Wednesday July 12, 2023

Weapon of the Mystic

Some Party is a newsletter sharing the latest in independent Canadian rock'n'roll, curated more-or-less weekly by Adam White. Each edition explores punk, garage, psych, and otherwise uncategorizable indie rock, drawing lines from proto to post and taking some weird diversions along the way.

Thee Retail Simps: "Weapon of the Mystic"

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Montreal's Retail Simps shamble back to life this summer with Live On Cool Street, their second LP for the hyperbolic Total Punk Records. You can preview the 10-song set with "Weapon of the Mystic," a mission statement of a single that reaffirms the band's mastery of gleefully acerbic lo-fi clamour. As with their debut Reverberant Scratch, the band tears through flea market stalls of proto-punk junk - coming somehow inexplicably to a result that feels less derivative than its parts. The noise clanging from Tha Simps' garage sounds genuine. Perhaps bolstered by the accomplishment, they also carry just the slightest hint of menace. The gang's having a ball, but one gets the distinct sense you shouldn't take that good cheer for granted. You dare not cross the Simps — at least, I don't. There's preciously thin insulation on these wires, and I'd hate to hear their sardonic racket weaponized. Much of this comes from Joe Chamandy's instantly recognizable sneer, a blade he's used to strip bullshit for years with Kappa Chow, Protruders and Itchy Self.

The band's very name feels wrapped in the chaos. Last time they were Tha. This time it appears they're Thee — yet with two E's when filtered through Total Punk's PR machine and three on the album cover. The semantic madness is sure to have Discogs taxonomists wrestling in the aisles. I'm not sure what's better for the narrative: either the band has their trickster thumb on these infuriatingly meticulous details — or they simply don't care. Both reads work.

The cover art for Live On Cool Street feels classic: a black and white photo of the band piled haphazardly onto a truck that appears to be both stuck in a Montreal snow bank and headed in the wrong direction on a one-way street. That aesthetic carries into Obediah Anderson's "Weapon of the Mystic" video, as premiered last week through the tastemaking Spanish curator Tremendo Garaje.

Rich Evans' Total Punk Records is once again chewing scenery with their write-up, which boldly claims:

"You see, after being pigeonholed by the punk paparazzi as a lowly party band, the Simps were tasked with driving home their knack for fervent versatility. This new record captures a group, in the clutches of maturity, boasting their emotional depth, triumphant chops and humble servitude to the trade of rock n roll clowning. Recalling the double speak of VU's murder mystery, the soul bent lament of Fred Cole and the bastardized funk of Minutemen, the Simps have thusly widened their sonic palate and created yet another masterpiece of the modern age. This is the southern soul of Memphian tradesmen flipped on it's snowy head, conjuring an impure regionalism that was largely thought to be dead and gone. An alternate kind of Northern Soul with a frosty Arctic sheen. More spazzed out guitar, more howling lunacy, more heat of the moment, turnt poetry and outside the box-isms."

I have a partial roster of the Simps at my fingertips, and I wouldn't be surprised if nobody's bothered to scribble out the full lineup. Judging from photos, the five-piece still features Joe's frequent collaborators Thomas Molander (Feeling Figures, Hélène Barbier) and Chrispy Burns (Terminal Sunglasses, American Devices). If I can unpack the remainder, you'll see it here.

Look for Live On Cool Street on September 1 through Total Punk.

Burner: "Exoskeleton"

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Toronto noise-punk act Burner launched a massive new single a few weeks back. "Exoskeleton" roars with grungy angst, an impactful showcase for the vocal range of Deshaun Molloy. The track features instrumentals written and performed by Casper Skulls' Fraser McClean. Josh Korody (Beliefs, Breeze) recorded and mixed the song, with mastering by Noah Mintz (Constantines, Diamondtown) — a huge step-up in fidelity from the band's past work.

The new track coincided with a (now-wrapped) Ontario tour and followed up on the group's self-titled 2018 album. Live, Burner plays as a quartet featuring Molloy and McClean with bassist Amy Praught and Dead Broke drummer Evan Saunders.

Sunnyside Uppers: "Runaway" (ft. Becca Dalley)

Preview and purchase at Bandcamp

Last week Ryan Brown's Saint John-based power-pop project Sunnyside Uppers shared their bright new single "Runaway." The track features Becca Dalley from Designosaur, Book Buddies, and Cluttered as a co-vocalist. Brown shared some details on how the track came together, revealing:

"'Runaway' has been in my live set for a while, one of my early 'hits.' I'm pretty sure this version began life as a Garageband demo and we ended up replacing every part of it. I initially tracked drums with my brother Micah during the sessions for his project Pillea's Swell album (I drummed on half the record). They came out a little too loud and washy, so I re-recorded them myself. Those were too harsh and roomy. Corey Bonnevie (Doctor Mother Father) happened to take a look at the overhead mics and pointed out that I had the wrong capsules on the end of them. I didn't know there was a difference. So I got him to re-record the drums and those are the ones you hear. Everything else (minus a couple guitar overdubs/backup vocals) was recorded by Adam Warren (WAANTS) in Halifax.

Musically, it's indebted to The Smiths' "Ask" - the clean, overdubbed guitars (I think there are like 18), the lead riff and atypical song form... Lyrically, I had the little "run away" melody and nothing else. I built a story off of a call-in topic from The Best Show (the topic was 'I CAN'T DEFEND IT'), and here we are. Loved Becca's harmony singing in Cluttered and had thought of enlisting her for harmonies here - the duet was the result of a late-night conversation in a hotel room, discussing the project with my ex-Glory Glory bandmates Adam and Gavin, and Becca's frequent collaborator AJ Boutilier (who in fact recorded Becca's vocals). The result is a fun lil summertime bop! You don't need to know any of this in order to enjoy it, but now you do."

Now we do. Kristian Montano (Kali Horse, Daniel Romano) mastered the recording. Elsewhere, Brown called the new tune the "spiritual heir" to their 2021 single "Mary," a track I adore that remains in regular rotation on my playlists. The Sunnyside Uppers' last proper studio release was 2022's Ruminations EP. Ryan followed it last summer with the second volume in his ongoing Bootleg Series of live recordings.

CRABE: "Limp de quoi"

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The aggressively erratic Montreal art-punk duo CRABE has a new single online. "Limp de quoi" is a massive track, breaching the 5-minute mark and bounding between styles and levels of intensity. It previews the band's upcoming album Visite du temple inné, due September 29 through Quebec City label Dure Vie. The group commented, en francais:

"Limp de quoi c'est la vie qui est dynamique, les départs et les départs, la vie la mort pour le meilleur et pour le pire. Ce sont les hauts et les bas de notre voyage plus grand que nature et plus petit que le monde. S'il vous plaît laissez vous porter par cette musique de nous pour vous, bien lourde et délicate."

CRABE's core collaborators Gabriel Lapierre and Martin Poulin-Légaré worked on this material in the studio with like-minded producer (and Nüshu rocker) Navet Confit. The new record follows up on their 2021 Pantoum Records LP Sentients.

The Cola Heads: Bottoms Up!

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Toronto punk outfit The Cola Heads took one hell of a hiatus, fizzling out not long after their teenage inception in 1996, only to find themselves pulled back together in 2013. Throw in a pandemic to soak up the ensuing years, and it feels like they're barely out the gate. The quartet has a new album out for the summer, a 10-song set available on cassette through Cursed Blessings Records. You can stream the high-test Bottoms Up everywhere now.

These days The Cola Heads features founding members Julian Swift and Liam Jaeger, now joined by Jacquie Neville (The Balconies) and Curtis Faux (Chainbreaker). The Cola Heads last issued their Die Young EP in 2015. Look for the band on stage soon in Hamilton, playing the Gladstone Tavern with Golden Shitters and Hexoffender on July 21.

The Stoves: The Stoves

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Hooky punk act The Stoves recently emerged from a gang of recognizable Hamilton-area players. The five-piece comes from the orbit of Single Mothers' Drew Thomson, featuring the recognizable vocalist backed by his steadfast bandmate Peter Landi, ex-The Dirty Nil bassist Ross Miller (Weepy Eye, Internet Age), Miller's frequent studio partner Vince Soliveri, and Sara Froese. The group unveiled their upbeat self-titled debut this week at Bandcamp.

Single Mothers recently wrapped an extensive North American tour supporting their 2023 Dine Alone full-length Roy, a record Thomson mused could be their last.

Papal Visit: "Calling for Jane"

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Lo-fi Saint John rockers Papal Visit returned last week with "Calling for Jane," the band's first new single since the release of their long-gestated 2021 album, Five Fathom Hole. The track arrived at Bandcamp accompanied by the b-side "Looking for Action on a Saturday Night," showcasing the group's deft skill at crafting crunchy-yet-constrained earworms in the grand tradition of Guided By Voices.

Adam Mowery formed Papal Visit after moving to Halifax, collaborating remotely with Pierre Cormier to stay connected with the Saint John scene. Papal Visit's current lineup features Mowery on vocals, Cormier on bass, Chris Braydon and Penny Blacks' Jason Ogden on guitars, and Geoffrey Smith drumming. Five Fathom Hole landed in the fall of 2021 through Monopolized Records.

Self Control: Pils Session

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Veteran Montreal hardcore act Self Control recently took part in the Pils Sessions, tracking a six-song set for the Gatineau-based series. During their May session, the group assembled a bruising mix of old and new songs, including a few playful covers of unlikely artists (Cindy Lauper and UK dance-rock group EMF). Playing as a five-piece, the band recorded at the NOMANSLAND studio with engineer Chany Pilote and documentarian Dizz Hupé.

Self Control's set follows recent Pils appearances from the capital punk supergroup Crisis Party, the Arabic language Montreal band UZU, and Ottawa thrashers Acid Cross.

Good Sick: Pils Session

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It's been a busy season at NOMANSLAND, with the politically charged Ottawa hardcore group Good Sick also making a summer appearance at the Pils Sessions. The quartet recorded six songs for the series, engineered (of course) by Chany Pilote and documented by Dizz Hupé. You can pick up the set at Bandcamp.

Good Sick's session follows up on their January EP Death To The Alt Right. The band features the distinctive warble of vocalist Dawson Paulson backed by guitarist Jake Parent, bassist Erin O'Connor Derikozis, and drummer Joe Gajraj.

Organ Eyes: Prosody

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Cam Steacy's Organ Eyes flip between slinky psych and scrappy grunge throughout the runtime of Prosody. The Ottawa post-punk outfit issued the 10-song full-length in June. Outwardly, Steacy took to the isolation era better than most, churning out several accomplished sets of bedroom-recorded lo-fi throughout the pandemic. Given the change in circumstances, Prosody feels decidedly less insular.

The new set follows a pair of 2021 Organ Eyes releases, the home-recorded EP Call It Nerves and the folky single "Green From Your Hair."

Smaller Hearts: "Summerspun"

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Dartmouth electro-pop duo Smaller Hearts have a new video online showcasing "Summerspun," a selection from their recent LP Rock and Roll Was Here to Stay. The group calls the dreamy track a "great accompaniment to those too rare summer days of relaxing in the sunshine" and "a doggy daydream of a sun washed beach walk." They capture the footage at Nova Scotia's Conrad's Beach.

You can pick up the 11-song LP through the Halifax label Noyes Records. Smaller Hearts features Kristina Parlee (of The Maynards and, most recently, Shoulder Season) paired with Ron Bates, a veteran of Moon Socket, Orange Glass and Elevator To Hell. Rock and Roll Was Here to Stay is the band's fourth LP, following 2021's Attention.

Phuture Memoriez / Jibbernaut: Coulrophobia

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BC multi-media label Nerve Wracking Collections has a bizarre new split pairing the Vancouver synthpunk/noise/industrial bands Phuture Memoriez and Jibbernaut. The Coulrophobia EP features two new songs from each group, all written to the prescribed theme of the fear of clowns. How close you align to that common phobia will certainly tamper your enthusiasm for this one.

Phuture Memoriez is a duo featuring Marc and Jessica Blaquiere (they formerly played as the experimental electronic group Jerk In The Can). Consisting of the mononymous punks Gears and Hammer, Jibbernaut similarly operates as a two-piece. Gears shared some behind-the-scenes nonsense from their half of the project in a press release:

"When Phuture Memoriez approached us about the Coulrophobia project it appealed instantly. There's something inherently terrifying about clowns. The clown archetype has inhabited the cultural psyche for centuries and the idea of someone transformed into a painted/costumed character for the purpose of amusement holds within it the possibility for unfathomable darkness. We performed a week-long ceremony in our Vancouver compound as preparation for writing these two songs. After those seven days of fasting and sacrificial offerings our namesake, the demon Jibbernaut, appeared holding the pale severed head of a clown in its claws. We got to work immediately in a frenzied state of inspiration and 48 hours later we had 'Clown School' and 'No One's Laughing Now.' Then we ordered deep fried wontons and tantan noodles and slept for three days."

You can catch a video for the Phuture Memoriez track "Balloon Dog" on YouTube. You'd be right to assume the appropriate trigger warnings given the topic at hand. The bands will celebrate the EP at a live variety show on Friday, July 14. They'll appear together at the Red Gate Arts Society with the comedians Lou Albani, Hayden Eland, Eddy Spencer, and Mike Bodz.

Phuture Memoriez last issued the Super Awesome Fantastic Distortion Machines album in 2021

TJ Felix: "Do The Hastings Strut"

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It's been a few since I've checked in on TJ Felix, but Vancouver's unparalleled master of weirdo Secwépemc punk waits for no one. In June, the artist issued the madcap rocker "Do The Hastings Strut." It followed up on a messy May-issued full-length carrying the cherry title I Tried Making Myself Repulsive So U Wouldn't Miss Me When I'm Gone. You can hear both additions to the artist's ever-expanding catalogue at Bandcamp.

Felix weaves generational trauma into anxious songs delivered in an increasingly scattershot array of styles (with roots, somewhere, in DEVO and The Urinals). Formerly the artist performed under the name Industrial Priest Overcoats. In addition to their prolific solo output, Felix performs with Bedwetters Anonymous and serves in the hardcore combo Nasdaq.

Fucked Up: "Sunlight" (Eric's Trip)

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The Polaris Music Prize recently issued the latest in their annual Cover Sessions series and one that feels tailor-made for this newsletter. The not-for-profit organization shared a video capturing Toronto hardcore titans Fucked Up tackling the Eric's Trip classic "Sunlight." The performance notably features bassist Sandy Miranda on lead vocals, with Damian Abraham's familiar growl skillfully deployed in a support role. It's a clever inversion of the roles Rick White and Julie Doiron played in the original. Here's what Polaris had to say on the cover:

"'Sunlight' was first released by Eric's Trip, a pioneering indie rock band from New Brunswick, Canada, in their 1993 album Love Tara. Eric's Trip was known for their distinct blend of dreamy melodies and fuzzy guitar-driven soundscapes, which played a significant role in shaping the alternative music landscape of the '90s.

'Sunlight' stands out as one of their most beloved and enduring compositions, showcasing the band's ability to craft emotionally charged and captivating music. Fucked Up's interpretation of 'Sunlight' pays homage to the original while adding their unique touch. The band's reimagining captures the essence of the song's melancholic beauty and seamlessly blends it with their own signature intensity."

Daniel Tal directed the "Sunlight" video, shot at The BaitShop. You can find it on YouTube. There's yet to be a word if and when the track will end up on vinyl, but Polaris collected several past cover sessions in that way over the years.

Fucked Up issued the ten-track One Day LP in January through Merge, followed by the Cops EP in April along, with a pair of singles recorded in collaboration with electric pow wow duo The Halluci Nation. They won the Polaris Music Prize in 2009 for The Chemistry Of Common Life. Love Tara, of course, predates Polaris by several decades but picked up the Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prize in 2017.

Polaris announces their 10-album 2023 shortlist on CBC Music this Thursday, July 13, on a 3:00 PM radio special hosted by Rich Terfry. The event will reveal a nominee every 12 minutes with music and insights from Polaris jurors. The mothercorp will showcase each nominated album in the coming weeks with a series of ten hour-long weekly radio specials hosted by Damhnait Doyle. Those run every Sunday from July 13 through September 17 at 6:00 PM EST. A grand jury will award $50,000 to the winning artist at the 2023 Polaris Music Prize Gala on September 19 at Massey Hall in Toronto.

React to it at your leisure

Some Party is Adam White's misguided quest to share the latest in Canadian garage rock, punk, psych, and more. Subscribe and get it in your inbox more-or-less weekly. Your information's always kept private, and unsubscribing is easy.

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