Thursday, August 7, 2014

Jerry Jerry: The Sound and the Jerry (1997)

"A part of me felt Like Elvis, it was not a large part."
Jerry Jerry

Jerry ended his recording career and his contract with Aquarius with a 1997 solo album named The Sound and the Jerry. It's truth in packaging, as the record is the sound of pure Jerry, sans his Sons of Rhythm Orchestra.

While the loss is palpable - Jerry shines with co-writer and a full band - there are a slew of witty moments herein and some nice raw guitar, as on "I, Showbiz".

Jerry's never less then entertaining and fans of his early work will find plenty to grin about here. On this album, Jerry (and his percussionist, Tino Izzo) sounds a bit like an urbane Mojo Nixon, melding cutting wit and minimal instrumentation to a blues-rockabilly-country-folk foundation to great effect on tracks like "Balloons" or "Eyes on the Road".

MRML Readers weigh in with a comment: What do you think of Jerry's solo sound?


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Jerry Jerry and the Sons of Rhythm Orchestra: Don't Mind If I Do (1992)

"Everybody's gotta believe in something, no matter how stupid, destructive or wrong; case in point, Aleister Crowley."
Jerry Jerry

Aquarius Records re-released Jerry2 & SRO's masterwork,
Battle Hymn of the Apartment, in 1990 but it went nowhere. So the group hunkered down and chartered a new course for 1992's Don't Mind If I Do.

The Third-Album Mellow-Out is in full-effect here, as Jerry's manifests his Sinatra-aspiratons (see "Grandiose"or "Skin") and his Nashville Sound affections, as heard on the lone single, "Jimmy Reeves".

Amidst the mellower material, there is also a passel of sarcastic up-tempo songs like "The Ballad of Jon Card" (celebrating the former D.O.A. and S.N.F.U. drummer), "How Can People be So Wrong", "Banner Day and the witty country novelty song, "No Ass Tattoos in Heaven".

So, while this is by no means a jazz record, it might be the closest MRML ever gets to posting one.

Now I grant you that I instantly rejected this album back '92 but I have since found it a charming record that bears repeat listenings. Give it a listen and let us know what you think.

MRML Readers weigh in with a comment: What do you think of Jerry's more mature sound?


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Jerry Jerry and the Sons of Rhythm Orchestra: Battle Hymn of the Apartment (1987)

"Turn around and be some one better; time permitting and shit."
Jerry Jerry

In 1986 Jerry Jerry and his ever-changing Sons of Rhythm Orchestra emigrated from Edmonton, Alberta to Montreal, Quebec. The band moved from Og Records, to the Doughboys' 1st home, Piepline Records before settling on their final label, Aquarius Records (home of great Can-Crap from April Wine to Corey Hart to Sum 41).

For Battle Hymn of the Apartment (1987) Jerry found his definitive band, with Paul Soulodre (guitar,vocals) George Wall (guitar,vocals) Duke Bronfman (drum, vocals), future Asexual Blake Cheetah (bass), not to mention backing horns, keyboard and a vocal trio.

As the credits suggest there are layers and layers of vocals here and all those voices underpin Jerry's role as the leader of a strange midnight choir. For proof of how this ensemble feeds Jerry's "Pusher for Jesus" personae - give this track a listen.

(art by Matt Wagner from his series Grendel)

On this album Jerry Jerry really claims his voice and that voice is a whiskey-and-cigarette soaked baritone that fires off venomous sermons. The Sons of Rhythm Orchestra are a super-tight unit that propel Jerry, turning his gospel and R n' B pastiches into torn flesh and dripping blood rockers.

A1     Runaway Lane   
A2     Bad Luck At Tulane   
A3     Pushin' For Jesus   
A4     Free Love   
A5     She's Been Used   
A6     Hurtin' Her Won't Make You A Man   
A7     The Mexican In Me   
B1     The Hard Way   
B2     In The Hands Of The Lord   
B3     Wazoo   
B4     Mistaken   
B5     Downhearted   
B6     The Drift

MRML Readers weigh in with a comment: is this Jerry's master work?


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Jerry Jerry and the Sons of Rhythm Orchestra: Road Gore (1985)

"Jerry Jerry wasn't a serious band at the time it started, either. It was what we called a "fuck band". It took four or five years before I considered myself to be a performer."
Jerry Jerry

At the height of Canada’s eighties stomping garage-rock revival, spearheaded by Og Records (see here), along swaggered this hard-drinking, testifier, Jerry Jerry, (born Jerry Woods) and his seven piece band, the Sons of Rhythm Orchestra.

"Canadian city boy thinks he's a hillbilly preacher sings late '60s Texas acid rock." is how Jerry Jerry's debut album Road Gore: The Band That Drank Too Much (1985) was once described. And that just scratches the surface. The tempos are speedy, the lyrics sarcastic and the band chops up elements of blues, country, gospel, rockabilly surf and punk rock to make a thick n' chunky stew. The resulting sound is roots-rockin' cow-punk a little like their Edmonton, Alberta brethren Jr. Gone Wild (and even a little like really early k.d. lang). However, there's not much R.E.M. style jangle in these boys spurs and you can bet your ass that Jerry would make short work out of Micheal Stipe should they ever meet.

In that spirit, here's Jerry's brilliant anti-socialism screed, "Bad Idea". While still-gelling Road Gore may not be Jerry's strongest album, this song stands as his greatest achievement - no wonder it's track one, side one of the whole It Came From Canada compilation series. The lyrics are both humorous and deadly-serious. Jerry uses a stinging guitar line as his soapbox to condemn the evils of Big Government (Alberta is Canada's Texas) while the whole band offers full choral support. Eventually Jerry's righteous fury builds to an explosive triple-time ending. (Studio version here)

A1     Gospel Surfer    
A2     Rhythm Crazy    
A3     Color TV    
A4     Baby's On Fire    
A5     Livin' On Top    
A6     Hell And Back    
A7     Daddy Was A Peacock    
B1     Happy Nun    
B2     Bad Idea    
B3     Rancher King    
B4     Dumb Love    
B5     You Make Me Blue    
B6     Judgement Date    
This MRML-exclusive "edition" of the hopelessly out-of-print Road Gore has two bonus tracks, "Radical Look" and "Yap Yap", culled from the It Came From Canada series.

MRML readers weigh in with a comment: What do you make of Jerry Jerry's Gospel-punk?


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Ramones: Live at Arturo Vega's Loft (1975)

So, Tommy Ramone, the last of the original Ramones is dead. Sad, fucking sad. Tommy was one of the architects behind the the band, supposedly only taking the drum stool after auditions failed to secure anyone capable of understanding what the band was doing. When the band lost its way in a fog of big-name producers in the early 80's, it was Tommy who took the producers helm for  the comeback album "Too Tough To Die and righted the Good Ship Ramone.

Here's an artifact of the Tommy-era. The sound is dirty as hell but it's still amazing that this not only exists but how how clearly it demonstrates the band's focus well before the recording of the first album.

The fact that this was filmed says that a lot of people, artistic director Arturo Vega not least among them, knew that something earth-shaking was afoot in NYC.

What do you make of this super-early
Ramones performance?

Support the band!




Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Haywains: Get on Board With...( 2014)

Some bands use the 'tag option on Bandcamp with deadly accuracy: The Haywains labels themselves: "alternative, c86, indie-pop, jangle-pop, punk-pop, twee, United Kingdom" and that says it all. Well, almost. What that promising and accurate summary doesn't explicitly state is that the band are not part of some 21st century twee-revival but were actually slightly-latecomers to the c86 party, having put out their first release back in 1988!

On "Get on Board With...". The Haywains prove they're still bursting with clever lyrics, catchy hooks and a relentless energy. There's no shocking musical developments here just seven-and-a-half minutes of alternative-c86-indie-pop-jangle-pop-punk-pop-twee perfection.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Words vs. Images

 "...The artist does more than 50% of the writing in comics, a reality of which most enthusiasts remain completely unaware, and most writers don’t want the enthusiasts to know, as it would compromise their inexplicable position as alphas in comics today."
Howard Chaykin, July 5th, 2014

An eternal debate - which is more important the word or the image? Obviously in the medium of sequential art - which we usually just call comics - this question is particularly nettlesome.

Legions of devotees of the the medium's most legendary artist, Jack Kirby, declare the man credited as his writer, media magnate and seeming immortal, Stan Lee, was a fraud. That Lee also worked with different artists in creating an intricately-woven, deeply-human mythology so rich that writers, artists and film-makers still haven't tapped the well is often lost on these devotees. Skeptics of the Artist-Is-All position will point to Kirby's work as his own writer, which is often praised for its intricate artwork but rarely for its dialogue, characterization or comprehensibility. Defenders will protest that this period is Kirby at his most ambitious, to which I would agree.

Howard Chaykin is right on many levels; the artist certainly spends more time on each page than the writer does and when we read we are more likely to skip a chunk of words than a panel. As well, Chaykin as writer-artist is responsible for some mighty work, including his run on his own creation, American Flagg.

However, like so many readers, I know that a writer's name in the credits is the single most reliable metric of a comic's potential. After all, we view movies, we watch TV, we gaze in art galleries but we read comics. Mark Waid has written an amazing run on Daredevil that has lasted years. While he has had numerous talented artists that have helped make this run so successful, none of the changes in artist have altered either the quality or the essence of the book in the way that Waid's departure surely would.

Writers' 'alpha position' in comics is probably a good thing, as I've heard from many people who survived the reign of terror that artists who decided that they didn't need writers in the nineties unleashed. We're in a thrilling period where a great many talented artists and writers feel they can express themselves best in this medium. In the end, it's the perfect intersection between word and image (and often colour!) that makes or breaks a comic and not the resolution of the eternal artist vs. writer tug-of-war.

07/08/14 This post has been update because of dumb-assery.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ten Covers for Bruce Springsteen to Play in Winnipeg

 (Image from the crucial Springsteen2Wpg)

Bruce Springsteen is gonna play Winnipeg, Manitoba...eventually! After all, we've got a big new stadium, a fanatic fan-base and a musical history he can plunder for all those ingenious locally-themed covers he's been doing on the High Hopes Tour. A partial list of Springsteen's recent live covers would include: AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" in Adelaide, INXS' "Don't Change" in Sydney, The Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" in Brisbane, Lorde's "Royals" in Aukland and (with a slight twist) The Specials' "Free Nelson Mandela" in South Africa. I've ranked the potential Winnipeg covers on my list from least to most likely and have tried to strike a balance between my own personal favourites and the de rigeur local classics. For more cultural awesomeness (music, comics, film, politics etc.)

10.    Personality Crisis "Twilight's Last Gleaming" (1983)
Certainly a million to one shot, this old-school punk band with rock chops dominated Winnipeg's scene in the early 80's thanks in no small part to the antics of barrel-voiced wildman Mitch Funk, who Springsteen would surely admire if he knew of him. Plus, doesn't "Twilight's Last Gleaming" just sound like a Springsteen song title already?

9.    Terry Jacks "Season in the Sun" (1974)
Okay, Bruce (and half of the world) may still harbour mixed feelings about this sentimental song from one of Winnipeg's less celebrated pop figures but it has that epic grandeur in both the chorus and the story-line that would make it fit right into Springsteen's wheelhouse.

8.     Propagandhi "I Was a Pre-Teen McCarthyist" (1996)
Another daringly unlikely choice would be for Bruce to cover a song from the Winnipeg's political thrash lords, whose riffy song about father-son relationships and U.S. imperialism (that's just how those boys roll) is pretty catchy and would be given a twist by that Springsteen intensity.

7.    Greg Macpherson "Churchill" (1999)
While intense rocker Macpherson doesn't hide his adoration of Springsteen, his own brand of music is strikingly singular and Springsteen could do a fantastic Nebraska-esque take on this train ballad of the frozen North.

6.    Bachman Turner Overdrive "Roll on Down the Highway" (1974)
Thematically and musically this chestnut hits all the Springsteen buttons and would have the added benefit of not being "Takin' Care of Business", which at this point has just become part of the musical furniture.

5.    Jeffrey Hatcher "(Born to Be) Riding Only Down" (1995)
Hatcher is just the kind of tenacious, gifted rock n' roll lifer (like Willie Nile, Southside Johnny or Jesse Malin) that Springsteen admires and invites to share his stage. This soaring kiss-off song by The Blue Shadows (with Billy Cowsill of The Cowsills) would be electrifying in a Bruce-E-Street context.

4.    Burton Cummings "Stand Tall" (1976)
Another slightly purple bit of melodic melodrama from the seventies that would get pumped up to gargantuan-proportion by the man and his band.

3.   The Weakerthans "Anchorless"  (1998)
Bruce keeps his ear close to the ground, music-wise, so I suspect he's aware of John K. Sampson & co.'s wordy folk-rock. While the most known entry in the Weakerthans' catalog would be "One Great City", that song's "I Hate Winnipeg" chorus would make it a tough sell for a visitor, even for one of Bruce's stature. "Anchorless", on the other hand a finely-detailed song about the "small towns that we live and die in" would speak very directly to experiences shared by performer and audience.

2.    The Guess Who "Share the Land" (1970) or "Shakin' All Over" (1965)
When it comes to Winnipeg's most famous musical export it's a toss up* between "Shakin' All Over" (already a cover) which would indulge Springsteen's love of early sixties rock that he can stretch out into long vamps and "Share the Land" which plays to his love of social justice mixed with a good tune. Your call, Mr. Springsteen, your call.
*"American Woman" is not only too obvious, it's brand of anti-Americanism doesn't jibe with Springsteen's more subdued criticism of his homeland.

1.    Neil Young "Long May You Run"
There's no question that "Heart of Gold" would produce a rapturous response and be a fantastic choice (as would other Young songs including ones Bruce and Neil have sung together like "Helpless" and "Keep on Rockin' in the Free World"), but "Long May You Run' has those Bruce motifs of running and remembering that would make for an epic show-closer! Plus, Springsteen must be aware that when Bob Dylan came to town he headed straight over to Neil's first rockin' abode as soon as his show was done.  Bruce, let me just say that I guarantee you that we will lead a goddamn parade to Neil's house with you as the Grand Marshal if that's what it takes to get you to visit our One Great City.

So, those versed in Springsteen and Manitoba history, what do you make of these choices? Were there stunning choices that were missed?  Let us know in the COMMENTS section!

Dubious Suggestions: Fred Penner "The Cat Came Back", since even bad ideas, like Springsteen doing a beloved kids song, can make for good entertainment, The Crash Test Dummies "Superman's Song" who's solemn lament for the original superhero would fit Springsteen's vocal and narrative range nicely and Venetian Snares "Winnipeg is a Frozen Shithole" the longest of the long-shots for many, many reasons which are none too hard to discern.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Legends, Icons & Rebels: Music That Changed the World by Robbie Robertson

Legends, Icons & Rebels is a hard book to classify. It works as kids' guide to rock n' roll, as a gorgeous hardcover coffee table book on music history, as an art book, as a compilation album with massive liner notes or just a refresher course on the musical hell-raisers of the twentieth century! As he and his group, The Band, did in his the legendary film The Last Waltz, Robertson and his co-conspirators bring us a parade of musical legends that encompass a huge swath of music history. Unlike that Martin Scorsese directed documentary, here Robertson really sticks clearly to his curatorial role, only offering a single vignette that begins each entry.
Continue reading my review HERE

Sunday, February 2, 2014

R.I.P. Phillip Seymour Hoffman: 1967-2014

There were a lot of amazing roles that Phillip Seymour Hoffman inhabated but it was his channeling of the late, great Lester Bangs in Almost Famous that endears him to music nerds the world over!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Beyond the Maypole Documentary ft. Billy Bragg, Oyster Band and more

In this documentary the late Biggie Tembo (of Zimbabwean band The Bhundu Boys) does a fascinating inversion of the staid reporter goes to a strange land to investigate its traditional music trope. In "darkest England", Tembo reports on the still-earnest but creatively vibrant English folk scene of the mid-eighties featuring The Barely Works, Kathryn Tickell, Billy Bragg, The Oyserband, Robb Johnson and more besides.