Time’s the Revelator

Ohhhh man, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings are blowing my mind. This song, this fine performance video, in particular.

Bill Fucking Cosby

Among his many more serious crimes, Bill Cosby has broken my heart a bit. I say this now because every time I go through my iTunes, I see the TWELVE records by him I’ve collected (including the rare find The Salvation Army Band which I ripped from vinyl) and have to consider deleting them.

When I was a kid, my father had a few Cosby records, and we listened to them together: Why is there Air? and I Started Out as a Child and To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With. I memorized them and recounted them for the other kids in the schoolyard. We borrowed others from the Sarnia Public Library repeatedly (Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow, Right!). In school we were thrilled and moved by a screening of Cosby’s anti-racism piece (a guy in a chair just listing types of people he hates), which may have been the first provocative satire I ever saw.

He reigned for me until I found Steve Martin, but he remained a touchstone. Forever. Til he was outed as a rapist, and a ruiner of lives, and a liar.

When Cat Stevens approved of the fatwah against Salman Rushdie (back in the late 80s), radio stations stopped playing his music in protest. I thought it was stupid to do – thought we should separate the music from the artist, etc. – and I made that my solid opinion going forward. Until this.

Now I’m looking at the records in my iTunes library, I can’t imagine laughing at them again, although I can clearly remember laughing at them before, and why I loved them. I still feel sort of proud of the Salvation Army Band record, on which he sings Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band. But. It’s ruined.

I can even imagine eventually forgetting this outrage, putting it in a mental box and not thinking about it, but I don’t want to.

What a loss. (Thank you to those childhood heroes who didn’t turn out to be rotten people. Mister Rogers, Steve Martin, I’m looking at you guys. Thanks.)

[Move to Trash]

Screenshot 2015-09-13 09.47.32

Hydrothermal Vents, Listened to Correctly

I first listened to Hydrothermal Vents on my laptop, which I have now learned was an error. I was intrigued by the music, bookmarked them to check out live sometime, but didn’t listen much afterwards. But then the band did a crowd-source thing to fund a tour (good idea), and I contributed a bit, and got the record in the mail. And listened to it on the stereo. And had to wonder: how many great things have I missed by listening it first on shitty speakers? I must change my ways and be a little more thoughtful.

– Because Secrets of the Deep is fantastic when you hear it in its detailed glory. I’ve listened to the record for a week now, and hear more every time. It’s thoughtful, textured work by a talented and complementary duo. John Tielli (CLARK the band) and Tessa Kautzman (Yellowjacket Avenger) have done something great.

I don’t review music anymore, having realized that I have nearly nothing to say. But I want to recommend this album. I love the sound, which comes from the same musical neighbourhood as Geoffrey Pye’s YJA (rhythmic, textured, informed by post-punk sensibilities, experimental but visceral) and makes me wish I lived in Montreal a bit. I won’t bother trying to describe it, not really. Check this out, and try and hear it on a set of real speakers. I really dig this record.

https://thehydrothermalvents.bandcamp.com/track/fish-out-of-land

Brown Sabbath

I got to see Brown Sabbath in Chicago last week and want you to know about it. They’re a band named Brownout, playing the tribute role, doing Sabbath covers with bold horns and Latin rhythms (in addition to the thundering rock kit). It’s a fantastic experiment – the crowd were hopping and singing along. Check out the Bandcamp page for a peek (and here’s them on FB) but trust me: if you can see them live, it rocks harder. Really really hard. I’d see them again in a heartbeat.

Scrapple.

Been listening to this song for a decade easy – finally googled it. Song first. Pictures follow.

Campfire Songs part two.

While I’m thinking about this:

when I worked in Summer camps, in my early 20s, I was irritated that all of the “camp songs” were from the 60s. Puff the Magic Dragon, Cats in the Cradle, Leaving on a Jet Plane, Old Man, even James Taylor (why?). I guess the people running them were of that age – boomers – and they lend themselves well to acoustic strumming.

So friends and I started introducing others. We did REM, Lyle Lovett, Lemonheads, (it was the early 90s) and my favourite, You Can Call Me Al, which works well. They’ll learn all the words.

If you’re working in a camp this summer, don’t get swept up in that 60s crap. Sing your own songs (including Fuck the Police when the bosses aren’t around). Also, if they start that fake-out “Indian” crap, pretending to be First Nations, tell them it’s racist.

This video isn’t me.

Campfire Songs part one.

I haven’t written in ages and ages. Here I am. No time has passed on the screen.

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I went on a canoe trip with 7 excellent teenagers a couple weeks ago. We were paddling across Canoe Lake, the entry point for many trips into Algonquin Park. And the two guys in the canoe with me started singing. They sang the theme music from Pirates of the Caribbean (I had to ask what it was) and they sang a rude song from South Park about prostitutes (still mean to look it up). And then they busted into NWA’s Fuck the Police (probably spelled tha). One kid knew every word. The other did the chorus, with squeaky weird vocalizations filling in for the scratchy whatever that they used on the recording. Fuck the police – eaky eak – fuck – fuck – fuck the police! I was laughing hard.

Twenty three years ago I had been a camp counsellor and had heard the song for the first time this way: six kids marching up the camp road chanting it. I didn’t know anything about rap then – this was part of how I came to enjoy it. I was twenty one, raised on rock music.

So I returned from the trip and spent last week re-listening and re-listening to the track. I looked for a video (I didn’t find one – or rather, I found plenty of homemade ones). I didn’t have a TV twenty three years ago. And there was no internet (well…). I was overwhelmed by one line, which will always be, from now on, hollered by a kid with long hair in the front of a canoe, because it was the first time I had ever really gotten what it meant:

fuckin with me cuz I’m a teenager! (with a little bit of gold and a pager!)

The song is just astonishing: the precision of the rapping and the timing of the hits, all like beautiful punches in the face, James Brown funky, the shape-of-things-to-come sounds behind the words. I love it. But it had not hit me until 2014 that these guys, in 1988, were kids. Kids as young as the kids in the canoe, kids as young as the kids marching down the camp road. That’s astonishing to me now. The song means more to me now. Now I hear the bravado and the fear and the desperation more clearly.

Dig it:

(there are plenty of homemade videos featuring horrible police brutality. I just want to think about the music here. Close your eyes. Turn it up first.)

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