Music reviews from 1997

From Vol. 1 No. 4
La Beaujolaise Jordi, Grayson & Bruce cassette
This group is like from another era, but I can’t think to say which one. Their music draws from all sorts of cabaret traditions and love traditions. They translate this gypsy car salesman’s observation of life, that combines the ritualistic passing of urban time with all the stars and roses that are in the history of his heart. They capture that Edith Piaf simplistic idiosyncracy, that Mother Goose edge, that is a fascinating way to convey the certain happy and naive melody

The Untanned Hide of a Young Cow cass.
This was a nice thing to get in the mail. Great package. Most of the music is no different from thousands of home demos being cut worldwide by (suburban or otherwise) guys in their early twenties with 4tracks in their rooms (I got a tape from New Zealand that sounds almost identical to this.) There are moments, though, where actual sung refrains, quirky repeated noises and general wonkiness intersect to make a decent song happen. “O, I could hardly know” is one of them. Actually, both sides start with some decent material, but for any of it to take shape this guy (or band, if there is one) should get out there and play for an audience a few times, and let natural (audience) selection take its course. I’d like to see a fucked-up band like this playing around town.
This is a fun tape to put on when you have no idea what to put on, though. Even though none of this Beck/Ween-ish stuff goes further than what the Residents did, it’s fun to hear.
(louis) (Buy it at Noize or send money to Kip Jackson, 4533 Park Ave., Mtl. Que. H2V 4E4)

Grime single
Rupert Bottenberg has created a far out cover for this little release. It is like something I’d see on NDG walls in the early eighties, you know the avant-guarde unicorn and hot-to-trot fairy mystique that is surfacing in our collective Boogie Nights consciousness. It is beautiful in all its primary colour loudness and slick detail. Listening to the album brought me back to another time too. Like I was walking into Station 10 with my friend Angie from Two Mountains, watching one of her boyfriend’s bands. I don’t know if it’s good or not, I can’t judge it.
(Heather O’Neill) (Grime, 190 Toscanini, Chateauguay, Que. J6K 4B9)

We Must Resist Any Temptation To Play Funk, The Hashimoto Show 6-song cassette
Ya gotta hand it to Gordon Hashimoto. He’s a pop nerd and he doesn’t give a fuck if you know it. He’s also supposedly one of the nicer guys on the local music scene but that’s twelfth-hand information from some old Hour or Mirror article and I can’t vouch for him personally. Still, wearing your heart on your sleeve and your quirky pop references on your collar is enough to get your ass wacked in some of the more doctrinaire hard music circles in this city.
A lotta musicians apologize for their affinity toward pop forms these days by swathing their musical output in noise, technology, drone and flat-out speed. And I don’t have to tell anybody that cynicism, sarcasm and a what-the-fuck-can-I-do pessimism are the preferred kinds of moods to carry around in your wallets in the ever-so-chic 90’s. So what’s the sensitive singer-guitarist-songwriter who wants to present stripped-down, slightly melancholic but hopeful (even wide-eyed) POP gonna do? What’s a guy who puts ONE lyric in a seconds-long little ditty: “My love for you is unending” (from “Unending” which is anything but)… What’s this guy supposed to do?
Well, Gord just kinda lays it all out there: the Gordon Gano/Jad Fair vocals, the wide-eyed Jonathan Richman/Jad matter-of-fact sense of lyrical naivete and wonder, the musical nods to the Femmes + 1/2 Jap + even Pizzicato 5. He doesn’t belabor the point and these songs glide by pretty quickly. He doesn’t bludgeon ya with volume or effects or big production hoo-haa. He’s what you’d call an acquired taste as a singer but that only gets on my nerves during the opening Femmes-ish track (“Sidewalk Support Group”). The rest of the time he stays more in his limited sing/speak range, gets some backing vox assistance from ex-Goldfish members or doesn’t sing at all (“The Swirl”- easily the catchiest song here with its crazily addictive haven’t-I-heard-that- somewhere-before chicken scratch funk riff and buried Japanese female spoken word sample, very Pizzicato-ish). He’s still gonna grate on some people.
The music here is no-frills guitar, drums (Eric Robitaille) and bass (Patrick Hamilton) which services the songs in a minimal, understated, measured and mostly-effective manner. Personally, I’d like to see the Hashimoto Show open up the band a little more, get noisier, looser, less controlled, a little more dynamic. That’s a matter of taste, however, and musically they do succeed, on their own understated terms.
The slice-of-life oddball and sometimes vaguely poignant personal observations that serve as lyrics kinda sneak up on ya from out of left field. “Bucky Dent” combines a very Richman-like tribute to the ex-second baseman with the repeated lines at the end “How can you not wear a tuque, On a day like this.” Now there’s Canadian content for ya. Or from “Uncle Albert/Auntie Social”: “The guy who’s on the air/ He’s saying love but he’s talking hate/ He wouldn’t let us sing/ He made all of us wait/ And when it comes my turn/ I’ll sing like Bonnie Raitt.”
So Gord can laugh at himself and that’s a good thing. But he ain’t no fool and there’s genuine pop-craft going on here… if you can stomach it.
(Slack Daddy)
(7355 St. Denis, Montreal, Que., H2R 2E5;

Beverly single
These songs sounded real cool except that they also sounded as though they were being played in a car with closed windows. Like Nick Cave, or someone rad, was playing in your laundry room three floors down. The distortion is so heavy it is as if the singer had enormously fat lips. If I could clear the gunk out of my ears, I would hear a wild song. I mean it is there but I’m fishing for it in the East River.
(Heather O’Neill) (Beverley, 114 Woodlawn Dr., D.D.O., Que. H9A 1Z2)

Repetetive Strain Injuries, Sissy Havoc 4-song cassette
This cassette is a short, extremely catchy, punchy, wailing guiterama surprise that’s grown on me considerably. What we have here are ex-members of Men ‘O Steel, Nul Set and Cheesecake Circus (I remember seeing them once live and, as I recall, they had a female lead singer who could peel paint with her voice). I haven’t seen Sissy Havoc live but, on the basis of this, I should get out more often.
The musical ingredients in this mix are usual alt-rock icons like Sonic Youth (their more rockin’ drone-fests, as evidenced on the cassette’s “Fancy”), Fugazi (their tension-release emo-core recipe, as evidenced on”Spectator Sports”, “Invesuggestible”), Dinosaur Jr. and even a little new California punk-core (the beginning of “Scuff Paced”). A lot of groups try to emulate these bands but it doesn’t sound organically seemless; the influences often feel grafted on. Sissy Havoc have smoothly-flowing parts to their songs, play with power and precision and nail you with hooks on all four of the tunes. There’s an anthemic quality to everything here that’s hard to deny, even for a cynical old commentator like myself. Guitarist Malcolm has that not-too-busy/full-on driving, tension/release delivery down in a pretty impressive way. When he puts the hammer down, he plays with punk spirit and still serves the songs. His singing is strong and evocative. Serj pounds the drums like a schooled animal in a cage, hitting all the cues and staying intense. Gen bottoms it all out.
The liner notes say this was done on a 4-track in the band’s practice space, an achievement considering the fullness of the sound quality here. The packaging is also worth noting. The cassette comes wrapped in corrugated cardboard, open at both ends, the cover drawing glued on the front. Simple, but ingenious. Musta saved them a few bucks on cassette cases. You also get a page of cut-up, stream-of-conscious prose (please no more of this, it hurts my head) and the usual thanks to places like Oblique, Underworld, Cafe Chaos, CKUT and two of my favorite local bands – Exhaust and Slaphappy 5.
I don’t know whether Sissy Havoc has the goods to keep you interested over a 10 or 12 song release. They do tend to lean on Fugazi structures a lot. But the cassette is tight and promising in all the right ways. Bring on some more. Buy the cassette. Make ‘em rich.
(Slack Daddy) (contact: P.O. Box 48103, Ave. du Parc, Montreal, Que., H2V 4S8.)

Lisa Gamble at the Mocador, Sept. 12 & 13 97, Sutton, Quebec
A table of loud alcoholic divorcées wearing jeans two sizes too small cackle at a table in this, the only resto-bar in town. “He was the one I’d met over the internet,” one says, and the others laugh raspily.
Meanwhile, Lisa Gamble finishes her complimentary meal at the next table. She’s come here from the big city to enjoy the fresh air, roam through the countryside, and make money playing guitar for the locals.
People keep coming and going from the bar as she tries to judge the right moment to start playing. Eleven o’clock rolls around, and it doesn’t look like the place will ever get more crowded. The classic rock fades out, and Lisa steps up to the mike.
“Hi! I’m Lisa Gamble, and I’m gonna play you some songs I wrote.”
“Aw, are you gonna play any covers?” yells someone who’d obviously been enjoying their Zeppelin while they played pool.
“Uh, yeah, I know some covers,” she answers.
“Do you know any Eagles songs?” asks someone else. Ah, classic rock. The folk music of North American small towns. Luckily, if someone is able to eventually change that, it’s Lisa.
She begins her set. The conversations continue for awhile, but fade as people sitting at pitcher-filled tables start listening.
It doesn’t take long. During her too-heavy-to-be-acoustic riffing in ‘Steel-Toed Black Boots,” a couple of guys near the stage are playing air-drums. Later, a couple of local girls are dancing to the rhythmic pounding of “Scream With Me.”
During one of the quieter songs, a lone guy at the next table listens attentively while nursing his beer, almost as if she was telling him a story. He looks over at me (obviously smitten) and says, “She’s really good!”
“She is,” I reply.
The music catches you first. It’s that type of accomplished guitar-playing that makes you look at the fingers on the fretboard and wonder “how is that happening?” Then there’s her singing, raising up from her spoken intros to each song in her no-need-to-be trained natural singing voice.
Then there’s what she says. Lisa writes songs that say things which have yet to be said about our culture, things which perhaps haven’t yet been fully understood. In her songs, the moods, the confusions, the situations we all face are simply and beautifully noticed in moments of honest artistic clarity.
Her lyrics are proof that the most casual and naive observation can say far more than the most informed and educated opinion. In “Lay me an egg,” she’s pissed off at how the banal fruits of society are rarely what they’re hyped up to be: “Even the ugliest things have the most beautiful reflections,” she sings. In “A Place To Give Birth,” her furious strumming is rightly mad as hell about the fact that the world is so fucked up, people don’t even want to have children anymore. Unlike a lot of people our age, however, she won’t just accept this. In the song, someone asks her “Why do you bother worrying about things you can’t change?” She answers: “That’s the problem.”
These are elements of our reality you’ll never hear addressed in classic rock, and the folks there who listened obviously sensed it.
The classic rock came back, however, at the end of her two hours of sets. Several new fans shook her hand and asked if she’d come back to Sutton sometime. She said if the owner asks her back, she will. She’ll be playing there sooner than the Eagles will, anyway. (louis)

godspeed you black emperor
record, little pack of silk-screened goodies, penny flattened on nearby tracks etc.
Godspeed shows are one of those shows where you can just count on seeing everybody there. You go, drink, hang out, space out to the (preferably) Francois Miron films, drink, walk around talking to people, smoke, drink, sit and stare like a sheep, snap out of it, drink, talk, realize it’s over, have a last drink, oh what the fuck one more, then I can’t remember quite what happens.
Godspeed records aren’t quite the same. They’re black, totally black, they start with some movie talking kinda like a pink floyd record, then it’s the same music which is good music. Different, though. I didn’t get drunk. Well, once I think I was drunk and people were over but after one side someone said ‘put something faster on’ so we did. It’s good music, though. I just put it on to hear it again before writing this. It went well with making supper. Made me feel like I was making the Last Supper. Or something.
The best bit is this nice kinda end-of-the night music I remember them doing as an encore on New Year’s Eve. That was a real good show. I was wasted & making out with someone the whole time that time, so it goes to show, it’s good makeout music too.
The record’s sold out, I hear. They’re gonna make more, though. Also a CD. Buy one today!
(louis) (constellation records)