Talk To Your Friends
This may be difficult to explain, but I don't ascribe any special virtues to Canadian bands. Perhaps that's an odd thing for me to say, given that I'm the author of a publication that focuses on them exclusively. If you subscribe to the old punk rock axiom that anyone can play rock'n'roll and it's just a matter of having the will to do it, then the logical conclusion of that notion is that there should be an abundance of rock'n'roll bands. I believe there is, and there's nothing in isolation that makes Halifax and Hamilton any better or worse than Portland and Denton.
The border matters though. The financial and regulatory implications of crossing it for a band are real and prohibitive. Cultural currents also exist. If there are truly cool rock and roll bands everywhere, then that same border means it's always going to be a little bit easier for a publication based in New York, LA, or Chicago to promote an American act than engage at length with an artist from, say, Saskatoon. We may be closer than ever online, but the Internet can't fully solve for geography.
The global village has another problem: with everyone at the party the noise has increased. It's impossible to equally sample and judge the best of everything, and there's so much good music out there that to pursue only the collectively accepted best just lands you in another silo. If you're like me, you need to draw a line somewhere, even if its arbitrary. You need to pick a hill to stand on from where you can see the lay of the land. For me that hill is Canada. It's Canada for no other reason than that's where the accident of birth has found me. It remains Canada because I subscribe to that idea that anyone can play cool rock'n'roll, and I'm never left wanting when I narrow my focus to this nation.
I'm not touching #Canada150 on this newsletter, but the event has given me pause. I don't think that I, or any of the similar labels or zines that focus on the cultural output of Canada, are doing so out of nationalism or patriotism or any other problematic -ism. It's simply where we are, and all things being equal that's a fine place to be.
Pentagon Black is a label owned an operated by Montreal duo The Famines. That band self-describes as a "noise-garage art cult" and their publishing wing is similarly high concept. Pentagon Black's released three editions of a compilation series to date, the latest arriving this past June at the Ottawa Explosion. Each comp features a collection of underground Canadian bands and each was released exclusively on paper (which is to say, some objet d'art with a download code). The first two were 20x30" newsprint posters, the latest is a postcard about size of a 7" record. It's an aggressive expression of how cost-effective it can be to create something of meaning, and it thumbs its nose at the trendy middle ground where a lot of garage bands find themselves when priced out of vinyl (namely, cassettes). It's also a bold rejection of much of the superstructure built around independent music: the project forgoes the expected PR campaign, avoids online streaming sites, and leaves record collectors without the usual fetish item.
The third Pentagon Black collection features 16 bands, each of which recorded a live take of a new song to a cell phone. The Famines are present of course, as are the related Montreal punk band PRIORS (Famines drummer Drew Demers with members of Sonic Avenues). Quebec is further represented by Montreal's surrealist guitar pop duo Couleur Dessin, noise-punks Nüshu, and "soft prog" group LAPS, along with Quebec City dance/punk/comedy duo Oromocto Diamond. From the east coast the comp features raw takes from Fredericton's difficult-to-describe art rock trio Motherhood and experimental Saint John act Usse. Toronto post-punks Century Palm and low-fi punk act Protruders appear along with a number of bands outside the GTA, including Ottawa noise duo Deathsticks and a trio of Peterborough bands (art-punks Lonely Parade, "doom rap / industrial soul" project garbageface, and garage-punk group Beef Boys). Heading west the comp showcases Edmonton's Smokey & Cole Kush (of Smokey & the Feeelings) and Winnipeg noise-pop act Microdot.
The beauty of a project like this is how quick the turnaround can be when free of the need to press physical media. The second Pentagon Black compilation was only released this past April, with many of the same bands participating. The interview Famines guitarist / singer Raymond Biesinger did with Chart Attack for the first comp last year is still completely relevant and pretty much essential reading.
You can acquire any of the Pentagon Black paper LPs what still exist from BandCamp or at shows.
This week also say the release of the fourth Dominionated compilation, a digital collection of classic Canadian songs covered and reinterpreted by modern Canadian bands. The labour of love was started back on the Quick Before It Melts blog and has continued to the successor publication which shares its name. Part of the treat is the choice of songs, as "classic" doesn't necessarily imply "well-known" here and there's as much to explore in the source material as there are the performers.
This year's model features Saskatoon's The Garrys covering “Dusty Boy” by defunct Montreal band The Peelies. Regina's Oiseaux puts forth an aggressive and chaotic take on Attack In Black's "Hunger of the Young." That's just two of nine, each of which is linked through to a wealth of worthwhile conversations on the Dominionated blog.
You can download DOMINIONATED IV here.
In this weekend of brash, shallow celebrations, there's something eminently sane and dignified about how both DOMINIONATED IV and the recent Pentagon Black compilations treat the subject of Canada. Each accomplishes the goal of sharing and celebrating the creative culture of this country, and neither feel like they'll need be put away when you go back to work on July 4th.
A full album preview of the debut Cheap Whine LP is now available to preview at Exclaim, courtesy of Drunken Sailor Records. The Ottawa-based three-piece features a Canuck power-pop pedigree that includes Steve Adamyk of his titular band and the Sedatives, Jordy Bell of Crusades and The Creeps, and Eric French from Feral Trash and the Varsity Weirdos.
The 13 song album was recorded by Bell, with drums tracked to analog tape by David Dudley. It arrives on July 14th via the UK label.
Toronto's Teenanger continue to preview new music from their upcoming LP Teenager, this week sharing the bouncy "Just Drop It." The band are set to tour their way to August's SappyFest alongside Sweet Dave & The Shallow Graves (who are alums of the second Pentagon Black comp). You can find the dates over at Exclaim.
The organizers of Toronto's annual fall punk and hardcore festival Not Dead Yet have announced their 2017 lineup. From October 12th to the 15th an international set of artists will descent on the Big Smoke including Trapped Under Ice, founding Cro-Mags member Harley Flanagan, the first Toronto appearance from Portland's Lebenden Toten, Cleveland acts Inmates and Vanilla Poppers, Halifax's Booji Boys, Mexican acts Anti-Sex and Rina and more including 1-900s, Acrylics, Burden, C.H.E.W., Collagen, Druj, Fried Egg, Incendiary, Kohti Tuhoa, Krimewatch, Kombat, L.O.T.I.O.N., Marbled Eye, Mommy, Nosferatu, Patsy, Public Eye, Rashomon, Rik & the Pigs, and Witchtrial.
St. Catharines fuzz pop act Strange Shakes have released their new single "Pick Up The Phone." The band will be supporting New Swears on their upcoming tour date in the Garden City on Friday, July 14th at Warehouse.
Speaking of which, I'd like to welcome Warehouse as the July sponsor of Some Party. Recently opened in St. Catharines, Ontario at 11 Geneva Street, the downtown venue has quickly become the go-to event space in Niagara for live music. Run by Erik Dickson of the IndoorShoes promotion team, Warehouse has upcoming shows this summer from Daniel Romano, Protest The Hero, Hundred Suns and more. Visit them on Facebook to learn more and check out the ever-growing list of upcoming shows.
A pair of Canadian acts will be separately traversing Europe this July to meet up at the Punk Rock Raduno festival in Bergamo, Italy. Toronto's three-piece punk rock act School Damage will be touring with Genoa, Italy's Ratbones as they make their way to the event. At the same time Montreal pop-punk group Pale Lips have their own shows scheduled en route.
Pale Lips, also a Pentagon Black alumn come to think of it, are set to release a new 7" single this week. Should've Known Better! will be available on July 4th via Italian label Surfin’ Ki and Resurrection Records in the US. Check out the title track below. It's perfect summer listening:
PunKanormal Activity shared the tour dates for an August western Canadian tour featuring Winnipeg punk bands The Uglies and Stickaround. The tour kicks off on August 18th at The Handsome Daughter and will find the bands supporting their respective 2016 full lengths with shows in major cities across the prairies.
The September release of Partner's full length In Search of Lost Time is going to be huge, with the Windsor-via-Sackville band charming their way into everyone's hearts this summer huge infectious pop songs about questionable behavior. The newest preview is "Sex Object," which you can hear below. The new LP is out on the 8th of September on You've Changed Records.