Monday, February 28, 2011

And now the chickens start coming home to fucking roost.

Alright, enough about music. Back to politics: this time, of the local flavour.

In case you've been under a rock, Rob Ford was elected mayor of Toronto this past fall. Rob's dad, a businessman (quite a wealthy one, to boot) and backbencher in the Mike Harris regime... well, that's pretty much all you need to know. Ford the Younger campaigned on a "Stop the Gravy Train" platform, which was catchy and populist-as-all-get-out, and he won.

(God help us, he won.)

A bunch of councillors won with the same message, hell-bent on slamming the brakes on said Train. "Respect for Taxpayers" was another common motto, because hey, we all pay taxes in this town, right? That's what we are, Taxpaying Things In The 416. We're not citizens. Perish the thought.

Anyway, I digress.

First thing was first, when Ford found himself with the Chain of Office: scrap that dastardly $60-a-year Vehicle Registration Tax! Respect for taxpayers, indeed. (I admit, when I renewed my plates for two years back in November — might as well, it saves me the hassle every other year — the bill stung: couple o' hunnies for the sticker, plus a sweet buck-twenty straight to the City.) Who cares that property taxes in the City, as opposed to the 905, are crazy-low? Cars (and trucks, and buses, but not streetcars and damn sure not bikes) are what roads are built for, stupid!


1. That $60/year fee for having a car and a Toronto address? That brought in a ton of money, and it was one of the first things done under the City of Toronto Act, through the province, in order to generate a little extra scratch for Hogtown because, well, we do a lot of stuff here, and that shit ain't free. But, more importantly...

2. Turns out there wasn't as much Gravy as Ford & Co. thought there was. Just this past weekend, newly-minted, Ford-backing, alliteration-enhanced councillor from the Beach(es), Mary-Margaret McMahon, was quoted to say, and I'm paraphrasing slightly, "Y'know, there isn't as much gravy here as we'd planned. This is going to be hard."


As hard as it might be for you to believe, I don't relish the "I told you so" moment as much as you might think. I mean, it's a little satisfying, for sure, but in the end, who comes out on top? It's like a prison rodeo: there are no real winners.

All I can say is that, when Ford went cap-in-hand to the Province with a wish-list, Dwight Duncan made like Little Bessie from Lake Charles, Louisiana and "tore it up and threw it in [his] face, just for a laugh,"* and Tim Hudak suggested it was because Ford beat George Smitherman (a former McGuinty Minister of Health) last fall... well, it'd be funnier if I didn't have to fucking live here, but I do.

The moral of the story, I think, was perfectly summed up, once upon a time, by Little Richard: Don't let your mouth write checks your tail can't cover.
* This is a great song, and always will be.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Album review: The King Of Limbs.

In case you haven't been within a hundred miles of me in the past four days, Radiohead released their new album (a day early, no less), The King Of Limbs.

In case you didn't know already, I'm a huge fan of the boys. There aren't too many artists/groups that I'd blindly trust with a new project — several times bitten, forever shy — but Radiohead is a band to whom I will always give the benefit of the doubt.

First impression:

Dark and smoky. But gooooood dark and smoky.

Further analysis:

I've listened to this album three times since I downloaded it (legally, of course) on Friday, a day before it was supposed to have been released. It hasn't taken me long to really appreciate what's going on here.

Overall, it's a departure from their most recent pair of albums; those tended to veer back into guitar-based territory, which they do well too (obviously). As Matt Blair suggested, things venture into the Kid A-ish realm of things, and I'll agree with that sentiment. However, whereas Kid A was the first time they plunged into, as ex-blogger ECB refers to it, "bleepy bloopy" music — resulting in a wholesale yet sometimes overly technical commitment to electronica — this time, they're going into it with the full knowledge of what sorts of things are possible, what sorts of things aren't, and how far they should wade into that end of the pool.

Long story short: It works.

Long story longer: When they want to dial things back and make them more atmospheric, they do. When they want to reel-in that obscure part of your brain wholly dedicated to complex beats, they do. And, perhaps most surprisingly for a record like this, whenever they want to get a solid groove going, they do.

It's not a long album, but I'm alright with that. What this album is, though, is thorougly impressive. I'm not sure exactly where this'll end up in my ranked list of the Radiohead canon, but you'd better believe it's going to be near the top, and that is damn high praise from this inconsequential (but nerdy) reviewer.

Get it here. (The mp3 version is fine.) Seriously, folks, pay for this music. I will openly admit I download music illegally from time to time, just like you do. But don't steal this. It's nine bucks, and you have nine bucks.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Creating a top-40 pop hit.

Look, I know I've been beating the drum of "top-40 pop music sucks" for pretty much, well, my entire adult life. But if you can have two guys go from zero to entirely finished track in well under eight hours, one of two things must be true:
  1. These two guys are Paul McCartney and John Lennon
  2. Top-40 pop music is actually pretty easy to write
The challenge was to go from nothing to a finished song in eight hours. These guys had plenty of time to spare, with a burger break in the middle. Watch the "magic" unfold:

Then, once you're done that, watch this live track by Humble Pie in about 1971-ish to cleanse your palate:

You're welcome.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Catchy cheesy 80s pop, V-day, and dead fridges.

A miscellany of assorted randomness: it's been a while.

1. Catchy Cheesy 80s Pop

If you know me — and, chances are you do — you know I'm a music snob. But, if you know me — which you probably do — you know I'm a sucker for good pop songwriting, even if it happens to be the ultimate fromage.

Hence, a song I've been obsessed with lately, "King Of Wishful Thinking" by Go West. I must warn you, however: for those of you who know my musical tastes — an ultra-extended version of the "Supper's Ready" suite by a proggy trippy weirdo Peter Gabriel-fronted Genesis? Sign me up! — this may be a bit, well, jarring. But, here goes.

(There's a version with better sound quality here, but it wouldn't embed in a web page, because some people are fascists.) Sometime site-contributor (and apparently now-ex-blogger) ECB apparently loves this song too, so at least I'm not alone, except on...

2. Valentine's Day

Glad that shit's over for another year.

3. Dead Fridges

My fridge died on Saturday morning: the inside of both compartments looked like someone had sprayed a fine layer of black photocopier toner in it, and it smelled ghastly chemically.

People say renting an apartment is "throwing your money away." They might be right, or they might be wrong. But, I gotta say, it's pretty swell to be able to call up your super, tell them, "Hey, my fridge is dead, I need another one," and another one magically appears in a couple of days.

Take that, mortgage slaves!

* * * * * *

In an attempt to perhaps re-establish my rock cred around here, I will present to you the most soulful white guy ever: Steve Winwood, as a member of the Spencer Davis Group. This is about 1967, which means Winwood was about nineteen goddamn years old.

Friday, February 11, 2011

I wish I had more to say.

Tomorrow I'm going to work a full day, then I'm going to:
  1. supervise a bunch of students doing the tail end of the 30 Hour Famine, until 10pm... then,
  2. go to a house party wherein a friend of mine is going to debut a short film he and some friends worked on, and it's bound to be (a.) hilarious and (b.) exceptionally weird.
Most Friday nights I'm content to sit on my couch, drink a beer, and be in bed by 10:30.