Jan 182009

Last night, with the help of YouTube, I listened to each of Rolling Stone‘s top 100 singles of 2008.

I do this kind of thing every now and then because of my belief in the 90-10 rule 90%: of all music produced in any genre at any time, I do not want to hear. Or rather, I do not want to hear again. But discovering a new gem can be thrilling, and every few months I manage to find a new catalogue to plunge into for a while.

I pulled out about 10 songs I hadn’t heard yet and liked from the list. Some of the videos are here. You can take or leave Rolling Stone, but let’s not get sidetracked turning this into a post about its relative merits. Just consider it a jumping off point.

Anyway, some good stuff mixed in with some so-so stuff, as you would imagine from any list as large. My list will be short on dance music because A, this is ROCK Town Hall and B, I can’t dance very well. But I will say this about that: dance music is clearly in a producer-driven era, where stars don’t matter as much any more. And some of the production from these hired gun producers on the dance numbers is truly unreal. You may find Katy Perry‘s “I Kissed a Girl” to be not to your taste, but I find the production exciting. It’s more likely the producer, Dr. Luke, who has produced Missy Elliot, Britney Spears, Lady Sovereign, Kelis, and Avril Lavigne will be working long after Katy Perry leaves music for a film career or whatever (She is really hot).

Anyway, to my picks. Continue reading »

Jan 102009

A bit of flight of fancy here inspired my Mod’s invitation for all Rock Town Hall’ers to meet at a bar in Philadelphia over Xmas break.

I have only been here for a couple months, but really enjoyed participating in this little online community. Everyone is very knowledgeable and articulate and yet still inquisitive about music. As a bonus, my fiance enjoys that I don’t rant as much about the different ways the Kinks are superior to The Doors when I drink Scotch.

From what I can gather, most RTH’ers are musicians. (I consider myself a singer, but I picked up the bass a few years ago when a band needed that.)

So here’s the assignment: Imagine all the members of RTH are putting on a show at a bar. What will the set list be? Who will play what? You can nominate a song, but someone else has to second it. After that we have to list who plays what on each song. It’s first come first serve on the instruments.

So, first off I nominate “Medicine Jar” by Wings. I just want to sing on this one, but if pressed into service I would play bass, too.

So have at ‘er RTH’ers. The house manager says we get 12 songs plus an encore. Two encores if we get them drinking!

Jan 082009

Me and a buddy were watching Letterman the other night when flavor of the week GlasVegas came on. My fiance is from Glasgow, so I know how tough it can be and these boys fit the part, leather jackets and all. But then the camera moved from the Joe Strummer impersonator singer to the drummer. My friend was first to comment: “Why is the lead singer’s mom drumming for these guys?” We then exchanged cracks around the imagined premise of him trying to get her into the group. (If I’m in. me mum’s the drumma yah fooks!”) Good times.

Anyway, to the point. Watch the video and ask yourself this question. Has there ever been in which the members have such a uniform look, but one stands out like a sore thumb? I think in this case it may seem even more discernible because she is actually kinda dressing like them…

Dec 302008

Never heard of Nardwuar the Human Serviette? Then you haven’t been near Vancouver, BC in a long time. I first met Nardwuar in the early 1990s, when he had a radio show Friday afternoons on the local college station. Since then he has become, against all odds, a beloved figure in certain circles; his popularity has steadily risen in Canada for almost 20 years here.

As I mentioned Nardwuar (real name John Ruskin) has made a name for himself as a celebrity interviewer of sorts. He has interviewed Alice Cooper, Beck, Snoop Dog, Sonic Youth, Henry Rollins, Jello Biafra, and Franz Ferdinand, amongst others. His non-music interviews include former Canadian PMs Paul Martin and John Chretien. He once asked faith healer Ernest Angley if there was a cure for the Summertime Blues. Another time, he asked Mikhail Gorbachev which world leader had the biggest pants. A media person once commented that his interviews are fascinating because he is the only interviewer he had met who honestly doesn’t care about what his celebrity subjects think about him.

There is probably going to be something about Nardwuar that annoys you. It may be his voice, his clothing or his band, The Evaporators. Like me though, I think you will come to appreciate Nardwuar. His love of music is matched only by his encyclopedic (get ready for some bizarre facts) knowledge of it. Nardwaur has been treated poorly by many of his subjects, but others, such as Snoop Dog, Thurston Moore, Jello Biafra, and Pharrell have really warmed to him.

In 1999 Nardwuar was hospitalized with a brain hemorrhage and the outpour of goodwill towards him was unbelievable. Even David Lee Roth sent a “get well soon” note. Nardwuar got well, dropped a bunch of weight, and continued on. As he enters his 40s he has become something of a squeaky, tartaned, pop culture fanatic national treasure.

Do doot a loot doot! (You’ll understand after the first interview.)

Dec 152008

Having crossed Canada several times and lived in half our provinces, I can tell the mostly American patrons of Rock Town Hall one thing for sure about rock and roll in Canada. While Ottawa may be our capital, we have a hands-down, undisputed capital of rock and roll: Winnipeg.

In Winnipeg you either play hockey, play in a band, or both. Neil Young grew up there, The Guess Who (also known in Canada as “The Prairie Beatles”) were all from The Peg, and more recent artists like Chantal Kreviazuk, Remy Shand, and Bif Naked all picked up and instrument and headed to the basement on cold winter nights.

Whatever you think of Winnipeg, and the reports are not all good, Peggers are extremely proud of their hometown and their is a bit of an island mentality to the place. The best way to illustrate this phenomenon, and the point of this post, is a movie called The Phantom of the Paradise.

The Phantom of the Paradise is a 1974 “comedy-horror-musical tragedy” from a young director named Brian de Palma. The movie is generally regarded (when it is regarded at all) as a precursor to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The movie flopped across the world and even in the rest of Canada. In Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary the film lasted a week and never returned. In Winnipeg, well…

Phantom is the biggest movie ever in Winnipeg. I first learned of this after three rocker friends of mine of a certain age referenced the movie constantly, as though it were The Godfather or Star Wars. They did not know that us non-Winnipegers did not know what the H-E-double hockey sticks they were talking about. I was sat down and forced to watch it. Better than I imagined, with a great soundtrack by Paul Williams. Of course, I didn’t like it enough to put on a massive party called “Phantompalooza,” like they do in Winnipeg every year. Oh yeah, pretty much the whole cast, including Paul Williams, attends this event. In case you’re wondering, this is not “hipper than though” digging on this movie; this is genuine love from people who were 8 to 12 years old when the movie hit.

I wonder, could this phenomenon happen in today’s Internet world? Probably not. Did it happen with another movie or record in your town? I am interested to hear…

Dec 082008

The RTH Xmas record is the 15 best Xmas songs as nominated by you: the villagers of Rock Town Hall.

Here are the rules: You nominate a song for inclusion. The moment another villager seconds your vote, it’s in. We keep going until we have 15. This becomes the Official (Mod? [Mod – Why not, provided my favorite rockin’ Xmas song is included?]) Rock Town Hall Xmas Album.

This process should leave us with a pretty great mix tape or iPod playlist to pair with a single malt and drown out the shrill caroling of crazy Aunt Bea from Winnipeg.

I am going to start us off with a song I think should have no trouble at all being seconded; “Fairytale of New York,” by The Pogues.

Dec 062008

In the early ’90s, in Vancouver, a friend dragged me to a show by a band from Chicago called Urge Overkill. Good show, good band, nothing earth shattering. Then a couple years later he sat me down and put on a record called Saturation. We played that thing into the ground. This was a record that was simply not of the times. Urge Overkill didn’t look or sound the same as anyone else. They were inspirational. And they rocked hard.

Now, if you remember Urge Overkill you may be one of those people who had a problem with their image: they rode around in a convertible wearing smoking jackets and drinking martinis. They lived in an old bank with their massive record collection. It rubbed some people the wrong way. But not me. I had seen enough flannel for one lifetime.

The most important thing is this: the songs stood up and they still do today. Pretty much everything on Saturation is a knockout. Supersonic Storybook before it was top notch. Their swan song, the dark, stripped down Exit the Dragon? We didn’t like it at the time, none of us. But guess what? I threw it on the other day and it had aged, to me, like fine wine. Check out “The Break” and “Jaywalking.” It’s time for an Urge revival.


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