Tuesday, August 31, 2004 

The great escape

Bears are, in addition to beer drinkers, bike riders. Cool.


Tha chronic(ly late)

New journal entry.

Sunday, August 29, 2004 

Utterly horrifying

When you read this article, the bare facts are awful enough, but read it bit again:

The 10-year-old son of a divorced American couple shot his father dead as he was being picked up from his mother's home in Texas, police say.

Rick James Lohstroh, 41, died on his way to hospital after being shot several times as he sat in the driver's seat of his car outside the house.

The boy reportedly fired from the back seat and then from outside the car, using his mother's gun.

Friends of Mr Lohstroh, a doctor, said his divorce had been "bitter and ugly".

His former wife was inside the house with another son, aged seven, at the time of the shooting, said Sgt BE Williams of the Harris County Sheriff's Department.

She reportedly took the gun away from her 10-year-old when he came inside afterwards.

God only knows what really happened, but what those lines suggest could have happened... the mind shudders.


Set the mood

When it is a grey, dreary, rainy day (my favorite kind), and I'm alone and not going to be doing anything more stressful than lounging around the apartment, when I have no work due for school or Stylus or anything, there is only one album that perfectly fits the mood: Belle & Sebastian's Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant.

Yes, you have to take out "Beyond The Sunrise", but that song never should have appeared on the album. The other ten tracks are pure gold.

[Edited to add: Especially "The Model", "Women's Realm" and "There's Too Much Love".]

Saturday, August 28, 2004 


So I'm listening to Low's new box set, which I got for my birthday, while doing crosswords (it's excellent so far, by the way). And two clues on the same puzzle have stuck out so far; first, I saw a longish word for "dance" that ended with a "p", and instantly I knew it was "Twostep", one of my favorite Low songs. Then, the next clue I did? "Not high", already filled out was "L_W". Neat.

Update: Puzzle #3 had "Clinic" and "Blur". Yes, I know plenty of words are used as band names, but these puzzles usually don't have many or any of them. And so far they've all been bands I really like.

Friday, August 27, 2004 

It's all over now, baby blue

What can you say when someone like Glenn McDonald hangs up his hat? Not much, other than that he will be missed. A more cogent, humane and loving music writer I have yet to encounter, but he's right: It's time to move on. I wish him the best (as I have in the numerous fan emails I've sent him over the past couple of years), and hope if he does continue to be creative he continues to share it with us.

Now, if we could only get him a book deal...


Rock opera

Maybe I'm perverse, but this makes me look forward to the new Green Day more than ever.


We need more Dick

Scientists' favorite SF movie? Blade Runner (second item). Pretty cool. Also interesting that while Dick was among their top five favorite SF writers, so was Fred Hoyle. Who?


Holy shit dept.

So this guy in Germany lost his lower jaw to cancer. So they grew a new one in his back. I'm not making this up, I swear.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004 

Medal count

I'm not hugely bothered by the Summer Olympics either way (it's all about the Winter ones), but I do tend to keep track. This year is weird; sure we've only got 6 medals, but the two golds are both first-ever Canadian medals in those sports (artistic gymnastics and track cycling), which is neat.



Oddly enough, when my Clinic review went up Monday Pitchfork had Clinic as their lead review as well. And today the lead review is Akiva Gottleib on GBV, the lead review at Pitchfork is... GBV. Weird, usually the timing doesn't work out like that.


"Forty-nine per cent [of Americans] believe that the President has the power to suspend the Constitution."

Strongly depressing but important article in the New Yorker about the depth and breadth of voter ignorance and apathy.


We both know that I've got bad knees

My piece on the best Superchunk album ever is up at Stylus.



Okay, does anyone know who has my Animal Man trades? I went to go loan them out tonight and they weren't here. I'm assuming I gave them to... someone. Any help is appreciated.

Monday, August 23, 2004 

Thank you (for living)

The album of the week for Stylus this week is Clinic's new disc, written up by yours truly.

Sunday, August 22, 2004 


But a journal entry is up.


Holy fucking shit

The Scream has been stolen. By armed robbers. In front of museum goers. This is messed up.


And when the sun shines

Weird - today I've only really been up for like an hour and a half, but I've been pretty extensively soundtracked (in my head at least).

Superchunk - "Watery Hands"
Elbow - "Ribcage"
Johnny Cash - "I'll Fly Away"
Superchunk - "Nu Bruises"
The Hives - "Diabolic Scheme"

Note that none of this is thematically linked to things I've been doing (laundry has next to nothing to do with "Diabolic Scheme"), I've just got a head full of music this afternoon.

Saturday, August 21, 2004 

Adventures in cooking

So when my mom was down for my birthday, she brought some food; specifically some spaghetti in meat sauce (with mushrooms!) and some beef stew. The stew is eaten (and was delicious), but there was a lot of spaghetti.

Now, it's delicious, but I'm trying to eat it all without freezing any, and that means I've had it every night for the last little while. So what I do is fire up one of the burners, toss a frying pan on, and then while heating up the spaghetti that way (which makes it extra delicious, with added crispy bits) I toss some of K.'s spices on. Always tons of garlic, of course, but I vary the rest. Last night I tried a little curry powder with the garlic, and while I don't like spaghetti with just curry sauce (my brain gets confused), a hint of it in normal spaghetti is freakin' delicious. I kind of wish the tupperware the spaghetti is in would refill itself, actually. Never-ending spaghetti would be nice.

Friday, August 20, 2004 

I'm a journalist, dammit

Guess which one of us gets to interview someone from Clinic (one of my favorite bands) next week?


No, it's not you.


Good taste

More info on the beer bear - he only likes certain beers. Awesome.

Thursday, August 19, 2004 

Enough guest stars, already

I'm actually interested by the idea of Death In Vegas recording an album in "stripped-down bass and keyboards format". I enjoyed their last two records, but this sounds like it might be better.


Party animal

Bear drinks 36 beers, passes the fuck out.


You know what they do to guys like us in prison

My review of the new My Chemical Romance album is up.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004 

There is no pleasure worth foregoing, etc, etc.

Great article on Julia Child, R.I.P.. It's telling, I think, that she lived to such a ripe old age.

Monday, August 16, 2004 

Summer of '04

It's a bit late, but there's a journal entry up.


I'm eating it right now

Ever heard of Bhel Puri (spelling variable, but that's the way the bag of it we bought spells it)? It's an Indian snack food composed to twigs of chick pea flour and puffed up rice, with various spices on them.

It is delicious. It's like crack. And it's cheap too.

Sunday, August 15, 2004 

"Trial of the year"

Here's the thing: I neither believe nor disbelieve what the three American ex-soldiers have claimed during their trial in Kabul for, among other things, "hostage-taking, torture, illegally entering Afghanistan and running a private jail".

That is, when they say "We were in contact directly by fax and e-mail and phone with [Defence Secretary] Donald Rumsfeld's office and with the deputy secretary of defence for intelligence" I can believe that that happened, and I could also easily believe that these men were simply rogues, bad seeds no longer acting on American orders.

What I can't believe is that Idema and co. are so naive that they think, if they were doing black ops for the US, that there's going to be any evidence left to support this, that the States would be caught with their pants down. I'll be quite surprised if that happens.

Or in other words - whatever reason these men were doing these horrible things, I think they're fucked now.



I think it's incredibly cool that the birthday of Ben and I made Tyler think of Mogwai and Primal Scream. Thanks to him and everyone else who has wished me a happy birthday.

Saturday, August 14, 2004 

Best Song Ever (As of This Minute) Dept.

"Falstaff" by Clinic

I've got a promo copy of Winchester Cathedral, and god is it good. Those MP3s I downloaded really didn't do it justice. Any fans of Walking With Thee should definitely pick it up. "Falstaff" is just the track from it I happen to love right now.



I'd never heard of Czeslaw Milosz before he died, but seeing this quotation makes me wish I had:

"If you really think about the horror of the world, the only suitable attitude seems to be to reject it."

Friday, August 13, 2004 

"Brilliantly postmodern"

Something Awful makes fun of Watchmen. It's great.


I can't speak properly

Well, I've never had half my jaw (and half my tongue!) frozen before. Eating lunch was an adventure, I tell you. But that's two cavities down, one to go...

Thursday, August 12, 2004 

I'm with Jer re: Italics

Today's entry at Girls Are Pretty is awesome.


Fuck II: Son of Fuck

As much as I don't like the heat, this is definitely worse.



Scientists predict more heat waves in upcoming years.


Disillusionment sets in

So when I posted about cow doping I was kind of kidding, but James has set me straight:

"Hey Ian,

Just thought you might like to now that cattle doping isn't as new as you
thought it might. My great uncle informs me that a common practise used to be
to feed cattle shredded dried beets and then let them drink as much water as
they could. They would plump up and be judged better in competition. Of
course, this could be very dangerous for the cows..."

That right there is scary. Is there no depths humanity won't sink too?


Woo hoo

Tonight's bar occupation was a success, lasting from nine until they kicked us out (as planned). I'd like to thank Forrest, Meredith, Tony, Aaron, Emma, Justin, Jeromy, Jeremy, Lisa, Steve, Joy, Tracy, Ben, Nate, Wes, Erik and Melissa (in the order I remembered names) for all coming out and in some cases buying me beer.

And to everyone who let me know they couldn't come out: Don't worry about it. Shit happens.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004 


Urgent and key post at The Brown Wedge about comic books - specifically, Mighty Marvel's use of language.


I'm 23

Happy birthday to me,
Happy birthday to me,
Happy birthday to meee-eee (and Ben)
Happy birthday to me.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004 

Worth it for the headline alone dept.

"Cat pounces on pilot mid-flight"

No-one was hurt, of course, or I'd feel differently about this.


So forgetful

Oh, there was actually a journal entry posted on Sunday, I just forgot to mention it. Durr.


Is nothing sacred?

Doping scandals hit the competitive world of cattle shows. I mean, really, what the hell?

Monday, August 09, 2004 

I'll sleep the rest of the day

Great article at the Guardian singing the praises of sloth. I can't believe people actually listen to the sort of person who says "Man was created to work, not to speculate, or feel, or dream" (Thomas Carlyle). What?


A wrinkle in time

New review up at Stylus, it's of Milosh.

Friday, August 06, 2004 


The whole thing with the Khadr family is very, very complicated, and not amenable to easy answers, but I do know this: this suit is bullshit. It's the exact moral equivalent of suing an American solider's father because he had passed on his values to his son, which caused his song to go and kill people. I think Zaynab Khadr's comments at the end of the article are pretty damn accurate.



As (perhaps) the culmination of the current resurgence of my love for Talking Heads, I've been thinking about what I'd put on a one-disc best of if I had to (to convert a friend, maybe - for some reason I'm thinking of Pete). This is what I've come up with, complete with a mini live set in the middle (from Stop Making Sense, naturally; my biggest Heads gap is that I have yet to hear The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads, which has been reissued, apparantly). Unfortunately I could get any of their more interesting but less obvious matieral in there; "Electric Guitar", "Drugs", "Seen And Not Seen", "The Overload" and so on. I couldn't even fit in "I Zimbra", which I love, or more correctly I eventually decided it was just slightly less essential than what's here. If anyone out there would like a burned copy of this (to find out what I've been babbling about all this time), my email is listed on the right.

Facts Just Twist the Truth Around: The Best of Talking Heads
01. Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On) (5:49)
02. Sugar On My Tongue (2:36)
03. This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) (4:56)
04. Psycho Killer (4:20)
05. Life During Wartime (3:41)
06. Animals (3:30)
07. (Nothing But) Flowers (5:34)
08. Take Me To The River (5:02)
09. Thank You For Sending Me An Angel (Live) (2:09)
10. Heaven (Live) (3:41)
11. Burning Down The House (Live) (4:06)
12. Girlfriend Is Better (Live) (5:06)
13. Once In A Lifetime (Live) (5:25)
14. The Big Country (5:30)
15. City Of Dreams (5:08)
16. Crosseyed And Painless (4:47)

Total: 71:20

Thursday, August 05, 2004 

A first

I've got a couple of pieces in the Rubber Room at Stylus this week. I don't normally buy singles, so this sort of thing is perforce rare - thanks to Lisa Oliver for the singles.


Elbow update

I'm listening to Asleep At The Back now, and I think maybe half my problem with the album as a whole is the fact that 'Any Day Now' (as good as it is), opens the disc. You're pulled in slowly - with 'Ribcage' once I'd heard it a few times the beginning made me anticipate the highs to come, whereas 'Any Day Now' would make a better closer (and coming after 'Scattered Black And Whites' it would have packed even more of a punch). Imagine if 'Red' had opened the disc! That shuffling drum and that piano riff!

Anyway, another thing I like about Elbow that I forgot to mention is that their lyrics are make good use of homophones (think I've got that right). Until I'd read the lyrics sheet I didn't know whether 'Any Day Now' referred to "some of my youth" or "sum of my youth", and similarly on Cast Of Thousands with have 'Crawling With Idiot' and "Your/you're blue collar pride / And your/you're white cotten cool". In each case it was interesting to note the "correct" answers, but crucially either (or both) would have done.


Cheese and feces

Excellent though lengthy essay by Margaret Nussbaum on shame, disgust and the law. Covers some of the ground the article I linked to recently about the killings of Muslim women in India did, but worth your time nonetheless.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004 

On a roll

My piece on my favorite song ever (possibly) is up.

Jesus, I should really be alseep.


The Floating World: Elbow

Prefatory note: Originally I had been intending to sleep now, I'd even gotten so far as getting into bed, saying goodnight to K. and turning out the lights. But for whatever reason I started thinking about Elbow (specifically Cast Of Thousands), and I reluctantly hauled my ass out of bed, because I know most of this wouldn't survive the night. Weird how switching to a floating format has resulted in more inspiration than is common (well, not weird, but, you know...). Or maybe I'm just having a good few weeks.

Also: Since I'm Canadian, the version of Cast Of Thousands I've got is 11 tracks long; it doesn't have 'Whisper Grass' or 'Lay Down Your Cross', and I've never heard them. Whereof one cannot speak, one must pass over in silence.

(and yes, when I'm tired I use parentheses more than I should - it's how I think)


It's difficult for me to know where to start this, as the bits that floated into my mind as I lay in bed a few minutes ago weren't exactly beginnings, middles and ends. I know what I want to say about Cast Of Thousands, and Elbow, but I'm not sure how to get there.

Well, a random thing is as good as any thing: Cast Of Thousands, as far as I know, is regarded as a "leap forward" for Elbow, a progression from their debut, Asleep At The Back. Which is true, if a bit misleading. it's identfiably the work of the same band, but it's different enough that it's hard to put your finger on precisely how.

Which is fitting; the album is redolent of dreams, from 'Not A Job' to 'Flying Dream 143'; the whole thing possesses a hazy, oneiric unity that binds it together but prevents you from saying how. I know when Guy Garvey belts out "You don't need to sleep alone / You bring the house down" on 'Fallen Angel' it is joyous beyond words but (because, of course, of that same quality), I can't tell you why. I know "The dream again nobody understands" from 'Not A Job' is the absolute heart of Cast Of Thousands, but short of sitting you down with the record I can't explain.

But here's the thing: Elbow usually get tagged as either uplifting or sad. Neither is right. Oh, there are powerful moments of both on the record (last year, all I needed for a journal entry to convey what I wanted to convey was four lines from 'Ribcage'), but there's much more there.

Lust snakes through the record, surfacing in the almost sinister and yet almost nostalgic 'Buttons And Zips' (the most inexplicably sexy song I can think of off the top of my head) (and upon hearing it, it seems to obvious that lust and nostalgia and the sinister should go together), and there's darker stuff here too. 'Snooks (Progress Report)' comes first, and although there is a hint of bitterness in the report of the doings of friends (and a hint of the pathetic in the chorus), it's not until that astounding cry cuts through the heart of the track that you really pay attention. Already we've had a beat made out of vaguely tribal drums and what sounds like feedback from a bowed saw (and if you went on their "slightly smarter Coldplay" rep, would you expect such sounds? Cast Of Thousands, among other virtues, finds Elbow far more groovy, dissonant and interesting than many were led to believe), and then at 1:13 what sounds like Garvey yelling backed with a blast of feedback sounds. That it is followed by a vaguely Eastern guitar bit for a moment is only more arresting.

Two songs later, you get "I've Got Your Number" (with Garvey intoning "I. Know. What. You. Have. Done." like a sentence), starting out with a vaguely jazzy, dithering bassline. Garvey gets some great lines to spit out here, dripping with contempt ("Grow a fucking heart, love", almost whispered with just the correct amount of bitterness), but after the central, overdriven organ blast the song subsides - a mere forty-five seconds (out of 4:48) in the middle of the song as the bass plods on, plus two quick later interjections, but the song swirls around it. As the track winds down and Garvey repeats the title, he finally admits/pleads "You've got my number" - suddenly he sounds like he wants a friend to call. He can't win. Like 'Snooks' and 'Buttons And Zips' and much of the record, the air is heavy with shared history we're not privy to.

Even 'Crawling With Idiot', too cynical to be a love song ("Come on, love, it's not serious"), is mostly focused on how stupid the punters are, and how hot and thick the air, at the local pub rather than emotional distress. Garvey and co. see things too clearly to just provide reassurance or a song to cry along to; there's more life in these songs.

Some of that is down to Garvey; at some point I described his voice as a big warm fuzzy sweater, and when he's whispering or singing in a lower pitch that's true (he's my favorite current male vocalist, in any case). But when his voice takes off, without much of the showiness that mars an awful lot of the singers getting praise for imitating Thom Yorke their singing, it fucking soars. The combination is utterly deadly.

He's helped by the fact that the record coheres so well. Asleep At The Back was very obviously the best songs of ten years of experience strung together, and although there's not a bad track in the lot, the fact remains that it still feels pitched together ('Any Day Now', 'Newborn' and 'Bitten By The Tail-Fly', to take three examples, just don't flow), although that's a very minor complaint. Here, though, Elbow have songs of equally wide emotional and sonic range, but they fit. The record knits together cleanly, united by that dream logic and a masterful sense of space (few rock quintets leave as much room as Elbow do on Cast Of Thousands) and a revised songwriting approach. Whereas before Elbow were down in the muck of specificity, telling definite stories, much of the approach here is closer to 'Scattered Black And Whites', the closing song from Asleep At The Back and my favorite. Still a story, yes, but much more impressionistic, and seemingly much more personal. When Garvey sang of drunks on 'Powder Blue' it sounded like he was inhabiting a character; whether it's true or not, Cast Of Thousands sounds much more personal.

Witness 'Switching Off', for example. If you distilled Elbow's work to date down to just two songs, for release as a single, you could much worse that 'Newborn' b/w 'Switching Off', although that might make you think their range of subject matter was painfully small. But while 'Newborn' was a frenzied (literally, near the end) declaration of love, the singer promising "I'll be the corpse in your bathtub" as he swears to be there always, 'Switching Off' is the same story once the devotion is a memory, not a promise. When Garvey sings

You, the only sense
The world has ever made
This I need to save
A simple trinket locked away
I choose my final scene today
Switching off with you

it doesn't feel sad. It feels like the end of a lifetime of love. Again, hard to put into words. Garvey is not, as far as I know, old enough to really make the song autobiographical, but it sounds like it is nevertheless.

But again, the album as a whole isn't just one story, isn't many stories. It's a waking dream (there's a reason Nick Southall compared them to Talk Talk), a series of reassurances whispered in your ear, a beer in the pub with friends, that dirty little secret you keep, and plenty more besides.

There is a snake in Elbow's garden (even in the beatific 'Not A Job', Garvey dreamily repeats the line "hissing bitter punchline" at one point), but at the same time things are okay. Their dread is leavened with love, their exuberance (and that gospel choir on 'Ribcage' works so much better than most in rock songs) with darkness, loneliness with camraderie. Cast Of Thousands works, touches heart and head, because it is packed with the splendors and pains of life, and something in us responds to that. It was the sixth-best record of last year, according to me at the time, and in retrospect my top ten would eventually settle with this at three or four. It's a record with immediate pleasures, but depths to explore. It's a record with plenty of obvious highlights ('Ribcage', 'Fallen Angel', 'Switching Off', 'Grace Under Pressure'), but whose less ingratiating tracks, far from being filler, might reward close attention even more than the obvious suspects.

All this from a relatively gnomic band (cf. especially the sculptures on the front, but also the performances and lyrics generally), but one with a sense of humour: The fact that most of a Glastonbury crowd is listed in the liner notes is what usually gets mentioned, but look at the lyrics to 'Flying Dream 143' (which features another jarring burst, this time of vocals). When Garvey in the song sings "But how my 15 stone flew to you / I don't know" while describing his dream, the lyrics bashfully render it as "how my (ahem) 15 stone". That still makes me smile when I look at it.


Tuesday, August 03, 2004 


Todd Hutlock let me know this a few days ago, but it still sucks to see it: The Beta Band is kaput. Ah well - we'll always have The Three EPs, I guess.


No big deal

It's a little depressing for me to realise that Lynndie England is a year younger than I am.


Need a little time to wake up

My Playing God on Oasis' first album is up at Stylus.

Monday, August 02, 2004 


K-Punk is one of those music blogs I like a lot when I see an entry but don't read, for whatever reason; but this post, on Spinoza, is just incredible. Rare that I can say someone else seems to get Spinoza, to any extent, but Mark seems to have done so almost completely (although the "awe, wonder and dread" bit is a bit off, as is his contention that Spinoza was materialist). If you ever wonder what I'm on about with Spinoza, read this.


Day late, dollar short

But the new journal entry is up.


Best Song Ever (As of This Minute) Dept.

Kid606 - "If I Had A Happy Place This Would Be It"

Most of the Kid's happy songs are kind of (whisper it) boring. This, though, is both concise (3:18) and lovely and actually has a bit of forward motion going for it. From his superb Kill Sound Before Sound Kills You album, the Kid606 album for beginners.



Peter Parrish is the fucking bomb. Funny too.


Running late

I'll get to the journal entry soon, but for now I can at least note that at the redesigned Stylus they have my Tachikoma-Kun review up.


All up in your shizzit

Check out the new layout at Stylus: Painstakingly troubleshot by staff for the last couple of weeks in a secret location, so hopefully there's no problems. Quite the improvement, eh?

Sunday, August 01, 2004 

Worth a try

John Scalzi has a cunnning plan for avoiding those broken, broken electronic voting machines in the next American election.


Right over his head

Even if we take Ronald Bailey's claims about population growth here as true (which they may be, I don't have the background to evaluate them), he's still wrong about this:

"The world has never been overpopulated with humans in any meaningful sense."

What? He says this, the very first line of his article, and then goes on to argue that we will not continue to grow as much as some scientists say we will. Fine - but how does that prove that we are not overpopulated right now, that the ecology of the earth cannot really sustain this many people living the lifestyles we do? At best his contention is arguable, but Bailey doesn't bother - he just presents it to you as a fait accompli. That's bad writing and bad science.

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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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