Friday, September 23, 2005

Porcella, The Deadly Snakes' fourth album, shows the band continuing to expand its horizons from its greasy garage rock roots without turning its back on where it came from. There's a bit of The Doors in album-opener Debt Collection, a bluesy rock number with some sax. There are lots of strings in 200 Nautical Miles and the collection-closing A Bird In The Hand Is Worthless. The organ plays a large role in the garage-rockin' Sissy Blues, while the blues-based Let It All Go is largely acoustic. Co-frontman André Ethier plays toy piano and sounds like Eric Burdon in the context of High Prices Going Down, while reminding me of Nick Cave in So Young & So Cruel. Melotron is used to good effect on the fun, melodic and varied Gore Veil. There are musical similarities to Tom Waits' work on Work, while horns add extra life and spirit to the rollicking By Morning, It's Gone. The Banquet offers up a garage rock gospel revival.
While Porcella is solid, The Deadly Snakes really come into their own on stage. I've seen the group twice since June and believe that it's one of the best live bands in Toronto. Hopefully I can get motivated enough after barbecuing myself a nice steak to get out of the house and see the Snakes play Lee's Palace at midnight tonight. I'm sure that it will be a hot show.
I just had my first listen to Ryan Adams & The Cardinals' new Jacksonville City Nights CD and, like on this year's earlier Cold Roses double-album, Ry-Ry is once again exercising his country side. Opener A Kiss Before I Go is a traditional hurtin' country song with pedal steel, piano and violin. It's also one of the best cuts on the album. The Hardest Part uses strings while still shuffling along smartly, while pedal steel helps propel the lively My Heart Is Broken. Trains picks up momentum like a chugging locomotive, while Hard Way To Fall and Withering Heights are also standouts. Norah Jones duets with Adams on the piano-based Dear John, while Silver Bullets is another piano-based ballad. Much of the lyrical content is melancholy, and there are more than a few death references scattered through the album's 14 tracks. Like Cold Roses, I enjoyed Jacksonville City Nights, but didn't find it exceptional.

Thanks to Greg Bennett for the link.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Ice-T is to produce David Hasselhoff's first hip-hop album.
The pair are neighbours in Los Angeles and are said to have struck up a close friendship.
Hasselhoff has had some success as a singer, releasing seven albums. He's also said to be very popular in Germany.
Ice-T, who was one of the first real hip-hop stars in the late 1980s, said: "The man is a legend. And we are going to show a whole new side of him."
The rapper is said to be convinced that the 51-year-old for Knight Rider and Baywatch actor can take on the biggest names in rap, reports The Sun.
Ice-T added: "He's gonna come out as Hassle The Hoff - I promise you. The Hoff will surprise people with his rap skills and humour."

One of my best friends in high-school was nicknamed The Hoff. I can't remember why. But if he hadn't died in a car accident almost 20 years ago, I know that he could have delivered a much more inspired rap album than David.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I went to a showcase at Revival last evening where Nickel Creek played eight songs from its new Sugar Hill album, Why Should The Fire Die?, which came out last month. I had heard the group's two previous albums and respected the musicianship, but they did little to excite me. After hearing the band live, I have even more respect for its playing and got more out of Why Should The Fire Die?. The southern California group mixes bluegrass with folk and country music to come up with a sound that's hard to pigeon-hole. Frontman, mandolin and bouzouki player Chris Thile is a great picker and an energetic and enthusiastic performer who's good at engaging a crowd. The brother-sister team of guitarist Sean Watkins and fiddler Sara Watkins, as well as stand-up bassist Mark Schatz, are also definitely talented. The three main group members write all of their own material, though Gary Louris from The Jayhawks collaborated with Thile on Jealous of the Moon and they cover Bob Dylan's Tomorrow Is A Long Time on the new disc. The young band members were very polite when I had a drink with them after the performance, and Thile told a great story about playing mandolin for a very sleepy but appreciative Bill Monroe when he was just 13 (but was already sponsored by Gibson).
While the pints of Amsterdam Nut Brown Ale and the excellent appetizers at Revival were quite tasty, I still needed to partake of a two-for-three-dollar falafel sandwich deal on my walk down to the Horseshoe to see The Novaks.
The Novaks' self-titled debut album was released in Canada last month by Warner-distributed Sonic Records, and the Newfoundland band's excellent Goodbye Rock and Roll Band is currently at Canadian radio and video stations. The band adds more rock to the mix live than it does on record, and you can hear elements of The Flashing Lights, The Rolling Stones, The Joel Plaskett Emergency and label- and frequent tourmate Matt Mays in its music. The band's set picked up momentum as it played its catchier songs toward the end of the night, and the crowd's response was robust. Look for the group's young career to start picking up more momentum soon, too.
Happy first day of autumn.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Check out the FEMA for Kidz Rap at

np Franz Ferdinand vs. The Knack vs. Run DMC - Do You Wanna Cuz It's Tricky?

Monday, September 19, 2005

Holy Microphone, Batman, I've found a great band and album.
Holy Microphone is a Toronto combo formerly known as Hannah featuring Mark Gabriel, Debbie Lillico (Cool Trout Basement) and Kirk Hudson (Wayne Omaha) -- all alumni members of Knockout Pill -- with guitarist Fred Robinson of The Chickens/U.I.C. and bassist/guitarist/producer Duncan Blair from The Mummers. The group had the release party for its Goodbye Television Girl debut album last Tuesday at the Horseshoe Tavern, and everyone I talked to in attendance was as enthusiastic
about it as I was.
Gabriel handles the majority of the vocals, while Lillico trades off with him at times and Robinson takes a very rare vocal turn on All The Leaves, which features a wall of guitars. Live, Gabriel's voice sounds a lot like David Lowery of Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven. But the resemblance isn't as noticeable on the disc, which was recorded at Peter Hudson's Hallamusic studio.
Album opener Illuminate The Girl reminds me of the pop parts of the Velvet Underground's debut album, while the slower The Weekend Tomorrow has hints of VU acolyte Dean Wareham's Galaxie 500 and Luna. The disc-ending Sally's On Fire has a big drum introduction and I heard elements of Television (yet another New York band that owes a debt to VU) when the band opened its show with it.
Somewhat jangly and rootsy power pop sounds shine through on Lesley, Sister Song, Feathers and Beatle Bob, a song dedicated to the odball St. Louis scenester who travels across North America to do some bad dancing at the front of the stage for bands he likes. I know a lot of people hate Bob, but there's no way that you can hate this song, and I'm sure that the mop-topped, '60s-suited one would enjoy cutting a rug to it.
For what it's worth, I was captured on film talking to Beatle Bob on a bus in Austin this past March at South By Southwest. A crew is making a documentary on him, so I could be appearing at a low-budget film festival near you sometime.
Quite simply, Goodbye Television Girl is one of the best albums that I've heard this year.
Unfortunately, the web site isn't operational at the moment. But that should hopefully change soon. In the meantime, if you're interested in buying the album, it was just released in Canada by Maple/Universal-distributed Rubber Road Records, which can be contacted at
The Chicago Bears were coached by Dick Jauron a few years ago until he was fired because the team was so woeful. To put that into a British musical context, you can sing "We don't need Dick Jauron" to the same tune as the chorus of Spandau Ballet's Chant No. 1 (I Don't Need This Pressure On). I have no idea of why I thought of that.
And why didn't anyone at the NFL head office think of scheduling a Buccaneers-Raiders game for Monday Night Football tonight? It's not like they didn't know that Talk Like A Pirate Day would fall on a Monday this year when they were drawing up the schedule.
Ahoy mateys!
For those of you cast adrift on the high seas, or who simply don't know any better, today is Talk Like A Pirate Day.
Visit for more details on this annual buccaneer holiday.
To fully experience this important event, enjoy a cup of grog with your grub, do a hornpipe and then shiver me timbers.
Captain Steve
The Toronto Independent Music Awards (I much prefer TIMA) will be held at The Phoenix on Wed. Oct. 5. There will be perfomances by 13 acts and awards handed out in 21 categories. But I must ask why, as a person who's pretty in tune with the Toronto music scene, haven't I heard of the vast majority of the performers and nominees? The event is being run by a British-born Californian named Martin Brown who has no roots in the Toronto indie music community in partnership with a company called The Pandemonium Project -- which was founded by Daniela Oliva, is based in Woodbridge, Ont., and which I've never heard of. Potential nominees had to submit a $25 entry fee to be considered, and tickets cost $10. Those numbers are by no means exorbitant, but I still smell a cash grab at work here. Perhaps the event wasn't publicized well enough, and a lot of worthy acts didn't enter because they weren't aware of it. Or perhaps these acts shared my skepticism of the whole thing and didn't get involved. I'm all for promoting Toronto talent, and hope that the night is a success for all involved, but there's just nothing about the show for me to be enthusiastic about and a bit to raise my suspicions about the motivation behind it.

np The Rasmus - Hide From The Sun (further proof that Laika & The Cosmonauts remain Finland's best band)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

I just returned home from the Queen West Art Crawl, a weekend-long festival celebrating the arts in my neighbourhood. There were more than 100 exhibitors at Trinity Bellwoods Park, but four of them stood out for me.
Rob Croxford ( often mixes quotes from old etiquette books with pre-1950 iconography to establish a vintage look in his paintings, in which observers will find elements of satire, irony and humour -- depending on their perspective. I spent more time at Rob's booth than any other.
Pei Lin Chen ( creates human portraits in wire mesh. The 3D creations are quite unique and life-like for those looking for something other than paintings or photos for their walls.
I've admired the work of Ruby Zhang ( for a few years. Her watercolour paintings of Toronto buildings and neighbourhoods, many of which I walk by all the time, capture their spirit very well and help put these places in a slightly different perspective for me.
Stephen Murphy (, a native Antiguan and ska fan who now lives in Toronto, does similar things with Toronto streetscapes, but with less realism, bolder colours and more playfulness. Streetcars play a role in many of his works.
I walked further west along Queen Street to the Edward Day Gallery, where I had a glass of wine, and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, where I was generally disappointed with works from the RBC Canadian Painting Competition. But I guess that should be expected from bank-sponsored art. I crossed the street to the Centre For Addiction and Mental Health to listen to the Parkdale Drummers and see some more art before heading home. It was a nice way to while away a few hours on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Rockabilly fans, rejoice!
That's the main message I want to get across after listening to Brian Setzer's Rockabilly Riot! Volume One - A Tribute to Sun Records. Setzer set his sights on Sun's 1954-1957 catalogue and chose 23 songs to interpret and record here using vintage equipment and original drum charts. While there are familiar numbers like Carl Perkins' Blue Suede Shoes and Johnny Cash's Get Rhythm, there are also excellent songs by other artists I've never heard of like Jack Earls, Kenny Parchman, Carl Mann, Gene Simmons (no, not that Gene Simmons), Ernie Barton, Dean Beard and Ray Harris. And then there are songs that I know, but more through covers and not the original versions. These include Red Hot, Boppin' The Blues and Red Cadillac and A Black Moustache (all covered by Robert Gordon, who I've seen half-a-dozen times and who seems due to return to Toronto again soon), Jerry Lee Lewis' Real Wild Child (covered by Teenage Head) and Rockhouse (covered by The Bop Cats). There really isn't any filler here, and the love which the former Stray Cats frontman and guitarist has for this repertoire is obvious.
I don't know if it says more about me, or the state of current music, but two of my favourite albums this year -- this and Jimmie Dale Gilmore's Come On Back -- all reach back to focus on songs that are 50 years old. Look for both of them and you won't be disappointed if you like looking back to one of the golden ages of music.

np Blue Jays 3 - Yankees 1 after one inning
Pere Ubu's name was taken from the central character in a series of absurdist plays by 19th century French playwright Alfred Jarry.
Since this month marks the 30th anniversary of Pere Ubu recording its 30 Seconds Over Tokyo debut single, I've revisited the band's catalogue this week -- minus 1991's Worlds In Collision, 1996's Folly of Youth, 1998's Pennsylvania and some live albums, none of which I've heard all of.
The Cleveland-based avant-rock band rose from the ashes of Rocket From The Tombs, which also helped spawn the Stiv Bators-fronted Dead Boys. Although original member Peter Laughner had long since died, Rocket From The Tombs reformed for a 2003 tour with a lineup that was still fronted by David Thomas but included Television guitarist Richard Lloyd and Dead Boys guitarist Cheetah Chrome. I saw the band at Lee's Palace and it was almost like walking into a previously unopened vault and becoming mesmerized. That lineup released Rocket Redux, the band's only official release, as only demos and bootlegs were circulated from back in the day.
Terminal Drive, the fifth and final CD on the Datapanik in the Year Zero box set that inexplicably came out on Geffen in 1996, collects rare Pere Ubu-related recordings from the mid-'70s Cleveland scene. It includes the Rocket From The Tombs version of 30 Seconds Over Tokyo and a live version of Amphetamine recorded at the original band's very last show. The disc ends with Pere Ubu covering The Seeds' Pushin' Too Hard. But there are many other acts on the album that most people who weren't part of the Cleveland scene would have never heard of, and I'm particularly impressed with Foreign Bodies' The Incredible Truth, Carney and Thomas' Sunset in the Antipodes, Neptune's Car's Baking Bread, Tripod Jimmie's Autumn Leaves, Friction's Dear Richard, Pressler-Morgan's You're Gonna Watch Me, Mirrors' She Smiled Wild, Electric Eels' Jaguar Ride (featuring Cramps drummer Nick Knox), Tom Herman's Steve Canyon Blues and Thomas with a solo work called Atom Mind that's partly adapted from Lee Dorsey's Working In A Coalmine. The material ranges from avant-jazz-rock to happy pop-rock to Velvet Underground-influenced work. All Pere Ubu fans should pick up the box set just for that CD alone.
I find that Pere Ubu's earliest recordings, from the 1975-1977 era, hold up better than what they released later that decade and through 1982, when the band went on hiatus until reforming again in 1987.
Even though I didn't discover the band until the early '80s, it was the earlier recordings that I became familiar with first, and that's perhaps why they still hold a special place. Pere Ubu sounded like nothing else at the time and, 30 years later, still doesn't. Though I fully admit that David Thomas' strangled falsetto voice isn't to many people's tastes, and the music can sometimes be jarring, it possesses an originality and free-flowing eccentricity that inspires, especially on tracks like Final Solution, Cloud 149, Heaven, Nonalignment Pact, The Modern Dance, Street Waves, Over My Head and Humor Me.
While not as consistent, the late '70s lineup still came up with such winners as Navvy, Ubu Dance Party, The Fabulous Sequel and Lonesome Cowboy Dave.
The same can also be said of the early '80s version that produced Go, Birdies, Horses, West Side Story and Not Happy.
Pere Ubu returned from the wilderness for 1988's The Tenement Year. The oddball lyrics were still there, but there was a move to a somewhat more mainstream sound that was still out there enough to satisfy fans of the earlier stuff. Highlights include Busman's Honeymoon, Say Goodbye, Miss You and, especially, We Have The Technology.
Cloudland came a year later and stands as Pere Ubu's most overtly pop-driven album through production help from Stephen Hague (Pet Shop Boys). While not as angular as past recordings, it's not without its charming idiosyncracies. Your best bets are Breath, Race The Sun, Waiting For Mary, Bus Called Happiness, Nevada!, Love, Love, Love and Monday Night.
The sound and the band lineup was leaner for 1993's Story of My Life, which perhaps has been a tad overlooked, since it may be my favourite Pere Ubu album when listened to from start to finish. Songs like Wasted, Louisiana Train Wreck, Fedora Satellite II, Kathleen, Honey Moon, Sleep Walk, Story Of My Life and Last Will and Testament all slyly weave their way into your head.
Ray Gun Suitcase saw Pere Ubu return somewhat to its earlier, darker sounds and away from the sheen that some people had criticized it for. Listen for a cover of the Beach Boys' Surfer Girl as well as Beach Boys, Turquoise Fins and Down By The River II.
Pere Ubu's most recent album, St. Arkansas, was released in 2002. Again, it follows a twisted, spiralling path down through such songs as The Fevered Dream of Hernando DeSoto, 333 and Phone Home Jonah until, fittingly, it ends with the nine-minute Dark.
The first time I saw Pere Ubu live was at a club that I believe was in the basement of a strip mall in St. Catharines, Ont. in 1990. The show was great, but the real highlight for me was after the show. I talked to Thomas, who had a football autographed by Bernie Kosar, quarterback of the Cleveland Browns -- my favourite NFL team at the time. While the band's equipment was being taken down, the two of us stood at opposite ends of the club and played catch with the Kosar football for 10 minutes. I offered Thomas $50 for the ball. He wisely declined.
I saw Pere Ubu again when it played a free street show as part of North By Northeast at least five years ago. While it was another excellent show, no stories came out of that one. I'm hoping that the band comes back soon.
Finally, here's a scientifically accurate list of my 10 favourite Pere Ubu songs of all time: 1. Final Solution 2. Nonalignment Pact 3. We Have The Technology 4. Lonesome Cowboy Dave 5. Heaven 6. Breath 7. Street Waves (live version) 8. Sleep Walk 9. Not Happy 10. Humor Me
I just listened to the original score soundtrack to Thumbsucker, a movie that's done well on the festival circuit and opens in Los Angeles and New York today. It features Lou Pucci, Tilda Swinton, Vincent D'Onoforio, Keanu Reeves, Benjamin Bratt, Kelli Garner and Vince Vaughn.
The score was written and performed by Tim DeLaughter and The Polyphonic Spree, but it doesn't bring the sheer joy that the group's albums or, especially, it's incredibly moving live shows do. The two exceptions are Some Of The Parts (featuring some terrific theremin) and the movie's main song, Move Away and Shine (which comes in two versions).
Elliott Smith was originally to have done the soundtrack by recording covers, but his death put an end to that. Smith, however, remains represented with his own Let's Get Lost and covers of Big Star's Thirteen and Cat Stevens' Trouble. I was never much of a Smith fan, and these songs won't change that.
So while I certainly can't give this album a ringing endorsement, I know that there are those out there who will appreciate it.

np Brian Setzer - Rockabilly Riot! Volume One - A Tribute to Sun Records
I was tailgating in an Orchard Park, N.Y. parking lot before a Bills-Jets game about 10 years ago and there were two pick-up trucks full of good old boys beside us. They were discussing NASCAR, which I know little about, but I thought that I'd go over and talk to them anyway.
Two of them were wearing T-shirts that said "F.A.D.E." on the front. I asked them what that meant and they replied, "Fans Against Dale Earnheardt."
Trying to come up with a quick reply, I said, "Oh yeah? Well, I'm the president of F.A.R.T."
They looked baffled and asked what that was. I replied, "Fans Against Randy Travis."
They thought that was hillarious and gave me beers the rest of the afternoon.
I really have nothing against Randy Travis. I was given one of his guitar picks when I was in Nashville once, and that's about as much thought as I've ever given the guy.

np Pere Ubu - St. Arkansas
The launch party for Sonic, a magazine about the Galaxie and Max Trax digital music channels that I edit, was held upstairs at Sassafrazz in Yorkville on Wednesday afternoon in conjunction with CRIA, SOCAN, CIRPA, CMPA and the Toronto International Film Festival's Canadian Music Café. A number of people who I'd never met before, all dressed in business attire, came up to congratulate me. I hope that my 40-year-old pajama top and bright orange pair of Chuck Taylors didn't make them too nervous. Actually, I do.
I took my tenant/roommate Frank with me since he likes meeting new people and trying to get inside their heads as much as I dislike corporate schmoozing. Besides, he's a composer and writer, and I thought that he might be able to make some contacts. He enjoyed himself and gave away some business cards and a handful of his CDs, so hopefully something will come from it.
The Canadian Music Café featured five different Canadian artists performing five-song sets on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. Adrienne Pierce, Buck 65, Jorane, Chantal Kreviazuk, Wil, Alana Levandoski, Andy Stochansky, Sarah Slean, Jully Black and The Heavy Blinkers were among the performers.
On our day, Masia One was first up. The diminutive Singapore native, who now lives in Vancouver, had a three-piece backing band for her unexceptional rapping.
She was followed by Gordie Sampson, who I respect as a songwriter and who has collaborated with a variety of people. His voice seemed a bit hoarse.
Ron Sexsmith was next, and was great. He played some of my favourite songs (including There's A Rhythm and Gold In Them Hills) from his catalogue and the crowd was quite appreciative.
Café booker Chris Teeter was nervous about how the crowd would react to K'naan, but needn't have. This former Somalian refugee, who now lives in Toronto, performs a brand of organic hip-hop with his band that follows a similar line to K-OS. And because of his background, his words resonate. Definitely give this guy a shot if you get the opportunity.
Barenaked Lady Steven Page ended the afternoon with two songs from his band (The Old Apartment and Enid), and some of his solo stuff that left no impression on me at all.
I was given a constantly replenished supply of liquor tickets, and Frank and I made it our goal to finish the fresh bottle of Havana Club dark rum at the bar. We met that challenge. When we got home, the two of us rummies decided to do a taste test challenge between his brand (Captain Morgan) and mine (Old Sam). We drank a shot of each on their own, and then had a few more mixed with ice and cola. Old Sam was the hands-down winner. I've only seen it in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, and brought a bottle back home with me from my trip there this summer. Frank has since e-mailed the LCBO to see if it can make a special order for him to get a couple of bottles shipped this way.
After watching the Blue Jays go down to the Bosox on TV, I headed up to Lee's Palace to see The Proclaimers. I haven't seen the group since I heard it for the first time at the Pogues Picnic in Finsbury Park in London, England in 1987, but have appreciated many of Craig and Charlie Reid's songs since then. I've only listened to the guys' new Restless Soul album once since I got it this week, but I like it. And I'm sure that they played quite a few songs from it, but I just don't know them well enough to say which ones. But among the songs that I definitely recognized, I was very pleased with Letter From America, I'm On My Way, Let's Get Married, Sunshine On Leith, I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles), The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues and an encore cover of Roger Miller's King of the Road. Throw The R Away was really the only song that I wished that I had heard and didn't.
A couple of falafels for the walk home completed a full and interesting day.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Horseshoe Fury swept our first two playoff games in the Queen Street Softball League on Sunday and went back to our sponsor bar for some celebratory pitchers of Wellington and collective back-patting. That wasn't enough for many of my teammates, however, who talked me into going to Lee's Palace to see '70s Scottish hard-rock band, Nazareth (which took its name from The Band's The Weight).
I knew the band's hits from classic rock radio, and didn't mind a few of them, but this definitely wasn't the kind of show that I usually find myself at. I was probably one of the younger people in attendance and had more hair than a lot of the balding older fans. But the guys who did still have all of their hair were definitely quite proud of it and wore it as large as their Farrah-inspired wives and girlfriends. I found myself watching the crowd as much as I did the Spinal Tap spectacle on the stage. A few guys tried to get me to dance or play air guitar with them, while a surgically enhanced blonde seemed to be distracting the sound man as she bounced up and down beside him. I heckled three times and wasn't roughed up, so Nazareth fans must embrace the "Peace, love and dope" message espoused by singer Dan McCafferty.
There was a huge drum kit that hid the youngest member of the band, who obviously wasn't an original member. Bassist Pete Agnew reminded me of a less gay Rob Halford. I don't know if the guitarist was an original member or not, but he certainly looked like a time machine had dropped him from 1974 on to the stage. McCafferty has probably had a glass or two of Scotch in his lifetime to get his voice to sound like a cross between AC/DC's Brian Johnson and a messenger of Satan (if, indeed, one of Satan's messengers would be permitted to wear a vest on stage). McCafferty also had a habit of tucking his chin into his chest that made him look like Ian Drury, and gesturing with his hands so that I thought of wrestler King Kong Bundy signaling that he wanted a five-count.
The second song was Razamanaz, which isn't without its primal charms. I also remember Love Leads To Madness, Shanghai'd In Shanghai and My White Bicycle. It was quite loud and at one time I went upstairs to the Dance Cave for a respite and to hang out with Jordan, Michelle, Rachelle and DJ Jazzy Joel. I went back downstairs, only to race back up and breathlessly announce, "He's bringing out the bagpipes," before returning to hear the "Now you're messin' with a son of a bitch" chorus of Hair of the Dog. The next minute was quite surreal, as McCafferty appeared to be playing the bagpipes, but the sound emanating from the speakers was some kind of vocoder (think Peter Frampton's Show Me The Way) version of Loch Lomond. With that moment of oddness over, the band launched back into the conclusion of Hair of the Dog and played another song or two before leaving the stage.
The group returned for an encore of the Boudleaux Bryant-penned power ballad Love Hurts that had Fred and Joanne and Tima and I slowdancing like we were at a satirical high-school dance from the past. Things ended with an energetic cover of Joni Mitchell's This Flight Tonight. I think I heard every Nazareth song I know, so that was more than enough.
I was tired from playing two softball games in the hot sun, having a few beers and the Nazareth experience. But when I got home, I found that I had a very queasy stomach that has persisted until now. I don't know if I should blame it on any of the three above factors or the one-dollar hot dog I bought from a street vendor while at the Horseshoe. I haven't seen The Proclaimers since 1987 and am interested in seeing them play Lee's on Wednesday night since I like the group's new album, but in the back of my mind I have this fear that the combination of that club and Scottish bands may not be good for my health. I hope that's not the case, just in case The Rezillos ever come to Toronto.
Yesterday was also the first anniversary of my going-away party at Lee's with the Old 97s, the last band I got to see before I embarked on my around-the-world journey. Here's another thank you to all of you who helped organize that (the giant alphabet song card is still leaning up against my bedroom wall).
Nazareth will be playing Winnipeg on Wednesday night and then will continue its way westward playing a lot of venues I've never heard of in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. If you enter Nazareth at, you can see a relatively recent photo of the band (with McCafferty wearing the vest), although not the same version that played last night, as well as a vintage shot where McCafferty is wearing a Colorado Rockies hockey jersey.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

A new Statistics Canada study reports that Ontario ranks seventh among Canada's provinces and territories with per capita alcohol sales of $602. I guess that there must be a lot of teetotallers out there to skew the total that low and balance out people like me. Beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage across the country, which came as no surprise. I certainly don't mind a beer every now and then. All provinces, aside from Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, prefer red wine. I'll take white if given a choice, and I'll try to create a special event if it means I can have champagne. Whiskey is the most popular liquor in seven provinces and territories, including Ontario. I probably buy rum the most, followed by vodka and whiskey.
Let this post be a guide for those of you who don't know what to get me for Christmas or my birthday. Maybe I should create a post about cash, too, for those of you who aren't as swift on picking up subtle clues like above.
It had been at least 10 years since I'd seen what billed itself as "the Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies," but Shakes The Clown was on TV again this morning so I had to tune in. The 1992 movie starred and was directed by Bobcat Goldthwait and featured the likes of comics Robin Williams, Adam Sandler, Kathy Griffin, Julie Brown and Tim Kazurinsky. It's really not that funny, but a couple of cameos make it worth watching for me.
First is Florence Henderson playing a clown groupie who Shakes (Goldthwait) has an illicit encounter with in a gross and graphic scene that's not for those with squeamish stomachs. That's not the Carol Brady I remember.
Even better is LaWanda Page, who played the God-fearing Aunt Esther in Sanford and Son (one of my all-time favourite sitcoms) portraying a barfly clown who says, "I've got a peanut butter pussy: brown, smooth and easy to spread." A few moments later, while watching a clown with a puppy on TV, Page says, "As soon as that camera's off, he's going to fuck that little dog." I'm sorry, but seeing the woman who played Aunt Esther on TV in my formative years in the '70s uttering those lines just cracks me up.
I had been invited to a Toronto International Film Festival party for a new movie about Tommy Chong that he was supposed to be at last night, but elected to stay in. But I guess I got my comedy icon fix anyway.
The Monkees' career-torpedoing film Head came on TV at 4:30 this morning, but I fell asleep and missed it. I haven't seen that since a repertory theatre in Waterloo showed it when I was going to university there in the late '80s. Victor Mature and Frank Zappa gave the standout performances, in my mind, from that drug-fueled 1968 film starring the pre-fab four that was produced and directed by Bob Rafaelson with assistance from Jack Nicholson. Boxer Sonny Liston, football star Ray Nitschke, Teri Garr (a woman who I said that I'd one day marry about 20 years ago), Dennis Hopper and Nicholson himself are among those who also appear in the film.
Shakes and Head are both available on DVD and would make a very interesting double-bill.

Friday, September 09, 2005

I'm a fan of The Proclaimers' first three albums, but didn't get much out of a previous disc from Nettwerk earlier this decade. But I've just listened to the new Restless Soul album and quite like it. There's more instrumentation than the early days (although there's too much synthesizer on the title track), but there's a definite country element in some of the best songs like Everyday I Try and The One Who Loves You Now. And the organ and darker rootsy rock on Turning Away and What I Saw In You reminded me a lot of Blue Rodeo. I haven't seen the group since I first discovered it at the Pogues Picnic at London's
Finsbury Park in 1987, but it has a club date at Lee's Palace next week that I'm thinking of going to. Has anyone seen The Proclaimers recently and what did you think of the show?
I have no guilt whatsoever in saying that I've never seen an episode of Canadian Idol. But I recently was surprised to read the concert listings section of Now to see that a band called Hedley, which I had never heard of, had sold out The Mod Club. A few days later I found out that Hedley is a band fronted by Jacob Hoggard, who apparently was a Canadian Idol contender. I guess he was billed as the punk Canadian Idol or something like that. I recently received Hedley's debut album from Universal Music Canada and it sounds just like most of the other sludge that seems to pass for alternative rock these days. Congratulations to Hoggard, I guess, for getting an extension of your 15 minutes of fame from Canadian Idol with this album. But I can't really see it lasting much longer. Our Lady Peace is still with us, however, so I could be wrong again. Can we please hear some fresh homegrown music from the Canadian majors soon. I admit that I'm not as in tune with all of their releases as I used to be when I was immersed in it full-time, but Buck 65 is the only original sounding artist directly signed to a Canadian major who immediately jumps to mind when I think about what has been released this year. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

np Dios Malos - So Do I
I went to the launch for Dave Bidini's new The Best Game You Can Name book at The Paddock last night. The book draws parallels between the experiences of former NHL players and some of the musicians and music business people that Dave plays hockey with on a regular basis. I'm seven chapters into the easy-reading book and am enjoying it. I've known Dave since I started going to Rheostatics shows in the late '80s, and I've known some of the people he writes about almost that long, but it's interesting to read about them in ways that I'm not familiar with since I don't interact with them on the ice. I'll write more about the book when I've finished it, but I just wanted to give it an early plug now for all of you who were fans of his previous books or who are interested in former NHL players and current Toronto music scene people like I am.
Dave is also a big Stompin' Tom Connors fan, as am I (which you'd know from a previous post here if you didn't already). So is his friend Steve (the founder of the fun web site) and comic Sean Cullen, who I chatted with last night about Stompin' Tom's Wednesday night performance at Hamilton Place that EMI Music Canada will turn into a DVD later this year. Apparently Tom forgot the words to a few songs, so I guess that there may have to be some judicious editing done on it.
Also in attendance at the launch were: Dave's wife Janet; his Morningstars teammates Steve Stanley, Andy Ford, Tom Goodwin and Johnny Sinclair; Don Kerr; Tim Mech; publicist Cam Carpenter; Chart's Aaron Brophy; Pete Windrem, who you might remember from my Pamplemousse review from last month; and other people who I didn't know.
I unfortunately had to leave early to go to a meeting and missed Dave reading from his book, but he did sign my copy with "To the SS" since we both play on the Horseshoe Tavern softball team. At least Dave did until his knee started acting up this season. Get well soon, my friend. The Morningstars will need you.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A conversation from last night reminded me of the time that I met the late bassist for The Who, John Entwistle, in New Orleans in 1998.
He was walking down Bourbon Street with some of his road crew, and no-one else seemed to recognize him but my friend Kirk and I. We followed him into Pat O'Brien's bar, where we ordered some hurricanes and struck up a conversation. The Ox told me that he was playing the House of Blues in New Orleans the following night, and then was getting in a bus for a show in Minneapolis after that. I laughed. While Entwistle didn't have much of a solo career, you'd think that a member of one of the biggest bands in history could have found at least a few shows to play in between one of the southernmost cities in the U.S. and one of the most northernmost major centres. After talking for a while longer, Entwistle said that he'd put our names on the guest list for the following night's show. We walked out and my last memory is seeing Entwistle and his entourage trying to get into a strip club, and him being extremely indignant at the bouncer who didn't know who he was.
We went to House of Blues the next night and found that we weren't on the guest list. We figured that if the guy had a hard time getting into a Bourbon Street sin palace, he wasn't worth our spending $20 each to see him. We went bar-hopping yet again instead.
I just got home from the Tranzac Club, where I saw fine acoustic sets by Nancy Dutra and Greg Hobbs. I hadn't eaten all day, but it was Hobbs' manager's birthday and she had a cake, so I had a piece. I stayed and chatted with people until the club closed, and then embarked on my homeward walk.
When I got to within a few blocks of my townhouse, a guy driving a new Honda pulled up and asked me if I knew of any after-hours clubs. I don't frequent those places as much as I did a few years ago, and I didn't know any that would be open on a Tuesday night. He then asked me if I knew if there was a bisexual neighbourhood in Toronto. I told him about the gay area on Church Street, but that was the best I could offer. Is there a bisexual neighbourhood in Toronto?
A minute or two later, after the guy had driven around the block, he pulled up again and asked if I'd be interested in a sexual encounter. He was understanding when I told him that wasn't my scene and that I'm a committed heterosexual. After he drove away, I realized that I apologized for turning down his offer. In the past month a couple of my closest friends have chided me for being too honest, polite and easygoing. Normally, those are things I pride myself on. But then I thought that it was weird that I had just said sorry for refusing a ride with a guy who tried to pick me up in his car as I walked home at 3 a.m. Maybe I am too polite, but I can't see that changing.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

JC, Tara, Tima and myself ventured south of the border to Buffalo on Friday afternoon. Our first stop was the famous Anchor Bar, where we feasted on a platter of large and delicious chicken wings. The ladies had never had the Anchor Bar experience before, but I try to indulge every time I'm in Buffalo.
It was then on to Orchard Park and Ralph Wilson Stadium for an exhibition game between the Bills and the Detroit Lions. It was a totally uninspiring game, with the Lions taking a 21-7 victory. (You can see one of their touchdowns to the left.) I haven't seen all of the stats, but I'm sure there were more yards in penalties than there were in total offence. Though I haven't been much of a Lions fan since Barry Sanders retired, I was disappointed to see newly signed quarterback Jeff Garcia get clotheslined and go down after a long run. It didn't look that serious, but he was taken off the field on a cart and I found out the next day that his leg was broken and he may miss the entire season. I liked Garcia when he played in the CFL and with the San Francisco 49ers, and I was hoping that he might start ahead of Joey Harrington at QB this season. Oh well, we had beer to comfort us.
We all noticed that most of the kids and teenagers at the game had really big ears.
Donny Kutzbach had invited me to do a guest DJ set at the Mohawk club downtown after the game, but I unfortunately had to decline since we headed back to Toronto right after the game. Just like on the way over, there were no border delays on the way back. The drive home consisted of listening to Buffalo radio station WHTT, which was having an A-Z weekend of songs from the '60s and '70s. We wracked our brains to come up with titles from D through F until we made it home.
Lauree McArdle just pointed out that episode three of Jesus Christ Supercop ( also contains a Kenny Loggins reference.
Thanks, Lauree.
Caddyshack is probably one of my favourite comedies. It's also the only time I can listen to a Journey or Kenny Loggins song without totally cringing. The drummer for Ted Leo and the Pharmacists looks just like Kenny Loggins, and I've called him that to his face a few times. Aside from being an Arkansas Razorback, he's also a really nice guy and took it with good humour. If you're looking for more Kenny Loggins-related humour, check out the three episodes of Yacht Rock at Steve Jordan did, and sent me the link. I'm appreciative.
If you're looking for a video from an artist who I admire and respect, the clip for Richard Thompson's new Let It Blow single can be viewed at The low-budget video was directed by experimental guitarist Henry Kaiser. Thompson's new Front Parlour Ballads album will be released in Canada by True North Records in the next few weeks.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

I originally wrote this for

Beers As Bands: Comparing 25 suds to rock 'n' rollers
by Steve McLean
Toronto’s 10th annual Festival of Beer took place at Fort York from Aug. 5 to 7, giving thousands of people a chance to sample more than 200 different brews.
While there was also a music component to the event, Steve McLean was more interested in beers that reminded him of bands than paying much attention to what was happening on stage. After two days of intense research, here are his findings:

St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout is a dark, elegant beer from Montreal with strong Canadian roots, but international flair and appeal. The band equivalent is The Dears.

Tiverton Bear Dark Lager is a cold-filtered lager made with no preservatives. It has a black colour and a full-bodied flavour with a slightly bitter, malty taste. This authentic Canadian beer is Edward Bear, which had a hit with "Last Song" in 1972.

Hoegaarden is a Belgian white beer that’s light and slightly fruity with a hint of bubblegum after-taste, which definitely makes it Plastic Bertrand, a Belgian bubblegum pop/new wave act who had a European hit with "Ca Plane Pour Moi" and who also sang another fave of mine, "Hula Hoop."

Niagara Brewing Company Honey Brown is a new honey-coloured beer that lacks the substance of other beers from the brewery, including Eisbock, Gritstone and Millstone. Since the taste is unexceptional, and Niagara Falls is the honeymoon capital, this beer is Honeymoon Suite.

Black Oak Double Chocolate Cherry Stout is a six-per cent-alcohol brew from Oakville, Ontario that’s thinner than most stouts. It has a chocolate aroma and tastes like black forest cake, but not as sweet. That led me to label it as the German pop-metal band, Scorpions.

Black Oak Christmas Porter is very malty with a hint of coffee and a dose of cinnamon. It’s very nice and I wish that it was available all year-round, just like I wish that Burl Ives was still alive.

Black Oak Whiskey Barrel Oak Woody Nut was the longest named beer at the festival. The light brown beverage is aged two weeks in a Jim Beam barrel and reminds me of Janis Joplin, who really liked her bourbon and may have been a bit nuts.

Niagara’s Best Blonde Premium Ale was launched on May 20 in St. Catharines, Ontario and has a taste that’s close to a lager, but sharper and more full-bodied. Its blonde colour and confusion about what it wants to be makes it Twisted Sister.

Robert Simpson Confederation Ale was launched in Barrie, Ontario seven months ago and has already won a gold medal at the Canadian Brewing Awards. This complex but balanced golden ale is definitely The Golden Dogs.

Oddly enough, after having a few Confederation Ales that reminded me of The Golden Dogs, I ordered a Cameron’s Dark 266 that was served to me by Jessica Grassia of The Golden Dogs. I liked the three-month-old, 4.5-per cent alcohol Dark 266 better after my second one, which gives it the staying power of the dynamic reggae band, Black Uhuru.

Amsterdam Framboise has a very dark red colour and a solid raspberry flavour, though not as strong as some Belgian lambics. But its boldness reminds me of the Dutch avant-punk band that was a leader in the Amsterdam squat movement, The Ex.

Stratford Pilsner is brewed by Joe Tuer, who I went to high school with in the Festival City. The brewer is also a big music fan so I gave him the opportunity to equate his beer with a band and he unequivocally stated "Slint." That iconoclastic indie rock band wouldn’t have been my first choice, but I suppose that I can be talked into certain things after downing a few easy-drinking pilsners.

Kawartha Lakes Raspberry Wheat is one of my favourite summertime beers. Its slightly sweet, subtly fruit-infused flavour offers up reminders of Eric Carmen’s early ‘70s pop group, The Raspberries, which had a smash with "Go All The Way." I could go all the way with this beer.

Neustadt 10W30 is a mild, malty dark ale that’s popular in the U.K. The 5.5-per cent alcohol beer from Neustadt, Ontario is very refreshing, but its oil-related name makes me think of cars and mechanics, so I’d make this the equivalent of British garage rock band, The Troggs.

Upper Canada Pale Ale was just relaunched as a lager alternative. The yellowy gold brew isn’t as hoppy as most true pale ales, but this is a good choice for Keith’s drinkers who want to go a bit more upscale. It reminds me of a Canadian band that would like to be English, but aren't. This beer is Hot Hot Heat.

Upper Canada Red came out in February. This upscale alternative to Rickard’s Red has a nice bouquet and the ale has a malty, slightly fruity flavour. This beer is classy, without being pretentious, which tells me that it ought to be Canadian singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer/actor Colin Linden.

Trafalgar Mead from Oakville, Ontario comes in a variety of flavours, including blueberry, raspberry, black currant, wildberry and citrus. Mead is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages and, with nine per cent alcohol, it packs a punch. Meads always reminds me of medieval times, so the Trafalgar selection gets a nod to Tenpole Tudor.

Wellington Imperial Stout isn’t too heavy and doesn’t have as much head as some stouts. But it’s smooth and has a slightly nutty taste. The Guelph, Ontario product is imperial, but for and of the people, just like The Constantines.

Glengarry 91/Shilling Scotch Ale is a hand-pumped, 8.5-per cent alcohol cask-conditioned real ale from Ottawa. It’s slightly sweet and surprisingly mellow considering the high alcohol content. It’s very unique in character and flavour, as is British Sea Power.

Captain Cascade also comes from Ottawa’s Scotch Irish Brewing Company. It’s an extremely hoppy real ale and reminds me of a British band that makes you hop and doesn’t come along every day: The Specials. That group featured singer Lynval Golding; the brewery sometimes uses Goldings hops.

Patagonia is a 4.9-per cent alcohol lager from Argentina that comes in a clear bottle to display its extremely pale gold colour. It was better than expected and has more European characteristics than you find in most beers from Central and South America. I don’t know any bands from Argentina, so let’s just pretend that Sepultura is from there and not Brazil.

Mill Street Belgian Style Wit Bier is only available on tap in the summer from the Toronto brewery. This cloudy witbier is my favourite Mill Street product. It has a nice aroma with an orange peel infusion and a hint of banana that had me singing the "Banana Splits Theme" by The Dickies.

Mill Street Stock Ale is a classic Canadian ale that’s a little more flavourful than Molson Stock Ale. This very pale, easy-drinking brew is The Tragically Hip.

Rogue Half-e-Weizen is a Belgian-style, unfiltered wheat beer flavoured with coriander seed and ginger that has a much stronger flavour than most hefeweizens. This unfiltered 4.8-per cent alcohol beer is from Oregon and reminds me of Everclear.

Belgian Peches is a peach-flavoured 3.5-percent alcohol wheat beer from Belgium with a cloudy colour and a tangy taste that, for obvious reasons, says Presidents Of The United States Of America to me.

Friday, September 02, 2005

I hadn't listened to Pavement's Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain album for a long time until this afternoon. Don't make the same mistake. The whole album is good, but Cut Your Hair is probably one of the best -- but now largely forgotten -- songs of the mid-'90s.
Ass Ponys' two A&M albums, 1994's Electric Rock Music and 1996's The Known Universe, were two of my favourites of those respective years.
Electric Rock Music begins with Grim, which features one of my favourite verses ever: "Standing on the highway/My pants around my knees/I'd write her name out on the road/But I can't piss Denise."
Electric Rock Music also features two other certifiable left-field classics in Litttle Bastard and Earth To Grandma, while Place Out There, Lake Brenda, Peanut '93, Banlon Shirt and Gypped aren't far behind. It remains my favourite Ass Ponys album.
The Known Universe suffers a bit by comparison, but still features fine tracks like the Under Cedars and Stars and It's Summer Here.
I saw the Ass Ponys play twice during this period and the band combined its rock, pop, roots and country elements flawlessly and with good humour, including a show-ending cover of Eric Carmen's All By Myself. I spent some time talking and drinking with the band in the dressing room after each show and enjoyed it thoroughly. The guys, especially main man Chuck Cleaver, have a way of describing dark things in a lighthearted way that is totally absorbing.
But the band parted ways with A&M after that and I don't think it returned to Toronto to play, either. So I lost touch with the group, which released two albums on the Checkered Past label. But my Postcard From Hell friend Jeff Keating (a Cincinnatti resident like the members of the band) just sent me a home-made compilation of his favourite Ass Ponys songs, which features nine songs from these last two albums.
The three tracks from 2000's Some Stupid With A Flare Gun were probably my least favourite, but the standout Astronaut reminded me a bit of Frank Black -- as do a number of the group's songs, now that I think about it.
Lohio, from 2001, went in a more direction than previous releases, from what I can gather. But while Last Night It Snowed starts off slowly, it soon breaks into a bigger rock sound and some subtle horns can be heard in the background. Some fiddle can be heard on Only and Calendar Days, while Kung Fu Reference, Dried Up and Butterfly easily stand up with the band's best.
Cleaver has a high, quavery voice that I know won't be for everyone, but it suits his material perfectly. The lyrics aren't your run-of-the-mill "boy meets girl" love songs, but Cleaver manages to explore potentially uncomfortable subjects without getting depressing -- which is an accomplishment he should be proud of.
Ass Ponys, to the best of my knowledge, haven't released anything since Lohio. And while the band still plays, it apparently doesn't stray too far from home that often. So here's a plea to Chuck and the boys: Please record another album and come to Toronto in support of it.
Thanks for the disc, Keats. I owe you one.

np Pavement - Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
Thanks to Rob Janes for this rather depressing bit of information:

Police: Miss. Man Kills Sister Over Bag Of Ice
HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- Police in Hattiesburg, Miss., said a man fatally shot his sister in the head over a bag of ice.Authorities say 35-year-old Antonio Page shot his sister with a handgun on a street corner Tuesday night.Police Chief David Wynn said the woman's name was not available.Wynn said tempers are short, but he can't understand why a member of someone's family could take that step.The shooting is being treated like a homicide, Wynn said.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

I've been a big Stompin' Tom Connors fan since I was a kid. I have more than a dozen of his albums, I've seen him perform at least half-a-dozen times and have had that many conversations and beers with him. I have an autographed Stompin' Tom T-shirt and photo, two almost life-sized cardboard stand-ups of the man in my townhouse, and had a customized Stompin' Tom beer bottle until it accidentally fell off a shelf and broke. But I don't have a Stompin' Tom DVD because, until now, he's never had one. Tom is playing Hamilton Place on Sept. 7 and a crew will be on hand to shoot material for a DVD at the show. EMI Music Canada will be releasing the DVD on a still unannounced date when it's finished and ready to go.
Echo and the Bunnymen's Siberia, the band's first album in four years, will be released in Canada by True North Records on Oct. 4. While I don't know if any song ranks as an all-time Echo classic, from start to finish this may be the most consistent overall album the band has put out (this is its 10th studio album) in its 26 years. Ian McCulloch calls it the band's masterpiece, but he's never been one to keep his ego in check when it comes to extolling his own genius. But the songs are strong, McCulloch's in good voice, and Will Sergeant's guitar work is still divine. Hugh Jones -- who produced the band's Heaven Up Here album in 1981 and who's also worked with The Teardrop Explodes, Simple Minds and Del Amitri -- returned once again to take over from McCulloch and Sergeant. Jones says it's the best album he's ever produced, too, so I guess these guys (and me) must be on to something. Parts of album opener Stormy Weather vaguely remind me of a more upbeat The Killing Moon near the beginning. Of A Life and Make Us Blind are my other two favourites, but I haven't found any filler after my first two listens to this 50-minute CD. Bassist Pete Wilkinson and drummer Simon Finley, who played on McCulloch's shining Slideling album from 2003 and who have been touring with McCulloch and Sergeant, round out the quartet for Siberia. The band will be touring North America in November and December and a Nov. 23 date at Toronto's elegant Carlu is on the schedule. I finally saw Echo and the Bunnymen for the first time when the group played Palais Royale two years ago, and I was impressed by both how tight the band was and how well so many of its songs still hold up after all of these years. With these 11 new great songs to choose from to add to the set list, I'm sure this tour will bring more memorable shows.