Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Your Insipid Record Collection #4/Adult Books #2, late fall 2017




Brix and the Extricated, PART 2 lp

Dream Syndicate, HOW DID I FIND MYSELF HERE? lp

Explosions In The Sky, THE WILDERNESS 2xlp

Jad Fair & Kramer, THE HISTORY OF CRYING lp

Lemon Twigs, DO HOLLYWOOD lp

Limpwrist, FACADES lp


Noise Addict, 10 000 KIDS WITH GUITARS 2xlp


Planetarium, S/T 2xlp

Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble, FIND ME FINDING YOU lp

Jackie Shane, ANY OTHER WAY 2xlp

The Waterboys, OUT OF ALL THIS BLUE 2xlp

John Waters, MAKE TROUBLE 7”
THANK YOU TO RECORD PURVEYORS(Bill, Sunrise Records, ZAP, Brian’s Record Option, Now & Then)

AND HERE’S A MESSAGE TO THOSE WHO SAY ‘YOU STILL LISTEN TO VINYL?’ (yes) OR ‘THEY STILL MAKE VINYL?’ (apparently) OR ‘HAVEN’T YOU HEARD OF STREAMING OR DOWNLOADING?’ (yes, beautiful and valid choices, with which I occasionally experiment, but my heart belongs to the RCA pup)
if you are the type who sends (preferably non-explosive/non-boobytrapped) correspondence via post, ‘e’ me for the address.
(c) Tim Murphy (editor/writer/caterer/fluffer), late 2017, for Does A Bear Woof In The Woods? Press
________________________________________PUT THE NEEDLE ON THE RECORD...

          At 60, Mr. Almond’s voice has thickened and deepened, but that is a distinct advantage on this collection, as he croons his way through somewhat melancholy, but not bathetic, selections.
          It consists, with one exception, of covers of 60s songs from artists as diverse as Timi Yuro and The Yardbirds. Three or four of them are vaguely familiar to me, but many of them may either be cult classics or songs that simply did not chart in North America.
          These pieces are lush and well-arranged without being grandiose, and considering that the basic tracks of several are done by two people, seem quite organic. Unlike some of his originals in this style or his previous covers of Jacques Brel, the strings and other exotic touches are restrained, and the backing vocals are similarly tasteful.
          Even the one original is in the same tone and mood. Though he may have missed the boat in terms of the lounge/exotica trend, it is an enjoyable and engrossing LP for the most part.

Brix and the Extricated, PART 2 lp (Blang)
          After years running a store, and occasional forays into online music releases, Brix Smith Start returns with an LP at last.  Even better, the rhythm section consists of her former Fall-mates, Steve and Paul Hanley, and Steve Trafford, one of her two co-guitarists, was in another line-up of the Fall.
          It is a tasty collection of indie-pop-rock, with a hearty attitude and energy, and includes re-visits of Fall tracks LA, Hotel Bloedel and Feeling Numb. Given that the latter two were created from songs she wrote before meeting Mark E Smith, she has a very firm claim on them, and LA and Hotel Bloedel had her on lead or co-lead vocals in the original takes. They’re fairly faithful to the original takes, though a little more pleasant in pitch and sound than the previous interpretations.
          In terms of the new compositions, ‘Damned For Eternity’ has a sprightly garage-pop strut to it, and ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ is sparkly and shimmering, a bit like late Lush.
          Guitar-driven, with strong hooks, and vocals that are both endearing and forceful. A brilliant return to form and the spotlight, which proves it is never too late to be a rock diva again.
          And no, there does not appear to be a Part 1 out there.

Dream Syndicate, HOW DID I FIND MYSELF HERE? Lp (Anti-)
          Nearly thirty years after its last album, original members Dennis Duck (drums) and Steve Wynn (guitar/vocals), as well as Mark Walton (bass, who replaced Kendra Smith after the first album) and Jason Victor (guitarist who worked with Wynn on the latter’s solo material for years), release this eagerly anticipated new one.
          The inclusion of Chris Cacavas on keyboards adds a psychedelic and vaguely jazzy component to several tracks, and Linda Pitmon, Steve’s wife, adds additional percussion to a couple of songs.
          The eight songs stretch out over nearly fifty minutes, so the arrangements are very relaxed and expansive. The tempos are a little less frantic than The Days of Wine And Roses, and the title track is an intricate affair of nearly eleven minutes, while 80 West has some passages that recall Neil Young at his most corrosive.
          Steve’s voice retains the Dylan-meets-Lou-Reed quality of the past, though a bit warmer and more playful with the passage of time.  The music is rootsy and prone to tasteful white noise and fuzz.  Dennis’ drumming in particular is more subtle and laid-back than in the past.
          The biggest surprise here, though, is the re-appearance of Kendra Smith. After she left the band, and following a relatively low-key solo career and a stint in Opal (which became Mazzy Star shortly before she left, though she is on none of those records), she disappeared into the woods of California off the grid.
          Evidently, she could be reached, however, as she contributes vocals and lyrics to the closing track, Kendra’s Dream, whose title is reflected in the somewhat meditative music. Her voice has become even deeper over the years, resembling Nico more and more. She did not elect to re-join the group, but this piece was a welcome treat. Perhaps we can hope she will produce more in future.
          In short, if you like rootsy Americana with a kick, you will probably adore this record.

Explosions In The Sky, THE WILDERNESS 2xlp (Temporary Residence)

           When this band started out, they were roughly in the post-rock category, given that they did longer pieces without vocals, but they were very much a two guitar, bass and drums outfit at that point, albeit featuring drums that were more in the military/press style in the early days. As time has gone on, and especially on this three-sided release, they have expanded outward to include more electronics and altered sounds, especially on the drums.
          There isn’t much in the way of the epic guitar noise of some of their past records – it is much quieter and introspective, occasionally almost orchestral a la Rhys Chatham in terms of six-string sounds.
          A gentler, if not necessarily soothing, experience, and an interesting evolution that has been gradually unfolding – a bit like how Eleventh Dream Day evolved from Neil Young freakouts to a more sedate, spacey feel.

Jad Fair and Kramer, THE HISTORY OF CRYING lp (Shimmy-500)
          In their first collaboration for over twenty years, these gents throw a few curves. First of all, it has electronic elements, though not in a high-tech way, with guest tasteful guitar solos from Paul Leary of the Butthole Surfers. Second of all, and most shocking, Jad actually sings! Tunefully! (with backing from Kramer)
          The liner notes inside this LP document the discussions said to have resulted in this platter. Some of it sounds improbable, but they are both odd fellows, so it’s possible it did happen that way. It’s an enjoyable read, at which I laughed out loud several times.
          Twelve tracks of odd pop. If you are looking for the noisy clatter of Half Japanese, you will be disappointed, but it is endearing and sweet, and has had heavy circulation on my Radio Shack imitation-wood turntable. How could you not love titles like ‘I Miss My Analog Warmth’ and ‘I Won’t Eat ‘Til You Come Back To Me’?
          If you search on Vimeo, you will find several trippy videos made to promote this record, such as ‘Red Red Sun’, the opening track, which definitely has the prettiest vocal.
          Shimmy-500 has a strict policy – 500 colour vinyl copies, vinyl only, no fucking CD’s (shocking, but I quote) and no downloads (until the vinyl sells out). So if you don’t have a record player, you may have to limit yourself to those videos, or (gasp!) befriend one of those scary people who still plays the big CDs.

Lemon Twigs, DO HOLLYWOOD lp (4AD)
Between them, Michael and Brian D’Addorio play virtually all the instruments and voices (including violins, cellos and trumpets), barring one guitarsolo, some electronic percussion and backing vocals, and pay modern tribute to some of the best, knowing pop of the 70s, be it The Partridge Family, Sparks, Wings or Big Star, in a very relaxed fashion (to the extent, like the Beach Boys, that there is patter captured in some of the songs).

In fact, there is even tape hiss, which means it is not a digital affair (it was apparently recorded in the front room of their producer’s home).
          Every possible Seventies cliché, from prog synthesizer flourishes to the falsetto styling of Russell Mael, with brushes at the catchy melancholy of Emitt Rhodes (which only makes sense in the multi-instrumental overdubbing context), is here, but in the service of well-written and quirky songs. My personal faves are the sugary confection of “I Wanna Prove To You” and the T-Rexy oddity of “A Great Snake”.
          They have a new EP out now, on which there is an actual band, as opposed to this demo sound. I hope it retains much of the same mad fizz that the LP displays.

Limpwrist, FACADES lp (La Vida Es Un Mus)
          Nine years since their last LP, this hardcore quartet return with their most polished and even catchy/hooky work ever, including a track which exceeds the
duration of some of their 45s. It’s still less than half an hour, but that’s long by comparison to some past products from the band. 
          As usual, their material focuses on liberation, queer politics and a call to arms against the conformity and conservatism of the gay community, with selections such as the title track and ‘Wrap Yourselves In Me’ being especially pointed in this regard.
          Side A, though it does not list a producer, is presumably done by the band itself,  while the B-side, consisting of three longer selections, is produced by the guitarist, Scotty Moore, and mixed by Don Pyle, which may account for its greater clarity.
          I may be getting accustomed to the speed and ferocity of their delivery, but it seems that the tunes and vocals are easier to discern now than I found them to be in the past.
          The record comes with a big ‘zine which contains the lyrics of Side A’s tracks, and numerous testimonials, polemics and history lessons as well.
          It’s fierce, in both senses, and definitely worth having, even if, as Hunx puts it, ‘you don’t like rock ‘n’ roll’. J

Monks, HAMBURG RECORDINGS 1967 ep (Third Man Records)
        This band of American GIs based in Germany had a certain built-in destruct mechanism, inasmuch as once they were posted, they would probably have had to break up. They put out one classic album, BLACK MONK TIME (1965), and a couple of singles after that.
          Their original, very fierce sound was driven by minimal drums, organ, electric banjo, and lyrical/vocal bad attitude. They actually had something of a following in Germany, and even appeared on some pop music programs, though the audience tended to look bemused after they performed, and it was very difficult to dance to.
          By this point, they had mellowed a bit, perhaps because of a desire to be more successful or maybe just an evolution as they aged. “I’m Watching You” was an extra track produced during the same sessions of the 1967 single “Love Can Tame The Wild”/”He Went Down To The Sea”, while the other four tracks were recorded after hours in a club they frequently performed at, and even included an instrumental.
          It is far less fierce than that first LP, but it’s still an interesting little collection of oddities, and probably the very last vestiges of the group’s unreleased material, so definitely worth having for completists.

Noise Addict, 10 000 KIDS WITH GUITARS 2xlp (Numero Group)

Aussie kids who started out in the mid-90s as just into their teenage years and barely being able to play – comparisons to the Shaggs are not entirely unjustified – and ending with a sort of adolescent Pixies/Sonic Youth pop thing going on, and even incorporating a female guitarist on their last tour (leavening the bro overlay), which isn’t that surprising given a demo produced by Thurston Moore.
          Their little homage to Evan Dando, entitled “I Wish I Was Him” (appearing here in both acoustic and electric versions), shows ambition, naivete, jealousy, and a bit of a pout.
On the subject of naivete and ambition, they cover Jonathan Richman’s deeply twee “Back In Your Life” (for contrast, they also do “Let’s Lynch the Landlord” by The Dead Kennedys).
          Much as the Ramones inspired so many youngsters in the 70s, this band shows what happens when you have a steady diet of Pavement, Lemonheads, Sonic Youth and the Pixies and decide to fake it until you make it. Charming and odd, in equal measures.
          I don’t happen to have any chalk handy, but the promotional material on the label’s website suggests the cover can actually be used as a blackboard, so perhaps you could write “I Love Kim Gordon” about a million times on the cover. And the 16 page ‘zine inside tells you just about everything you could want to know about the ‘kids’. It should surprise no-one that they broke up kind of ugly and immaturely. J

          From the very first track, one can tell one is in the presence of a much more energized Pere Ubu – possibly because it’s now a nonet, with three guitarists. In fact, it sounds a bit more like the until-recently-reactivated Rocket From The Tombs, except with the mutant EMS synths squatting on the property. It also comes in at under 35 minutes, the shortest Ubu record in recent memory.
          “Monkey Bizness” has a repetitive guitar figure, probably inspired by Kristof Hahn’s time in Swans, and a growling vocal that sounds more like Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart than David Thomas’ more typical piercing whine.
          The next couple of tracks have more of a speak-sing thing going on, though his voice is very clear and energetic, and even amused. The bizarre synth noises float around in the background behind the intricate guitar interplay and riffing.
          “The Healer”, on the other hand, is almost like a folk-rock or Genesis ballad, with whooshing synths, a clarinet, a wistful vocal, subtle steel guitar noises, and very little in the way of percussions.  Its mood is promptly broken by the brief, guitar-driven stomper "Swampland", which has moments not entirely unlike The Stooges if they used synthesizers.
          “Plan From Frog 9” sounds more like the last couple of records, with percolating sequencers and synth beeps and a woozy rhythm to it.
          “Howl” resembles Martian blues, with a crawling tempo, odd clarinet and chugging and crying guitars. And yes, David actually howls impressively here.
          “Red Eye Blues” continues in that mode, except with twangy guitars and a much faster pace.
          “Walking Again” moves along at an ominously slow clip, with much moaning and a corresponding drone to the music. One synth sort of creaks, while the other occasionally plays a very small range of notes. Dare one speculate it is a joke on their notoriously difficult album The Art Of Walking?
          “I Can Still See” opens with a forcefully thumping drum, odd electronic sounds, and an only moderately faster tempo. Once in a while, a female voice, who is presumably Roshi, speaks or sings the title line. There is not much tune to speak of – just more speak-singing, with a vaguely melancholy or troubled tone. As it moves along, a noisy guitar starts to play a vaguely metallic, or even PiL-like, lead, which is the closest thing to a hook.
          “Cold Sweat” is not a James Brown cover. That would have been fun, and it would certainly have changed the plodding feel, but it continues on this closing number. The steel/slide guitar and clarinet provide a bit of a tune, but not much.
            After 16 albums and nearly 42 years, it is nice to see David Thomas and his collaborators have new tricks up their sleeves and can manage some energy and vim, even if the album does rather lag with three dirges in a row.
          RIP Paul Hamann – either he or his father engineered virtually every Ubu recording.


Planetarium, S/T 2xlp (4AD)
          A collaborative effort between Sufjan Stevens, the Christian indie-pop darling; Nico Muhly, most noted for string arranging for various artists; Bryce Dessner of The National; and drummer James McAlister.
          It is a grandiose and lush cycle of songs more or less inspired by the solar system and phenomena therein, with electronics and orchestration fighting for prominence, and occasional flourishes of guitar. It is probably the only time Stevens’ voice is heard through vocoders and autotune, not always to its advantage,
          Some trimming might have been to its advantage, as it comes in at close to 80 minutes long, but it’s definitely an intriguing production.

Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble, FIND ME FINDING YOU lp (Drag City)
          Laetitia produces more electronic-tinged, proggy pop with Latin overtones, aided by her new, awkwardly named group of collaborators.
          That alto voice – the repetitive but catchy structures – it’s not entirely unlike Stereolab, her previous band. It could hardly fail to be reminiscent of it, just because of the lyrical and musical components. The main difference is a much more laidback, mid-tempo feel, and a lack of strings or horns, which often adorned later material by her former group.
          If you feel an absence of Marxist/Situationist lyrics set to mellow, vaguely jazzy pop, you will get your fix here.

Jackie Shane, ANY OTHER WAY 2xlp (Numero Group)
            For many years, Jackie Shane (born 1940) was an enigma. After a performing and recording career spanning 1957 to 1971, with some of it spent by the American-born artist in Canada, featuring a handful of singles, one of which was a regional hit here up North (twice), and a live album to her name, she disappeared from sight. Rumours flew as to what occurred, including murder and AIDS. Around 2005, it became known she was still alive, as someone tracked her down in Tennessee; by the next year, though, the number was disconnected.
          This record, whose title track was the hit, documents most of her output, though there are a few oddities out there not included.
          For the early 1960s, she was astonishingly outspoken, including the knowing turn on ‘tell her I’m gay’ in the title track, especially on the live album (though it was released in 1967, it consists of material from 1963 or so, and no-one else in showbiz was being quite that bold in terms of innuendo and overt attitude). In fact, the live tracks are probably the highlight, as her singles were mostly released from hasty sessions over several years. Except for her final single in 1969, the material was covers, though her monologues are her own. She did, however, have a hand in both production and arrangements, so her stamp can be detected, and even in the lower ranges, her voice is both gripping and soulful. 
          The record includes an enormous booklet full of vintage photos and posters, capturing, among other things, an obnoxious Toronto Star column from 1967 in which they cornered/asked her if she was a boy or a girl, in response to an alleged question from audience members. It is full of anecdotes from both Ms Shane, who has now resurfaced, and others on the Toronto scene then, most of whom are respectful of her transgender identity.
          As both history and r&b, this release is eye-opening and crucial.

Tuns, S/T lp (Royal Mountain Records)
             So a Superfriend, an Inbred, and a Sloan walk into a bar...and proceed to make music before anyone can presume this is the setup to a hackneyed, if oddly Gaelic, joke.
          Matt Murphy (guitar/vocals),Mike O’Neill (bass/vocals) and Chris Murphy (drums/vocals) create a catchy and focused set of 9 songs in 27 minutes.
          I would say it’s sort of Dad pop-punk, but unfortunately they’re all younger than me, so I can’t.
          What it is is mostly jangly power-pop trio material with excellent vocals (lead and backup), whose brief but fully formed songs will stick in your heads for days, like the best songs of their respective bands (though the average listener is sadly not going to remember the Inbreds much or have even heard of the Superfriendz – Sloan is still going strong, however).

The Waterboys, OUT OF ALL THIS BLUE 2xlp (BMG)
       In which our hero discovers hip-hop, disco, r&b and goofy love, relatively late in life, in addition to his usual concerns with mysticism and the like.
          One thing which comes to mind in listening to this sprawling 96-minute release (there is apparently a bonus disc edition that adds another 40 minutes) is that, like Patti Smith whom he celebrated in A Girl Called Johnny, is that he is very much in love. Whereas Patti expressed her sentimental and slightly goopy side primarily with her children on Dream Of Life (yes, there is “Frederick” on Wave, but it had a catchy, lively tune), Mike Scott here celebrates his new-found romance and marriage with Japanese artist Rokudenashiko, in a song named after her and in another (Payo Payo Chin) with an endearing expression from her native language. Both are adorable, admittedly, but it is somewhat of a departure.
          The strings and horns that adorn several tracks give it a bit of the Van Morrison feel he has had in the past, and he continues to produce music full of pomp, in the best possible way. However, this time it has beats and electronic stuff added. An intriguing release, at its best.

John Waters, MAKE TROUBLE 7” (Third Man Records)
          This is the commencement speech he presented at the Rhode Island School of Design, in which he makes a case for his being the perfect speaker (bad taste in clothes, marijuana, criminal history) and a role model for artists and other creative people (he wakes up every morning and does what he loves). And this being a studio recording, rather than the original, means we get to avoid annoying whoo-hoos, possibly insincere and fawning introductory remarks, coughing, sneezing, camera clicking and general crowd noise (which even if they aren’t on John’s hate list, are on mine).
          Just a few of his gems (which I would have preferred ever so to the boring organ solo played at my graduation – I don’t recall there BEING a speaker...).
(1)  He advises the would-be artist to make sure to pay attention to what causes chaos and is disapproved of, because that is where true creativity emerges.
(2)  Re-invent yourself as a new version of your worst enemy – the insider. Waters, after all, is an insider, and is as mad as a hatter. He regards ‘Hairspray’ as his most subversive film, as it infiltrated mainstream America. ‘Pink Flamingos’? Preaching to the converted.
(3)  Humour is the best defense. Make an idiot laugh, and they may stop and listen before they do something stupid (to you).
(4)  We need some rich people. Who’s going to back our movies and buy our art? Hate the poor...of spirit.
(5)  So what if your daughter tattooed her whole face? Maybe she’ll open a fancy tattoo parlour in Paris.
          So many bon mots.
          ‘Go out in the world and fuck it up in a wonderful way.’
          It is a surprisingly warm and cuddly speech for something that essentially encourages subversion and being yourself, no matter how frightening that might be to even Mr. Waters himself. And he encourages parents to love and support their children, as his did, even if, again, they scare the shit out of you.
          There is a digital download available, and a book of it as well, but this 7” has the great advantage of his amused and rounded tones, which you would not get from the publication.
Kate Bush, BEFORE THE DAWN 4xlpDocumenting one of the shows from her mammoth 2014 Hammersmith Apollo residency (her first ‘tour’ since 1979), it is a gorgeous sounding release with an equally stunning booklet. She cheats moderately, in that her synth and piano parts were mostly pre-recorded and then played during the show, and anyone looking for a greatest hits package live would be disappointed, as it is a very conceptual performance and focuses on The Ninth Wave from Hounds of Love and recent material in a loose narrative/theatrical framing. However, she is in excellent voice, if somewhat lower than in her first shows, and supported by a sympathetic and skilled band, including her son Bertie. Also available on 3xcd, for an admittedly more reasonable price.
Gun Club, LIVE AT MANILA CLUB, FLORENCE, ITALY NOV. 26 1983 lpJeffrey Lee Pierce, Patricia Morrison, and crew rage through roots rock, with the sort of force that tends to rip up roots. Mostly FIRE OF LOVE and LAS VEGAS STORY material.
Patti Smith Group, JAZZ WORKSHOP BOSTON JAN. 9, 1976 2xlp In which our sweet and sensitive flower horrifies the radio station that broadcast the show, by using naughty language. In the end, John Cale literally brings the roof down by putting his bass through the ceiling during ‘My Generation’.
Velvet Underground, LIVE AT BOSTON TEA PARTY, JANUARY 10, 1969/JULY 11, 1969 2xlp (each) – Well recorded sets at what practically became their home base during semi-self-imposed exile from NYC. It was interesting to hear “Jesus” live (pretty much a Xerox of the studio take), and to hear a tiny bit of ‘The Murder Mystery’ tossed into a long take on ‘Sister Ray’. Maureen, as usual at this period in concert, shines on the drums as she never really got to do on record.   
Dorothy Ashby, THE HARP IN A MINOR GROOVE 2xlpThe liner notes say she was not the only jazz harpist, though one cited was in a big band, not the bass/drums/flute/harp lineup heard here. She plays glistening guitar-like lines, or piano-like chimes – not much in the way of the dramatic glissandi many people think of with the instrument. Traditional jazz, in the sense of being melodic and, when it’s a cover, hewing close to the original - but very catchy and hypnotic, and the harp does add a touch of the exotic.
Jerry Yester and Judy Henske, FAREWELL ALDEBARAN lpIn its use of electronically altered vocals (the destructive sounds of a rogue comet – now THAT’s an interpretive challenge!) and a mellotron choir with a heart full of mischief and bile, this very odd 1969 record might have stood out, but instead was ignored at the time, and out of print for many years. This is its first official re-release on vinyl, and its first-ever release on CD format (again, officially). While “Snowblind”, on which Judy growls like a feral Grace Slick (her low range can rattle speakers), got a little airplay and is not entirely unlike other radio fare of the time (and features Zal Janovsky from the Loving Spoonful, who also owned a restaurant in my town for years, on guitar and bass), other material such as the mocking “St Nicholas Hall” (I don’t imagine it’s on the Pope’s iPod) and the deeply troubling “Lullaby” (apparently, the mother of one of the pair called and asked if everything was all right, after hearing the song) sounds out there today. But at least it’s OUT THERE, today. J
Hidden Cameras, OUR HOME ON NATIVE LAND cdJoel Gibb, after years of grandiose orchestral ‘gay church music’, strips way down to sparkling folk/rootsy style, including a remake of ‘He Is The Boss Of Me’ from ECCE HOMO, as well as excellent covers of ‘Dark End Of The Street’ (which I mainly know from Diamanda Galas’ take – the Cameras’ video for this was directed by GB Jones, and is mostly shot around morose and somewhat isolated buildings in the Toronto area that were slated for demolition) and the NFB film theme ‘Log Drivers Waltz’, as well as catchy originals ‘Had A Feeling About You’ and ‘The Day I Left Home’. And a great album title, to boot. J
Gene Howard, LOVE IS A DRAG cd –  In 1947, the producer of this record happened to be in a gay bar, and heard a male singer do standards probably intended for women to sing, without changing the words. 15 years later, he convinced the singer and band, said to all be straight, to record this set. It’s probably a good thing he was alive during the time this re-issue was being planned, as only he knew all the names involved. It was said to be a great favourite of Liberace, Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope at the time, but it could barely be found, as it was initially on a gay exploitation label. Back then, no names appeared on the record in terms of the musicians involved, but that has clearly changed. You know you want to hear “He’s Funny That Way” (yes, they do resist any camp or knowing turn) and “Mad About The Boy” sung a la supper club by a straight man, backed by guitar/clarinet/drums/bass/piano. A bit of an oddity, but a very nice one.
Andy Northrup, MAKING MY WAY cd – A tasty collection of rootsy/country rock from this Alberta singer-songwriter/actor, his third release. The lyrics are often on the melancholy side, but are usually framed in hooky and lively tempos and beats. He has a lovely, warm voice, and, yes, he also happens to be easy on the Bearish eye. On which point, though there’s only one song with an explicit gendered pronoun, he is queer, but it’s a collection of touching numbers that could have universal appeal.
Baby Dee, I AM A STICK downloadThis artist has produced a variety of material, from vaguely classical instrumentals to lively piano-pounding material verging on the blue. She has been known to play piano/organ/harp/accordion, but focuses here mainly on keyboards. If you like cabaret a la Tom Waits, you will probably love this intricately arranged set. The vocals are a bit idiosyncratic, sometimes even approaching David Thomas territory (which isn’t surprising, given she is from Cleveland), but this is probably some of her best singing. It is also available on CD and might still be on LP, but finances led to me finally making this wonderful and valid choice for the digital download format.
Little Annie, TRACE downloadThis chanteuse has also displayed considerable range over the years, from tape collage material to guesting on post-rock records to just piano and vocals. Here, the material focuses on the jazzy, though ‘Bitching Song’ has a creepy electro-dub groove, and her fractured vocal style occasionally approaches Billie Holiday territory. In fact, I could genuinely picture the late jazz legend singing ‘My Old Man Trouble’. Lyrically, the record is less soothing, but the music frames it and softens the blow enough to broaden the appeal.
Pylon, LIVE download – I would have first heard Pylon around 1983, when this recording was made, thanks to ‘The New Music’ playing the video for ‘Beep’. They did not last much longer after this, though they subsequently reformed for another album, and toured a bit some years later, until the unfortunate death of the guitarist in 2008. This captures them at their ferocious, funky, punky-dancey height, and even includes some tracks that were never done in the studio, such as a very idiosyncratic take on ‘Batman’ and an original called ‘Party Zone’. All the ‘hits’ are here too, such as ‘Beep’, ‘Crazy’, ‘Cool’, and ‘Stop It’. Sadly, not ‘Read A Book’, which I used as the title of the literary section of my old ‘zine NOISE QUEEN – but one cannot have everything. ‘Chomp’ and ‘Gyrate’ were re-issued a few years back on DFA, with bonus tracks, if you wish to seek out their studio material.



Nothing more rapidly inclines a person to go into a monastery than reading a book on etiquette. There are so many trivial ways in which it is possible to commit some social sin. (Quentin Crisp)

That’s when I want – some weird sin – just to relax with – yeah, some dumb weird sin. (Iggy Pop)

Ed. Stephanie Chambers et. al., ANY OTHER WAY: HOW TORONTO GOT QUEER



Duke Miller, Aaron Louis Asselstine, JT  Twissel, WRITING FOR THE ABSENT READER



Ed. Dave Stewart and Laura Chapin, FEAR FROM A SMALL PLACE



Ed. Stephanie Chambers et. al., ANY OTHER WAY: HOW TORONTO GOT QUEER (Coach House Press Books, 2017)

          This book opens with a foreword that discusses Jackie Shane, whose most famous recording gives it its title, and documents an interesting moment in the evolution of queerness in Toronto the Good. Jackie was astonishingly forward and confident at a moment in time when it was still illegal to be gay in Canada, not to  mention transgender.
          It sets the tone for a book that collects first-person anecdotes, histories, political activism and official responses to the evolving queer culture in Ontario’s capital city, and allows these diverse voices to speak for themselves. For once, it is not the story only of white men (or women).
          One particularly telling item, I was convinced it had to be a parody. It was a sociological invasion of a gay bar, ca. 1955-1956. The language and tone was deeply patronizing and objectifying, and I somehow pictured pith helmets and khaki outfits on the part of the interlopers. Describing Queens in terms that are normally reserved for observations of gazelles or chimpanzees was tasteless. An earnest exploration of a culture steeped in artifice, misdirection, and survival strategies in a straight world is almost destined to come across as too funny for words, which the
article does. Given that it wasn’t published until 1962 or so, it was already somewhat dated when it emerged. 
          On the subject of transgender issues, the section about what people had to go through to be considered for surgery was infuriating and illuminating at the same time. I was certainly aware of the need to live as ‘the opposite sex’ for a time, but one doctor seriously over-stepped bounds by demanding that if a person was married, they had to get divorced before he would consider working with them.
          It might have wanted to expand outward slightly to discuss Project Guardian in London, Ontario from the early 90s, but I can understand why it chose not to. It does cover the bathhouse raids from 1981 and the Pleasure/Pussy Palace police actions very thoroughly, with primary sources and participants cited.
          All told, a very approachable and diverse study of the formation of identity and community, which avoids academic language or attitudes quite effectively.

GO-BETWEENS (Omnibus Press, 2017)
        This volume explores the lives of the author and his friend Grant McLennan (1958-2006), both within and without the band they formed together in 1977 in Australia.
         It is not sparing of the truth, without being catty or sensational, though it is a bit disappointing that there isn’t more deep insight into why Grant did not get along well with Lindy Morrison, the band’s drummer from 1980 to 1989. It is true that they had very different styles, judging from contemporary and subsequent interviews, but introverts and extroverts have gotten along famously in the past. I suspect, though the book doesn’t really address it much, that there was some measure of jealousy, as often occurs in power dynamics within a relationship, even when there is no romance as such involved.
         Unlike many rock biographies, there are few pictures included, but those can be found in David Nichols’ The Go-Betweens, another excellent book, if you are so inclined. Forster’s memoir provides the final few years missing from Nichols’ publication, which was updated once after the group reformed with a different line-up.

A witty and touching biography of a group and a relationship, which I recommend highly.

David Keenan, ENGLAND’S HIDDEN REVERSE (Strange Attractor Press, 2016)

          This book is a dense portrait and history of the bands Current 93, Nurse With Wound, and Coil, experimental groups/projects with considerable cross-contamination and collaboration, working in a range from folk to industrial noise, sometimes within the same band.
          It is heavily illustrated and consists almost entirely of primary documents, reminiscences and interviews, with the occasional use of varying accounts to show how complicated documenting projects which mostly worked underground and within closed circles can be. NWW and Coil rarely played live, and Current 93 did so intermittently, because of David Tibet’s bouts with illness.
          Along the way, it also mentions other fringe acts in their environs, such as Whitehouse, Lemon Kittens and Psychic TV. The anecdotes regarding the latter tend to reinforce, either directly or indirectly, Cosey Fanni Tutti’s accounts of Genesis P-Orridge’s conduct and personality.


          This is a second edition, the first having appeared in 2003; as a result, the voices of Jhonn Balance (1962-2004) and Sleazy  (1955-2010) from Coil are basically ghosts as we read them now, which gives the book a melancholy overlay.
          However, it is a very informative book, and while it would certainly help if you were a fan of at least one of the groups, I could see it appealing to those adventurous spirits who like to learn about things that were previously outside their experience.

Duke Miller, Aaron Louis Asselstine, and JT Twissel, WRITING FOR THE ABSENT READER (John’s Motorcycle Storage and Rare Book Disposal, 2017)
          Other than Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell doing a poetry book together in the Seventies, I can’t think of many split volumes of short writing.
However, these three authors have compiled pieces done in a blog into a single volume, split between them, though Aaron and Duke take up the most pages.
          It’s an intriguing and surreal collection. Aaron tends to write dark stories  leavened with humour; JT’s material seems the closest to ‘mainstream’, a blend of noir and modern urban fiction (which is an accurate depiction of most city life nowadays); Duke's selections show a Beat influence, especially that of Burroughs

in terms of both cut-up and morbidity.
          Certainly not light reading, any of them, but an interesting compilation that is definitely worth checking out.

            This short but informative document explores the roots, practice(s) and legacy of queercore, a movement largely based around music in the general public perception, though also recorded and transmitted through ‘zines and film.
          It is published by an academic press, but it manages to be very accessible and does not require a degree in queer studies to be appreciated and understood.
          It also does not pull any punches in occasionally critiquing some of the movement’s composition and make-up, and productively examines the responses to those limitations around race, class and strategy.
          At the moment, the volume is only available in a rather expensive hardcover and electronic format, but it will come out in paperback in 2018.
          Definitely worth reading and learning from. Many thanks to Richard for providing me with his review copy so I could, in turn, promote this important work. Straight boys aren’t entirely useless after all.


(Disclosure: I know the author, and cannot pretend to be entirely objective regarding his intellect and insight. Have had many an interesting discussion)

          I do have a university degree, but I was never very good at academia, especially when it comes to jargon – it often seemed unnecessary, or I would look up a phrase and think: ‘But I learned this in Grade Eight!’. This book is not lacking in specialized language, but it makes a point of explaining them fairly well, and dare I say it, queerly (defining the concept of habitus, used by Bourdieu, a philosopher Dr. Samuel cites throughout, as like the thought process behind programs such as What Not To Wear, in which subjective norms and aesthetics are viewed as inherent and universally desirable, was a good touch – as a Marxist, this sounds like cultural hegemony, which I characterize as ‘we have always done it this way, and it will never change’).
In exploring the LGBT+ movement and alterglobalization, through the likes of the G20 protests in the latter instance, the volume examines the problems, challenges and benefits of assimilation vs. liberation/anti-capitalism vs. neoliberalism and cooperation.
          As someone who has not been very good at success, since internalizing society’s values and conventions is very awkward for me, I appreciated the analysis Chris gives to reform and radicalism and their relative costs and benefits.
          Anyone who knows me might be surprised at this, but I do think conformity has distinct advantages. Not necessarily conformity to the habitus, though you can’t get much done if you utterly ignore it, because you will be literally unspeakable, as the publication’s arguments state, but some degree of unity and agreement on tactics. Mindless destruction will also leave you outside of the discourse.
          In the end, creativity and flexibility are possible tactics to address the contradictions and complexity of activism and progress today. As Madeleine L’Engle said: ‘A sonnet has a set structure, but there is freedom within it to say what you want.’
Ed. Dave Stewart and Laura Chapin, FEAR FROM A SMALL PLACE (Graphcom Publishing, 2017)
            I feel it is best to disabuse you of any presumptions at the outset. You will not find killer potatoes, radiation-mutated giant lobsters, or zombie Anne Shirleys within the pages of this book.
          You will encounter a wide range of horror/terror/weird/eerie stories by people either born on Prince Edward Island, adopters of the sod, or expatriates with a tie to the red mud nevertheless.
          There is even a story based on real events from the Island’s lively and contentious past. It is nowhere near the sleepy, quaint place some people feel it to be. I suppose its size and small population fool unwary tourists and observers.
          Some of the stories fall more into the realm of the surreal or the existential nightmare that everyday life can resemble, but not to worry – there are also some bone-chillers, gross-outs and Twilight Zone visitations to balance them out.
          In short, give this literary collection a chance, all the while aware that the Lake of Shining Waters may be that way because of luminescent horrors that lurk beneath its placid surface.
John Waters, MAKE TROUBLE (Algonquin Books, 2017)

          The book form of the download and 7” of John Waters’ commencement speech at the Rhode Island School Of Design.
          It has to recommend it the demented illustrations by Eric Hanson, as well as the fact you can hold it in your hands and enjoy it, unlike the digital download. Yes, you can, I suppose, hold the sleeve of the 7”, or even the record, but the first just looks kind of awkward and the second, unless you have phonographic hands, would be pointless.
          Plus, of course, for those without a turntable or who do not wish to pay for or steal the digital file, and for those of us who still go to libraries, this is also very useful and accessible.
          As John Waters said elsewhere, “If you go home with someone and they have no books – don’t fuck them!”

          Go to your local library, especially if you live in a small conservative town where people are offended by the words Vagina Monologues, and ask them to get it! I did. Or, if you have no books, perhaps you should buy this in the name of your sex life.