Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sedated and Shameless

Today I found out, through a Facebook post, that the Pity Sex has decided to call it day. Given that vocalist/guitarist Britty Drake decided to leave the band earlier this year, and her voice was so integral to the band's sound, I figured it was a matter of time before Pity Sex was toast.

This is normal. The first I recall hearing about Pity Sex was when their demo came out in 2011, so it's totally normal for a band who's been active that long to expire. Putting out two full-lengths, an EP, and two splits is a great career of music to hang your hat on and nothing to be ashamed of.

I'm usually pretty hesitant to put up eulogies for bands up on here because bands come and go so easily. If I wanted to give praise to every band that I thought was great a break up, it would dominate the whole friggin' site. This case seemed important though, as Pity Sex's music dominated a brief, but notable period of my life.

As I said, I caught wind of the band in 2011, because a girl I followed on tumblr posted about them a few times, but that was not when I started listening to them at all. I actually remember the moment I did quite well.

At the time, I was living in a basement apartment in Waterloo with Mark. I was working the worst job I've ever had and the only things I found myself enjoying were plodding along on Beat Noir's absolutely awful EP Permanently and volunteering with kids at the city's art gallery. This was a time when Mark was also going through some shit, starting a similarly awful job and a long-term relationship ending, and that served to unite us, along with Duff, in the way that only a shared experience like that can.

One night, Duff picked me up and we then went to go grab Mark from his auto rental sales job. It was deep winter and we were driving through what must have been the snowiest part of the year. If you looked out the window, it seemed like all you saw was white and black. Duff put on Pity Sex's album Feast of Love and I asked who they were. When I found out, I said I had tried to get into them, but hadn't succeeded. Duff said he liked it because they had trimmed down the songs and made everything faster. Though Feast of Love is a 10-song full-length and Dark World is a 6-song EP, they're almost the same length. I said I liked it. Mark go in the car and immediately said he liked it too.

When summer came around, Feast of Love became my go-to album when leaving the house. I started each day by skateboarding downhill down King St in Waterloo and Pity Sex, combined with hot, sunny weather, seemed like the perfect companion to this. Feast of Love became an integral part of my day and, apologies for the cliché, the soundtrack to my day-to-day activities. Well, it and Self-Titled by Tigers Jaw, which has its own story as well. The quick and dreamy shoegaze of the band was exceptionally suited to my lifestyle and influenced a lot of stuff I did. It's also an album that Mark, Duff, and I can all agree on, which is special and rare.

When I started university that fall I kept listening to Pity Sex and also started dating Rebecca. While we do overlap in our musical tastes, we also differ a fair amount. Pity Sex was an early thing that we both shared our enthusiasm for and exists in the centre of the Venn diagram that illustrates our tastes.

Pity Sex toured with Ceremony in the summer of 2015 and Rebecca and I went to the show together. This was the only time that I saw the band. They played great and though the show wasn't exceptionally noteworthy, the entire experience of watching them play for 30 minutes with Rebecca was special.

White Hot Moon didn't do much for me and Dark World doesn't either, to be honest, but Feast of Love and the split with Adventures is just wonderful. The degree to which Pity Sex influenced the current shoegaze leanings of emo is also something that, though not objective, is also not talked about.

Kudos to Pity Sex for all they accomplished with their music.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Can We Just Lie Here and Find a Way to Kill Some Time Here

This Friday marks the opening of the new fall exhibitions at my work and that means an influx of work to go along with it. That means longer hours and less time to write. I'm sort of short on ideas right now, but do have a backlog of topics in my drafts, so my current plan is to knock one of those out to get myself back on track and resume my life as a content mule.

In the meantime, I thought I would talk about some music I've been into lately because that is easy for me to do and it's also something I used to do a lot and I kind of wish I did more.

Oso Oso played Toronto last night and I made a point to go. I find it's easy to let shows fall by the wayside while I'm busy with work and I hate that that has become a habit. The last time I saw Oso Oso, they were opening for The Hotelier and they blew me away. They sit at a halfway point between current "emo revival" bands like The World is a Beautiful Place and The Hotelier et al. and Third Eye Blind's Self-Titled, which happens to be one of my favourite albums. They pull off this mixture perfectly and are big-time on melody, guitar riffs, and vocal harmonies. This time they were on a smaller headlining tour and were just as good. The band is tight as hell and great at what they do. I was ready to sing along to my favourite bangers from the most excellent Real Stories of True People, Who Kind of Looked Like Monsters... (DISCLAIMER: LISTEN TO THAT RECORD), but was instead greeted by a set that was like half new songs that were just as good, if not better, than what I had already heard.

I can't say enough great things about that band. They're going to be big shit soon and if they aren't, they deserve to be. Support them.

Since last Friday I've also been going hard on the new Joyce Manor album, Cody. Every time Joyce Manor puts out something new, it also causes to revisit everything else they've put out. This time was no different and I've been in full Joyce Manor Mode since Cody came out. I really appreciate and love when band's try to do something new for each record and Joyce Manor is a great example of that. They started with a wonderful debut album that was equal parts emo, hardcore, and pop-punk, but in a way that was completely different from the awful, whiney, breakdown-heavy version that most losers were into. Instead of building on that sound and cashing in on hype, they put out an abrasive 9-song, 14-minute follow up that weirded a ton of people out. Of the 9 songs, two are short acoustic songs, one's a (phenomenal) cover of "Video Killed the Radio Star", and one uses a lo-fi synth as its base. While I initially wasn't huge on the record, but loved the idea, I now find myself coming back to it a lot. THEN, they hit everyone with a polished 3rd album of pop-punk hits that remain short, to-the-point, and idiosyncratic.

I lovelovelovelove bands who aren't afraid to write short songs and albums. "Keep it simple stupid."

With all of this said, I've been thinking that Cody may be my favourite of their's yet and also probably my favourite thing released this year. The band has started to show a huge power-pop influence (a direct path to my heart) and Cody sees the band taking healthy doses of Blue and #1 Record, in addition to their usual influences. It's mature and a great take on a sound that I daydream about using myself a lot. A link to the album is at the start of the preceding paragraph.

Joyce Manor is a band whose sound and influences have grown along with me, which has really endeared them to me. Their music has stuck around with me and now, like 7 years later, they are all of a sudden near the top of my favourite bands and definitely one of the current bands that matters the most, IMO. An odd reason that I feel really attached to them is that if I were still really serious about writing songs, and I had continued writing and working them after I just sort of stopped a few years ago, then I think Barry and I would have very similar writing styles. It's cool to see the style I sort of worked within be taken and done extremely well and much better than I ever came close to doing.

Good record. You should listen!

Another record that has been in regular rotation during my work hours is the most recent full-length by LVL UP, Return to Love. I love me some poppy, fuzzy indie rock and this album delivers that in spades. The songs kind of sound like In the Aeroplane Over the Sea to me, albeit without the acoustic instruments and the distinctive lyrics. Does that make sense? Listen, and you'll get it. Good. A good record that will no doubt be on my end of the year list of favs.

Lastly, I've been hanging out a lot with Thin Lizzy's Fighting, which is the record before the one that everyone knows. I love Thin Lizzy and feel like they are unjustly overlooked in the revered pantheon of 70's rock band. They got riffs. Fuck do they ever have riffs. This record probably deserves as much attention as anything from the decade.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Words that I'll Read and Re-Write

From yesterday:

"I certainly feel like I need to eulogize Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but maybe I'll wait until the team's playoff fate is decided before I do that."

I think that one of them, uhhhhh, did something yesterday?

An incredibly exciting game. One of the very best in Blue Jays history.

After playing what then could have been his last home game as a Blue Jay against Baltimore last week, Edwin said something to the effect of "That's not the way I want to go out." He did much more than that, providing me, and all Jays fans, with a moment that will live forever. I jumped up and yelled "Oh my god!" immediately running back and forth across my apartment. The raised arms with the bat falling. Taking the parrot for a walk in the most dramatic fashion possible. These are the moments that you wait and hope for as a baseball fan and Toronto Blue Jays fans have been lucky enough to experience many of them over the last two years because of the high number of special players on the team.

In Eddie's words, from his post-game, champagne-soaked interview:

"Yeah, that's why I want to come back here. And I did it. Yeaaaaahhhhhh!"

Before I go on to give my thoughts about Edwin Encarnacion, I feel that I should link to an excellent article by John Lott on Edwin from last week:

Lott: Edwin Encarnacion can see the end of his Blue Jay career coming, but isn't ready for it yet

I feel a fierce sense of pride and ownership towards Edwin Encarnacion. He's been on the Jays for a long time (came in a trade for SCOTT ROLEN in 2009!) and the early days of that was markedly different from the huge success he has achieved with the team over the last few years. He hit for a bit of power, hitting 5 home runs in four-game series twice in 2010, but was abysmal playing 3rd base and ultimately a mixed bag. He was thrown into the trade because the Jays needed someone to replace Rolen at third and that made me a little antagonistic towards him at first. The joy of watching Scotty fuckin' Rolen play third base for the Jays had been taken away from me, so naturally the guy who replaced him seemed like just the worst.

Eddie's nickname at this time was "E5", the scoring note for an error by a third baseman, and boy, was it ever apt. Throws kind of went everywhere. But he had his moments. I remember going to a game early on in the 2012 season with my brother while talking with him about which player t-shirt he would like to get, him jokingly suggesting "E5" because he had piled up a decent amount of home runs early in the season. The thing is, though, that Edwin never stopped hitting them that year and ended up with 42 at year's end to go along with a move to first base. After Jose Bautista had his coming out party in 2010, Edwin followed and the Jays all of a sudden had as potent of a 3-4 combination that existed in major league baseball.

Edwin hasn't let up since and has turned into one of the true offensive forces in the game. A once-in-a-generation player for this team. Edwin and Jose Bautista are Toronto's "Bash Brothers" or "Manny and Papi". An offensive force that is as fun to watch as they are talented and something that the rest of the league wishes they could have. During Spring Training in 2014 my dad and I were talking about the team and he described Edwin at-bats as "just a joy to watch". There is no better way to describe them.

While Edwin was still struggling through his 2009-2011 seasons with the Jays, Jose Bautista was at the peak of his career. Jose was everything. Maybe the best position player in the league and a peerless power hitter. Couple this with a fiery temper, and we (Jays fans) all thought he was the best thing to happen to the team in a long time. The prospect hugging that I had gotten used to with the Jays suddenly turned into "We can't waste this version of Jose Bautista." Something I thought was weird though, was that out of all the players on the team, Jose seemed to be best friends with Edwin Encarnacion.

The first time I noted this was when the two of them went on a fishing trip together on a day off. Why wasn't Jose friends with the better players on the team? It didn't make a lot of sense to me at the time, but is really funny to think of in hindsight. The two of them started to do a "flex" celebration after one of them hit a home run, which is absolutely the precursor to the popular wild and complicated handshakes that the Jays have with each other now.

Only after a few seasons did I start to get a sense of Edwin's personality and how he is the most care-free, joyous, and funny guy on the team. A big part of this is that he rarely does interviews in English, so Torontonians who receive most of their information on players through English media outlets aren't as privy to his character as his teammates are. His teammates all seem to love him, so it's been a neat ride over the 8 years of discovering the type of guy he is through small snapshots of clubhouse life through twitter and instagram.

Once I saw what Edwin was actually like, it was hard to believe I ever disliked him and thought he was bad at baseball. I hate that I ever thought he was bad at baseball, because he brings a great joie de vivre to the Jays is absolutely integral to the team's identity and also its success.

Case in point is the interview he did after hitting a colossal moonshot in the 11th inning yesterday that also sent the team to the ALDS.

First he gives a fairly standard answer, through a translator, to the fairly standard question of "What were you thinking in that at-bat?" The reporter then asks about his apparent goodbye salute to the 'Dome and Edwin responds, in heavily-accented English:

"Thass why, thass why I wanna come back here because that happened tonight! Yeaaaahhhh!"

This sounded like it was little league player talking about a walk-off home run he had just hit to give his friends the victory and I think that that type of boyhood astonishment and "Man, that thing I just did? That was awesome!" tone is so endearing and amazing. It makes me happy to see him succeed after he endured early in his career here and it certainly contributes to the "older brother" feeling I have towards him, despite him being a Dominican man who is 6 years my senior.

I never want him to leave because there is no doubt in my mind that if he stayed he would become a David Ortiz-type figure for Toronto. And I just love watching him play so much. But he might. He probably will.

But that's also a conversation for December. For now the conversations should all be about the home run he hit last night and how we've seen him do it so many times before and we're going to see him do it a few more times this October.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Luck Be a Lady Tonight

After the Toronto Blue Jays lost back-to-back series against the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, dropping 2 out of 3 games to each, most Jays fans had resigned themselves to the fact that the team would probably be participating in the Wild Card play-in game. I tried to convince myself that they would go on a big winning streak and jump over Boston one last time to win the division, but I think that was mostly a deliberately optimistic response to the deluge of overly-negative haters in Toronto (a problem that plagues the city's sports teams), and I think deep, deep down, I mostly knew they were going to the Wild Card game.

This will be a significant episode in my life as a Blue Jays fan because it's something that's never happened before. The stupid, ridiculous, engaging, and exciting one-game Wild Card game was brought in in 2012 with the purpose of keeping more teams in the playoff hunt later into the season and, in the process, keeping more fanbases interested for longer. Despite how silly I might think a one-game playoff is, it has, without a doubt, done what it was intended to. I personally don't think that the game of baseball is well-suited to the "win and you're in" style of the game the way that American Football is. But it is must-watch. I don't want the Jays to participate in it, because any team can be great for just one game and no matter how you slice it, the Jays' chances are 50%. I would love if they had won the division and guaranteed a best-of-5 series. But that chance, the darker 50% chance, is what makes it crazy. You don't know what's going to happen.

Like I said, nothing like this has happened to the Blue Jays before. The Wild Card game is new and this is the first time that the Jays have participated in it, so I'll remember it forever. It'll either be an addition to last year's story of winning and playoff participation led by Jose, Eddie, Tulo, Russ, Josh, or it will be another addition to the much longer story of the team falling just short of contention.

But at least they're playing at home. It will be crazy and it will be loud.

I've really felt the need to write about the end of this baseball season and the myriad feelings it has wrought, but it's hard to do so and make it relevant always and not just tied to one specific weekend in the 2016 season. A sportswriter I am not. I certainly feel like I need to eulogize Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but maybe I'll wait until the team's playoff fate is decided before I do that.

Beat the fucking Orioles guys. Let's go.

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.