Monday, March 28, 2011

Rheostatics: Time for Some Kudos

Allegedly the Junos yesterday featured a bunch of Toronto-based artists (such as Garth Hudson, Jim Cuddy, City and Colour, Sarah Harmer, Sarah Slean, Kevin Hearn, Greg Keelor, Justin Rutledge, Serena Ryder and The Sadies) paying tribute to a bunch of artists that were based in Canada ages ago. Some people on a popular social network have been commenting on the fact that members of Rheostatics were not represented. One wag posited that it was Toronto doing Toronto, but that's another story.

Anyway, the lack of kudos for Rheostatics got me thinking. Only The Tragically Hip have even come close to being as recognizably "Canadian" as Rheos. Did that Canuck-ness somehow keep 'em from greater recognition? Or was it the oft-evident sense of humour? The associations with capital A "Art", including visual art and film? The willingness to change time signatures at the drop of a hat, to simetimes eschew the easy verse-chorus-verse format, the fact that band members have already paid tribute to Joni Mitchell (Martin Tielli's stunning version of River), Gordon Lightfoot (the band's cover of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald), or occasional nods to Neil Young (the main guitar part in Bad Time to be Poor, maybe), as well as giving rock 'n' roll love to other Canadian artists like Jane Siberry or Stompin' Tom (Dave Bidini's written work)?

I don't know. But I do know that Rheos were an influential group, and there are homages on YouTube to prove it. In my town, I know of three different recording artists off the top of my head that found the band to be significant, and not always so for the same reasons. Also, haven't artists from the 60's and 70's like Mitchell, Young (both of whom have lived in the States for about 100 years), The Guess Who, and so on already had enough accolades? I don't know who watches the Junos, but I'd rather see today's artists honour Rheos, Blue Rodeo, Sloan or The Hip.

Actully, some fine musicians have paid tribute to Rheos with The Secret Sessions, including the Weakerthans, Cuff the Duke, By Divine Right, The Inbreds, Local Rabbits, Barenaked Ladies, et cetera. Anyhow, maybe not enough of us have had a chance to immerse themselves in Rheostatics' unique little world. What do you think? Is it time to give the bandmembers their due? Check out some videos below, but don't hassle me about the video or audio quality, it's out of my hands. Check out Rheostatics Live to dive further into Green Sprouts land. Leave a comment below, it makes life more fun.

Buy Rheostatics at Maplemusic, Zunior, or Six Shooter (Whale Music vinyl or mp3s).

Here's a couple of Rheo covers. The last one seems to have received little respect from YouTube viewers, much like the band did...


Albert Bannatyne said...

The Rheos were ten kinds of awesome, even if not every album was a winner.

It's too bad they disappeared from the musical map after they broke up. I guess they just ran out of steam.

In his 57 Gigs book Bidini says the best song he ever wrote was "This Song Ain't Any Good", which I can't find anywhere...

chris yackoboski said...

I don't know if they disappeared, they've all continued to make good music.

I keep thinking lately about what Canadaian artists I'd like to have cover Rhestatic songs.