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Archive for November, 2004

Tuesday, November 30th, 2004

Don't Feel Like Satan, But I Am To Them

Thrashers Wheat reports that Michael Moore has directed a new video for Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World”, which is being re-released as a single from his Greatest Hits. See the video here. Interspersing footage from Fahrenheit 9/11 and live performances from Neil’s recent Greendale tour, it’s a pretty severe edit of the song and it plays more like a commercial for the film than a video for the song. Consider that Neil’s Weld tour, which spawned a live album, came during the height of the first Gulf War and made this song a protest anthem of sorts, and now almost fifteen years later, a second Gulf War led by Bush Jr provides fresh, yet familiar, visuals for a second video. Well, that’s just messed.

Neil’s always been politically unpredictable, having gone from 70s hippie to a vocal Reagan-ite in the 80s (and alienating much of his longtime hippie audience, though his musical output over the same era certainly accomplished the same goal) to unofficially participating in this year’s Vote For Change tour. By unofficial, I mean that though he wasn’t technically one of the musical acts trying to oust Dubya (unsuccessfully, if you’ve been living in a cave), he did make a number of guest appearances at several shows. The man is almost 60, and yet somehow he’s still got the same fire in him that he had thirty years ago. Respect, Neil. Pitchfork has a review of Greatest Hits, which intrigues me for the DVD mixes of all the tracks but I still think any Neil neophyte would be better off with Decade and Live Rust as starting points.

It’s Stylus’ turn to talk to Dean Wareham about Luna’s breakup. This interview is pretty good, though. The west coast leg of their farewell tour is now being finalized and it looks like they will culminate in a couple final shows at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City in mid- to late-February.

An update on Jayhawksfanpage.com drops the tantilizing nugget that there may be some Golden Smog sessions taking place in the new year. If true, this is good news. It’s been far too long since the boys got together for Weird Tales.

JAM! talks to Feist about Let It Die‘s evolution from scrappy indie-rock demos into lush Euro-torch album. Feist is at the Phoenix on Thursday.

Y’all know I love the shoegaze, right? Course you do. So you can believe me when I say I was pleasantly surprised to discover Sweden’s Fathom 5 – their lovely dream-pop sound harkens back to the sounds of classic Ride and Slowdive in a way that few modern bands who claim the same influence do – more often than not, acts that pledge allegiance to studying their sneakers use that as an excuse to play one chord for hours at excruciatingly high volume, completely neglecting the delicate melodicism that was just as much a hallmark of the genre. Of course, rather vague or simplistic lyrics were also characteristic of the original shoegaze movement, and Fathom 5 also follow suit there, but we’ll let that go for now. Sample Fathom 5’s mp3s here – it’s quite good stuff.

The Washington Post (bugmenot: arglooblaha@gmail.com/purplehair) has some advice for Americans who said, jokingly or not, that they were going to flee to Canada after November 2 – don’t. Before all my fellow Canuckistanians get up in arms about it, I have to say that the article makes some good points. I’m as proud as the next hoser of my country, but the Smug Canadian is just as true a stereotype as the Ugly American, and it embarrasses me. And since I can’t think of a way to say “Americans are actually nice people!” without sounding utterly patronizing, I won’t. But they are. Well, most of them. And by most I mean some. And by some, I mean I have a list…

But on a more positive nationalist note, former Saskatchewan premier Tommy Douglas has been voted The Greatest Canadian in a CBC poll. Douglas is best known for being the father of Canada’s socialized medicare system, an accomplishment which often overshadows his equally impressive feats of saving Santa Claus from the Martians and being Joe Perry’s replacement in Aerosmith during the early 1980s. My personal choice for Greatest Canadian (and to bring things full circle) was Neil Young. Yeah, universal health care is good, if you’re into that sort of thing, but “Cinnamon Girl” is GREAT. Dah dah dah dah! Duh-da-da-da-duuuuh…

np – The House Of Love / A Spy In The House Of Love

Monday, November 29th, 2004

Good Morning, Captain

I will be the first to admit that I feared the worst going into Sky Captain & The World Of Tomorrow. After all, the snazzy-looking trailer debuted long ago, but the actual release date was a moving target for the longest time, eventually getting shunted from a Summer release to a Fall one, not a real sign of confidence from the studio. Still, when it eventually did see release in September, the reviews were fairly good. I didn’t get around to catching it first-run, however, which is why I only saw it yesterday at the Bloor Cinema.

Much has been made about how the film was shot entirely against blue screens, and all backgrounds were computer generated, and to be sure, it’s a remarkable feat. The 1930s art deco New York City that never actually existed but damn well should have is very impressively rendered and looks perfectly natural even when giant robots descend from the sky and begin wreaking havoc. There are a few moments where the actors are obviously superimposed on the scene, but they’re relatively innocuous and for the most part, you accept the artificial reality presented as true. I do wish they hadn’t been quite so heavy-handed with the overexposed, blurry-B&W film look for everything though – a little goes a long way, guys.

Drawing inspiration from the golden age of pulp literature, Sky Captain offers big, giddy fun complete with ray guns, the aforementioned giant robots, rocket ships and flying aircraft carriers. Jude Law seems to revel in the two-fisted heroism of the title role and Angelina Jolie makes the most of possibly the shortest top-billed role ever – only Gwynneth Paltrow seems to have some difficulty getting into the spirit of things, seeming rather detached through most of the proceedings (though maybe acting against a blue screen for the whole film might do that to a person). A lot of talk has gone on about the amazing technical achievment of the film, but I personally thought it only picked up after the inital few acts when they stopped trying to show off and really just got into the story. A surprisingly satisfying and entertaining film.

Splendid interviews The Futureheads.

The Globe & Mail points out quite correctly that Apple has two days left to roll out iTunes Canada. From Coolfer.

An item that may be of interest to local Smashing Pumpkins fans – and I know you’re still out there, that Billy Corgan poetry reading didn’t sell out by itself… My friend Shaunna is organizing Bolly Would – a Smashing Pumpkins Appreciation Night this coming Thursday (December 2) at the Vatikan (Queen W & Ossington) and will feature the music of Winter Equinox and Freedom, CA as well as Pumpkins-friendly DJ sets. An all-ages event, admission at the door is $5 for those 19+ and $7 for minors. A portion of the door will be donated to S.O.S. (Street Outreach Services), the same organization that the Pumpkins donated the proceeds of their Toronto Adore charity tour stop back in ’98. This evening has been declared a Zwan-free zone. For further info, email shows@wavelengthtoronto.com.

I just realized that the Arcade Fire t-shirt I bought last month GLOWS IN THE DARK. My God, that’s awesome. I’m going to try on every other one of my shirts in the dark now.

np – Dinosaur Jr / Without A Sound

Sunday, November 28th, 2004

Wild Like Children

Corrections – Neva Dinova is not opening for Bright Eyes at the Phoenix January 21. I’m not sure where I heard that, but it was wrong. Instead, support will be Touch And Go creaky-folky sister act CocoRosie and… Tilly & The Wall! “T! I! L! L! Y! T! I!…” Yay! That show starts at 5:30, so be there early. And if you’re procrastinating in getting tickets… don’t. The Horseshoe was already sold out of their allottment on Friday. Rotate still has some, but I would not be surprised if this one sold out sooner rather than later.

And some of you may have noticed that I’ve taken Gentleman Reg off my concert calendar as opening for Stars at the Mod Club December 18 – that’s because he’s not. The ad in NOW ran incorrect info and I went with it. Reg has corrected me. Support for that show still to be announced.

The Futureheads, who apparently didn’t draw all that well at their show earlier this month but rocked anyway, are determined to win Toronto’s fickle affections. They’re back at Lee’s Palace on February 27.

A member of the Wheat mailing list who knows the band is reporting that the band has indeed split, confirming my earlier fears. I would expect an official statement from the band shortly, considering the shitstorm this will create among the listers, but I’m not surprised – I was afraid of this the day they announced they’d signed to Columbia subsidiary Aware. I am chalking this up as another casualty of the major label grinder. Thanks, guys, we’ll miss you. Update: Ricky from Wheat has responded to the mailing list and emphasizes that while they have NOT broken up, they are taking a hiatus to get their heads together following the roller-coaster experience of the last few years.

I went back to my old old hometown (and college town) of Waterloo yesterday for a dinner party with some old classmates and to inspect Chris’ new (and second) child. Helluva grip at three months old. Babies are cute, but I think I’d rather have a puppy.

Okay all you slacker American bloggers who’ve been MIA for the past four days, you’ve had your turkey gluttony and debaucherous retail orgy – now get back on the job. I can’t do this alone, people.

np – Sufjan Stevens / Seven Swans

Saturday, November 27th, 2004

Days Of Future Past

Comic Book Resources readers pick their best of 2004. I’m not nearly the fanboy I once was, but I can still offer my suggestions for their categories:

1) What’s your favorite comic of 2004? – Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men. I’ve never claimed to be much of a comic snob – my tastes run very much to the mainstream, but that doesn’t mean I can’t tell good spandex comics from bad. And Whedon/Cassaday are doing X-Men very very well – Whedon has a real feel for the characters, with the excellent characterization that was a hallmark of the Claremont era but with a suitably modern feel. And Cassaday’s artwork is just gorgeous – just six issues in and this creative team may be one of the best on any X-title, ever. And this is coming from someone who’s been reading X-Men for over twenty years.

Runner up goes to Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s We3. It’s The Incredible Journey with lethal cybernetic animals, and it’s heartbreaking (and ultra-violent, of course).

2) What’s your favorite comics-related moment of 2004? Seeing as how for the last few years I’ve only been reading a small handful of titles, the best moment for me was discovering comics on bit-torrent. Besides allowing me to read titles outside my usual X-ghetto (I’d never read Fantastic Four before. It’s actually not bad), it made me realize that the quality of comics at large was far superiour to where things were when I had largely gotten out of comics years ago – far better writers and artists, more coherent plotting, far less dependence on Byzantine continuity and crossovers… Just all around better reading. And no one drew like Rob Leifield anymore (though he actually came out of semi-retirement to remind me just how bad things were with his X-Force revival).

But aside from that, the Hulk eating that dude in The Ultimates 13 was pretty cool.

3) What’s the worst thing to happen in comics in 2004? I’m not an industry-follower, so I can only comment on what goes on inside the funny pages. But on that end, definitely Avengers Disassembled. Completely absurd, illogical, sensationalist and unnecessary, there may well have been a seed of a good idea in there somewhere (I’ve never understood what the hell the Scarlet Witch’s powers were anyway), but the execution was god-awful and incoherent. Bendis not only dropped the ball on this one, but he recovered it, ran in the wrong direction and into his own end-zone, spiked the ball and did the worst victory dance ever. Embarressing.

CBR also poses their next set of year-end questions, these ones more forward looking:

1) What’s your most fervid hope for comics in 2005?

2) What aspect of comics in 2005 are you most looking forward to?

3) What’s your worst fear for comics in 2005?

I will have to ponder these and save my thoughts for another post.

It’s a “peek behind the curtains” theme for today – the New York Observer looks at the history of Pitchfork, the little indie rock snarkfest that could, and talks to founder Ryan Schrieber about PF’s influence and being drunk with power (from Donewaiting). I’ve been called a ‘one-man Pitchfork’ on more than one occasion and can never tell if I should be flattered or offended. I like to think I’m… nicer.

Meanwhile, Zulkey has an interview with Ben Carlin, former Senior Editor of The Onion and current Executive Producer of The Daily Show. Hilarity ensues.

The Shins have a new website. After more than a year since Chutes Too Narrow came out, we wait for a Toronto tour date… and wait… and wait…

Exclaim talks to a post-election Ted Leo who admits that he’s not actually moving to Canada… but he is coming to visit December 5 at the Mod Club.

Travelled to the dark side of Toronto (read: east of the Don Valley Parkway) to attend Kate Thrown Askew’s going-away bash as she’s leaving the Big Smoke to return to the sunny Northwest Territories for a while. Kate was one of the very first people I ever met via blog two years ago and I’m sorry to see her go.

There you go, Kate. Blog mention! Take care.

np – Will Johnson / Vultures Await

Friday, November 26th, 2004

This Is Yesterday

The Guardian considers the Manic Street Preachers’ The Holy Bible on the occasion of its 10th anniversary. It’s been a while since I’ve been in any sort of Manics mood, but The Holy Bible has long been and probably will remain my stock answer for the question of, “What is the angriest album ever?”. Not that I get asked that question a lot. It’s not a heavy album, per se, but out of my record collection, at least, it takes the prize for most venom-filled and invective – exhibit A, song titles like “Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit’sworldwouldfallapart”. Say what you will about the Manics’ ideology or heavy-handed rhetoric, you can’t deny that on this album at least, they bloody well meant it.

Granted, their ultra-leftist polemic sounds a little worn out now that they’ve stuck around considerably longer than their “one album to conquer the world and then we break up” manifesto proclaimed when their glam-punk cum classic rock opus Generation Terrorists came out way back in 1992. The Holy Bible was their last record with guitarist/lyricist Richey James before his much-mythologized disappearance in 1994 and far and away the best of that first era of Manics history. The songwriting was razor-sharp and the music wasn’t buried under horribly dated production values as with the first two records (try listening to Gold Against The Soul sometime – dire). I only discovered the band post-Richey, however, with their breakthrough album Everything Must Go which saw the band carrying on as a trio. Comparing the two phases of the band, I rather prefer the more personal and introspective tone of their later work – the weariness of it works really well with James Dean Bradfield’s soulful voice. And while they periodically try and return to more overtly political subject matter, it now sounds tired. Whether this is a consequence of writing without James or just growing up, who knows. Probably both – it’s hard to keep up the ‘angry young man’ angle when you’re no longer a young man.

My interest in the Manic Street Preachers waned after 1998’s This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours, partly due to a lacklustre follow-up in Know Your Enemy and partly because my musical tastes in general have since drifted away from that coming out of Britain. Just one of those things, you know? When you stop reading Q and Select, the artists they trumpet (and then tear down) cease appearing on your radar… but that’s a topic for another day. Camp Manics went on a big retrospective kick over the last couple of years, releasing best-of Forever Delayed in 2002 and b-sides compilation Lipstick Traces: A Secret History Of… last year. I haven’t heard anything off their latest release Lifeblood yet, which came out this past Tuesday in North America. The Holy Bible is being rereleased in the UK as a 3-disc (2 CD, 1 DVD) deluxe package on December 6 and in North America on February 8.

The promo machine for The Life Aquatic is gearing up. The film doesn’t get wide release till December 25, but you can see some new ‘webisodes’ from the adventures of Steve Zissou here, and there’s some more on the official movie site.

www.puppybreak.com – this site will be the death of me.

First snowfall of the year on the ground this morning. Le sigh.

np – Saturday Looks Good To Me / Every Night