Tuesday, April 27, 2004

And everything that you do
Sarah Harmer played the first of two nights in Toronto last night. The critics were pleased.

Toronto Sun's Jane Stevenson: "This is a girl who belongs playing under the stars, like the ones painted on the ceiling of the beautiful Winter Garden Theatre. And while the real thing would be nice, Harmer so vividly paints nature with her words that you almost forget you have a roof over your head in downtown Toronto."

Toronto Star's Vit Wagner: "She even flew in from the wings like a guardian angel when opener Hayden broke a guitar string early into his genial and otherwise successful set. It was our first reminder of how much we missed seeing Harmer onstage. And how glad we were to have her back."

Reviews from The Globe, Eye and/or Now to come. Maybe.
Nothing to see here... please go about your business
Breaking Carmelo Anthony/Christina Aguilera non-existent love affair news (included here to appease the masses) from the Denver Post:

Anthony dismisses rumor

Anthony said Monday a report in the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he is dating singer Christina Aguilera is not true. The item in the April 23 edition of the paper stated: "The Timberwolves were notified singer Christina Aguilera, whose boyfriend is Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets, supermodel Tyra Banks and actor Josh Hartnett would be at the Target Center Wednesday (April 21), but none were seen."

The report has been repeated on numerous media outlets, including ESPN's "Pardon The Interruption," ESPN.com, MTV and VH1.

"I have never met her," Anthony said. "It's crazy that I have never met somebody and this rumor is going around."

Monday, April 26, 2004

Slightly more interesting than EMF
Much discussion of the recently completed EMP Pop Music Conference in Seattle can be found here, here, here, here, here and here.
Had been anxiously awaiting a report on Amy Phillips' rather controversial presentation, when Scott dropped me a line to point out this. Wish I'd been there to hear the whole thing. Can't say as I think I'd agree with even 14% of what she has to say, but interesting all the same.

FOOTNOTE, 1:48am EST...
The abstract for Phillips' presentation.
And the Denver Post's report on the conference.
An experiment in pure texture
Paper Bag's FemBots get the Pitchfork endorsement.

Footnote, 11:42pm EST....
And just announced by PaperBag:

Releasing on May 4, 2004, Uncut make their full length debut on Paper Bag Records entitled “Those Who Were Hung Hang Here”.

This is a story of fortunate chemistries, of promising beginnings and waylaid expectations. A story that once seemed prematurely doomed to a somewhat bittersweet, but wholly unfulfilling end. It is also, however, a story of soldiering on, of rebirth and great things to come.

One of Eye Magazine’s bands to watch for in 2003, little was heard from them while they went through turmoil of losing a member during the middle of the writing process and having to regroup and finally record a highly anticipated album.

Uncut’s brooding; sharp-edged grind often recalls the last two eras where rock drew renewed energy from a dalliance with dance music. Influenced from My Bloody Valentine and Joy Division to the likes of Mike Ink and Michael Mayer, Uncut share a desire to merge the song structure and aggression of punk rock with the precision pulse of modern dance music.

When Uncut released their debut single “Understanding The New Violence” in 2002, it immediately took to audiences and was play listed by discerning tastemakers like Tiga, DJ Hell and Miss Kittin. Everything was falling into place for Uncut in 2003 but then, turmoil…Jake Fairley, one of the founding member’s leaves to pursue his solo career.

Undeterred and encouraged by supporters, Ian Worang pulled together “a bunch of guys I know” (Jon Drew, Sam Goldberg and Derek Tokar) and set about reconfiguring Uncut as a more traditional, four-piece rock band. An incarnation of the band that is, if anything, a more formidable unit than its predecessor.

Uncut deals in a dynamic breed of low-slung, noise-charged menace. The overt electronic influence is fainter, although the fat, fearsome grooves and nagging pop melodies remain.

This isn’t revisionism, though. This isn’t “retro”, “disco-punk” or “Nu Wave.” This is something decidedly now.

This is the new violence.

Uncut Tour Dates

June 2 – Ottawa – Zaphods – w/ Tangiers
June 4 – Toronto – Horseshoe Tavern – w/ Tangiers
June 9 – Detroit – Lager House – w/ DFA
June 12 – Toronto – Studio 99
June 24 – Hamilton – The Underground – w/ Tangiers
June 26 – Montreal – Green Room – w/ Tangiers
What could any film hope to explain?
The Guardian (via Coolfer) on Nick Drake:

Sheltered by a mighty oak tree in the village of Tanworth-in-Arden, Nick Drake's headstone lies beside a well-beaten path. In accordance with the notice on the tree - 'fans are requested to pay their respects by leaving only small tokens or flowers' - the stone is surrounded by all manner of tiny ephemera. In March, 2004, these included a harmonica, two bracelets, a ring, a framed picture of a girl dancing on the brow of a hill and the reminder from a packet of Swan rolling papers that prompted Drake to call his first album Five Leaves Left.
Don't know whether to laugh or cry
Newsday's Glen Gamboa on D12's single, My Band:
"The first single, My Band, tries to poke fun at the situation, crafting scenarios that show how the rest of the group gets treated like second-class citizens compared to 'the star.' To make matters worse, Eminem ends My Band with a borderline racist bit - which also isn't funny - that will likely rile Hispanics."

Moral of the story:
If you're looking for something to get upset about, you'll likely find it.
So that V2 Pre)Thing e-mail was a hoax. Never again doubt the duplicity of record labels.
Something in the air
Joining GBV, Wu-Tang, Orbital and Denali (?) Dunnville, Ontario's Chore are apparently calling it quits. From Sonic Unyon:
Sonic Unyon hard rock quartet CHORE has decided to split up. After three albums and numerous tours over the past decade, the Dunnville, Ontario based band has decided to split up amicably. They will be playing one final show at the third floor all ages space in the Sonic Unyon building on Friday, May 14th.
Further reading
For background on Monday's column (Why Avril Lavigne is the new Pat Boone), here's Boone's commentary for The Washington Times, as well as his interview with the paper's staff. And here is Avril explaining "unhh."

Also: Two new archives have been added at right - one for interviews, another for columns. The former will begin archiving pieces now (at the moment you'll find pieces on Iron & Wine and MF Doom), the latter is complete through to that cold December day when Wherry, On Pop began.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Weekend Reading
The Globe's Simon Houpt gets Diana Krall drunk in New York.
Guy Dixon discusses rock stars in therapy.
Brad Wheeler manages to write something about Kevin Breit without saying anything the least bit snarky about Norah Jones.
The London Free Press' James Reaney gives a lot of thought to that awful line about Canada in Sloan's The Rest of My Life.
The Sun's Mary Dickie thanks heaven for Kraftwerk.
The NYT reveals that Michael Jackson's indictment may in fact harm his music career.
Alexis Petridis takes on grime fans, but loves the new Wiley album (via NYLPM).
Liz Larin and the White Stripes are the big winners at this year's Detroit Music Awards.
Ten years in, Supergrass (who?) are content to be Britain's fifth favourite band.
The biggest band in Moscow? Chechnya's Myortviye Delfini.
The Independent discovers Buck 65.
The Village Voice discovers Fefe Dobson.
And Douglas Wolk has some recommendations.

The Globe digs a little deeper into the Mike Danton case.
The Tip Drill controversy continues, including this classic piece of PR BS from an BET flack:
'Uncut' has developed an almost cult-like following because of the freedom of artists to express themselves." (Italics mine). This is, remember, a controversy over Uncut's insistence on airing a video that features Nelly swiping a credit card through a women's, uh, cheeks.
Some guy named Ben Welsh reimagines Wilco's A Ghost is Born (and apparently he's got it up on slsk).
Christina Aguilera is dating Carmelo Anthony. Supposedly.
Somehow we slept on the Julian Fantino v. 50 Cent beef.
And things are getting tres gossipy in the Comments section.
Spent Friday afternoon at a screening of Mayor of the Sunset Strip. The documentary about Rodney Bingenheimer is a convenient companion piece to the Courtney Love story below - an equally sad and hilarious film about lost children and rock n' roll. Go hug your mum.

Further discussion here.

Friday, April 23, 2004

She pauses and gathers the acupuncture needles on her bed, plunging one into her temple to calm herself.
Today's must-read comes courtesy of now-former NYT music critic Neil Strauss. His profile of Courtney Love in the latest Rolling Stone is likely one of the most compelling/appalling/riveting/unimaginable/horrifying/hilarious pieces of rock journalism you'll ever read.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Quite often, "news" pieces in alt. weeklies would more reasonably be tagged "analysis" (and so often they seem simply to be preaching to the converted). This isn't meant to trigger some grande debate on the issues of objectivity, politics and responsibility in the media... simply to draw your attention to this piece by Adria Vasil in the latest issue of NOW.

Using the Harvard study as motivation, Vasil attempts to debunk the music industry's "big lie" (I know, I know... writers don't have much to do with the headlines, but still...). Which is all fine and good and slanted. That an alt. weekly would support downloading is more than reasonable (if again, they're simply preaching to the converted - or merely fighting record industry propaganda with their own).

Trouble comes only when pro-downloaders fall into the same trap of over-simplification that they so demonize the record industry for.

Take, for instance, Vasil's contention that "the biz hasn't had a massive crossover hit in years."

"Massive" is a rather vague term. So it's tough to refute. But Norah Jones and the 20 million records she's sold, would likely argue otherwise. As would Eminem, for that matter. And of course it wasn't that long ago that NSYNC, Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears were selling millions upon millions of records - none of them what you might consider "crossover" hits, but lucrative all the same.

Granted, the days of mega-deals for best-selling artists are probably over. Blame Mariah. Or Jacko.

But also consider that there were likely few record executives who could have predicted the worldwide success Norah or Eminem would enjoy. There are a number of lessons in that, none of which we're going to review here, if only because this subject bores us to tears.

But one last question: Had the Harvard study shown that downloading was dramatically affecting the music industry and leading to lost sales numbering in the millions, would we (the pro-downloaders, among whom I count myself) been so eager to accept and promote it? Would we have admitted some degree of fault for the decline of the music industry?

Answer: No, of course not. We simply would have argued that our downloading was only punishment for all the years of high-priced, bland, over-commercialized pap we'd been fed by a greedy industry.

Follow-up question: Well then, why so quick to herald the Harvard study? If downloading was already a justified action because of the record industry's indiscretion - if this has really always been about rebellion and freedom and fighting "the man" and changing the industry - it shouldn't matter. In fact, maybe we should be thinking up different ways to punish the music industry because apparently the current method isn't having any effect.


(Previous thoughts)
Happiness in Magazines
Deep thoughts from Usher as he throws himself a pity party in the latest Vibe.

On J. Timberlake stealing his moves:
"Before there was Elvis, there was Chuck Berry and Little Richard."

On relationships with women:
"I'll be the first person to go out and tell everybody that I ain't perfect. I'm a man. Men make mistakes, and 9 out of 10 times, a man is going to cheat. Especially a man in my position. Having women throw themselves at me 24-7, I fell victim. That just means I'm weak in that sense."

Meanwhile, the highlight of the entire issue is the Kanye West profile, in which he nearly refuses to speak to the magazine unless they a) put him on the cover and b) change their 4/5 rating on The College Dropout to a 5. Oh, and then there's the part where he tries to chat up a woman only after learning she's related to Oprah.
Goodbye cruel world
Gawker has one of the all-time greatest kiss-off letters from a disgruntled (and recently displaced) employee of V2 (the fine people currently pushing both the White Stripes and, sadly, Katy Rose).
Had V2 offered messages from beyond-the-grave to journalists, that Pre) Thing record surely would have gotten better coverage.
Like Robins. Only tastier.
Ice Cream trucks are again circling the neighbourhood. Like that great Smashing Pumpkins video of so many years ago. Only with less paint and, sadly, less D'Arcy.
All of which reminds us though, that Billy Corgan (who?) is still alive.
Giant hazel-green pools that flicker and cloud over as she pulls back
Feist-fan, MuchMusic "expert," and periodic-PopWherry-reader Sarah Liss comes through with a wonderful piece in this week's NOW detailing the life and times of the divine Miss Sarah Harmer.
Bonus points for identifying Lance Chilton as a "smarm-meister."
Though I'd swear there's a splash of orange in those hazel-green pools.
Bone marrow donation vs. the portrayal of women in hip-hop videos
Interesting editorial (via SFJ) about the protested appearance of Nelly at historically black all-women's college, Spelman.
Should we be concerned?
A note from Matthew Good's blog:
"Merle – if you’re reading this, a reminder: you have the number of my cardiologist – I gave it to you at Ed Frankin’s Christmas party. If you don’t hear from me by 3 this afternoon, call the number and tell them that I’m somewhere in Stanley Park and that I don’t have any allergies to any medicines."

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Feist takes France
The latest report from the Coalition for the Continued Advancement and Appreciation of Feist (CCAAF) indicates that our dear Leslie Feist has cracked the Top 30 in France - edging out Evanescence for the 28th spot.

(Diana Krall's The Girl in the Other Room comes in at No. 4. Madonna's American Life is hanging around at No. 24. Can't imagine why. Well, yes there is the embittered, jaded, cynical take on American culture and the stridently anti-Bush stance of the artist in question. But still...)

P.S. Note that Molly Johnson's Another Day is in at No. 48.
Right then. Back to the music...
Several readers passed on their own thoughts on Monday's column (I'll post here in full soonish) about Diana, Norah, Fiona and the continued arrogance of jazzists and record label executives. And, assuming they won't mind, it seems worthwhile to post some of their thoughts here"


"Critics hate it when they can’t control everything. Fans love it when they have choice."


"For over 50 years I have been a staunch 'Modern' jazz fan and own a lot of jazz CDs which give me great pleasure to listen too. In my humble opinion, I would not classify Diana Krall and Norah Jones as 'Jazz musicians.' For example I think they would have had a hard time sitting in with the Herbie Hancock Trio last Saturday evening at Massey Hall.

"However, I do own CDs by both Krall and Jones and enjoy listening to their music. As well, I enjoy some classical music and periodically go to the TSO concerts at Roy Thompson Hall. Conversely I am not a fan of the so-called 'Traditional Jazz.'

"So one might speculate that if there is a line in the sand at least I can see it because my head is not buried in it."


"Folks should not forget that even the late great Miles Davis played his trumpet over the changes to Perfect Way (to make the girls go crazy!) as recorded on Tutu. This however is not jazz in my opinion, but rather a pop tune recorded by somebody who understood intimately what was and what was not jazz. Not everyone wants to take the time to understand jazz music that is not easily accessible to them and prefer to have it served up to them like watching Friends on TV while eating pizza (needs to be done sometimes).

"Those people who do understand that jazz is not Rod Stewarts new Standards Album, know where to find music that is fresh, challenging and a bit more intellectually pleasing , like reading great literature versus reading a good romance novel. Each has its place and those who want either know where to get it. It might be that Einstein as brilliant at physics as he was preferred to read comics as it entertained him more that reading James Joyce and no one would call him stupid because he just did not care that much about works of literature.

"You can be stupid about something if you are really not that passionate about it, but my guess is that if you are passionate about something you will eventually run into the truth about its authenticity and worth. It is just that the truth is getting harder and harder to find, but the rewards are sweet when you find it!"

Danton's alleged target was his agent
The Mike Danton story begins to break open. This would be the same agent who so worried family members and friends.

To review then:
We have quite possibly the first, still-active, known-to-be gay athlete in the history of North American pro sports, driven to kill the lover who would out him to the world because, in the homophobic sportsworld, such a thing would ruin his career. Oh, and that man - the agent who has guided his career since he was a teenager. Not to mention that said relationship may have caused Danton to become a troubled, depressed alcoholic, estranged from his family (to the extent that he would change his name). Remember Graham James and Sheldon Kennedy? Think bigger than that.

Or, well, maybe. Then again, maybe not.

So much remains pure speculation at this point. And, as noted above, those claiming to tell the truth are now being identified as the intended victim.

Even the "g" word issue is still up for debate (when it's at least used - most publications have so far been hesitant to even openly acknowledge the possibility).

From the Toronto Star story noted above:
"One thing Frost and Jefferson agree on is that Danton isn't gay. Both say that speculation the intended target was a gay lover was based on a misinterpretation of court documents."

Frost repeated that denial to the New York Daily News:
"This has nothing to do with a gay lover or his relationship with any female. We're going to get him some help, some treatment. He's had some issues from his younger years that he needs to deal with."

But, as you might expect, some are already running with the issue.

From the International Gay and Lesbian Ice Hockey Association (seriously. previous to this, what exactly did these guys do?):
"The International Gay and Lesbian Ice Hockey Association (IGLIHA), in collaboration with GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, expressed dismay today in response to the homophobia-related murder plot involving St. Louis Blues professional hockey player Mike Danton on April 16th. IGLIHA and GLSEN both call upon the National Hockey League (NHL) to take immediate action in response to the arrest and nature of the allegations against Danton."

Outsports.com speculates:
"Was Danton trying to have his live-in gay lover killed? All the evidence screams “closet case” to me, despite statements claiming there was no sexual relationship. Few people would contemplate murder if their platonic roommate was threatening to move out. On the contrary, many would do cartwheels and offer to rent a U-Haul."

And Salon's King Kaufman uses the opportunity to herald the impending arrival of the Gay Jackie Robinson:
"Of course, it's easy to imagine a player believing that being outed would ruin his career, but another of the good things coming out of this story is an indication that maybe it wouldn't."
(On a side note, I find Kaufman's argument flimsy at best.)

More background to consider while we await a clearer picture (and remember here, that most of the Canadian papers already have their best people tied up in the Stanley Cup playoffs - how would you like to be the sports editor trying to decide where your best talent should be sent at this point?)

Agent may have been target (Post-Dispatch scoop)
Views on agent: Mentor or monster
Team Sentiment is Beyond Shock
Agent: Danton 'scared'
Woman gets bail
From playoffs to courthouse
Troubled past catches up to him

Monday, April 19, 2004

No single work of art can appeal to everyone
Further reading to today's column on the trials and tribulations of Diana Krall and Fiona Apple.

Former Times music critic John Rockwell in a piece last week:
"Elitist pop-culture critics must, in the end, be mindful of what large numbers of people actually see and read and listen to. Because the underlying mythology of pop culture is still the idea that the approval of large numbers of people validates that culture and the society that produces it. If something is truly loved by millions of people, it has touched those people, has tapped into some stream of universality that indicates a life force attenuated in more elitist art."

Paul Wells beats the rest of the Canadian press to the punch with this profile in today's Maclean's:
"At first there was only a sensitive woman racked with loss and groping for a way forward. It was May 2002 when Adella Krall finally succumbed to cancer. A month later, two of Krall's most cherished musical mentors, singer Rosemary Clooney and bassist Ray Brown, died within days of each other. What do you do when loss follows loss like the waves of some horrible storm? Like so many of us, Krall went home."

The Jon Brion piece from Rolling Stone that explains the black hole Fiona Apple has fallen into.

And a sampling of The Globe and Mail's greatest hits in the War on Norah.
Spring cleaning
Plenty of new links at right - complete with a rough attempt at organization.
You'll also find a new section called Music Media. These are links to the music sections of various publications. Designed with us lazy people in mind.
Surely more additions to come. Feel free to pass along your suggestions.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Did I say that out loud?
The trenchant political analysis continues from, uh, Barlow.

In our last episode, the little-known Canadian pop star was asked to pose with the Prime Minister (only, of course, after some thorough blog-reading on the part of the PMO) during a Juno Awards event in Edmonton.

Now, in episode two, Barlow is whisked on stage (as Martin makes his exit) and asked to explain the importance of voting.

While on stage, Barlow explains, Paul Martin had been asked to discuss the recent court decision on downloading. According to Barlow, before responding, the Prime Minister, offered a disclaimer, explaining that he is "not in a position to comment." He then launched into a vow to save our beleaguered recording industry.

So next Barlow is asked to respond to the Prime Minister's comments, to which the spiky-haired one concludes:

"Mr. Prime Minister, if you're not in a position to comment... shut the fuck up."


Saturday, April 17, 2004

Weekend Reading (Also: Listening)
The website of Michael Deeds - a music writer for the Idaho Statesman (courtesy of RCD).
Robert Everett-Green's Exclaim tour experience doesn't include Canada. Much to his chagrin.
Carl Wilson mourns the death of Canadian rockabilly/honky-tonk barroom idol Ray Condo. And details the latest adventures of Toronto promoter Dan Burke.
Tangmonkey has the new Hanson single.
Those craving "something more spiritually meaty" are turning on to Christian New Wave.
Neil Sedaka's been reduced to celebrating his song's inclusion as a Clay Aiken b-side.
Adisa Banjoko sees a race war in hip-hop.
Alexis Petridis searches for the roots of rock n' roll.
And some magazine (Esquire? Maclean's?) is eventually going to write an incredible feature about this. Or, rather, this. Note that the first story, the one most websites are running, doesn't used the dreaded "g" word. Before all is said and done, me thinks this might raise a lot of complicated issues - so long as some publication is willing to invest the time and energy. Hopefully tongues are bitten now only because so many facts remain unclear.

Otherwise, scattered around the apartment/computer are new records from Hayden, Fiery Furnaces, Gomez, Diana Krall, Magnetic Fields, and Loretta Lynn... life is grand (and this case, all of the above did come for free)...

The Globe's Mike Doherty catches up with The Pixies in Winnipeg. The Star's Ben Rayner did the same in Friday editions.
Meanwhile, The Star's Ashante Infantry was in Indianapolis, checking up on another comeback - this time, Prince.

How funny is it that Danger Mouse references legal-downloading service iTunes in his playlist for the Sunday New York Times?
Kelefa Sanneh discusses Codeine Rapper Lil' Flip. But still manages to slip in this:
"Critics sometimes complain that hip-hop is stuck in a sex-and-crime-and-violence rut, which is a bit like complaining that R & B is stuck in a love rut."
And Frank Rich sees a Lawrence of Arabia sequel in Iraq.

The Toronto Star begins to chip away at the Mike Danton story. Rosie DiManno reviews the FBI version of events. While two reporters are dispatched to find some people who knew him when.

In Saturday's Globe (little behind on my reading), Ottawa columnist Jane Taber seems to repeat the myth that Alice Cooper once bit the head off of a chicken. Or maybe she's confusing him with Ozzy Osbourne. Either way, the urban legend of Alice Cooper's disregard for animal life was long ago debunked, as seen here.
A discussion of that Factor letter can be found here.
Factor claims no involvement in the Save Canadian Music campaign. But one industry insider told me this week that Factor officials are leaning hard on industry types to support the government's renewal of the program.
Thing is, the government isn't expected to drop the program or Factor, this insider noted. There is, though, some speculation that funding for the music industry as well as other parts of the Heritage Department may be shifted over to Minister of Industry.
Either way, a few hundred million in funding would seem to be a drop in the federal bucket... and surely the least of Paul Martin's worries right now.

Friday, April 16, 2004

PM and the Pop Star, Part II
Courtesy of XRRF comes word that Ozzy Osbourne and Prime Minister Paul Martin have been discussing a possible summit in Montreal (nothing, of course, boosts sagging poll numbers like a saggy, reformed-wife-beating, drug-ravaged rock star).

Well, sort of. As detailed in the latest episode of The Osbournes, it seems the correspondence and subsequent phone call to arrange said meeting - where Ozzy would receive either a fictional award or a key to the city which he could then use to raid Montrealers' liquor cabinets - were all a hoax. The initial report claimed police were investigating the matter.

Said an Ozzy spokesman with intimate knowledge of the Canadian criminal code:
"The police are going to be proceeding with trying to prosecute these people because they've actually put the Prime Minister's signature on the document, which is highly illegal, and he can be imprisoned for up to 15 years."

Said Ozzy:
"It could be an assassin or something."

Says the MTV episode guide (discussion of Kelly's bathing habits deleted):
Perhaps more perplexing than Kelly's shower boycott is the decision by the Prime Minister of Canada to give Ozzy an "Eternal Canadian Youth Award." Ozzy feels honored by the decoration but no one's really sure what an Eternal Canadian Youth is. Ozzy and his loyal assistant call the Prime Minister but Ozzy thinks something's fishy when the Prime Minister starts singing on the phone. Immediately, Ozzy declares he won't go to Canada because this award is some elaborate hoax in which a Hell's Angel or assassin will be waiting for him across the border. Ozzy's theory seems a little far-fetched. But then again, why would any one want to give him a Canadian Youth Award either? Ozzy's advisors try to convince him that it's a legit award with a government seal and the Prime Minister's signature on it but Ozzy is having none of it. Defeated, Ozzy's assistant agrees to further investigate things...
...With Kelly finally in the tub, the Osbourne family can focus on Ozzy's disputed award. Ozzy's assistant, receives a call from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police telling him that the award actually is a hoax. Wow, Ozzy's instincts were dead on although it remains to be seen just who these pranksters were.

A flipbook blow-by-blow of the episode can be found here (WARNING: graphic photos of Kelly's "stanky" hair included).

Contacted today, the RCMP assured that they were aware of the matter, but had determined that it was "nothing more than a prank." The PMO - despite warnings from Ozzy of a possible assassination plot - was sans comment.
(The episode has yet to air on MTV Canada, but, rest assured, it soon will.)

Thursday, April 15, 2004

'You brought this on your self'
Whether or not one, as Prime Minister, sits down with the Dalai Lama is a difficult decision of deep diplomatic, political and, uh, spiritual importance. Whether or not one poses for a photo with Barlow is, well, not.
Here, the Prime Minister arranges a spontaneous photo-op with this little known, Canadian pop star. But only after reading said pop star's blog, researching said pop star's history and ensuring he was "the guy."
(This can't possibly be real? Can it?)

Rush the Vote is a non-partisan organization dedicated to encouraging young people to become engaged in our political process by, among other things, voting. (Only 26 percent of eligible voters between the ages of 18-25 cast a ballot in the last federal election.) I’m supposed to perform a song with Mladen at a major Rush the Vote/Juno event and then do a quick question and answer session with Jenn the Much Music VJ.

The theatre is packed and I’m getting ready to go on when things get all RCMP Giant men in suits talking to their sleeves are suddenly anywhere, then a frazzled stage manager tells me I’ve been bumped. ”It’s the f’n Prime Minister! He’s here and he’s going to make a speech” Wait a second I think, this is a non-partisan deal here, as in no political affiliation and certainly not campaign style speeches.

Our leader gives his blah blah blah on voting and takes some questions and is being whisked away, when someone from the PM’s office tells me the boss would like a photo…. with me…there’s pushing, confusion and a scrum of photographers then the staffer tells me….’look we’d like a photo…you’re here and the PM will be walking by you and we’d like a quick snap…’ Now this doesn’t happen to me every day ya know, so I put my arm around him and look him in the eye and think to myself….’Paul, you brought this on your self.’...

... Oh ya, I found out later that the PM’s peeps did not randomly ask me for a photo, it was not a matter of coincidence and convenience, nope, they read my blogs and researched me and decided I’d be the guy. Imagine that the Government of Canada reading these little musings. Should I be flattered or should I get a firewall and start making all my calls from pay phones?

Next on the PMO To Do list: Seek focus group analysis on whether or not to reference Lee Aaron in upcoming speech on Senate reform.
Simple math
Best news I've read all day (note: day only hour and a half old; also note: haven't actually listened to it yet).
The L Word
Senior's (of Junior Senior) Top Ten Hairy Actors
1. Burt Reynolds
2. Sean Connery
3. Alec Baldwin
4. Benicio Del Toro
5. Richard Chamerlain
6. Daniel Day-Lewis
7. James Gandolfini
8. Dennis Quaid
9. Pierce Brosnan
10. Ron Jeremy
(courtesy of dearly-departed The Face)

Douglas Coupland's Four Favourite Albums of All-Time (no particular order)
1. David Bowie - Aladdin Sane
2. REM - Green
3. New Order - Substance
4. The Smiths - Louder Than Bombs
(courtesy of Strut)
Rock the Sunni
Think it's all death and despair over there? Not so:

At the Kirkush training base in the eastern Iraqi desert, an hour's wait for a helicopter was spent listening to Marilyn Manson, Eminem and Shania Twain before the Black Hawk fired up its turbines and somebody back in the barracks, as if on cue, cranked up Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven.''

The songs came from a European satellite music channel and a communal computer where 12.8 gigabytes of tunes had been downloaded for sharing on MP3s. The rule was simple: Take some music, add some music.

"Any time anybody on the team gets a new CD, they load it in, so we stay pretty current," said Sgt. Thomas R. Mena.

As the new CD from Tool blasted in the barracks, Mena scrolled through the computerized music library, which ranged from Abba and AC/DC, through Limp Biskit and Metallica and on to Van Halen and ZZ Top.

Emigres from West Africa who joined the Army for citizenship and career training arrived with the latest Nigerian pop CDs. Chinese-Americans hauled along hot Hong Kong video imports.

"We've got the whole world under one tent," said Pfc. Nicholas Allen of the 1st Infantry Division.

Troops running a checkpoint near the Kuwait border end their day by listening to Bush, not their commander-in-chief but the grunge band. Inside central Baghdad, whose palaces are home to the American-led occupation authority, Ludacris and R. Kelly were heard within earshot of the promenade where Saddam Hussein celebrated victories under crossed swords that reach five storeys into the sky.

A Green Beret sergeant in his 40s, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, said he packed Grateful Dead CDs next to his laser rangefinder.

The country of Dwight Yoakam blared from a mechanics' bay at Taji airfield, north of the Iraqi capital, even as a bass drum of captured ordnance rumbled in a controlled detonation.

So one year after the start of the war, as 130,000 American troops clear out their tents to make way for 110,000 fresh soldiers, it is time to take stock.

This is not Vietnam and Jimi Hendrix. In the American war in Iraq there is no obvious soundtrack save the thump-thump-thump of helicopter rotors. Sgt. Daniel Kartchien has been in the Army since 1973. He said that when troops go off duty, ``it's all individual stuff now.''

"Back in Vietnam you had those doing recreational drugs on one side and the heavy drinking on another," he said. "Here there's no alcohol allowed. And drugs aren't the thing any more. Everybody has their own MP3 player to pass the time.''

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Reality isn't reality
An e-mail making the rounds:

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Tuesday, April 13, 2004 5:06 PM
Subject: Help Save Canadian Music

Hello there

With the state of present consumer demand for what some consider reality conceptual television shows and world-related government agendas, reality isn't reality anymore.

In the Canadian Music Industry, our reality and agenda is to be a viable force domestically and internationally and to ensure we support our artists and industry from within first and foremost, while at the same time giving the Canadian consumer what they want.

On March 31st, 2005, FACTOR's contract with the Department of Canadian Heritage expires and without this program and funding being stabilized the Canadian Music Industry is in jeopardy.

Without stabilization, many great albums won't be recorded; domestic and international tours will often be impossible. Canadian music won't be showcased and supported internationally to the degree it is today. And then there's the trickle down effect that includes recording studios and engineers, video producers and directors, agents and managers, independent labels, publicists and publishers, concert promoters and club venues from coast to coast, cd manufactures and distributors, live production companies and crews, vehicle rental companies, hotel and accommodation providers, equipment manufacturers and retail music stores.

FACTOR is the launch pad of tomorrow's stars. It's the place where an artist can receive a solid ground starting point and where they can enhance their budgets drastically on marketing and promotion, touring, recording, press kits, small business development and the list continues. In the Canadian music scene, approx. 60% of professional artists have received funding through FACTOR at some point in their career and approx. 49% of this year's Juno Nominee list are funding recipients.

As you are reading this letter, please think for one moment about the list of artists and industry that you personally know, that would never have achieved their level of recognition and success without the financial support of the FACTOR programs. And now take another moment to think about what present and future projects you are planning in which you are hoping to obtain financial assistance from FACTOR.

Welcome to reality.

A group of industry peers have rallied together to see what we can do about convincing the new Liberal Government to continue the funding. Not an easy task but we are committed. We are coming to you, as a representative of the Canadian music community, to help us in our endeavors. Guaranteed this is not a hot topic of conversation or debate in City Halls or on Parliament Hill at this present time. We want it to be. We are requesting that you send a letter to the local, regional and provincial MPs making them aware of our concerns, as well as passing this letter along to your contacts and peers. We will provide you with the names and contact information of the Members of Parliament for your province, as well as the basic form letter, but we'd like you to personalize it with your own FACTOR-related examples of support received and results obtained.

A website www.savecanadianmusic.com has been designed to give you the tools to get involved. It will give you contact information for your local MP, the stats on what FACTOR gives to the industry and what the committee is committing to do. There will also be a discussion form where everyone is welcome to put his or her two cents in.

Let's ensure that the Government is at least aware of this serious problem and through seeing how the community has rallied together, hopefully realize that they should stabilize the FACTOR funding programs.

Please assist us and thus making reality a realization. For further information, contact: inquiries@savecanadianmusic.com
This is what people do
Remember this? Well Miss Lavigne would like to set the record straight.

(Courtesy of what we will generously describe as Avril's blog. Several others have been added at right, including blogs from Matthew Good, Jann Arden, Emm Gryner, The Barenaked Ladies and, of course, Jerome Higgins and the Haze. All of which have existed for far too long to be neglected mention.)
Free Fiona
Jon Brion (in an interview with Rolling Stone) about Fiona Apple's next album:

Sony has yet to find the magic song on Brion's latest production, Apple's new record. The album has been finished for months but sits on the shelves at the label as, Brion says, execs search for a single. "It's a done record," he says. "They'll take whatever amount of time they'll take deciding how to promote it. And who knows? Those things are a black hole."

Oh for happier times. This from a NYT Magazine profile of Brion last summer:

Recording studios are dreary places: bunkers filled with wires, smudged glass partitions and ashtrays. The Paramour, where Brion is at work, is not like that. Nestled in the Los Angeles hills, the grounds resemble Norma Desmond's spread. There is an ominous iron gate, an ancient lap pool illuminated by torches at night and a garishly decorated ballroom.

Down one dark hallway, music can be heard. There are red walls, a fireplace, a Scrabble board and left-over Cuban pastries gnawed by Charlie, the Paramour's half-wolf, half-German shepherd. A Hawaiian guitar rests against some Chinese gongs. In front of a Beatles-era E.M.I. console, an Apple computer displays a screen saver of David Bowie, Brian Eno and Robert Fripp at Bowie's ''Low'' sessions.

It's 1 p.m., and Jon Brion is still in his pajamas and slippers. For the past three months, Brion, Tom Biller, an engineer, and the singer Fiona Apple have been living at the Paramour. Right now, Brion is noodling at a Casio keyboard, playing along to a mix of Apple's ''Oh Well.'' ''I cried the first time I heard her play this,'' Brion says. ''We were at Ocean Way, Sinatra's old studio, and I just put my head down on the table and cried.''

As ''Oh Well'' plays repeatedly, Brion tries to conceive an arrangement that won't disturb the power of Apple's vocals. He says he thinks her delivery on the current version might be too slow for the anger of the words. To help, Brion has written out the lyrics in color-coded fashion on two giant pieces of white paper. Blue represents sad passages, red anger and green the resignation of Apple's whispering ''Oh, well'' in the last line.

''There's a space between this line and that line, and it's this continual sort of push and pull,'' Brion says. ''If she's not singing, I offer something to carry the listener through to the next moment where she returns.''

Apple's first release, fueled by her ethereal vocals and a video with her in her underwear, sold three million copies. Brion played on it, and they became close friends. After a rambling acceptance speech at the MTV awards, Apple absorbed a media assault. In 1999, she recorded the follow-up, ''When the Pawn . . . '' -- the full title stretches to 90 words -- which Brion produced and played most of the instruments on. It featured a hybrid of hip-hop beats and Brion's skewed instrumentation. Like most Brion-produced projects, it was hailed by critics. And like most Brion-produced projects, it was a commercial disappointment, selling fewer than a million copies.

Apple contemplated never recording another album. Then, in the spring of 2002, Brion and Apple met for their weekly lunch. Brion had recently been ejected from a five-year relationship with the comedian Mary Lynn Rajskub. Making matters worse, the breakup occurred while he was scoring Paul Thomas Anderson's ''Punch-Drunk Love.'' Rajskub had a large role in the film, and Brion spent hours watching his ex on celluloid. Now finished with the score, he was at loose ends.

''Please, please make another album,'' Brion begged Apple. ''I need work that can save me.''

Apple agreed, and Brion went to Apple's label, Sony Music, with strict stipulations. There would be no deadline. If a Sony rep wanted to check on progress, he would have to fly to Los Angeles. Brion requested renting a wing of the Paramour rather than recording at a conventional studio. The label agreed.

In an era of industry bloodletting, Sony's acquiescence to Brion's demands demonstrates how highly respected Brion is in the industry...

Kids these days
New claims against Michael Jackson.

But if said young man is also a victim of war, he'll be happy to hear that the founders of Music World have pledged $20 million to ease his plight.
Neo-con blogorgy
The National Post editorial board (long may they reign, etc) has launched a blog here. Should make for interesting reading - even if certain members are far too sympathetic to Bush's somewhat disastrous performance this evening (a man normally not good on his feet? that's because he's so often talking out of his ass).

In similar news, The Western Standard has assembled a crack team of bloggers to do much the same thing on their website.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Excess of his jurisdiction
The Canadian Recording Industry Association fires back at Justice Konrad von Finckenstein with an appeal. Note that they argue von Finckenstein overstepped his bounds in making the earlier decision. This would seem to be the argument that he was merely supposed to rule on the matter of ISPs turning over client information.

This, me thinks, could prove crucial. Then again, it could very well be argued that he had to broaden the argument to include the broader issue of downloading as CRIA's request for access to client information was built on the idea that users were participating in illegal activity.

Of course, then we have to ask whether any of this will matter now that the federal government has made up its mind?
We have our own Miguel Asencios, and we understand
Josh Levin writes about some of the best baseball blogs in Slate today. Let me recommend another: Batter's Box - which is required daily reading in these parts.

Footnote... Seems others have taken note. Congrats to the Batter's Box gang.
The Cutting Room Floor, Vol. 1 No. 5
This time MF Doom (full feature in tomorrow's Post).

On rapping: "It’s almost like a trick. like you can do magic. you know what i mean? the magic is the flow. As far as content, everybody got their own things to add."

On underground vs. mainstream: “When Biggie first came out — he was straight underground. But he transcended from underground to so-called mainstream and took that shit over. At that point, he still had underground fans, but sometimes by going to the mainstream you lose that underground thing. But I think in total yo, underground is underground because we’re in full control of what we’re doing. You get it straight from our hearts to the people. And in that way the people get a better feel for the music. It’s so raw that it can stand up against any so-called mainstream album. As long as it gets that distribution... [but] the way I look at it, I’m not trying to reach people that don’t want to be reached. So I don’t mind. whoever’s looking for the record, we got it so they can find it. The thing aobut the major is they almost force you into getting it, like, “Yo this is the shit, it’s all over the TV, you have to get it.”

And some bonus stuff that made the cut:

On conscious rap: "It’s not just you’re either thugged out or you’re the conscious rapper. We all conscious. A thug is conscious about what he’s conscious about. You know what I mean? it just shows that the area in between can be rocked too. You can be anything. As long as you can flow and the beats is right."

On underground vs. mainstream (again): “A lot of times in life people set it up like that. Us humans kind of need to get out of that way of thinking — that if things are opposite, they need to be at odds with each other. That’s not the case. Things that are different, that’s something we should celebrate. We should see the different things we can trade in those two different genres or races of whatever. I can only take hints from mainstream and it’s only making my business tighter. when I started rhyming there wasn’t no mainstream, everything was underground and it wasn't financially lucrative like that. That was twenty some years ago. Now this shit is popping — it’s like the main form of music on Billboard and the fucking Grammys. Cats that are doing that now are only helping the entire thing as a whole. 50 might have been the first hip-hop that someone took seriously. As ill as his shit is that might’ve been the first thing to bring them into the game. Then they find out about Madlib. We’re all opening doors for each other."

On his alter egos: "I consider myself a writer. It just so happens that the closest available venue for me to vent happened to be hip-hop. Not writing novels, I just happened to be a musician. I’m just a writer like any other writer — Stephen King or these cats who write novels. They have a myriad of characters and they don’t really involve themselves in it at all. I look at it as a combination of that with the music. I have a lot of different angles I want to come at. In order for me to do it and convey it in a way that’s understandable to the people — without them thinking that this guy’s crazy, he’s contradicting himself — you want to make sure they understand this is another person’s point of view."
Real-time digital video scratches, loops and instant cues
Tonight's Quannum World Tour stop almost makes up for missing Madvillain last week (never trust record label guest lists). The revolution will indeed be televised - specifically on a DVD turntable.

Footnote... Gwai Lo has a complete review of the Vancouver show. But for some reason I can't link directly to it. What gives?
Smell that kids?
"Sarah Slean blogs?"
Indeed she does. And we have proof (provided by an astute reader who noticed that Soul Shine stole this from there).

P.S. Basis spelt as "bases." Honest mistake or vague, confusing hipster ironic-speak?
Phew, for a minute there...
I had April 17 in the When Will Lynn Crosbie Next Write About Courtney Love pool, so I was dismayed to see this in Saturday's Globe. My regards though to anyone who can use the phrase "delusional solipsism" when discussing rock n' roll.

Friday, April 9, 2004

Cloak-and-dagger theatrics
An interesting report from Knight-Ridder's Dawn C. Chmielewski about how record labels are using data from online file-sharing to campaign for better radio play. Which of course sells more albums. Funny how that works (via Coolfer, via The Morning News).
The man can play when his bandmates egg him on
Slate takes down Wynton Marsalis. At least he didn't sell his soul to Jay Leno.
May surprise and delight
This is indeed good news. Courtesy of Soul Shine, word that Sarah Slean is just about done her follow-up to Night Bugs:

"Canadian songstress Sarah Slean is finally ready to unleash a fresh batch of her haunting tunes upon the world. Slean's last effort and major label debut, 'Night Bugs' was released over two years ago and it's about time she released something more for her eagerly awaiting fans to digest.

"Sarah Slean has been in the recording studio since last December and is currently putting the finishing touches on her latest album. The record will have 13-14 tracks and promises to hold the same piano driven pop as her previous releases. About the new album the classically trained Slean has said, 'There are three guest spots on the record that may surprise and delight.' Fans, however, will have to wait a little while longer to find out exactly who Ms. Slean is talking about."

Thursday, April 8, 2004

And then let's agree to never speak of it again
In case you missed it, footage of Alanis Morissette's bawdy suit skit (thanks Warren Clements) is here (to the right).
I think I'm numb
Can't bring myself to keep linking to Cobain stories this week (or keep writing Cobain stories for that matter).
But here's one about Courtney. That's halfway nice.
The man in the mask will have the JD with a coke chaser
MF Doom feature next week in Wednesday's Post.

For now, a teaser:

Q: Do you see yourself as a villain?
A: That's something I contemplate every day - you know what I mean? Alright yo. The whole villain shit. At a time when I wasn't doing no records and I was off the label and shit, the word villain emerged in New York slang. 'That shit is villain.' It was one of those phrases. It popped up for a second and kinda disappeared. So it was one of those rare joints that we always used to say, me and my brother, Sub. Like when you say something is villain, it's something to be appreciated in the villainy of it - like, 'Wow, he went around everything.' That was villain. So I said, 'Let me keep that yo - that's me,' you know what I mean? Something about that just feels like me. At the same time, on another level to incorporate it into the music - the villain is always looked at as the bad guy. There's always the hero and then there's the villain. But you can't have the hero without the villain. Somebody's going to tie the girl to the tracks and somebody's going to make off with her. So, you know, the hero's always boasting and bragging. So I look at it like - in the hip-hop joint, you got heroes already, but nobody's really representing the villain. Everybody wants to be the ill dude - dude with the abs, and he's fucking cut, the fucking fly guy with the fucking girls and all that shit. So, I'm alike, alright cool. That's cool. But there's nobody to represent the villain. The guy who didn't get the girl this time. You know what I mean? That guy needs to be represented. And that's me. So I said, 'Look I'm gonna rep for people like me.' You know, the guy might have a little gut. But he can get money though. There's something that he's good at. He'll always go and get it. And he'll always come back. Like in the case of Dr. Doom - he always came back. His plan might have gotten thwarted, but he always came back. And that's something that could raise a lot of spirits. We got a lot of brothers and sisters that are teenagers and at that age range when they're trying to find their way - but you know that if you don't find your way, don't give up, keep going. So I'm speaking for them cats that need to hear that. Not like, 'I'm always fly. I'm always going to win.' And I think there's more of us than them anyway.
And I can't understand how come his jaws weren't all broke up
Tough to justify giving this much space to Leland Cobain, but if you're going to send a writer down to Seattle to watch a bunch of mopey burnouts, I guess you might as well get something out of it.

And Thurston Moore in the Times: "You wouldn't know it now by looking at MTV, with its scorn-metal buffoons and Disney-damaged pop idols, but the underground scene Kurt came from is more creative and exciting than it's ever been. From radical pop to sensorial noise-action to the subterranean forays in drone-folk-psyche-improv, all the music Kurt adored is very much alive and being played by amazing artists he didn't live to see, artists who recognize Kurt as a significant and honorable muse."
"No. Nickelback doesn't suck."
Somebody did this with two Linkin Park songs once. Done with two Nickelback songs, the result is the same. Download. Enjoy. Discuss.

FOOTNOTE... Sean, infinitely more hip than me, had this on Monday. And now he's also got the link to the Linkin Park thing I was too lazy to dig up. Also: Andrea has a very smart observation below.

Wednesday, April 7, 2004

It's sometimes best to muddle along
NDP leader Jack Layton (via an Edmonton Journal story) on file-sharing:
"I'm a holder of a copyright myself. But it's a book on homelessness and I don't mind if anyone wants to copy it," he says with a grin. "I'm still not so sure how (file sharing) impacts sales -- some studies even say it enhances them. I don't think the dust has settled on this yet. When I was at university there was a great fear that photocopying was going to destroy the publishing industry and that hasn't happened. It's sometimes best to muddle along, take things one step at a time and see what happens. Society can have a way of sorting things out."

Prime Minister Paul Martin (via another Journal story) on the same subject:
"We are not going to let an industry that is so important to this country, so important to our ability to tell our stories and sing our songs to the rest of the world, be jeopardized. Let's understand something -- the Canadian music industry is the second most important music industry in the world. It's an important part of our sovereignty and an important part of our economy."

And now Heritage Minister Helene Scherrer (via an Edmonton Sun story via Colby Cosh):
"As minister of Canadian Heritage, I will, as quickly as possible, make changes to our copyright law." (in response to the recent Federal court decision)

Neither Martin or Scherrer outlined any specific plans (surprise, surprise).

Not that Layton's stance is beyond criticism, but at least he seems open to the complicated issue at hand. For a government that can't seem to decide what they want for lunch, let alone what they want to do about anything of genuine national importance, they seem awfully quick to pronounce their views on file sharing.

I'd hate to think they're trying to win favour with the domestic music industry. Especially because I have a tough time thinking of a less important industry to one's re-election hopes. If the file sharing issue were left to the courts and the feds chose to remain non-committal, what's the worst the music industry could do? Whine for a few moments until the federal government reminded them of that wee little multi-million dollar fund they set up to help said starving industry?

It could be that Martin is giving in to pressure from the multi-national major labels. Maybe they're threatening to divert their resources to other, more anti-downloading, territories. But certainly the Martin's government wouldn't be willing to bypass the nation's courts for the sake of some international conglomerates, would he?

Or maybe Martin - ever eager to make everyone happy, even if that inevitably leaves no one happy - is simply trying to offer short-term appeasement, confident that the courts will eventually straighten out the matter and render his government's input irrelevant.

Funny thing is, in that second Journal piece you'll see he then went on to court the youth vote. How many of said youths would be happy to know the Prime Minister wants to shut down their precious Kazaa?

Then again... no one under the age of 24 votes in this country. So maybe Martin is playing this better than I'm giving him credit for.

P.S. Mr. Cosh is suggesting pro-downloaders drop Ms. Scherrer a line at Scherrer.H@parl.gc.ca
"How can you let a yutz from Texas rule your lives like this?"
The Stars' Torq Campbell mouths off in NYC, reports Coolfer.
Somewhat redeeming that Torq doesn't just say such stuff when he's north of the border.

Tuesday, April 6, 2004

The narcissism of the stoned can be a gift
SFJ (blog guest hosted by Julianne Shepherd) dissects the Madvillain record in The New Yorker: "Madvillain’s music is accessible but idiosyncratic, catchy but soaked in noise, lighthearted but full of abstractions. Madvillain is why independent hip-hop isn’t such a bad idea; this group needed breathing space."

Speaking with them Wednesday afternoon. Article to appear sometime thereafter. Maybe some outtakes here sooner.
An hour and a half spent this afternoon talking to Max Wallace, Ian Halperin and Tom Grant. Also exchanged e-mails with Charles R. Cross. Fruit of these conversations in tomorrow's Post.

P.S. Cross has an interesting piece appearing in next week's NME in which he responds to many of the conspiracy theories surrounding Cobain's death (though not directly to the work of Wallace and Halperin).
Irony, thy name is...
A lukewarm review was to be expected. But Nellie McKay getting lectured about "teenage smarm" from Pitchfork? That's... uh... interesting.
Toy piano and glockenspiel
Mark Dickie with a fine piece about the Unicorns (also here).
Bad is the new Good
Preliminary ratings for this year's Junos. Good news! They're, uh, down.

From CTV:

Toronto, Ontario (April 5, 2004) - Last night's CTV broadcast of The 2004 JUNO Awards from Edmonton's Rexall Place drew 1.51 million viewers* (2+) to the two and a half hour scheduled broadcast, making it the most watched show of the night in Canada* and the JUNOS second biggest television audience in the last five years.

Why only the second biggest audience in the last five years? Well because last year they got 2.23 million viewers. In other words, year-to-year they lost 720,000 viewers - just about a third of last year's total.

Thankfully, The Sun's Bill Brioux turns up his nose at CTV's bait. Should a few more of these stories appear - especially if Canadian Press files one - it will be interesting to see how CTV rationalizes it. Maybe this says something about what happens when you take the awards outside of media-saturated, densely populated Ontario (Note that two years ago, in Newfoundland, the Junos pulled in 1.46 million viewers). Maybe it proves Shania Twain (the host of last year's show) is just far more popular than any of us were previously willing to admit. Or maybe too many newspaper columnists wrote nasty things about the Junos and convinced people to stay away. (No, that can't be it. Nobody listens to music critics.)

FOOTNOTE... Sometime after I posted this, the people at JamShowbiz changed the headline (at least on the main page) on the Brioux piece from "Juno ratings plunge" to the much milder "Juno ratings down from last year"
Happy now?
(Too) Many people directed here looking for info on Alanis Morissette's little nipple protest during Sunday's Junos.
I suspect this has much to do with a certain Southern Cowboy and his breathless report. (Note the time on his report. About 16 hours after the actual thing took place.)
Have we really gotten to the point where criticism of the United States requires a bulletin on Drudge? Remember when Drudge was all about breaking important news, like oral sex in the Oval Office?
She said much worse to The Globe's Simon Houpt. Er. Sort of.
Seems Houpt found her as elusive a spirit as I did. But he did get some vaguely anti-Bush rhetoric out of her. Cheers to that.
Go get her Drudge, you big important Internet maverick. Maybe she helped the Clintons kill Vince Foster too. Or maybe it was Janet Jackson on the grassy knoll.

P.S. I, for one, was just proud to hear someone on television actually utter the phrase "pubic hair." Cheers to that too.
217 pages down... 65 to go...
It's best not to get emotionally involved in these things. But Love & Death is frustrating, depressing stuff. Because no matter the plot twists, the story effectively ends the same way.
Best I can gather so far, most of L&D can be found elsewhere on the net (I can't be bothered to link to it all... just plug "Kurt Cobain" into Google... you could spend the rest of your life reading it all). Biggest revelations come from Tom Grant's tapes. But even there the "most damning" stuff is apparently kept secret - which it will remain, we're told, until the case is reopened.
The whole thing is crying out for an independent investigation. As it stands you've got a police force that allegedly bungled the case, an accused murderer whose every word is suspect, and some journalists/conspiracy theorists who seem as opportunistic as they are apparently dogged. Then there's the cavalcade of relatives, friends, drug addicts, bandmates, acquaintances, nannies, cab drivers, private investigators, record label executives, lawyers... who have evidence/information/theories/speculation/rumours/lies to share.
Where's Sheila Fraser when you need her?

Monday, April 5, 2004

Kurt Cobain: Rest in Pieces
"He would hate this," observes David Segal in The Washington Post. Not that that's going to stop anyone.

The Australian: Nevermind the hype
The Age: Superhero, lazy for life
Seattle Times (Charles R. Cross): A life 10 years gone
Seattle Post-Intelligencer I: Art shows flip side of his genius
Seattle Post-Intelligencer II: Legacy endures
Sunday Herald (Eugene Kelly): Kurt & Me
Sydney Morning Herald I: Kurt so good
Sydney Morning Herald II: Cobain lives on in memory
BBC I: Torment of rock hero Cobain*
BBC II: The Kurt I knew
BBC III: On the road with Nirvana
BBC IV: In pictures
Associated Press: Did more than entertain us
UK Sun: Last great rock hero
UK Times: Mr Kurt, he dead
Rolling Stone: Nirvana Anthology
NME I: Your 20 Favourite Songs
NME II: My Nirvana: Evan Dando
NME III: My Nirvana: Lars Ulrich
NME IV: 'He didn't give a shit'
MuchMusic: 10 Years After**
MTV: Days of Thunder
Calgary Sun: The life of Kurt Cobain
Tacoma News Tribue: What was, what might have been
MSNBC: Cobain lives on in his music
ABC: Tortured legacy
Alameda Times-Star: Legacy of unfulfilled potential
Winston Salem Journal: Songs should be what fans remember
Houston Chronicle: Undiminished as rock icon
Port Huron Times Herald: Fans inspired by Nirvana leader
Stuff (New Zealand): Ten years today since Cobain died
Muslim WakeUp!: Ten Years Later
Boston Phoenix: Ten years gone
No Rock & Roll Fun I: I Remember Kurt
No Rock & Roll Fun II: I think I tried
Blogcritics I: A crappy excuse for an icon
Blogcritics II: Ten Years Gone

STILL MORE... updated at 5:25pm EST...
Launch Yahoo: His History and Legacy
Globe and Mail: Struggling to face the music
San Francisco Chronicle I: Ten Years Ago
San Francisco Chronicle II: Britney to answer for
Boston Globe: On the cusp of fame
Seattle Times: A rising rock star
Cherry Hill Courier Post: Influence on music, style
MTV: A hip-hop writer remembers
Ireland Online: Fans mark anniversary
Miami Herald: Cobain conspiracy II
Manila Times: Smells like dead spirit

And let's not forget this, this and, unfortunately, this.

*"Send your tributes to Kurt Cobain" reads an option on the BBC page. Rather unfortunate wording. Unless, of course, Ouija boards now accept e-mail.
**The New Music special airs tonight - in Canada at least - at 9:30pm EST.
No. 21: She's a cyborg
Everything you wanted to know about Condoleezza Rice but were afraid to ask... because you were locked in your home living in fear of the next terrorist attack her government is going to miss.

Sunday, April 4, 2004

Coming to terms with one's own twisted loser
This is a battle I cannot win. Or rather a battle neither party can "win" because we are indeed comparing apples and oranges. Or red and orange as Alanis Morissette is fond of saying about awards shows.
Rodney Graham is not Nellie McKay. Nellie McKay is not Rodney Graham. Nor, I imagine, does she aspire to be.

But still, a few thoughts.

Carl on Rodney: "But he's still dead aware of the twisted loser behind the successful mask, and that capacity for double-consciousness is something that on my cursory listens (and readings) I don't think Nellie's developed so far."

I dare say "My" Nellie may never develop that. Should she, I would hope it comes many years down the road. Because "My" Nellie has, I imagine, spent the past 19 years being called a "twisted loser" by many an observer - little Timmy the schoolyard bully, Mrs. Stevens the grade 11 music teacher, etc. She is, then, more than permitted - encouraged in my mind - to flout a little musical "fuck you." And so she does - reveling in the Look At Me glory and rapturous applause her talents are receiving.

She'll have plenty of time for sad-eyed introspection and sighs of resignation when she's 35 and accepted her lot in life (though I'd be more than happy for such a stage to never occur in her case).

All of that said, I think her current level of double-consciousness might be a tad underestimated. I give you Inner Peace (the song, sadly not the actual state of enlightenment):

In high school it was cool to say
you look funny
you’re a retard dummy
a retarded dummy
yeah you suck out of luck
you’re no Playboy bunny
hee hee
so you laugh, it’s a gas
they’re right on the money
they’re just being funny, hysterically funny
yeah i’m stupid it’s true
now can we be chummy?

But then it hits you, then it kicks you
then you realize you’re not unique
and you ignore it, you implore it
just to let you turn the other cheek
don’t wanna think about the schools in Bosnia
don’t wanna sing about food in Somalia
I don’t need this, I don’t see this
all I want is inner peace

Graduate but too late
college will just hurt you
soon they’ll all desert you
get your just desserts you
all essays MLA format they’ll convert you
Could they?
so you try it’s like pie
get just more alert you
they’ll not try to hurt you
only you can hurt you
so you say, so you play
they would not subvert you
Would they?

But then it hits you, then it kicks you
then you realize you’re not unique
and you ignore it, you implore it
just to let you get on through the week
don’t wanna think about the new armed forces
don’t wanna sing about no carriage horses
I don’t need this, I don’t see this
all I want is inner peace

You pretend it’s the end
ah yes I’m all grown now
uh-huh I’m at home now
fool, you’re never home now
even this laugh’ll pass
go answer your phone now
you’ll see
see I told you you’re old
now you’re all alone now
look ma how I’ve grown now
ain’t you proud I’m grown now
look this head is all dead
see how much you’ve done now
You pussy

But then it hits you, then it kicks you
then you realize you’re not unique
and you ignore it, you implore it
just to let you find the “om” you seek
don’t wanna think about the fall elections
don’t wanna sing about no vivisection
I don’t need this, I don’t see this
all I want is inner peace
inner peace

Obviously a "drama-school wit." But I have no doubt she is expressing her deepest fear when she sings, "But then it hits you, then it kicks you/ then you realize you're not unique."

Would this be considered deep self-analysis from the mouth of Mr. Graham? Of course not. But Graham (at least according to this) is 45. If he sounded like Nellie, I'd be concerned. (And if Nellie, at this point, sounded like him, we - I - probably wouldn't like her so much.)

The joy - at least to my ears - of McKay circa 2004 is the freshman form and flare; the excitement and exuberance of someone still marveling at the wonders of her own talents. That and the songs are so razor sharp. And funny.

We've already got a Randy Newman. And a Rodney Graham. And, for the matter, a Fiona Apple. I find solace in the fact that McKay doesn't yet seem to feel the need to match them angst for angst.

From conversations I have no doubt such angst exists - if for now only hidden beneath a bubbly layer of youthful arrogance. If, when or how it shows itself in the future remains to be seen.

For the moment, I quite enjoy what I hear.

P.S. Did we like Rufus Wainwright anymore once he started speaking openly of his "Gay Hell" and the inferiority complex about measuring up to dear old dad?
P.P.S. Is there a reason we - you - feel McKay needs to publicly come to terms with her own loserdom?
P.P.P.S. On an only maybe related note: I sometimes think we sometimes under-estimate that McKay "gets" her own jokes. Tongue is quite often firmly in cheek.
P.P.P.P.S. All the same I'm surely going to seek out more stuff (or all sorts) from Rodney.
P.P.P.P.P.S. This is all good fun. Thank the higher power of your choice for blogs. Cos the higher power of your choice certainly wouldn't allow us to do this in the pages of our principle employers.
It's very unexpected and very welcomed
All of that said, the Junos have certainly latched onto a deserving champion - Sam Roberts the bearded belle of this year's banal ball.

The grousing - on stage and elsewhere - about downloading was a bit much though. Maybe a compromise could be reached. Downloaders will stop "stealing" from the Canadian recording industry. As long as the Canadian recording industry agrees to stop "stealing" our tax dollars.
These are no great revelations, of course
In what seems - if I might say so myself - a response to my piece earlier this week, Ben Rayner writes of his own Juno complaints this weekend. We disagree on several issues - or maybe just give greater priority to different concerns.

Here's my take from earlier this week (with correction appended):

Shipping and handling:
Prior to this year's popularity contest, the music industry reveals how it measures success
Aaron Wherry - National Post
Thursday, April 1, 2004

One imagines it's pretty difficult to screw up an interview with TV Guide. With all due respect to those who toil under its banner, it is not their duty to expose or investigate, but rather to simply promote what's worth watching.

So it was somewhat surprising to see the Juno Awards' many failings laid bare, if only by coincidence, in the pages of this week's magazine -- all in one breathless statement from ceremony producer John Brunton.

In explaining why nominations for the show's most celebrated categories are determined solely by sales, Brunton remarked: "I think the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences are very transparent about this."

Of course, it's a complete lack of transparency in this regard that has so tarnished the Junos this year. In fact, the only thing "transparent" about the Junos is this: 33 years into their existence they have clearly become little more than a publicly funded promotional tool for the multinational record labels (EMI, Warner, Song/BMG and Universal) who dominate this country's recording industry.

All things considered, you're left with a national awards show teetering on the verge of irrelevance.

Back in February, CARAS, the industry group that oversees the awards, was forced to acknowledge that a "data entry error" had excluded Nickelback's The Long Road from album of the year consideration -- one of the categories determined solely by "sales."

To make amends, The Long Road was added to the nominees list, but no album was subsequently dropped. The move was surely meant to appease all parties -- the subtraction of a nomination sure to anger whomever had originally believed themselves to be nominated (in this case, though CARAS wouldn't comment on the matter -- how's that for transparency? -- Nelly Furtado's Folklore was found to be the likely "sixth" nominee).

But the idea of six nominees for one category -- and the possibility one undeserving nominee might end up the winner (ultimate winners are determined by a vote of CARAS members), raised questions about the process. Those questions led to a rather embarrassing admission.

Under pressure, CARAS officials acknowledged that the categories based on "sales" were, in fact, based on albums "shipped." It may seem simply a matter of industry jargon -- but the difference is distinct and important.

The former, measured by Nielsen SoundScan, is a tally of total albums sold at point of purchase. The latter refers to the number of albums sent from record labels to stores.

Put plainly, a record label might ship 50,000 records to HMV, but only sell 30,000. In this case, only the first figure would matter.

"That's outrageous," snapped Billboard magazine's Canadian bureau chief and long-time industry observer Larry LeBlanc at the time. "I can't believe that. Ship-out figures can be manipulated, they can be switched around to look better for almost anything, and ship-out doesn't really show anything but what went out of the branch. They are not a true indicator of actual sales. And one of the reasons why the industry demanded something like SoundScan was the inaccuracy of ship-out figures."

The admission revealed the Junos to be an awards show systemically built to favour major label artists like Nickelback, Shania Twain, Avril Lavigne, Celine Dion and the Barenaked Ladies.

Smaller and independent labels and artists can't afford to ship out the mass quantities of records required to compete in the top categories -- including album, artist and group of the year (new artist and new group take shipped into account, but also include panel voting in the nomination process).

But the current state of affairs benefits those involved. It might be giving too much credit to all parties to suggest a vast conspiracy is at play, but, if only by happenstance, a system now exists wherein the already rewarded receive only greater reward, while everyone else is left wanting.

Consider that CARAS needs major label stars to promote each year's show, while major labels love the exposure a national audience can provide.

Major labels quite generously cover all the costs associated with bringing their stars to each show. They then happily accept a favourable nomination system. And the resulting exposure offers a little help in selling all those albums they shipped -- last year's Nickelback's sales, according to SoundScan, doubled in the week after the Junos.

CARAS gets star power to promote its long-ignored show, increase ratings and, conceivably, earn more advertising dollars.

Meanwhile the folly of major label dominance wouldn't be so pronounced if it weren't for the fact the Canadian music community is experiencing something of an unprecedented indie renaissance. This, for the most part, has been ignored by Juno organizers -- up-and-coming bands are relegated to Juno week festivities (generally ignored outside the community hosting the awards) or celebrated only at the non-televised portion of the ceremony (as Broken Social Scene were for You Forgot It In People last year).

In that aforementioned TV Guide piece, even Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger -- someone who has benefited greatly from the flawed awards criteria -- had to acknowledge the error.

"Most fans don't even realize sales are a factor in those awards. It's not really the best, it's best of the best-sellers," he said. "It turns into a big popularity contest. There are bands I adore that have never won. So us having a stack, that doesn't make us any better of a band. If you're already a top seller, you don't really need an award for that, do you?"

The Juno's tricky relationship with transparency -- sometimes attempting it, often only to reveal more flaws; other times outright rejecting the concept -- extends to their public funding. Ask them how much money they receive each year and you'll be told they "don't disclose that info."

Oddly enough, the federal government does. And according to their records, this year's ceremony has been approved for $300,000 in loans through Canadian Heritage's Canada Music Fund. The Edmonton Journal has tallied another $365,000 in city and provincial funding. Maybe all this major label, multi-millionaire back-slapping might not be so troublesome if it weren't that Canadian taxpayers were footing at least part of the bill.

On the cover of TV Guide, their rather inadvertently remarkable story is promoted as "Avril Lavigne, Sarah McLachlan & Nickelback explain why the Junos matter." Such a title reeks of insecurity -- when was the last time anything of importance felt the need to explain its own relevance? In the past this insecurity could be blamed on that all-too-Canadian feeling of inferiority. Now it might have more to do with an institution that is truly lacking credibility.

CORRECTION: (From National Post, April 2, 2004) In an article in this week's TV Guide on the 2004 Juno Awards, Oh Susanna, a singer and songwriter, said, "Most fans don't even realize sales are a factor in those awards. It's not really the best, it's best of the best-sellers." This quotation was incorrectly attributed in yesterday's National Post. The Post regrets the error.*****

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