Canada Calling! With Your Host, Bruce "e-Mole" Mowat
This Month's Topic: The Sister Yvette Ray Issue
By: Bruce Mowat
It's quasi-official: September has been designated 'Be Nice to Yvette Ray' month. By way of explanation: Ray is the promo rep for Mint Records and indeed, most of the Canadian West Coast scene. The past few years have been good to Sister Ray: just about every scribe from Greil Marcus on down has praised her promo'ed offerings.
That is, with one exception: moi.
It's not like I have anything against her personally. With a few exceptions (Mark Kleiner, Evaporators), I just don't dig the recorded output of the label she hypes.
This month, however, she sent some stuff that I actually liked --
I was pleasantly surprised, for example, by Pier-ic Victory, the third solo outing from Ford Pier.
This guy's resume reads like a Who's Who of Western Canadian Alt.Pop: DOA, Showbusiness Giants, Junior Gone Wild, etc , etcc. Now, Pier-ic Victory owes much of its' essence to The Rheostatics, and that's no surprise, given Per's long-standing working relationship with Rheo-guy, Martin Tielli, but there's an important difference. The Rheos own blend of rock, "progressive" (i.e. left-nationalism) lyrics, and folk always teetered on the contrived-sounding side whenever they tried to emphasise the rock aspects. Furthermore, the group's pop sensibility was, at best, dodgey. This probably explains why they are virtually unknown south of the 49th parallel. Well, that, and the fact that nobody in Topeka, Kansas wants to hear about how flat it is in Saskatchewan.
-- (Kansas is flat enough, thanks!).
Ford, pardon the atrocious pun, had the BETTER idea: he got producer Michael Phillip Wojewoda (best known to US listeners for his work with the Barenaked Ladies) to hone the pop sensibilities and John Wright, Canada's supreme post-punk drummer (NoMeansNo), to drive home the rock points. Ergo, the pop numbers like Charmed I'm Sure, have both hooks and brains, while something like "Horrible" could pass for a post-punk version of any group w/Bill Bruford. (I mean that in a good way). Furthermore, any CD that thanks Lindsay Hutton is Okeley-Dokeley in my books.
I have praised the works of Atomic 7 in these here cyber-pages, and if they keep releasing solid senders like En Hillbilly Caliente, (their latest!) I will continue to do so until they wheel out my withered remains from the Old Rawk Crits Home. To recap: Atomic 7 is the guitar-based, instrumental trio led by picker extraordinaire,Brian Connelly. As the CD title implies, the group's sound is cross-pollinated from the collective repositories of this past century's instrumental music repertoire, both "wet"(surf) and "dry" (C&W, Spaghetti-western soundtracks, lounge). It's the said diversity of sources coupled with its' cheeky, yet lovin' attitude towards same, that pushes this trio to the topper-most of their popper-most class. And, like any good teachers, they make the education of the listener a fun thing. To wit: you can pretty much tell in advance what their tunes might sound like by the nifty song titles: "Riding The Sorry Train To Dumpsville", So Long, Happy Days" and (my fave)"What I Liked About Lord Of the Rings".
Another admirable quality about this group is its succinct pop sensibility. If brevity is indeed the essence of wit, these cats are one Oscar Wilde party. Hillbilly features 17 songs in just over 34 minutes, which averages out to about 2 minutes and 3 seconds per tune. Pretty swift, I'd say. The CD is on Mint Records, distributed in the states by N.A.I.L.
I, uh, also received Grab That Gun, the new full-length debut from the much-acclaimed Vancouver group, The Organ. I didn't like their retro-80's, electro-mope pop sound very much, but I'm not gonna diss them, as this is "Be Nice To Yvette" Month, y'know. FYI, the CD found a happy home in the Hutton household.
The original soundtrack to Goldirocks is as good a sampler of the downtown Toranna (er, Toronto) rawk scene as yer gonna get, with solid representative amples from everyone from The Chickens (finalists in Little Stevie's Underground Garage talent Search, btw!), to the Wrasslin' Punk Rock Kings, The Tijuana Bibles to His Highness, King Ian Blurton, whose band Blurtonia backs up the central character "Goldi" in the film.
The plot line: "Goldi" (played with aplomb by Sasha Ormond) is a sexually active (bless her!) young rock fan who makes the transition from audience to stage, but not without going through some troubles along the way.
After joining up with some band members, she joins, and then is dropped, by a talented, but not terribly bright, outfit. We get to see live shots of them onstage at Toranna rawk institution, Lee's Palace performing the perennial Teenage Head Let's Shake over and over and over again-- and -- surprise! -- the song actually still sounds good after all these years! The poster war scene is pretty good too: bands duke it out for pole poster space as The Tijuana Bibles anthem Rock N' Roll Fighting plays in the background.
While I have certain reservations about the films' subtext (girl bands=equal but separate), I have no problems with the CD, and the film is certainly very accurate in its booze n'puke stained depiction of Canada's Second-Largest Rock Scene. The soundtrack is distributed in the states by Cobraside, and some day, you'll be able to see it on late-night cable tee vee.
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