Canada Calling! With Your Host, Bruce "e-Mole" Mowat
This Month's Topic: Canada's underground becomes your new fashion (or something to that affect)
By: Bruce Mowat
After almost six years Bob Wiseman has finally come up with his ninth solo CD, It's True, and it's a good 'un! To find out more about the fella, dial http://www.bobwiseman.ca but, in a nutshell, here's the deal: Up here, Wiseman's name is usually preceded by the phrase "formerly of Blue Rodeo. See, back in the 1980's Bob tinkled the ivories for this Canuck country-rock institution, and for whatever reasons, that's a big deal up here. You readers in the US probably don't care and bully for you, because Bob's own material is quite a different kettle of fish. Wiseman's music has been a mix of equal parts keen socio-political commentary, personal whimsy, and genre-bustin' mix n' match musical moves.
And what I particularly like about this particular outing is the equitable manner all of the above is dished out. F'rinstance, you get Uranium, a deadly-serious song about why people shouldn't have to take dangerous things out of the ground, offset by the candid candor of Queen Of Sheba, and vice versa. You get genuinely tender and affecting material like Lori offset with the caustic My Cousin Dave.
Yeah, and there's a good story behind the latter: Dave is, in fact, the corporate record giant, David Geffen. As the song goes, Bob has a cousin by marriage which has Dave as a cousin by marriage. That makes the two of them related, kinda sorta. Bob wrote the song 12 years ago -- and a snippet of it turned up on 1995's Accidentally Acquired Beliefs. For some reason, Warner Brothers wouldn't release the full schpiel, which amounts to Bob making some pointed criticisms of Mr G's modus operandi. As it turns out, some of his requests e.g. getting Guns N' Roses dropped from the label, have been complied with. And whatever happened to Gary Gersh, anyway?
All of this fabulous verbal finery would mean next to nada, though, if Mr Wiseman didn't have the magic tune tinker-touch. These aren't just strummed out chord progressions: there's some tics and urps in the arrangements that grab yr ears and make you go whatwuzthat?? "It's an Ace Cutter," as Tim Butler (post-nee McB, post-post nee nee, McCarroll-Butler) would say.
You have to go directly to Bob's recording collective (not label) located at www.blocksblocksblocks.com. Yes, that means filling out an International Money Order, but Bob's site does offer MP3 previews (and video previews, too). An informed consumer is a wise (man) (or woman) consumer.
Hooray, the new Silver Hearts CD, Our Precious City, is out! As regular readers, (both of you!) know, I'm a big fan of this big (up to 12 pieces) Peterborough, Ontario band. As of late the group's live shows have featured a somewhat truncated version of the group, what with the saw player being in Thailand and the fiddle player gawdknowswhere (or wuzzat the other way 'round?). The mix of rags, blues, outer space, Kurt Weill and country hollers is still potent enough, though. And this time around Simply Saucer producer Bob Lanois, provided proper "imaging" for each of the recorded instruments/voices. Now while there's something to be said for the live, group murk approach, this outing is hands-down the best sounding SH release to date. There are 17 tracks to choose from, from the snappy instrumentals (Blue Van), to the mock heart-on-my-sleeve balladry of Darling I, to anything Kelly Pineault sings on (Danny is choice). Two minor quibbles: I - and my closest colleagues - tend to agree Pineault could've used some extra female back-ups/harmonies to beef up the proceedings, and 2) where's Once Every Hundred or So Years, the fave slow-dance set closer? Next time, 'kay?
I know it's confusing, but there are only two people in Hypnotech 3. Older readers may remember them from the November 2002 issue as part of the Electro-Shock group of electronic (no "a") artists. "In Tune With the True Distortion, was their maiden outing, and it sounded mighty good while driving my spaceship around at 3 a.m., listening to the pristine airwaves of CBC's all-night weekend show (this was pre-Radio Three). That fact was not lost on the duo of John Merrall, (formerly of Simon & The Chalk Drawing, Your Waking Dream, & Heaven Piano Company) and Michael Jackson Pawluk (formerly of Vancouver's great "lost" punque-rawk group, Rats Eat Children). As a result, one of the first things you hear on the duo's new disc, Prescription Electronics (great title!) is the disembodied voice of CBC host, David Wisdom, extolling the virtues of said duo - at 3 a.m.! Overall, this outing tends to get grounded via an up-front rhythm-click track, but space stills abound here (the cover of which is shown below). It's available through Tonevender or go direct to www.futursonic.com.
You can HEAR all of the above - and the New York Rifles- (thanks for the backsheesh, Chica!) on the e-Mole Radio Hour.
I also received the new Carolyn Mark CD, The Pros And Cons of Collaboration courtesy of Mint Records. Mark hails from Victoria, British Columbia, the home-town of NoMeansNo, the Victoria Cougars hockey team & my main squeeze, so I was kind of predisposed to feeling warm & fuzzy towards it.
Some backgrounder first: Mark was a charter member of the alt.pop group, The Vinaigrettes and (w/Neko Case) the alt.country.duo, The Corn Sisters.
So I listened to the disc. And with apologies to "K w/a K", Lindsay Hutton, and NoMeansNo, I'm sorry to say, it didn't cut the mustard. Unfortunately, that grand instrumental overture didn't herald anything except some rather anonymous sounding melodies and lyrics taken from some sophomore's "alt.dearblogdiary". Song crafting means more than playing clever chord changes: Lucinda Williams, for example, can do more with a three chord blues riff than Mark with all of her licks. And am I supposed to get excited because she can tell the diff between screw-on tops and corked wine? Jay-sus what a maroon--
Next issue: We answer your hate mail!