canadiana

TV REVIEW: Letterkenny Season 1 (2016)

LETTERKENNY – Season 1 (2016 Crave TV)

Heir to the throne of the Trailer Park Boys: Letterkenny has arrived!

And what the hell is a “Letterkenny”? It’s a fictional town in southern Ontario, named after a real town in Ireland, and based upon the real life Listowel Ontario (birthplace of Helix). It was however filmed in northerly Sudbury Ontario.  According to the tagline for this Canadian comedy show, “Letterkenny consists of hicks, skids, hockey players and Christians. These are their problems.” And that pretty much sums ‘er up.

Creators Jared Keeso and Jacob Tierney tapped into something real about living in rural southern Ontario. The produce stands, the accents, the personalities. Keeso, who plays lead character Wayne, has mastered a dialect so fast and witty that multiple viewings are required just to understand all the jokes. Keeso may be better known to readers as Don Cherry from TV’s The Don Cherry Story.  Comparing this show to Trailer Park Boys is natural as both shows are proudly Canadian and crude.  Dare I say it, Letterkenny is smarter and more likable.

Keeso plays Wayne, a “hick” (he’s a farmer) who seems to make a decent living with his roadside produce stand. Anyone who has spent any time driving from town to town in rural Ontario knows the allure of a well stocked produce stand.  Wayne is the toughest guy in town, never loses a fight, and still you can’t help but like him.  His best friend Daryl (“Dairy”) is a loyal sidekick. So is the smart and super-sized Squirrely Dan.  Wayne’s super-hot sister Katy Kat is sought by other players in town:  Jonesy and Reilly, two wanna-be hockey losers, and Stewart the meth-making goth.  Their adventures and agendas often collide in amusing ways.

When the show begins, Wayne is a bit of a broken man, having been dumped by his girlfriend.  His girl didn’t lets him get in fights y’see, and his reputation as toughest guy in town has been long lost.  Time’s to reclaims it!  One by one, challengers arrive:  Sled Ted, Rat Ass, and Joint Boy.  If Wayne can take back the Toughest Guy in Town title, then other adventures lay ahead, such as creating a new popular fart sharing website called Fartbook.  They also start a pest control business while Wayne continues to search for love (or at least action).

The idiosyncratic dialogue is so quick and slippery that just about every line is quotable.  Certain phrases recur:  “Let’s take about 5-10% off it over there Squirrely Dan.”  “Not my forte.”  “Hard no.”   “Pump the brakes.”  “That’s what I appreciates about you Katy.”  Pay attention, because you’ll also hear about a couple deviants named the Ginger and Boots.  And the boys might just need backup from the Ginger and Boots by the season finale.

Shows with a Canadian heart and such likable characters combined with lightning fast wit are few and far between.  Letterkenny, now standing at two seasons, is the one not to miss.

4.5/5 stars

Part 233: Dr Stompin’ Tom Road

RECORD STORE TALES Part 233:  Dr Stompin’ Tom Road

One of the biggest thrills during the record store days was the last vacation I ever took from that place!  I’ve always wanted to go to Eastern Canada, and see the ocean.  I have always been drawn to the sea.  I think this is because of my Italian side, it must be in my blood and DNA.  We came to Canada in 1904 from Porto Empedocle, Sicily.  It is a fishing village on the coast, and my great-grandfather Luigi owned a shop there around the turn of the century.  My great-great grandfather Salvatore was from Amalfi, near Naples.  If you ever see pictures of Amalfi, you might understand why I have always loved the sight of water.

In May 2002, I finally visited the beautiful province of Prince Edward Island.  I got to see the ocean, the harbors and the lobster boats.  We checked out a lot of cool sideroad shops, walked a lot of trails, and played with the vibrant red sand.  We met some of the friendliest people we’d ever encountered.  But there was no way I was leaving Prince Edward Island without doing three important things:

1. Eating lobster in some form every single day.

2. Visiting the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Odditorium, one of only two in Canada.

3. Setting foot in Skinners Pond, home of Dr Stompin’ Tom Road.

Obviously, I had to pay my respects to the boyhood home of one of the greatest Canadians (# 13) and folk musicians of all time, Stompin’ Tom Connors.  In the end, I accomplished all three of my goals.  Of the five days I spent on the island, I had lobster on every one of them, even having the bizarre McLobster on one of those days.  As an added bonus, I found an interesting piece of guitar-shaped folk art, made by a fellow named Keirras Jeffery, that I had to buy.  It looks awesome on the wall.

Photos of Stompin’ Tom’s eponymous road are difficult to find online, so I proudly present to you a selection of my holiday snaps, May 2002.

Here’s another great site with info on Stompin’ Tom’s home in PEI:  PEI Heritage Buildings – Skinners Pond and Stompin’ Tom Connors

Gallery: Wilfrid Laurier (Canadian Legends series figure)

Earlier this weekend, a discussion was unfolding in the posting for my Johnny Cash action figure gallery.  I have provided the pertinent text between Aaron and myself:

A:  You know what I want for Christmas? The John A. MacDonald action figure! Yes, it exists. It’s not music-related, but since we’re talking about action figures of our heroes…

M:  At some point in the near future I fully intend to work in my Sir Wilfrid Laurier action figure. I haven’t figured out how yet…but I WILL! In fact I was going to throw it in here as a mind-fuck at the end, but it wasn’t working and wasn’t funny so I axed it at the last minute!

Screw it.  Not music-related?  Wouldn’t be the first time!  This figure, 2006 Nafekh, is from “Series 1” of the Canadian Legends.  “Series 2” never came to be.   (My series 2 would have included Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Terry Fox, and Alexander Graham Bell, if such a thing were ever made.)

R.I.P. Stompin’ Tom Connors

Stompin' Tom

1936-2013

GUEST SHOT: 30 Albums that Uncle Meat Thinks You Should Visit (Or Re-Visit) Part 3

Meat is back for the final installment of his essential list:  30 Albums that Uncle Meat Thinks You Should Visit (Or Re-Visit).

Missed any?

Here’s Part 1.  

Part 2 is here.

And make no mistake, Meat wrote every word.  No messing around from me.  Enjoy!

PET SOUNDS   –  THE BEACH BOYS (1966)

When The Beatles released Rubber Soul in 1965, Brian Wilson heard something that inspired him to try and make his own masterpiece.  The result was Pet Sounds, which saw The Beach Boys discard their typical surf-inspired ditties and create an album that will always be a classic.  I remember when I first heard this album I was completely blown away that it was a 1966 album.  The overall sound of it is so full and rich, and it’s funny how everyone thinks The Beatles main influence for Sgt. Peppers was drug-related, and I am sure it was, but that classic would never have been without this classic album first.  Do yourself a favour and re-discover The Beach Boys by checking this out.

 

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE  –  QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE (1998)

There are a lot of people that think that the QOTSA album Rated R, is the band’s first release.  In all reality it is their third release if you count the Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age EP. However, it is a shame that this album has been somewhat overlooked.  I think it is by far their best album.  To gauge just how much I got into this album could never be measured.  For years, I stated that this album was my favorite album ever with distortion.  Now trust me I realize the exaggeration in that statement (I have since relented) but it doesn’t take away how brilliant I believe this album truly is.   This is a true collection of groovy rock songs, so much so that QOTSA could have titled this album exactly that.  I have not been a fan of the last few QOTSA albums, and frankly I wish they could harness this approach once again.  Check out the included track “Avon”.  An absolute air-drumming seminar at its finest!!

 

ROXY & ELSEWHERE  –  FRANK ZAPPA & THE MOTHERS (1974)

One of the albums previously on this list, Joe Jackson’s Big World, was a live album containing new material.  Considering the content of this particular album, that format was never more impressive or more challenging than Zappa’s album Roxy & Elsewhere.   From beginning to end, it’s hard to believe the complexity of what was happening onstage during these recordings.  From the colourful vocals of Napoleon Murphy Brock, to the guitar-fueled madness of Zappa himself, this is my personal favorite of all of Zappa’s recordings.  Songs like “Pygmy Twilite” and “Village of the Sun” are absolute genius.  The concert film of these recordings is STILL in limbo for whatever reason.  Included is a clip of the song “Montana”, recorded during these sessions but not included on the album itself.

 

 

SCENES FROM A MEMORY-METROPOLIS 2  –  DREAM THEATER (1999)

I simply couldn’t do a list like this without including Dream Theater.   I like heavy music and I like progressive music.  This band combines those two qualities perhaps better than any band ever has, and on this album its done to perfection.  This is your classic “concept album” and tells an interesting story that needs to be experienced.  But the true experience of this album is that it is a piece of song-writing and musical brilliance.  If you have seen Rush’s biopic Beyond The Lighted Stage,   you might recognize the now-familiar voice of long-time Rush producer Terry Brown (who also produced the vocals on this album).   The album sees John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy at their monster best and requires many listens to truly appreciate.  I am not a “Rolling Stone” magazine guy myself, but it does say something that in 2012 they named this album as the Number One all-time progressive album, beating out Rush’s 2112 and Yes’s  Close to The Edge.

THE ACTION IS GO  –  FU MANCHU (1997)

This album starts off with a bang, it also ends with a bang and actually this album is just one big resounding rhythmic bang.  After a few good, but not great albums (in my opinion), new drummer Brant Bjork was brought into Fu Manchu.  This would result in one of the greatest “Stoner-Rock” albums of all time.  This is literally the perfect driving album.  Sometimes you find yourself emulating driving just sitting and listening to it.   You can hear a huge Sabbath influence on this album, at least in the sound of the instruments and the driving low end.  Sometimes the vocals can leave a bit to be desired, but it is not really singing in the first place.  Almost sounds like a dude talkin’ to himself, which adds to the coolness of this album.  One of my favorite albums of the 1990’s indeed.

WELCOME TO SKY VALLEY  –  KYUSS (1994)

Somewhere around early 1995, I walked into a Sunrise Records where Tom (Tom has been mentioned many times in Mike’s blogs) was working.  At this point Tom and I only really knew each other from local concerts we would run into each other at.  The second I walked in he begged me to check out this Kyuss album on the listening station.  I remember the look on his face when I didn’t instantly “get it”.  Years later I had to bow to him and thank him for trying to open my eyes earlier.  No one knows how to set a mood quite like Kyuss.  The last album listed was Brant Bjork’s first album with Fu Manchu.  This album is the last Kyuss album featuring Brant Bjork on drums.  No coincidence here.  This man knows how to wash songs with a subtle intensity.  Check out the song “Demon Cleaner” sometime, with Josh Homme singing and see how Queens of the Stone Age were born.  This album has been listed as a major influence for many of the heavy metal greats of the day.

 

WHALE MUSIC  –  THE RHEOSTATICS (1994)

The Rheostatics are definitely one of my favorite bands of all time, and the artist I have seen live the most in my life.  Any band that calls their first album Greatest Hits obviously has a good sense of humour.  There really is no album that quite captures “Canadiana” quite like Whale Music.  Not to be confused with the later-released official soundtrack of the same name, this album ranges from the sweet to the insane.  Take the song “Queer” for example.  “Well the screen door is still broken, since you kicked your Kodiaks through it” and “I scored a hat trick on the team that called you a fuckin’ queer”, are lyrics that paint a Canadian portrait of everyday life.  I love this album and frequently re-visit it only to find it gets better with age.  Notable appearances on this album are Neil Peart on a song called “Guns” and The Barenaked Ladies (credited as The Scarborough Naked Youth Choir).   Included here is the amazing opening track.  Check it out eh ….

WHITE PEPPER  –  WEEN (2000)

Simply put, this is my favorite “Pop” album of all time.  I am not a Ween fan per se. I cannot say I have actually connected strongly with any of their other albums.  But when this album was introduced to me, it grabbed a hold of me and it will never let go.  First of all, the sound on this album is absolutely wonderful.  Second of all, the melodies on this album (with sprinkles of Ween weirdness of course) are something very reminiscent of The Beatles.  I have always tagged this album as their “Beatles tribute”, and it was pointed out to me by a friend that “The White Album? Sgt. Peppers?  White Pepper?”. Now I have not read that in fact that is what the name truly means, but I think that is a very good guess.  I have played this album for a few musician friends of mine and the result is pretty much the same across the board.  White Pepper  simply “hooks” you in, it is that simple. Check out the Trey Parker and Matt Stone directed video for “Even If You Don’t” included here.

 

UNCHAINED  –  JOHNNY CASH (1996)

I was working at the “Record Store Chain” Ladano blogs about when I was first introduced to this album.  It was instantly a revelation of what I do actually like about Country Music, and was the reason I became a fan of the older-style albums of the genre.   Not enough can be said about the genius of Rick Rubin.  The man who changed the careers of Slayer, The Beastie Boys and the Red Hot Chili Peppers got a hold of Johnny Cash and re-introduced him as the icon he always was.  Hiring Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers as the backing band for the second American Recordings Johnny Cash release was a stroke of brilliance.  The opening track “Rowboat” sees Cash cover a Beck song and make it his own.  “Sea of Heartbreak” is a melodic ass-kicker.  Everyone by now knows of the genius cover of Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage”,  so good in fact that for a long period of time Chris Cornell refused to play it live stating “It’s not our song anymore.  It’s Johnny’s now”.  No album of this genre has ever sounded bigger, if not any genre.  A must have album.

VS.  –  PEARL JAM (1993)

This album had to be included on this list.  I understand that everyone looks at Pearl Jam’s  first album as this massive crowning achievement, but frankly I didn’t get it then and I really still don’t.  Their second album I think is the best album of their career and probably my favorite “Grunge” album ever.  Every song on this album is a classic to me and it does seem weird to call an album that was a Number One album on Billboard for five weeks straight “underrated”.  But I truly do feel this album gets overlooked and that’s a shame.  I find Ten to be kind of boring and redundant to be honest.  This album is still fresh to me.   I hope when it’s all said and done that this album is what truly defines them.

 

REVIEW: Bidiniband – The Land is Wild

Part 2 of the Aaron Challenge:  He has challenged me to get out of my comfort zone.  Together, we will be reviewing some of the albums he bought in Toronto during Record Store Excursion 2012.  I’ve never heard any of these albums before, in fact I know almost nothing about most of these bands.  This time, I’m going into it at least knowing the Dave Bidini was in the Rheostatics!

Aaron paid $7.99 for each of these discs, at Sonic Boom Music.

Check out his thoughts on the exact same album right here!

For a cool interview with Bidini himself, check out my buddy Patrick Finch’s article right here!

the land is wild

BIDINIBAND – The Land is Wild

Last time, I took a look at In the Rock Hall, without knowing a thing about Dave Bidini.  Now, I’m a little more prepared.  And it just so happens that The Land is Wild is a very different kind of album, much catchier and more immediate.

Album opener, “Desert Island Poem”, is a beautiful acoustic guitar/piano tune with clever lyrics:  “Rheostatics eat their drummer,” and “Martin ran out of the van,” and then references to the incredible Drumheller Alberta, one of my favourite places in the world.  But lyrics aside, melodically and instrumentally this is just a great song.

Some more beautiful acoustics open track #2, “Memorial Day”.  It features one of my favourite instruments, under utilized in rock music: the clarinet.  It’s a slow mournful number juxtaposed with that playful clarinet.  This being Dave Bidini though, of course it takes a twist.  At 3 minutes it becomes more electric and distorted, but without losing direction.

“We Like To Rock” is a gleeful number with some catchy electric guitar licks.  It’s a melodic winner, I like this song a lot.  “This is how we like to live!  This is why we’ll never stop!  This is how we like to live, it’s how we like to rock!”  And how do they like to rock?  Not in any generic way, that is for sure.  This song is unique as any Bidini I have heard thus far, yet it’s a bit more straightforward and to the point.

The next song, “Take A Wild Ride” isn’t even a minute long and it strikes me as something jokey.  But fear not, for “Terrorize Me Now” is next, with an unforgettable chorus and a reference to both Malcolm and Roddy McDowell!  It’s just as playful as all the previous songs, with some intricate guitar parts and lush backing vocals.   I would have liked to have found the lyrics to this song online; no such luck though.

A longer song is up next, the title track, over six minutes, and little more along the lines of what I grew to expect from the last Bidini album I heard, In the Rock Hall.  It’s a bit more challenging, with some atonal guitar feedback, atypical drum beats, and different sections.  Good stuff.

“Last Good Cigarette” is a song I can’t relate to, lyrically, never having smoked one in my life.  Musically though, this is another nice acoustic number, with plenty of intricate guitar parts hanging around in the mix to grab my attention.   It’s over too soon though, and then we’re into the next one, “Song Ain’t Any Good”.  This is a funny self-deprecating number:

This song ain’t any good,
It’s not quiet, it’s not loud,
Its lyrics are warm and tepid,
Of them I’m not very proud.
This song ain’t any good,
You prob’ly heard these chords before,
Its melody is dry and chalky,
The words are lonely cold and boring.

He’s wrong though.  This song is great!

Then comes the 8 minute epic, “How Zeke Roberts Died”.  I had to look up who Zeke Roberts was (an old NFL player apparently, but I can’t figure out the lyrical connection).   This is a cool folk rock tune with several people taking lead vocals.  I love songs with multiple lead vocalists and this is a great one.  Awesome tune.

After such an epic, the playful “Pornography” came as a surprise.  It begins with a programmed drum beat and another humourous lyric.  For better or for worse, you’ll be walking around the house singing “Pornography, pornography…” after playing the album.  Be forewarned!  Ironically the song seems to be more about George W Bush than pornography!

“The Continuing Story Of Canadiana And Canadiandy” has more of that tasty guitar pickin’ that I love.  And of course, it also has more of those humourous lyrical acrobatics.  Another gleeful winner.  The guitar work is insane.

And then, the end:  “The Ballad of 1969” is an 8 minute epic, so the Bidiniband is not leaving you without filling your head with rock.  Delicate drums and electric guitars introduce the piece.  Eventually this morphs into surf rock “ooh ooh oohs” and riffing, but like many Bidini tracks it has multiple sections.  These songs have to be a bitch to play live!

But wait!  A hidden track about Tim Horton’s emerges?  And then…”Chad Kroeger, Chad Kroeger, you’re killing us now.”  Amen brother!  (This track is apparently called “The List”.)

This album is a hell of a lot more immediate than In the Rock Hall, but yet maintains the challenging arrangements and clever, tongue-in-cheek lyrics.  Strongly recommended.

4/5 stars

MIKE AND AARON GO TO TORONTO