Thursday, December 2, 2010

Constantines / The Unintended

Bands: Constantines / The Unintended

Album: split

Pressing: Hand numbered 382 out of 1000

Possibly the most unapologetically Can-rock album of the decade, Blue Fog Records combines indie heavyweights the Constantines with The Unintended – a super group comprised of The Sadies, Rick White of Elevator/Eric’s Trip and Greg Keelor of Blue Rodeo – covering Neil Young and Gordon Lightfood respectively.

Now broken up, the Constantines remain one of my favourite live bands. Although their later gigs lacked the balls-out intensity of their early days – watching Will Kidman leaping off his keyboard is probably one of the best rock moves ever witnessed – their shows were typically mind-blowing. One show in particular stands out: Having taken a trip to Toronto, a friend hooked me up with some tickets to a super-secret show that only the cool kids were supposed to know about – the Constantines were playing in a crazy old church for a TV show, supporting headliners Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. Crazy! So the story goes, apparently the dude who owned the original Kibbles ‘N’ Bits dog from the commercials rented out the church. Making the acquaintance of a gal who was dating the bassist of the Cons, apparently the dog was hanging out backstage. Years later, when interviewing guitarist Steve Lambke, he confirmed watching a very aged ex-TV star bulldog slumbering peacefully on a couch.

In addition to their live prowess, the Constantines were masters of choosing cover songs – Lou Reed’s “Temporary Thing” immediately comes to mind. On this album, they cover a smattering of Neil Young tunes.

Here it comes: I never really liked Neil Young all that much. In fact, I would conjecture he is vastly overrated. While I concur he is in fact a folk-rock legend – a title deservedly earned – his vast back catalogue is filled to the brim with mediocre afterthoughts, sessional hoo-hah and meandering acoustic nonsense that should have been shelved as nothing more than coffee shop claptrap. Whoa, that sort of felt good. However, the Constantines versions of Young’s songs actually do something for me – every time I hear their version of “Don’t Cry No Tears” it worms its way into my head for days afterwards. I guess I am a Neil fan after all.

Gordon Lightfoot is another story altogether. I hold a bit more reverence for Mr. Foot due to my father spinning his records as a child and my mom playing his tapes in the car endlessly. However, The Unintended’s country psych-rock styling’s are never anything short of amazing. Their music – a perfect blend of Rick White’s tripped-out material combined with the ultimate backing band, The Sadies, actually overshadows Lightfoot’s songwriting. Make sure to check out The Unintended’s self-titled CD, an amazing album that I wish had been pressed on vinyl. Sigh. Please tour.

In typical Blue Fog fashion, this album has a silk-screened cover, is hand-numbered, and is retardedly hard to find. Awesome.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Slow Down Molasses – Hazy Summer Days

Band: Slow Down Molasses

Album: Hazy Summer Days

Pressing: “Wedding press”, hand-numbered out of 3, silk-screened album cover

It feels like 10 years have passed since I first agreed to play bass in Slow Down Molasses, a ramshackle alt-country, crunk-folk band masterminded by Tyson McShane. But in reality it will be the fourth anniversary this January, so that’s close enough.

I have very little business playing bass in a band, much less a genre that isn’t conducive to crushing audiences with sludgy loudness or dazzling those in attendance with punk rock high kicks. Regardless, my time in Slow Down Molasses is remembered fondly for attempting to introduce those elements when I could, as well as playing with a whole set of New Partners. We had lots of fun and did all those things that a band should, like release albums, quibble over recording, tour the country and puke all over each other (in my case: puke all over the tour van and then poop in a children’s park).

Concurrently (and perhaps unfortunately), life is so much more than just breaking guitar strings and inopportune bodily functions. In any case, when Tyson and his best gal Jeanna announced their spooky Hallowedding, I was certainly more than a little choked I could not be in attendance, play in the wedding band and puke on the dance floor. Some things are for the best. However, the trick to not showing up to a friend’s wedding is to send a present so great that it makes all the other presents look like garbage…

Tyson is one of my friends who appreciates vinyl as much as I do. And since Slow Down Molasses has yet to put anything on wax, sending him a “wedding press”, lathe-cut, one-of-a-kind record was pretty much a no-brainer. And thankfully there is just such a place in Montreal to get that sort of thing.

PJ Mansion ( on Van Horne offers great service and prices, despite a bit of a hilarious fail on their behalf – when I went to pick up the records the guy from the studio had apparently been locked in somehow. Ok. Thankfully he managed to improvise. As I stood out front on a busy street, from a second story window he lowered a bag attached to an extension cord, which contained my records. Money was put in the bag, which made its way back up. Not just good times, but the best!

Anyway, I decided to whip up some entirely inappropriate-but-skull-crushingly-awesome artwork for this record. I was a little late mailing this, but I was hoping he would open this in front of his and Jeanna’s relatives. Ah well, some things are for the best… While there are only three copies of this 7” record in existence – one for Tyson, one for me and one for eBay! – there were quite a few more copies of the album artwork made. Contact me if you want one.

Records are a pretty intimate and awesome way to listen to music – I’m stoked to finally listen to myself on vinyl – and these lathe-cut 7”’s look and sound great (silk-screened artwork is the only way to go), and I think this present likely ranks up there with the best. Thanks for the good times Tyson, and here’s to you and Jeanna having many more.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Thunderbirds Are Now - Justamustache

Band: Thunderbirds Are Now

Album: Justamustache

Pressing: 600

Anyone who survived the music scene in the early years of the new millennium likely remembers dance punk. Although capturing the hearts and ears of nearly every indie kid who ever rocked a striped shirt, the fad-of-a-genre is, in hindsight, best compared to that really young, drunk chick at a party: she's kind of cute at first and you sort of want to dance with her despite knowing your buddies are going to make fun of you later. Unfortunately, like the drunk chick, dance punk got pretty sickening quick and, after a few half-hearted attempts to get the party going again, everyone more or less ignores it now.

Thunderbirds Are Now are one such casualty of the dance punk movement. Combining hyperactive hi-hat-heavy drum beats with the signature angular guitars, Thunderbirds are actually one of the more interesting, albeit ignored, examples of the genre. Plenty of dance punk ultimately falls flat pretty quick, but there is something about this album that makes me want to dance and swing my arms around, a la boisterous punk rock. Their LP Justamustache was released on Frenchkiss Records, which is owned by the dude from Les Savy Fav - a band that is partly responsible for, and outlived, the whole dance punk craze.

Although wholly worth seeking out, Justamustache is a fairly obscure album - only 600 were ever pressed on toothpaste-blue vinyl. And the shitty sleeve - a blank, folded piece of cardboard with a photocopied logo of a moustache glue-sticked to it - is an indication that someone might have had an inkling that this whole silly genre was about to suffer a massive cocaine-induced coronary. Collectors please note: obscure > rare.

Regardless, this is Thunderbirds Are Now at their best. Find this LP, attach the fake moustache that came with this record (or grow your own), take off your pantaloons, chug a beer and kick the shit out of the couch cushions.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Elevator – August

Band: Elevator

Album: August

Pressing: Hand numbered 320 out of 350

Continuing my fascination with the fabulous Rick White of Eric’s Trip, Elevator is White’s psych-folk project involving ex-Eric Tripper Mark Gaudet, ex-wife Tara White and Sadies front man Dallas Good. The music itself is haunting and plaintive, but offering plenty of moments of lo-fi brilliance.

While the music itself is great – although August, or any other Elevator album for that matter, doesn’t stack up next to Elevator To Hell’s debut LP – what makes this record truly bonerific is the amazing artwork.

As someone who has learned the painstaking art of screen-printing, I can personally testify that it is tragic that someone would sell a record along with a print for less than $20. On one hand, it’s a great deal for a collector who seeks this sort of thing out. But most artists typically sell their prints for much more. In either case, the serigraphie beautifully compliments the sounds on this LP.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Eric's Trip - Bootleg

Band: Eric's Trip

Album: Bootleg

Pressing: First press 1000?

In the last post I didn't incorporate as much of a roadtrip theme as I would have liked. This time I am showcasing a couple of rarities I found while visiting the Toronto, Ontario, Canada record store Rotate This.

I've been to Toronto many times in the past couple of years - a city I've grown to love more every time I visit. The people are typically friendly and hospitable - a stark contrast to most of the denizens of Montreal where I am currently stationed. There is plenty of good food to be had. And the record stores are plentiful and fun to visit. Among my favourites is Rotate This. I've been there several times, scoring amazing, hard-to-find records virtually every time I visit (Peaches - s/t, Elevator - August and Coheed and Cambria - In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth 3 to name a few). But this copy of Eric's Trip - Bootleg warrants a story unto itself.

Eric's Trip are something of a national institution - the first band from Canada to be signed to Sub Pop Records, they actually grew in notoriety after they officially broke up back in 1996. Although they were wildly influential to me and my friends music-wise, I never saw them live until their 2001 reunion tour. That night they played until 3am on the periphery of a blackout, which I had to walk home through terrified of a random jock beating (at the age of 21 I was still afraid of jocks - go figure).

Bootleg was released to coincide with Eric's Trip's 2008 tour - available only at a handful of shows across Canada. Tellingly, this LP was extremely hard to come by otherwise, despite rumours of it still being available. Apparently the dude who put it out also runs Rotate This, and copies would pop up intermittently in his store.

A friend by the name of AVL clued me in that he, along with another friend, had purchased this album from Rotate This. When my band Murder Ford Monument (RIP) toured through Toronto, I literally ran from Kensington Market to Queen Street to make sure I got in before closing time. I made it with 10 minutes to spare, but alas no Eric's Trip - Bootleg LP. Figuring it wouldn't hurt to ask the store clerk if there were any tucked away somewhere, I quickly regretted my decision - his demeaning stare and snotty attitude actually did hurt. Ah well. I'm sure a stack of Steely Dan LPs will one day fall on and crush him.

A month later, a trip to this store yielded sweet indie rock fruit. This LP is actually one of my favourite Eric's Trip LPs, even if only for their cover of "We're Only Going to Die" by Bad Religion. This record is mostly outtakes and B-material hoo-hah and essentially everything that ever made this band such a lovely, beautiful, ramshackle mess to begin with. Also worth nothing is the screen-printed cover, typical of the Blue Fog label.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Death From Above - Heads Up!

Band: Death From Above (pre-1979)

Album: Heads Up

Pressing: First press 200 on clear, 800 on black. Second press 1000 on black (with 1979 affixed to name)

This is a good album to start this blog with due to it being one of the first albums that I purchased before I considered myself a “collector” with a “collection”. Hell, after this arrived in the mail, it would spend equal amounts of time between my turntable and sitting flat on my desk amongst empty beer bottles and leaky ballpoint pens (which accounts for some of the cover damage). It’s a miracle that this record – and myself for that matter – survived those years…

I first got into the Toronto-based Death From Above via Andy Dixon, the guitarist of Red Light Sting who was also in the equally as great emo-punk band D.B.S. Andy ran a label called Ache Records that was brave enough to release this six song EP. I recall being floored by the opening track on Heads Up!, entitled “Dead Womb”, enough to stuff $15 cash into an envelope along with a note requesting a copy of this album – a practice that seems incredibly archaic nowadays.

This record is perfect from start to finish: Bottom heavy, fuzzed-out, screamy tracks about sluts and cocaine with cover art – the super-iconic elephant heads – that packs as much punch as the kick drum. Even today it stands up as a great album that dares you to label it as anything other than mean-ass drum-and-bass rock.

In the meantime, Death From Above began gathering momentum, touring with bands like Alexisonfire and Billy Talent – both of whom were blowing up on Muchmusic. Still, they were nowhere near as popular yet. I remember both members of DFA coming to a house party in Saskatoon after a show to hang out. I ended up jamming with Sebastian on some rickety gear tucked in the corner of the keg party. Good times.

A couple of months later, my band The Paper Kites had the opportunity to open for Death From Above (now 1979) on their first headlining tour. The turnout was meager as only our friends came out – unfortunately, smarmy jackasses tend not to have a lot of friends. I remember them being a little pissed but they were decent dudes and we drank a few beers with them. Good times.

Less than a year later, DFA 1979 released their full-length You’re A Woman, I’m a Machine to massive hype. While the LP lacked the balls-out fuzz of Heads Up! it did combine massive Sabbath-riffing with dance beats. At this point, I had to order You’re A Woman… from Scratch Records – poor Andy was having trouble keeping up with demand. It would be another year before the band announced they were no longer on speaking terms. Both members would go on to other projects – tellingly, neither would reach the same heights they did with DFA 1979.

Band: Death From Above 1979

Album: You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine

Pressing: First press 1000 on white. Second press 2000 on black