Saturday, September 22, 2007

Chapter Fifteen: Jazz Punk is my Tangent.

The Sarcastic Mannequins were obscure, Canadian, Clash-loving punks but since they weren’t three chord bashers they do break one of the promises of my mission statement. They’d like that. They used to hand out lyric sheets before their shows just to make sure that even the inattentive could be offended by their words. As well the (remaining) dogmatic punk punters were probably enraged by their forays into ragas, ska, spy, and tricky, jazzy instrumental sections. Never wanky (and usually catchy) the Mannequins would have been a good opener for NoMeansNo but with less “Kill Everyone Now” and more “Everything Pisses Me Off”.

The Sarcastic Mannequins (Beez on bass/vocals, Bradford Lambert on drums Andrew Shyman on guitar/vocals) played a tight, blistering set on a Tuesday in October of 1989 at the U of M’s pub. The assembled crowd wasn’t - so they let us hang out backstage and showered me with quotes (I was reviewing the show for the university paper). Their demo tape (still their peak) was a disconcerting yet fun jazz-punk fusion and though this album came a bit too late in their career (less propulsive) it too gave CBC Radio’s late night bizzarro programs more wild content in the dullest era of modern musical history.

Yeah, I dropped the name of the Bad Brains and my band (see ch 14) into the review. Shamless. The band members kept in touch for while and Beez was always friendly – even when I hinted that they should’ve tacked the demo onto the CD. He went on man the bass for the most-excellent Smugglers and plays in a band called the Beauticians.

This album will not be everyone’s cup of meat (hey what here is?) but to those who get it – you’ll return to it for those WTF moments spread throughout the album and if you just download for a quick look-hear don’t stop till you hit their reloaded version of Sandanista’s “Charlie Don’t Surf”.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Chapter Fourteen: Og n' Me

I’ve been in a band. So has everyone, right? Well, no. Lots of people have no musical talent. I don’t mean the way failed musicians deride the playing of Ramones or Meg White - I mean people who by universal standards have no place on the performance stage. Such untalented music lovers work in record stores, write music criticism or manage bands. I did those sorts of things later. My band (Jane Fonda and the Hondas) was a two-piece (a sorta cross between They Might Be Giants and The Shaggs) who my, vastly more talented partner (later a member of the socialist-punk band The Strike), described as, “Sludgeabilly with extra sludge”.

“Sludgeabilly” was Gerald Van Herk’s self-description of his band, Deja Voodoo, a Canadian two-piece psychobilly-swamp-punk band that sounded like the Cramps with a denser, leaner, cruder taste for pre-rock blues. Fifteen years later that sound could get you on the front of Rolling Stone but in the cultural vacuum that was the late 1980’s almost no could hear Deja Voodoo scream. They toured the country by Greyhound and started one of the most diverse yet cohesive indie labels of all-time: Og Records. Og pilloried the vacuousness of the nineteen-eighties by pushing bands bands who were a hundred different shades of anachronistic: Western-Swing, gospel-punk, garage rock, country blues, psychedelic, 77 punk, lounge-jazz, faux girl-group and cow-punk and I’ve just begun. It was the vinyl era and the five-volume 'It Came From Canada' series (the icfucks as Gerald called them) sent me on a nationalistic music bender, which I never regretted.

They also inspired me to form a band and perform one earth-shattering show for fourteen close personal friends, thirteen of whom were still close personal friends after we finished. We performed two songs; a butchered cover of Billy Bragg's ‘Strange Things Happen’ and an original called ‘Socialized Hairdressing’ and then we served pizza. Don’t count it against Gerald it’s not really his fault.

The Dik Van Dykes worshipped one of the all-time great neglected bands (The Rezillos) and hence they were the Og band I loved the most. Musical comedy is a Canadian Weakness but The Diks pulled it off with scads of aplomb. The songs are hummable, if mangled, and the lyrics will return a thousand joys - even if you never understand them all.


Deja Voodoo was an acquired taste which seeing their flailing live concerts finally imparted me with. (Their live introductions were spot-on, “This is a song about my girlfriend. It’s called My Girlfriend. “This is a song about Saskatchewan – it’s called Big Pile of Mud.) This is their most distinctive album – enjoy.


My Dog Popper was not an Og-affiiliated band that I listened to a lot but two considerable music guys (Mike Koop of a million Winnipeg bands including Kicker and Winston of Nuclear Armed Hogs blog) requested it – so here it be. Sorry for the lack of cover art (it is is one album well-served by its cover) and the dodgy sound quality.