Thursday, November 28, 2013
Most of my listening time lately has been taken up by Dog Day's new album Fade Out, which is being released Dec. 10. It's a melting pot of a record, punk as it was in the day, post-punk in its artsy glory, lo-fi touches (Eric's Trip came to mind a few times), subtle pop hooks, some truly messed-up guitar solos, perfect one-note piano, beautifully lean, wiry riffs. I'm pretty sure Seth Smith sings "I'll be ringing Number of the Beast...to come over" in Blackened, which you can listen to here, so that's pretty intriguing too.
Get lead track Wasted below.
You can pre-order Fade Out and other Dog Day releases here.
12/5 Charlottetown, PE - Hunters
12/6 Moncton, NB - The Esquire
12/7 Halifax, NS - Marquee Club
12/11 Montreal, QC - Drones
12/12 Ottawa, ON - Pressed
12/14 Toronto, ON - Cinecyle
12/15 Kingston, ON - the Artel
Dog Day official site
Dog Day facebook
Dog Day twitter
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Crash Test Dummies' God Shuffled His Feet recently celebrated its 20-year old birthday. That album really put the band on the musical map. I remember interviewing Michael Stipe and him talking about the band because CTD and I shared a hometown. Prior to that time, most non-Canadians usually had to reach back to the Guess Who or Neil Young if pressed to name a Winnipeg-raised artist.
I first saw the band at the Winnipeg Children's Festival. The kids I was supervising were fascinated by some performer (a juggler, maybe?), but the Dummies were making music a few feet away. I stepped over and watched while my co-worker sat with the children, and I was slowly mesmerised, a fascinated audience of one. The cobblestones behind Portage Place made the perfect ground for old-fashioned busking. The voices of Brad Roberts and Ellen Reid together sounded like nothing I'd ever heard. Ben Darvill always looked like he was having more fun than you could imagine - and did you want to join him? I couldn't watch and listen too long, but I was intrigued. I couldn't peg the sound - was Spirit of the West a reference point? The Pogues? All I knew for sure was that Brad Roberts was much better as a songwriter/singer/frontman than a bartender.
In fact, Roberts was a better interview too, as I ended up writing stories about the band around the time of the first album and then the second. Intelligent, serious, and confident are words I would ascribe to him. Reid always seemed nice and grounded, and Ben Darvill was serious about music but a pretty funny fellow otherwise.
At any rate, God Shuffled his Feet definitely shuffled the band out of any folk-rock category and into the wider pop world. Just listen to the guitar on that album - sounds to me like a couple of XTC's records were spinning regularly somewhere in Winnipeg. Anyhow, I think the guitar o the album is the bee's knees - for example, the bright shimmery bits in Swimming in your Ocean, the cyclical chunky chords in Here I Stand Before Me (bonus tasty mouth harp too!), the exquisite solo in I Think I'll Disappear Now. Nobody was making SOTW comparisons anymore. Kevin Mutch's clever album cover stood out, and clearly Brad's songs did too, because the album became popular pretty quickly.
Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm became big enough for Weird Al Yankovic to parody, for gosh sake's. CTD performed on Saturday Night Live in a year dominated by bands some joker termed "grunge" - Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Smashing Punkins, and Stone Temple Pilots all hit the SNL stage that year (Don't know why Soundgarden didn't get invited to the party, I guess Tony! Toni! Toné! was more important. Or something.) At any rate, the only loud distorted guitar I remember on God Shuffled... appeared on How Does a Duck Know, and it seemed ironic to me somehow - it certainly wasn't related to anything Mudhoney or Tad hatched. And that's the point - Crash Test Dummies didn't sound like anyone else. Who else was titling tunes "When I Go Out With Artists" or throwing T.S. Eliot's name out there? (For more on this period of time, hunt down Kiva Simova and her book Crash Test Passenger: Tour Diary of a Hired Gun (try Facebook or Twitter) written from the point of view of a keyboard player and backing vocalist hired to fill out the band's sound, or Stephen Ostick's Superman's song: The Story of the Crash Test Dummies.)
In the years since its release, God Shuffled His Feet seems to have become an album that has polarized listeners. Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm especially has made a few "worst" lists, but others still love it. In the band's original hometown of Winnipeg, which has a love/hate relationship with everything including itself, I'm not sure that the record's success has ever been recognized. I can't think of an artist that has captured people's ears all over the world in the years since - maybe The Weakerthans have come the closest. Give a listen and tell me what you think after all of these years.
God Shuffled His Feet
Afternoons and Coffeespoons
Mmm Mmm Mmmm Mmm Mmm
In the Days of the Caveman
Swimming in Your Ocean
Here I Stand Before Me
I Think I'll Disappear Now & How Does a Duck Know
When I Go Out With Artists
Two Knights and Maidens
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Has there been a better album released this year than Patty Griffin's American Kid? Not that I can remember. Traditional country, Americana, folk, call it what you will, I call it a stunning album of melancholy and melody, a masterpiece of storytelling and raw emotion.
It doesn't hurt that Cody Dickinson and Luther Dickinson play on the album, as well as some guy named Robert Plant. He lends backing vocals on Ohio, even adding a subtle touch of Eastern drone which you may find familiar.
Go Wherever You Want to Go
Don't Let Me Die in Florida
Tiny Desk performance
Griffin actually released another album this year; Silver Bell was ready to be released in 2000 but was shelved by her label at the time. Luckily, it's out now. Truth #2 features someone else you might know on backing vocals, someone named Emmylou Harris. And if you don't like Emmylou Harris then you're in the wrong place, because Scruffy knows that Emmylou is the bee's knees - don't you?
Truth #2 - From Silver Bell
Buy Patti Griffin from New West Records. Buy Patti Griffin on Amazon.
Saturday, November 9, 2013
I know a lot of people are paying tribute to the passing of Lou Reed. He made a lot of music I love, and since I was a kid I have followed his career. He will be missed by many, obviously.
But for me, I am mourning the fact that I will never be able to see Charlie Chesterman or Scruffy the Cat play live ever again. Those of you who have been paying attention know how much I loved the guy. Heck, the name of this dumb blog is a sideways tribute to his band, that should tell you something. Thanks to the guy with the best mullet ever I met in university who turned me on to Scruffy the Cat, I am forever in his debt. Chesterman was real rock 'n' roll, raw romanticism, riotous, raucous, rib-tickling even
Charlie recently passed away after a long bout with cancer. The only thing we can do is rejoice in the great music he left and help his family by paying for some of that music. If you can, please do so. If you cannot, please recognize how much of a contribution he made; pass it on, let others hear his music.
You can also send a check right to Chesterman's family at:
Friends of Charlie Chesterman c/o Juliann Cydylo 18 Mayhew Street Dorchester, MA 02125
Or donate to a Gofundme site if you'd rather chip in online.
The sound is not optimal, but this performance of Goodbye to You is from the 2011 Scruffy the Cat reunion, so it's apt.
How about a Chesterman tribute that features Young Fresh Fellows, Letters to Cleo, and 22 more?
Letters to Cleo doing Scruffy's tune You Dirty Rat
Grain Belt - My Friend Ringo
Try out the recent release of Chesterman's collectibles, touted as a collection of "hard-to-find compilation tracks and previously unreleased rarities by the ex-Scruffy The Cat frontman, spanning 1992-2012".
Scruffy the Cat - Tiny Days
Scruffy the Cat - Upside Down
Scruffy the Cat - My Baby She's All Right
Scruffy The Cat - Beg, Borrow and Steal
Scruffy the Cat - Moons of Jupiter
Charlie Chesterman- Everybody's Baby
Charlie Chesterman - Mona's Prayer (Harmony Rocket #3)
Charlie Chesterman - Confession (Harmony Rocket #4)
Scruffy the Cat - Nova SS 1968 / My Baby She's Alright
Scruffy The Cat - Happiness To Go! /Pipeline /Johnny B. Goode
Scruffy The Cat - My Fate Was Sealed With A Kiss/Matchbox
Charlie Chesterman - Sexy Rickenbacker
Preacher Roe - Life is fun
Jeff Mellin - Shabby Dress
Buy Charlie's Solid Gold Electric Chestnut Dispenser here.
Buy Chorus Vs. Solos: A Tribute to Charlie Chesterman here.
Buy Charlie Chesterman on iTunes here.
Head over to Teenage Dogs in Trouble for some more Chesterman and Scruffy the Cat music.
Sunday, November 3, 2013
Winnipeg's Slow Leaves (Grant Davidson) recently released an EP entitled Second Chances, as well as revealing an arresting video for a track called Life of a Better Man. I think Davidson made his own video, which makes me wonder if he's one of those impossible creative people who can do anything. If you like Ron Sexsmith or Dawes (and you should), you might enjoy Slow Leaves' mellow folk-pop, and Life of a Better Man has a rollicking vibe, a toe-tappin', hand-clappin' joyous feel.
At any rate, the three tunes on the EP were all produced by Rusty Matyas (Imaginary Cities, The Waking Eyes) in sessions that produced an entire album's worth of material (the forthcoming Beauty Is So Common has no release date - I'm going to guess sometime in 2014). Slow Leaves play November 16 in Winnipeg at the West End Cultural Centre, in a new series called Now Introducing: Veteran Manitoba Musicians Present Their Favourite New Local Artists. Romi Mayes will play and introduce Jamie Buckboro and Rusty Matyas will perform and introduce Slow Leaves.
Slow Leaves - Life of a Better Man
Careless and Serene
Buy Slow Leaves at iTunes.
Buy Slow Leaves at Amazon.
Buy Slow Leaves at Bandcamp.
Tweet at my birdhouse here.
fbook Scruffy the Yak here.
The inimitable Thomas D'Arcy starts a tour tomorrow with July Talk in my cool hometown. Check out his new bottle-breaking video for The Price You Pay, go see him live and maybe he will break out some Monks or Devo covers for ya. Also, he is hauling around 100 copies of his 'You Lovely You' 7" to give away. If you Tweet/Like/follow him he'll give you one for free at the show.
The Price You Pay
The Price You Pay EP
Girl U Want (a beauty Devo cover)
Thomas D'Arcy Presents: Tribute To The Monks - that's right, you remember the Monks. I'm going to go ahead and say that this is the best cover album ever done by one musician. Ya wanna fight about it?
Johnny and Mary - Robert Palmer cover
11/04/13 Winnipeg, MB West End Cultural Centre 8:00pm. Age restrictions: No Minors.
11/05/13 Regina, SK The Exchange 8:00pm. Age restrictions: No Minors.
11/08/13 Red Deer, AB International Beer House 8:00pm. Age restrictions: No Minors.
11/09/13 Calgary, AB Gateway Bar Time: 8:00pm. Age restrictions: No Minors.
11/10/13 Lethbridge, AB The Slice 8:00pm. Age restrictions: No Minors.
11/13/13 Golden, BC The Rockwater 8:00pm. Age restrictions: No Minors.
11/14/13 Kelowna, BC Doc Willoughby’s 8:00pm. Age restrictions: No Minors.
11/15/13 Vancouver, BC The Media Club 8:00pm. Age restrictions: No Minors.
11/16/13 Whistler, BC TBD 8:00pm. Age restrictions: No Minors.
11/17/13 Kamloops, BC The Dirty Jersey 8:00pm. Age restrictions: No Minors.
11/24/13 Toronto, ON The Garrison 8:00pm. Age restrictions: No Minors. supporting Royal Canoe
You can buy all sorts of Thomas D'arcy music from MapleMusic.
Tweet at my birdhouse here.
fbook Scruffy the Yak here.
Friday, November 1, 2013
Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones made an album covering an entire Everly Bros. record called Songs Our Daddy Taught Us. Due November 25th, Foreverly will showcase the duo's harmonies and reverence for roots music and traditional Americana.
What? Did I just write that? I guess I did. I haven't paid any attention to Green Day or Norah Jones in years, except once when I enjoyed Jones's excellent rendition of Wilco's Jesus, Etc. If I hadn't heard the first single, Long Time Gone, I would have dismissed the whole thing as a gimmicky ploy not worthy of my attention. But I have heard it, and it's a subtle, smooth, twangy slice of melodic goodness. Give it a listen and tell me what you think, I am sufficiently intrigued. You can read more at Stereogum if you want.
Long Time Gone
This series of posts will be offering the definitive list of the best Canuck tunes ever recorded, scientifically tabulated, collated and obfuscated by the Brain of Scruff, in absolutely-not numerical order.
The Gandharvas hailed from London. Ontario, that is. The band often went against the grain of the time period in which their albums were released (1994-1997). Singer Paul Jago had an unusual voice which some likened to Perry Farrell's, and he sometimes wore a mask for entire shows. They put the inside of a urinal on the cover of their album. I once did an interview with Jago and another band member in which the singer maybe spoke 10 words at most - he just stared at me intensely for about 45 minutes.
But most of all, The Gandharvas rarely went for that big bombastic rock sound in an era where Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Green Day ruled the roost. No, The Ghandarvas often went for a subtler sound, with hypnotic riffs, a rhythm section that knew when to hold back, and a singer that knew a whisper can be as effective as a scream. Singalong choruses did not abound, but the band did create some unstoppable grooves, and unusual songs and videos such as the one for Masochistic Minstrel helped carve out a little niche in the rock landscape.
However, First Day of Spring is the song that sidles up, passes you an intriguing note, meets you outside and hands you your favourite frosty beverage on a late Friday afternoon. From promise to jubilation in under 5 minutes.
First Day of Spring