Sunday September 16, 2018

Passed Out

Toronto punk act Pkew Pkew Pkew have started working with Dine Alone Records in Canada. This follows news from last summer that the band was also working with LA punk label SideOneDummy in the States (their most recent record, a Royal Mountain release up here, was reissued by S1D for the US audience last fall). The band kicked off the relationship with a new tune, titled "Passed Out" (a "blistering ode to knowingly wasting your life away" according to the PR). It'll be available as a 7" single, backed with the b-sides "Beer Stick 'N' Ched" and "Acceptable Spectacle.

Buried in the announcement was an interesting note that the band had sought guidance from Craig Finn of The Hold Steady on their new material. That's fascinating, and it lends some serious credibility to the notion that there's something deeper going on with Pkew Pkew Pkew, once you set aside the band's (numerous) odes to pizza and binge drinking. If you're just shtick, you probably don't get Craig Finn's ear. Guitarist/vocalist Mike Warne commented on the process:

"You know in school when you can hand your work in early, and the teacher will read it and give it back to you, and then you can really hand it in? It was kinda like that."

That said, here's an ode to binge drinking. The new single came with a video directed by Mike Bridges. You can check it out below.

Watch: Pkew Pkew Pkew - "Passed Out" @ YouTube

Edmonton's Wares has released a new EP titled Silhouette, a two-song digital set you can pick up on Bandcamp for so many dollars. It features the tracks "Rice Paper Dress" and "X Ray." The band, a project spearheaded by songwriter Cassia J. Hardy, recorded the new tracks at several locations (and with a handful of engineers) throughout 2018. The Alberta-based visual artist Geneva Haley put together the cover art for the set.

Wares is a band that's a little hard to peg, from a genre perspective, but they have an undeniable charisma and sense of wordplay that's shared by a select handful of literate Canadian indie rock acts, the Weakerthans and the Burning Hell among them.

Listen: Wares - Silhouette @ Bandcamp

Montreal punk/psych act Faze has a new four-song EP out with the cheery (but accurate) title Struggling to enjoy ourselves while the world slowly implodes. The set was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Max Gosselin of loud Montreal bands like Ultrarat and F.I.T.S.. The release comes wrapped in some killer collage art by Felix Morel as well. The band will have cassettes out soon on Runstate Tapes.

If you were into tracks I'd previously shared by Windsor's Psychic Void or the myriad side-projects of the TV Freaks crew, you should be all over this.

Listen: Faze - Struggling to enjoy ourselves while the world slowly implodes @ Bandcamp

Speak of the devil. Hamilton, Ontario's Flesh Rag has the title track of their upcoming LP online for your enjoyment. The three-piece is gearing up for the release of Inside Your Mind on Schizophrenic Records and Loose Lips Records on October 1. You can preview the song below. Sean Pearson of Boxcar Sound was behind the boards for this record.

Flesh Rag features vocalist/guitarist Matthew Ellis, drummer Nathan Burger, and bassist Eric Felgner. The members of that group have collaborated in bands like TV Freaks, Rocket Reducers, Sweet Dave and the Shallow Graves, and Uncontrollable Urge among others.

Listen: Flesh Rag - "Inside Your Mind" @ Bandcamp

I wrote quite a bit about "Raise Your Voice Joyce" and "Normal People," the two songs we earlier previewed from Fucked Up's upcoming LP, so I'll restrain myself this time. Your third window into Dose Your Dreams is "House of Keys," a track that finds Damian Abraham's hardcore vocals at a boil atop a mean stew of electronic instrumentation (Owen Pallett's strings are somewhere in the mix too).

Dose Your Dreams arrives on October 5 via Arts & Crafts in Canada and Merge elsewhere. It's the critically-lauded Toronto band's first full-length since 2014's Glass Boys.

Listen: Fucked Up - "House of Keys" @ YouTube

Toronto artist/producer Derek McKeon has announced a new full-length as the psych-pop act ZONES. The album, titled The State of Light, is an 8-track trip due on October 5 from Hand Drawn Dracula.

The new album announcement came with an interactive video created by experimental LA artist Vinyl Williams. It features the album-closing track "The Syzygy." McKeon commented on the track in a statement:

"A syzygy is when the sun, the moon, and the earth (or any three celestial bodies) are lined up, which can cause new or full moons, eclipses, and affect the tides. It’s the last song and climax of the album, when all of its stars become aligned. The song itself has three distinct movements while fusing a lot of the themes explored throughout the record into one long cosmic disco journey. The word can also refer the unison of connected or opposite things and that’s where a lot of the lyrics and feelings behind the track come from."

Head over to YouTube to get your hands on this one, it's pretty wild. "The Syzygy" features some guest percussion (on the rototoms) from Jesse Locke of Tough Age as well.

Watch: ZONES - "The Syzygy" interactive video @ YouTube

Niagara-on-the-Lake post-hardcore/emo act Heavy Hearts recently released the new single titled "Cut Too Deep." It's the band's first new material since their 2017 EP On a Chain. The track will be available as a limited 7" flexi disc from New Damage, and the band should have them on hand for their appearance at this year's inaugural Hope Fest in Waterloo on September 22.

Listen: Heavy Hearts - "Cut Too Deep" @ YouTube

Last week saw a flurry of activity from Quebec glam rock upstart Hubert Lenoir, with two videos arriving within a day of each other for the songs "Ton hôtel" and "Momo." It's undoubtedly part of a last-minute push to coincide with this Monday's awarding of the Polaris Music Prize in Toronto. Lenoir's recent Simone Records LP Darlène is up against 9 other titles for the $50,000 prize.

The "Ton hôtel" video was directed by Gabriel Lapointe and Noémie D. Leclerc, with Leclerc directing the "Mono" clip solo. Writer Jill Krajewski's comprehensive interview with the provocative musician recently ran in Noisey, and it's well worth a read.

Watch: Hubert Lenoir - "Ton hôtel" @ YouTube

Watch: Hubert Lenoir - "Momo" @ YouTube

Toronto's Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs have a new single on the way titled "First Time," but I'm not aware of it showing up anywhere online yet. While you wait, the band's recent session for Audiotree North has been posted. It featuring the denim-vested, hard-rock influenced punk group's songs "Tough" and "PHD," both of which appeared on the band's recent self-titled album for Dine Alone.

Watch: Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs - "Tough" from Audiotree North @ YouTube

Every song I previously featured from Sudbury's Tommy and the Commies is being re-introduced in the lead-up to their upcoming LP, and who am I to buck the PR machine? It's time to fall in love (again) with "Suckin' In Your 20's," a song that channels both The Jam and Buzzcocks for good measure. The record arrives on September 28.

The band features the titular Tommy backed by Jeff Houle (Strange Attractor) and his brother Mitch (who played with Jeff as 2/3s of the P.Trash power-pop legends Statues).

Listen: Tommy and the Commies - "Suckin' In Your 20's" @ SoundCloud

Black Forest

This week I'm wrapping up my little series profiling the bands playing the Black Forest Stage at Beau's Oktoberfest. The event will go down for this coming weekend (Friday, September 21 and Saturday, September 22) in Vankleek Hill, Ontario.

Last week I ran three interviews at Punknews.org taking a deeper look at some of these bands. The first was with Montreal pop-punk group Lost Love. The band will take the catchy, Weezer-indebted tunes from their recent LP Good Luck Rassco to the Black Forest stage on Friday night. The group commented to me about their penchant for unabashed positivity in troubling times:

Guilhem Benard (vocals/bass): Actually, the first songs we wrote and recorded when we started the band were darker. With a name like "Lost Love," it’s clear we were not in a nice place when we started this project. After playing a lot of shows with those darker songs, I figured it’d be better to sing about positive things. Like burritos and sandwiches.

Olivier Theriault (guitar/vocals): And bees! Also, when you take a look at our song titles, I think it’s obvious that we have a good sense of humour even if the world is kinda fucked right now. Like Guilhem said, we’re all trying to stay positive and to have a good time.

You can read the full thing here. Good Luck Rassco came out in May on Stomp Records and the French label Guerilla Asso.

Listen: Lost Love - "John Wayne Gretzky" @ Bandcamp

Next up was Toronto power-pop trio Talk Show Host. I was eager to hear how the band handled the blowback to "I Hate Men (I Hate All Men)," a song from their recent EP. The music video raised no small amount of ire from MRA trolls and alt-right wingnuts online:

Chris (guitar/vocals): It took almost a full year for the blowback to start; we dropped the video in March and it got picked up by Punknews, which actually gave us our first taste of the kind of Dude Response that would eventually flood the YouTube page (i.e. "these soyboys are just using the feminist card to get laid"). BlankTV reposted the video and that’s when we started getting the real hate-filled stuff. It was all mostly the same talking points repeated endlessly (I’d never even HEARD the term "soyboys" before and now I’ve proudly added it to my list of self-descriptors), although the most unsettling part was when it got picked up by an MRA news site and they carefully listed the names of the women we’d worked with on the song and the video at the very top of the article. Of course, they didn’t mention any of us by name...

You can find the full story at Punknews. Talk Show Host has a pair of new songs available this week as part of a three-way split release on Montreal's PCT Musique with Belgium's Chump and France's BIAS.

Listen: Talk Show Host - "Skull and Bones" @ Bandcamp

Finally, I had the pleasure of speaking to Chris Page of The Stand GT, Camp Radio, and Expanda Fuzz. The Stand GT (originally from rural Glengarry, Ontario), have only played a handful of shows since going quiet in 2001. Their next will see them take the Black Forest stage on September 22 alongside a reunion of the early 90s Ottawa punk band The Trapt. Chris pointed out some of the connections between the two bands:

Chris Page: "Keep Your Engine Clean" from [1996's] Apocalypse Cow is a cover by The Trapt, and they’re playing at Beaus this year as well. We're psyched because they were our first tour pals back in 1990. We did a small tour with them, The Ripcordz and Random Killing. The Trapt played a few shows with us and we had a "bootleg" soundboard cassette of one of their shows that we played in the van for years. "Engine" was an unreleased song that we learned from that tape. Anyway, its fun that we're coming full circle to play with them again on the Saturday at Oktoberfest. I've seen them recently, and they’re still really great live... and they play "Keep Your Engine Clean" in their set too! (It's also funny that I recently found a poster of us playing with Thrush Hermit during one of their first shows in Halifax... and Joel is playing this year's Beaus too.)

Listen: The Stand GT - "Keep Your Engine Clean" @ Bandcamp

You can read the rest of my chat with Chris here.

The Black Forest stage will be raising funds to support the Ottawa skate community's youth charity For Pivots Sake. The main stage of Beau's Oktoberfest will feature headlining sets from the Joel Plaskett Emergency, Sloan, The Flatliners, and Weaves, while Black Forest will feature Cancer Bats topping the bill. The festival this year one-again boasts an entirely Canadian lineup.

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