Sunday August 9, 2020

They Tried To Make Me a Punk

I took the last week off. In retrospect, I'm unsure why. This summer is nothing if not a mildly suffocating malaise, so it's hard to look back through the purgatorial fog of inaction and limited opportunities to sort out my intentions. I think our podcast at Punknews.org hit 500 episodes, so maybe I needed the time for that? Or was that two weeks ago? Day job commitments, perhaps? I don't even know. Inertia is, of course, a powerful force, and it seemed like easing back into my publishing schedule could be something of a problem. The clouds parted, however, the moment this new Tommy Tone song landed in my feed.

Some people have noble purposes, vital contributions to make to society. Mine is to share weirdo junk like this.

Tone's back with a defiant new summer single titled "They Tried To Make Me A Punk," our first taste of the forthcoming record from the synth-pop oddball. The album doesn't have a disclosed title, but mark your calendars for September 4, regardless.

Tommy Tone's a stage name for the Vancouver artist and musician Tom Whalen. At a passing glance, his catalogue may seem aggressively boastful (his recent full-length touted the title How To Make Music), but that's all part of the fun and inherent commentary. I tend to circle back to an old Vancouver Weekly article that perfectly abstracted the act as a "synth-pop-driven farcical take on male entitlement via self-emasculating performances."

How To Make Music arrived in March, following up 2016's Bad To The Tone, a Live & Rare cassette from 2017, and an assortment of experimental projects released under different names over the past few years. Whalen served as a touring member of Tough Age during the band's Japanese tour supporting their 2017 record Shame.

Listen: Tommy Tone - "They Tried To Make Me a Punk" @ YouTube

Are Weekend Dads "beloved"? I'm going with it. At least my social circles seem to reflect that.

The beloved Halifax punk group Weekend Dads re-emerged last week with a new single titled "Good Hangs." It's the band's first preview of a full-length due on It's Alive Records "when the world stops burning." The track finds Chris Murdock (Word On The Street/Souvenir) stepping in on drums. He joins guitarist/vocalist Corey O' Neill (Varsity Weirdos), bassist/vocalist James Robertson (The Hemingways), and guitarist Matty Grace (Modern Cynics/Future Girls) in the four-piece.

Weekend Dads last released the September Downs EP in 2016 on It's Alive. The group recorded their new material at Ocean Floor in Halifax with engineer Charles Austin. Justin Yates mixed, with mastering performed by Squirtgun's Mass Giorgini.

Listen: Weekend Dads - "Good Hangs" @ Bandcamp

Toronto's Ian Daniel Kehoe recently emerged from isolation with three new albums, each showcasing a different shade of the often enigmatic poet's musical output. The six-song Disco Body Buzz, the 8-song Rock & Roll Illusion each wear their genres on their sleeves, while the 10-song Charging the Stone finds the former Attack In Black member dabbling in more introspective balladry. All three sets are available as limited-run cassettes through Tin Angel, with full digital releases to be shared on streaming services over the remainder of the year (Rock on October 9, Disco for November 20, and Stone on Christmas).

The Weather Station's Tamara Lindeman serves as a common thread between the releases, adding backing vocals to songs on each set. Espanola's pedal steel master Aaron Goldstein lends his craft a selection of Charging the Stone's songs, as well. Harris Newman mastered all three records.

A press release describes the trilogy as:

"Three dimensions of an individual and solitary worker, each of which uniquely refined, both sonically and stylistically."

Kehoe's notes for each record appear on Bandcamp, with the artist delving deepest into Charging the Stone. He comments, in part:

"This collection of songs is different than what is currently publicly known of my music. The forms are different. It sounds different. I wanted to have a record that felt like [John Lennon's 1973 LP] Mind Games - songs working in those ways. This is the best I could do at the time. My reaching for such a mark is, I believe, clearly audible throughout. I think its the loudest thing in the mix the whole record thru."

Ian Daniel Kehoe last released the synth-pop styled Secret Republic in 2019 on You've Changed Records.

Listen: Ian Daniel Kehoe - Disco Body Buzz @ Bandcamp

Listen: Ian Daniel Kehoe - Rock & Roll Illusion @ Bandcamp

Listen: Ian Daniel Kehoe - Charging The Stone @ Bandcamp

I'm just taken with the new video from Halifax "gloom-pop" favourites Dog Day. The clip showcasing the album-opener "Pictures" just ticks all the right boxes for me: The band seems like they're having an absolute blast, they're playing in a serene rural setting, and the clip ends with just a sliver of existential horror. It's everything you could want.

"Pictures" will feature on the band's new record Present, their first in seven years. It arrives this Friday, with Dog Day's husband and wife core of guitarist/vocalist Seth Smith and bassist/vocalist Nancy Urich backed by original Dog Day drummer KC Spidle (Diamondtown) and keyboardist Megumi Yoshida (Bad Vibrations, Not You). The new tune follows "Hell On Earth" in previewing the 13-song record.

Present will serve as the band's fifth overall full-length, following 2013's Fade Out. Since that album Smith and Ulrich have been working in film, notably writing, directing, and scoring the acclaimed 2017 horror film The Crescent. A sci-fi follow-up, titled Tin Can, is currently in post-production. Present, produced and mixed by Smith, will arrive via the band's fundog label.

Watch: Dog Day - "Pictures" @ YouTube

Aside from the new Dog Day LP, KC Spidle recently shared new music under the guise of Gemstones. The project finds the Dartmouth-based musician burning through the isolation tedium with five crunchy new garage rock tunes. Spidle recorded the fuzzed-out, low-fi set, titled Checking In Before I Check Out, in March and April during the early stage of the COVID lockdown.

Listen: Gemstones - Checking In Before I Check Out @ Bandcamp

Siksika Nation punk quartet No More Moments have a second single online from their upcoming release Mill Grove High. You can check out "The Way It Is," the EP's closing track, at Bandcamp now. The record will be the first in four years from the Calgary-based, SoCal-influenced group. No More Moments recorded with Ian Dillon of Canadian Vinyl co-producing and mixing, and Daggermouth's Stu Mckillop mastering.

No More Moments features vocalist Quarthon Bear Chief, guitarist Brandyn Darko, drummer/vocalist Carlin Black Rabbit, and bassist Cory White. The group last released the album Still Going in 2016 on Transistor 66. Mill Grove High arrives on August 28.

Listen: No More Moments - "The Way It Is" @ Bandcamp

Corey Bonnevie, of the Saint John indie rockers Little You, Little Me and the label Monopolized Records, recently shared Catholic, a solo full-length released under the name Doctor Mother Father. An oft-dark 10-song set of guitar-driven rock songs, Catholic's been long in the works and subject to numerous false starts. The biggest upset came when the original versions of these tracks were lost in a hard drive failure, leaving scant unfinished versions available to work from. With the pandemic limiting his options, Bonnevie found himself with the idle time to cut past that frustration and bring the project to completion as an unintended solo record. In an interview with Grid City Magazine he recounts:

"When COVID first happened I felt stressed about it, but as someone who has his hands in a lot of different things, it really helped take away a lot of the stress I thought I would feel. I try not to get bogged down by things I can't control. I am a perfectionist and really like to have a hand in every process but COVID really took it all out of my hands. I realized, 'OK. The band can't do anything and since I've had this project on the go forever, I'm going to use this time to get caught up, sequence it and put the finishing touches on it."

Listen: Doctor Mother Father - Catholic @ Bandcamp

Toronto glam-pop artist Nyssa recently shared "The Swans," the latest single from her fast-approaching debut full-length, Girls Like Me. The track arrived alongside a video jointly directed by Ron Hollywood, Randi-Lynn Paxton, Paulina Schultz, and the artist. In a statement Nyssa commented:

"The Swans is a present day, apocalypse-era reply to Springsteen's 'Dancing In The Dark' or Bowie's 'Modern Love.' I wrote it before the pandemic, but in anticipation of the need to live above and against the fire and brimstone, to forever fall in love with the natural world. The forsaking of matrimony in 'The Swans' is just another chain-cutting metaphor, another way of saying no to the trappings of the past and committing to a freer future. It's an anti-property love song directed at the entire experience of living."

Girls Like Me arrives August 21, collecting the many singles Nyssa's released digitally over the past few years. The 10-song record features a Rolodex of collaborators from the Toronto indie rock world, with credits listed for US Girls' Meg Remy, Zack Burgess (Kremlin, Gardenworld), Matthew Aldred (Modern Superstitions, Michael Rault), Carlyn Bezic (Ice Cream, Darlene Shrugg), Jay Anderson (Badge Époque Ensemble), Matt McClaren (Maylee Todd, Biblical), and Andy Scott. Nyssa's last release was 2018's Champion of Love EP.

Watch: Nyssa - "Swans" @ YouTube

Toronto psych-rock group Mother Tongues recently released their debut EP, Everything You Wanted. The group unveiled the six-song set alongside a Trudy Elmore directed video for "Eternity," the record's opening track. The animated piece takes inspiration from the garden scene that adorns the album's cover, imbuing the marble statues and geometric flowerbeds with a surreal sense of power and dread.

Mother Tongues features guitarists Lukas Cheung and Konrad Karczewski, bassist/vocalist Charise Aragoza (Maylee Todd), drummer Nick Kervin (Mimico), and keyboardist/vocalist Hannah Bussiere Kim (Luna Li). The band recorded this material at Braden Sauder at Toronto's Marquee Sound. Everything You Wanted arrived through Buzz Records.

Watch: Mother Tongues - "Eternity" @ YouTube

Montreal's Hugo Mudie marked the hockey season's return with "Kucherov," a new one-off single named for the Russian right-winger and Tampa Bay Lightning star. In a statement on Bandcamp the Sainte Catharines frontman recounts how, in his youth, he saw professional sports stardom as a road to freedom and independence, something he later found in music when he realized he was too alien for that world. In part:

"L'ultime vie d'anarchie totale sans règles et sans soucis serait joueurs professionnels de sports. Toute ma jeunesse je rêvais à ça, me disant que le plus gros « fuck you » à tout le monde qui croyaient pas en moi, serait de jouer dans la NHL et de revenir à Repentigny pour les envoyer chier... Je n'étais pas assez bon finalement."

"Kucherov" comes from the sessions for Mudie's recent full-length Concerta Fantasio, although as more of a straight-forward punk song it doesn't quite fit that album's tone. That record arrived at the start of May.

During the isolation period, Mudie also took part in the first in a planned series of split singles with his fellow Pouzza Fest organizer Lost Love singer Guilhem Benard. That set arrived in June.

Listen: Mudie - "Kucherov" @ Bandcamp

The Golden Days are Hard, the new LP from Toronto alt-country group Westelaken, is due August 21. Following the record's sombre first single "The Pool of Blood," the group's shared a decidedly livelier cut titled "The January Song." The rambunctious track, described by the band as a "country-lobster city-lobster type song," features Alex Baigent on vocals, bass, and synth, Rob McLay on percussion and backing vocals, Jordan Seccareccia on guitar, and Lucas Temor on piano and banjo. This one gives me flashbacks to the rootsy chaos of bands like Jon-Rae and the River, or even perhaps The Deadly Snakes.

Paul Vroom recorded, mixed, and mastered the band's new material last fall at The Pharmacy in Toronto. Westelaken last released a self-titled LP in 2018, followed by a split with the low-fi group Hobby earlier this year.

Listen: Westelaken - "The January Song" @ Bandcamp

Veteran Vancouver glam-punk act The Black Halos recently shared an isolation-recorded tribute to recently passed SNFU frontman Mr. Chi Pig. In a statement vocalist Billy Hopeless commented:

"How do you reach closure when you lose not only an inspiring and amazing artist, but someone who's been a very personal part of your day-to-day irregular life for so many years? Well I tried to write an anthem singalong to cheer myself and everyone up, but it was just a bandage or mask for my real feelings. Rich, hearing this, tore it off and poured out some disinfectant guitar my way and as it stung true I found myself writing the lyrics and crying in the grocery store. There will never be another - and there never was anyone truly like Chi Pig. He was unique and I'm honoured for having him in my life. Just know this; whether you cry or smile when you think of him it's because he reached you. And you should never let go of that."

The two-song single features "Ain't No Time To Say Goodbye" backed by a cover of SNFU's 1995 classic "Rusty Rake." All proceeds raised from record sales are due for the Chi Pig mural fund.

The modern line-up of the Halos features Hopeless backed by guitarist/vocalist Rich Jones, guitarist Jay Millette, bassist John Kerns (The Age Of Electric), and drummer Danni Action (ACIIDZ). This incarnation first surfaced with the Yeah Right Records single Geisterbahn II in 2019. The band's next full-length, due in 2021, will be their first since 2008's We Are Not Alone.

Born Ken Chinn in Edmonton, Mr. Chi Pig passed on July 16 at the age of 57.

Listen: The Black Halos - "Ain't No Good Time To Say Goodbye" @ Bandcamp

Guelph-based folk singer/songwriter Innes Wilson recently shared an isolation record dubbed Deference. The home-recorded set features seven new songs, mixed and mastered by Andy Magoffin (Constantines) at the House of Miracles.

Wilson last released The Heart That Holds This Up in August of 2019 on Out of Sound Records. Last September, the musician shared a punk EP record "as a joke" as the fictional band Baloney Mulroney. That project resurfaced on July 1 with the biting Canada Day single "R.C.M.P.I.G."

Listen: Innes Wilson - Deference @ Bandcamp

Toronto four-piece punk unit Choices Made has a new single online titled "Won't Break." It follows the recent one-off "Irrational Reality," along with the hard-driving group's 5-song February release, Convince. You can check it out at Bandcamp.

Choices Made features vocalist Josh Marostega, guitarist Steve Medeiros, bassist Andrew Wright, and drummer Mike Krasnonos.

Listen: Choices Made - "Won't Break" @ Bandcamp

Loose Lips Records, an archival label run by Flesh Rag's Matt Ellis, recently shared a 2014-era set from the one-off Hamilton punk outfit Vomit Comet. The band tracked what would serve as their only recorded material live off the floor from one of their few rehearsals, with the songs distributed physically as 20 or 30 CDRs at the time. A full history of the group, spanning all two of their live shows, is available at Bandcamp.

Vomit Comet featured The Noble Savages' Rufus Flypaper on vocals, drummer Derek Derelict, Get Off The Cop guitarist Jay Decay, and Ellis as Paul Puke on guitar. All proceeds raised by these songs are due to help Hammer City Records weather the pandemic.

Listen: Vomit Comet @ Bandcamp

Moncton's snotty Ramones-inspired four-piece The Follow Ups recently shared a set of cover songs and live studio recordings under the entirely reasonable title of Covers/Live. The band tracked the covers, which tackle Canuck snot-punks Gob, the Italian punkers Latte+, and Corey Hart (you know what song), at Moncton's Project 19, with the live material recorded at Sackville's BadWater studio. The 8-song set arrives via Mom's Basement Records.

Listen: The Follow Ups - covers/live @ Bandcamp

Toronto multi-instrumentalist Matthew "Doc" Dunn recently shared the second volume in his experimental Dance Works series. Titled NO SAFE PLACE, the set's described as a "sci-fi ballet for four dancers." It features Dunn on a drum machine, Moog, physical percussion, and other electronics, with Asher Gould-Murtagh engineering. The first ethereal set in this series, titled SWIM, arrived a few weeks back.

Along with the announcement, Dunn revealed that he has a new set of solo material slated for an October release. Look for Rain, Rain, Rain this fall on Cosmic Range Records. It'll follow the recent debut from Stonegrass, Dunn's acid-fried psych duo with Jay Anderson, and his 2019 solo outing Upper Canada Blues.

Listen: Matthew "Doc" Dunn - Dance Works ll: NO SAFE PLACE @ Bandcamp

Mississauga's multifaceted JONCRO has curated a selection of their isolation recordings into a proper EP. Due September 4, The Joncro Mountains features new studio recordings of the hardcore track "Degenerates" and the ska-punk outing "Wheel An Tun," along with the recently shared "Joncro Revival" and "Amagideon." "Joncro Revival" features a spoken word performance set against a field recording of a Jamaican revival performance by Daniel G. Wilson's late father, Ivanhoe "Bongo" Wilson. The new version of "Degenerates" also appears in a home-shot promotional music video, available below.

JONCRO features Daniel Wilson on guitar and vocals, bassist Kieran Christie, and drummer Matthew Mikuljan. This new EP follows February's Twa and an ongoing trickle of home recordings released throughout the pandemic.

Wilson also recently announced the line-up for the virtual edition of this year's Festival Lingua Franca. The annual event, showcasing underground rock music from BIPOC artists, is set to feature Poolblood, Burner, Elmer Flood, weatherboy, Sea Of Troubles, Shirazi, Uncaught (in promise), and Amimatist, along with JONCRO and others to be announced. Look for details and performance dates in the days to come.

Watch: JONCRO - "Degenerates" @ YouTube

Witty Hamilton indie rockers Water Bear have a new single online dubbed "Blanket Fort." It's the second new recording from the group as part of their isolation Home Recordings set, following "Smile and Nod" from earlier in the summer. The cheeky tune pairs verses steeped in the grungy 90s with a snotty punk chorus. Perhaps unique in the songs ever covered by this newsletter, it's also 100% about building a blanket fort as the title suggests. Check it out on Bandcamp.

Water Bear features drums and vocals from Craig Macdonald, bass from Kim Curtis, and guitars and vocals from both Alex T and Tom Dusome.

Listen: Water Bear - "Blanket Fort" @ Bandcamp

Aylmer, Ontario's bratty pop-punk group Moore Ave Underground has a massively catchy new single out titled "Beanies & Plaid Jackets." The slickly produced tune arrived alongside a raucous performance video you can find on YouTube. The track follows the quartet's earlier 2020 singles "How You've Grown" and "What's Done," along with their debut 2019 EP, It's All In My Head.

Moore Ave Underground features guitarist/vocalist Josh Gaudette, lead guitarist Joe Gaudette, and bassist Jack Gaudette. Drummer Shawn MacDonald joins the siblings to round out the group. The band recorded with Siegried Meier (Stuck Out Here, Kittie) at Beach Road Studios.

Watch: Moore Ave Underground - "Beanies and Plaid Jackets" @ YouTube

As most of the live Canadian music world grapples with outlasting and financially surviving the pandemic, the outdoor Quebec festival ShazamFest is still giving live events a shot - albeit with a few wrinkles to meet current health and safety guidelines. In less apocalyptic years, Shazam features four days of live music and camping (with a bit of circus/carnival vibe) in Barnston-Ouest, Quebec. This year's edition features weekly concerts, which kicked off on July 25 and run through September 5. From a COVID-safety perspective that looks like:

"In collaboration with the Estrie Public Health Department, all the necessary safety measures have been put in place including assigned socially-distanced seating & dance spots, traffic corridors, hand-sanitizing stations, and no food or drink being sold on-site (meaning it's BYOB, folks!) Though tweaked for everyone's safety, this is still Shazam—so expect a micro-dose of your favourite vaudevillian carnival down in the valley come rain or shine!"

The next event goes down on August 15 with a psych-rock night featuring Sherbrooke space-rock act Hoodooed and Birthday Suit Special, a new psych tribute featuring guitarist Gideon Yellin and drummer Alex Lepanto of Montreal funk-jazz combo The Firing Squad. A rockabilly night on September 5 will feature The Perfect Strangers and Bloodshot Bill. Full weekly listings, along with streaming links, can be found at the ShazamFest website.

The early weeks of the festival featured capacities capped at 50 people, which doubled 100 this past weekend. This week's psych night will feature an audience of 120, with space for 40 campers, as well. Quebec's recent loosening of their outdoor music guidelines have opened the potential for future crowds of up to 250, making it unique in the country, at least at the moment.

Listen: Hoodooed - La Grange Live Session @ Bandcamp

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