Archive for July, 2009

Bloodsport – Goodbye To The Holy Mountain

July 29th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments


Goodbye To The Holy Mountain

(From Here To There Records; 2009)


Think more along the lines of Alejandro Jodorowski’s arty/stoner film masterpiece referenced in the title of the EP than the 1988 Jean-Claude Van Damme action movie the band shares a name with: the Nova Scotia-based Bloodsport appropriates the behind-the-shades cool and noisy chugging guitars of Sonic Youth, combining it with more structured composition and a touch of the hazy, mystical shtick of Black Mountain and its many beard-tastic spin-off bands.


Goodbye…’s four tracks do the trick in getting the idea across of just what kind of band Bloodsport is…and that they like to give their songs really cool-sounding names. “Photos From My Last Trip To Salem” stole its satanic-buzz guitar sound straight off Goo, sports a mean chorus, and ends in a semi-climactic rising chant that collapses into searing guitar feedback and crashing drums until it tires out. The less-aggressive but still more single-ready “Swallowing Werewolves (I Heard Mary Timony Used To Live There)” lurches during its circular verses until hitting its world-weary chorus of, “You taught me how to play/Heart and soul.” Song gets points not just for being awesome but for another great title reference, this time being indie rock artist Mary Timony.


The second half of the EP is less memorable but shows a slightly darker and debatably more interesting side of Bloodsport’s sound. “Accidents With Homemade Fireworks” is all stylish grunge changes while “Japanese Democracy” is a ghostly sludge crawl. Bloodsport may have ordered their aesthetics right out of the classic SST catalog, but when a band has this much heart and soul of its own, it really doesn’t matter.

Cass McCombs

July 26th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Recently, this week’s artist of the week was called a possible new Dylan by Pitchfork. In the review of his new album (that’s where the aforementioned appeared), writer David Bevan compared him to Bright Eyes (very much justifiably) and wrote that everyone’s quick to call Conor Oberst the new Dylan, but hey, this guy’s name should be getting thrown around also. And yeah, it should because he’s a great artist. This week’s artist of the week is…




Born in California, Cass McCombs has been moving around cities in the U.S. for most of his adult life, rarely settling in one place for long. He just released his fourth album, Catacombs.


Like all great folk-steeped, highly-literate singer/songwriters, McComb’s lyrics don’t simply fade into the melody, but rather jump out with distinctive lines and phrases detailing images, scenes, persons, emotions and such. His music is more pop than folk most of the time, with strong shades of Big Star and Elliott Smith, with his greatest asset his ability to compose one of those wonderfully self-contained classics based around the simplest of chord changes, reminiscent of Dylan’s earlier work and Blood On The Tracks as well as Oberst circa I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning. The song “That’s That” off his album Dropping The Writ, is for the most part three simple changes that McCombs wraps his airy voice around to detail various disappointments.



Most of the time, McCombs sounds more adventurous and experimental. He’s nowhere near the uncontainable genius of Bright Eyes in what now appears to be Oberst’s wild prime (pretty much everything from Fevers In Mirrors to Cassadaga), but songs like the Eastern-influenced “Lionkiller” and “Deseret” make use of strange melodies and instrumentation far removed from the catalog of most folk-pop singer/songwriters.


His latest, Catacombs, has garnered him the most attention of all his albums so far, though its sound isn’t far removed from his previous albums. It does however feature Karen Black. Which is pretty cool.

(Photo from RCRDLBL.COM)

Secret Sessions at TARA: Part 2

July 23rd, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

My friends at Audio Blood Media asked me if I could do them a favor and run a bit about this. For those who don’t know, the Secret Sessions @ TARA are basically free shows at TARA (The Audio Recording Academy of Toronto) featuring awesome up and coming bands and artists. Often they’re from Toronto. 

Part 1 was run over the last little bit and featured some great bands and artists like Dinosaur Bones and The Great Bloomers (who most Torontonians I’ve spoken to agree are a great band – I don’t agree, but I encourage you to decide this for yourself). Part 2 will feature more awesome bands like Most Serene Republic (who I’ve always enjoyed live, although I haven’t been able to get into their albums) and Modern Boys Modern Girls (who will be releasing an awesome first album this summer that I encourage all of you to buy).
Part 2 of the Secret Sessions starts August 1, check out to check the schedule and learn where and when it’s all going down. Did I mention it’s free? Also look into TARA, they’ve got a cool program for anyone interested in audio recording education. 
(Photo taken from Secret Sessions website)

Le Bus – Fission Friction Frequency

July 22nd, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Le Bus

Fission Friction Frequency

[Spiral Recordings; 2009]


A good portion of modern dance-rock music can be divided into three different subgenres: the first is the club/party style dance cranked out by artists like Justice and Daft Punk; the second is the personality-driven dance popularized by LCD Soundsystem, Hot Chip, The Shocking Pinks; and the third are the groups that don’t lean so heavily on personality but are still more lyrical, like The Juan Maclean or Hercules and the Love Affair. While the first emphasizes sampling, quick soundbites, high energy beats and sheer aural attack, the second emphasizes lyrical complexity and favors more-interesting over more-danceable beats. In doing so, it invites listeners not only to dance to the music, but to really (maybe even later sit down and) listen to it. (I’m just going to leave the third out, pretty much.) This second subgenre only works, however, when the character central to the music is captivating enough to justify his/her presence. Truth is, most don’t make the cut in an era with such entertaining and endearing characters as James Murphy and the guys in Hot Chip.


On their debut album, the Toronto-based Le Bus’s main character would be frontman Paul Edwards. Songs like “Bionic Heart” and “Atom Love” aren’t exactly overloaded with lyrics but succeed in presenting Edwards as a sort of goofy, geeky character delivering cheeky lines like, “Bionic heart/Tears you apart/The way that you move when your moves are so slyyyyyyy.” However, this quirkiness seems to be Edwards’ only defining (though saving) asset, as his presence feels minimal and his lyrics are too sparse to create any kind of intrigue. Though he does manage to provide enough personality to justify his presence, he fails to make it large and captivating and as a result FFF feels too small and homey.


Musically, FFF is predominantly assembled with the sounds of cheap 80s drum-machines. Every non-percussive sound on FFF (aside from vocals and possibly some bass work) is also synthetic, cheap, and 80s sounding for the most part, with maybe a couple 8-bit sounds cropping up throughout without drawing much attention. With popular music dominated by club, hip hop and dance music that unanimously favors monstrously large beats, Le Bus’s beats sound small and tinny by comparison, which is another factor which contributes to FFF sounding more modest than most dance albums. In fact, FFF seems more often to pulsate rather than propel. 


Still though, with FFF, Le Bus has created a satisfying and entertaining dance album, though perhaps one better suited for solitary headphone listening than Wreck Room playlisting. “Through It All”, a pretty, vocoder-laced midnight-rider of a song speckled with 8-bit bleeps, however, may hold up as the exception to that rule. The least personality-dependent track on the album, it’s also the sweetest and most interesting. If the members of Le Bus follow their better instincts (and maybe get a bit more cash for recording), future efforts should be anticipated – there’s enough to enjoy here for that small nudge at the least.

Lou Reed

July 6th, 2009 | Features | 1 Comment

This week’s artist of the week is a giant legend. He’s one of the most interesting and confounding artists of the last forty years. He was the founder of one of the most influential and awesome bands in rock before finding commercial success as a solo artist. He has never sold out. He has been a tough cookie and always marched to beat of his own drum. He is insanely cool. The man pretty invented cool. This week’s artist of the week is one of my all time favorites and a personal artistic idol…


Born Lewis Allan Reed in 1942 to a Jewish family, Reed grew up in Freeport, New York. He formed numerous bands while in high school before moving to Manhattan in 1963 and working for the quick-hit-making Pickwick Records. Reed worked as a songwriter for hire and managed to score a small hit for the label with a song called “The Ostrich”. The label in their attempt to make as much as possible from the hit formed a band around Reed called The Primitives, which featured a young Welsh-man named John Cale.

Cale, Reed and Sterling Morrison went on to form the incomparable Velvet Underground with simplistic drummer supreme Mo Tucker. The band gigged around New York without attraction much attention until Andy Warhol saw them. Impressed, Warhol took the band under his wing and mentored them, even taking producer credit on their first album, the classic The Velvet Underground and Nico. However, the album’s disappointing sales and Warhol’s poor management led Reed to fire Warhol. The band’s second album, the aggressive and abrasive masterpiece White Light/White Heat was produced by super-producer Tom Wilson (Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa, Simon and Garfunkle) but still failed to chart well. Lou Reed fired John Cale and the band’s amps were stolen resulting in the quieter but still amazing self-titled third album. The band then lost Tucker, who was too pregnant and could not play drums, and made the ok Loaded with then-bassist Doug Yule‘s cousin as drummer. Before Loaded was released, Reed quit the band and flew off to England to make his first solo album. The album made no impact – it was Reed’s next album which would make him a star.


In the early 70’s, long-time fan David Bowie invited Lou Reed to record an album with him and guitarist Mick Ronson. In 1972, the classic Transformer was released and featured the hit single, “Walk On The Wild Side”. The song is an acknowledged classic which became even more classic when the backing track was used in the A Tribe Called Quest song “Can I Kick It?”.

Reed followed the commercial success of Transformer with the commercially disastrous concept album Berlin. Though the album is just as good as Transformer if not better, it has long held a reputation as being crazy depressing…and it is, but brilliantly so. On a side note, I once met the album’s producer, Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, The Wall) at a bar mitzvah and told him, “I love what you did on Berlin” to which he replied, “wow”, perhaps because he didn’t expect a fifteen-year-old kid to compliment him on one of the least-known albums he’s worked on. Recently Reed made a concert film of Berlin, filmed by French director Julian Shnabel (The Diving Bell and The Butterfly).

After Berlin, Reed’s output became admittedly far less consistent, though he continued to write great songs and albums like Coney Island Baby and The Blue Mask. Even the notorious hour-long noise-fest Metal Machine Music has its fans.

Recently, Reed married art-rock artist Laurie Anderson, famous for her hit 80’s single “O Superman”. This summer’s excellent Adventureland also featured Lou Reed heavily in its plot. Right now I’m teaching thirteen-year-old kids guitar at a camp in British Columbia and many of them have no idea who Lou Reed is. I’m trying to teach them that Lou Reed was one of the most important and incredible songwriters of the last century and his extensive discography is essential knowledge for anyone interested in modern music.