Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Inevitability of Death

The inevitability of death. Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip sang about it back in the early '90s when the phrase became a song title on their 1994 album Day for Night. I first saw the band play it in 1993 at the Middle East in Cambridge and loved it immediately. Of course, at the time I was 25 and unaware of the impact that death can have on your life. Nearly a year later, Kurt Cobain put a shotgun in his mouth. That death hit an entire generation pretty hard, even though it seemed inevitable for a while. A few years later, my father died and that too, while seriously depressing, did not come as a shock because he was really ill for a while.

Now I'm 50 and death seems like a fairly common occurrence in the world. I mean, it was in '93, too, but it's more real to me now. So when Downie died this week after close to a two-year battle with brain cancer, it wasn't a shock, but it still hit me hard. Certainly, the death has been a major event in Canada, where Downie has become the pre-eminent rock chronicler of Canadiana.


The Hip never broke big in the U.S., where they've had success in bigger cities, especially ones with a lot of Canadians. I'm pretty much American through and through, having moved from Canada when I was 14. But when I heard the song "Blow at High Dough" on Boston's WBCN in 1989, I was hooked. I picked up the album, Up to Here, and enjoyed it thoroughly. A year later, I was visiting Toronto and watched a live Hip concert on MuchMusic (the Canuck MTV), and I was REALLY hooked. The studio stuff is great, but live was where the Hip and Downie were especially captivating. Sweating profusely right off the bat, he would seemingly go into a semi-trance, moving in herky-jerky motions, play-fighting with the mic stand and often going off on tangents. Early on, Downie would go off on epic mid-song rants about killer whale tanks or failed suicide pacts. Later, he would debut snippets of new songs within other ones. No two Hip shows were alike, thanks to Downie's elastic and magnetic personality.

I saw the band for the first time in 1991 at the Paradise in Boston and even though the club was nearly empty, the show was incredible. Downie looked a lot different than he did in recent years: longish hair, thick beard, flannel shirt, jeans and shitkickers. As the years passed, he began to resemble two singers he was often compared to: Michael Stipe and Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil (the shaved head was mainly responsible for that). I saw the Hip pretty much every time they came through Boston, and saw Downie solo on at least three occasions.

Going through the vast catalog he left behind (13 Hip studio albums, 5 solo albums), it really is amazing how much great material Downie left behind. And indeed, there's one more album, Introduce Yerself, that is due out next Friday. And I've got several excellent bootlegs of classic live performances over the years that I've been digging into as well.

Like David Bowie, Downie's response to his cancer diagnosis was to stare death in the face and keep working. But unlike Bowie, Downie not only toured, he used the platform and attention he received to spotlight Canada's need to reconcile with the indigenous people it displaced and abused over the years. That he was able to accomplish so much while struggling with the debilitating effects of glioblastoma (which included memory loss) is goddamn inspirational.

Now we remember his legacy. I've been watching some old videos and documentaries that are up on YouTube. A new documentary about the Hip's final tour is set to go up on Netflix next month, so that will no doubt be an emotional experience.

So yeah, death is inevitable. Make the most of life while you still can. Gord sure as hell did.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Stuck In Thee Garage #196: October 20, 2017

Seems as though these days the rock n' roll deaths are hitting us faster and furiouser. Just when we come to grips with Grant Hart, Charles Bradley dies. Then Tom Petty. And then this week, Gord Downie passed away of complications from brain cancer. Downie's death hit me particularly hard because I've been a fan of him and the Tragically Hip since '89 when I first heard the single "Blow at High Dough" from their first full-length, Up to Here. Last year, the band announced Downie had cancer and went on a farewell tour of Canada, culminating in an emotional farewell show in the band's hometown of Kingston, Ontario last August. We knew it was coming, but his death was still a shock and utterly heartbreaking.

This week on Stuck In Thee Garage, I pay tribute to Downie in hour 2 with a combination of Hip, solo and rare tracks. He left an exceptional body of work for us to enjoy, including one final album he recorded with Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene that will be out next week. R.I.P., Gord.



This playlist wears a Canadian tuxedo:

Hour 1
Artist - Song/Album
St. Vincent - Pills/Masseduction
Worriers - The Possibility/Survival Pop
Versing - Body Chamber/Nirvana
Superchunk - Break the Glass/Single
Deer Tick - Jumpstarting/Deer Tick, Vol. 2
Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile - Fear is a Forest/Lotta Sea Lice
EMA - Always Bleeds/Exile in the Outer Ring
Wet Trident - Eclectic Boogaloo/Double Exposure
Lubec - Many Worlds/Concentration
Lubec - Hard Potential/Cosmic Debt
Wolf Parade - Flies on the Sun/Cry Cry Cry
Infinity Girl - Anything/Somewhere Nice, Someday
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Falling Apart So Slow/The Echo of Pleasure
Great Grandpa - Grounded/Plastic Cough

Hour 2: Gord
The Tragically Hip - My Music at Work/Music@Work
Gord Downie and Andrew Cash - Hey Maria/Live at Kumbaya '93
Gord Downie - Haunt Them, Haunt Them, Haunt Them/Secret Path
Gordon Downie - Yer Possessed/Coke Machine Glow
The Tragically Hip with Sarah McLachlan - Emergency/Unreleased from Day for Night sessions
The Tragically Hip - Heaven is a Better Place Today/In Between Evolution
The Tragically Hip - It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken/In Violet Light
Gord Downie and the Sadies - It Didn't Start to Break My Heart Until This Afternoon/And the Conquering Sun
Gordon Downie - Figment/Battle of the Nudes
The Tragically Hip - New Orleans is Sinking/killerwhaletank/Live in Los Angeles 5/3/91
The Tragically Hip - Cordelia/Road Apples
Gordon Downie - Canada Geese/Coke Machine Glow
The Tragically Hip - Boots or Hearts/Live in Kingston, Ontario 8/20/16
The Tragically Hip - Fiddler's Green/Road Apples


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Completely Conspicuous 476: Dig for Fire (Maiden-Zappa, Part 3)

This week, it's part 3 of my discussion with Brian Salvatore about musical blindspots. Brian will learn about Iron Maiden while I dig into Frank Zappa. Listen to the episode below or download directly.
 

Show notes:
- Brian listened to Somewhere in Time, Jay listened to Sheik Yerbouti
- Deja vu all over again
- Brian: Somewhere in Time is the most dated, least raw of the three albums I listened to
- Band didn't play to its strengths
- Victim of mid-'80s production
- Dickinson vs. Di'anno
- The disappearance of metal in the '90s
- Bon Jovi has thrived over the decades
- Not their best, but some Maiden classics
- Jay: Saw Maiden live a few months ago
- Zappa's Sheik Yerbouti finds him exploring the wackier subject matter in depth
- Released three albums in '79 alone
- Musicianship is incredible, feat. Adrian Belew on rhythm guitar
- Zappa released a ridiculous number of albums
- Xenochrony technique took parts from different songs and spliced them together
- Brian: Not in his top 10 albums, but close
- Went even more off the rails on Joe's Garage
- Next, Brian will listen to Living Colour while Jay will explore solo Beatle albums
 
Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Stuck In Thee Garage #195: October 13, 2017

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, or so they say. This week on Stuck In Thee Garage, I played songs about power in hour 2. It was a powerful experience; well, it rocked, anyway.



This playlist will get your suspenders in a twist:

Hour 1
Artist - Song/Album
Wolf Parade - Incantation/Cry Cry Cry
Protomartyr - Up the Tower/Relatives in Descent
Shake Some Action! - Waiting for the Sun/Crash Through or Crash
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Don't Bring Me Down/Here Comes My Girl
The Replacements - Black Diamond/For Sale: Live at Maxwell's 1986
Sonic Youth - Psycho Mafia/4 Tunna Brix
Rainer Maria - Blackbird/Rainer Maria
Queens of the Stone Age - Un-Reborn Again/Villains
METZ - Common Trash/Strange Peace
Wolf Alice - Yuk Foo/Visions of a Life
Jen Cloher - Kinda Biblical/Jen Cloher
Land of Talk - Macabre/Life After Youth
Male Gaze - Pyramids/Miss Taken
A Giant Dog - Hero for the Weekend/Toy
Maneka - Dracula (feat. Katie Capri)/Is You Is

Hour 2: Power
Iggy & the Stooges - Raw Power/Raw Power
Living Colour - Talkin' Loud and Sayin' Nothing/Biscuits
Jane's Addiction - Standing in the Shower...Thinking/Nothing's Shocking
The Clash - The Guns of Brixton/London Calling
Krill - Infinite Power/Lucky Leaves
Ringo Deathstarr - Flower Power/God's Dream
Soundgarden - Power Trip/Louder Than Love
Monster Magnet - Powertrip/Powertrip
Iron Maiden - Powerslave/Powerslave
Pavement - Unseen Power of the Picket Fence/No Alternative
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Bleeding Powers/Tell Balgeary, Balgury is Dead
Thin Lizzy - Rosalie/Fighting
Eagles of Death Metal - Got the Power/Zipper Down
Electric Six - Danger! High Voltage!/Fire
AC/DC - High Voltage/T.N.T.
OFF! - Vaporized/OFF!


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Completely Conspicuous 475: Ignorance is Bliss

Part 2 of my conversation with guest Matt Phillion as we discuss our uncertain world. Listen to the episode below or download directly.


Show notes:
- Check out Matt's book Echo and the Sea
- Escapism is tempting
- Shopping by alcohol content
- Is ignorance bliss?
- Dumb and happy
- Cynical about politics at all levels
- Corruption is rampant
- Appearances count
- Politics have never been this divisive...or have they?
- Internet comments are the worst
- Social media enables morons to spout off
- Journalism burnout
- Shooting a guy in the face is quaint now
- Does uncertainty = depression?
- We haven't given up yet
- We solved nothing
 
Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine music blog Clicky Clicky. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Stuck In Thee Garage #194: October 6, 2017

It's easy to look back a few decades wistfully, especially when the world is as nuts as it is right now. Take 1997, for example. This week on Stuck In Thee Garage, I played songs from '97 in hour 2. It's hard not to love a year that brought us movies as ridiculous as Face/Off, Con Air, The Fifth Element and Lost Highway. Oh, and if you don't listen to this week's show, the bunny gets it.



The Bruckheimer-esque playlist:

Hour 1
Artist - Song/Album
Washer - Shortcut to a Sore Throat/All Aboard
Protomartyr - Don't Go to Anacita/Relatives in Descent
Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile - Continental Breakfast/Lotta Sea Lice
Ted Leo - The Little Smug Supper Club/The Hanged Man
Deer Tick - S.M.F./Deer Tick, Vol. 2
Guided By Voices - How to Murder a Man (In 3 Acts)/How Do You Spell Heaven?
METZ - Lost in the Blank City/Strange Peace
White Reaper - Tell Me/The World's Best American Band
Dead Stars - My Teeth/Perfect Patterns
EMA - Down and Out/Exile in the Outer Ring
Alvvays - Hey/Antisocialites
Rips - Vs./Rips
Gold Class - Bully/Drum
The Wedding Present - Lead/Going, Going...
Froth - Petals/Outside (briefly)
A Giant Dog - Night Terror/Toy
Girlpool - She Goes By/Powerplant

Hour 2: 1997
Ween - Buckingham Green/The Mollusk
Jonathan Fire*Eater - No Love Like That/Wolf Songs for Lambs
Ben Folds Five - Steve's Last Night in Town/Whatever and Ever Amen
Pavement - Shady Lane/Brighten the Corners
Radiohead - Let Down/OK Computer
Paul Weller - Heavy Soul, Pt. 1/Heavy Soul
David Bowie - Little Wonder/Bowie's 50th Birthday Concert, NYC, 1/9/97
Built to Spill - I Would Hurt a Fly/Perfect From Now On
Sleater-Kinney - Turn It On/Dig Me Out
Foo Fighters - Wind Up/The Colour and the Shape
Faith No More - Ashes to Ashes/Album of the Year
Portishead - Only You/Portishead
Elliott Smith - Cupid's Trick/Either/Or
Guided By Voices - Portable Men's Society/Mag Earwhig!
Guided By Voices - Hollow Cheek/Mag Earwhig!


Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Completely Conspicuous 474: Age of Uncertainty

Part 1 of my conversation with guest Matt Phillion as we discuss our uncertain world. Listen to the episode below or download directly.


Show notes:
- Check out Matt's book Echo and the Sea
- Recorded before the Las Vegas incident and Trump's visit to PR
- Everything's uncertain
- Don't know what to expect from the news
- Trump: Savvy or master of chaos?
- Twitter as distraction
- Social media amps up the anxiety
- FB as the center of vitriol over every conceivable public issue
- The weather is slamming us with unpredictable events
- Selling the BS
- Clickbait's gonna get ya
- Much ado about kneeling
- Scandal recovery
- Controversy du jour
- Punisher fans can be scary
- Twitter roulette
- Ah, the threat of impending nuclear war
- The relentless news cycle
- The difficulty of just enjoying life
- To be continued
 
Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine music blog Clicky Clicky. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian.