canada

#651: Death From…Right Above?

GETTING MORE TALE #651: Death From…Right Above?

Canada’s Death From Above (formerly:  Death From Above 1979) have some pretty awesome tunage.  This bass/drum duo of Jesse F. Keeler and Sebastien Grainger have been creating edgy rock and roll (off and on) since 2001.  Their music is great.  “Trainwreck 1979” is an incredible steamroller rock song.  But Death From Above have a history that might contain some unsavoury characters, such as Vice media co-founder Gavin McInnes.

Have you ever heard of the Proud Boys?  It’s OK if you haven’t.

The Proud Boys are a “western chauvinist” group founded by McInnes.  As westerners, they “refuse to apologize for creating the modern world” (a fallacy in itself as any historian can tell you). Only men are permitted.  Women can become a “Proud Boy’s Girl”.  They even have a uniform (black polo shirts with yellow trim) and coded words that identify them with each other, but not with the general public.  They claim it’s just a fraternity, and that anyone who identifies as “alt-right” will be banned permanently from the group.  McInnes also claimed that Jesse F. Keeler of Death From Above was a member, which Keeler denies.

After my first encounter with a Proud Boy, a quick glance at his Facebook photos revealed a swastika and other Nazi paraphernalia, misogyny and a boatload of bigotry.  That was my very first encounter.  I don’t accept their claim that all “alt-right” folks are unwelcome.  I believe that they prefer their alt-right members to keep any Nazi and white supremacist symbolism in the closet.  I strongly doubt that the Proud Boys have zero white supremacists in their numbers.  That’s how it looks to me, and I’m not interested in debating with Proud Boys.

Proud Boys really hate being “mischaracterized” as a white nationalist movement, but they have become a safe space for such folks.  There certainly have been plenty of violent Proud Boy bad apples in the news, whom the organization distances itself from.  But for whatever reason, the Proud Boys attract these assholes like flies are attracted to shit.

Part of the Proud Boy initiation is getting in a fight with an “Antifa” member.  Antifa, a controversial leftist group, stands for “anti-fascist”.  So in order to be a Proud Boy, you have to commit the crime of assault.  That’s not to say Antifa have never initiated violence themselves; they have.  But to be a Proud Boy, you actually have to beat somebody up?  They call it all “freedom of expression” and “family values”.  I’m sure you’ve heard those phrases before from the far-right, just as you will also hear the word “patriot”.  They refer to their group as “fun, respectful and fair”.  Until you mention such words as “Islam”, “transgender”, “immigrant” or “liberal”.  These dirty words are sure to earn the opposite of a fun, respectful or fair response.  If you want to “trigger” a sensitive Proud Boy, try one of those words.  (Assault must be one of their “fun” activities.)

There’s nothing wrong with being proud of your heritage or your country.  I love Canada, even though our history has its dark corners.  We have not treated our native population well, and that is an understatement times 1000.  On his solo album The Secret Path, Gord Downie (RIP) of the Tragically Hip tried to educate Canadians on our shameful history with residential schools.  Yes, there are many things in our history to take pride in, such our military role as peace keepers (thank you Lester B. Pearson).  Take pride in being Canadian, but don’t distort history to do so.  Distorting history will only lead to repeated mistakes.  Pride is one thing; hate is something else altogether.  In my view, the Proud Boys are a safe haven for some very angry individuals.

Some of Death From Above’s lyrics have been characterised as misogynistic:

“So tired of sluts coming up to us in the clubs with their cocaine,
We’re looking for wives.”  (“Dead Womb”)

One of the Proud Boys’ values is “venerate the housewife”.  Death From Above’s Sebastian Grainger says “It wasn’t meant to be a hateful song…I just liked saying outrageous things.”

Death From Above’s Jesse Keeler has appeared The Gavin McInnes Podcast, viewed by some as a Proud Boy recruitment tool.  Keeler has acknowledged a past friendship with McInnes but says he’s never been a Proud Boy.  As the Canadian son of an Indian immigrant, he doesn’t identify with white nationalism.  He says that as he got to know McInnes better, he realised that he had some extreme views that he didn’t agree with.

McInnes’ views are pretty simple.  Here’s one:  “We need to close the borders now and let everyone assimilate to a Western, English-speaking way of life.”

Canada has two official languages by the way:  English and French.  They are equal under law.  But the original Canadians spoke neither; they had myriad tongues including the Algonquian and Iroquoian languages.

This western chauvinist attitude of McInnes and his group goes against everything I studied earning my History BA.  It also clashes with the values that rock and roll music have taught me.

The Beatles proved that music can transcend all barriers.  They went to India and came back with the White Album.  Led Zeppelin went to North Africa and wrote “Kashmir”.  Could there be anything more boring than a plain western, English-speaking way of life?  The music in such a place would certainly be a lot duller.  Like trying to create art in a vacuum, out of nothing.  Another exception to the Proud Boy way of thinking is the long list of incredible women of rock and roll.  They didn’t just settle for being “housewives”.  Where would music be today without Janis Joplin, Aretha Frankin, Chrissy Hynde and Debbie Harry?  A hell of a lot less interesting.  I can’t even imagine a world without them.

The best art benefits from a diverse palette.  The more colours you have to choose from, the more vibrant and alive your art can be.  White western people didn’t invent rock and roll.  They stole it.  Rock and roll has a long history, and if you go back far enough you can trace it all the way to Africa.  It came to America on slave ships, mixed and matched with music from Europe, and became R&B.  R&B used to be called “race music”.  Rock and roll evolved from this stew of cultures and influences.  Elvis Presley did not invent rock and roll.  Elvis Presley didn’t even write songs.

The Proud Boy value system is one of insular uniformity.  Rock and roll is about everything but conforming to a clean and neat Western life.  It is about rebelling, and exploring all the way to the edge.  From the very beginning of rock to today, music has only benefited from cultural diversity.  Everything on the radio today is a product of cross-pollination.  If rock and roll did not embrace music from different cultures worldwide, it would be a stifled, sad thing.  There would be no Beatles, no Stones, no Queen, or any of the bands influenced by them.  From Prince to the Prophets of Rage, most of rock and roll would simply not exist.

Want to be proud of your heritage?  That’s great, but don’t pretend.  The west is responsible for great innovation, built on the shoulders of previous old-world giants.  (Ptolemy, anyone?)  The west is also responsible for the worst atrocities in history.  No amount of revisionism can change the past.  Ignorance cannot erase it.  And here’s the key point that everybody seems to miss.  You can condemn the bad stuff, like residential schools, as it deserves to be condemned.  But then you can be proud of the good, such as the bravery of our troops from World War II to the present.  You can do both, it’s allowed!

I like to think of Frank Zappa.

“Hey, you know something people?
I’m not black, but there’s a whole lotsa times
I wish I could say I’m not white.”  — “Trouble Every Day”, 1966

Death From Above have distanced themselves and disavowed McInnes and the Proud Boys.  I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt.  “I began noticing that Gavin was promoting violence and a form of radical politics that I absolutely do not agree with,” said Keeler.  I’ll continue to listen to Death From Above.  Everyone learns from their experiences.

No matter where you fall politically, if you don’t see that our “western culture” (including our music) has roots all over the entire world, then you have a lot of history to learn.  In genetics, the larger and more diverse the population, the better the chances of survival.  A small or homogeneous population without diversity will go extinct.  I think the same is true of culture.  Embrace the good and reject the bad.  That’s why the Proud Boys need to be rejected, and I’m glad Death From Above have done that.

 

 

 

Please keep comments civil.  Any personal attacks will be deleted and burned with a tiki torch.

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#612: Remembering Their Sacrifices

At the the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the Armistice was signed, ending the fighting in the Great War. At least, they called it the Great War, or “The War to End All Wars”. Today we just call it World War I, because even greater horrors followed.

My grandfather “Sam” (Crawford) fought in World War II, helping bring an end to the evil of Hitler and Nazi Germany. I think my grandfather would be disgusted today to see Nazis being referred to as “very fine people”. What did he fight for, if we are to casually welcome that evil back to the streets?

“Gar” and “Sam” Winter

We can never forget the sacrifices those soldiers made. My grandfather survived and came home to raise a family with my grandmother. His brother wasn’t so lucky. He lived, but was injured in the trenches and he never walked right again.

I tend to think of the veterans and the soldiers of the present year round. My wife goes out of her way to thank veterans any time she sees one in uniform.  I think of them every time I am free to write whatever I want to, in this great land of Canada. Had the Nazis won, there would be no freedom here. On November 11, at 11am, we have a moment of silence to honour all the soldiers from every war in which they fought and died for our freedom. That is an important tradition to keep. But I think we should think of them more often.

“Sam”

My grandfather rarely told war stories around the kids, but I do remember one night when he told my dad about looking up and seeing a Panzer tank coming. “I shit my pants,” he said and I think he was being truthful. Imagine those young guys — kids, really — in a country far from home, running from a tank. The bravery is awesome. I can’t even imagine.

My grandfather died (cancer) when I was too young to appreciate what he did. I knew he fought, and I got to watch him lay a wreath at the cenotaph every November 11. I didn’t understand the significance of what it means to be a soldier until I was older. If I were a little older, I would have tried to get him to tell me about it.

Bryan Adams’ 1987 album Into the Fire has the best song about Remembrance Day that I know.  This very special track was made into an emotional music video.   In 2014, The Trews came out with something almost as good:  a song called “Highway of Heroes”.  The Highway of Heroes is an actual highway (the 401), given this nickname for the stretch of road on which the bodies of fallen soldiers are brought home.  The Trews’ song is a touching tribute.

Check out these two songs and remember why you’re even able to listen to them.  Because of the Heroes.

 

 

 

#603: Canada Wants to Tax Your Staff Discount

GETTING MORE TALE #603:
Canada Wants to Tax Your Staff Discount

Record store employees! Have you heard? Now the Canada Revenue Agency wants a piece of your staff discount.

According to CTV, “when an employee receives a discount on merchandise because of their employment, the value of the discount is generally included in the employee’s income.”  They will calculate the tax by using the “equal to the fair market value of the merchandise purchased, less the amount paid by the employee.”   That is unless the discount is “available to the public or a segment of the public, at some point during the year.”  Those car deals where you “pay what the employees pay” wouldn’t count as a taxed staff discount, which is good for people who work at dealerships.  CD stores generally don’t have a “staff discount sale”.

Let’s say, just like when I was working in the Record Store, an $11.99 CD gets sold to you at the discount price of $7.99. The government now wants to tax you on the $4 discount that was the only perk of a crappy retail job.

I used to buy several CDs a week.  Let’s say for the sake of conservative estimates that I bought three CDs a week with my discount.  Let’s take the same $4 discount used in the example above, with Ontario’s 13% sales tax.  That’s $0.52 of tax now added.  $0.52 per CD on three CDs a week, multiplied by 52 weeks:  That’s $81.12 a year of brand new taxes, enough to buy several albums instead.

Conservatives are accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of exploiting Canadians who can least afford it. Lisa Raitt, Conservative Deputy Leader, said the government is “picking the pockets of minimum wage earners.” Finance critic Pierre Poilevre says the tax will “target those who can least afford to pay more”. Other commentators have noted that staff discounts will need to be rigorously tracked for taxation.

It is true. At the Record Store, a manager would simply ring in the staff sale with discount. Now, copies of receipts will have to be kept, filed and forwarded to Payroll, with the original price and discount.  This will cost businesses time, but they will have no choice but to comply with whatever law takes shape.  All paperwork would have to be kept in case of audit.

If this goes through on January 1, it will stink to high heaven.

Staff discounts on a CD, or a pair of shoes, or a meal are part of the perks of working a thankless job. It’s something people can look forward to. Celebrate passing your three month probationary period with a discounted purchase.

Who is going to pay this tax, the employee or the employer? It will hurt both regardless. Employees may have to stop taking advantage of discounts and just buy less from their places of work.  Some people only buy non-essential luxury items from work (like CDs), but what about those who get a staff discount on necessities?  That’s a part of their shrinking budget.

Canadians are tired of being nickel and dimed to death with taxes. It’s hard enough making ends meet, and this tax goes after something previously held sacred. It’s not good for Canadians and we certainly hope it does not come to pass.

UPDATE:  Feds are now denying this story and say there’s no such tax coming.   Hmmm.

 

REVIEW: Trailer Park Boys – Season 10 (2016)

TRAILER PARK BOYS – Season 10 (2016 Netflix)

There is a reason we missed reviewing Season 10 of Trailer Park Boys when it came out last year.  A dark cloud hung over the season.  Mike Smith (Bubbles) was incorrectly arrested on domestic violence charges; charges that were swiftly dropped.  The damage was done, and this caused Lucy Decoutere to leave the show.  Even though Season 10 was quite great, we just couldn’t produce the gumption to write it up.  Better late than never.  With this long over and resolved, let’s take a fresh look at Season 10.

As usual, much has changed between seasons at Sunnyvale.  Julian now owns the park and is happy with his two girlfriends (Bambi and Dakota — shades of Charlie Sheen here), and his own casino/bar.  The house band:  Bubbles and the Shitrockers.  Ricky runs his Drugs Store, with all the weed and edibles you can imagine.  His daughter Trinity has been raising baby Mo with Jacob Collins, proud parents now ready to get married and make it official.  All this baby stuff has made Lucy itch for another one, so she’s been getting Ricky to bang her non-stop.  J-Roc is raising his son M.C. Flurry, and has brought back a new girlfriend from Mexico.  Randy’s supervising the park, and Lahey has left.  He’s living in a camper in a park next door, and “pacing” his drinking.  He’s using a breathalyzer to keep himself at a steady 0.120 blood alcohol level…but does he have the discipline to maintain that?

There’s a new three-headed nemesis in town.  Fresh out of jail is former park owner Barb Lahey, and she has backup.  Donna/Don (Leigh MacInness) has also been hardened by jail time.  And they’ve brought the tough-as-nails Candy (Candy Palmater), with her bright pink baseball bat to make sure they get their way.  They are determined to get the park back, and it looks like they have the legal means to do so.  So now the boys need lawyer money.

It’s illegal schemes again, one involving ripping off a former caveman, now “Denture King”.  This side-splitting sequence will leave you wondering how far they’re willing to go to save the park.  They need money bad.  Julian’s been letting everyone drink for free at his bar, and nobody’s paying the lot fees.  Finally Julian decides to turn Sunnyvale into a “all-inclusive” vacation resort.  Bubbles puts together an online ad, which goes viral and catches the attention of Jimmy Kimmel himself.

The first half of Season 10 is actually a little dull.  It’s a bit of the same old, same old.  Breaking the law, almost getting caught.  Bad luck and dumb fuck-ups.  Once the special guests arrive, the season takes on a whole new life.

 

A fleet of gangsta cars pulls into the park.  It’s Snoop Dogg, Doug Benson, and Tom fucking Arnold!  Snoop and Doug are there for the “all you can smoke” weed, but Tom has come for the superfan experience.  Turns out he’s a huge fan of the show (remember, Trailer Park Boys is a “documentary” on Julian!) and has a bucket list of things he wants to do at Sunnyvale:  driving the Shitmobile, sleeping in Bubbles’ shed, and banging Lucy!  “I can’t believe it!  We’re in Sunnyvale fucking Trailer Park!  I’ve seen every episode of your show, man!  It’s even shittier in real life!  I love it!”

As for Ricky, he’s happy just to “get high as fuck with Snoopy Doggy Dogg Dogg”!

As you can imagine, the presence of Snoop and his posse leads to many hilarious scenes and encounters.  Will J-Roc lose his shit completely upon meeting his idol?  Will Ricky be able to say Snoop’s name right?  The one thing fans would have expected out of a Snoop Dogg guest shot is seeing him rap with J-Roc or Bubbles, and you won’t be disappointed.  Episode 8 “The Super Bling Cowboy” has the musical scene you’ve been hoping for.  In fact it’s safe to say that Season 10 changes completely upon meeting Snoop.  The arc of the season takes a back seat to the guest stars, and some of that big star millionaire money might resolve a few plots.  However, at the same time, there is some ambitious writing going on.  Early on, we learn that Jim Lahey has a secret that he’s been hiding all along, that only Barb knows about.  This secret provides Barb some blackmail leverage, but it’s also setting up a storyline that will run for at least three seasons including this one.  Jim’s secret was explored in Season 11, but not fully resolved, presumably leaving it to also impact Season 12, coming in 2018.  (Post your fan theories in the comments!)  This kind of multi-season story arc has never been attempted on Trailer Park Boys before.

Keeping a show like the highly formulaic Trailer Park Boys fresh can’t be easy after 10 years.  Snoop, Doug Benson and Tom Arnold helped distinguish Season 10 as one of the most fun.  You can always count on Ricky, Julian and Bubbles to put themselves in some pretty ridiculous situations, and usually drag everybody else into their web of shit.  The guest stars offer a temporary pause to that, and allow our characters to have a bit more fun than usual.  And when they have fun, so does the audience.  However the ending has a sad note, accompanied by a familiar melancholy song.  It’s a strangely emotional denouement.  “There’s a voice, that keeps on calling me.  Down the road, where I always seem to be.  Every stop I make, I see my old friend…”

Maybe tomorrow, they’ll want to settle down…in the end, it’s about the characters, who are just a big family we’ve now known for 10 seasons.  Randy said it best:

“I love you Ricky!  I love you like a brother. I don’t like you at all, but I love you!”

4/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Trailer Park Boys – Season 11 (2017)

TRAILER PARK BOYS – Season 11 (2017 Netflix)

Thank you Netflix for saving the Trailer Park Boys.  It hasn’t been smooth sailing, but ever since the Boys returned to Sunnyvale with the excellent Season 8 (remember Orangie?), the show has continued unhindered by cast defections.  Season 11 is the first without Lucy Decoutere (Lucy) and Jonathan Torrens (J-Roc).  After already losing such favourites as Trevor (Mike Jackson) and Ray (Barrie Dunn), I can understand why some fans may have said enough’s enough.  Every show has its peak.  For some that would be the first three seasons of Trailer Park Boys.  For others, we have rolled with the changes.  Not all fans were unanimous in the acceptance of newer characters such as Col. Dancer, Don/Donna, and Candy.  For this season, those characters have been dropped.  The core park residents are now Ricky, Julian and Bubbles accompanied by Randy, Lahey, Sarah, Cory, Jacob and Trinity.  Little baby Motel is around, as is Barb Lahey.

Continuing a storyline from Season 10, Julian has vanished.  Bubbles is doing well now, having gone legit selling his own brand of organic pizza sauce.  It’s a hit, and a restaurant owner is willing to pay wholesale.  He has the whole park working together growing vegetables, contributing to the well-being of Sunnyvale and its residents.  All is well, but Bubbles does miss Julian.  Jim Lahey is sober and supervising, having truly changed this time.  He and Randy are planning to get married, while Randy is vying to get on the police force.  The absence of Lucy and J-Roc is explained satisfactorily.

When Ricky and Bubbles (now mobile with his own little truck) discover that Julian is now a lobster fisherman (or is he?) living in a shipping container, they go to confront him.  Ultimately, Julian’s return brings what it always does:  crime back into the park.  Snoop Dogg calls and wants weed, and lots of it.  Julian decides to hijack Bubbles’ pizza sauce business and convert it to a grow op.  As usual, Bubbles is driven near to the breaking point as the stress builds.

In Season 10, there was a revelation that Lahey may in fact be Ricky’s real father.  This is fully addressed in Season 11, via a lightsaber dual (hockey sticks and brooms subbing in for laser swords) and dialogue taken directly from The Empire Strikes Back.  Director Bobby Farrelly (Bobby fucking Farrelly!) must be given credit for the perfect Star Wars homage in Episode 4, “Darth Lahey”, right down to the action beats.  Brilliant stuff — a highpoint episode for this show.

There are cameos by celebrities and past characters. Look for Susan Kent from 22 Minutes, and NHLer Nathan MacKinnon, first overall draft pick and rookie of the year.  A few old adversaries have returned as well, to cause problems for our three lovable idiots.  Speaking of idiots, Ricky and Julian manage to bring the stupidly to new levels, but simultaneously, Ricky has a Yoda-like ability to trick cops.    Meanwhile, they have also managed to keep up with modern technology.  Cell phones, cameras and GPS now figure into the plots.  There are references to the Walking Dead and changing times.  This manages to keep the series feeling fresh.

After 11 seasons, it is understood that a show rarely hits the highs it once did.  Season 11 is a worthy effort; not in the Top Five, but certainly good enough at this point.

4/5 stars

 

REVIEW: White Wolf – Endangered Species (1986 Japanese CD)

wwesWHITE WOLF – Endangered Species (1986 BMG Japan)

With a name like White Wolf you’d almost expect this band to come from the forests of Northern Ontario or Quebec.  No so; they hail from provincial capital of Edmonton Alberta (pop: 800,000).  So we’ll forgive that the music video for “Shadows in the Night” (from 1984’s Standing Alone) made them looks like outdoors winter survivalists.  Long-haired sidekicks of Les Stroud?  No; they look much more indoors-y on Endangered Species, their second album before disbanding.  The album cover is notable for being a Hugh Syme work, though obviously a lesser one.

They earned some minor video play with “She”, indicating a more keyboardy direction than album #1.  Mushy sounding drums distract from the killer Don Wolf (Don Wilk) chorus.  Akin to Dokken’s “Breaking the Chains”, “She” will appeal to hard rockers who like melody with their guitars.  It’s all about that chorus though, the kind that makes you hit “repeat” and go right back to the start.

White Wolf has a weird 80s metal thud and that combined with harsh production values make Endangered Species sound terribly dated.  Techy keyboard flairs sound lifted from David Bryan’s Slippery When Wet sound library.  Anyone craving mid-tempo 80s hard rock will find enjoyable music on Endangered Species, but few songs have the same impact as “She”.  Dull verses, bland choruses and generic song titles keep things from sticking.  Sub-Jovi with none of Jon’s then-irresistible innocence is a narrow niche.

“Just Like an Arrow” comes close, but the keyboards weigh it down when it should be flying.  Too many bands (Quiet Riot, Stryper, etc.) really let the keys have too much space around this time.  “Cryin to the Wind” has an excellent acoustic intro but not enough of a song to go with it.  The drum samples are obtrusive because they don’t sound natural.  It sounds like a lot of time was taken in the studio but the technology wasn’t up to the task, and everything came out tinny and powerless.  “Holding Back” doesn’t have enough hooks.  “Snake Charmer” steals a title and a hook from Ritchie Blackmore, and appeals as a Rainbow-like understudy.  The only other track besides “She” and “Snake Charmer” that hits the spot is “One More Time”.

Not a terrible album, not a flaming turd…but not a winner either.

2/5 stars

REVIEW: Sword – Sweet Dreams (1988)

scan_20170121SWORD – Sweet Dreams (1988 Capitol)

Canada’s mighty Sword took another swing on their second and final album Sweet Dreams.  They recorded a fine debut in Metalized (1986), but as with any band, growth is expected on album #2.  No problem for Sword.

Metalized was relentless, thrashy, fast, and punishing.  Sweet Dreams is heavy but diverse.  This is immediately obvious on the opening title track.  The tempo is condensed to a slow metal Zeppelin stomp.  The melodies are more focused.  The sound (thanks to Gggarth and Jack Richardson) has more oomph and depth.  What the band sacrificed in speed was paid back in other qualities.

Capitol records released “The Trouble Is” as the first single/video. Rick Hughes’ enviable voice makes it sound like Sword, otherwise it could have been one of Dokken’s heaviest tracks. The lyrics are surprisingly still valid in 2017: “People are lying, they keep on trying, to live where they can be free. They jam into boats with a knife at their throats…” It hasn’t changed much in 30 years. “Land of the Brave” tackles war, a popular metal topic ever since Black Sabbath wrote “War Pigs” back in 1970. The screams of Rick Hughes mimic the horrors of the battlefield. An apt comparison would be Iron Maiden, with a little bit of Metallica. For some rebellious attitude, check out “Back Off”, which hits the gas pedal during the chorus. Another popular metal topic: “Back off preacher, stay away!” Ozzy would have been proud. Guitarist Mike Plant blasts through his solos effortlessly, showing off a variety of rock styles. “Prepare to Die” (also heard on the recent Live Hammersmith CD) is the thrashiest of the bunch on side one, sounding like vintage Sword.

Cool thrashy shreddery kicks “Caught in the Act” right in the nuts to commence side two.  It switches up on “Until Death Do Us Part”, focused by the stomp of the beat.  If Sweet Dreams has any weakness it is that there are two Swords.  The speedy metal of “Caught in the Act” and “Until Death Do Us Part” are a contrast to the more accessible rock of “The Trouble Is”.  One of the most stunning tracks on the album is “The Threat”, on which all the ingredients mix perfectly.  (They get bonus points for naming themselves in the lyrics:  “Ride with the sword in your hand, and some day with the sword you will die.”)  For a real surprise check out the slide guitar grease of the incredible “Life on the Sharp Edge”.  It’s all over with “State of Shock” which will knock you senseless for all the headbangin’ going on.  Seems Motorhead must have rubbed off on them a bit.  “State of Shock” goes out like a champ leaving you punched out drooling on the mat.

Sword stopped after two albums and Rick Hughes moved on to the mainstream rock band Saints & Sinners.  (Check out a review of that album by Deke.)  Sweet Dreams succeeded as a second album should.  It pushed the sound outwards.  Hughes and company should be proud of both of their records.

4/5 stars

scan_20170121-2

REVIEW: Sword – Live Hammersmith (2016)

scan_20170103SWORD – Live Hammersmith (2016)

30 years ago, there was a heavy metal band from Quebec named Sword.  They only released two albums (Metalized and the more ambitious Sweet Dreams) before disbanding at the end of the 1980s.  Lead singer Rick Hughes is one talented guy though, and he gave it another shot with a hard rock band called Saints & Sinners in 1992, who were produced by Aldo Nova.

Hughes has remained active in Canada, though Sword are now long gone.  Fortunately the internet has given old metal bands like Sword a way to get back in touch with their fans.  Thanks to the web, you can now buy a live CD recorded in 1987 on Sword’s opening tour with Motorhead.  Lemmy took the band under his wing early on and fortunately this live tape survived.  They played two nights at Hammersmith Odeon and recorded them to 4-track tape.  The liner notes do not state which gig the CD is from, or if it is a mixture of both.  Considering the age of the tapes, Sword’s Live Hammersmith CD stands up remarkably well.  There is a real sense of “being there” at Hammersmith, in spite of (or because of) the sonics.

Ripping through all 10 tracks from their debut album, Sword made the most of their opening slot.  Even so, they still had time for a brand new song too, “Prepare to Die” (later released on Sweet Dreams).  With 11 songs and only 36 minutes, Sword’s already thrashy material seemed faster live.  Sword’s songs had the goods, too.  These blazing aggressive tunes weren’t simple or easy.  Most importantly, Rick Hughes’ incredible metal shrieks were 100% intact in the live setting.  Hughes’ voice was critical to the Sword sound, being their most unique characteristic.  It is always disappointing when you hear a band live, and the singer can’t scream like the album.  Not a problem with Sword.

The singles “F.T.W.” (“Follow the Wheels”) and “Stoned Again” are the immediate highlights.  The gallop of “F.T.W.” sounds like a heavier Iron Maiden, while “Stoned Again” goes for the groove.  If anything, the songs have more impact in the live CD setting.  It is quite possible that Sword were one of those bands who were better live than on album.  They were, at the very least, flawless live.  Rick Hughes didn’t miss a note, word or scream.  Dan Hughes (drums) was also bang-on.  You can’t get a live album like this without the rhythm section doing it right.  Dan Hughes and bassist Mike Larock were right there, locked in, and driving the machine forward.  Larock had the groove, and also a knack for throwing in catchy bass runs.  As for the lead work, Sword were a one-guitar band, so Mike Plant had to switch from rhythm to lead seamlessly, and he made it all sound easy.

Inhabiting the fine line between metal and straight-up thrash, perhaps Sword were not unique out there in the 80s trying to make it.  This CD proves that they did have the talent.  As Henry Rollins says, live is “the only way to know for sure”.  A soundboard recording like this is as close as you will get.

As an added bonus (always appreciated in these frugal days), the Sword CD is signed by all four members and comes in a jewel case.  A very nice reward for the devoted fan.  You can buy Live Hammersmith from the Sword Facebook page.

4/5 stars

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#511: That Night in Kingston

GETTING MORE TALE #511: That Night in Kingston

What are you doing Saturday night?

Never mind; we already know.

CANADA

It has been a very emotional summer for fans of The Tragically Hip, but it all ends tonight.

A few months ago, nobody ever thought this would be the last summer of the Tragically Hip.  Gord Downie’s brain cancer diagnosis came as a surprise to all.  We can only imagine what Gord and his family are going through, but fans have been mourning in their own ways.  Mostly, they’ve been trying to go and see Gord one last time.  As StubHub jacked up ticket prices to ridiculous highs, fans scrambled to win contests or find any way to see the Hip live.

The good news is, everyone can see the Hip live, anywhere.

Locally, there is a lot going on.  You can join the gang from DaveRocks at local pup Bobby O’Brien’s for a Hip celebration.   They will be showing the last Hip concert on a big screen.  Lots of bars are doing the same thing — check your local listings.  Some families are having backyard and pool parties with the neighbours, with big outdoor screens.  All over Canada, fans will be celebrating separately, but together.

Not in Canada?  No problem.  There are viewing parties in major US cities such as New York and L.A.  They will even be watching the Hip in Rio de Janeiro as the Olympics close.  And it will be streamed worldwide.  The CBC has all the details.

How are you planning to enjoy the Hip show?  Here at LeBrain HQ, we are going to make some food, order in some gourmet chicken wings, and watch the Hip in 5.1 surround sound.  It will be a turbulent experience.  We don’t know much about Gord’s cancer except that it’s not treatable.  We don’t know how he feels.  All we know for certain is that we have been told this is the last tour, and that more than likely means this is the last show, forever.  The band has not done any press, nor said much to address the many questions.  It is like a giant elephant in the room.  But tonight, I want to put all that out of my mind and just enjoy the music.  I don’t want to think too much about what it all means.  There will be plenty of journalists doing that.  Tonight is for the fans, so let’s enjoy it, for us.

And for Gord.

#485: Cry for the Indians

GETTING MORE TALE #485: Cry for the Indians

We rarely get political here at LeBrain’s Record Store Tales and Reviews.  We try to keep the discussions light.  The topics are mostly focused on music, tech, retail and work place stories.  With that in mind, here’s a good work place tale from 2006.

Without getting into the nitty gritty details, back in 2006, a group of Six Nations on a reserve near Caledonia held an armed standoff over Aboriginal land claims.  In question was a 40 hectare parcel of land that was being prepared for development into subdivisions.  They occupied a large patch of land and wouldn’t budge, stating that historically they never gave up this land.  There is a very complex history as to the ownership of land in Caledonia, going back to 1784.  The police arrested occupiers, and in return the Six Nations set up roadblocks.  This went on for weeks, highlighted by violence and anger on both sides.  Local radio covered all the news, which made national headlines.   It was an ugly scene all around, but also a very serious issue that remains unresolved today (the last blockade happened in 2014).

During the months this was going down in 2006, I was working in a small data entry office with two ladies a little older than myself.  The radio was tuned to the local news.  During an update on the situation, one of the two ladies blurted out, quite offensively, “Why don’t those Indians just pack up and go home and stop causing trouble?  I’m sick of them!  I don’t even understand what they want!”  She ranted for a bit and then things went quiet.  The other lady didn’t answer, so I chimed in.

“They’re arguing for their rights to use their traditional lands,” I explained.

“What land?!” she answered incredulously.

“In Caledonia, but really this was all their land,” I informed her.  “When the Europeans like us came to this country, we pushed them off their land and took it for ourselves.  Now all they have left are these little crummy reservations.  But they were here first.”

Her response was something I’ll never forget:

“What?!  I never heard of that!”

 

Come again?  Did you somehow miss grades 1 through 12?  Canada often prides itself in our great education system.  There’s proof right there that it certainly has its flaws.  Highschool is free, people!  I had to explain this to a lady who was old enough to know where all the white people in North America came from.  I had to convince her this was real history and not a “theory”.  She didn’t have to like these facts, but how can you go through life without even knowing them?

And that is the story of one of the most ignorant comments I’ve ever heard inside or outside the work place.  In the words of Anthrax:

We all see black and white,
When it comes to someone else’s fight,
No one ever gets involved,
Apathy can never solve.

Forced out – brave and mighty,
Stolen land – they can’t fight it,
Hold on – to pride and tradition,
Even though they know how much their lives are really missin’,
We’re dissin’ them.
On reservations,
A hopeless situation.

Cry for the Indians,
Die for the Indians,
Cry for the Indians,
Cry, cry, cry for the Indians.

Respect is something that you earn,
Our Indian brothers’ getting burned,
Original American,
Turned into second class citizen.

Love the land and fellow man,
Peace is what we strive to have,
Some folks have none of this,
Hatred and prejudice.

Territory –  It’s just the body of the nation,
The people that inhabit it make its configuration.
Prejudice – Something we all can do without,
Cause a flag of many colors is what this land’s all about.