Slobber from the north.

Back from vacation, and back to listening to music. (I expect I will return to the old ballgames sometime over the winter.)

And what are we ringing out the summer with? Oh, we’ve got a winner this time.

A few months ago I got put onto Out of Print Moncton, a Bandcamp site that collects music issued in the ’90s by little-known local bands in the Moncton, New Brunswick, area.

Most of the releases were cassette-only. And if I didn’t know better, I’d think some local scenester had simply emptied out an old box of tapes, digitized the tunes and slapped ’em up as free Bandcamp downloads to prevent them from disappearing forever.

(The music, while sludgy at point of origin, sounds too crisp to be coming off well-worn old cassettes. Perhaps the person behind the website is the local sound guy who mixed all the stuff and still has master tapes lying around. I don’t know.)

Most of the music appears to be punk, which is not a genre I much go in for. I understand the release of energy and all that … but really, 99 percent of all punk bands sound the same to me.

If you like the punk stuff on Out of Print Moncton, there’s probably a band playing in your town tonight that sounds like that. Go see ’em and buy their tape.

But amid all the punkstuff is a winner. Two winners, actually, a cassette and a CD release, performed by a bunch of grunge-metal knuckle-scrapers who called themselves Mood Cadillac.

Mood Cadillac, apparently, was one of those bands whose members have been in 40 other groups … some of which loom larger in local history than Mood Cadillac ever did. There’s probably some Monctonian reading this thinking, “Why is he writing about Mood Cadillac, and not about (fill in name of longer-lasting/better-known band)?”

One listen to Mood Cadillac’s monomaniacal sub-Sabbath slobber, and you too will understand.

We’re talking stringy-haired guys in a basement on the salt-kissed edge of nowhere, playing the simplest possible riffs with the maximum possible fuzz, total commitment, minimal audio fidelity and no subtlety at all.

(Mood Cadillac’s music reminds me that it has been far too long since I listened to Vincebus Eruptum, if that further clues you in.)

Guitarists Jody Perry and Russ Payne have joined the likes of Leigh Stephens, Mick Ronson and Red Album-era Mark Farner in my personal pantheon of sleazy-does-it guitar heroes.

Lead singer Gunther is kind of overmatched by all the fuzz, and doesn’t have a metal-god voice to begin with, but does his best to keep up. I’ve come to kinda like him — much more than I like Ozzy Osbourne, another frontman with a regular-joe set of pipes.

Mood Cadillac’s two releases — 1997’s Big Ol’ Dirty (released the day it was recorded, according to Bandcamp) and 1998’s Mood Cadillac — fit comfortably onto a single CD. In my burner, anyway, they combine at precisely 69 minutes in length.


Anyway, here’s a sample from the second album, in which our heroes stumble in and out of 7/4 time without knocking over their beers.

If you like it, go to Out of Print Moncton and snag your own copy. And keep the riffs alive.

It’s time for mice to move on in.

My Year of Power Pop initiative left the rails a while ago, but I’m bringing it back for a moment, conveniently annexing piano-pop into the power pop genre to suit my own needs.

Far too infrequently, I read a music blog devoted to Canadian independent music called Grayowl Point.

Earlier today, I stumbled on a post they put up around this time last year, offering a Canada Day playlist of explicitly Canadian-themed indie-rock songs.

I’ve listened to a few, and there’s some very good stuff there … but none as good as Will Currie and the Country French, a piano-pop band from southern Ontario.

Their song “Tommy Douglas” — a tribute to one of the fathers of Canada’s universal health-care system —  is pure ear-crack for pop fans.

There’s bouncy piano, and tempo shifts, and charming backing vocals, and some subtly used fuzz bass, and a guitar solo that intelligently heats things up at the end. Most everything but a clap track, in other words. It’s stupendously catchy and perfectly done, down to the ringing last chord.

(It’s also a history lesson in a box for those of us south of the border. The reference to the “mice (moving) on in,” and the cats going, is a reference to a fable often told on the stump by Douglas.)

You can hear it, in all its waltz-time glory, here. 

Don’t wait for Canada Day to do yourself a favour.

The quiet in the land.

I wanted to mark Canada Day by listening to something uniquely Canadian.

I settled on one of the more curious and obscure items on my CD shelf — and something more definitively Canadian than most any pop or rock album I could think of.

Between 1967 and 1977, the great classical pianist Glenn Gould produced a series of three one-hour sound collages for CBC Radio, collectively referred to as the Solitude Trilogy and since reissued as a 3-CD set by the CBC.

  • The Idea of North (1967) features the voices of people who have lived in Canada’s less populated northern territories, loosely tied together by the concept of a train journey to a remote northern outpost.
  • The Latecomers (1969) features more voices talking about social changes in Newfoundland.
  • The Quiet in the Land (1977) depicts life in a Mennonite community in Manitoba, and social pressures thereon.

There is very little music in the series. For the most part, each piece consists of overlapping spoken textures, as different personalities chosen by Gould step forward for some cogent or relevant comment. Don’t be too put off by the word “overlapping,” though: Most of the “solo” voices are clearly audible, and only from time to time does the chatter interlock.

Sound effects contribute to the atmosphere, as well. The rise and fall of the ocean is an inescapable part of The Latecomers, as presumably it is an inescapable part of daily life on the island of Newfoundland.

(If I correctly remember something I once read, the end of The Latecomers is produced on the stereo spectrum to give the impression that the final speaker has reached the edge of the island and is walking into the sea. CBC engineer Lorne Tulk worked closely with Gould on these collages, and deserves credit for what must have been some very challenging splicing and production work — especially in the days before digital editing tools.)

I did a fair amount of driving today, to one place or another, and managed to get through The Idea of North and The Latecomers.

I didn’t do it justice by listening in my car. These pieces are best experienced through headphones with your eyes closed, or in front of your stereo’s speakers with the phone turned off and nothing else to interrupt. (Yeah, I know how often that happens.)

Being a literalist, I had to get past the urge to judge the Solitude Trilogy as documentary — a purpose for which it was almost certainly not constructed.

Most of the voices sound like Gould’s — middle-class, male, well-educated and thoughtful in cadence. (Gould makes an appearance in The Idea of North, reading an introduction that alternates between overwritten and dryly funny.)

In The Latecomers, we hear lengthy discussions by well-spoken Caucasian males about conditions among the Eskimo people.

I had to beat back the recurring urge to ask where the Eskimos were — or, for that matter, where the women were; men outnumber women in Gould’s world by roughly five to one. (The woman who appears in The Idea of North is among my favorite speakers; the woman in The Latecomers sounds kind of bitter and annoying.)

But pure sound and atmosphere matter here more than content. Gould is not lobbying for more government money to be spent on the Eskimos; he is creating a kind of echo chamber where people discuss their role in the often-romanticized Canadian North.

And even to call it a “discussion” is kind of wrong. The interviews in the Solitude Trilogy are not group roundtables; they were conducted alone, one by one, by Gould. All these people who seem to be bouncing off each other are alone, just as Gould was, and just as we are. We could well be listening to the inside of Gould’s brain as he mentally processes his series of interviews, hearing one voice, then another.

The Solitude Trilogy is not easy listening. It’s not frequent listening — I don’t remember the last time I took out my copy.  And if you don’t particularly care about either Canada or the different flavours of solitude, you won’t be interested.

It is a trip all its own, though … a thought-provoking experience from the mind of a fascinating creative individual.

I dream of visiting the Canadian Maritimes someday — preferably by myself, though I know that’s a pipe dream for a married man with two kids.

If I ever get there, it won’t be Neil Young or Rush or the Tragically Hip playing on the CD in the rental car. It will be The Latecomers.

And every so often I’ll pull over to the side of the road, and let the real-life sea replace Gould’s tape-recorded 1969 sea. And I’ll just think, to myself, for a while.