Archive for the ‘Music’ Category


Goober and the Peas

January 11, 2014


Twenty or so years ago I spent part of an evening with a Detroit cowpunk band called Goober and the Peas. They were playing a gig in my town’s mining union hall, a big old space that smelled like old workboots and cheap draft beer, so they were right in their element. In their official photo, they’re kind of cowboyed up, with those hats and rhinestoned shirts, but when I was with them they were in road mode, sweats and sneakers and jean jackets.

So we did our thing for an hour or so, talking about the history of the band, their sound (I believe I called it “urbanized rurality,” or maybe the other way around, because I was young and kind of flashy like that). I remember the young drummer didn’t say much, just slouched there strumming an acoustic guitar as Goober or whatever his name was carried on with the interview. Just another day on a rock critic’s beat.

I still have thousands of old black-and-white 8x10s of bands from the 80s and 90s, all from press kits sent to me by labels and publicists. These days, I usually just get a .jpg and a link to a Soundcloud file, so I still enjoy sorting through my old photos. Especially when the bands were either funny-looking or really, really full of themselves.

So I came across this Goober and the Peas shot a while ago, and something twigged with me. Putting two and two together using decades of writerly knowledge and also Wikipedia, I realized that the kid on drums way back then was John Gillis, better known today as Jack White of the White Stripes, he of Blunderbuss, one of the best rock albums I’ve heard this century. You can see him in the photo; he’s second from left, grinning like a dork in true Peas fashion.

Nothing beats a secret celebrity encounter.

We all know what Jack White did with his musical career after leaving the Peas. The other guys still get together from time to time, and they’re worth seeing live if you get the chance.

I’ll keep rooting around in my photo files for other neato shots. There may be a new Turds of Misery in there …

And here’s some Goober and the Peas to wrap things up.



The Cult: Choice of Weapon

May 22, 2012


I am young again. I am skinny and long-haired and tight-jeaned and cowboy-booted.

This is because in my head, and on my iPod, and in my car stereo, I have Choice of Weapon, the first Cult album since 1989’s Sonic Temple that didn’t make me say “Sure, they’re my favourite band, and it’s good to have a new record, but …”

There are two kinds of Cult albums: Billy music and Ian music. When Astbury has his way, the music is trippy, atmospheric, cinematic. When Duffy forces his hand, the tracks are bigger, louder and more ferocious, all about the riff, with everything else secondary.

Choice of Weapon is the first Cult record in decades that manages to capture both mens’ passions. Not since Love, in 1985, has Astbury’s esoteric snarl meshed so perfectly with Duffy’s Gretsch-grinding guitar work.

The songs on Choice of Weapon remind me most of Love, largely because of the way they insinuate themselves. There are few huge hooks here, but a lot of great little moments, whether vocal or guitar, hidden usually in the bridges of the album’s tracks.

Bombast? Yeah. Lots. The Wolf, Pale Horse, Honey from a Knife, Lucifer and first single For The Animals are raw, raunchy rock, and listening to them offers a glimpse of what 2007’s rushed Born Into This might have been able to achieve.

Turning away from the rough-from-the-floor sound of Born Into This (and, by extension, 1987’s Electric), The Cult has wrapped its tattooed arms around the studio tricks and effects layering that made Love and 1989’s Sonic Temple work so well. There are little reminders, too, like the jukey piano lick in For The Animals, a direct lift from Sonic Temple’s New York City, and little desert-rock tributes to Duffy’s skeleton spider guitar on Dreamtime, the 1984 album that launched the band while also managing to sound like it was made by a totally different crew of dudes.

The desert sound is honest this time around, as the band worked with Chris Goss, frontman of Masters of Reality, a band I like almost as much as The Cult. Goss, who produced Astbury’s slick solo CD (you really should seek it out) is the mastermind behind the Palm Desert scene (Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss, etc.) and he brings that esthetic to Choice of Weapon in a big way.

This involves envoking big, wide skies, heat, crashing waters and passion, both through Astbury’s lyrics and Duffy’s playing. Astbury is better here than he’s been since the 80s; rougher, angrier, his trademark yelping toned down to something solemn and dark. There are no “Baby baby baby” chants here. “I came to you with love in my heart,” from For The Animals, carries a weary weight that Astbury has always seemed to be trying for. The man has been through a lot, and he finally sounds like the bluesman he’s always wanted to be.

And Duffy … this man can do no wrong on guitar, if you ask me. He sounds amazing even when playing on pure bona fide Cult garbage like Gone (from the band’s self-titled 1994 disc) or Sweet Salvation (from Ceremony, a song I listen to only because my cousin Donny Gerrard sings backup on it, and even then, it’s a challenge). Duffy knows that space can say more than noise, and he knows how to keep it simple, so we get big riffy songs like The Wolf and Pale Rider that have as much air as riffage, and they work.

Rhythm section: This is the first time the Astbury/Duffy team has produced two consecutive albums with the same bassist and drummer. Chris Wyse and John Tempesta know enough to hang back and do what has to be done without getting in the way, and they sound solid here.

Goss didn’t wrap production on Choice of Weapon; the band took the work they’d done with him and paid a visit to old crony Bob Rock, the Canadian pop star, super-producer and all-around cool cat. And it’s that combination, that rare mix of Goss, Rock, Astbury, Duffy, Wyse, Tempesta and, of course, my stuck-in-the-past musical tastes, that makes Choice of Weapon my album of the year. And it’s only May.


As Lucky Will Have It

April 30, 2012

This is one of my favourite album covers of all time. And to think – I’ll be seeing this guy play live in a couple of weeks.

Of course, he’s taller now.


There’s Lightning

April 16, 2012

Here’s a new album from a talented Toronto singer-songwriter who was once hit in the face by a moving train, which has caused him to grow the greatest Magnum face foliage of all time. Give it a listen. Download the tunes. It’s good music for a grey, thoughtful day.

There’s Lightning


Best Music Video Of The Week Of All Time: The Cult, Zap City

March 3, 2012

The Cult, building up to a grand return in May with new album Choice of Weapon, has strangely chosen YouTube video mixmaster Jim90290 to produce their latest video, a daring take on a demo for a song that eventually became a B-side in the ’80s. This video features band stalwarts Ian and Billy along with Pee-Wee Herman, Mr. Bean and Kid Rock in a fantastic sarcastic bombastic take on modern attitudes towards male sexuality.


St. Nicholas Street Blues

February 16, 2012

So, what I meant when I said I wasn’t crazy comes down to this row of houses in Toronto that I’ve been looking for since 2005. As best as I can recall, I was on an epic walk through our province’s capital during my vagabond period, and I hiked past this block of unusual homes with names like Ivy, Rose, Beech, Birch, Oak and Ash.

I had it in my head that I had seen these houses down near Liberty Village, because that’s where I had wound up that day, but I forgot that I later worked my way back down King St. to Yonge, then up to Bloor, and then back down to Dundas, all over the course of several hours of blues-fuelled iPodery. Skip James, Elmore James, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee, Muddy Waters … that’s what I heard when I walked past those weird houses.

In the years since, I have been asking Torontonians about them, and nobody knows what I’m talking about. Google Street View has been no help. So I started thinking that I had never actually seen them, that they were some kind of dream fragment or a bit from a long-forgotten short story from an Alfred Hitchcock digest found in a bus station in Saskatoon, which, if you know me, is entirely possible.

And then, a few days ago, through some random web research for something unrelated, I came across this:

The Cottages

They’re located northeast of Queen’s Park, and are worth looking at if you enjoy unusual row-home architecture, which I do.

Meanwhile, I am listening to a lot of interesting new non-American white-boy blues these days. I’ll tell you some more about them as I get back into the Weather Station groove. For now, here’s a guy whose music I enjoy:

Whole World

I suspect that if I had been listening to him on that day in 2005, I would not have wondered if the Rose Cottage was imaginary.


Start Me Up

July 12, 2011

You may have noted that I have not been writing much lately. I wish I could tell you it’s because I’m extremely busy or something like that, but the truth is, I just don’t really like you all that much. Also, I realized that I can get more metrics from people googling “dead skunk,” “Stargate 2,” “Killer Power Ranger” and “Naked weather with teacher and midget” than I can by writing anything current.

But that will change.

My current life-roadbump is nearing an end, and I have some new ideas about where to take the Weather Station. This may involve a change in look and mission (we’re past the decade mark now with this general format), or it may not. I haven’t decided, because I’ve been watching this video over and over again, and loving the moment when Keith and Ronnie drift into frame.

I have also been listening to a lot of Small Faces. You should, too.

Stay tuned.