Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Teenage Bottlerocket — They Came From The Shadows

I fell in love with this midwestern U.S. punk band's infectious "Radio" when I first heard it in early 2008 and checked the group out at last year's South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas.
I wasn't blown away, but enjoyed the performance enough to make me happy to see this new album — the group's third, but first for Fat Wreck — arrive in the mail.
The title track and "Not OK" remind me of The Misfits. I can also hear elements of The Ramones and Chixdiggit, but with more aggression and better guitar-playing, in several tracks. Lead single/video "Skate Or Die" seems to have a mission to make skateboarding seem rebellious and dangerous again. The tongue-in-cheek "Bigger Than KISS" name-checks other bands and songs, too, and is harder than most of the melodic punk found in these 14 tracks. "Fatso Goes Nutzoid" isn't as crass as the title suggests and instead sends a message about body image that young fans should take note of.
I'll give this a 7/10 and will likely go see Teenage Bottlerocket again when it plays Toronto's Kathedral on Oct. 27.
You can find out more at

Hugh Dillon Works Well With Others 
I'm interviewing Hugh Dillon, the former Headstones frontman and now successful actor, tomorrow. He has an album called Works Well With Others coming out on Oct. 13 through Warner Music Canada, and I've had a few listens this morning to become acquainted with it.
I like it. It's not the hard-edged rock of The Headstones, but it has more bite than the Hugh Dillon Redemption Choir's 2005 album, The High Cost Of Low Living.
Lead single/video "Friends Of Mine" opens the album and begins acoustically before picking up the pace and volume later on.  The swampy "Ten Feet Tall" is the most traditionally rock and roll song on the disc and ends with a harmonica. "Surface Of The Sun" features piano and acoustic guitar, but it's far from a ballad. The keyboards in the first part of "Reel To Reel" had me thinking it was going to be a dance song. Luckily, it isn't. A section of "Lost At Sea" is vaguely Leonard Cohen-like.
There are no stinkers on here and I'll give it an 8/10 rating. Works Well With Others will also be going in my pile of CDs to consider for next year's Polaris Music Prize.
You can listen to the album now on Dillon's website.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Calling All Punks
Los Angeles' BYO Records is celebrating its 25th anniversary with last week's release of a 31-song CD compilation and DVD titled Let Them Know: The Story of Youth Brigade and BYO Records, which features artists who've graced the roster at some point over the years. 
I haven't had a chance to check out the 88-minute documentary yet, but the CD has some prime punk material. As you'd expect from 31 tracks, the quality can be up and down, but my personal favourites are Off With Their Heads' "Headlights...ditch!," Youth Brigade's "Misfortune," Lagwagon's "S.O.S.," Blue Collar Special's "Believe In Something," American Steel's "Dead And Broken," Complete Control's "Victoria," Old Man Markley's "We're In!," The Ignorant's "Keep On," Ch3's cover of The Nils' classic "Scratches & Needles" and 7 Seconds' "Sink With California." 
Other contributors include Bouncing Souls, NOFX, The Cute Lepers, Pennywise, Dropkick Murphys, Anti-Flag and Subhumans.
If you've followed American punk rock over the past 25 years, there's probably something here for you.

The Kinks Choral Collection
The Kinks Choral Collection, featuring Ray Davies and the 65-member Crouch End Festival Chorus, will be released on Nov. 10 via Decca. Lots of familiar favourites are included with the new arrangements, including "Days," "Waterloo Sunset," "You Really Got Me," "Victoria,' "All Day And All Of The Night" and a six-song suite from 1968's The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society. You can hear samples on Amazon and, while I prefer the original versions, this should still be of interest to Kinks completists.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ox — Burnout
The follow-up to 2006's American Lo Fi is a seven-song EP of the same sort of rootsy pop we've come to expect from the former Vancouver band that now calls Sudbury, Ont. home. "Burnout" is a rock and roll road song that gets the disc off to a strong start. "Prom Queen" and "Ojibway Diner" are also standouts and "Miss Idaho Redux," a slightly different version of my favourite Ox song, "Miss Idaho," closes things out.
You can find out more at and

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Warped 45s — 10 Day Poem For Saskatchewan

This Toronto quintet's manager, Tina Cooper, gave me this CD at last week's Polaris Music Prize gala. Just like the group's self-titled debut EP, it was produced by her boyfriend John Critchley (13 Engines, Elliott Brood). It's been licensed to Kim Cooke's Pheromone Recordings label and it's a step up from the EP. If you like The Band, you should give 10 Day Poem For Saskatchewan a listen. 

You can find out more at or
Jamaican Food In Stratford, Ontario
Stratford, Ont. now has a Jamaican restaurant named Olive's. It has a great location less than a block from the Avon Theatre, but, when my mom and I went there at the normally busy pre-show time of 5:30 on Friday, we were the only customers in the restaurant. Two other people came in, looked at the menu, and then left. That was the extent of business during our dinner.
That's a shame because the home-style food was tasty and reasonably priced and the portions were very large. Appetizer patties were two dollars. We then got complimentary salads. My mom ordered jerk pork with rice and beans, and I ordered boneless jerk chicken with rice and beans. You can tell the server how spicy you want it (we like it hot), and Olive came out of the kitchen with some scotch bonnet sauce that we used to liven up the rice.
All of this came to less than $32, and there was enough food left over that I'll be enjoying it again tonight.
The recently opened restaurant is clean and neat, if not classy, and there was a mix of gospel and Bob Marley playing over the speakers. Food can be ordered to take out. One drawback to some may be the lack of a liquor licence.
Olive was very gracious and I'd like to see her succeed. Since I'm sure you can probably count the number of Jamaicans in Stratford on one hand, I'm not sure if it can survive the winter once the tourists leave. And if tourists aren't going now, the outlook isn't good.
So if you like Jamaican food and you're in the Festival City, please pay Olive a visit.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Rancid — Let The Dominoes Fall

Rancid may head my list of top punk bands from the past 15 years, and Indestructible was my favourite album of 2003, but it's been a six-year wait for this follow-up. Let The Dominoes Fall came out in June and I'm almost embarassed to say I didn't get a copy of it until last week. It doesn't quite match its predecessor, but it's a strong 8/10 album that features the type of melodic punk with hints of ska (and even a bit of rockabilly on a couple of these cuts) that I've come to know and love. The most notable track is probably "Up To No Good," which features a ska rhythm, horns and keyboards by the legendary Booker T. Jones. "Civilian Ways" offers a rootsy change of pace and throws in some mandolin. "Skull City" sounds like it could have been from one of Iggy's Pop's more recent albums. There are lots of other highlights, but you'll have to get the album and discover them for yourself.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hugh Cornwell brought his Hooverdam tour to Toronto's Mod Club on Thursday night, and the man proved he's not mellowing with age.
The show lasted 85 minutes and by and large featured a mix of material from last year's Hooverdam (which I'd rate as a very solid 7/10) and vintage material from The Stranglers, the brilliant art-punk band Cornwell formed 35 years ago and left after 1990's 10.
Cornwell was accompanied by Chris Bell, an accomplished drummer who previously played with the Thompson Twins and Gene Loves Jezebel, and rock-solid bassist Christine "Chaz" Campbell. They both played on Hooverdam and have been working with Cornwell — a very underrated guitarist, intriguing songwriter, precise singer and an unfailingly polite man when you talk to him — for a few years. Their ease with each other is evident on stage and creates a power trio in every sense of the term.
Dave Greenfield's keyboard flourishes, which made The Stranglers sound so distinctive compared to many of their early contemporaries, are definitely missed — particularly on "Duchess." But Cornwell's solos sometimes made you forget about them and got you thinking about old songs in whole new ways. The bass-heavy "Golden Brown" was an excellent example of that on Thursday.
I was disappointed in a crowd of what I estimated to be about 125 people, but there was stiff competition with U2 and Marilyn Manson having gigs around town and Toronto still caught up film festival fever. But what Cornwell lacked in spectacle, which those other options were full of, he made up for with songs — and that will almost always take precedence for me.
The Hooverdam material included the powerful "Going To The City" and the ominous-sounding "Delightful Nightmare" as well as "Rain On The River," "Within You Or Without You," "Please Don't Put Me On A Slow Boat To Trowbridge" and, in the encore, the excellent "Beat Of My Heart."
But it was the Stranglers material that drew the biggest responses, and there's no arguing that it deserved them. The main set featured "Nice N' Sleazy" (which featured a great bass line from Campbell), "Walk On By" (which was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, but covered by The Stranglers), the aforementioned "Duchess" and "Golden Brown," and "No More Heroes," which  may have elicited the most dancing of the night.
After a brief trip to the dressing room, Cornwell returned and addressed someone in the front who'd been taking pictures earlier.
"I don't mind photos, but no flash," he said. "You should be outside of a girl's primary school."
Appropriately, after that comment, he launched into "Peaches." It somehow sounds creepier coming from a 60-year-old than it did when it was released when Cornwell was 28, but it's still a great song.
The amazing "Hanging Around" again featured a blistering Cornwell guitar solo in place of the keyboards from the original version. It got people dancing again and set the stage for an extended "Down In The Sewer." 
Cornwell had earlier invited me to join him for drinks at a neighbouring Italian restaurant, but I decided that by the time he left the stage and graciously signed autographs at the merch table that I was probably better advised to go home and make a late dinner. If I hadn't made the opposite decision when put in a very similar situation with a member of a different band just four nights earlier, I almost would have thought I was finally maturing.