Monday October 23, 2023

The Game We Never Win

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.

The American Devices: "The Game We Never Win" / "Interlarding"

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Veteran Montreal post-punk act The American Devices are back with a new 7" single for Celluloid Lunch. The set showcases the wistful, Rob Labelle-penned "The Game We Never Win" and Rick Trembles' comparatively oblique "Interlarding." Their label celebrated the group's return (and their stubbornly enduring obscurity) with a self-deprecating note:

"...These two new tunes are the Devices in top form, widdled by time to the essential 4-part unit. Both songwriters deliver in their respective lanes, and the rhythm section kicks the can along with inventive gusto. In a warped world, American Devices' oeuvre would be life-bending fodder for international bonehead punks, b-movie fanatics and prog nerds alike, but in this reality, they are banished to a profitless deal on the world's least respected underground record label. Lucky for us, misery loves company."

Celluloid Lunch has a pressing of 200 records available, wrapped in a Risograph-printed sleeve with a hand-stamped label. The set finds the band's core songwriting duo of Rob Labelle and Rick Trembles again backed by their modern-era rhythm section of bassist André Asselin and drummer Howard Chackowicz. The group recorded last year with Ian Booth at Studio Hot Biscuit. Harris Newman mastered at Greymarket. You can find a rather charming video for "The Game We Never Win" on YouTube.

The record carries a dedication to Carl Helm, the band's founding drummer who performed as Cups Von Helm. He passed away in the summer of this year.

American Devices launch the new single with a show this Thursday at Montreal's Sala Rossa. There, they'll share the stage with the aggressively erratic art-punk duo Crabe, with whom the band recently paired on the song "2020." That collaboration appeared on CRABE's newly released LP Visite du temple inné (a guest-packed record that also features Annie-Claude Deschênes of Duchess Says, Belle Grand Fille, N.NAO, Simone Provencher of VICTIME, and Hubert Lenoir). Rick Trembles shared some background on their pairing on Instagram, revealing:

"[CRABE] asked us to come up with several separate riff cycles & then recorded us playing them! They also asked me to make up a French story I could narrate over the end! Then they mixed everything together & sang over it, creating THIS monster! And the cherr(ies) on top? Not only are we gonna interpret this thing live at the launch of our vinyls... but so are Crabe! Three interpretations in one night! The vinyl version that never existed live, then two different live versions! DO NOT MISS!"

If you've not heard "2020," it's available as part of CRABE's Visite du temple inné at Bandcamp, issued through the Dure Vie label.

All this new activity comes in the wake of Celluloid Lunch's 2022 unearthing of "Adequate" and "Modern Boy," an unreleased 1979/1980 EP from the proto-Devices trio The D-Vices. The American Devices also recently made their career-spanning retrospective available online for the first time. That self-titled compilation first surfaced in 2006 on CD through Grenadine Records.

Dermabrasion: "Halberdier"

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Toronto duo Dermabrasion took a massive step forward this month, signing with Hand Drawn Dracula for the release of their debut full-length. Judging from the album-opening "Halberdier," the 10-song Pain Behaviour takes the band's industrial/goth fixation to entirely new levels of fidelity. Dense, mean, and sonically massive, the single feels world's removed from the pair's home-recorded, COVID-era beginnings. You can hear the harrowing new single, a tune rather ideally suited for this spookiest of months, accompanied by a video collage of live footage on YouTube.

Dermabrasion features Kat McGouran on vocals and bass with Adam Bernhardt on guitar and synths. The pair previously played together in the brilliant snark-punk act WLMRT. Josh Korody recorded, produced, and mixed from Candle Recording with Noah Mintz mastering. Look for Pain Behaviour on January 26. It follows up on the band's 2021 debut EP, Lunate.

Look for Dermabrasion live in Toronto on November 18 at the Owl's Club with labelmates (and fellow sonic occultists) Bonnie Trash. You couldn't ask for a better pairing.

Nüshu: Nüshu

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Montreal post-punk / garage act Nüshu returned this month with a self-titled full-length, their first since 2019's Sexe Étranger. A quartet, the group features Lydia Champagne on drums, guitarists Jean-Philippe Fréchette (aka Navet Confit) and Jerry Lee Boucher, and bassist/vocalist/lyricist Jessica Pion. That sentence is likely a gross over-simplification of everyone's roles, as there's a swath of weird and wonderful instrumentation throughout the aurally busy LP. The quartet recorded this past January at the Sushi Cat Studio in Montreal, with Confit and Boucher handling production duties. I was a big proponent of Sexe Étranger, and this set, tightly wound, angular, and at times loud-as-hell, feels like a worthy follow-up.

You can find a hypnotic video for the track "La comète ne pouvait être observée sur l'île mais plusieurs vacanciers manquèrent de savoir-vivre" on YouTube, directed by Lydia Champagne.

Hot Garbage: "Snooze You Lose"

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Heavy Toronto psych quartet Hot Garbage returns in the new year with Precious Dream, their sophomore full-length. Look for the nine-song set on January 19 through Mothland and Brussels' EXAG' Records. The news arrived alongside the single "Snooze You Lose," a song that addresses "how time passes when you stand still." It finds the band in a savage stomp punctuated by swirls of discordant noise and menacing laughter. You can see it envisioned on what's certainly a punk rock budget in a new video directed by the band's Alex Carlevaris. He comments:

"Here Hot Garbage can be seen playing completely real instruments in their day-to-day attire. Seen in the video is: a live performance, a swing set, and a candid perspective of the daily grind. The video, with a budget of under $50 (mostly spent on fake blood), was shot on a cheap plastic toy camera and uses homemade props and movements from the camera and lights, resulting in a frantic, lo-fi presentation that is playful yet intense."

The band again recorded with Holy Fuck's Graham Walsh at Palace Sound (bound to become an increasingly hot ticket given the producer's role on Debby Friday's Polaris-lauded Good Luck). Hot Garbage features bassist/vocalist Juliana Carlevaris, guitarist/vocalist Alex Carlevaris, keyboardist/vocalist Dylan Gamble, and drummer Mark Henein. James Plotkin mastered the new material.

Previous Dream follows up on the band's 2021 LP RIDE.

Wayfarer: "Eviction Spree"

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Kitchener, Ontario's Wayfarer is back. The heartfelt punk/emo unit has a new full-length dubbed Invincible Summer set for release on February 9. You can preview the set through the lead single "Eviction Spree," a song rooted in the housing crisis that continues to grip much of the country. On it, Wayfarer principal Kyle Krische commented:

"In the summer of 2021, real estate hit a historic high so we saw rentals getting bought up and long-term tenants evicted in every dirty way possible. We dubbed it the Eviction Spree in Hamilton.

The song "Eviction Spree" is a snapshot of a moment in time where my family experienced what sadly so many have the last few years: losing your stable affordable housing to unrelenting greed. It's so easy to break and to let your fury poison every aspect of your life. The stress and fear are all consuming when you're scrambling to figure out how to continue to provide a home for the ones you love.

Thankfully, I had an absolute rock in my wife, I had two children born at that house, I had work and I had support that would allow me to eventually land us on our feet. They were powerful forces that I could feed off of and thrive from and it was something in our earlier, relatively comfortable early years I didn't appreciate. I owed a nod to all of that and this was the result."

The band recorded in the spring of 2023 at several studios, with Krische tackling lead vocals, drums, and rhythm guitar, Steve Sloane on lead guitar and vocals, and Duffer Black on bass. Davis Maxwell engineered, mixed and mastered the set. The new record follows up on 2019's Reckless Spring.

Big School: Don't Cry I'll Be Right Back

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Rose City power-pop mainstays Big School issued a new full-length in September, a 10-song set dubbed Don't Cry I'll Be Right Back. A five-piece, the band features Mitch Courtois on vocals and guitars, bassist Codey Thompson, drummer Billy Topolinsky, and guitarists Riley Simpson and Drew Stark. Courtois recorded the group in Welland, with Alex Gamble (Fucked Up, Alvvays) mixing. John McLaggan mastered at New Brunswick's Parachute.

These are massive, heartfelt rock songs with both feet firmly planted in the 90s. Of course, that means the Big School owes a healthy debt to Sloan, but they've wisely internalized that band's lessons and wisely counterbalanced their sweet pop hooks with some serious crunch. The new album is the group's first since 2018's It's Really Real. Word on a vinyl pressing and record release show are due soon.

Hyness: "Julia"/"Driveway"/"Weatherman"

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Endearing Kitchener indie rock group Hyness are slowly unveiling new material, with three new songs shared over the past several weeks through Bandcamp. The new tunes all stem from sessions recorded by José Contreras of Toronto indie legends By Divine Right. The band hasn't been overly chatty regarding these new tracks or their plans, leaving the work to speak for itself. These new tunes include "Julia," "Driveway," and most recently, "Weatherman" (which the band did refer to as "a delicious slice of '60s jangle pie," so we've got that!).

While Hyness has undergone several configurations over the years, this era's focused on the songwriting duo of guitarist/vocalist Marcus Addams and drummer Colin White. Addams' partner Amy also appears on vocals in "Julia." The band's yet to reveal concrete plans for a new record, but wherever this Contreras-recorded material ends up, it'll follow up on 2021's Settle Down In The Dirt.

Diamondtown: Future Plans

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Dartmouth's blissed-out Diamondtown has a new cassette available. Future Plans delivers three new cuts of the band's melancholy folk/shoegaze hybrid, following up on September's Hey EP. The band features KC Spidle on vocals and guitar, Evan Cardwell on lead guitar, Kate O'Neill on keys and percussion, Chris Thompson on bass, and Meg Yoshida drumming.

Diamondtown boasts an impressive, interwound lineage, and it's always worth reconnecting those dots. The band grew from Spidle and Cardwell's past collaborations as the psych/folk duo Husband & Knife. Spidle also plays alongside Meg Yoshida in the Halifax gloom-pop heroes Dog Day. Chris Thompson boasts the legendary Eric's Trip on his resume, followed by solo recordings as Moon Socket (some of which feature Kate O'Neill). He's also recently appeared on drums in Spidle's lo-fi garage trio Gemstones.

Diamondtown issued a self-titled LP in 2021 through Label Obscrua.

Fucked Up: "Show Friends"

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Fucked Up is on a tear. The ever-adventurous Toronto hardcore act continues their prolific year with a new three-song 7". Titled Show Friends, the single's due October 31 through Merge. In a statement, frontman Damian Abraham commented on the title track:

"This is a song about the complex relationships people can wind up having with music and the music business. It's a very conditionally loving business, with all sorts of metrics and benchmarks you need to hit to deserve love. The lyrics are me reflecting back on one of the low times in the band and realizing that I'm not really mentally cut out for this vocation. What happens when the thing you have based your life around starts eating you alive? I wanted it to have the feel of a mid-tour fever dream, replete with: anxiety, exhaustion, temporal dysplasia, and the flood of past wrongs and wrongings. I had written the lyrics during the One Day session but couldn't get it to come together like it sounded in my head. Jonah [Falco] and I dusted it off and hacked away at it in my basement until it felt right."

Show Friends also features the new songs "Spot The Difference" and "What The Sun Saw."

Fucked Up issued their ten-track One Day LP in January, followed by the Cops EP in April. To coincide with their cross-country summer tour, the band then issued a pair of covers recorded in collaboration with electric pow-wow duo The Halluci Nation, later followed by a Polaris Music Prize cover session recreating the Eric's Trip classic "Sunlight." That audio surfaced amidst a rolling series of resurfaced mixtapes and reissues celebrating the tenth anniversary of The Chemistry Of Common Life. The highly regarded band features Damian Abraham on vocals, Mike Haliechuk and Josh Zucker on guitar, Sandy Miranda on bass, and Jonah Falco drumming.

Let's Go: "Our Song"

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Kamloops punk group Let's Go recently shared "Our Song," the fist-pumping, shout-along centrepiece of their upcoming sophomore full-length Smile. The group commented:

"'Our Song' is a working-class anthem that questions the balance of power in a peak capitalist society. Wailing gruff harmonies and yearning lyrics decorate this two-minute power ballad tour de force!"

The set follows up on 2022's Disposable Year, arriving November 24 through Red Deer's High End Denim. The BC band plays as a trio, featuring guitarist/vocalist Tyler Hall, bassist/vocalist Scotty Sterning, and drummer Will Bruce. They recorded with Brad Hampton at Silohuette Studios. You can expect a crowd on the album-closing "Goon Tune" with guest vocals from Robbie Morön, along with members of Trashed Ambulance and The Fomites.

Death Cassette: "Reflector"

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High End Denim Records also has a new EP on the way from Winnipeg's grungy hardcore unit Death Cassette. The six-song Get Rid Of It lands November 17, featuring the fierce lead single "Reflector." The track finds lead vocalist Amanda Sousa railing against "smug moral superiority and self-serving hypocrisy" with an impressive snarl.

The quartet features Sousa on vocals and guitar, playing alongside guitarist Lindsey Hawkes, bassist Chuck Barchuk, and drummer Brock Macpherson. Death Cassette recorded with John Paul Peters at Private Ear. A release party's booked at Winnipeg's Good Will Social Club on November 17, with support from Screaming at Traffic, howtoboilwater, and MOSA.

Outtacontroller: Just a Scratch

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Just last week, I was gushing over the latest single from Halifax fuzz-pop kings Outtacontroller, and here we are with details on a new EP. The four-song Just a Scratch lands this fall on Madrid's Jarama 45RPM Recs, pairing February's "Less is More" with the title track and two highlights from 2022's Come Alive LP. It's available this week.

Outtacontroller features vocalist/guitarists Terry A'hearn and James O'Toole, bassist AJ Boutilier, and drummer Sean Parsons. AA Wallace (Sluice, Cheval) lends some additional vocals to the record, which is otherwise entirely produced, mixed, and mastered by the band.

Outtacontroller last issued Come Alive in 2022. The band's August-issued single "Gotta Get Out" is expected to be part of the eventual follow-up.

Autogramm: "Plastic Punx"

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Lovable Vancouver new wavers Autogramm are racing toward the November 17 release of their Stomp debut, Music That Humans Can Play. The band's hooky second single from the set, "Plastic Punx," recently premiered with a playful video that leans fully into the artifice the title suggests. In a statement, keyboardist/vocalist Jiffy Marx commented on the track and how it reflects the band's current outlook:

"It seemed like right up to the day we started recording this album it might never happen, but not even being divided by an international border (during a global pandemic!) could get in our way, and I think we can all say we are glad it didn't. Like the song says, we're all Plastic Punx. Not hardcore punks, anarcho punks, gutter punks, or squeegee punks, but Plastic Punx. The kinda punks that don't give a fuck, especially about how much money we're getting at the show - as long as the venue isn't too far from the hotel, and the hotel is close to the skatepark and/or the beach."

The album is the band's first as a quartet with the addition of guitarist Lars Swenson, known from Seattle's Bread & Butter and Sub Pop act The Catheters. He appears here billed as Lars Von Seattle, joining the longstanding Autogramm lineup of Jiffy Marx (Night Court), bassist CC Voltage (The Spitfires, The Black Halos), and vocalist/drummer Joshua "The Silo" Wells (Black Mountain, Destroyer, Spun Out).

Autogramm recorded Music That Humans Can Play in Vancouver in August of 2022, working out Rain City Recorders and The Balloon Factory. It'll be their first LP for Montreal's long-running Stomp Records. Sweden's Beluga Records will carry the new album in the EU. The band last released the well-received No Rules in 2022 through Nevado Music.

Spider Bite: "Smashed Glass"

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If you were lucky (or planned your life around it, as I may have), you had a chance recently to see Steven Lambke and Daniel Romano's lockdown-era hardcore outlet Spider Bite perform live. Over the past few weeks, the group made a few appearances supporting Toronto legends Career Suicide, a convenient billing given that Ian Romano sits behind the kit for both bands. If you missed it, you missed an expanded live lineup featuring The Outfit's Roddy Rosetti and TV Freaks' Vee Bell. The closest I can offer you remotely is the recent video for "Smashed Glass," directed by Colin Medley. You can see it now on YouTube.

Spider Bite issued their 10-song sophomore album The Rainbow And The Dove this summer. The vinyl pressing on Dan and Steve's You've Changed Records also includes the entirety of their 2020 debut on the flip side.

Bry Webb: "Outbound Only, No Return"

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Bry Webb shared a few additional tracks from his upcoming full-length since I last checked in on him. News on Run With Me arrived alongside the studio version of the Harbourcoats-era "Thunder Bay," followed later by the pensive psychedelia of "Modern Mind" and now the propulsive "Outbound Only, No Return." The Guelph, Ontario artist called the latter "a road tripping number" and mused on Instagram whether the track finds an intersection between JJ Cale and John Cale.

"Outbound" features backing from FET.NAT's Olivier Fairfield on drums and percussion, Jonas Bonetta (Evening Hymns) on percussion and echo chamber, and Daniel Romano on what Webb amusingly touts as "eight tracks of glorious backing vocals." You can hear everything at Bandcamp or wherever you stream your music.

In addition to those guests, Webb's new album features contributions from his fellow Constantines Will Kidman, Doug MacGregor, and Dallas Wehrle. Jennifer Castle, Julie Doiron, and Cots' Steph Yates contribute additional backing vocals on the record. The 10-song Run With Me arrives November 3 through Idée Fixe. It follows Webb's 2015 Live at Massey Hall LP.

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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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