Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

Best wishes to all. We're staying in, as Jo is coming down with the flu.

Who am I kidding--we'd have stayed in anyway.

Perhaps watching this.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

X

We're off for a few days, so best wishes to one and all.

Enjoy responsibly.

Or else.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Newf For 2008

The debut novel by our friend Bev Stone (Beverley for ahh-thorial purposes) will be released by Cormorant Books on Valentine's Day.

I order you to pre-order.

Bev has a wicked and weird sense of humour and a soothing voice that could talk down the most determined jumper.

Friday, December 21, 2007

An Aversion To Publicity Bordering On The Bransonesque

When making fun of Ann Coulter, we Canucks should always remember that we spawned Rachel "Play Misty For Me" Marsden.
Thorough backgrounder here, for those of you who didn't read Frank regularly during the late '90s.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

...And Featuring Jack Warden As Nerva

Pretty Linus Roache joins the cast of Dawn Of The Dead L & O.

Is there a major shortage of American actors or something?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Kiwi Kwasi Konfection Konquers Kanuckistan (Kraftily)!

Mmmm...butteroil-sugar blend.

Big In Iran

Nice to hear that Chris de Burgh is still alive.

"Lady In Red" will not be performed, authorities say, and if she shows up she'll be politely asked to adhere to Islamic dress codes.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Jehovah's Dandruff

Winter arrives next week.







Saturday, December 15, 2007

Red Hat, Ding Bat

The Joe Horn case in Texas, commented upon by Guardian Angels principal breakdancer Curtis Sliwa (zip to around 1 minute in).

Catch Curtis live in Halifax this weekend.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Waiting For The McCaw

Buy me one for Antitheistmass.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Palate Cleanser

Rid yourself of the taste of the Piano Man with a bit of the Bald Synth Man:

Rhymes With Hallelu-jah

The dehumanizing effects of war, exemplified by Nickelback fused with tourist-version Middle-Eastern motif:



Actually, if you imagine it being sung by Warren Zevon it's kinda funny.

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi

Low and extra loose:

A 54-year-old woman pleaded guilty Thursday to committing aggravated assault by a series of attacks on her naked common-law partner which included tearing open his scrotum and smashing a beer bottle over his head in Owen Sound last month.

[edit]

Campbell and her common-law partner for 24 years began arguing over money. She wanted to go to a restaurant and drink, while he wanted to pay the electricity bill so the power company would turn the electricity back on.

Goddam that's one choice I hope I never have to face.

Moral High Horse Breaks Leg, Destroyed

"Objectifying" your lad/lass good, some anonymous bimbo bad, as NDP MP Irene Mathyssen explains:

Mathyssen stunned all sides by complaining that she'd seen Tory MP James Moore checking out a "scantily clad" woman on his laptop computer in Parliament.

Moore, a parliamentary secretary from British Columbia, vehemently denied the claim. And late Wednesday, Mathyssen apologized to Moore.

NDP spokesman Ian Capstick said Mathyssen phoned Moore and he explained to her that the photos she'd seen on his laptop were of his girlfriend.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Water Wet Shock II

Gene converts carbs to fat.

No shit.

Water Wet Shock

1 + 1 > 1, says Michigan State researcher:

A new scientific study deduces divorce pollutes the environment, because it splits households in two, doubling the demand for electricity and even water.

"More households mean more houses," said Jianguo Liu, professor of fisheries and wildlife at Michigan State University, who co-authored the report published in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"To build more houses, you need more land, more construction material and more energy."

Friday, November 23, 2007

Saturday, November 17, 2007

It Is Most Definitely Alive

From Andrew Nikiforuk's review of Devra Davis' The Secret History Of The War On Cancer in today's Globe:

[Davis] has smelled and felt cancer firsthand, having lost two parents and many friends, including the comic Andrea Martin, to the disease.

Richard Ouzounian reviews the new stage version of Young Frankenstein:

The original 1974 film worked because its visual style was a perfect match for those cheesy 1930s Universal horror films.

And the cast was superb. But except for Megan Mullally's brassily clueless fiancée Elizabeth, and Andrea Martin's dourly knowing housekeeper, Frau Blucher, the rest of the musical's personnel are limp imitations.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Minor Threat For Minors

Michael McKinnon, a.k.a. Jam Toast, has an even younger audience than Anti-Flag.

Tunes here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rain Dance II

Poor ol' Stu:

Rain Dance

Drought-stricken Georgia's Governor Sonny Perdue prays.

But this fellah has an air-horn and knows that buggery is to blame:



Both deserve to have some form of liquid fall on their heads.

Good on these dudes.

Monday, November 12, 2007

November 12 Minus 1

Outside Kew Beach Park:



Ignore the squirrel




Out of the mouths of etc... (please forward to J. Layton)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Short Break

Quit my job a couple of months ago. Decided to stay home with she.

I get to hang with my daughter during a fun stage of her intyleckchual development, get more exercise, and get to lounge about in playgrounds with attractive mummies.

And I'm drinking as much if not more than I ever have.

Life is good and I'm the insufferable dude.

mp3: They Might Be Giants--"The Cap'm" (from The Else)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fatboy Fat





Flash Harry, coming to terms with his international celebrity.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Freebie

But what's the Court's position on tipping?

Around the Newmarket courthouse, they're calling it the "Monica Lewinsky ruling," a reference to the White House intern who performed a certain sexual act on then-president Bill Clinton.

Although that was an oral act, the case in the courthouse north of Toronto that is creating such a buzz involves "manual release," and whether or not masturbating a client at a Vaughan body rub parlour was an act of prostitution.

Justice Howard Chisvin, of the Ontario Court of Justice, didn't think so, and dismissed two bawdy house charges against Valeri Ponomarev, the manager of Studio 176, in a recent ruling that said: "The payment of money was for a full-body massage. The act of masturbation was optional, at no additional fee. I wonder, and am left in doubt as to whether or not the community might consider the act of masturbation in all situations to be sexual."

Friday, September 7, 2007

Snakes vs. Ovoid Balls

Egg-heaving doesn't hold a candle to it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Father Of The Year

My daughter's current favorite vid.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Footloose

Nice work etc.:

Forensic experts are examining two severed right feet found within days of each other on separate islands off central Vancouver Island.

Police say the latest remains – a foot inside a men's size-12 Reebok sneaker – were found Sunday on a heavily used trail on Gabriola Island near Nanaimo.

[edit]

Oceanside RCMP Cpl. Garry Cox said that finding two severed right feet on relatively nearby islands at such a close interval is odd.

"It's very strange and unusual," he said. "I've never seen anything like this before.

"We've had body parts found, but it's usually from somebody who has died and animals scattered the body parts around."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Invasion



...of the Suspicious Lepidoptera People.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

No Comment

Star headline:

Trapped Chinese miners ate coal, drank urine

Sorry, but how is that different than living in Newcastle?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Doggie Bag

Now available in cellophane (without the urn) for the budget-conscious.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

It's Never Filling

Few people know that the sports bra was invented during the reign of Akhenaten.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Lazy Tuesday post 'bout nothing

For those of you working in the publishing world, here's some cheap jokes about editors and their peers. There's not many editor jokes out there, especially compared with the huge number of jokes about other professions; hell, even ACTUARIES have a lot of jokes! I guess we editors just ain't funny.

Two fonts walk into a bar, the bartender says 'we don't serve your type here'. So they called the serif.


Q: How many sub-editors does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: We can't tell whether you mean "insert a new lightbulb" or "have sexual relations inside a lightbulb". Can we reword it to remove ambiguity?

Q: How many art directors does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Does it have to be a lightbulb?

Q: How many proofreaders does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: The last time this was asked it involved Art Directors. Is the difference intentional? It seems inconsistent.

Q: How many writers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Why do we have to change it?

Q: How many editors does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: It was supposed to be in place last week!

Q: How many publishers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Three. One to screw it in and two more to hold down the editor.

Q: How many marketing directors does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: It isn't too late to make it neon, is it?

Q: How many advertising directors does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: We're not sure because the client might change it tomorrow. Cut some editorial anyway.

Q: How many sales directors does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: (pause) I get it! It's one of those lightbulb jokes, right?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Suits And Raspberries

One of the suits I work with embarrassed himself recently, when he insisted that University of Western Ontario was part of the Ivy League. What a knob. It took three of us underlings to prove to him that UWO's business school is named after a different guy.

We're nearing the end of July, which means that raspberry season is almost gone for another year. Shamelessly poached from Foodland Ontario, here's a yummy raspberry dessert for those who appreciate this most exquisite of fruits.

Raspberry and Apricot Squares

1/2 cup (125 mL) butter
1 tsp (5 mL) grated lemon rind
1/3 cup (75 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) almonds
1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
Topping:
2 cups (500 mL) Ontario Raspberries
1 cup (250 mL) sliced Ontario Apricots
1 cup (250 mL) ground almonds
2/3 cup (175 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) all-purpose flour
2 tbsp (25 mL) butter
2 eggs
1/2 tsp (2 mL) baking powder
Pinch salt

Butter sides of 8 in. (2 L) square cake pan; set aside.

In bowl, beat butter until creamy, stir in lemon rind, then sugar and almonds. Mix in flour gradually, using fingertips if too stiff to mix with spoon. Press onto bottom of prepared pan.

Bake in 325°F (160°C) oven for 12 minutes or until slightly puffed and surface appears dry; set aside. Increase oven temperature to 350°F (180°C).

Topping:
In small bowl, combine half the almonds, half the sugar and 2 tbsp (25 mL) of the flour. With fork, blend in butter until mixture is crumbly; set aside.

In separate bowl, beat eggs with remaining sugar until thickened and pale. Combine remaining almonds and flour with baking powder and salt; stir into egg mixture. Combine raspberries and apricots; spoon evenly over base. Cover evenly with batter. Sprinkle evenly with topping. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until top is puffed and golden and fruit is bubbly. Let cool in pan on rack. Run knife around edges of pan and cut into squares.

There you go. All this, just to shift my dad's picture from the top of the blog.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Sept. 26, 1927-June 25, 2007



Goodbye Dad. You were one of the good guys.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Featuring The Hit Single "Tarmac-ameleon"

Paved In Full: The Best Of The One-Man Ahmadinejad Band to be released soon:

He has provoked the west's fury with his calls for Israel's elimination, dismissal of the Holocaust as a "myth" and strident advocacy of Iran's nuclear rights.

Now Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, has ordered his fiery polemics to be saved for posterity in preparation for commercial publication.

He has appointed a 15-member advisory council of his closest aides to study his "works and opinions" and choose the most important. Selected items are likely to be issued as books, CDs and pamphlets.

[edit]

However, Rooz Online, an opposition website, suggested Mr Ahmadinejad's advisers would have a much thinner body of work to choose from.

The only known publication credited to the president - who has a PhD in traffic management - was a treatise about cold asphalt, it said.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Nickers

I laugh but I shouldn't:

Shoppers at Wal-Mart stores across America are loading carts with merchandise – maybe a flat-screen TV, a few DVDs and a six pack of beer – and strolling out without paying. Employees also are helping themselves to goods they haven't paid for.

The world's largest retailer is saying little about these kinds of thefts, but it's recent public disclosures that it is experiencing an increase in so-called shrinkage at its U.S. stores suggests that inventory losses due to shoplifting, employee theft, paperwork errors and supplier fraud could be worsening.

The hit is likely to rise to more than $3 billion this year...

* * * * * * * *

Citizens are asked to report any suspicious observed weight gain:

If you're a fan of Hershey's chocolates
beware - there could be a bad batch contaminated with salmonella sitting on some store shelves without your knowledge. It all stems from a bizarre crime that Toronto Police alleged was committed by two men accused of carting off the tainted confections and re-selling them. It supposedly started last fall, when Hershey's originally recalled the candies after discovering the apparent contamination at its Smiths Falls plant.

They hired Turtle Island Recycling Depot on Cherry St. to get rid of them and several pallets of the goodies were destined for a truck on their way to a disposal. But cops allege the two men, one of whom was a Turtle Island employee, intercepted some of the treats and they may have been sold to retailers.

"I think this is a crime of opportunity," said Det. Sgt. John Babiar. "People have seen this chocolate that appears to be destined for destruction, but they were unaware of their risk."

"We estimate that there were approximately 40,000 bars." But only a few of those may have actually reached stores.

Hershey's has now been forced to recall the products in question as the hunt for the potentially dangerous candy continues.

"I suspect that they would have been resold at a very discounted rate to either individuals or diverted for their own personal use," Babiar adds.

* * * * * * * *

Cobourg police, masters of the bleedin' obvious:

The search for the missing beer from the Cobourg Corona heist leads to the streets of the Greater Toronto Area and the territory of organized crime.

Peel Regional and Cobourg police forces are now jointly investigating the theft, one of the largest in Cobourg history, but not as much as originally thought.

Both forces confirm the theft bears all the calling cards of organized crime.

Three tractor-trailers filled with cases of Corona were stolen Saturday afternoon from a Veronica Street parking lot, Cobourg Police said.

The lot, off Division Street south of Highway 401, is unguarded and often contains parked tractor-trailers, Const. Terry Stanley said.

Each trailer contained 1,300 24-bottle cases of the imported beer, Const. Stanley said.

All three rigs were discovered in an industrial area in Peel Region but the beer was gone, police said.

At about $40 per case the theft is worth around $156,000, police said.

The Beer Store sells a 24-bottle case of Corona for $44.35 which drives up the estimated value to around $172,965.

[edit]

Whoever stole the trucks would have had [the] buyers lined up beforehand, police said.

Hitch: Cocks; or, That's Funny, You Don't Look Mutilated

A brief Hitchfest '07 digression...
'The connection between religious barbarism and sexual repression could not be plainer than when it is "marked in the flesh." Who can count the number of lives that have been made miserable in this way, especially since Christian doctors began to adopt ancient Jewish folklore in their hospitals?" (Christopher Hitchens: God Is Not Great, p. 226)
Those of you who've read Mordecai Richler's paranoid '60s London satire Cocksure probably already know this, but the incidence of male circumcision in Canada in the mid-20th century, while difficult to say with accuracy, was clearly much higher than in the U.K.

Doesn't appear to have made the Brits any happier though (stats p. 37).

Higher standards?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Colonel Mustard, In The Nursery, With A Shoe

Professional jumper. Closed course.


Shee-it. Aren't there easier ways to prevent hernia?

More on s-pan y'all.

Melty Week

Too bleedin' hot.

That's right: I'm reduced to posting about the weather.

And food. Tasty 'n' easy summer veggie dish for 2. Can't remember where it's from. Goes well warm with white basmati rice, but you can do it as a cold salad too:

Creamy Puy Lentils w/Lemon Dressing

1/2 cup Puy lentils
1 garlic clove
1 smallish tomater
4-6 black olives (optional, IMNSHO)
1 tbsp butter
1/2 lemon
2 tsp chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 tsp grainy mustard
1-2 tbsp creme fraiche
salt and pepper
chopped flat-leaf parsley, tarragon sprigs and lemon wedges to garnish


1. Boil lentils in saucepan for about 20-25 minutes, or until tender.
2. In the meantime, prepare the veg and make the dressing. Chop the garlic, halve and pit the olives, finely chop and seed the tomato.
3. While the lentils are cooking, heat the butter in a skillet at medium heat. Add garlic; saute, while occasionally stirring, until it begins to brown. Grate in lemon rind, and stir in the juice. Add tarragon and mustard, and cook for 1/2 to 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in creme fraiche, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then stir in the (drained) lentils, tomato and olives.
4. Transfer and garnish with the tarragon, parsley and lemon.

If you can't be bothered to make or don't want to buy creme fraiche, works perfectly well with 2-3 tbsp full-fat yogourt.

If you live in some hick backwater and can't get puy lentils, then either a) use brown, and make sure to reduce your cooking time so's they don't turn to mush, or b) drink yourself into a depressive stupor.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Tie Die

Don't forget to cast your vote in the Globe and Mail's "Most Stylish Canadian" competition. "Wittiest Fraser Institute Fellow" is next week.

My vote's with Winnipeg youngster Jordan Crosthwaite:

Everything popular is wrong. Or so claimed Oscar Wilde. Indeed, the overwhelming misfortune of the bow tie is its lack of popularity, but it sure looks great. Because the bow-tie is uncommon, its infrequent appearance emphasizes stylish sophistication. Like a rare specimen of ornithological interest, a well-dressed man can be as enticing as the elusive trumpeter swan. My style emerges from my eye for the unique individual item of dress and accessory and the way that these elements constellate into a coherent look. I aspire to be dapper. I find inspiration in turn of the century men's dress - I try to bring a nostalgic item of style into a more modern appeal. To me, great style bridges convention and the unexpected - a bow-tie paired with a classic hoodie, a sailor stripped tee under a Winnipeg parka. Style eschews popularity; Oscar Wilde might not have been right, but he sure looked good.

mp3: XTC--"Helicopter" (from Drums and Wires)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Performance Enhancing Substance


A-Rod impresses young-lady-not-his-wife by producing stiffy at the Brass Rail.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Irrefragable



Another heartfelt Falwell eulogy.

And another.

N.B. One of these is satirical.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Two And A Half

Modest Mouse: We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank--the band's last two albums are among my favorites of the last 10 years so this one's a medium-sized disappointment. I didn't take to it at all at first, but it pays back repeated listening if you let the groove go to work on you.

This is probably the nearest thing to a pop album that Modest Mouse are going to make, and about as far away from the intimacy of The Moon And Antarctica as you can get. The songs are surprisingly direct and accessible (if weird as usual), whether it's the single "Dashboard" or the slow and slightly bombastic "Little Motel" (the first MoMo song suitable for the accompaniment of swaying lighters). In terms of sound it's much more of a "band" record than the orchestrated, all-over-the-place Good News For People Who Love Bad News, and the current lineup features, surprisingly, journeyman ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr as well as original drummer Jeremiah Green--not that I would really have noticed. The guitars sound great and drive most of the songs, usually in combination with a stomping groove a la some variation of "Float On." It's a very groove heavy album in fact. Mainman Isaac Brock's cracker vocal delivery is familiar, as are his long lyric sheets and tendency to write in a wry and generalised way about our hapless state, using specifics to paint big pictures.

Ship has a lot of guts and features a number of really good and addictive tracks, but it's too comfortable with itself. It's very self-referential music and doesn't play around with influences as much as previous albums. A number of tracks, like the opener "March Into The Sea," "Parting Of The Sensory," and "Invisible" tread decidedly old ground. The best stuff, like "Florida," "We've Got Everything" and "Fire It Up" bore into your brain like a brain-eating vole on amphetamines. Like their '90s albums, it's an endurance contest getting through the whole thing in one listen and some of the stuff at the back end like "Spitting Venom" I could have done without.

I give huge props to MM for being able to make chart-topping albums when they're such a weirdo band at heart. I just wished this one showed a little more development and a little more intimacy.

Modest Mouse--"Florida" (from We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank)
Modest Mouse--"Missed The Boat" (from We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank)

Deerhoof: Friend Opportunity--this is the first album I've ever heard by the weirdie Frisco three-piece (the drummer plays keyboards), so thank you very much Pitchfork--you make me feel so young (mid-30s). This is one of the most enjoyable discs I've heard in a good while. My three-year-old daughter likes it as well, and even makes up her own nonsense lyrics instead of accurately singing the, er, nonsense lyrics.

The first couple of tracks on Friend Opportunity might make you think that Deerhoof's sound could be summed up, in one sentence, as Stereolab crossed with an art-punk-garage band. But there's more to them than that. I can hear indications that they've listened to Larks' Tongues In Aspic as well as any number of jazz-rock-prog outfits. And I think it's fair to say that there are very few bands out there who can fit as much into a three-minute song as these guys; I mean, who writes idiotically catchy melodic pop tunes ("Matchbook Seeks Maniac") with a song structure of Ai-Aii-Aiii-chorus-B-C-chorus?

Stylistically, it's all over the place but held together by an incredible vibrancy and fun. It's arty music, but with very little pretense (quasi-naive ESL lyrics and squeaky-voiced Japanese singer Satomi Matzusaki add to the bounce and approachability). Apart from the Stereolab/post-punk inflected pop of "The Perfect Me" and "Believe E.S.P.", there's one track based around close-mic'ed piano that sounds like the gentler side of Peter Hammill ("Whither The Invisible Birds"), another one that leads off with a folky-prog acoustic guitar ("The Galaxist") and yet another that's mostly chopped-up samples over a drumline rhythm ("Kidz Are So Small"). The playing is great, and just loose enough to kick some major backside where necessary.

The one caveat with FO is that it's fairly brief and capped off with a 12-minute more abstract and drawn-out sectional piece (based around John Dieterich's clangy chromatic guitar work), which some people might find jarring after 9 tightly-packed short songs. Otherwise, the album is a highly-recommendable pile 0' fun.

Life is good. For 35 minutes anyway.

Deerhoof--"The Perfect Me" (from Friend Opportunity)
Deerhoof--"Whither The Invisible Birds?" (from Friend Opportunity)
Deerhoof--"Matchbook Seeks Maniac" (from Friend Opportunity)

Menomena: Friend And Foe--very impressive second cd from this Portland, Oregon multi-instrumental three-piece (with two singers). I meant to go see them last month but I don't have the stamina for midnight (scheduled) sets anymore. Damn you, 2am closing time!

Menomena's sound-world is rooted in Tortoise-like post-rock (foregrounded, crunchy cymbals and hi-hat, boomy bass), but they also very good at--heaven forfend--writing actual songs. You can hear a little bit of The Flaming Lips (without the requisite dumbness), too, in the general grandeur and in the singer with the nasal voice. Pacings are slow, rhythms dug-in, and orchestrations, which are very "orchestral," feature the three-piece with sax, piano, organ and synth excellent--a very appealing sounding record in fact. How they do most of this stuff live is beyond me (their first album was apparently written almost entirely on Mr. Computer). Some songs sound churchy, some chunky/funky, and some electronic. You'd think you'd that the deliberate pace of the album would wear after a while but there's so much wit, good songwriting and arrangement that you don't care. Menomena make every note and beat count.

There isn't a great deal of fat on the album--it's maybe one song longer than it needed to be--and even the less inventive tracks like "Evil Bee" veer off in interesting directions and/or have interesting things to listen to. It's hard to pick favorites as many of the songs are complementary and there's a lot of ebb and flow. "The Pelican," which sounds like raging stoners playing post-rock, is pretty cool, as are the bass grooves of "Muscle 'n' Flo" and "Air Aid." I hear the Flaming Lips influence most in songs like "Wet And Rusting" and one of my faves, the sombre organ-drone "My My."

Oh, just listen to the samples. Writing about music is like sculpting about ballet after all.

Menomena--"Muscle 'n' Flo" (from Friend And Foe)
Menomena--"My My" (from Friend And Foe)

Sunday Supper Chez Nous

To Our American Readers


All of your Lands' End and L.L. Bean mail-order merchandise are belong to us.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Career Development

I seriously need to come up with an internet shtick, while there's still time.

Suggestions?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Day Late And (AU) Dollar Short

I'm a little late, but I've been meaning to write something about Brisbane's Go-Betweens on the anniversary of Grant McLennan's far too early passing.

I was a latecomer to the Go-Bs, but they've rapidly become one of my very favorite bands. Hard to put into words why; suffice it to say that I hear art, craft and the pursuit of something beautiful in just about everything they did, from their early '80s jerky and sparse post-punk/folk to the brainy jingle-jangle of 16 Lovers Lane. Their second incarnation in the new century wasn't half bad either, and, while I'm not keen on the overuse of the word "tragic," McLennan was one of those artists who clearly had a lot more to give.

The songwriting partnership of McLennan and Robert Forster, formed during their university days, is among the most productive and interesting in the annals of pop music. They've been referred to as the Aussie Lennon & McCartney, which was both a touch of flattery and accurate in that there was a certain yin-yang quality to the musical relationship--the tall, lean Forster as the literate one and McLennan as Mr. Solid and Dependable. Unlike L&M, though, they habitually worked and wrote co-operatively. And, if you care to peruse Forster's lovely and heartfelt tribute to his friend and collaborator, you'll see that their musical personae stood in many ways in stark contrast to their personalities.

McLennan's the one who seems to get the majority of the critical kudos (his solo stuff during the '90s Go-Betweens hiatus was certainly better received than Forster's), but I don't have a preference in terms of songwriting. Relative quality varies from album to album. I usually prefer Forster's lyrics, which are more observational and acerbic; McLellan deals more with basic elements and when he hits the mark, it's stark and poignant, but when he doesn't it can be a tad banal. Neither of them are great natural singers--which is obvious from live recordings--but they learned how to use their voices better and better with each successive album.

For an appreciation of the band's studio albums, you could do worse than flip through allmusic. I'm in general agreement with their assessments, with the exception of their being way too hard on Tallulah and slightly too easy on The Friends Of Rachel Worth. But anyway, here's my quick run-down:

Send Me A Lullaby (1981)--would be better considered if it were by a lesser band. Not a lot of great songs but a lot of interesting impressions poking their heads above the battlements. The execution isn't quite there yet--the vocals (majority by Forster on this one) are thin, the arrangements a little insecure ("Midnight To Neon"), and there's too much weird for the sake of weird [hey, this is an early-'80s Oz band, fergawdsake!--ed]. But for all of the stop-start jerkiness of songs like "Arrow In A Bow" and the abbreviated rhythms and 4-bar phrases ("The Girls Have Moved"), there's a counterbalancing gentleness ("One Thing Can Hold Us"). I think a lot of this is down to the guitars, which burst all bright and jangly-like to the surface during the middle-eights and breaks. "Your Turn, My Turn" sounds like a mellow version of The Birthday Party. "Eight Pictures" is a poorly-realized hamfest, lyrically and musically.

"One Thing Can Hold Us" (from Send Me A Lullaby)
"People Know" (from Send Me A Lullaby)

Before Hollywood (1983)--the great leap forward and the best of the early-period albums. Manages to sound both tougher and more lyrical than its predecessor, not to mention more concise and more melodic. McLellan's contribution shines through; his vocals are much more relaxed, and he delivers the goods big time with standout tunes "Two Steps Step Out" and the much lauded "Cattle And Cane," among others. Forster provides the spiky Tom Verlaine-like counterpart with the title track and "Ask." A few of the songs ("By Chance") tread similar ground to Lullaby but are better realized. The band vibe is wonderful, with drummer Lindy Morrison in particular sounding much more comfortable. Not an inch of fat on this one.

"Two Steps Step Out" (from Before Hollywood)

"Ask" (from Before Hollywood)

Spring Hill Fair (1984)--a transitional album in many ways. A number of excellent tunes but somewhat all over the place in terms of style and production. The addition of the more traditional bass player Robert Vickers and GM's move to guitar full-time (and the use of more acoustic guitar in general) changes the rhythm section balance and makes for a much warmer band sound, shown particularly in standouts like "Five Words." A few of McLellan's songs ("Bachelor Kisses," "Slow Slow Music") date themselves with the constrained "eighties" production and drum machines, and are an uncomfortable fit with Forster's bluesy-pop contributions (the very good "Draining The Pool" and "You've Never Lived"). McLellan's spoken-word "River Of Money" doesn't really fly, but "Unkind And Unwise" is a particularly sweet offering. I've never taken to Forster's melodramatic "Man O' Sand To Girl O' Sea," try as I might.

"Five Words" (from Spring Hill Fair)
"The Old Way Out" (from Spring Hill Fair)

Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express (1986)--the first "middle-period" record and the first with "that" Go-Betweens sound. Simpler music, with a much gentler and janglier sound, fleshed out effectively with strings on tracks like "The Wrong Road." It's not all high art by any means ("In The Core Of A Flame"), but the material hangs together extremely well and the production is never obtrusive. The abbreviated three-time "The Ghost And The Black Hat" is my favorite of the McLellan-sung tracks, and Forster's "To Reach Me" and the dreamy "Bow Down" are particular good ones. "Twin Layers Of Lightning" is a bit of a throwback but the arrangement with mallet percussion is very nice.

"The Wrong Road" (from Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express)
"Bow Down" (from Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express)

Tallulah (1987)--a particular favorite of mine and I think their most underappreciated album. Its pleasingly muscular sound is very much an anomaly, sandwiched as this one is between Liberty Belle and 16 Lovers Lane. The production is a common complaint with Tallulah, and although I'm not as bothered by so-called '80s "big drum" production as some, parts of the album, like the single "Right Here," could have used a remix to mitigate the worst effects of the jack-hammer drum machine. On the songwriting front, though, this is as strong a showing from both GM and RS as there is in the Go-Betweens catalogue. Forster's "You Tell Me" and "The Clarke Sisters" are unimpeachable, and all these years later you're left wondering how in the hell McLellan's "Right Here," "Cut It Out" and the brilliant "Bye Bye Pride" weren't huge hits. "Someone Else's Wife" is the one track that sounds out of place, with GM seemingly channelling Hunters & Collectors.

"You Tell Me" (from Tallulah)
"Bye Bye Pride" (from Tallulah)

16 Lovers Lane (1988)--you can't really argue agin this one as the Go-Betweens' best. A friend of mine once said that this was one of the easiest albums to like that you could ever come across and I know exactly what he meant; music, lyric, arrangement and sound mesh together seamlessly. I suppose a cynic might complain that it doesn't demand enough from the listener, but 16 Lovers Lane certainly isn't slick; it's just lush and lovely. Listen to the lovely string arrangements on the opening tracks "Love Goes On!" and "Quiet Heart" and you'll see what I mean. "Love Is A Sign" and "Clouds" are two of my favorite Forster songs and lyrics, the latter being great for drunken sing-alongs. "Streets Of Your Town" is another lovely McLellan hit-that-should-have-been. An album of its time but not imprisoned by it.

"Clouds" (from 16 Lovers Lane)
"Quiet Heart" (from 16 Lovers Lane)

more to follow...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Knuckle Sandwich

Currently second in AL E.R.A.

A top young prospect.

And a book.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Grant McLennan

GM died far too young just over a year ago today.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Oh Giorgio!

Fancy a quality hummer? Take the 10pm ferry to Centre Island.

Make sure you don't dilly-dally though--last one back to the mainland is at 11:45.

Die Hippie Die

Aerial spraying works best I find.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Technically, They're "Humps", But Be That As It May

A leetle Ward 32 humour:

Maybe Sandra Bussin can take some of the tar from those speed bumps she so likes spending our tax money on and fill some of the pot holes on Willow Avenue.

John Zimnoch
Remax/Hallmark

King For Several Hundred Days

Rocket Roger takes self-deprecation into uncharted territory:

The seventh-inning stretch was ending when the low, familiar voice of public-address announcer Bob Sheppard told fans at Yankee Stadium to direct their attention to the owner's box behind home plate.

Standing there, microphone in hand, was Roger Clemens to personally announce his return to New York.

[edit]

He agreed to a one-year contract for US$28,000,022 - the last two digits matching his uniform number...

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Fab Gear

The Toronto Transit Commission is blingin' the thing:

Ashwin Joshi, associate professor of marketing at the Schulich School of Business, thinks it's time the TTC got moving, so to speak. "I think the TTC has brand equity it hasn't capitalized on," Joshi said, calling the system's quiet cachet "an under-utilized asset."

It's time the transit system got away from marketing its function and developed an image of itself that's more about bringing people together, with an underlying theme of its democratic value, Joshi said.

I concur wholeheartedly.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Mackem Chainsaw Massacre

Leatherface: a very good band I've just recently been introduced to. And not my usual cup of chai which should tell you something. This tune is a scorcher:

Leatherface--"Evo Pop" (from the album Horsebox)

Here are the handsome devils on Utube.

Very pure. Unadulterated. Nothing between you and it, if you know what I mean.

And they're from Sunderland which should piss him off.

The (Number) One About The Irishman


Our next-door neighbour has decided to opt out of indoor plumbing.

Probably got mad when he couldn't figure out how it works.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Not Necessarily Dangerous

In the wake of The Event, the University of Northern Colorado is taking no chances when it comes to security.

Cuz you never know when an anorexic is going to go off.

P.S. I'm guessing Ken Chan is a peeper. Just a hunch.

There may be a leetle delay

If anyone's been wondering about this camp saga (which I doubt), I will be seeing some of the camp founders this weekend. I plan to pepper them with questions to get more info about the early days. Then I'll be able to do another post on the story with greater accuracy and detail.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Monday, April 23, 2007

But, But...What If My Kids Suck?

He should do a post about the weirdies spoken of here, since he's the one with the professional interest. What do I care about the environment?

Choice r-tarded quote:

Vincent Ciaccio and his wife, Laura -- both 29 -- grew up passively assuming that they would have children one day. However, after the couple met in college and embarked on a life together, they realized they did not want to become parents, a decision informed in large part by environmental concerns.

While the Ciaccios would not describe themselves as hard-core environmentalists, they are both ethical vegetarians who eat locally grown food, drive a compact car and regulate their energy consumption.

"There are a lot of reasons to be vegetarian and a lot of those translate into reasons to be child-free -- choices like not supporting clear-cutting the rain forests to raise cattle," says Mr. Ciaccio, who currently lives in Boston, where his wife is at law school. "Being child-free means we don't run the risk of having children who won't be vegetarians and undo all the good choices we've made."

Monday, April 16, 2007

Why Camp Three Arrows?

So, there are our young idealists, wandering around southern Ontario, looking for a cheap piece of land. We'll leave them to wander for a little longer. Let's take a quick side-trip to look at Camp Three Arrows' name and symbol:





The arrows point to the LEFT -- by design, not by accident. They stand for three socialist principles: bread, peace, and freedom. This was a slogan adopted by the International Free Trade Unionists in the 1940s, but I found references to it earlier than that. (But don't politicos of all stripes yearn for these things?) As far as I know, the symbol was always green.

There is one theory that the design originated during Nazi-era Germany. If one saw a swastika, one negated it by drawing three diagonal lines or arrows through it. I'll have to investigate this one day.

Next up: Camp buys some land.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Story Of Camp Three Arrows

This is the first in an irregular series about Camp Three Arrows--a failed socialist experiment in Ontario. My father started to write a history, but never finished it, I'm not sure why. But given that his health is failing rapidly, I thought I'd better take up the story now. Some of this will be a bit sketchy on historical facts and details; I will try to go back and fill them in as I find things out. If anyone out there can correct me on dates, etc., please feel free. But this outline will do for a start. Most of this history I've heard, since I was a kid, from my parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and the other founding members of Camp.

In 1932, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (the CCF) was started in Alberta. It had an offshoot, the CCYM (Co-operative Commonwealth Youth Movement). My parents were members; in fact, that's where they met. As with any political party's youth branch, it was part political, part social. Lots of singing, baseball games, and drinking interspersed with earnest debates about socialism.

In Toronto, the CCYM branch organized camping trips, the better to have those earnest debates 'round the campfire. These outings were usually to provincial parks. After a while, the membership decided it might be good to have a permanent site to hold these get-togethers, the better to organize and plan the new socialist Canada. So they started to scout out southern Ontario to find a suitable piece of land.

To be continued...

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Faith In Humankind Restored

Ice Follies

Always important to keep a level head during divorce proceedings, and put the kids first.

* * * * * * * *

Coaches are hired to be fired these days, but wtf..?

Claude Julien had no comment, other than to remark: "Why is everything I love taken from me?!"

* * * * * * * *

Like most people, I expect to be asked the preferred variant of my given name--Rob, Robert or (the spaghetti monster forbid) Bob. So, why do sports networks assume that everyone named Martin just loves being called "Marty" on-air, whether they're French-Canadian, Swiss or Czech? Did they take a poll?

* * * * * * * *

I'm glad to find out I'm not the only one who's rubbed the wrong way by Sportsnet analyst Nick Kypreos.

As a sports "personality" and member of said network's obligatory panel o' blowhards, The Kipper's speciality is making snarky, dismissive comments about other players. At the trade deadline, for example, and if memory serves me correctly, he joined in the general piling-on against the Leafs' re-acquisition of oft-undervalued veteran centreman Yanic Perrault. Not what the team needed, will add nothing, etc.

Fair enough. This is analysis, after all.

But, just for comparison's sake, here are Perrault's career stats, and those of a certain former middle-market heavy and fourth-line spear-carrier who was lucky enough to play for a cup winner.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Voting For The Hall

...of Ill-Chosen Company Names starts this week.

Lifetime achievement inductee.

Up for selection this year.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Score One For Pitch-Correction Technology

Nelly cleans up at the Junos.

Even I gotta admit her mid-rent dance music's a lot easier to take than her godawful teenage-girl folk-pop.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Misc.

Apologies for the lack of posting. Busy, unfocused and tired in equal measure.

* * * * * * * *

I meant to go to the Don Mills Heritage Celebration thingy at the Don Mills library a few weeks back but I was busy coughing up phlegm. The Don Mills Centre campaign people have a photo album up, as well as a number of other updates. Original DM planner Macklin Hancock is now on board, as well as architects Henry Fliess and Douglas Lee.

This fellah has also signed up and has a number of posts on topic, including this particularly interesting one re Don Mills architecture.

* * * * * * * *

A Jesus sighting. Well I'll be.

* * * * * * * *

If you want to call King Bhumibol a humourless asshole, don't do it in Thailand.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

It's A Good Thing That We're Mac-ing


I'll figure out how to work it eventually. Still at the caressing and sweet-talking stage.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Big, Steaming Pile Of Accomodation

...and, I'm assuming, paid for by your Student Council fees.

Full report here.

I found page 19 particularly insightful. I'd always understood that income-contingent loan repayment schemes were incompatible with the ends of social justice, but apparently, it's a freedom of religious practice issue!

One of the Task Force panelists is Wahida Chisht Valiante, National Veep of the Canadian Islamic Congress, who are headed up as you may recall by Mohamed "Electric Jello/Legitimate Targets" Elmasry.

The Muslim Canadian Congress wasn't represented, but then they might have had other things on their plate.

Update: a moderate Irish-Catholic reader rightly chides me for my cynicism:

Actually, I have no problem with the recommendations of the Task Force on Muslim Students. So long as certain other measures are taken, in the interests of diversity and equity, as in:

A shebeen and an adjoining chapel on every floor of every building, which is to say multiple shebeens "for easy access from all points" on campus where I can drink myself into a stupor with my mates and listen to the Dropkick Murphys at maximum volume and never be more than 50 paces from a confession booth staffed by a Franciscan, round the clock, and never be more than 100 paces from a properly-consecrated building where I can pray the stations of the cross whenever I fucking want.

Gigantic murals of JFK and the Pope and the Blessed Virgin and Gerry Adams on every wall of every university building. A no-Protestant rule in the gym from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays. A no-Protestant rule in the pool from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays. The abolition of all pro-choice propaganda from campus and any other such material or activity that could be construed as creating a "chilly climate" for my people and a regularly-audited campus-wide plan to ensure that every course and every book on campus is expunged of any content that might be perceived as giving offence to the magisterium of Rome.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Professional Pride

I've always thought that baseball was only secondarily an athlete's game, but really: first gout, then diabetes?

If I was hitting against Wells, I gotta say I'd be tempted to bunt. A lot.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

When You Care Enough To Send The Very Tasteless

I'd like to find a birthday card that is NOT about:

  • Aging
  • Farts
  • Golf
  • Obese women sitting on Chihuahuas
  • Sex
  • Limp dicks/Saggy tits (arguably, this is a sub-genre of sex jokes)

Is it really so much to ask--a birthday card that's not tasteless? You wouldn't think it would be difficult to find, but increasingly, it is. It would be nice if the card were witty too. Hell, even a corny pun would suffice.

Furthermore, I don't want to have to fall back on Hallmark-type "you're a special person" cards, complete with blurry photographs of ponds and copperplate script. The other option is blank art cards, which means I have to write the message myself. These will do in a pinch, except it's hard to think of anything creative to say, so the card usually reads: "Ted, Happy Birthday." (Even when it's not for Ted.)

For A Certain Sweary Geordie

The Whooper Swan Ascending.

For a warm, lazy, sunny morning. Relatively speaking, of course.

mp3: Aulis Sallinen--"Sunrise Serenade" (Harjanne, Valimaki; Avanti CO/Saraste)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Short-Winded

If I could pad everything out to six long paragraphs, I'd do this for a living, wouldn't I?

The Memory Band: Apron Strings-- the first proper-band album from the mellow Brit folkies led by one Stephen Cracknell, erstwhile electronic-folk artist, Badly Drawn Boy touring bassist and Brian Eno sound-alike. The influence of electronica is there more in the ambiance than the instrumentation, which is predominantly acoustic guitars, bass and violin/viola, with some gentle metronomic percussion throw in. The Pogues this ain't: I counted one proper crescendo on the entire disc (on the traditional "I Wish I Wish," which not coincidentally is also the only instance of the drums being hit with any force). Dynamically, Apron Strings is about as static as you can get. Some of the cover material, including one quite nice track that I assume is by Chic, and another, a zombified rendering of "Want You To Know" by psych-soul band Rotary Connection, is decidedly non-traditional.

Like Cracknell's former paycheque, this is stuff that's very underwritten and underpowered, but very listenable, coming as it does with an undeniably nice vibe, a gentle earnestness and no grandiose pretensions. Instrumentally, the bowed strings take centre stage most often, and get to cut loose on traditionals "Blackwaterside" and, particularly, "I Wish I Wish." Female lead Nancy Wallace has a very attractive, slightly fragile voice which features nicely on both the presumed Chic cover "Why" and the traditional "Green Grows The Laurel." Cracknell original "Come Write Me Down" is pretty in a '70s folk-pop kind of way. His instrumental pieces are pleasant but don't light the house on fire.

A decent disc for after-dinner listening. 7.2 blissed-out beardie weirdos out of 10.

mp3: The Memory Band--"Come Write Me Down" (from Apron Strings)
mp3: The Memory Band--"Why" (from Apron Strings)

The Fratellis: Costello Music--debut album by the jock-rock three-piece. Franz Ferdinand ("Henrietta") and/or The Strokes ("Flathead") without any arty pretensions, The Fratellis (the band members have all taken the last name, Ramones-like) are unabashedly retro-reactionary, not to mention kitschy, with foot-stomps 'n' hand-claps, obvious Beatleisms ("Baby Fratelli") and Music Hall aesthetics ("Whistle For The Choir") all making their appearances, but they're also energetic, up-tempo and for the most part fun. The lyrical persona is a cartoonish working-class, featuring a curious mixture of antique rock templates and vulgarity.

It's not an album that you're going to listen to for the finer points. The playing gets the job done but no more, the production's pretty non-descript, and the songwriting, which works about 3/4 of the time, gets you from A to B with minimal diversion. Better tracks include "Henrietta," the single "Flathead," the twangy "Vince The Loveable Stoner" and the Beatley "Everybody Knows You Cried Last Night." "Chelsea Dagger" is a bit silly, and the last few songs aren't so hot, but by then The Fratellis have said about all that they're going to say. Frankly, once you hit track six or seven on Costello Music, you won't be expecting any subsequent reinventions of the wheel.

The wife likes it 'cos they play tunes.

Good for parties and drunken sing-alongs when you can only remember 1/4 of the words. 7.5 pieces of greasy haddock out of 10.

mp3: The Fratellis--"Henrietta" (from Costello Music)
mp3: The Fratellis--"Whistle For The Choir" (from Costello Music)


Deerhunter: Cryptograms--not coming soon to a chart near you is the second long-play by these Atlanta noise-sculptors, and their first for Kranky, the label that brought you Montreal's masters of the melodramatic (de)crescendo Godspeed You Black Emperor!

Here is Pitchfork's near-fellation of the record. Here's what the band, on its MySpace page, has wittily put in its "Sounds Like" blurb:

Actual Testimony: "Tonight I saw your group in Nashville. Please, STOP MAKING (what might be concieved as) MUSIC! You have no melodies, there was no songwriting skills involved, lack of chord structures, AND your songs are pathetically too long.

It doesn't get better.

Naturally, The Truth (copyright me, 2007) lies somewhere between these two views, but I have to admit I do kinda like this one despite some initial misgivings. But I can understand why some people wouldn't. The album's actually a combination of two separate and quite different-sounding sessions.

The second is comprised of self-contained songs and is considerably more upbeat. The Velvets inheritance predominates through its intermediaries, in this case the drone-like pulsing of early Stereolab and the aural screeching of Sonic Youth. "Heatherwood" and "Strange Lights" are very sunny, "Hazel Street" pretty lame and "Spring Hall Convert," a succession of deliberate gear-changes of rising intensity, probably the best. And that is apparently a guy singing on that one.

The first and longer part, which predates the second, is basically a continuous alternation between ambient/experimental tracks and "songs" and is to my ear more interesting. Others may well find it more annoying. The song side of things, particularly as exemplified by the title track, owes a big debt to Joy Division and often features distorted and monotone vocals (can't find a lyrics sheet anywhere, so no clue what they're on about). The experimental pieces are usually built up from tape-loops and are quite varied. "Providence" is all guitars (backwards and forwards, acoustic and electric) and sounds almost pastoral in its big rich chord build-up, but others like "Intro" and "White Ink" use whatever instrumentation to create pulses, swells and urban-environmental-type sounds. I walked by a condo construction site the other day while listening to the album and honestly couldn't tell which sounds were coming from the headphones. Cool.

The playing is rudimentary to say the least, which lets the side down here and there ("Octet"), and there's a couple of duff bits, like the aforementioned "Hazel Street" and the charmless "Lake Somerset," but otherwise I found Cryptograms' overall vibe very appealing. 8.0 industrial boring tools out of 10 (margin of error +/- 0.5).

The wife doesn't like it 'cos they don't play tunes.

mp3: Deerhunter--"Cryptograms" (from Cryptograms)
mp3: Deerhunter--"Providence" (from Cryptograms)
mp3: Deerhunter--"Spring Hall Convert" (from Cryptograms)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

This Morning

It was 15 degrees 48 hours ago, and now...






Nice day though.



She don't care one way or t'other. Long as there's a teeter-totter.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Assumptions

Mostly obvious:
  1. Good art is very hard to do.
  2. Great art is splendooferously hard to do.
  3. An artistic failure or partial-failure isn't a crime, nor does it necessarily produce uninteresting results.
  4. Good/great art requires, by definition, a good/great, engaged and knowledgeable audience.
  5. Any music, e.g., that requires you be a scenester or "club member" in order to fully appreciate its brilliance and/or fiendishly clever intricacies isn't worth bothering with.
  6. Following on from 5, any music, e.g., that relies too heavily on extra-musical concerns should be treated with suspicion.
  7. allmusic has it bang-on correct re EJ, 1968-1976.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Records In Review: Of Montreal--Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?

Weirdo bands are doing surprisingly well in the charts these days--what gives?

Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destoyer? is the nth album by Of Montreal, the vehicle of Athens, Georgia pop eccentric Kevin Barnes, who seldom manages to go a calendar year without an album release. Barnes is an incredibly hyperactive musical personality—allmusic refers to his style as “euphoric pop,” which is as good a single-word description as any—with a particular obsession with '60s stuff: Beatles obviously, but there’s other things in there as well, often filtered through early-'80s electronic sounds and aesthetics. He’s magpie-like rather than organic in his songwriting methods, but weirdly enough it does seem to translate into a quick-witted style all his own. Lyrics are often laugh-out-loud funny, even as they are here painfully autobiographical. Some of OM’s albums have been full- or partial-band, but this one’s pretty much Barnes with some added help.

I’ve never heard more than bits and pieces of the band previously, but the miracle of modern technology means that even the physically and intellectually laziest of us can easily do a little background research. My impressions: Hissing Fauna is pretty outlandish, even for an Of Montreal album. Its general sound-world certainly has similarities to that of 2005's Sunlandic Twins, but it's a much more extreme version of, with lots of weird synth sounds and samples, jarring, oddly-produced and mixed drum beats, and garish multi-part backing vocals. Sonic contrast and disturbance, more than ever before, is at the heart of the thing. Perhaps fittingly, HF lurches all over the place on the songwriting front, drawing ironic inspiration not only from the usual '60s sources but also disco, funk and electronics-heavy new wave. The overall impression is very different from that of the highly-regarded The Gay Parade (1999), a fluid, whimsical, Beatley concept album, or even the tougher, straight-ahead pop of 2004's Satanic Panic In The Attic. If I had to generalize, I'd describe the overall atmosphere as one of benign claustrophobia.

Hardcore fans of the band are of course welcome to set me straight, but I get the feeling that Hissing Fauna, while impressively put together, isn't OM's finest hour. As the album progresses, it loses the plot somewhat in a tangle of self-indulgence and plain weirdness. Barnes has always been extremely clever and no mistake, but it's the kind of cleverness that hits you over the head with a spiked club rather than sidling up beside you. And during those times when his self-restraint is lacking, well, let's just put it this way: you're glad for his sake that he's not in the room.

The first half of the album is extremely good in terms of both material and flow, the latter being no mean feat with songs as diverse as this lot. "Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse" channels early OMD (manic version) and is the most immediately appealing of the outright pop songs; it's all keyboards, drum machine and sudden changes. Opener "Suffer For Fashion" is also extremely catchy and one of the few guitar-based songs on the record. "A Sentence Of Sorts in Konigsvinger" (yes, Barnes' ex-wife is Norwegian) has a ridiculous funky-disco chorus that reminds me of "Rock The Boat"--one of those songs that would surely suck if it wasn't so charming. "Sink The Seine" and "Cato As A Pun" are effective chorus-free asides that help to lend the album an episodic feel.

It's the latter half where things start to come unglued. The spoken-sung "The Past Is A Grotesque Animal" starts out very well, like a faster-paced New Order, but the thing goes on as a repetitive dance groove for 12 frickin' minutes, the last 6 or 7 with tres irritating ooh-ooh-ooh backing vocals. Listen to the first 2:45, then fast-forward. "Faberge Falls For Shuggie" and "Labyrinthian Pomp" are both cases where Barnes' genre-quotational style sounds more like a piss-take, the sort of thing you'd expect from someone like Ween (admittedly, this isn't the first time similarities between the two bands have arisen: see, e.g., the arch "Forecast Fascist Future" from Sunlandic Twins). The same kind of thing can be heard in the vocal delivery on the much better death-disco-ey "She's a Rejecter" as well as "Bunny Ain't No Kind Of Rider," the album's hilarious comic highlight.

Despite the reservations, there's a lot to like about Hissing Fauna, and the album certainly encourages me to explore Of Montreal's back catalogue more thoroughly. An uneven but always surprising listen. Recommendation: 40% impressive, 40% fun, 20% irritating.

mp3: Of Montreal--"Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse" (from Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?)

mp3: Of Montreal--"Faberge Falls For Shuggie" (from Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Rogered

O Come All Ye Tasteless: the Prayer Palace Mothership Connection
Just whose plastic palms have been getting watered? That's one of the questions being asked as the Star continues its investigative series into the doings at the Prayer Palace on Finch West:
A Toronto mega church whose spending practices were questioned in a recent Star investigation has hired a public relations firm specializing in "crisis communication" and launched an internal financial probe, a spokesman said yesterday.
[edit]
The audit launch comes one week after the Star published a story on the Prayer Palace as part of an ongoing investigation into Canadian charities. With a 3,000-member congregation, the Prayer Palace is one of the largest churches in Canada, but spends only a small fraction of its income on charitable work. Instead, some of the charity's most highly touted programs are paid for by many of the church's working class members, whose lifestyles stand in sharp contrast to those led by church leaders.
Head pastor Paul Melnichuk and his twin sons, junior pastors Tom and Tim Melnichuk, each own multi-million dollar estates north of the city, they share a waterfront vacation villa in Florida and drive luxurious cars, including Porsches, a Lexus, a Mercedes-Benz and BMWs. The pastors have refused repeated requests for comment. Reporters were told that written questions submitted to the pastors via the church regarding their properties and other possessions were "not related to charities."
No further explanation was given.
I'm shocked. Truly.
The Star's digging isn't going down so well with some of the hardcore parishioners:
"You have touched God's anointed! Be careful! Be careful that you don't drop dead one of these days," shouted one caller who identified himself as Roger.
Other callers said that to ignore their warnings would be to invite tragedy into reporters' lives, including leprosy and possible physical harm.
Leprosy?
One caller issued a death threat; another called a reporter a "Mormon ... a racist."