Sunday, November 16, 2008

Worth breaking the silence for: new Cometbus/Schwartzenbach band forms in Brooklyn.

No excuses: I've been busy. Like Fugazi and Electrelane, this blog has been on indefinite hiatus, but I'll pick it up again someday soon. For the moment, however:

Blake Schwartzenbach (Jawbreaker) and Aaron Cometbus (Crimpshrine) have teamed up with someone who's on the television show The L Word who also plays bass and have determined that now is a good time to play melodic punk again. I concur.

(Photo from the Brooklyn DIY blog. Thanks!)

The project is called "Thorns of Life," after Percy Shelley (about whom Schwartzenbach is presently writing a doctoral dissertation). This appeals to me especially because I had a band named after a poem once too (though Irving Layton, who I think is cooler than Shelley, though not because he was a better person, or even a better poet). Should I hold my breath for them to set "Ozymanduias" to a pop-punk song (like we did to the poem of Layton's we named ourselves after)? Or should I just try and figure out how to get them to stop playing house shows in Brooklyn and instead come and play a house show in Montreal? Standing offer, Thorns of Life: get in touch and I'll put on the best show in Canada in someone's loft, basement, or whatever. No bars, no music industry, nothing: just sweaty people crammed into a small space, having a wonderful time. Seriously: this is your town for the taking.

I'm glad I didn't grow out of pop-punk.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Profile of Hazel Dickens, Matriarch of American Country & Labour Music

This woman is an American national treasure. We're so lucky she's still alive and playing today, even at the age of 73.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Friday, August 01, 2008

Song appreciation: Hazel Dickens's "Won't You Come and Sing For Me?" by Jim and Jennie & the Pinetops, 1999

You know that feeling that you get when you start to cry? When for a moment your whole being seems stopped up, hot and aching, and you panic deep inside, feeling like it’ll poison you? Then your eyes get hot and the pain edges its way up your throat and into your face, and slowly you open up and some of the pain comes out. However much you hurt inside, that little bit that would have overwhelmed you slips free and escapes. You let it out and though you can’t cure yourself of the pain, but you let a little bit go and it’s gone. That’s what this song sounds like to me.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lost favourite:

"True, True, True" by Ken Parker, circa late '60s. I have no idea who the woman pictured on this video is, other than that she is not Ken Parker.

I found this song on a compilation years ago and had it on a favourite spirit-lifting collection of ska, reggae, and rocksteady tracks that I employed many a grim November, but that went missing a while back. Of all the music on it, this was the track I missed the most, and I'm glad to be listening to it again.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Ali Farka Touré - The Source

The first really, really hot Monday morning in June, 2001, I awoke in my apartment from one of those slumbers that seems like it's set to smother you. That summer I was subletting an apartment mostly furnished from a friend of a friend--living with a handful of my belongings in the middle of another person's life-- and while most of the time I was very comfortable there, some days I'd feel sharply aware of how out of place I was. Spat up from sleep, tangled in sweaty sheets and blankets on my thin, hard mattress on the warm hardwood floor of the apartment, I found myself facing one such morning. I kicked off the covers and felt no cooler than I'd been wrapped in fabric. Everything was hot.

I made a pot of stovetop espresso, drank it sitting on the shade-warm fire escape, then rode my bicycle down St Urbain to downtown, where I was working in a video store on Ste Catherine West. By the time I'd ridden ten minutes there, I was slathered in sweat that was soaking its way down from the collar of my shirt. It was overcast, but the sun raged behind the clouds like a blind pimple. I opened the door to the store, took my first sips of air-conditioned air and breathed deeply, feeling the air cool my mouth and nose and lungs.

Anthony was behind the counter, checking in returns and looking haggard. I asked how he was and he groaned that he was hungover. He'd chosen a poor day for that. We processed the returns, shelved them, and put the tags away, before I went across the street to fetch us coffee and croissants. Then we sat at down by the cash. It was 10:30 at the store was quiet; Anthony folded his arms on the counter and rested his head on them. I watched the steam wandering up out of my styrofoam coffee cup, the hot scene of Ste Catherine Street in the window behind me, and reflected that the steam was probably as hot as it was outside. People were moving past in various states of dress and comfortable undress, sweating and self-conscious with the heat. Inside the air was cool and still. I put my head down on the counter too. Nobody came in for a long time and Anthony and I just stayed the way we were, celebrating stillness, both so glad to have a reason to spend eight hours in air-conditioned comfort before having to slink home to stifling apartments.

Somewhere during that chronology, Anthony had put on this Ali Farka Touré album. The quieter we got, the less we moved, the more it insinuated its stillness upon us, gently nodding at us as we relaxed more, soothing us by putting into music the ease and calm we felt in that moment.

Ever since then, this album makes me still, calm, and cool. Tonight, sitting with the cat between the window breeze and the gently ticking ceiling fan, I can't think of a better sound for the end of a sunny Saturday in June.