Friday, August 27, 2004

Album Review: Wolf Parade E.P. (Self-titled)

Rating: 4.216 out of 5.

Wolf Parade: (Pronounced 'wulf p&-'rAd)
1. Procession of wolves (canus lupus) which moves from one point to another. Extremely rare, but occasionally observable in remote regions of Eastern Canada.

2. Montreal band with talent to burn and a propensity for writing great rock songs. Signed to Sub Pop, toured with Modest Mouse, and beginning to catch eyes internationally. Fucking incredible.

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Please pardon the profanity--admittedly, I can swear like the saltiest of sailors at times--but I can't find any other words sufficient to rave about Wolf Parade's latest EP. Although they were kind enough to give us six good songs this time around, the true music fan's appetite is unrivaled in the animal kingdom. WP's full length LP will be released sometime this winter and the anticipation is killing me like ozone at low altitudes.
Image courtesy of Jonas Lesser. Thanks Jonas!

The first song "Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts" may be burdened with a ponderous title but the tune is spectacular. Dan brings some of his patented crunchy guitar riffs and Spencer keeps the ball spinning with a nifty keyboard line; if a gun was placed to my forehead, I might compare the style to a souped-up and less gloomy Interpol. Still, comparisons are useless because Wolf Parade don't fit into the square pegs of musical categorization; their shape is as unique as a person's retina.

"We Built Another World" has one of those dancey Rapture/Franz Ferdinand kind of drum beats but don't let that scare you off. With a lilting bridge that segways into a heartfelt chorus, it is a decent counterpoint to the post-rock shuffle of the first track.

"Grounds for Divorce" could have been a track from Hot Hot Heat's "Make up the Breakdown" LP, only with a slightly slower pace. [Ed. Note: This will certainly piss Spencer off but I'm just going with my gut feeling! I like HHH so please don't take this the wrong way.] Spencer sounds like he is longing for familial bliss but feels unable to do more than watch strangers and dab his tears; "Look at the lovers / in the telephone stands / and the way they move / and the way they move their hands". [Ed. Note: Originally, I thought that Dan was singing on this one. Sorry for the confusion.]

"It's a Curse" has one of those spooky, ethereal sounds that Isaac Brock might have written if he were less of a country gentleman. Don't get me wrong--Modest Mouse is a splendid band--but "...Curse" has more of an edge than most MM songs. When the final chorus marches in, I'm sure that the singer from Clinic is probably shivering in his scrubs somewhere, fearful that these Canadians can outrock his critically-appreciated UK outfit.

"The National People's Scare" has a calm, laid-back, dark-black groove. I remember hearing this song at the Go Rin Do Loft party and it rings out like a Replacements composition with graceful, raw energy.

"Killing Armies" is good although the heavy intrusion of keyboard makes it my least favourite of the six songs on the EP. Still, it will probably grow on me because the Wolf Parade's tunes are as contagious as chicken-pox. I'll be scratching for the next month or so until October 3rd, when Wolf Parade will open for "Bostonian avant-rockers" Mission of Burma at Cabaret in Montreal, PQ.

Don't miss these Victorian ex-pats unless you have an aversion to solid rock. I'll be close to the front row, brandishing a full beer bottle and bopping my head to the WP sound; I'll try to remain as conscious and sober as possible, of course. [Ed. Note: Don't fib. You're a cheap drunk.]

Monday, August 23, 2004

JB Interview with Blank from the Blanks; Impromptu Guerilla Media Scrum!

I just spent the past half hour trying to communicate with a musician. His identity shall remain nameless--hint? He & his bandmates wear pink, and it's not the Hidden Cameras!--but extricating information from him was like trying to squeeze water from a piece of gravel.

It is understandable that a busy person might not necessarily want to answer questions from every two-bit hack that tracks down their MSN email address, but come on! I'm at least a 3-bit hack, or even a media whore; still, I'm not offended. It just hardens my resolve and reminds me that I need to get the Holy of Holies, a press pass.

If Narduwar the Human Serviette can do it, anyone can!

Here is a summary of the information gleaned (gleamed?) from the quasi-interview.

1) Said musician enjoyed performing in England, although the clubs were small.
2) He remembers playing with Bishop Allen, a band I intend to interview in the near future, along with Sleater-Kinney down in the USA.
3) He may attend the Wolf Parade/Le Nombre show (slated for October in Montreal), although he doesn't usually plan that far ahead.
4) He knows Arlin (the drummer) of Wolf Parade personally but hasn't met Dan yet.
5) He didn't want to answer any questions about the follow-up to his first LP. I apologized profusely, sounding like some sort of pitiful syncophant. (I have to learn to be tough with these characters!)
6) After I admitted that I loved Modest Mouse's "Good News for People who Love Bad News", he said that they write "shitty songs".
7) Eventually, he mentioned that he's been listening to 80's and early-90's rap music, and Bach.
8) I wished him well for his upcoming show in Anaheim with Ben Kweller and bid him adieu.

If I had any journalistic ethics before, they just floated away like an empty garbage bag on the east wind. [Ed. Note: I don't think he realized he was being interviewed. If this offends him in any way, he can contact me and I'll remove this from JB.]

Despite all my complaining and kvetching about his attitude, I must point out that his band's first LP was wonderful. The critics weren't just having a circle jerk; his band is "la Creme de la Creme" of Canuck rock, right up there with acts like the New Pornographers, the Arcade Fire, and Wolf Parade. That's why I'm going to such great lengths to try to score a proper interview. It is going to happen; the only question is when.

On another note, I was at the Festiblues Festival in Parc Ahuntsic yesterday. The 3 finalists in the Blues competition squared off--the first prize was a trip to France to perform in a European festival, plus recording time--and Bottleneck ended up winning the day. Personally, I felt that Dale Boyle (of the Barburners) sounded much better up there but I think that Bottleneck must have slipped the judges a few bottles of Jack Daniels before the show. That, or the judges were hitting the crack pipe really hard.

On the plus side, Dale picked up second place, meaning he is half a grand richer! I wonder if he would lend me $20? We shall see, my friends. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Poem: "1.618"

[Ed. Note: The blame for this poem can be directly aimed at the novel "The Da Vinci Code". If you read about the Phi ratio it will make a little more sense.]

(6)gangly and malnourished;
(8)poplar trunks covered with dark moss.
(6)just long enough to reach
(8)pink pipe cleaners that hang so low.
(6)evergreen and pollen;
(8)from the early morning dewdrops.
(6)the differences 'tween
(8)lost souls and our appendages
(6)numbers to make me whole
(8)Our love is indivisible.

-Jeremy Brendan, 2004.
Any critics/poets out there? Flame away, my friends (or shower me with virtuosic praise, whatever floats your boat).

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Dale Boyle and the Barburners Interview

I have come a long way in the past few days. I've crossed rivers and scaled mountains, camped in farmer's fields and bathed in streams, hitchhiked hundreds of kilometers past villages named St-this or Ste-that, and my feet are the unwilling victims of this great journey; I have blisters on my soles the size of guitar picks.

I wouldn't even consider attempting such a voyage if I wasn't hungering for the blues, like a wolf might howl at the moon because he can't eat it. I want to hear the whiskey-accented growls and the dark, twisted solos squealing out of a Fender strat while a harmonica wheezes and coughs over a fat bass line. I plan to listen to blues music and drink beer on the sandy beach until my wallet is empty or Sunday afternoon, whichever comes first. Yes, it is time for Maximum Blues, the best damned music festival east of Montreal.

Maximum Blues in Carleton

For the past twelve summers, Gaspesians and tourists alike have waited for the ghost of Robert Johnson to inhabit the sky over Carleton, a cozy village on the south shore of the Gaspe Coast, at the Maximum Blues Music Festival. Gaspesie is the fist-shaped peninsula that hovers above New Brunswick menacingly, separated by the ironically-frigid waters of the Baie de Chaleur [Ed. Note: From the French, translates into "Warm Bay"] and it also happens to be a wonderful place to drink a two-four.

The blues has been around since before the electric guitar but it is constantly reinvented by the kids who grow up listening to it. By the time they're old enough to understand the blues, the seed has already been planted in their mind for years. As long as there is still heartbreak, as long as women have long legs and men have lusty thoughts, as long as bottles can be emptied and tea can be burned, the blues will remain as ornery and vital as ever.

Dale Boyle and the Barburners are no kids but they do represent the new wave of modern blues acts. Born and raised on the tip of the Gaspe coast in a little town called Barachois, they have built a solid following by burning down bars all along the peninsula (not as arsonists but as true blues musicians). Their style is bold and slightly dissonant, like if you caught Muddy Waters in bed with his woman and he started to pound out a blues riff as revenge. They do for the blues what Steve Earle did for country back in the 80's, giving it a high-octane overhaul and making it new again.

2/3 of Barburners with Muddy Water's guitarist John Primer
Left to Right: Dale and Rick with John Primer, Muddy Waters' guitarist, in Carleton, Quebec.

Since their song "Travellin' Bone" appeared on the Maximum Blues compilation in 2000, their sound has expanded and their legend has grown a head taller. They've played in blues bars around Montreal and Toronto, including a well-received appearance at Healey's in 2002 (the club owned by Jeff Healey, one of the bright lights on the Canadian Blues scene) at the North by Northeast Festival. Appearances like this one caught the eye of producer Dan Levitin (Chris Isaak, Blue Öyster Cult, K.D. Lang), who worked with the Barburners on their latest LP "A Dog Day for the Purists". As of press time, the release date hadn't been announced yet but I'll keep you posted.

Last month, I spoke with Dale Boyle (guitar and vox) and Richard Element (bass and back-up vox) via email. [Ed. Note: Tragically, I was working as a security guard 60 hours a week in July, so my publishing schedule was limping along like a three legged fox. My apologies for the delay.].

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Jeremy Brendan: How has living in the Gaspesie affected you, musically?

Dale: Well, hints of country always seem to emerge in my playing and music, and that just comes naturally, and that is the Gaspe influence coming through. It also makes an impact on the subject matter of certain songs, like "Feels Like Home" or "Justice Precluded Coffin" (the story of Wilbert Coffin)... these are grounded in the small town Gaspe experience.

Richard: There aren't a whole lot of things to do for teens in such small towns, and music just made the world a bigger place in many ways... well, for me anyway. We're big country music fans, but I have to qualify that, as we listen to the kinda country that would never get played on CMT or the like. You have to qualify which type of country music today, 'cause there's a whole lot of horrible country music being made these days. I think when you grow up that close to the land, it shapes a part of you and it surfaces at different times.

JB: What advice would you have for other Gaspesian bands that are trying to make it right now, putting in those hours at the Brise-Bise like you once did?

Dale: Don't bother! Don't do it! Seriously, don't bother! Take up painting! Write poetry! But, if you're going give music a shot, be ready to do a ton of work that is only distantly related to writing and playing music...performing is the reward, and if you get anywhere, it will be well earned because there is an incredible amount of unpleasant work to do to establish oneself.

Richard: I agree! One should never expect anything more than small steps... small steps toward a larger goal. And remember to take something from every experience.

JB: Dale, on the song "Alpine Valley Blues", you seem to be channeling Jimi Hendrix's spirit through the mouth of an Appalaichan Micmac soothsayer.

Dale: OK. If you say so...

JB: Are you a fan of Jimi?

Dale: Sure... More so when I was younger. I haven't listened to Jimi in a while actually... though, St.Mary's Last Waltz intentionally has a Hendrix vibe.

JB: Which other artists have influenced you creatively? (In 2002, you mentioned Elvis Presley, Steve Earle and Stevie Ray Vaughan...any new ones?)

Dale: Oh, you've done some homework! Stevie Ray Vaughan's aggressiveness and intensity as a guitarist influenced and inspired me, but, for the most part, with the exception of a couple of songs like "Alpine Valley Blues" and "When I Leave", his influence is not so apparent stylistically. Often, the artists that have inspired me, have not impacted on me in an overt way. I draw inspiration from artists as divergent as The Ramones to Tom T. Hall, yet it may not be easy to detect. For example, Tom T.Hall is a country artist who is known for being a "storyteller", and storytelling is something that I've taken from him and have been adding a bit into our live performances. My influences are from all over the place... Steve Earle is worth mentioning again. Scotty Moore. Albert Lee. Bob Dylan. Hound Dog Taylor. The Ventures... I could list a lot of people... My most recent discovery is Mike Henderson. He's an excellent vocalist and guitarist.

JB: Have you been writing any songs recently?

Dale: Yes, though mostly material for my solo acoustic album.

Richard: I write things often, but more words than music. I like to play with words and metaphor. I sorta do it like some people sketch. It's always a way to slip away... it's a healthy reflector of where and who you are.

JB: At your future shows, are you going to focus on the new album or will you continue to play a few classic blues standards as well?

Dale: Yep. Material from the album will provide the basis of our shows, and we'll toss in a few well-known blues tunes, though some, like "When I Get Drunk" and "Night Train", are not standards.

JB: How did the recording session for "A Dog Day for the Purists" go?

Dale: It was LONG! Not the sessions themselves, but the time between sessions... it's a LONG story!

Richard: It was a learning experience, but a road that we hope not to travel again. It was real bumpy.

JB: Any wild tales to recount?

Dale: Wild tales...yep! To recount...NO! Well, not yet! Lets just say that aspects of this recording may inspire articles or you may find it being the subject of a chapter in some book. I'm NOT kidding!

JB: Also, what was it like working with Dan Levitin?

Dale: Dan is a great guy and we work well together. He's a musician so he understands where I'm coming from, so he strikes a good balance between working to have the musicians happy, yet, knowing when to say it's time to move on. He's helped us a lot.

Richard: Dan is excellent... with great stories too boot. He has made several generous offers of time and ideas and I'm not sure we can repay him. How much we getting for this interview?

JB: The Canadian Federal election is only weeks away. [Ed. Note: This question was time-specific. At the time, we were on the verge of electing a *gasp* Conservative majority! Luckily, cooler heads prevailed!] Are you planning to vote, and have the Barburners officially endorsed a political party?

Dale: Well, I endorse nobody that has a chance to win... anything left of right.

Richard: I endorse the concept of trying something different.

JB: What was it like meeting Jeff Healey when you performed at his Toronto blues club? (North By Northeast Festival, 2002) My mother and her best friend once got invited onto Jeff's tour bus for a glass of Whiskey, back in the 90's. They were very impressed by his politeness and got his autograph on their ticket stubs. (True story!)

Dale: Jeff Healey? He's quite tall. . .What's your mother doing hanging out with musicians in a tour bus? Don't answer that!

JB: Speaking of whiskey, have you ever tried Johnny Walker Red? It is a charming elixir of goodness but it really kills me after a certain point.

Dale: No, I rarely drink anymore.

Richard: Keith Richards suggested quitting dark liquor; I consider him a resonant expert.

JB: Do the Barburners still indulge in the pleasures of alcohol from time to time?

Dale: I believe the Barburners do indulge...

Richard: Actually, I'm the only drinker in the band and not much of one at that. Keeps the bar tabs low.

JB: Do you miss the Gaspé Coast? Will you ever move back to your home by the sea or do you think you'll stay in the city indefinately?

Dale: At times I do. But, I'll probably spent most of my life in some city writing songs about how much it sucks!

Richard: I have been missing the Coast these days actually, but it's the trees that I miss the most. I think we need to find a better balance of people and trees. I think it would make us all better people.

JB: How do you like living in Montreal? What do you think of the local nightlife and do you have any favourite hangouts?

Dale: Montreal is cool. I practically know nothing about the nightlife... I'm getting old! I like to sleep at night. I don't "hang out". If there is a good band playing in some bar, I'll go out. I don't go out too much.

JB: When you played at the Toronto Blues Society Talent Search Finals at Silver Dollar Room, did it go over well?

Dale: It went really well. Only a few Quebec bands have ever been in that talent search so we were happy to be selected to compete.

Richard: We had a good time. It's a classic Toronto blues club and the sound was great.

JB: Was the Talent Search like a Blues version of Canadian Idol, with judges sitting behind a table watching and nodding occasionally?

Dale: A little less formal than Canadian idol! But, there were 4 judges taking notes.

Richard: Yeah! This little trend, well? This big trend, just gave us an opportunity to take our music to T.O.

JB: You had a main stage performance at Maximum Blues in Carleton last year, which was full to the gills and very well received. Will you be
headlining this summer's festival?

Dale: We've got 2 shows on different stages this year. It will be a great chance to push the new album.

Richard: We really appreciate the funded trips to the Gaspe. The Carleton people really take great care of musicians. How do they treat journalists?

JB: If I could get my hands on a press pass, I would be able to tell you! I may just put this Lexmark colour printer to good use...forget I said that. Good luck with your show on Friday night and I'll see you in Carleton!

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Dale Boyle & the Barburners will be playing on the main stage (Loto-Québec Stage) on Friday, August 6th @ 6:30 PM. They will also perform on Saturday afternoon @ 3:30 PM on the new campground stage. Heads will be bobbing, beer will be consumed, and real blues music will be heard. The thrill ain't gone, B.B. King; just listen to the Barburners and you'll find it again. Visit the Barburners official site for audio clips, images, and the latest Barburners news.

After Maximum Blues, you can catch the Barburners in the act at the following locations:

- August 13 & 14: Bar Le St-Barnabe (Carleton, Quebec)
- August 21: Smoke Meat Pete's (Montreal, Quebec)
- August 27 & 28: Haraiki Bar (Montreal, Quebec)