canada

VIDEO: A “Kick Axe” Weekend + next series preview!

The first weekend of August is a long weekend in Ontario.  It’s called the Civic holiday, but people in retail still have to work it.  I did, almost every single year at the Record Store.  This year we spent the holiday at the lake, where I secretly began work on the next review series here at mikeladano.com.  With the encouragement of my good buddy Superdekes, two posts were completed at the lake, on the front porch.  You couldn’t have asked for a better setting.

As usual I’ve assembled a video of some of our weekend fun, all to the tune of Max the Axe (“My Daddy Was A Murderin’ Man”, and “Call of the Wild”).  Check out crystal clear waters, mountains of food, and rock and roll.  And of course that sneak preview for our next review series!

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REVIEW: Psycho Circus – Psycho Circus (1992 cassette)

PSYCHO CIRCUS – Psycho Circus (1992 indi cassette EP)

Psycho Circus put out their one and only album in 1993.  They were a talented band who avoided grunge cliches and instead dove into funk-metal and a darker Faith No More sound circa The Real Thing.  The album was split down the middle between the two sides.  Decades later I found an earlier indi cassette, released after they signed with SRO Management, the team behind Rush.

It’s quite clear this band had musical chops.  Opening track “Picky Purple People” is killer.  Faux-horns, massive bass and busy drums are relentless.  This is a goofier side of the band, but well executed.  If the Chili Peppers and Faith No More had a baby, it would sound like “Picky Purple People”.  Next is “Funk in Our Souls”, a track that was re-recorded for the album later.  The cassette version sounds more bass heavy.  It’s more enjoyable for that reason, not to mention the smoking guitar solo.  “Can You Feel It?” was also re-recorded for the album, but this is one of those darker songs that eschew the funk.  Singer Vince Franchi hits unreal notes.  His voice is versatile.  It’s Faith No More without the twisted mind.

The final track didn’t make it onto the CD.  “Psycho Circus” opens with traditional circus music, a full six years before Kiss did the same thing with their own song called “Psycho Circus”.  Maybe they should try suing Kiss?  It would be fun to see!  That’s the only similarity.  This is another funky track, and though the circus music is a bit silly, the chorus rocks.

The tape comes with a nice J-card and full lyrics.  In a way it’s a better listen than the album.  It doesn’t have as many great songs, but it also has less filler.

3/5 stars

#709: The Stuff

GETTING MORE TALE #709: The Stuff

October 17 2018 was a day like any other day.  I got up, showered, went to work, worked, ate lunch, worked some more, and came home.  You might have had a similar day yourself.

I drove home with Cheap Trick in my ears (“If You Want My Love”, great pop rock) and it was a regular commute, just like any other.  Uneventful is good.  I exited the car into the cold air.  The chill has come, but as I walked towards the building, there was something new.  I smelled the Stuff.

The Stuff is legal in Canada now.  Cannabis, also known as marijuana, ganja, reefer, weed, pot, the electric lettuce…add your own to this list.  Where was I?  Legalisation.  The Justin Trudeau Liberals actually lived up to its campaign promise and the Stuff is now legal.  You can smoke it, you can grow it, and there are rules and regulations to go with it.  In the province of Ontario you can’t just walk into a store and buy it.  You have to order it online.  I heard they’re already sold out.  But it’s legal, is the point I’m making.  Somebody upstairs in the building was celebrating, and that’s fine.

My main point:  like many things, the world didn’t shift today.  I read worried nay-sayers asking questions like “Have they considered all the stoned pot heads driving during the winter while on the Stuff?”  Yes, that’s been considered.  Anybody stupid enough to drive while stoned was already doing it.  What’s one law when you can break two, I guess.  Life in Canada has gone on pretty much normally.  The mail came again.  It was all junk, again.  Gas is pretty much the same price as yesterday.  Same with milk.  Donald Trump tweeted stupid things.  Just a normal day in 2018.

There was one other minor difference today.  There was a mass email at work reminding everyone of the drug & liquor policies.  They haven’t changed though, it’s still basically “Don’t come to work drunk or stoned.”  Same as the day before.

Moving on, I like to think of all the songs I heard as a kid, loaded with references to the Stuff that I completely missed.  I was a pretty naive teenager, I guess, and I really didn’t have a clue!  “Sweet Leaf” by Black Sabbath?  I thought it was about a girl named Leaf.  Leaf isn’t a common name, but it’s a name.  “I love you Sweet Leaf, though you can’t hear.”  Hey, maybe she’s too far away to hear.  I didn’t know!  I swear to Christ almighty, believe me or not, I thought “Sweet Leaf” was about a girl.  Don’t forget Black Sabbath cassettes didn’t come with lyric sheets, so I was guessing at most of the words.  Same with “Flying High Again”.  No clue.

Early 1990, I was working at the grocery store at the mall with a guy named Scott Gunning.  I was obsessed with “Sweet Leaf” that spring.  I just got Sabbath’s We Sold Our Soul for Rock and Roll tape.  “Sweet Leaf” was one of many favourites, but I really loved that riff.  I thought the cough at the start was just an unrelated joke.  Scott, who was older and knew Black Sabbath, must have thought I was a complete stoner, how much I was talking about this song!  Meanwhile I wouldn’t have known the Stuff if it bit me on the nose!

As kids, we always preferred anti-drug songs to ones about getting high.  We were young, and we could relate to the “cleaner” lyrics of a band like Kiss.  “I don’t need to get wasted, it only brings me down.”  Clear cut and easy to understand.  Gene Simmons would be happy that his lyrics had a positive resonance with kids.

Here’s the irony:  Gene Simmons, who has always boasted that he’s only been high in a dentist’s chair, is now investing in Canadian weed companies.

Legalization is a good thing.  A lot of money is going to go right into the economy.  Hell, Mrs. LeBrain has had a prescription for a year and a half now.  Another irony:  she doesn’t take her meds.  She doesn’t like it.  And that’s another factor that people are forgetting.  There are going to be plenty of people who are going to legally try it for the first time, and they’re going to hate it.  They won’t like how it makes them paranoid, or lazy, or hungry, or whatever their reaction will be.  It’s won’t be like the nation will go pot-mad.

Even if it did, I’d rather be living here than down south.

 

#683: I (Don’t) Wanna Be Elected

GETTING MORE TALE #683: I (Don’t) Wanna Be Elected

It’s election season again!  The climate today is nastier than ever, even here in Ontario, Canada.  We don’t have Trump, but we do have something called Doug Ford.  The last name should be familiar to you.  He’s the brother of the late crackhead Toronto mayor Rob Ford. Remember that guy?

The important thing is getting out to the polls and having your say.  If you do not vote, then I don’t want to hear a peep outta you later on.  Not a peep.

Voting is paramount, but unlike Alice Cooper, I do not want to be elected.  I can’t imagine what it’s like to put your name out there, only to have the media dig for all your old skeletons.  We’re seeing candidates apologizing for things they said and did a decade ago.  At least the media wouldn’t have to dig far for my dirt.  One look at Record Store Tales Part 7: A Shitty Story, and they’d hang me out to dry with the laundry.

No thanks!

Some rock stars have thrown their hats in this brutal ring.  Kid Rock has recently floated the idea.  We’ll see if he ever puts his money where his mouth is.  Not all who tried can rely on their fame for an easy win.

Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic gave elections a shot in 2009.  He didn’t win, but he did run for Wahkiakum County Clerk to make a point.  The state of Washington’s laws allow you to run for office for any political party — even fictional ones.  Krist made one up and ran.  We hope being in Nirvana was good enough for the bassist.

Wyclef Jean wanted to run for President of Haiti in 2010, but wasn’t taken seriously because he doesn’t live there or speak the local languages well enough.  He put in the paperwork, but did not qualify.  A former American Idol, Clay Aiken, got a little further.  Aiken ran for congress in North Carolina.  He won the Democratic primary by a hair with 40% of the vote, but did not win the seat.  Can’t fault the guy for trying.  It takes guts!

Yet, there are a handful of success stories.

In 2005, Martha Reeves (of the Vandellas) ran for and won a seat on Detroit’s city council. Jon Fishman of Phish got himself elected to city council of Lincolnville, Maine, making him perhaps the only rock drummer ever to win an election.

The most successful musician turned politician in history would have to be Sonny Bono, hands down.  He was elected mayor of Palm Springs in 1988, and was even mentioned as the mayor in a Beavis and Butt-head music video with Cher!  (“We need a chick that used to be married to some dork, and now she’s all wild and stuff.”)  After this, he served in the US House of Representatives, from 1994 until his death in 1998.

Unfortunately, Alice Cooper has never run for political office.  That’s a shame.

There are more, but politics are not for everybody.  At least we all get to vote.

But how?  Where do you toss your one vote?  Some feel the best way to stop “Ford Nation” from turning Ontario into a mini-Trumpistan is to vote for the New Democrats (or NDP) party.  Others feel Doug Ford is the only choice for an economically troubled province, laid to waste by 15 years of Liberal mismanagement, handouts and scandals.

Choose wisely.

When I turned 18, my first election was provincial.  I had been working my first retail job at a grocery store, and the issue that I chose to cast my vote on was Sunday shopping.  Working at the store, Sundays were the only guaranteed day off and I wasn’t eager to start working them.  The NDP party led by Bob Rae promised they would not allow Sunday shopping in Ontario.  I voted NDP for the first and so far only time.  Rae won, and almost immediately, made Sunday shopping legal.

Fool me once…shame on you?

We have some excellent candidates in my riding, including Amy Fee (wife of Craig) on the Progressive Conservative side, and former boxer Fitz Vanderpool for the NDP.  But the truth is, I can’t wait to cast my vote and get it over with.  Do you know how many political calls we had last night?  Had to be at least 10.

I’m sick of elections.  Wanna be elected?  No friggin’ way.

 

 

REVIEW: Sword – The Best Of (2009)

SWORD – The Best Of (2009 Unidisc reissue)

There are two versions of this CD:  a 2006 release on Aquarius, and a 2009 reissue on Unidisc.  Don’t waste your time on the 2006 CD, which is made up of previously released material.  Go for the 2009 disc, with three unreleased bonus tracks!

Sword (not The Sword) are a Canadian band from Quebec who released an impressive heavy metal debut album in 1986.  They gained the attention of Motorhead who took them out on tour.  They followed it in ’88 with Sweet Dreams, just as good as the first, but commercial success eluded the band.   They toiled away on a third album, but eventually the band dissolved leaving only singer Rick Hughes.   He returned in 1992 with Saints & Sinners, and a new hard rock sound, but that was fated to sell poorly too.  It was inevitable after grunge hit.

Rick Hughes remained active as a singer in Quebec and in 2016, he released a Sword live album, Live Hammersmith, recorded in ’87 on the Motorhead tour.   Then, unexpectedly in 2018, the original lineup reunited!  They have already played live gigs and are recording a new Sword album.  If you plan on catching up (and you should!) then check out the 2009 Best of Sword disc.  Besides the three unreleased demos, you’ll get a dozen rockers and thrashers that will melt skin.

The first salvo of “Stoned Again” and “F.T.W.” are a pair of killers.  They were the singles from the first album, well loved by Canadian fans of the Pepsi Power Hour.  “F.T.W.” is a smokeshow, with a blistering gallop and brain-burning chorus.  On the other hand, groove is all about “Stoned Again”, a surprisingly catchy number that is hard to forget.  Strangely, their final single “The Trouble Is” (from Sweet Dreams) isn’t on here.  “Life on the Sharp Edge” is also missing.

Omissions aside, The Best of Sword showcases the sound of the band with a lot of their best material.  More serious and topical songs like “Land of the Brave” will appeal to the thinking metal head.  Meanwhile “State of Shock” will rip skulls right off — be careful you don’t play it too loud!

The first of the bonus tracks, a song called “Get It While You Can”, might be a demo from the third album, before they transitioned into Saints & Sinners.  It’s the most “hard rock” Sword song of all of them.  It definitely sounds like a stepping stone to what would become the Saints & Sinners album.  The other two tracks are demos of “Runaway” and “Stuck in Rock” from the first LP, with different lyrics.

Because the first two albums are out of print, The Best of Sword is an easy way to sample their tunes before that third album comes.  Go for it — but only the full 15 track version.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Trailer Park Boys – Season 12 (2018)


TRAILER PARK BOYS – Season 12 
(2018 Netflix)

Like any franchise with an extended lifespan, Trailer Park Boys has fans both devoted and hyper-critical.  Many are just glad the series is still continuing and still funny.  Others whine that the style has changed and many original cast members (Jonathan Torrens, Lucy Decoutere, Mike Jackson, Barrie Dunn) have left.  The death of John Dunsworth (Mr. Lahey) late last year put things into perspective.  Just be glad we have Trailer Park Boys at all.  John finished season 12, which was lovingly dedicated to him.

What’s the Boys’ deal this time?  After much pressuring from Bubbles, Ricky and Julian agree to go “legit”.  Bubbles is already running a successful brewing company.  Green Bastard beer is a hit.  Julian gets a job working for Gary in security at the mall.  And Ricky?  Odd jobs around the park.  The first is an unmitigated and hilarious disaster.  Things go way off the rails from there.

Lahey and Randy are back, with Bo-bandy trying to keep Jim from causing trouble.  But they need help supervising the park, and hire old nemesis George Green.  Barb Lahey’s still in charge, and a thorn in everyone’s side.  Sarah, Trinity, Jacob and Corey still reside in Sunnyvale.  And wait until you see what Ricky has done to the Shitmobile.  (Turned it into a two storey home with two TVs and both upstairs and downstairs bathrooms.)

One of the reasons you don’t miss Lucy this season is because she’s been replaced by Susan (Susan Kent of This Hour Has 22 Minutes).  She’s batshit crazy and mad for Ricky.  Their on-off-on-off relationship is a source of many of Ricky’s problems.  All he really needs is a break.  Maybe he’ll catch one from some “Angel Shit Sent Down From Jesus God”.

You’ll see.

Julian might even have a shot at love.  An old girlfriend, from all the way back in season one, reappears in his life….

The season ties into the real world release of the official Trailer Park Boys beer called Freedom 35.  It’s a fictional take on how that beer got to the store shelves.  Bubbles, who now drives his own green truck, has a secret recipe and it’s caught the notice of the Halifax Beer company.  They want to pay Bubbles to sell his brew!  Can Bubbles ramp up his production, or will Ricky fuck it all up?

Without spoiling too much of the fun, the best episode this season is called “Happy Birthday Bubbles”.  If you liked the old episode when the Boys played “space” and fired a rocket, you’ll love this one.  I hope Steve Rogers makes a full recovery though his helicopter sure is fucked.  Best of all, this season we return to the arena where Ricky shines like no other:  the courtroom.  Judge Ticklebury presiding.

Knowing that Jim Lahey has taken his last drinky-poo gives the season a bittersweet flavour.  How does the show continue now?  We don’t know, so just enjoy season 12 for what it is.

4.5/5 stars

 

#665: Rant Random II: A Canadian Complaint

A sequel to Getting More Tale #509:  Rant Random

 

 

GETTING MORE TALE#665: Rant Random II: A Canadian Complaint

Saturday, March 3 2018 was a gorgeous afternoon.  Because I had been on the radio from 12:30 to 2:30 am, I didn’t get out that morning.  I usually like to run my errands before noon on the weekends if possible, when things are less busy.  I needed my beauty sleep that day.  That’s how I keep my youthful looks after all.

With the windows down, I hit “play” on Rush’s Clockwork Angels and headed out.  The sound of “The Wreckers” filled my speakers.  Stop #1 was McDonalds.  The parking lot was pretty full so I knew they’d be busy, but what I saw upon entry really pissed me off.

You know those kiosk terminals you can order from now?  My McDonalds has four.  And all four were being taken up by a single family.  A mom, a dad, and two young children were all ordering separately…and slowly.

“Mommy!  Mommy!  What do I push now?” said the young girl, as her mom was ordering for herself.  “Here sweety,” she said as she paused her own order to help the child.  On the other side, dad was doing the same for the son, who couldn’t figure out how to order.  Then, they all passed around a debit card so they could each pay.  I stood there at the front of a loose “line”, watching this unfold in agonisingly slow detail.

As soon as the little girl finished on her terminal, I jumped on, to emphasise my pissed-off-ness.

Parents:  It’s really nice that you used a Saturday at lunch hour rush to teach your children (separately) how to order from a McDonalds terminal, but don’t you think there are better lessons to learn?  Such as how to take turns and share something?

Back to the car with the food, and back to Clockwork Angels with windows down.  Next up:  first single, “Headlong Flight”.  I drove over to Tim Horton’s to get Jennifer a coffee.  Yes, they serve coffee at McDonalds (and some would say better coffee) but I had to make a special stop because Mrs. LeBrain does not drink anything but Horton’s.  And it was a nice day, and a great album to hear with the windows down.

My second complaint of the day, and a frequent one:  if you’re in the drive-through at Tim Horton’s, and it’s busy, don’t leave an entire car length between you and the car in front of you.  There’s nothing more frustrating than being next in line, but not being able to get close enough to the speaker to order.  If the guy in front had just moved ahead a few feet (he had plenty of room) this wouldn’t be an issue.

So I rolled down the windows a little further and let the parking lot hear some “Wish You Well” from Clockwork Angels.  That’s Geddy Lee and he’s a national treasure, people.

Coffee in hand, I headed back home with Geddy, Neil and Alex.  Not a bad album to go out on, by the way.  If you have to retire it’s nice to be able to go out on a high note like Rush did.  It felt like a very Canadian afternoon — out celebrating a warm day in March; always a joy when it happens.  It’s great to be Canadian, where the biggest complaint you have is about the line at Tim Horton’s.  Keeping our minor peeves in perspective, let’s be glad to be Canadian.

#655: Guns, Guns, Guns

Some of you may wonder why I’ve been quiet about the school shooting in Florida last week. Controversial rocker Ted Nugent has had plenty to say, but I try to keep politics to a minimum here.  The truth is I have said nothing because I’ve been too upset – a toxic mixture of sadness and furious anger.

I’m not a parent, but I cry for all the children whose lives have been cut short simply because they went to school that day to get an education. I cry for the kids who will never, ever get over the trauma of seeing their friends cut down.  And what about the kids of the future, who may never know what a normal, happy, unarmed classroom is like?

I’m not American, but I weep for the country that continues to bury dead children, one tragedy after another, while doing absolutely nothing about it.

I’m not anti-gun, but I shake my head the most ridiculous defences for potential killers to easily buy AR-15 rifles. Don’t pretend they’re “tools” and you’re GI Joe.

I love a good conspiracy theory, but I boil in pure frustration that Ted Nugent and others are calling these children “crisis actors” who are a part of an anti-gun conspiracy.

Student Emma Gonzalez has become the voice of the victims

In short, it’s taken me a while to stop being upset, and get clear enough in the head to write something.

I grew up around guns. My dad taught me how to shoot safely before I was even allowed to ride my bike out of the neighborhood. I was such a good shot that he nicknamed me “Deadeye Dick”. He encouraged me to get my Firearms Acquisition Certificate, and I did. I used to love going to hunting shops with my dad to look at weapons. Lake Huron Rod & Gun in Underwood, Ontario was our stop. My mom and aunt would look for knick-knacks at a store called The Chapel while we looked at guns.

I don’t know what the solution is to America’s gun problem. And yes America, you do have a gun problem. It’s obvious to everyone except you, because you can no longer see the forest for the trees.

You don’t have to worry about fighting off the Red Coats with your muzzle-loaded muskets anymore.

Nobody needs to worry about Obama taking over the country, he’s enjoying his retirement.

And let’s not forget, Hillary lost the election. She’s no longer the scary anti-freedom monster under the bed.  She’s an old lady and she can only write books now about “what happened”.  She never wanted to repeal the Second Amendment in the first place.  That was just Russian propaganda that many people fell for and still believe.

I understand that your Second Amendment guarantees you the “right to bear arms” (muskets?) to protect your country and family. I think that’s just fine and I support you. What I am asking you to do is look really hard at the world around you, and ask who you are really afraid of. Right now, it looks as if you’re afraid of a bunch of 17 year old kids who are sick of being shot at and pushed aside afterwards.

If the Founding Fathers could see what the Second Amendment has wrought, I can all but guarantee you that they would go back in time and word it a little differently.

It’s different here in Canada.  We still have lots of violent movies, rap music, and video games. We have guns, but we do not have mass shootings every two weeks. We do not have or want a lobby organisation like the NRA to tell us what to think. Our country was not founded upon revolution like yours. We didn’t worry about the British coming back to take over. We didn’t worry about someone declaring themselves King. In fact the only invaders we worried about were Americans. (Look up “Manifest Destiny” and you’ll understand why.) Yet we didn’t give in to fear and arm everyone in the neighborhood.

The point is, America took the Second Amendment and went a little far with it. Canadians managed to make it this far without worrying too much about deep states or elites taking over, and we’re doing OK. We’re not perfect. We are not likely to forget the École Polytechnique massacre in 1989. But we don’t do it every other week.

What’s the difference? I think it’s our very different history. You had a revolution to escape from monarchy, and have been worried about tyrants taking over ever since. We had a couple rebellions and slowly gained sovereignty, like a teenager eager to move out of their parents’ basement.

What’s the solution? At this point…I no longer even think there is one. After speaking to many Americans, I think the divide is simply too wide to breach. It’s far too easy to say “it’s a mental health problem”. We have mental health problems here, too. That lazy answer isn’t it. Token restrictions on guns or bump stocks won’t help either because you’re too far down the rabbit hole now. Something else has to change. Something evil and elusive has infected the country and it’s not going away.

I think it’s fear and hate. Too many Americans now distrust and hate other Americans. The media and political instigators stoke the fires of hate, and now it’s too late. If there is a solution, it has eluded me. Empathy needs to return to the United States.  It’s your only hope.

America, you are my neighbor and you are my friend. But you’re becoming that scary friend that I don’t want to be alone with anymore. And I’m telling you this as a friend – you have enough guns. More won’t help. Open carry won’t make this go away. A lot of these shooters put the gun in their mouths when they’re done. They don’t care if they die – they often want to go down like Harris and Klebold did. And the “good guy with a gun” fallacy won’t work because you can’t identify who the good or bad guys are until it’s too late.  “Good guys with guns” have made very little difference because this isn’t a Hollywood movie.

While I have no answers, Ted Nugent’s certainly not helping. I’m not surprised, seeing as this is a guy who once called for the nuking of Iraq. Shame on you, Ted, and shame on all those attacking the victims.

Maybe empathy really is the answer.  How to get there?  That is a whole other problem.

#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.

#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.