Thursday, October 30, 2003

Starting January 5th, every foreign visitor entering the United States by plane or boat will be fingerprinted and photographed, then checked against a national biometrics database of "known terrorists".

Instead of beginning a nonsensical rant about how the Americans are going too far, I'll try and keep my cool by reaching for a book that impacted me at a very young age.

This book is called "1984" and within its pages, George Orwell predicted these "times of terror". The methods used by Oceania resemble those of today's U.S.--monitor your citizens (PATRIOT ACT), keep them afraid of the "enemy" (War on Terror, etc.), remain in a constant state of war (Afghanistan, Iraq...), and have a human avatar of the enemy who is both to blame for all the current problems, and also at large (Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein). That way, you can neglect their domestic problems. Unemployment? Massive deficits? Tax cuts for the top 5% of the population? No problem. Any dissenters can be shut up with rhetoric (You just don't want to keep this country safe!) or with dogma (We're the most powerful nation in the world. Why shouldn't we unilaterally remove a potential threat?). They even use word games to foil us (You're either with us or with the terrorists), making neutrality both impossible and quite dangerous.

Perhaps I am being too rash or even paranoid. I understand that terrorists aren't rational and there is virtually no way to stop them from doing their horrible acts of violence. The funny thing is, how will America ever stop the terrorists by being harder? Being tough might work on the schoolyard but in the real world, it is better to temper your actions with gifts and praise, concilliation and respect, rather than M-16s and land mines. The U.S. has forgotten that in order to win the hearts and minds of the globe, they have to at least take us out once in awhile, or maybe send us a birthday card or pull out their troops out of our borders.

It is easy to chop the tallest tree in the forest. By that, I mean that I'm only being hard on the U.S. because they claim to be the Leaders of the Free World, we expect them to live up to their own hype and self-promotion. It seems that now, they're saying "Give me your tired and your poor, so I can scan their retinas and see if they're related to that Bin Laden character".

I wonder if Timothy McVeigh used a seaport or airport when he emigrated to the U.S. Wait, you mean he only had to cross state lines to blow up hundreds of people? He was born in the USA, just like Bruce Springsteen? Really! I thought that terrorists only come from Saudi Arabia, or maybe Sudan if you want to get picky. Wow. Who knew?

Not to increase the amperage of the buzz that Turbonegro have been generating, but I've decided that they're the closest thing to RockNRoll I've heard in a dolphin's lifetime. Sure, some of their stuff borders on self-parody (calling themselves the "Apocalypse Dudes" and bragging in their lyrics "don't bother to call / 'cause we're in the news"), but they have such a fanatic rhythm section, a devoted singer with an oh-so-obvious drug problem, and some catchy, hooky tunes that have been labelled "deathpunk" by the press.

Their primary schtick appears to be their constant references to homosexuality. As the story goes, they were tired of the homogenous punk scene in Norway, so on their third album, they turned their amps up a little higher and began to Cock-Rock like they meant it. Literally. Attempting to get back to the core of punk rock, they began to pose as some sort of vaguely homosexual deviants, with song titles such as "Sailor Man" and "Denim Demon". (Lyrics excerpt: "I've got a congregation / and I am a saint for seamen")

One of their best tunes, "Back to Dungaree High", was covered by Queens of the Stone Age on the 2001 Turbonegro tribute album, with most effective results. Other artists including Hot Water Music, the Dwarves, Therapy?, and Nashville Pussy also appeared on the tribute album. Just eyeing the talent that was willing to praise Turbonegro proves that they have been influential in the global punk scene. I recommend sauntering over to your favourite file sharing program & downloading their back catalogue. If they really turn your crank, head on over to an independant record store and buy "Ass Cobra" or one of their other releases. Support music you like! That's what I always say.

Somehow, punk rock is about bringing together scenes that are on the fringe, without barriers or prejudice. That's why the coolest punk bar in the city of Montreal is undoubtedly Sapphir (St-Laurent Blvd., north of Prince Arthur but south of Pine) , where Friday nights are hosted by DJ's Xavier Caffeine & Plastik Patrik, an ambigously gay duo of Rockers with their own bands and a sound knowledge of modern rock and late 70's punk. All walks of life inhabit Sapphir, from straight-up punkers to Rockers to trucker-cap-clad queers. Everyone gets along and grooves to the music. When you're dancing at Sapphir, whether it be in the arms of your girlfriend (last time Kate was there, she danced her little heart out with me and had a great time) or pogoing beside a transvestite who really likes Le Tigre, you know that you're embodying the soul of real Punk Rock Music. Plus, a Molson Ex will set you back $3.50, and one of the bartenders is a pyromaniac. I once witnessed him violate several safety codes by spraying an enormous phallic-shaped candle with lighter fluid and sparking it with a match. Not for the faint of heart, but very entertaining to watch, as long as you don't get too close to the flames.

They play Turbonegro at Sapphir. They also really like the Strokes, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and they're probably the first bar on the island that played Interpol or Hot Hot Heat. (Oddly enough, I harassed Patrik for two months, begging him to play the BC band HHH before he relented. He still isn't big on them but public demand has risen in the past few months!) They also have a deep fondness for all thing Velvet and Underground, Post-Scary Monsters David Bowie, and even the odd Billy Idol track. Peaches, Ladytron, and other electroclash artists also populate the musical scene at Sapphir.

It is always safe to expect a good time at Sapphir and this coming weekend shouldn't be any different.Hallowe'en night, Robin Black & the Intergalactic Rock Stars will be playing a Saturday gig at Sapphir and it should be a blast.($5 cover charge, $1.50 for coat check, no dress code although the Fubu/Crescent Street crowd don't usually venture into Sapphir unchaperoned.)

Speaking of Robin Black & his IRS, their homemade blend of glam and punk is exuberant and lively and somewhat similar to Plastik Patrik's own band, 1-976, of which he is lead singer when he's not spinning at Sapphir. I should also mention that Xavier's band, Poxy, is also gaining critical acclaim here on the island of Montreal, already mentioned in the weekly newspapers (The Hour & the Mirror) and may turn out to be the next big thing in the Quebec rock scene. Check out Sapphir this Saturday, November 1st, any time after 8 PM!