Can you hear that? No? Me neither. It’s pretty damn quiet out there. It’s as though, after Pop Montreal, just about everyone decided to shed a skin, maybe breed a disease or two. Mixing food and sleep can be habit forming, kids – just say no. No such thing here. Rock is like a shark: You gotta keep movin’ or you die. To that end, we’ll bring you up to date on some of the underrated and overlooked releases of the last couple of months. Careful where you step:
SAS-31 Au jardin de la maison H. (L’Autre Terre/Local) From the last paragraph of the cover letter that came with the SAS-31 press kit: "…Hoping that you will appreciate this. Do not hesitate to contact me for any supplementary questions. Please accept my deepest sympathies, signed…" Now that’s what I like – honesty in a press release. Well, despite their condolences, I’ve got to give credit where credit is due: The loose creative collective directed by head entity Denis Ferland has an intriguing, almost filmic vision of aural composition, kind of a late ’70s French film noir meets 2001: A Space Odyssey set to inner space keys and unadorned vocals. Its very likeably repetitious, deeply layered melodic synth lines would be the musical equivalent of a new futon were it not for the damp hand that seems to be squeezing my brain stem. To be honest, it’s kind of like a ginormous frozen lasagne. Or maybe the early morning soundtrack to a day that’s beginning to not go your way. Or maybe…
CosmicDumbFish Nous venons en paix (Révolu-Son/Local) Words utterly fail. If I could mime my profound unhappiness with this, I would. What to say? This is disposable, dollar-store synth pop hiding behind cellophane-thick gimmickry and similarly deep intentions. Not to diminish the efforts of diabolical duo Dr. Cosmos and Klone Cuzmik – you could boil your noodle thinking about the very real amount of work that went into this – and never mind their impressive (bewildering?) roster of musical guests, but, mother’s nuts, this sucks! And as unscientific as that assessment may be, and it may be a little late to say I don’t want to hurt any feelings here, it’s hard to express the bloody antipathy that poisons my soul after every attempt to listen to this pre-fab floating orbital space funk junk. It’s like chewing pill-bottle cotton.
Lederhosen Lucil Tales From the Pantry (Independent) It’s like… well, it’s like Lederhosen Lucil, only more so. It’s almost unsettling hearing the much-loved Montreoddball sounding so buffed and polished. The kind of patchy, DIY aesthetic of her Frozenhosen debut contributed to much of her becoming beer-hall winsomeness; there was a certain element of cheering for the underdog when it came to encouraging her singular weirdness. But here our favourite retro electro, alien Bavarian proves she’s, um, for real. Like sauerkraut on sausage, she piles bass, guitar, omnichord, vibraphone and back vox on her signature spare keyboard programming while opting to tighten the focus on song structures and arranging, a little like a heavily accented Le Tigre without the axe. And in short pants. Although it’s always going to be fun first (how can it not be with titles like Best Dishwasher I Ever Had?), LL is serious about making music you can dance to, prance to and pull down your pants to. And for that, danke.
The Delegates We All Taste the Same (Independent) The good news is that Montreal’s The Delegates have arrived: Their skills are at the point where they can start making good on some of the musical promises that have been inferred on past demo-quality work. They are not the horn-y ska outfit that both the name and the presentation suggest, but rather a moody six-piece rock ensemble that is more Mighty Mighty Bosstones than Reel Big Fish with a strong whiff of Rancid, especially in the strong-arming Armstrong vocals. The bad news is that it’s hard to get past these reference points at times – it seems a little dated. With that said, The Delegates are far from being a one-trick pony. Look no further than The DJ Stole My Girlfriend, a flat-out rocker about a Bifteckian love triangle that’s more T. Rex than Toasters. And though there are a few plodding, Green Mile moments ("Brontosaurus walking!") toward the back end of the album, compensation comes in the form of true inspiration elsewhere.
Various artists Montreal Sampler – Pop Montreal 2003 (Local) I’m not a big fan of samplers the same way I’m not a big fan of anyone except me making mix tapes for the bar I hang out at: I don’t enjoy being subjected to someone else’s idea of a good time. And I’m not alone – we’re all bastards that way, personal taste being what it is. With that in mind, this year’s Pop Montreal compilation does a pretty decent job of turning down the suck, as it were, managing an impressive shit-to-hit ratio, in large part due to the strong lineup they had this year. Some of the highlights: the Björk-like (except I don’t hate it) Submarine by inventive indie buzz-band Arcade Fire; the Summer Snow Mix of What the Snowman Learned About Love by Stars; Renann’s dreamy, predictably pro Mary, Mary; Moondata Productions’ moody moonscapey md2/6.wav; the bounci new wavi Suzi by OMD, I mean, Echo Kitty; and the gutsy and gritty Seasonal by Perséphone.
The Special Interest Group Bright Occasion (Independent) This first full-length effort by these five Montreal musicians of varying local renown is like floating in a big bowl of beer Jell-O with your best friend. And while, okay, maybe life’s favourite things don’t always go together, these poppy folksies have managed to put much good into this sometimes incongruously conceived but always wholly natural-sounding juxtaposition of guitars (all flavours), glockenspiel, ukulele, fiddle, mandolin, clarinet, flute, drums, trumpet, accordion and, well, you get the picture. Perhaps more miraculously, these multi-instrumentalists keep it simple in both story and staging, not overworking the themes, letting each of the 10 tunes roll out like life-binding lullabies for stress-fractured adult minds. As accomplished as it is unassuming.
Bloodshot Bill and The Hubcaps Crazy Fever! (Independent) I’m not going to say that I had low expectations for this album-proper CD debut by beloved rock-a-hill-billies Bloodshot Bill and The Hubcaps, but their live show is just such a boot in the ass, I couldn’t possibly imagine any of that making the digital leap to disc. And a good bit of it doesn’t: The recording quality isn’t great, drummer Dom Castelli sounds like he’s standing outside the studio, and much of the stark raving inanity of Bloodshot Bill’s onstage insanity – not to mention the swanky, sexy sassafras of side singer Kit Kat Katie – just doesn’t, maybe can’t, show up for work here. That said, if you approach this as a completely different animal, as a document unto itself, then you’re part way to making amends with an old friend that’ll give you as much shit-kickin’, boot-lickin’, chicken-friggin’ love as you can handle, and that ain’t no consolation prize.
Last writes Buyer beware: Those Moonraker posters you see plastered all over town are more than a bit misrepresentative, given that they belong to the Boston band and not Montreal’s fabulous five (who now reside, at least for the time being, in Toronto). Word is that the Boston band was asked to differentiate themselves with a suffix when in Canada, but evidently didn’t bother, fuelling confusion. Regardless, if trip-hoppity rock with a bit of a Gwen Stefani thing happening in the vocals is your dick, suck it at Swimming, Oct. 10, starting at 9:30 p.m…. Let the conflagration begin! Burning Man fans (y’know, that ecstatic, neo-hippie breeding/convening ground that the American government, unbelievably, allows to take place in the Nevada desert each year) will want to take note that the FCMM will present the premiere of the documentary film Black Rock Burning at the SAT (1195 St-Laurent) on Oct. 11 at 10 p.m. Following that will be DJ performances by No-No-Notorious WIG, tobias c. van veen, Radiowhore and El Molito. There will also be a live band performance by glam-rock crotch-warmers The Cherry Persuasion. This one’s a no-brainer, yos.