Tag Archives: Jesus And Mary Chain

CMW 2015 Reviews: Single Mothers, APigeon, Programm, Dead Tired And More

Dead Tired at Lee's Palace

Dead Tired at Lee’s Palace

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned from 17 years of covering Canadian Music Week is this: If you don’t like the band you’re watching… leave.

Jet. Scoot. Ghost. Just get out of there.

When the back pain sets in, your feet hurt, you’re a little bit hung over and your ears are ringing of eight days worth of questionable viewing choices, the last thing you need to do is subject yourself to more punishment.

So I don’t.

This means I get to see more bands, get irritated by less of them, and get a certain amount of exercise along the way bouncing from club to club. For the 2015 edition of CMW I ended up seeing parts or all of 26 sets over six days (including Gateway Drugs four separate times, which we’ll deal with separately). I’ve broken the most notable adventures down into one handy chronological recap for easy reading.

Here’s what I saw:

May 1

Jesus And Mary Chain @ Phoenix Concert Theatre
The Chain were celebrating the 30th anniversary of their Psychocandy album by playing the whole thing in order. It was a both illuminating and enjoyable slice of noise rock nostalgia. I wrote a fuller review here.

May 5

The Wayo @ The Garrison
A saxophone-playing frontperson flashes all sorts of warning signs, but it works rather well with Charlotte Day Wilson’s just-a-bit-icy croon. Imagine them as a sort of R&B flipside to Etiquette.

Programm @ The Garrison
Part of the pleasure of hearing a band for the first time is when you know they like all the right records just from listening to one song. The Horrors, Neu!, Joy Division, Velvet Underground… Programm are people you actually wouldn’t mind being trapped talking to at a house party.

There was, however, something naggingly incongruous about Programm’s set. The band’s performance was part of a themed showcase night dubbed “Toronto Women In Music.” Which is fine. They have a woman in the band — bassist/vocalist Jackie Game — who sings a couple songs and therefore technically fulfills the requirements of a showcase featuring women, from Toronto, in music. However, guitarist Jacob Soma sings more and everyone else in the band were dudes. Basically, there was a lot more Thurston Moore than Kim Gordon in their set, which felt a bit like a broken promise for a female-centric theme night.

Programm at The Garrison

Programm at The Garrison

May 6

The Cocksure Lads @ The Rivoli
The Cocksure Lads are a real band based on a fake band from a real movie attempting Gerry And The Pacemakers-style British invasion rock as performed by ex-Moxy Früvous members Murray Foster and Mike Ford. Or something like that. Being the veterans they are, the Lads displayed a level of technical competence that was sometimes missing from the greener bands at the festival, and they’ve got the music form locked down as well. Unfortunately, there’s an undercurrent of charmless smirk working against them. It’s like they weren’t willing to fully commit to their gimmick. This is a problem because100 per cent commitment, even in satire (think Steel Panther), is what you need for something like this to work.

SIANspheric @ Horseshoe Tavern
If you wanted to assassinate everyone who had a campus radio show in 1997, the ‘Shoe was ground zero for the who-knows-when-they’ll-ever-play-again resurfacing of Hamilton shoegaze rockers SIANspheric. Years later SIAN still sound exactly like SIAN, complete with requisite skronk, whirl and whoosh punctuated by the occasional tear-y buzzsaw sound.

Swervedriver @ Horseshoe Tavern
Swervedriver’s new comeback album I Wasn’t Born To Lose You is not the best. So I went into this set expecting to wade through a lot of muck in order to hear those songs from Raise and Mezcal Head. It was a bit of a surprise then, that I knew and liked so much of their set. I actually road-tripped across Ontario to watch multiple Swervedriver shows when I was younger, and hearing “Never Lose That Feeling,” “Rave Down,” “Son Of Mustang Ford” and “For Seeking Heat” again opened some sort of musical portal to the past.  The homestretch featuring “Duel” and the brilliant narrative tale “Last Train To Satansville” were, as expected, worth waiting for, but finding small pleasures in the catalogue songs was a bonus treat.

May 7

Solids @ Horseshoe Tavern
Solids’ Blame Confusion album served wonderfully to fill that vacuum created last year in the aftermath of Japandroids’ ascension. Unfortunately, unless something dramatically changes — particularly with their unchanging stage show, Solids’ ceiling is going to top out around “the favourite band of a couple campus DJs in town.”

D-Sisive @ Hard Luck
It was fitting that hard-luck rapper D-sisive’s showcase would take place in the dingy confines of the punk-centric Hard Luck. After all, he did pull off the most punk move of the entire festival. In the days leading up to his set D-sisive aggressively promoted a new album he was dropping specifically for the event called Loathsome Lullabies 4 Loverz. It was, in his own words, “A hit-filled masterpiece that will land me a recording deal with a major label.”

Thing is, the eight-song record was really just him singing Billy Ocean’s “Caribbean Queen,” Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” and Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is” over top of karaoke instrumental versions of those hits. And when it came time to perform his set, with the exception of a short three-song actual rap set, THESE were the songs he performed for an alternatingly amused, offended and stupefied crowd. It was unquestionably the most ridiculous thing I saw at CMW and the world was better for it (maybe).

Programm at The Garrison

D-sisive at Hard Luck, reading the lyrics to the songs as he’s singing them

Twin Guns @ Bovine Sex Club
Sometimes when you get deep into a music festival and you’re starting to get fed up with people and taxis and bands who list their influences as “Kings Of Leon and Foo Fighters,” finding out some dude who played drums or The Cramps on a European tour or something sounds like the best way to spend an hour. And so to the Bovine we went to see New York City’s Twin Guns and their Lux-associate ‘Jungle’ Jim Chandler. While there was certainly less “billy” to Twin Guns’ rock than The Cramps, their buzzy set still fit comfortably in a world where everyone with a leather jacket carries a switchblade.

May 8

Red Mass @ Velvet Underground
Y’know those times when your set starts five minutes late because your fucking bassist is at the bar waiting for his drinks. And you can see him. Just standing there. While everyone else is ready to go. And then you pick a fight with the soundman because he’s a fuckup who’s clearly going to fuck everything up. And THEN, because you’re still waiting for your bass player you decide to count the bodies in the room. Seventeen. At least eight of whom are in the other bands playing that night. You can’t fucking believe you drove all the way from Montreal for this horseshit.

You know what you do when this happens? You don’t scowl and pout for five minutes straight on stage. You don’t make “Aw, fuck it” glib remarks to the soundman. You put your head down and rock the fuck out. Because that’ll be your best revenge. And because if that’s not the way you decide to respond there’ll be 16 people in the room by the end of the third song.

Dead Tired @ Lee’s Palace
When Canadian post-hardcore band Alexisonfire mostly-dissolved, the band’s co-lead singer Dallas Green used that time to fully realize his City And Colour project as a world-beating, lighters-in-the-air showcase for lonely heart ballads. In an almost perfect shift in the opposite direction, Alexis screamer George Pettit has retreated back to the clubs with Dead Tired, a bristling, relentless, purposefully uncompromised hardcore assault. The packed sweatbox (apparently an air conditioning unit had blown up earlier in the evening) at Lee’s was the perfect place, then, for Pettit to re-emerge like a spitting, screaming, t-shirt-tearing Lazarus. The noise Dead Tired made represented a strident rejection of Pettit’s arena-filling past with its violent rejection of melody and multi-guitar grind. If this is going to be Pettit’s second act, it’s not going to play out overground. It will, however, ensure that he’ll be able to sleep at night.

Single Mothers @ Lee’s Palace
To the best I can figure Single Mothers lead singer Andrew Thomson’s wild gesticulations, urgent screaming and stabbing truthbomb lyrical insights represent the platonic ideal for a specific sort of doesn’t-have-a-name-for-it-yet combination of Gen Y rage and soul searching. Maybe it’s because they suspect retweeting someone else’s good deeds doesn’t actually count as activism, or maybe because they realize Tinder swiping is pretty much the shallowest way you can conduct your romantic adventures, but when Thomson was rolling around on the Lee’s stage howling away an entire room full of sleeve tattoos and asymmetrical facial piercings were right there with him and totally understood.

May 9

APigeon @ The Drake Underground
There’s a certain dance to festivals like CMW which focus on emerging talent. And that dance is usually “we want to be exactly like X act who are already famous.” Often these acts fail to realize that if they aspire to be like the Foo Fighters or Kings Of Leon (which was a disturbingly frequent namedrop this year), well, they can’t. These bands already exist. They’re already famous. And the bands that are trying to imitate them already exist and already got signed five years ago expressly to fulfill the role of plugging content into the music industry machinery while the bigger acts are out of their touring/album/cycle.

For the female acts of CMW, this year’s copycat shorthand citations were Grimes, Charli XCX, Zola Jesus and Portishead. All wonderful acts who travel a path that’s just a bit darker, just a bit more dangerous than the average pop musician. But, again, all acts that already exist and therefore render anyone who tries to sound like them, or who’re even just tangentally “inspired” by them, redundant.

It was with much caution, then, that I wandered down to the Drake Underground to see APigeon, a Montreal electro singer who’d earned “comparisons to the likes of Björk, Feist and Lykke Li,” according to her website. These names could’ve been cautionary for APigeon, signs of an art-school striver who’d overreached. Thing is, APigeon wasn’t like Björk or Feist or Lykke Li. Not exactly anyway, or at least not exactly in any way that was tiring.

There was a certain magnetism to APigeon. Certainly she trades in the same dark electronica pop as many of her colleagues, but her strong, dynamic voice puts her a skillset above the Grimesalikes in a way that’s less off-putting than Björk can occasionally be. And while her songcraft doesn’t yet match Lykke Li’s perfect melancholy slogans, there’s something there worth investigating as well. Of all the acts I saw at CMW over the week APigeon is the one I suspect may create something magical in the future.

The Soul Motivators @ Supermarket
Despite one of the most infuriatingly long soundchecks I’ve ever seen in a festival setting (they hit the stage some 30 minutes after their advertised set time), nine-piece soul-funksters The Soul Motivators were a refreshing dose of actual musicianship. Anchored by the smooth vocals of lead singer Lydia Persaud, the Motivators’ polished sound hovers between a less world weary Sharon Jones and a Budos Band without the Dungeons & Dragons influence. It’s a slick, pro affair closer to hire-outs for grand ballrooms than Amy Winehouse tribute nights, but sometimes craftsmanship is important.

Caféïne @ Sneaky Dee’s
I’m not sure there’s anything particularly good to say about Xavier Caféïne beyond the fact that if he keeps performing and doggedly appearing at these things for another 10 years he’ll have earned enough stripes to pull off the Franco-Canadian glam rock equivalent of Anvil: The Story Of Anvil. As long as he can find a camera crew to follow him around, that is. For all of Caféïne’s punk posturing, the best bits of his performance were a few isolated snips, yelps and turns where he approached the sort of melodramatic pop Suede were so successful with 15 years ago. It’s not too late to make that switch.

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Jesus And Mary Chain North American ‘Psychocandy’ Tour Kicks Off In Toronto

The Jesus And Mary Chain live in Toronto.

The Jesus And Mary Chain live in Toronto.

May 1, 2015
Phoenix Concert Theatre
Toronto, Ontario

Four songs in to the Jesus And Mary Chain’s set at Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre there were… concerns.

There was a lot of pomp and circumstance behind the first show for the band’s North American tour honouring the Psychocandy album’s 30th anniversary. The show was to be the marquee anchor kicking off Canadian Music Week, a 10 day club level festival where the Chain’s relative undersell at the 1,350 capacity venue had made it a hot ticket for Toronto’s wealth of Creation Records nostalgists.

“April Skies,” the inexplicably popular “Head On” (the sixth best song on Automatic, tops), “Candy Talking” and “Psychocandy,” the song, were all performed with a simple, studied, and most uncomfortably, clean air of polish and professionalism.

Sure, if this was the way the Chain were going to play it — older, wiser, softer — it would still be a fine evening. But it wouldn’t have been a marquee evening. It’s not what anyone in the Phoenix wanted, though weighed against that vs. nothing, it was an acceptable compromise.

Then they played “Reverence.”

The manic highlight from the Chain’s 1992 album Honey’s Dead and the band’s biggest North American hit brought the single thing everyone in the building was craving — the noise. Jim Reid’s “I wanna die! I wanna die!” cued brother/lead guitarist William Reid to explosively reacquaint Toronto with the spiraling, undulating waves of white noise rock ‘n’ roll that have defined the Jesus And Mary Chain for all these years.

The assault continued with b-side “Upside Down” and that’s when the epiphanies began.

See, I love bands who sound like the Jesus And Mary Chain. So much so that for a music writer I’m worryingly close to lacking critical faculty once that slicy feedback bams up a song to make it all nasty sounding. Devotees like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Black Angels, The Raveonettes, Brian Jonestown Massacre… I love them all. I even, at least to a degree, usually enjoy the many, many, many middling noisy college and art rock bands who rise up out of the weeds before disappearing two years later because objectively they aren’t any good.

The Jesus And Mary Chain can fill a room 30 years later because they’re simply more adept at doing this noise-pop thing than anyone who’s ever come after them. Watching them work on Friday night, it became clear they’re still the kings because they have the one thing their many imitators can’t quite match — the songs.

When the band launched into the 14 song Psychocandy set what became most obvious was their appreciation for a simple pop song, a universal country ballad, a soothing soul song. Look past the squelching white noise and that musical appreciation is buried deep in the DNA of the Chain’s songs, whether it be the surfing safari edge to “The Living End” or the girl group shimmy underlying “Taste of Cindy.”

Sure, if you want to get technical about it, the back half of Psychocandy isn’t exactly the best, which was illustrated by the indifferently performed “Sowing Seeds,” the false start to “My Little Underground” and the placeholder quality of “Something’s Wrong.” But zoom the lens out a little further and you’d see how the buzzing takes on “Taste the Floor,” “In a Hole” and “Never Understand” were electric affirmations the Jesus And Mary Chain are undisputed masters of their craft.

If one thing became clear this night, it’s that 30 years later the Jesus And Mary Chain are still the best at what they do.

Setlist:

“April Skies”
“Head On”
“Candy Talking”
“Psychocandy”
“Up Too High”
“Reverence”
“Upside Down”

Psychocandy set
“Just Like Honey”
“The Living End”
“Taste the Floor”
“The Hardest Walk”
“Cut Dead”
“In a Hole”
“Taste of Cindy”
“Never Understand”
“Inside Me”
“Sowing Seeds”
“My Little Underground”
“You Trip Me Up”
“Something’s Wrong”
“It’s So Hard”

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Alternative Then And Now: Current Bands And Their Descendents

Pearl Jam and Arcade Fire

Pearl Jam and Arcade Fire

Everything old is new again. Or something like that. And everything in music has been done before.

And if you’ve got a big enough record collection, you can actually trace the genelogical lines between artists a couple decades remove. Which is exactly what Aaron did in an article called Alt-Rock Then And Now: Connecting The Classes Of 1992 And 2012.

The story is exactly what it sounds like. Massive Attack were compared to The Weeknd, Pearl Jam to Arcade Fire, Jesus And Mary Chain to Crocodiles, etc., etc.

To read the story over at Spinner, click here.

 

 

 

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Aaron’s Top 10 Albums Of 1998

Baxter in 2010

Baxter in 2010

This was my official Top 10 album list for 1998:

1. Baxter Baxter
2. The Jesus And Mary Chain Munki
3. Lauryn Hill The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill
4. Massive Attack Mezzanine
5. Mercury Rev Deserter’s Songs
6. Space Tin Planet
7. PJ Harvey Is This Desire?
8. 54-40 Since When
9. Godspeed You Black Emperor! F#A#∞
10. The Inbreds Winning Hearts

Not to be confused with the post-hardcore band Baxter featuring Tim McIlrath, later of Rise Against, the Baxter I’m talking about were a Swedish electronica trio signed to Madonna’s Maverick label. I still stand by their self-titled debut album and listen to it today. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it was one of the best, most slept on records of the ’90s.

Singer Nina Ramsby cooed morbid Nordic spells over an elegant wash of drum ‘n’ bass in songs that were just a touch too jagged and heartbroken to rank as car commercial sellout techno. This was the stuff.

Here’s their song “Television,” 13 years before Lykke Li:

The Jesus And Mary Chain are one of my favourite bands. And when they put out Munki on Sub Pop I was pretty excited about it. Time has tempered my enthusiasm somewhat and I can admit now what I couldn’t admit then — Munki is definitely not a Top 10 album.

Remember that year when Lauryn Hill was the greatest? I do. Then she went cray-cray. In hindsight this album has a few mind-blowers, a personal fave being “Lost One,” but it maybe captures more of a time and a place. And Hill’s dropping off hasn’t helped its legacy.

“Doo Wop (That Thing)” remains classic:

I interviewed Massive Attack for the Mezzanine album on the same day that Avi Lewis from The New Music did. I remember being so bummed that I didn’t get a great interview out of them when I finished, but later, when I saw that they FELL ASLEEP during Avi’s interview I felt pretty awesome — at least I was able to keep them awake.

Mercury Rev Deserter’s Songs is still beautiful. It’s definitely their high-water mark as a band, and if you’re the sort that likes to map out family trees, I’d argue that Deserter’s Songs is one of the pillar records for the sprawling indie rock that would eventually be perfected by Arcade Fire. This still holds up.

The band Space are responsible for one of the best singles of the ’90s.

This:

That song’s not on Tin Planet, though. So I think I was feeling a bit compensatory by trying to jam this one onto my Top 10.

It does at least have the song “The Ballad Of Tom Jones,” which is a particularly cheeky duet between Space’s Tommy Scott and Cerys Matthews of Catatonia. Sarah and I have contemplated learning it as a karaoke slayer.

“The Ballad Of Tom Jones”

PJ Harvey’s one of my foundation artists. I think she’s brilliant and fascinating, and Is This Desire? remains one of my favourite albums by her. I prefer her when she’s doing less howling, and more dark purring, which is what she does here. PJ believes it’s the best album she’s ever made and I just might agree. This should probably go higher in hindsight.

Check out “The Wind”:

54-40’s Since When? I really like this band. Always have. Not really sure why it made it on this list, though.

Yeah, I was just as swept up in Godspeed You Black Emperor! and their album F#A#∞ as every other young, enthusiastic music writer. Going back to it, this record’s still unique and interesting, it’s just not… special anymore. The best parts of their sound and technique ended up getting lifted by all the next generation Montreal bands who’d take what they heard here into more manageable/palatable territory. Which arguably makes F#A#∞ still relevant and awesome, but nobody in 2011 wants to do their computing on an Apple Classic II, right?

The Inbreds Winning Hearts? This one’s probably another sympathetic choice. The Inbreds were just about done as a band at this point and as someone who had spent his teen years romancing the Halifax scene and finally having the authority to write my very own fancy published Top 10 album list in a music magazine I was probably swept up in the drama of it all. I haven’t even ripped this album into iTunes all these years later. Still like the band, though.

Other album lists…

2015 Top Ten — SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart is #1
2014 Top Ten — Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There is #1
2013 Top Ten — M.I.A.’s Matangi is #1
2012 Top Ten — Dirty Ghosts’ Metal Moon is #1
2011 Top Ten — Timber Timbre’s Creep On Creepin’ On is #1
2010 Top Ten — The Black Angels’ Phosphene Dream is #1
2009 Top Ten — Gallows’ Grey Britain is #1
2008 Top Ten — Portishead’s Third is #1
2007 Top Ten — Joel Plaskett Emergency’s Ashtray Rock is #1
2006 Top Ten — My Brightest Diamond’s Bring Me The Workhorse is #1
2005 Top Ten — Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Howl is #1
2004 Top Ten — Morrissey’s You Are The Quarry is #1
2003 Top Ten — The Dears’ No Cities Left is #1
2002 Top Ten — Archive’s You All Look The Same To Me is #1
2001 Top Ten — Gord Downie’s Coke Machine Glow is #1
2000 Top Ten — Songs: Ohia’s The Lioness is #1
1999 Top Ten — The Boo Radleys’ Kingsize is #1
1998 Top Ten — Baxter’s Baxter is #1
1996 Top Ten — Tricky’s Maxinquaye is #1

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