Archive for May, 2008

30
May
08

Acceptable in the ’80’s: M83 and Neon Neon


I was born in the early ’80’s, so I tend to have a vague sense of the decade, mainly via Saturday morning cartoons and toys (the fact Care Bears, My Little Ponies and Strawberry Shortcake have crept back into popular culture only confirms that I am now old enough to be considered retro). And perhaps via my older sister’s penchant for heavy metal music like Motley Crue and Van Halen and the odd pop song by Cyndi Lauper or Billy Idol. Somehow I immersed myself in ’80’s culture through re-runs of Family Ties when I was thirteen, and via an admittedly strange obsession with Michael J. Fox (how many can boast and/or hang their heads in shame about the fact that they’ve seen the film High School USA?), and soon I was a rather avid listener of the ’80’s lunch hour on the radio. Granted, this was exposure to the Top 40 fare of the ’80’s, but it was a start. I was dazzled by shiny synths and the outrageous outfits sported by popstars at the time. I was fascinated with the garishness of it all. I wanted there still to be an MTV that played crazy videos no one would dare make anymore with exploding kitchens and lit-up sidewalks and public schoolboys with light shining out of their eyes.

I didn’t see the ultimate John Hughes film The Breakfast Club until I was fourteen and in a ninth grade English class (I’m still not entirely certain what it was supposed to teach us about English literature). Somehow, even though it was set in the prior decade in an American high school, it resonated with me. Perhaps, it was because John Hughes managed to create a highly appealing myth about what it meant to be a teenager – where the losers always triumphed over the popular…or at the very least, joined forces for one Saturday. Eventually, I went on to see the rest of the John Hughes’ Holy Trinity, Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles, and ended up desperately wanting a friend like Duckie. Instead, I was probably somebody’s Duckie. Once I was already out of high school, I saw Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything, which affected me in a similar way, making me feel nostalgic for something that never existed in the firstplace. I’ll admit that if I manage to catch The Breakfast Club for the umpteenth time on TBS, I’ll watch it (even if it’s the badly dubbed, censored version – the bad dubbing itself is entertainment).

Tapping into the spirit of one of the most celebrated and maligned decades, are two fairly different bands with two fairly different takes on what the 80’s sounded like and meant as a concept. M83, a French electronic act featuring Anthony Gonzalez, and Neon Neon, a collaborative effort between Boom Bip (real name: Bryon Hollon) and Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys, have both attempted to capture the spirit of the 80’s in their albums Saturdays=Youth and Stainless Style, respectively. While Saturdays=Youth hearkens back to the John Hughes sentiments of being an adolescent in 1980’s America, Stainless Style follows the rise and fall of John Delorean (yeah, the inventor of the Delorean, most famously used in its gullwinged glory in the Back to the Future trilogy).


I hadn’t been aware of M83 until this album despite the fact they’ve been around since 2001. Anthony Gonzalez and Nicolas Fromageau created M83, named after the galaxy of the same name, in Antibes, France. Following Gonzalez’s split from Fromageau, the former decided to carry on without the latter, creating both ambient music in Digital Shades Volume 1, and Saturdays=Youth, which was released on April 15 of this year. Gonzalez cites The Breakfast Club as one of the influences for this album (the Molly Ringwaldesque girl on the album cover is already a clue), but the overall effect of the album is a meeting of modern shoegaze and ’80’s synthpop. In addition to his own vocals, Gonzalez also enlisted vocal help from Morgan Kibby, a singer/actress, and the final product is mesmerizing.

Out of all the tracks on the album, Kim & Jessie and Up! are the most likely soundtrack to play behind Molly Ringwald at the prom, and are, thus, the most recognizably associated with the sound of the ’80’s. The former uses New Wave drum machines to back effete male vocals in a New Romantic vein while the latter begins with sparkling synths before tumbling into a wide-eyed, breathless Kate Bush-like tune (if you weren’t already convinced by the sound of Kibby’s vocals and the melody, the phrase “hounds of love” creeps into the lyrics). Lovely album opener, You, Appearing, is Cocteau Twinsesque with its gentle, plaintive piano and synth accents behind the overlapping chants of Kibby and Gonzalez. Both Skin of the Night and Graveyard Girl, though differing in mood (the former being moody and ethereal and the latter being bright and upbeat), each speaks to a melodramatic adolescent urge to live more and be more than you could ever possibly be. In Graveyard Girl, Kibby states “I’m fifteen years old and I feel like it’s already too late to live,” speaking to that naivete of youth, where emotions are intense and time progressively accelerates. At the beginning of Highway of Endless Dreams, Kibby speaks again, stating, “I’m going to drive until it burns my bones,” before the song builds propulsively like a star burning up into supernova. In contrast, Too Late sounds like the stillness of a mossy pool where synth notes are dropped in like stones, sometimes skipping across the surface. Dark Moves of Love, which once again features an interchange of vocals between Kibby and Gonzalez begins with a Neil Tennant-like spoken line before launching into dramatic sweeps of sound, weaving an image of a dialogue taking place between two lovers in a maze of mirrors, chasing and losing each other again and again. The eleven-minute instrumental Midnight Souls Still Remain ends the album, creating a vast soundscape that conjures up images of outer space or underwater, both scenarios being connected to each other in more ways than one. Contrasting with M83’s youthful, idealistic take on the 80’s, Neon Neon’s Stainless Style is a mosaic of a man who came to represent the excesses and eventual collapse of the ’80’s. In the Spring issue of Under the Radar, Gruff Rhys says Stainless Style is an “investigation of the American dream and the American nightmare. It’s a celebration of all things plastic and synthetic.” This oscillation between shiny light and seedy dark infiltrates the fabric of the album as it bounces between different styles, not all of them sounding quite like the ’80’s. Guest duties on the album include Spank Rock, Fab Moretti, Har Mar Superstar, Yo Majesty, and The Magic Numbers, varying the sound of the album even more. The age-old link between fast cars and fast girls holds true for this album as they come to be metaphors for each other.

The album opens with the instrumental Neon Theme, which uses a pumping bassline and laser-like sounds to create a glimpse of the future as imagined by the ’80’s. Like Saturdays=Youth, Stainless Style isn’t always a mirror of the music created in the ’80’s, and the track Dream Cars is more akin to a ’60’s Motown melody than any yuppie’s stereo. Conversely, I Told Her on Alderaan, which references Princess Leia’s home planet, is a song that could have been performed by The Cars (no pun intended) with its synth flourishes on top of driving guitars. Trick for Treat, Sweat Shop and Luxury Pool are all hip-hop tracks, rapping narratives of Delorean’s incredible ambition and talent and his equally as stupendous fall from grace. Trick For Treat deals specifically with Delorean’s cocaine issues, namechecking Back to the Future, the Reagan-era mantra “feed the greed,” and The Velvet Underground’s I’m Waiting For the Man. I Lust U, featuring vocals from Cate LeBon, is a cool dialogue between Delorean and a prostitute as they tell each other “I love you if the price is right.” Belfast, which references Delorean’s failed sportscar venture in Northern Ireland, is a mournful synthpop song in which Rhys sings, “I built my empire and threw it all away,” while Michael Douglas, a Bronski Beat-type song with a modern twist, relates to the time Delorean attended pool parties with Douglas in LA. The album ends with title track, Stainless Style, which sounds like a gospel chorus, trailing into an acappella “Oh, how many are my foes/how many rise against me,” perhaps a nod to Delorean’s conversion to Christianity later in life. All in all, the jetsetting highs and tragic lows of Delorean’s life become glossier and hypereal under Boom Bip and Gruff Rhys’s treatment.

And so two very different albums and concepts meet up with their common interest in the ’80’s. A time when you either wanted to be stuck in Saturday detention or flying through time in a Delorean. Both M83 and Neon Neon are brilliant in their reimagining of the decade of my early childhood, and both manage to do it without irony (after all, irony belongs to the ’90’s). Now if only somebody could bring back neon Oreos…

Kim & Jessie – M83

Up! – M83

I Told Her on Alderaan – Neon Neon

Trick For Treat – Neon Neon

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27
May
08

Tangled in True Love’s Defeat: Andrew Spice’s Pretty Demons

This post is going to take us back a bit in time, considering Andrew Spice’s debut album Pretty Demons released five years ago, but before I go there, I want to go back a bit further than that. To a high school gym in 1999…where I first witnessed Andrew Spice truly perform.
In the midst of a shoddy variety show put on by our Winnipeg high school, wedged between amateur skits and adequate saxophone solos, Andrew sat down at a piano and performed Tori Amos’ version of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. Though I had known Andrew for about five years by that point, I hadn’t known him as a musician – I had known him as the quiet clarinet player beside me in the school band, but hardly as a musician in his own right. I was completely riveted by his haunting voice and passionate piano playing as he lost himself in the music and emotions, capturing the tender torture of the song. At that moment, I knew he didn’t belong with the rest of us – his level of maturity, musical and otherwise, greatly exceeded anything the rest of us adolescents were thinking or doing at the time. While the parents and students assembled there in the audience may very well have preferred the friendlier, amateur fare of other performances, playing out the typical popularity contests of high school, they were hardly the correct, discerning audience to be hearing him.
Thankfully, Canadian singer-songwriter Emm Gryner ended up hearing him, and then producing his album, Pretty Demons, on her Dead Daisys Records label and subsequently playing on Pretty Demons. Manitoba Film and Sound also endorsed the record with a marketing grant to assist in its promotion and distribution. The same year, Pretty Demons was nominated for an OutMusic Award for Best Debut Album. And unfortunately, while all this was going on, I completely missed it. I was hardly as up on my music at that point as I am now, and I was very likely too absorbed in the British music scene (as usual). It took me up until 2006 to notice, but then I couldn’t turn away.
Pretty Demons is indeed pretty in its fractured and bruised self-revelation, managing to avoid standard heartbreak cliches. I have difficulty comparing Andrew with other artists because I still think of his voice as completely his own and I can’t quite objectively step back and hold it up to other artists. The best I can do to describe Andrew’s style is: His voice hovers like mist over cascades of piano, creating rainbows in unexpected places of darkness. His influences listed on his MySpace profile include PJ Harvey, Tori Amos, Nine Inch Nails and Imogen Heap, which I can definitely feel in the atmosphere of his music, but again, Andrew escapes a direct comparison to any of them. On tracks like Unafraid, Beautiful Creatures, and Nice to Know, Andrew peels back the bandages on a broken heart to expose a poignant self-doubt and vulnerability in lyrics like: “how easy this would be/if I wasn’t me/how unafraid/how perfectly made/I wish I was” (Unafraid), “if I were easy and pretty pretty/I’d be remembered” (Beautiful Creatures), and “the poison that I am/must be hard to cure yourself/from everything that’s never quite enough” (Nice to Know). Melodically, Beautiful Creatures is the closest to a radio-friendly hit with its pulsing beat that mimicks a tense heartbeat, and soaring chorus. It is followed by one of my favourite tracks on the album, Silent Rain, which features trembling, breathy vocals, fluid piano, strains of strings, and the incredible lyric of “I’m cold and grey inside this lie/tangled in true love’s defeat.”
Breaking away from the fluidity of Silent Rain, Perfect Day begins with a romping piano line that continues to roll beneath lines like “no it’s not something you said/it’s something that you are/all uncertainty and loveliness/paint me pictures with your eyes/take me in your arms tonight.” The next song titled Christopher reveals the object of betrayal and hurt (and likely the object of the majority of the album’s sentiments), and Christopher then turns up by name in the lyrics of the following track Nice to Know. Pride, like Silent Rain, is a more understated, hushed song, tremulous in its honesty and beauty where vocal and piano move as one. For the track Sometimes Lukewarm, Andrew’s voice dances over the lilting, upbeat melody as the lyrics tell a story of relationship confusion, where feelings about a partner can shift between being suffused with love to overcome with the disappointing reality of his/her flaws. Congratulations takes envy of an ex to new heights as acoustic guitar takes over – “motherfucker” has never been sung so delicately. The album ends with Matthew, a song dedicated to Matthew Shepard, the American student who was fatally attacked in 1998 in a horrific episode of hate crime. It features some of the most heartbreaking lyrics about death I’ve ever heard, creating a personal conversation with Shepard’s spirit and elevating him from beyond a hero to a canonization for those who can see themselves in him. Overall, Pretty Demons is a beautiful document of young heartbreak and loss, and a search for comprehension and healing.
Andrew hasn’t officially released any music since Pretty Demons, but I continue to hope that he will – he’s the classic case of an indie artist that will never get the respect and support he/she deserves from the current music industry. If I’ve convinced you by now (and I hope I have), you can easily purchase Pretty Demons at CD Baby. I’m thankful that I was there back in 1999 to witness the beginning of such musical talent. And here’s to hoping that once again, the right people will be listening.

Andrew Spice’s MySpace: www.myspace.com/andrewspice

Beautiful Creatures – Andrew Spice

Silent Rain – Andrew Spice

25
May
08

Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and…Well, Friday I’m in Love: Weekly Mix #18

It’s cover version time again. I’ve had several of these accumulating since the first weekly mix of covers, and I felt it’s been long enough of a break. I still marvel at the way other artists can make me enjoy a song I would never have listened to by the original artist. Case in point: the video clip above featuring Kate Bush singing Elton John’s Rocket Man. Also, in this week’s mix, I ended up picking two Beatles tracks covered by Nina Simone and Siouxsie and the Banshees, and I’m not really a Beatles fan to begin with. Somehow Siouxsie and the Banshees managed to make me re-imagine Dear Prudence in a way I never would have with the original – now I see a mysterious, dark little girl who won’t leave her room.

Looking at this particular mix, it seems I’ve subconsciously went a bit 80’s with covers of Billy Idol, Madonna, Oliva Newton-John, New Order and The Smiths. I’ve also included the utterly Canadian cover version – Corey Hart’s completely ridiculous Sunglasses at Night by fey Montreal DJ, Tiga, who actually manages to make the song cool…well, maybe just a bit less embarrassing. And to avoid confusion for some, It’s Not Over Yet is not an original Klaxons tune, so Goldfrapp is actually covering a cover and/or covering the original by Grace – I like her fragile, stripped-down version nonetheless, far more haunting than the Klaxons. One of my favourites in this mix is the cover of I Wanna Be Your Dog by French artist Emilie Simon – it’s startling and lovely at the same time as her child-like voice croons over bizarre feedback and dreamy melody. Another favourite is John Cale’s version of LCD Soundsystem’s All My Friends (arguably one of the best tracks off Sound of Silver). I’ll call this mix It’s Never Over Yet.

Dancing With Myself – Nouvelle Vague (Original: Billy Idol)

I Don’t Wanna Grow Up – Cold War Kids (Original: Tom Waits)

Like a Virgin – Ryan Adams (Original: Madonna)

You Will – Snow Patrol (Original: Bright Eyes)

It’s Not Over Yet – Goldfrapp (Original: Grace)

I Wanna Be Your Dog – Emilie Simon (Original: Iggy & The Stooges)

Gimme Shelter – Patti Smith (Original: The Rolling Stones)

Here Comes the Sun – Nina Simone (Original: The Beatles)

Dear Prudence – Siouxsie & the Banshees (Original: The Beatles)

Sunday Morning – James (Original: The Velvet Underground)

I Just Came to Tell You I’m Going – Jarvis Cocker and Kid Loco (Original: Serge Gainsbourg)

The Headmaster Ritual – Radiohead (Original: The Smiths)

Ceremony – Galaxie 500 (Original: New Order)

All My Friends – John Cale (Original: LCD Soundsystem)

Only Love Can Break Your Heart – Saint Etienne (Original: Neil Young)

Frontwards – Los Campesinos! (Original: Pavement)

Get It On (Bang a Gong) – Power Station (Original: T.Rex)

Let’s Get Physical – The Black Ghosts (Original: Olivia Newton-John)

Always on My Mind – Pet Shop Boys (Original: Elvis Presley)

Sunglasses at Night – Tiga (Original: Corey Hart)

23
May
08

"This Isn’t Shoegaze – This Is Suicide": Titus Andronicus’ The Airing of Grievances

Though Titus Andronicus’ The Airing of Grievances came out last month, I only just discovered it last week, and I felt it merited mentioning. With their combination of a raspy, Conor Oberst-like howl, unwieldy shoegaze distortion and jubilant guitars, this New Jersey band, who are named after one of Shakespeare’s most ignored plays, embody existential angst in a way that is diffcult to ignore or dismiss. The Airing of Grievances is the sound of growing up and realizing that the world owes you no favours and that leaving the womb was probably one of life’s biggest mistakes. Titus Andronicus hit all the reference points for hopeless youth, including Camus, A Clockwork Orange, and Bruegel’s Landscape With the Fall of Icarus, which features the drowned Icarus’s legs sticking poignantly out of the water.
While singer, Patrick Stickles’ vocals are often so distorted with breathless anguish, it’s worth looking up their songs’ lyrics. They reveal an openly personal story, including references to Stickles himself and the band’s hometown of Glen Rock. Opening track, Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ, includes the fabulous line “People will tell you that if you don’t love your neighbor, then you don’t love God, but no god of mine would put light in such unrighteous eyes” – vicious poetry – and the first minute of the song drags along like a dirge only to burst into a full heliotrope of rage, reaching for a sun that it can unwillingly follow but never touch. Songs like My Time Outside the Womb and Arms Against Atrophy explore variations on the theme of wishing you had never been born. The latter includes the line “Even though things lately may have been real horrorshow, I’m wishing I was back in utero,” which, deliberately or not, namechecks both Burgess’s phenomenal A Clockwork Orange and Nirvana’s swansong album. Titus Andronicus, an eponymous song, includes a spirit and melodic sensibility that reminds me of British Sea Power’s latest efforts but with a spitting and snarling Johnny Rotten over top, and its constant chant of “Your life is over” is like a re-working of the Pistols’ “No future.”
And of course the next two tracks on the album are entitled No Future and No Future Part Two: The Day After No Future. The former is one of those songs that perfectly describes the helplessness of depression. To slower, meandering guitars, Stickles rasps his way through words like “There’s still one shoe that hasn’t dropped yet. It’s hanging on by an aglete. This world seems like a nice place to visit, but I don’t want to live in it.” This track, with its companion song, forms a fifteen-minute nihilist opus that stretches from a mournful ballad to banging bass drums and chiming guitars. Closing track, Albert Camus, sums up the alienation of the whole album with a reverby darkness that feels like being held under a rockpool while your brains starts exploding into stars from lack of oxygen. Too self-actualized to live in blissful ignorance, Titus Andronicus puts up a screaming front, exorcising bitter disappointment.
Titus Andronicus aren’t gazing at their shoes behind bashful fringes. They’re looking the world full in the face and going down fighting.
Titus Andronicus MySpace: http://myspace.com/titusandronicus

Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ – Titus Andronicus

Albert Camus – Titus Andronicus

20
May
08

Fall For Them: Vanilla Swingers Album Out This Summer

I raved about Vanilla Swingers in an earlier post having heard five of the tracks off their eponymous debut album, and now that I’ve heard the full nine tracks, I’m going to have to say that this is a frontrunner for my favourite album of 2008. The official release date for the LP (both as downloads and a physical album) is now July 14, so mark your calendars. Since I already made rather detailed descriptions of the five tracks I was initially sent, I will focus on the remaining four tracks for this post.

For those who didn’t read my earlier post (and for those who would rather not bother with clicking the above link to do so), I’m going to quickly explain the premise for this spectacular concept album. Influenced by the John Gray book Straw Dogs, a piece of philosophy which discredits the progress myth of humanity, Vanilla Swingers follows the story of “two people who meet, run away, go back in time, lose each other, and meet again in 2015.” Featuring some of the best lyrics of the year and a tender interplay between male and female voices in a similar vein to Stars, this album deconstructs the myth of human superiority, but rebuilds by using what truly makes humans human: myth creation, especially that of romantic love. It’s our capacity to invent and create who we are, flaws and all, that truly defines humanity, and Vanilla Swingers plays on all the bittersweet emotions that result from this capacity.

The Town, which I briefly commented on in my earlier post based strictly on lyrical content, is a lovely album opener, setting the scene and mood for the rest of the record. Miles opens the song, backed by lazy strums of the acoustic guitar and piano, and Anne comes in for the second verse as they describe the sterile boredom of living in a suburban wasteland, where people keep reassuring themselves that they are, in fact, “ok.” The characters in this album do manage to find each other amongst the dreary “pre-postmodern” structures and vapid fun bars, and so a tenuous, but tender, romance ensues. Though the lovers attempt to run away from everything in the song I’ll Stay Next to You, The Hive finds them in the realization that no matter where you flee in time and space, you cannot escape the same negative aspects of humanity. The Hive, within its eight minutes, shifts between styles and rhythms like the fluid time it represents, beginning with a more subdued hushed vocal accompanied by lightly pulsing guitars and hi-hat, but then ending with a bouncier, twee melody worthy of Belle and Sebastian or Camera Obscura. Accompanying the restless music is the incredible lyric of: “Screensave faces, Chinese walls divide/Monitors flicker but I only saw the light behind your eyes/We’re part of a problem with no solution/Everywhere you go, everything so cheap/Someone’s gonna pay/From the daily rail to the NME, sing the same old song/’They build you up they knock you down. Fifteen minutes counting down. Changes like the weather. You built me up you won’t knock me down – I’m keeping both feet on the ground. And it’s getting better!'” The wasteful commericalism combined with the climate of false progress (most famously and most recently endorsed by “New” Labour) ends up being ubiquitous and inescapable.

In Back to the Present, which logically follows Danger in the Past, the lovers flee the 1980’s for the amorphous present. The dreamy melody is propelled by twinkling piano lines and punchy chords while Miles’ mournful, but thoughtful, vocals muse over the loss of his lover, who didn’t appear to accompany him back to his present. The narrator must comfort himself with the dreams of what if’s and potential futures while never actually achieving them in his reality. Album closer, If You Fall, comes after the lovers reunite in the future and realize that they could still believe in the bond between them, and that even though they were lost, they were lost together. If You Fall’s bittersweet, delicate melody suits the fragility of the lyrics. The last lines of the song and album are: “On your way to work remember/If you fall for this you’ll fall for anything that passes by you/If you fall for this you’ll fall for anything.” These words leave you wondering if you shouldn’t fall for the Humanistic myth or if you shouldn’t fall for the myth of romantic love. Or that perhaps they’re inextricably connected, and thus, inescapable anyway.

If you’re in the London area, or are going to be on May 27, go to see Vanilla Swingers’ first live gig at the 12 Bar. And as I mentioned earlier, their album, which is produced in a limited run of 1000, is out in a couple of months. Run away with Vanilla Swingers. You just might find yourself back where you started with the ground beneath your feet feeling strangely new.

The Hive – Vanilla Swingers

If You Fall – Vanilla Swingers

18
May
08

Everyday is Like Sunday, Except Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and…Well, Friday I’m in Love: Weekly Mix #17

You guessed it. This week’s mix is all about drugs. They are part of that legendary formula, along with sex and rock ‘n roll – at least according to Ian Dury – and many musicians have used them for inspiration while many of them have also died from them. Most countercultures have used some form of them, thus the music tied to these countercultures have expressed the experiences induced by these drugs and/or personified them. Whether you’re a hippie tripping on LSD or magic mushrooms, listening to psychedelic music; or an amphetamine-popping punk, pogoing; or a depressed singer-songwriter hooked on heroin, drugs and the altered state of consciousness that come with them have inextricable links to music. And you know all the cool kids were doing opium or absinthe back in the Romantic period.

I, myself, have never taken drugs (without a prescription, that is), and I don’t think I ever will – I’m plenty crazy on my own without them. Losing control of my brain doesn’t really appeal to me when I can very well lose it without the aid of substances. I have no doubt that the appeal of drugs is having that kind of out-of-body experience to escape your own mind and body, which becomes yet another reason why I should never try drugs – along with my generally addictive personality, I would end up having a lot of problems if I ever tried them. Music itself ends up being my drug of choice.

And of course, rock stars are known for their ridiculously extravagant lifestyles and drug experiences. I marvel that David Bowie is still alive after all the cocaine he went through – that strict diet of orange juice at the time must have helped. One of my favourite drug-musician stories is the one about Morrissey taking ecstasy. And then sitting there by himself in his room.

This mix ended up being pretty heroin-heavy (even without the inclusion of Nine Inch Nail’s Hurt) – the heroine/heroin homonym is always fun to work with. Also, it becomes readily apparent that drugs are a fantastic metaphor for love and lust. I very well could have put a dozen Suede songs on this mix or half of The Velvet Underground’s output, but I chose to go for variety and maybe a few more unexpected ones. And I know this mix is in no way a definitive one about all drug songs, so no complaints about not including The Beatles or Jefferson Airplane. I’m going to call this mix More Tracks Than a Heroin Addict. Please listen responsibly.

Vegas – Calvin Harris

Idiot Drugs – White Rose Movement

Special K – Placebo

Junkie Slip – The Clash

Drug Drug Druggy – Manic Street Preachers

I Wanna Be Sedated – The Ramones

Caught By The Fuzz – Supergrass

There She Goes – The La’s

Heroin – The Indelicates

Golden Brown – The Stranglers

Mother’s Little Helper – The Rolling Stones

I’m Waiting For the Man – The Velvet Underground

Ashes to Ashes – David Bowie

Sorted for E’s and Wizz – Pulp

Horse Pills – The Dandy Warhols

Kisses Like Heroin – Cupcake

Days Without Paracetamol – Snow Patrol

Heroine – Suede

Never Let Me Down Again – Depeche Mode

Sugar Pill – Ambulance Ltd

17
May
08

I’ve Become a Budgie Believer: Duchess Says

I’ll admit that I often get too wrapped up in keeping up with the UK and European music scenes to the neglect of my own country’s music. This realization truly hit me last year when I was shopping in Spillers, the oldest record shop in the world, which is located in Cardiff. I started talking with the girl behind the counter, and like all passionate music fans, she wanted to recommend her favourites to me. When she discovered I was from Canada, she began gushing about a Canadian band called The Sadies, who she had seen several times in concert. I had never heard of The Sadies, let alone seen them even once. She looked a bit puzzled and disappointed, and I felt a bit sheepish. Ultimately, the style of music The Sadies played wasn’t really my thing anyway, but it made me quite aware of how little attention I give to music made in my own backyard, and how I can very well miss bands and artists that I would love. And my recent discovery of Duchess Says, a band from Montreal, has proven this point to me all over again.
Self-described as “moog rock,” the music Duchess Says creates falls somewhere between Sonic Youth, Robots in Disguise and Siouxsie and the Banshees, full of distortion, synths, and punky guitars. They’ve been releasing music since 2005, including the EP Noviciat Mere-Perruche, but I only just noticed them now via other music blogs where their debut album, Anthologie des 3 Perchoirs, is being lauded. Having listened to it (you can stream it and buy it at Alien8 Recordings), I’m going to join the chorus of praise. The album squawks and squeals with feedback while swaying to sleazy disco and new wave synths – at times, it reminds me of Descartes a Kant without the waltzy respites. One of the tracks making its rounds on the blogs is Cut Up, which is a blistering aural attack that leaves you torn between wanting to dance both the robot and the pogo. This duality of synthpop and punk continues through tracks like La Friche, which is awash with reverb as it alternates between something that could have been a Glass Candy track and unhinged banshee-like howls. The level of crazy hits new piercing levels on songs like CH.OB and Les Residents. A Century Old, is Duchess Says probably at their most calm, but then it picks up speed like a cyclone, grabbing more elements as it continues to build electronic layer upon electronic layer. Released single, Black Flag, which has also been remixed by Juan Maclean, is the most synthpop track on the album with a catchy chorus and a strong synth line. Like much of my favourite music, Duchess Says makes you feel like you’re listening to someone completely losing their mind and not caring whether they find it again or not. In effect, you can dance your brains out to it.

To add to their quirky appeal, Duchess Says claim to belong to the Church of Budgerigars, which appears to be a budgie-worshipping sect. Perhaps the world would be a better place if we all believed budgies had the answers. Or at the very least, we could all just absorb ourselves with bopping our heads against mirrors. I would love to see our world leaders leaping into mirrors like a volleyball player heading a ball.

Duchess Says is one of those reminders that I should never give up on my own country’s music. Looking no farther than the mirror can be wisdom.

Cut Up – Duchess Says

Black Flag – Duchess Says




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Gigs Attended

Arcade Fire w/ Bell Orchestre + Wolf Parade (2005)

Arctic Monkeys w/ Reverend and the Makers (2007)

Austra w/ Young Galaxy + Tasseomancy (2011)

Big Audio Dynamite (2011)

Billy Bragg w/ Ron Hawkins (2009)

Billy Idol w/ Bif Naked (2005)

Bloc Party w/ Hot Hot Heat (2009)

Buzzcocks w/ The Dollyrots (2010)

Damo Suzuki (2012)

David Bowie w/ The Polyphonic Spree (2004)

Diamond Rings w/ PS I Love You + The Cannon Bros. (2011)

Diamond Rings w/ Gold & Youth (2012)

Dragonette w/ Ruby Jean & the Thoughtful Bees (2009)

Frank Turner w/ The Cavaliers (2010)

Frank Turner w/ Into It Over It + Andrew Jackson Jihad (2011)

Franz Ferdinand w/ Think About Life (2009)

Gang of Four w/ Hollerado (2011)

Good Shoes w/ The Moths + The Envelopes (2007)

Hot Hot Heat w/ The Futureheads + Louis XIV (2005)

IAMX w/ closethuman (2007)

IAMX w/ Coma Soft + The Hourly Radio (2007)

Interpol (2007)

Janelle Monae w/ Roman GianArthur (2012)

Joel Plaskett Emergency w/ Frank Turner (2012)

Jonathan Richman (2011)

Keane w/ Lights (2009)

Lou Reed w/ Buke and Gass (2011)

Manic Street Preachers w/ Fear of Music (2007)

Manic Street Preachers w/ Bear Hands (2009)

Manic Street Preachers at Wanaja Festival (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Old Folks Home (2009)

Mother Mother w/ Whale Tooth (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Hannah Georgas (2012)

MSTRKRFT w/ Felix Cartal (2008)

Muse (2004)

Nine Inch Nails w/ Death From Above 1979 + Queens of the Stone Age (2005)

of Montreal w/ Janelle Monae (2010)

Owen Pallett w/ Little Scream (2010)

Patrick Wolf w/ Bishi (2007)

Prince (2011)

Pulp w/ Grace Jones, TV on the Radio, The Hives, The Horrors, Metronomy, Devotcka, Vintage Trouble (2011)

Rufus Wainwright w/ Teddy Thompson (2010)

Snow Patrol w/ Embrace (2005)

Snow Patrol w/ OK Go + Silversun Pickups (2007)

Sons and Daughters w/ Bodies of Water (2008)

Stars w/ Thurston Revival (2006)

Stars w/ The Details (2008)

Stars (2010)

Steven Severin (2010)

Stroszek (2007)

The Antlers w/ Haunter (2012)

The Flaming Lips w/ Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti (2010)

The Jesus and Mary Chain w/ Nightbox (2012)

The Killers w/ Ambulance Ltd (2004)

The New Pornographers w/ Novillero (2008)

The New Pornographers w/ The Mountain Goats (2010)

The Ordinary Boys w/ Young Soul Rebels (2006)

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart w/ Suun (2011)

The Rakes w/ The Young Knives (2006)

The Raveonettes w/ Black Acid (2008)

The Stills w/ Gentleman Reg (2009)

The Subways w/ The Mad Young Darlings (2006)

Tokyo Police Club w/ Smoosh + Attack in Black (2008)

TV on the Radio w/ The Dirty Projectors (2009)

Yann Tiersen w/ Breathe Owl Breathe (2011)

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The only certain thing that is left about me

There is no part of my body that has not been used

Pity or pain, to show displeasure's shame

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave

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So I turned myself to face me

But I've never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see the faker

I'm much too fast to take that test

The Smiths Queen is Dead

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're happy

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're wanted

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side

But you lose 'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

The Clash London Calling

When they kick at your front door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head

Or on the trigger of your gun

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Charles Windsor, who's at the door

At such an hour, who's at the door

In the back of an old green Cortina

You're on your way to the guillotine

Here the rabble comes

The kind you hoped were dead

They've come to chop, to chop off your head

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Then you came with your breezeblocks

Smashing up my face like a bus-stop

You think you're giving

But you're taking my life away

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Won't someone give me more fun?

(and the skin flies all around us)

We kiss in his room to a popular tune

Oh, real drowners

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Don't walk away

In silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don't walk away

Walk in silence

Don't turn away in silence

Your confusion

My illusion

Worn like a mask of self-hate

Confronts and then dies

Don't walk away

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You don't want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder

Oh there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love

Tell me we both matter don't we

The Associates Affectionate

I don't know whether

To over or under estimate you

Whether to over or under estimate you

For when I come over

You then put me under

Personal taste is a matter of gender

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I wake at dusk to go alone without a light

To the unknown

I want this night inside of me

I want to feel

I want this speeding

I want that speeding

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You'll never live like common people

You'll never do what common people do

You'll never fail like common people

You'll never watch your life slide out of view

And dance and drink and screw

Because there's nothing else to do

Vanilla Swingers

All I have is words, words that don't obtain

And I feel I'm a stain on your horizon

So I stay away - it's easier that way

And there won't be no-one I need to rely on

Is it him, is it me

Or is there something only I can see

How did I get here, why do we blow around like straw dogs on the breeze

I'm a special one, what they used to say

But I've to stay on, finish levels-A

You don't need exams when you've read John Gray

The Indelicates American Demo

And nobody ever comes alive

And the journalists clamour round glamour like flies

And boys who should know better grin and get high

With fat men who once met the MC5

And no one discusses what they don't understand

And no one does anything to harm the brand

And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard

Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar

JAMC Darklands

And we tried so hard

And we looked so good

And we lived our lives in black

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Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her leg and then he was a she

She says, hey babe,

Take a walk on the wild side

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side

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Hide on the promenade

Etch a postcard:

How I dearly wish I was not here

In the seaside town...that they forgot to bomb

Come, come, come - nuclear bomb

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Back when we were kids

We would always know when to stop

And now all the good kids are messing up

Nobody has gained or accomplished anything

Wire Pink Flag

Prices have risen since the government fell

Casualties increase as the enemy shell

The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive

And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape

Gunfire's increasing, looting, burning, rape

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Well, maybe there's a god above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

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And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow's parties

For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown

For whom none will go mourning

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My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it

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Oh it's opening time

Down on Fascination Street

So let's cut the conversation

And get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling

And I'm begging

To drag you down with me

Mansun Six

And you see, I kind of shivered to conformity

Did you see the way I cowered to authority

You see, my life, it's a series of compromises anyway

It's a sham, and I'm conditioned to accept it all, you see

Japan Gentlemen

Take in the country air, you'll never win

Gentlemen take polaroids

They fall in love, they fall in love

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We just want to emote til we're dead

I know we suffer for fashion

Or whatever

We don't want these days to ever end

We just want to emasculate them forever

Forever, forever

Pretty sirens don't go flat

It's not supposed to happen like that

Longpigs The Sun

There's no perfume I can buy

Make me smell like myself

So I put on perfume

To make me smell like someone else

In bed

Calvin Harris I Created Disco

I got love for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

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Does his makeup in his room

Douse himself with cheap perfume

Eyeholes in a paper bag

Greatest lay I ever had

Kind of guy who mates for life

Gotta help him find a wife

We're a couple, when our bodies double

Simple Minds Sons and Fascination

Summer rains are here

Savaged beauty life

Falling here from grace

Sister feeling call

Cruising land to land

No faith no creed no soul

Half a world away

Beauty sleeps in time

Sound and fury play

Bloc Party Silent Alarm

North to south

Empty

Running on

Bravado

As if to say, as if to say

He doesn't like chocolate

He's born a liar, he'll die a liar

Some things will never be different

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LCD Soundsystem

Well Daft Punk is playing at my house, my house

I've waited 7 years and 15 days

There's every kid for miles at my house, my house

And the neighbors can't...call the police

There's a fist fight brewin' at my house, my house

Because the jocks can't...get in the door

Johnny Boy

I just can't help believing

Though believing sees me cursed

Stars Set Yourself

I am trying to say

What I want to say

Without having to say "I love you"

Josef K Entomology

It took 10 years to realise why the angels start to cry

When you go home down the main

Your happy smile

Your funny name

Cocteau Twins Bluebell

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Doesn't she look a million with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Yes, she's a beautiful brunette angel from heaven with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Augment a beautiful brunette

New Order Power Corruption

How does it feel

To treat me like you do

When you've laid your hands upon me

And told me who you are

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You must let her go

She's not crying

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Baiting

Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times

Valentines

Hating

Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone

Whipcrack

Girls in the back

Girls in the back

Puressence Don't Forget

They say come back to earth and start getting real, yeah

I say come back to earth and start getting real

I know I can't

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So I walk right up to you

And you walk all over me

And I ask you what you want

And you tell me what you need

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The problem of leisure

What to do for pleasure

Ideal love a new purchase

A market of the senses

Dream of the perfect life

Economic circumstances

The body is good business

Sell out, maintain the interest

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Sitting in my armchair thinking again and again and again

Going round in a circle I can't get out

Then I look around thinking day and night and day

Then you look around - there must be some explanation

And the tension builds

Psychdedelic Furs

India, India

You're my love song

India, you're my love song

In the flowers

You can have me in the flowers

We will dance alone

And live our useless lives

Ladytron Light Magic

They only want you when you're seventeen

When you're twenty-one

You're no fun

They take a polaroid and let you go

Say they'll let you know

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No consolation prizes

Spit out your lies and chewing gum

Cut off your hair yeah that's it!

If you look like that I swear I'm gonna love you more

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All the neighbors are startin' up a fire

Burning all the old folks, the witches and the liars.

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids

But my heart keeps watchin' through the skin of my eyelids

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Prince charming

Prince charming

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Don't you ever, don't you ever

Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome