With climate change you gotta wonder if there some Laurel Canyons blooming with succulents and bougainvillea up there in the formerly great whit north. For record number two Halifax, Nova Scotia’s Monomyth swap out their rhythm section, keep the psychedelic pop hooks and come up sporting their best paisley. The songwriting duo of Seamus Dalton and Josh Saltzer continue to split the vocal duties and their admiration of local heroes like Sloan, Superfriendz and Thrush Hermit while adding from Teenage Fanclub harmonies and the erudite pop sensibilities of the Weather Prophets.
Happy Pop Family is a wonderful tour de force and one of the best pure pop records of the year. The cool and beautiful Palpitations features a pristine melody interrupted by grungy heart attack chords. Aloha with its airy Teenage Fanclub harmony that kicks off the record isn’t even the best song here. That honor goes to the infinitely catchy Re:lease life (Place 2 Go) which plays like a travel log and has an off the cuff feel to it that reminds me of the Go-Betweens’ Darlinghurst Nights. Did I overdo it there? No, it’s that good!
When you think of bands from Halifax, Nova Scotia, if you don’t draw a blank, then you probably think of the 90’s grunge era bands like Sloan, Superfriendz and Thrush Hermit. You probably don’t think of jangly neo-psychedelic music and you most certainly wouldn’t think of bands like the Church, the Dylans, the Dentists, the Sneetches or Ultra Vivid Scene. Well, Monomyth are here to re-put Halifax on the map and change any previous ideas about what goes on up in the Canadian Maritime provinces.
The band have just released their debut album Saturnalia Regalia! on Mint records. It’s an accomplished record with great some great song featuring lush harmonies. The band features three songwriters in Seamus Dalton, Josh Salter, and Graeme Stewart, but they have a similar aesthetic and high quality which keeps the album engaging and interesting. Since this record arrived in the mail last week it’s been on constant rotation. Its bright songs and nods to obscure psychedelic bands without sounding too obvious make this one a keeper.
Sloan were at the comfortably small and comfortably full Chop Suey last night. The Halifax, Nova Scotia band are at the tail end of their North American tour for their ninth album Parallel Play. These Canadians continue to struggle to break it big in the US, and it remains a mystery as to why they remain relatively unknown here while they enjoy modest success in the great white north. Frankly it’s amazing how little attention these guys get, leading up to Sunday night’s show there was virtually no press or radio play. Maybe that would be understandable if the band’s quality control had fallen off and they were putting out really bad records. That is certainly not the case with Sloan who’s last two records are just as good as anything else in their catalog. Their newest, Parallel Play is one of my favorites of this year, with all four members of the band contributing three songs with the exception of drummer Andrew who sneaks in an extra one.
So Sloan keep chugging along, flying under the radar of nearly everyone, everyone except those who know. What do they know? Well they know that Sloan live is guaranteed good. Last night was no exception. The band played for two solid hours. They only looked out of breath a couple times from such a lengthy set. Lucky for them they had some commercial breaks courtesy of the jokey MRCH Radio bit. While Andrew Scott comes out from behind the drums to do his songs, the guy selling their t-shirts doubled as an MC/morning drive dj, playing goofy commercials for deli’s and Moosehead beer (‘You get more head with Moosehead’). The last time Sloan were in town, I thought their set kind of slowed down when Andrew came out from behind the drums, but that was not the case this night. The punk energy of Emergency 911, the Dylan-esque Down in the Basement, and possibly the best, People in the Sky (from their second album Twiced Removed) all were stellar. Andrew’s great songs aside, Sloan are at their best when he’s behind the drums. That puts Chris Murphy back on bass, Jay Ferguson back on guitar and Patrick Pentland playing guitar. Pentland being the only one that doesn’t change instruments when the band play Andrew’s songs. Once again my hopes were dashed to hear She Says What She Means from Navy Blues but consolations like Penpals, Money City Maniacs, The Good In Everyone, Who Taught You To Live that Way, and Losing California more than made up for it. Chris Murphy, the prankster in band was pretty restrained. Though he did put down his bass for I’m Not a Kid Anymore and played lead singer part with his goofy moves, though no kicks as the Chop Suey stage is a bit small for such acrobatics.
At this point in their career, in an alternate universe would be playing Paramount or Moore Theatres. As it is in this cold cruel world, a couple hundred people got to see Sloan in small club. Sloan played it like could have been a big theater venue and we new how lucky we were to be seeing such a great band in such a setting.
There are more photos and the setlist over at my Flickr page.
In his song Nothing on My Mind, Paul Kelly (53) said, “I never did one damn good thing ’til I was over thirty.” Well, everyone in this post is well over thirty and doing some pretty damn good things. Dedicated to the old guys that have still got it, believe it or not there are a few of us still around. Maybe I’ve taken notice of these older guys because I just had a birthday and I’m feeling mortal (unlike when I was in my 20’s and was immortal), but it seems like there are a number of artists, as they have aged have remained relevant and engaging with their music.
Wire (Colin Newman: 54,Graham Lewis: 55,Bruce Gilbert: 61,Robert Gotobed:57) comes to mind, these guys are all pushing 60 and are making music that is nearly as good as what they made in their 20’s and just as good as what they made in their 30’s. If you didn’t pick up Read & Burn 3 last year it’s well worth it, 23 Years Too Late from that ep was my favorite song of last year. The band will be releasing their 11th album on 7 July, it’s called Object 47, because it’s the 47th record in their discography, of course.
Mark E. Smith (50) is another of these guys that just keep ticking, the guy just does not let up. He’s got a new Fall album and an autobiography to boot. The new Fall album is called Imperial Wax Solvent and it’s out next week. He’s got a new set of musicians (surprise), as the Americans who backed him on Reformation Post TLC are gone. I don’t think they were sacked, they just had other things going on, as in their own band. Imperial Wax Solvent is decent as far as Fall albums go, but it looks like the real entertainment lies in MES’s autobiography. The Guardian published an article of excerpts that had me laughing out loud more than a few times. Here’s his take on foodies:
It’s a strange phenomenon, people discussing their lunches. Kids used to do that at school. But now I’ll get on the bus, or I’ll be sat in the pub, and all I can hear is people discussing the contents of their guts or the meal that they’ve got in their heads: “I had some nice tomato sauce last night with chips.” I don’t know why they’re telling you this.
The next gentleman is Robert Forster (50) who I recently wrote about so I won’t go into much detail about his new record. Except to say that it’s out next week on Yep Rock. I came across this really good article written by, non other than the man himself. In it he goes into depth about the creative process he and Grant McLennan had fallen into at the start of writing songs for the next Go-Betweens album, how it drastically changed and how the solo album came about.
Another older gentleman Jarvis Cocker, (44) has recently said he’s gonna have another record out by the end of the year. Apparently he’s got a few songs written. I’m guessing he’s gonna have Richard Hawley (40) on it again, but only time will tell. In the meantime you can check out this video of one of the new songs
Edwyn Collins (48.) has been recovering from a cerebral hemorrhage he suffered back in 2005. Last year he put out his sixth solo album, Home Again which was recorded before the hemorrhage. He’s back to the point where he can play live again, and from the reviews I’ve seen he’s quite capable. Roddy Frame (44) of Aztec Camera has been accompanying him, which makes these shows even more enticing. The Vinyl Villain has an excellent review of a recent gig in Edinburgh. I’m resigned to the fact that Edwyn will not likely cross the Atlantic again to play, but reading this review makes me want to splurge on a plane ticket. Here are the rest of dates for you lucky people in L’Angleterre.
04-24 Newcastle, England – Northumbria University
04-25 Manchester, England – Manchester University
04-26 Leeds, England – The Cockpit
04-29 London, England – Shepherds Bush Empire
The last bunch of old guys are Sloan (Chris: 39, Andrew: 40, Patrick: 38, Jay: 39), who surprised a lot of people recently by announcing the release of their brand new record Parallel Play. I thought that their last one, which contained no less than 30 songs, might have cleared the vaults, but that is not the case. The new record is shorter, but from the sounds of it just as good ans Never Hear the End of it. Since everyone in the band writes songs, they split it up pretty evenly here, everyone contributes 3 with the exception of overachiever Andrew who has 4. He’s the oldest, so that’s probably why he got the most.