Friday, April 30, 2004 

Scary stuff

According to this, the US government is selectively altering and deleting data related to womens' health, for political reasons. What the fuck?

Thursday, April 29, 2004 

EP fever

New review, up at Stylus; my second EP review in a row.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004 

Wednesday's Emotional Setup: Cody

So I'm making this CD for James of Scottish bands because he's going to Scotland in the fall and I thought that'd be cool (also, his tastes run to a lot of traditional stuff, but I'd hate for him to go to Glasgow not knowing of its rich indie-rock heritage). I wound up focusing pretty tightly on five bands that I both love and figured I could find songs by that he might like: The Delgados, Idlewild, Belle & Sebastian, Teenage Fanclub and Mogwai. All except Idlewild are from Glasgow, something I didn't realise until after making the CD, which is pretty cool.

So for Mogwai, who of course veer from noise to not with some frequency, I was looking for something quieter rather than, say, 'Like Herod'. Which led me, inexorably, to possibly their least beloved album to everyone except for me, Come On Die Young. I'm only going to say a few things about it here, because I feel it's probably due a Classic Album re-evaluation at some point. It's their most wintry and nocturnal album, but it culminates in three nine-minute plus noise epics ('Ex-Cowboy', 'Chocky' and the seminal 'Christmas Steps'). It is, in sections, their most peaceful record, but boasts a title taken (like Young Team's) from gang grafitti seen around Glasgow. The latent violence that lurks there stretches out under the music, only coming to the surface occasionally (and even then, as on 'Kappa', it's often strained and hollow).

It's the Mogwai album I put on most often, more then Young Team or Ten Rapid (which, aside from the unimpeachable 'Helicon 1' and a few others is farly patchy), more than Rock Action or My Father My King (as brilliant as they are), more than the few EPs I have (which deserve more attention), and far more than Happy Songs For Happy People (which is decent but probably transitional, and locks up my computer due to "copy protection").

I wound up including in James' CD 'Kids Will Be Skeletons' from Happy Songs For Happy People, which does have sheer gorgeousness of sound going for it, and the ravishing 'R U Still In 2 It' with Aidan Moffett from Arab Strap off of Young Team (and which I am doing a Seconds article on in mid-May), and 'Cody', from Come On Die Young.

Of course, given the acronym matchup there, I often want to list it as 'C.O.D.Y.', but that's not how it's listed. It's among the most lovely things Mogwai have ever done, it's their first major unassisted vocal piece, and it is the heart around which the rest of the album slowly pulses.

The lyrics are short enough and important enough to post in full:

Of all I knew
I held too few
And would you stop me
If I tried to stop you

Old songs
Stay 'til the end
Sad songs
Remind me of friends

And the way it is
I could leave it all
And I ask myself
would you care at all

When I drive alone at night
I see the streetlights as fairgrounds
And I tried a hundred times
To see the road signs as Day-Glo.

Old songs
Stay 'til the end
Sad songs
Remind me of friends

And the way it is
I could leave it all
And I ask myself
would you care at all

There is something inextricably sad about Stuart Braithwaite's delivery of the central "drive" lines, backed by either himself multi-tracked to infinity or his bandmates. Briathwaite sings in a whispery croon, and that there is no question mark after the line "woudl you care at all" is not accidental; there's no question mark in his delivery, either, especially the second time.

Through all this the softly chiming guitars and almost Low-esque druming is supported by a soft flute, played by a bandmember or possibly producer Dave Fridmann and Richard Formsby's (of the Jazz Butcher) quietly ravishing pedal steel. Despite the pedal steel, it should be said, the song remains resolutely urban, as does the album, in a way few pieces of music outside of Readymade's The Dramatic Balanced By are for me.

When I first bought Come On Die Young (my first Mogwai purchase, incidentially), I found most of it too samey, which is where most people give up, I guess, but 'Cody' was immediately striking. For a while it occupied my ultimate downbeat mixtape, alongside Spiritualized's 'Broken Heart', the Verve's 'History' and the Super Furry Animals' 'Turning Tide', along with others. I burned out on it eventually (as I did with most of those songs), and 'Cody' only made it back into my life recently. I'll be more careful with it now.

And so of course today was a grey, cold, rainy day. Guess what song fit it perfectly?


Go us

The disgraced Svend Robinson's bill to extend hate crime legislation to protect homosexuals has passed. Thank god, if you'll pardon the idiom.


Crumbling ivory towers

Pretty scary article on the rise of adjuncts, or as they're known up here, sessionals. And people wonder why I flip-flop on grad school.


Delay, of course

Finally got that journal entry done.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004 

Cool beans

David Bowie ain't perfect, but unlike a lot of musicians he's now encouraging mash-ups. That's pretty cool of him.


Ivor Novello

The Ivor Novellos are a series of "songwriting" awards in the UK (some of them yes, some of them - "Best Selling UK Single", anyone - not so much) that I usually actually care who wins. Just a little. Well, this year Belle & Sebastian are up for "Best Song Musically And Lyrically" against Dido and Will Young, and even though it for 'Step Into My Office, Baby' rather than 'I'm A Cuckoo' I hope like hell they win. Full award lineup here.

Monday, April 26, 2004 

Battle cry

What Is Your Battle Cry?

Lo! Who is that, prowling through the freeway! It is Hiroshige, hands clutching an oversized scalpel! He bellows apocalyptically:

"I'm going to hump you until you taste like chicken!!!"

Find out!
Enter username:
Are you a girl, or a guy ?

created by beatings : powered by monkeys

(Hiroshige being, of course, the name of my journal)


Oh, I forgot

New review was up at Stylus on Friday.



Go here, scroll down to #15. Read it.

The world needs more Bill Swygart, in my opinion.


Whither D&D?

Depressing article about D&D - depressing mostly because I know the sort of person who normally plays that sort of thing, and they can be awfully lacking in the social skills department. Well, I used to play, and I still have a game (albeit in a different system)every two Sundays, and it's not as bad as all that. To quote the article:

"If you play board games there is always an objective or goal. D&D is the opposite. It's about sitting down and telling stories with your friends."

Or, in our case, dirty jokes.

On a different note, technical difficulties continue.

Sunday, April 25, 2004 

Technical Difficulties

K. and I got back into town at about 7:20, but diary-x appear to be down, so no new entry until it works again.


I'm an asshole

I missed Earth Day? Shit.

Thursday, April 22, 2004 

Get down on your motherfucking knees

New Seconds article by me up at Stylus today.


Wednesday's Emotional Setup: Springtime In Vienna

You know, I'd feel worse about updating this thing on Thursday mornings and such if I thought I had people actually going "jeeze, why is he so late all the time". It's kind of nice not having that sort of pressure, actually, but I will be trying to be more on time nonetheless. It's a good skill to have.

So, it's hockey season. I've been out at places with TVs for a fair number of the games (go Habs! And barring that, go Leafs, I guess), and I'm feeling pretty Canadian. Which brings me to the Tragically Hip.

Now, I like the Hip, although not quite as much as some people around here. I find the creative tension behind the bar-band origins and Gord Downie's poetry (I'm not being metaphorical here; for those not up on this sort of thing, he's actually published poetry) has made some pretty damned good rock and roll, and for at least one album everything balanced so perfectly that they really did make a modern classic (memo to allmusic, most critics and some fans: Road Apples and Fully Completely are fine albums, but they are not the be-all and end-all of the Hip).

Even their later stuff, what I've heard, I quite liked; I listened to my dad's copies of Trouble At The Henhouse and Phantom Power enough to like them both, and to think that the former especially gets a raw deal.

But all that's not really why I'm covering 'Springtime In Vienna', from Trouble At The Henhouse for this week. I'm doing it because it came up randomly on Winamp, and within its steady thrash and Johnny Fay's sturdy drumming, it's got one of my favorite lines from any band ever, as well as a couple others I like ("the blues is still required", in the context of a Hip song, is the kind of middle ground between cryptic and obvious that Downie excels at, for example).

So the chorus kicks up and someone (Paul Langlois?) does the standard incomphrensible yet crucial backing vocals bit and Downie busts out with, over and over,

"We live to survive our paradoxes".

That sounds about right to me. And now, as Sam Pepys said, to bed.


Own petard

Man, does this interview make Oliver Stone look like a credulous idiot.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004 


You can have a voice lift now. How depressing. Let's hope Bob Dylan doesn't get one.


I am a horrible person

Why? Because this made me laugh. A lot.



In other weird spam news, this morning I got a spam from someone named "Scatting O. Botulism". That's awesome. I ever need a pseudonym to sign into a hotel or something, I'm going with "Scatting O. Botulism".


Weird spam

I was just invited to watch some sort of internet cam porn thing. Not weird.

The name on the email was "Homer Wallach". Weird.


Har har

Something Awful takes on Pitchfork. It's pretty funny, if only for the level of detail.

Monday, April 19, 2004 


New journal entry up, new review at Stylus, and now, I'm going to get some wings.

Sunday, April 18, 2004 

Great Canucks

Allof my fellow Canadians should vote in this. My own vote was for Marshall McLuhan, but there's plenty to choose from.


True grit

Fadi Fadel is one brave guy.

Saturday, April 17, 2004 

Truckloads of funny

Excellent article on Aaron McGruder, the Boondocks guy, at the New Yorker.


Feets don't fail me now

By the way, I'm going into this particular exam with 84% in the other 70% of the course, so I'm feeling pretty good about it. Hopefully I can restrain my own tendancy towards half-assedness enough to keep my final mark close to or above that.


Me study good one day

How pathetic is my semi-procrastination (I am studying, but only about half the time)? I just beat 5 games of FreeCell in a row without putting any cards up. That's hardcore, yo.

Friday, April 16, 2004 

Reasons to be cheerful, part 37

This week's War Against Silence is pretty damned wonderful, and for those who shy away from geekery, it's not about music.


Sore all over

Helped Dad move for twelve hours yesterday. He's still got a weekend to go (and a full one at that), but we got most of the stuff, and all the big stuff, over. As a result, I'm pretty exhausted, and I've got an exam tomorrow morning, so I don't expect to post much today.

You should, however, check out this description of Bush's notion of credibility.

Thursday, April 15, 2004 


Once again, I could tell it was Chris Ott from the opening. I was hoping I'd be wrong, for variety's sake, but nah. Look, I don't like the Vines that much either, but this just doesn't make sense:

No one needs The Vines. No one cries over Vines songs, or includes them on breakup mixes. They're vague, inoffensive noise, a band attractive to sheltered teens who find Hot Topic punk and nu-metal goth overbearing.

Look, this is just self contradictory. Yes, the Vines probably do get included in breakup mixes and are cried over. It's just that this happens with the same "sheltered teens who find Hot Topic punk and nu-metal goth overbearing", which apparantly means Ott thinks those poor, unfortunate souls are inhuman enough to count as "no one". Never mind that they massively outnumber us indie snobs.


Hee hee

I just got a piece of spam withe the subject line "You are the woman". Now that's a unique tack to take.

Few updates today, probably, as I'm going to Kincardine with Aaron and Tony to help my dad move.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004 

Wednesday's Emotional Setup: What's The Use Of Getting Sober (When You're Gonna Get Drunk Again)

5:48 pm.

Contrary to what the title might make you think, I didn't have much booze last night. Three pints, that's all. When the Pennywhistle closed up Aaron, James and Christa headed back here to chat for a while and fondle the cat (oh, she hated that) until we borrowed the jeep and drove everyone home. Despite the fact that I hadn't had much, I felt like shit when I got home and went to sleep. And I still felt like shit when K. left to go present her thesis at 8 am - I went back to bed and slept fitfully until 2 in the afternoon.

When I got up, I felt pretty listliss. Still do (and the fact that I took an hour and a half break in the writing of this should be pretty good evidence of that). So naturally I put on Joe Jackson's version of 'What's The Use Of Getting Sober (When You're Gonna Get Drunk Again)'. Not that I'm getting drunk again tonight (or in the foreseeable future), and also not that I'm avoiding it, but those lazy horns and Jackson's sarcastic rendition of the chorus suit my mood. There's an almost audible smirk in Jackson's delivery of the lines "I love my whiskey and I love my gin / Every time you see me I'm in my sin". And the verses are priceless on a lazy holiday afternoon, the squeaky son constantly interrupting the baritone father only to get the retort of a sharp "Shut up, boy". I may not actually drink that much, but mornings like this one make me feel like I do. And in those cases, this is the sort of thing you should listen to.

And really, what is the use of getting sober if you're going to get drunk again?

Tuesday, April 13, 2004 

Talkin' 'bout my generation

Jer wanted to know what I thought about this. Four things:

1: There are definitely some older critics who should shut the fuck up - every time Jann Wenner gives 5 stars to the new Mick Jagger solo disc or whatever Patty Smith shits out it's to the point where it's embarrassing. Maybe he's stopped in the few months since the last time I flipped through RS, but if so he stopped a few decades too late. But that is technically rock criticism for a music magazine. Here we're talking about the couple of pages of music coverage that your average city paper does every week. True, if here you have critics who are stuck in the past they should be canned; but critics like that range from 18-80.

2: The people being reported on in this article don't seem to fit the Wenner mold. It's entirely possible that they've been fired or demoted in some msiguided attempt to be "hip". That's stupid, especially considering music critics have never been, will never be, and should never be, hip. It kills the tastebuds. If that's what is going on (and of course we can't tell from the article), they should get their jobs back.

3: Of course, I have a large degree of sympathy for their replacements, as well. There's not nearly as many good positions out there as there are qualified applicants, and it's damned hard to make a living that way. Either way this goes, someone's getting screwed.

4: I would never want to be a "pop music" critic for a newspaper, since that would mean covering the most banal stories, the ones that are everywhere (i.e. radiohead is banal in this context, albeit not musicaly). You would have very little space and very little freedom. I know I wouldn't feel engaged, and I'm 22.


Unexpected productivity

New journal entry up. See? I sometimes follow through on these things.



Right now the total of foreign nationals held captive in Iraq in an attempt to get foreign forces to leave is 13. Countries are lining up totell people to get the hell out. It's possible for me to be more depressed about the situation I'm sure, but I can't see how.


Station to station

If I want, for whatever reason, to think about the crucifiction of Jesus, I'd rather listen to low than watch The Passion of the Christ, which was truly awful (and I was prepared for it not to be). From 'The Lamb':

They'll take my name
And feed my children
With my remains
In the holy temple
'Cuz I am the lamb
And I'm a dead man

I am the lamb
And I'm a dead man

Monday, April 12, 2004 

Flashes make me wince

I was going to do the journal update proper today, but then whatever muse is in charge of me (whichever she is. she's got a fucked up sense of humour) struck. There's something up, but the entry will follow tomorrow.


Geek out

Got back late from London today, had to write a piece for Stylus (which turned out to be my best ever, in my opinion), so update tomorrow (well, later today). In the meantime, here's another review to keep you busy.

Friday, April 09, 2004 

Spoilers ahoy

If you haven't seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, don't read this.

Now, everyone else: read this. I think he's got it entirely wrong. Yes, maybe their laughter does signify "the death of an emotion", but I would argue (very vehemently) that the dying emotion(s) are fear and despair, not love. The film isn't the triumph of reason over anything. It's two people deciding to give their emotions another chance.

(or, to quote Tindersticks, who I am listening to right now, "We've touched it now/Let it show, let it show/Can our love, can our love, grow any further?")

Thursday, April 08, 2004 

Take it like a man

This gives a whole new meaning to "go fuck yourself".


Wednesday's Emotional Setup: Don't Understand

low are pretty much the only band I love that make me want to listen to nothing but themselves. I put on other acts I love (Plumtree, say, or the Wrens) and after finishing listening to them I want to listen to another record, sure, but necessarily another of their records. After finishing The Curtain Hits The Cast or Trust or Long Division or Things We Lost In The Fire or especially Secret Name, I just want to listen to more low. Luckily, as you can see, I have plenty of options.

There are many reasons why I love low, but their lyrics, as oblique and fragmentary as they are, certainly form a large part. Yes, the songwriting two-thirds of low are Mormons - what of it? It gives extra meaning to some of their lines if you know about Mormonism or Christianity in general. They honestly seem to be out to convert anyone so much as Mimi Parker and especially Alan Sparhawk are grappling with their own beliefs and the world. Note that almost all of their songs are sung in the first person ('Whore' being the only counterexample I can think of); low's songs are compelling partly because they contain an astounding catalog of human folly, and they don't ever pretend that they are above it just because of their faith.

But then there are songs like 'Don't Understand'. It, arguably, belongs to the group of songs I've just mentioned; but like most of low's songs, I dare you to tell me why other than just the fact that you know it does. It starts, and continues, with a weird sampled sound repeated over and over again, without ever gaining any variation; feedback from Alan's guitar coasts over the top. At around two minutes in, cymbals and then the repeated beats of bass and guitar join in. They sound like a death knell. After another minute, Sparhawk starts singing. As with much of low's music, and similarly to the Radar Brothers, there is a sense that something horrible has happened/is happening/will happen. The lines "drag you to town / treat you just like a son / alone in my house / did they teach you to run?" have a particularly awful resonance if you remember what Son has a central place in Alan's worldview. And then the moments that lock this song inexorably in my memory; Alan sings (with Mimi offering harmony)


And with each line the three instruments crash down like an axe. The idiot, gibbering sample in the back continues unabated. the song crashes along, nearly seven minutes and total. And then it, quite literally, recedes. That the next song on the album begins "soon it will be over / I laughed under my breath over your shoulder" always creeps me out.

low's music is, for whatever reason, one of the most intensely visual forms of music I can think of. The images the songs call to mind don't tend to be narrative so much as impressionistic, but they are powerful nonetheless. Slow motion and harsh lighting are often involved. You could quite easily score an experimental film to, say, Secret Name (where 'Don't Understand' is found). The images for 'Don't Understand' don't make much sense, and in any case they change. But for me this song is the sound of every repressed memory struggling back to the surface, of a small child crying in a closet.


Wednesday, April 07, 2004 

Memo to PETA

Murder victims (yes, I am only referring to humans here) are not promotional tools.



Scott McKeating and I have put together a little Top Ten list for your reading pleasure.


There's no justice

You know, I bet Jennifer Lopez's mom was doing just fine, financially, before she won $2.4 billion.



At my nation, the "civil rights" marker just hit "world benchmark" status. Go me.

[edit: And now it's back to superb. Ah well.]



This is probably the quiz result I'm most proud of:

Grammar God!
You are a GRAMMAR GOD!

If your mission in life is not already to
preserve the English tongue, it should be.
Congratulations and thank you!

How grammatically sound are you?
brought to you by Quizilla



Aaron says this, I say: If it was pleasent all the time, everyone would be doing it.



I think the thread on Dan's blog is dead by now, so I'll just put this here. This is Dan:

"Another, more realistic example, would be that of carrying concealed weapons. In out culture, this is not permitted, except with special permission from the government. Presumably, this is done so that people will not be able to effectively attack each other in the heat of passion, thus super-protecting a negative right not to be unjustly attacked. But in doing so, it violates the generic negative right to not be interfered with."

Of course it does. What bugs me about this argument is that it assumes Dan's right to not be interfered with _in his ability to carry conealed weaponry_ (and only in this, not in general) is not outweighed by others' rights not to be dead. Give me a fricking break.


I love 1991

It's on all week, but Part 2 has most of my contributions. I was busy. Luckily everyone else wasn't.


Detachment is the enemy, people

My review of the Nellie McKay disc has exactly one thing over the Pitchfork version: At least I take her seriously.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004 

Right hand of doom

So, yeah, Hellboy: An excellent comic book movie (in that you had around 80% goodness and only 20% Hollywoodization), but, no matter how much I tried, I couldn't stop comparing it to the comic. It lost, of course.

But kudos to Ron Perlman nontheless. Great job.


Get out of the rain

My review of the new Alfie album is up at Stylus. Quick version: Skip it, buy this instead.

Monday, April 05, 2004 

Blast from the past

Woah, the first Bomberman game is coming out for the gameboy? My dad used to rock at that game - he could play for hours.

Sunday, April 04, 2004 

Free as the wind

New journal entry up. No go 'way kid, ya bother me.

Saturday, April 03, 2004 

Holy shits

In Brazil, vampire bats have killed 13 people, because they have rabies.

Y'know, it's good I didn't hear about this when I was about ten or else I'd be terrified.



There's this Andrew Rilstone chap that did a solid analysis of the last issue of Cerebus, by the insane Dave Sim. I went poking on his site and found my current favorite piece of writing on evil. I don't have time to go back and reread it, but I don't remember disagreeing with a single thing he says.

Friday, April 02, 2004 


The inimitable Scott McKeating on Britney Spears: "I’ve seen more sexual energy in a whelk."

Thursday, April 01, 2004 

Don't let the man keep you down

Gord's webpage currently says CSIS have taken all content offline, but I'm kind of assuming it's an April Fool's day thing. In fact, for all I know it could be back to normal by the time you read this.


Be my little baby

A new article up at Stylus.


An Earthpig born

I own the first six Cerberus trade paperbacks. So far it's very good. The fact that Dave Sim seems like the least pleasent person I can imagine has no real effect on that - his misogyny is a mere side effect (albeit a large, important one) of his rather manic emphasis on the primacy of the intellect over the emotions. I'm actually quite surprised that this is the same guy who did a fine, touching job of doing the last days of Oscar Wilde (you know - "the advantage of the emotions is that they lead us astray"?).

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About me

Ian Mathers is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Stylus, the Village Voice, Resident Advisor, PopMatters, and elsewhere. He does stuff and it magically appears here.

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imathers at gmail dot com

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