. Damaged by Black Flag, Suicide Season by Bring Me the Horizon, and I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone by Crime in Stereo all sound completely different, but are, for better or for worse, all described mainly as hardcore.

An instance of this that makes me smile is the genre "Power Pop", because I love almost all iterations of the genre and because it seems to be as many-sided as "Hardcore". It seems to mean rock/pop music played with guitars, which is an apt descriptor for all of the bands I'm about to go through, but can also mean a lot of different things

My introduction to power-pop was through poppy rock bands from the late 70's and early 80's. They were playing pop music in the then-general understanding of the word, just with more distortion, bigger amps, and fancier guitar solos. Whenever I think of the genre power-pop, I always think of one band first: Cheap Trick



Though Cheap Trick are my personal favourites in this genre, I feel like my placing of them at the top of the heap is by no means a popular opinion (people love to hate Cheap Trick, I've found!). So allow me to flex my critical knowledge and give you two other examples of what I feel is classic 70's power-pop:



I think it's really a shame that this band is only known for "My Sharona", because I think the rest of their album is way better than that song:



God, that is a fucking great song.

A big reason why I love this type of music is that I attach it to a very distinct aesthetic. I believe I have spoken about this before on IMU, but to me these are the songs of rebellion for a specific generation in the 70's and 80's. In teen sex comedies set in the 70's and 80's, the guys who are the wacky or "cool" minor characters listen to these bands. These bands are the soundtrack to Steven Hyde, Styles, and Kevin Pickford. Because the nostalgia of these characters and stories is so attractive to me, the music that is attached to them is equally attractive.

I'm going to pull back the curtain on my brain for a second and let you in on the fact that I try to evoke these types of characters in my "persona". They influences the way I dress and the way I act. I'm still "me", but part of "me" is that these characters dramatically influence my outer shell.

The tie between this music and that character type was solidified when "Gonna Raise Hell" by Cheap Trick, from Dream Police, played during an episode of Freaks and Geeks.

I fell face-first into this type of music and started to try and get as much as I could afterwards. One of the first things I wondered about was where "power-pop" went into the 80's and beyond.

My first answer was The Outfield. Despite having way, way less edge, the still presented the same idea. It was still very poppy guitar-based music, just with way shinier production and corny reverb on everything:



The Cars are interesting because they really count as an example of the stuff I was previously talking about, and their excellent Self-Titled came out in 1978, but they certainly morphed into something much poppier and "more studio" (please know what I mean by that) into the 80's. This is still a wonderful pop song, but not nearly as "rock" as the music on their first album.



I just came across a description of The Cars by the music critic Robert Palmer and it sums up the band better than I ever could:

"they have taken some important disparate contemporary trends- punk minimalism, the labyrinthine synthesizer and guitar textures of art rock, the 50's rockabilly revival and the melodious terseness of power pop- and mixed them into a personal and appealing blend."

That is why he is a professional music writer and I am writing for free on blogspot. It touches on everything I'm trying to say.

Another band who I came across while trying to find the direction of this rock music after 1982 was Fountains of Wayne, who to me are a cross between The Cars and Cheap Trick, just with their songs tied down to a different period, the late 90's and early 2000's, because of its production. Everyone is familiar with Fountains of Wayne because of the massive hit "Stacy's Mom", but most don't realize that the rest of that album is perfect power pop:



I guess relevant to me is also where this type of music crosses with my first love, punk music. This one was easy, because I was already way deep into ALL before getting anywhere near Cheap Trick. ALL is a weird band who wear a lot of different faces, but to not associate a song like this with power pop would be silly:



I'm not sure if everyone thinks of None More Black as a power pop (in the sense I have described)/punk band, but I do:



I find that now, when most people think of power pop, they think of a mostly-Ramones knock-off band and that seems weird to me because it is so far from my own personal definition of the genre. That's exactly what I was talking about at the start of this post though, that now the same word means a hell of a lot of different things in regards to music. I don't think I have a point beyond just saying "Look at all the different power pop things!", but I guess that's okay too.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Love You More Than I Did When You Were Mine

Lord, I don't even know where to start writing right now. I've taken such a hiatus from it since finishing my thesis and starting work again, that it feels like a huge chore to get back on the horse.

Instead of laboring through some forced ideas, I'm going to post two video that I have been obsessed with over the last little while:









The first thing I love about these is that they come from The AV Club's Undercover series, which has been a favourite of mine for a while now. While the novelty of the idea has lost a bit of its lustre since the first version, it still produces tons of amazing performances that we wouldn't see anywhere else and we are all the better for it.

Secondly is that the sound of the performances in each of the videos, dirty full-band R 'n B rock, is one that I've fantasized forming a band around for a long time in my head. Har Mar Superstar seems to be a band that I have day-dreamed about forming. I also lovelovelove when people have big bands as their backing band. Keyboards and a horn section? Yes.

Thirdly is that the singer is a short bald man who looks like Jay Sherman from The Critic:


I can't believe how well the whole package works and I have mesmerized and in love with both of the performances. It also says something that he can destroy both a Built to Spill and Prince song. Two very different things!

Sidenote: The fact that Prince is such a "thing" for people from Minnesota makes me so happy. Regional love is always a soft spot for me and I've often thought about what Toronto's would be. The Tragically Hip certainly brought up that feeling for me recently, as I can wave my Ontario card high for that, but I wonder if there is a better example from my hometown.

I also find it hard to believe that it's taken me so long to come across him. He's been on noteworthy labels and producing for a long time and yet here I am discovering Har Mar Superstar in 2016.

I've been working on two posts in the meantime. One is not that good. The other might be good. I trust your faith in IMU content and am sure you will stick with yer boi through this tough time of rediscovering how to string sentences together.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

I'm Groovin' On

There are quite few bands who the general populous has filed in their mind as "one-hit wonders", but I love dearly as a niche hidden gem that everyone missed out on. Whenever one of these bands is given a little bit of a rub, it makes me feel good to know that I'm not alone in realizing that there's more to a band than one song.

The AV Club writes a lot better than I do, so I'll direct you to a nice, short summation of what makes one of my favourite Fountains of Wayne songs so good:

Fountains of Wayne's power-pop gem "Radiation Vibe" found the silver lining in adversity

Friday, July 22, 2016

When I Said That I Love You, I Meant That I'd Love You Forever

My internet has finally returned, but I am actually writing this post from a computer a work. Don't worry, I'm not killing time on a Friday by typing this instead of finishing a project, I have a fair amount of downtime and most of it coincides with being near a computer. I decided that a good use of my time at work would be to start writing in my notebook and that has started to pay off a little bit. I now have a few skeletons of blog posts that I'll transcribe and add to whenever I feel like putting something up here. It's kind of funny that a lot of my IMU writing is now being done in Microsoft Word when I have no internet or in a small portable notebook when I'm away from a computer, as opposed to being fully created in the Blogger "New Post" application. It kind of makes you think about where imusicalgenius really exists. Is the website just simulacra of the real, pure version of ideas that exist in my mind? Perhaps, but what better represents the notion of "imusicalgenius" as the public understands it? Can imusicalgenius be concretely tied to one specific place?

Anyways, here's something that's been stewing in my mind this week:

Something that seems so stupid to me is the way that many people now justify certain things they like by prefacing it with "I know it's lame, but..." You don't really think it's lame. You enjoy it. If you really thought it was lame, you would leave it alone.

Our society is now so deeply steeped in irony that some people don't even know they are being ironic, which is ironic. It could be that I am being too critical, and maybe society's current trend of maintaining a safe distance from subjects, so that they can both enjoy and not be associated with them, is really just "society". The prospect of being associated with something has all of a sudden become every person's worst fear because it might mean that they get made fun of on the internet or somebody will talk shit about them on the internet.

This is all pretty grim, in my opinion, so lately I've been trying to pump the brakes on ironic enjoyment and do a lot more "accepting the things that I like". Crazy concept, I know.

Case in point, professional wrestling. I used to try to hide my love of it, or if it came up in conversation, I would say "I know it's dumb" or "I only watch it when I'm high", but fuck that. Maybe it is a little (re: very) dumb and maybe I am usually high when I watch it, but I do really love it. And if somebody thinks that something as tiny as the enjoyment of professional wrestling is debilitating to your personality, then you can bet that they are hiding something they are way more embarrassed of from everyone else.

I've thought about this subject a lot over the past few years and have started to find people's undying love of niche and un-hip things absolutely beautiful. There are still plenty of things that I hate and am petty about, and there are people who are headfirst into those things whom I judge. But who gives a shit? I'll make my point, argue as well as I can, probably with a sense of superiority, and that's it. Let's revel in the subjectivity.

Whenever I think about this subject, I think about a specific episode in my life. Before I was old enough to work , I used to watch a lot of muchmoremusic at home during the summer. One day there was a bad VH1 (muchmoremusic used to re-broadcast a ton of VH1 stuff) show on where contestants would pick a song, karaoke it and then in order to win, when the song cut out at a certain point, finish the line with no music or lyrics to help them. On this occasion, a middle-aged Rod Stewart look-a-like was killing REO Speedwagon's "Keep on Lovin' You".

Hr finished the pre-chorus and the host, who I'm pretty sure was Wayne Brady, said something like "Do you want to lock in your answer?!" (this being a post-Who Wants to be a Millionaire? television landscape and all). The guy responded, extremely enthusiastically:

"If those lyrics are wrong Wayne, then your machine is broken!"

REO Speedwagon is extremely lame (Their inclusion in Billy Madison is not). The song in question has a sort of campy charm to it and is the type of song that would work so well in a comedy movie, but the stadium soft rock of the late 70's and early 80's that REO is part of is some of the worst pop music ever made. But still, the fact that this guy was so gung-ho about REO Speedwagon was fucking awesome. It was heart-warming. Everyone should be that into the things they like. Let's do away with passive interest and indifference and be a little more active with the things we love.

Monday, July 18, 2016

I Don't Know What I Want, What I Want's Where I've Been

I'm sure that, following my last post, the last thing anybody needs more is more self-reflection from Timothy Chandler on his band's second album, but you come here for my thoughts, so that's what you're going to get.

I actually wrote the majority of those notes a long time ago as a way to procrastinate while I was writing my thesis. In hindsight, that was a very productive thing to do. But since it had been three or four months since I had written these things, re-reading them and checking for grammar and spelling errors brought up some emotions in me. I have a strong bond with these songs, since I carried them around in my head for about two years. Always thinking about them. What we should add. What we should remove. What they mean. How people will hear them and what they'll get out of them.

But when we put out the record, those feelings just fell out of my head. I was also busy with a new job and finding a new apartment and the album took the back seat for a while. Didn't really think about it for a few weeks. The post preceding this one re-discovered those bonds though.

Brief aside: Was trying to invoke a sort of archaeological imagery with that last sentence. Funny that bonds and bones are one letter apart. In my younger days I might have linked to a gif of Dr. Grant dusting off the raptor skeleton in Jurassic Park, but I guess I've gotten to a point in my writing where I try to do a lot more alluding and be less on-the-nose. This sentence kind of negates that though.

The post preceding this one re-discovered those bones though.

The new job will be over in two years and though I will try my damndest to make a lasting impact at it, it may be a bit of a translucent filter over the final picture of what the place does from 2016-18. Sovereignties will still exist. Sovereignties is permanent. Should I be prouder of it? Absolutely yes. This is my fucking art. It may get lost in the shuffle. People may forget about it. People might remember Beat Noir as the band who put out Ecotone. People might remember Beat Noir as the guys from the message board. People will probably forget about Beat Noir entirely. But that can't make Sovereignties disappear. It will always exist. I'm going to carry my pride in it for the rest of my life. Even if people don't care about it, I know it was important. The feeling I get in my heart when I listen to the songs is the important thing.

How Am I Supposed to Make Them Survive in Me?

I love reading the liner notes to albums. I think of them as a special dialogue between the artist and me. Even though everybody who owns the album gets to read them, my copy is my copy and nobody's relationship with them is exactly the same as mine. Liner notes are kind of getting lost in our current digital age, but I would like to throw my appreciation for them out into the ether.

In fact, I like them so much that I wrote my own version for Beat Noir's first album, Ecotone. Beat Noir put out our second album, Sovereignties, just under a month ago. I am very proud of what we did as a band and feel fucking great having my name on this album.

I will take this opportunity to tell you that Sovereignties is available for free and it would mean a lot to me if you gave it a listen and/or download. You can find it here:


I decided to write a liner notes/history of the songs, similar to what I did with Ecotone. Check it out:


St. John the Baptist

The writing of Sovereignties formally began with Duff, Mark, and I show each other riffs on acoustic guitars in Mark’s old bedroom. The three songs that were started that night were “St. John the Baptist”, “Monkey Paw”, and “Alexandria”. Duff came up with the intro riff and then we worked out a rough idea of what the verse would sound like. We started to jam the songs not long after that. I remember trying to write basslines for this song that sounded like the ones on Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, which was one of the main influences sonically, at least for Duff and myself, on this album. As I usually do, I tried to put far too many riffs into this song and had to scale back what was going on. My original version of what I play in the verse was just awful.

This album was more directed by Duff than what we did previously. He took upon himself to work through the songs and change the parts that he didn’t think worked. This was for the better and made a much better final product. At one practice while we writing the album, Duff said “This part doesn’t sound right. There’s too much going on.” It turned out that I was just playing something not even close to what the part was and had a dramatically different idea of what was happening. Whoops.

This is the longest song we’ve ever written and while we were putting it together I had no idea that it would end up being the theme that is returned to throughout Sovereignties. We all agreed that it would be really cool if we brought back some parts throughout the album and I’m happy that we did it with the parts we did. I feel like the lyrics of this song kind of encapsulate the themes of the album.
Bold move opening with the longest song, right? Sure feels that way.

Owen McCourt

While writing this album, one thing we kept in mind was trying to write simpler songs. This may seem weird, but it can be hard to just leave a part and not put an extra riff or extra chords into something. The first time we played through this song, with almost the whole thing being just a C to an Am, it felt super weird and too cutesy. Too simple. It’s kind of like colourfield painting. Jack Bush said one time, about his abstract colourfield stuff “The first time I painted like that, just the thin colours, it scared the shit out of me!” I think that that is the best way to sum up what it was like writing this song. Having a song just move between two chords makes you feel lazy as a musician, but you have to fight that feeling, because it works out better in the end.

This song changed a lot from when we began writing it, but most of that comes with putting on the guitar and synth layers that we knew were going to be there, but could do with just the four of us at practice. The bass intro used to be on guitar too. There used to be a bunch of different bass stuff in here and though it was little bit of a kick in the stomach getting all of it taken out, it was for the better.

It’s funny that this song seemed simple at the beginning because it wound up being what I think is one of the bigger departures for us on this album. We ain’t never had a lead synth before.
In the words of Davis, who recorded the album, “That’s the fuckin’ single bud.”

Monkey Paw

I think that this is my favourite song on the album. It probably changed the most drastically from beginning to end. It began as a fast punk song that probably sounded the closest to Ecotone out of everything that we were working on at the time. I know that I talk about the bass playing a lot here, but it’s me writing, so what the fuck did you think would happen? This song used to have a fucking god-awful basslines that was once again me trying to do way too much. Just playing all over the fretboard and making the song sound messy as hell. As with “Muscle Memory” on the last album, we completely turned the song on it’s head, making it something completely different, and just like last time, it benefited a lot from that. Duff tabled the idea of playing it double-time, but slow and that was cool because we had never done that before. Mark said “Hey man, I have another idea that’s going to do that!” feigning outrage. That idea became “Itchicoo”. This was another song that seemed really simple while we writing, with most of it just going back and forth two simple chord progression. I scaled back what I was doing, but still got some riffs in there, because, y’know, you don’t hold back a primo fuckin’ talent like this.

The lyrics are très sad. I’ll leave it at that.

I had never heard the “final” version of this song the way that Duff planned it, with all of the extra guitars, but I love it. Can’t wait to play this one live because it’s a big-time jammer.

Leslie Bush

If you want to quibble, this is technically the first song we worked on for the album. Duff moved into the lower floor of the house that Mark, Colin, and I lived in on Canada Day 2013. We were really excited about the band all living together in the same house, with Big Dawg O’Neill, no less, because we knew that it would be fun and we could also do a lot of band stuff.

That night we thought we take a cue from Attack in Black and record a 5-song acoustic EP of songs we hadn’t written yet all in one night. Mark had an 8-track recorder and we set up shop in my room. We quickly scaled the idea back to just a 2-song EP and still only got through ½ of one song. We said that we would get right back to working on the songs and do one per night for the rest of the week, but uh……

Man, that was even before we recorded Ecotone!

I guess what we turned out that night was sweet though, as it stuck with Duff. He said that he wrote a vocal melody for the song that was really good, but it didn’t surface again until we brought the song back to work through it for the second album. 

I think this song came together pretty easily. It flows well, has bangin’ lyrics and might be my finest hour on bass. The riff is big time and the first time we decided to reprise it after the second verse all of us were like “Uh, yeah.” I think the outro is low-key a big deal for us too. Lot’s of stuff happening there.

Corriveau

Is this weirdest song on the album? Yes. “Corriveau” is for sure the most out-of-character thing that Beat Noir has tried to do.

The song started with us thinking “hey, we still need a few more songs for the album” one day at practice and Duff saying “okay, here is a riff I’ve been working on”, which turned out to be the main riff of the song. 

One the perpetually interesting things about being in a band is that member sees the song as something different. When I first heard the riff, I envisioned it as an emo song in the revival/shoegazey style that Run for Cover Records has popularized lately. The riff fit so snugly within that context to me. I guess that when we jammed the song at practice, it sorted of sounded that way too. I brought this up to Duff while we were recording and he thought it was funny, because the way the song ended up on Sovereignties, a slow, dirgey post-punk song, was exactly how he had envisioned it.

With certain songs, we left a few parts to finish and create in the studio. We would know we were going to put synth parts on songs and what we basically wanted out of them, but really it would all depend on what Carl played in the studio. We did this on Ecotone, leaving Carl to just write all of his stuff, but did this even more so on this album. We would jam the song at practice and then say “And then we’ll put synth and fake drums on it.” Wrote that shit in the studio. There are some sweet pictures of Duff, Colin, and Davis lying down and working through the drum pattern that we were going to use for the song. I also think there’s a lot of good instrumentation on this song. If one were to say that “Corriveau” is the “Collages” of Sovereignties, which I don’t think is too far off-base, then that comparison would show how much we’ve grown as a band since the last album. “Collages” sucks, “Corriveau” is a banger.

*Davis mimes the bass fill at the end and then throws up the horns*

Jubilee

All of the interlude songs on this album, those being “Jubilee”, “Gethsemane”, and “St. Michael the Archangel”, were completely Duff’s doing. He came up with the idea of revisiting the themes and this is the first time it comes up on the album.

Part way through the writing process for this album the way we were putting together the songs changed. Duff took initiative and started to demo and work on the songs by himself a lot. With the interlude songs, he basically just said “Don’t worry, I got this.” We knew that this song would use the chord progression from the chorus of “St. John”, but not much else.

In the studio the song was originally just guitar, with Duff saying that Carl would come in to play glockenspiel afterwards. While we were recording vocals, I forwarded the idea of me playing simple bassline on it and we used a break in recording to do that. Bud, a P Bass with the tone turned down, palm-muted into an acoustic head? Ya. The bass line led to a 60’s-style drum pattern and now the song is this short throwback pop song stuck in the middle of the album and I love it.

We wrote a significant part of this song in the studio, which is something that we hadn’t done as a band before. This is the result of us thinking on our feet and drawing from influences we hadn’t used in a song before. Real proud of this one.

Itchicoo

Itchicoo was one of the later songs we worked on in this process. Like I said above, Mark brought it in as a half-time rock song that had a Nada Surf vibe to it. It used to be a little busier, with minor stuff on bass and a longer outro, but, once again, Duff convinced everyone to cut it back and that worked for the better. I wish there was a cooler song behind this song’s composition but really all we did was take out an outro and trim some parts down.

The song sounds a lot heavier than it originally was and is the first time we’ve used drop D tuning. Even though I like to play a lot on songs and am always thinking about some dumb riff I can put in, sometimes it feels really good to just groove as a rhythm section and that’s what Colin and I do here. Mark plays a big-time guitar solo at the end of this. Is it his best ever lead on a Beat Noir song? 

Fuckin’ probably, man.

When you’re a kid, you hear a lot of stories that, in retrospect, are larger than life, but seem so prescient that they have to be true at the time. I’m sure anybody can think of tons of stories like this from their childhood and, for me, this song brings up that feeling.

Gethsemane

While Duff was re-working the demos of songs we recorded, he said that he working on turning two of the songs into a “suite” with a connective interlude in between them. He sent us a 7ish minute song that was a re-worked Itchicoo, this song, and a re-worked Mount Hope. This thing is all Duffer. We never really jammed this song at practice, leaving it up to all of us just learning the demo, adding a ton of synth stuff, and working on electronic drums in the studio.

Sometimes a simple chord progression is all you need. Root, 5th, 4th and 6th. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. On the day I was recording bass, I was feeling pretty sick, having caught a cold from Mark in the studio. It came and left in one day, which was conveniently the day that I was recording bass. This song was the height of it and I felt so bad that I just handed the bass to Duff and told him to do this song, so the “rhythm bass” part is actually played by Duff.

I say “rhythm bass” because, like “Jubliee”, I thought of another part I wanted to add while Duff and Mark were working on vocals. That part is the chimey lead part that comes in at the end of the song. Since this song was heavy on synth and has a big post-punk vibe, I wanted to do some Peter Hook-style stuff to accentuate that even more. This one is a big departure for us too.

Mount Hope

This one started with the opening guitar riff, which Mark wrote. Then we added a few parts and I wrote a bassline that I thought was hot fire on an acoustic guitar during that jam. Then that bassline got cut! Sometimes you write something you think is sweet because it kind of goes all over the place, but then you look at it a few months later and don’t really care for it. The same thing happened with the bassline on “Nom de guerre” on Ecotone, which I now despise. This one wasn’t quite as bad, but it definitely did need to go. Everyone in the band was listening to a lot of Tigers Jaw when we started writing it, so I think that originally the song sounded a lot like Tigers Jaw.

We were deciding what to do with the outro of the song and throwing a bunch of lackluster ideas around. We agreed that we wanted some sort of guitar lead thing, but also knew that we had waded into that water a bunch of times already and didn’t want to just swim in the same damn place as a band. Personally, I was feeling like I had fallen into a shitty rut as a bass player and wanted to make more of a groove than just playing fills that showed I practiced scales. Duff suggested playing chords on the bass, which to me is akin to saying “Would you like to go to a Blue Jays game?” Colin and I worked on the structure of the outro pretty thoroughly and, if we’re being real, that is a musical composition that I look at and say “Damn Timmy, that is interesting.” 

More so than any other song we had, Duff thought we had to totally rework this one, which Mark echoed. Duff took off by himself and totally reworked to whole song so that the only parts that stayed were the beginning and end. And now it works! I guess!

I do really like this song a lot and I think I’m the only member of the band who considers it one of his favourite jams. It came together well and everybody gets to riff a lot in it and it doesn’t even sound like Tigers Jaw anymore. The intro is heavy, there’s tons of bass riffs, cool chords and a spacey outro with a zany keyboard sound. Cool. Fucking. Beans.

Alexandria

If you were to approach me and ask “Timmy, name me a song off of your second album, Sovereignties.” I would reply “Why, how about the song ‘Alexandria’!” This is because “Alexandria” was the first song we finished for the record. It was started with “St. John the Baptist” and “Monkey Paw” when Mark, Duff, and I jammed ideas for new songs in Mark’s bedroom and flew out of us at practice. We wrote one version, decided it needed some fixing and then bam! Song done. And man it felt like we had done something way better and interesting than anything on Ecotone. The parts we came up with just flowed pretty naturally into the next thing and it wound up being a really fun jam to jam. It was written so long ago that we jammed it in Colin’s parents’ basement!
In Duff’s words, “I wish we could just keep writing songs like that.”

And we did!

The song is titled “Alexandria”, which references the old Greek city in Egypt, and Duff, who often second guesses his decisions song-wise, almost wanted to change the title. Fortunately, we did not, because I think it’s a great title.

You think that when you finish a song and then keep playing it at practice for like two fucking years that you would get tired of it, but I really haven’t. I still bang my head a little every time we start to intro because I love playing this damn song. This was also the first song that we started mixing into live shows as well, so it feels way more familiar than anything else on Sovereignties. For a while I kind of separated “Alexandria” from the rest of the Sovereignties songs because it was done while the others were still being tinkered with. But then when we recorded them it instantly fit so perfectly with all the others in their order. Honestly, I don’t think it is a stretch to say that this is the definitive Beat Noir song.

St. Michael the Archangel

I really appreciate it when a band puts recurring musical themes on an album that return to remind the listener that they are listening to a work of art. That might sound pompous, but I do believe it. Every album is created by the artist to be consumed as a body of work. They work on the track order, the album art, the cohesion of the lyrics, and many other factors to ensure that each track fortifies that other ones. I find that most people are very track-oriented in their listening today, and favour just listening to singles on Youtube, which I find incredibly stupid. More and more, people are just trying glean the bare bones content from things, whether it be listening to songs on Youtube or just scrolling though a long article to get the gist of it. Embrace length and depth. Enjoy the ride. Realize that “St. Michael the Archangel” completes the album and ties it back to Ecotone.

-Timmy