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Archive for September, 2004

Thursday, September 30th, 2004

Sundazed To The Core

Anyone out there still love Dutch masters Bettie Serveert? I do, and I come bearing news. The good news is that their sixth proper album Attagirl will be out in Europa on October 11. The bad news is that it won’t be out in North America till 2005 at the earliest.

If you need a Betties primer, here we go – 1992 debut Palomine was a perfect-for-the-times bit of college/indie rock with warbly girl vocals over alternately jangly and fuzzed out guitars, and the kids loved it. 1995’s Lamprey was more of the same and there was somewhat less adulation, and 1997’s Dust Bunnies sort of came and went without anyone noticing. At this point they parted ways with Matador and probably dropped off of most people’s radar, but undeservedly so as they continued to put out some good records after that.

Bettie Serveert Plays Venus In Furs came out in 1998 and as advertised, was a live record of all Velvet Underground covers, mostly faithful and done with gusto. 2000’s Private Suit was a much more sophisticated and ‘adult’ sounding record than their previous efforts, and I thought it suited them and worked well with the huskier range of Carol Van Dijk’s vocals. Last year’s Log 22 was a bit of a step back to their fuzzy rock roots and had some really splendid moments but was suffered from a general lack of focus. Van Dijk also put out a couple albums in ’01 and ’02 with country side project The Chitlin’ Fooks which I haven’t heard but would like to. I’ve no idea what to expect from Attagirl but I’m excited about it.

And there is no one in the band named ‘Bettie’. The band name is Dutch for ‘Bettie serves’, taken from a caption in an instructional book by Dutch tennis star Bettie Stoeve.

This weekend’s crazy concert lineup has provided much grist for the local media’s mill. So to speak. Let’s review:

Friday night: the much anticipated Arcade Fire show at Lee’s Palace. eye talks to Win Butler about what success tastes like. Answer – It tastes like chicken.

Saturday night: Jason Molina of Songs: Ohia/The Magnolia Electric Co. brings his musical identity crisis to the Horseshoe for a rare show. Chart and NOW talk to Molina and try to make some sense of his Byzantine recent discography. Let’s see – The Magnolia Electric Co. was a Songs: Ohia release and came out in 2003 (though Molina seems to refer to it as the self-titled Magnolia Electric Co debut album). The Pyramid Electric Co was released this January as a vinyl-only release under Molina’s own name. The double-live Trial And Error (again a MEC release) is going to be available exclusively at shows this Fall and will then get a proper release on January 18 (vinyl-only still? I don’t know) and finally the new MEC studio album, still untitled, is coming out in April of next year. And we won’t even get into the reissues of his earlier Songs: Ohia albums on vinyl. No way. I won’t pretend to understand it and it’s times like this I’m thankful that I don’t own a turntable so anything on vinyl is a non-starter for me.

Finally, Sunday night brings Rilo Kiley to the Horseshoe. NOW covers the usual topics (selling out, child stardom, etc) whilst interviewing Jenny Lewis and eye doesn’t offer much insight either. NOW loses points, however, for bringing up old, played out trivia in referencing Lewis’ part in Troop Beverly Hills – everyone knows that The Wizard was the watershed moment in her acting career. And non-Toronto, The Chicago Tribune also has an interview wherein they also work the child actor angle, but from the sitcom perspective – they do finally get an answer as to where the band name came from, though (from LHB). Updated: One more article in today’s papers – The Toronto Star ran a piece, minimal child star angle.

The Ontario governement is backing off it’s no-raw-sushi law. And who said public kvetching never accomplished anything?

np – The Delgados / Universal Audio

Wednesday, September 29th, 2004

Moonshot

I didn’t catch The Highwater Marks at the ‘Shoe last night – went back to the parentals’ for dinner (Chinese Moon Festival thingee) and was too pooped by the time I got home. So if you were hoping for some scintillating review… sorry. Of course, if I HAD gone, I might actually have something to write about today, instead of nothing, which is pretty much what I’ve got.

That’s not true, actually. I got this – Joe Pernice has written an ode to Boston Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez called “Moonshot Manny (Pega Luna)”. Why? Joe is a rarity in the indie rock world, a raging sports fan and a Red Sox fan no less – I guess the guaranteed angst and disappointment is good motivation for songwriting. Anyway, the inspiration for the song, in Joe’s own words, is as follows:

“At some point in the middle of the season I started singing, ‘Manny hit me home with a moonshot, baby’ to the TV set every time Manny would step up to the plate. Just as my falsetto was shaping up fairly and the tune was actually becoming a song, my wife started singing it too. Then our friends joined in. Pretty soon a gang of us was dancing around the apartment, singing the tune and making a racket of our own. And Manny was on fire. He gave us one of the best summers I can remember. And the bar downstairs seemed a bit less loud.”

You can download it here for an entirely reasonable $1 donation to Boston’s First Night, er, thingee. Anyway, the song is very un-Pernice and almost entirely disposable but really cute regardless. Come on, it’s a buck.

I suppose I should congratulate the Sox on clinching the AL Wild Card back on Monday. Truthfully, the Jays’ season was so utterly dismal this year I stopped following baseball sometime around May- all I’ve got to look forward to in Blue Jay land is Carlos Delgado’s inevitable departure after season’s end. Enjoy your celebrations, Beantown, but you know it’ll all end in tears. I’m a Toronto Maple Leafs fan – I know what I speak of. And the Montreal Expos moving to Washington? Sad, but inevitable. They got totally screwed in ’94 and never recovered. I personally think the strike was a conspiracy by MLB to keep the World Series from going to Canada for a third straight year.

Spookihaus is first out of the gates with a release date for Low’s first album on SubpopThe Great Destroyer is out January 25. Expect the unexpected.

Old 97’s frontman Rhett Miller has been keeping a tour diary during their current tour to support Drag It Up. Apparently Toronto wasn’t especially noteworthy. Boo.

Glide interviews Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers about politics in the South, REO Speedwagon and how The Dirty South wasn’t supposed to be an album at all.

Anyone needing a ticket for the Rilo Kiley show at the Horseshoe this Sunday, get in touch with Michelle, she has an extra that she will let go for $11. It’ll be a great show, mark my words. Mark them, I say.

Ontario has passed a horseshit law that states that all sushi (or raw fish for any purpose) MUST be frozen before being served. I realize that because of geography a lot of fish is frozen before it reaches Toronto anyway, but the legislation of this for no good reason really burns my britches. Update: There’s a petition against the law up here.

np – The Shins / Chutes Too Narrow

Tuesday, September 28th, 2004

Up The Hill And Down

Much-spoken-highly-of Australian pop band Augie March are at the 360 November 1, $8 at the door. Will I like these guys? From the chatter I’ve been hearing over the internet, I’m under the impression I’ll like these guys. That, however, is the same day that The Futureheads are playing Lee’s Palace (tickets $12). Hmm, decisions decisions. On one hand, I could go see Augie March and then go home and listen to The Compact XTC – the next best thing, or I could go see The Futureheads as I suspect that’s where the cool kids will be. Augie March’s Strange Bird just came out on in North America September 14 (it has been out down under since 2002) while The Futureheads’ debut self-titled record came out September 7.

Arcade Fire are Allmusic’s Spotlight Featured Artist for this week. As if Merge didn’t have enough problems keeping their record in print… Mac @ Merge said on the Merge message board, “Funeral has gone certifiably nuts — we knew it would be a classic but failed to anticipate quite how rapidly people would catch on to the Arcade Fire sensation — and we have indeed made more sleeves (the packaging is special) TWICE now.” It’s nice pacakging, I can believe it. And on a related note, their Friday show at Lee’s Palace is sold out (for real this time) but there will be a limited number of tickets available at the door for $10, so if you’re going to try and get em, go early. Or hop in a car and try for the Guelph or Hamilton shows.

CNN previews the release of Elliott Smith’s final record, From A Basement On The Hill, out October 19.

Some waaaaay off (read: 2005) album release news: Doves in February, The Posies in May, The Flaming Lips in Summer (working title of At War With The Mystics, full article here), and Big Star in September. And there’s a number of artists who had hoped to have records out this year but which are starting to look unlikely considering we’re already almost into October and the ’04 release calendar is starting to close up. New Order, Mercury Rev, Built To Spill, J Mascis & The Fog, and Sparklehorse – I’m looking in your direction. You’d think the veterans would have their shit together, wouldn’t you? And if anyone’s got some info on any of these alleged releases, please fill me in.

And if you wanted a little more info on those Posies and Big Star releases, there’s an interview with Jon Auer here where he talks a little bit more about each.

Oh, and I got my copy of American Music Club’s Love Songs For Patriots in the mail yesterday. Parts of it are as fierce as Mercury, other parts as gentle as Eitzel’s solo stuff. ‘S good.

np – American Music Club / Love Songs For Patriots

Monday, September 27th, 2004

The Sweet Hereafter

Combining the musical DNA of alt.country acts Hominy and Whiskeytown, Seattle’s Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter are supported mainly by the twin pillars of Sykes’ smoky alto voice and Wanscher’s deep, twangy guitar riffs. Their tour supporting sophomore album Oh, My Girl, out on Barsuk, brought them Toronto’s Rivoli last night and they played an hour of lovely, slow-burning country songs. The music was mesmerizing and helped make up for a defecit in stage presence among the performers – everyone except Sykes was near invisible in the low stage lights and she seemed to prefer hiding behind her hair. The turnout was pretty decent for a Sunday night, though it was helped out by the fact that the Sweet Hereafter’s drummer is originally from Brampton so the homecoming committee was out to cheer him on.

Opening the show were The Great Lake Swimmers who were an excellent choice for the bill. An act very much in the same vein as The Sweet Hereafter, the local outfit played a set of mostly sad, sparse acoustic songs tasefully accented by banjo, electric piano and brushed drums and anchored by Tony Dekker’s captivating voice. They’ve been around a while but this was my first time seeing them, and I was impressed.

All in all, a nice way to wind up a Sunday night – particularly for no cover. I’ve always wondered how promoters paid the performers when they play free shows. Not complaining, mind you, just curious. Some photos here.

Matador Records’ anniversary set Matador At 15 will be coming out October 12 and offer up two CDs and a DVD of retrospecitve goodness for the reasonable list price of $15.98 US. Since previous compilations What’s Up Matador? and Everything Is Nice did a bang up job covering the legendary label’s first decade in existance, the new set – one disc of ‘greatest hits’, one disc of rarities and a DVD of videos – will be dedicated to their last five years between 1999 and 2004. A full tracklisting is available here. Some nice stuff there, yessir.

The Fountains Of Wayne b-sides album has been pushed back to January 25.

Rented Starsky & Hutch – pretty much the textbook definition of a mediocre movie. Not particularly good, not particularly bad. Just… there. It was more a random collection of 70s-themed gags that needed some context to string them together. I suspect the cast had more fun making it I did watching it. I never watched the show so there wasn’t any sort of nostalgia factor working for me either. So yeah, that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Weather was perfect yesterday for Word On The Street, which happily snarled up traffic from Queen’s Park up to Bloor on Avenue Rd. The new digs made for a much more picturesque setting, it’s far preferable to wander the booths through the park than it is in the cramped confines of Queen St. Once you got up to the booths, however, it was still chaos as usual with people fighting to get at discounted books and magazines and whatnot. There were good deals to be had but you needed Gordie Howe elbows to get to them – I couldn’t be bothered – I came away with a cookbook and consider myself lucky to have done that well.

np – Rilo Kiley / Take-Offs And Landings

Sunday, September 26th, 2004

The Village Green Preservation Society

First off, I like M Night Shyamalan. Or his films, anyway. I thought The Sixth Sense was terrific (I’m not one of those people who dismiss it and say, “oh I saw right through it in the first 10 minutes” – I don’t like those people), and I believe Unbreakable was one of the cleverest, most original superhero movies maybe ever (granted, it’s a shallow pool of contenders). Signs was kinda weak overall but it was still a very good suspense film, at least technically speaking. So that brings us to film #4, The Village. I won’t bother getting into the plot, most everyone at least knows what the setup this time around was. I’ll just go straight into the post-morten, conventiently broken down into three categories.

The good: Bryce Dallas Howard was remarkable as blind heroine Ivy Walker, especially considering this was her feature debut. Opie’s little girl done good. I though Shyamalan was very effective in keeping the audience guessing about Those Shall Not Be Spoken Of or whatever they were called. The cinematography and technical direction are excellent – the film looks great. And there were no wise little children. BIG plus.

The bad: The dialogue was overly ponderous and unnatural, even for a period piece. Folks from the 1800s would probably watch this and say, “why does everyone talk like they have sticks up their butts?”. Joaquin Phoenix was even more wooden and inexpressive than usual, and that’s saying something. I don’t care if that’s how his character was supposed to be, watching him onscreen was like watching paint watch paint dry. Yes, that’s what I meant to say. And Adrien Brody just annoyed the hell out of me.

The neither good nor bad: The film overall. I should confess that the ‘twist’ at the end was ruined for me many months ago by some jerkwad on the internet who didn’t have the sense to write “SPOILER ALERT” on some message board before blowing it. I had hoped that he was wrong, but nope – I knew what was coming. However, if I HADN’T known the secret of The Village, I probably would have definitely liked it, even though in retrospect much of the explanation is hard to accept. Would I have seen it coming? Who knows. But either way, I think it was still pretty damn clever. Say what you will about his films, whether they’re pretentious, stupid or just dull (and I’ll only partly agree with the first point), he’s certainly one of the more original minds working in Hollywood these days. Ironically, by becoming such a distinctive filmmaker, he’s also getting a bit repetitive. It may be for the best that his next project is an adaptation of Life Of Pi – let him work with someone else’s words for a while. So yeah, The Village. I liked it okay, I guess.

Chart welcomes Jesse Sykes of the Sweet Hereafter to Canada on her first trip north of the border. She plays a free show at the Rivoli tonight.

Rolling Stone talks to a slew of artists who’re taking part in tours to mobilize voters for the upcoming US elections about why they feel so motivated.

The New York Times spends a night on the town with Rilo Kiley. They’ll be painting Toronto chartreuse a week from tonight. Link from LHB.

I was watching Law & Order last night, and in a rare occurrance it wasn’t simulcast on a Canadian station so I got to watch it from the Buffalo NBC affiliate. One observation about American television – gawDAMN you people have a lot of commercials for drugs! I mean, geez – do folks see something on TV and think, “hey, I could use some of that” and go see their doctors like some sort of greengrocer? That’s messed. Seriously.

np – Elvis Costello & The Imposters / The Delivery Man