Category Archives: music

Carl’s Tuesday Musics: “Song to the Siren,” This Mortal Coil, for David Patrick Roscoe (1966-2013)

Now my foolish boat is leaning,
Broken lovelorn on your rocks,
For you sing, ‘Touch me not, touch me not, come back tomorrow ….’
O my heart, my heart shies from the sorrow.

http://thechronicleherald.ca/classifieds/announcements/obituaries/roscoe-david-patrick-of-toronto-formerly-of-halifax-died-on

To one who will sing no more.

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Carl’s Tuesday Musics: Matana Roberts, live in 2011… for the Bow River

by Carl Wilson

The Chicago-rooted, New York-resident, Montreal-affiliated, beautiful-music-making Matana Roberts was in Toronto at the Music Gallery last weekend, playing solo alto saxophone. She chatted with the crowd about a lot of things (“I’m a talker,” she warned early on), but at one point spoke of how her heart was with the people of Calgary, especially after experiencing how devastating a flood can be after last year’s hurricane in NY. Later in the show she repeated, “Sound heals. Sound heals. Sound heals.” So with that in mind, listen to the torrents of incredible tones she generates in this video made in Kensington Gardens in London a couple of years ago, and think about inundation, immersion, and recovery.

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Carl’s Tuesday Musics: Nina Simone, “Feelings”

by Carl Wilson

After a superb show by Joshua Abrams’ Natural Information Society last night, preceded by a fantastic time-traversing folk-song one-man-machine performance by Martin Arnold, someone in conversation mentioned this Nina Simone performance at the 1976 Montreux Jazz Festival of the Morris Albert song that was at that point a completely ubiquitous, world-shrouding hit. The original ironic punk cover version? Perhaps, but so much more. Over the course of playing it, Simone attacks the song satirically and aggressively, tries to get the audience to sing along, and yet also turns schmaltz to bouillabaisse. There’s nothing like it.

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Carl’s Tuesday Musics: Carly Simon, “Why” (Paradise Garage Remix)

by Carl Wilson

Back story: This recent piece on The National (which marked my debut as the new Slate music critic) sparked some conversation with friends about the liberating feeling of saying “yes, I suppose it’s good, but I have no use for it.” Which then led to the flipside sentiment: “Yes, I suppose it’s shitty, but I DON’T CARE I LOVE IT.” One conversationalist in tones of great shame brought up Carly Simon (who?). When I hear Carly Simon, I can think only of You’re So Vain” (great!), “Anticipation” (meh) and “Nobody Does It Better” (horrifying crap), so I asked for further evidence to bring to trial. Someone immediately brought up this Chic-era Nile Rodgers (he’s on the new Daft Punk album, guys) production. Then I found the Paradise Garage remix by disco deity Larry Levan, and … if for no other reason, Carly Simon, we think you can stay.

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Carl’s Tuesday Musics: “King Kong” by Daniel Johnston (and cover by Tom Waits)

Hollywood special-effects magician Ray Harryhausen died this week at 93, recalling an era of cinematic creatures that were not just built out of zeroes and ones and were at once cheesier and more captivating because of it. Harryhausen in his turn was inspired by the original King Kong movie, with its stop-motion animation by Willis H. O’Brien.

In the song above, Daniel Johnston retells the tale of Kong, O’Brien and Harryhausen in an a capella recitation vaguely smelling of the blues. In the version below, Tom Waits pays tribute to Johnston but also fulfills the song’s potential by bringing the full blues ape-stank, just as R.H. built upon W.H.O’B.

When I was a kid I thought King Kong was pretty much the saddest movie ever, so I preferred the later Mighty Joe Young, which O’Brien also designed, but which gives the ape a happy ending.

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Carl’s Tuesday Musics on Wednesday for May Day: Extreme Noise Terror, “Work For Never”

by Carl Wilson

Often on an occasion such as the traditional international day for workers and against exploitation, I would opt for something reflective and inspiring. But having just returned to the confinement of an office after a couple of great weeks of travel and release, while moving through a part of the world that’s been deeply railroaded by the politics of austerity and precarity, I have resolved instead, after careful consideration of the alternatives, to say FUCK IT.

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Carl’s Tuesday Musics (on Monday): “Empire of the Senseless,” The Mekons (1989)

by Carl Wilson

If this week has given us anything so far, it’s that a lot of people have learned about the great British anti-Thatcher songs of the 1980s and 1990s. (Although anyone who thinks, like Slate’s David Wiegel, that “we Americans had nothing like this” really wasn’t paying attention.) Elvis Costello’s Tramp the Dirt Down would be the great anthem specifically looking forward to Thatcher’s death (rivaled by Hefner’s The Day That Thatcher Dies and Morrissey’s Margaret on the Guillotine) but one I haven’t seen mentioned is this song from one of my favourite albums, The Mekons’ 1989 Rock’n’Roll.

It doesn’t call out Maggie by name (though it does mention “the hard lady”); in fact the only political figure name-dropped is an American, Oliver North (“Boring Ollie North down in the subway dealing drugs and guns/ turning little liars into heroes, it’s what they’ve always done” – and this was decades before North became a Fox News pundit). Instead it’s about a whole suite of Thatcherite policies, in the “culture wars” ambience of censorship and intolerance of the ’80s.

What I like best is its demonstration of the particular, peculiar sense of humour you develop when you spend a decade being near-continuously pissed off.

The now-odd-sounding lines, “This song promotes homosexuality/ It’s in a pretended family relationship/ with the others on this record/ And on the charts and on the jukebox/ And on the radio” refer to Thatcher’s family-values legislation Section 28, while the earlier, “These lines are all individuals/ And there’s no such thing as a song” parodies Thatcher’s famous claim that “there is no such thing as society.” (Man, she was a piece of work.) “Even the silent are now guilty” refers to legislation her government passed saying that while accused people would retain the right to remain silent, judges and juries would be free to interpret their silence as an admission of guilt. The line “turning journalists into heroes takes some doing” is a joke about the popularity of Charter 88, a petition protesting Thatcher’s restrictions on press freedom. And finally, the closing lines take off from Thatcher’s notorious line on immigration that “people are really rather afraid that this country might be swamped” – turned around to say “people are really rather afraid of being swamped by selfishness and greed.”

I’m sure there are other references I’m missing. The title is of course borrowed from Kathy Acker’s then-new, excoriating novel, which in turn I guess was playing on the title of Nagisa Oshima’s classic Japanese S&M art film, which in France was called L’Empire des sens, “empire of the senses,” itself a play on Roland Barthes’s book about Japan, The Empire of Signs …

“All unacceptable gropings have been removed from the screen. Only eyes full of unspeakable thoughts remain.”

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