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Best tunes of 2012: #9 Spiritualized “Hey Jane”

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The first time I saw Spiritualized perform live was on the Toronto stop for their tour in support of “Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space”, way back at the end of November 1997. My friend Terry had picked me up a ticket to the show and he still (amazingly) had an extra ticket on the day of the concert. On the way to the bus stop to head down to the show, we ran into another friend of ours, named Mark, and convinced him to come with.

That night will live on in infamy for the three of us. We made more than a few stops for drinks on the way down to the now shut-down Guvernment Night Club, where Jason Pierce and his band were slated to play. Indeed, by the time the headlining act hit the stage, we were all very deep in the bag. For me, it was incredible, akin to a religious experience, but I can still very clearly remember Mark touching my shoulder at the end of the first song, his eyeballs as huge as cannonballs, telling me he had to leave. For him, it was all just too intense.

Fast forward fifteen years or so. I hadn’t seen Terry for a long time. However, I was still quite close to Mark, though we hadn’t lived in the same city – for some periods, the same country – for more than a decade. I was now living in Ottawa with my wife and Mark was living back in his hometown of Sault Ste Marie. I believe it was April 2012 that my wife and I put Mark up for a week so that he could take a course and write a test to qualify for a job fighting wildfires in Northern Ontario. We were working during the days while he was on his course and he was super exhausted in the evenings so we didn’t see him a lot.

When the week finished out, we had one proper night to catch up and share some laughs before he was due to catch the long bus back home. That night, the two of us killed five bottles of wine, a half bottle of scotch, and a handful of beers and we were up real late. At some point, we started watching YouTube videos on my laptop, each sharing new tunes with the other and on one of my turns, I slipped on the video for Spiritualized’s latest tune, “Hey Jane”, having heard the song but not having seen the video. We got just over half way through it when my friend asked gently if we could switch to something lighter. So still too intense for my friend, but this time, for a different reason (if you’ve seen the video you know what I mean).

Spiritualized’s seventh record, “Sweet heart, sweet light”, came four years after “Songs in A & E”, the album widely seen as Jason Pierce’s comeback, for many reasons, but most significantly because of his near death experience, and it also came after he spent the previous year performing the aforementioned landmark album, “Ladies and gentlemen”, in full, at various shows. At the time, Pierce talked about how his new album embraced a poppier bent but I just thought it rocked like hell. And only in the way that Spiritualized can, blending gospel and droning psychedelia, love, drugs, and religion.

“You broke my heart then you ran away
Some say you got a rotten soul
But I say Janey loves rock and roll”

“Hey Jane” is a prime example of what makes Spiritualized and their work on this album so great. Intense music video aside, this is a track that does not let up for its entirety, nearly nine minutes in all. It’s a rousing, incessant beating heart, pounding and pounding the pavement, both a sprint and a marathon. The guitars keep pace and swirl and roar around the drums, a choir of demons taunt and laugh, and the bass just hums. It threatens disintegration throughout and right in the middle, it does indeed devolve into madness and implodes into an echoing silence. And just when you think it’s over, that maddening rhythm starts back up again. But as opposed to in its first movement, where Pierce seems angry and threatening and mean, the finale sees him uplifting and glorious, even as he’s asking the Jane of the title where she’s gonna go, knowing full well the answer is nowhere. And it all builds to the choir of angels joining him singing the album’s title over and over as an outro.

“Sweet heart, sweet light. Sweet heart, sweet light. Sweet heart, sweet light.”

Yessssss.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2012 list, click here.

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Live music galleries

Live music galleries: Blonde Redhead [2015]

(I got the idea for this series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts page.)

Blonde Redhead live at Glowfair 2015

Artist: Blonde Redhead
When: June 19th, 2015
Where: Glowfair Festival, Bank Street, Ottawa
Context: The Glowfair festival in Ottawa was launched by the Bank Street BIA in 2013, as means to bring some post-business hour life to the one of the city’s downtown strips. Admission to the festival was free and boasted ten city blocks of entertainment, including DJs, yoga, buskers, games and of course, live music. I didn’t attend any of the festivities until its third year and I finally did so mostly because I saw an unexpected name listed among the performers. New York City’s art rock trio, Blonde Redhead performing a live set for free in my hometown? How could I refuse? The deal was sweetened further when I was able to combine taking in the show with my annual visit to the city’s beloved Sparks Street Rib festival. So with a tummy full of pork and a good measure of craft beer imbibed, I wandered to the main stage to be blown away frontwoman Kazu Makino and the wizardry of Pace twins, Simone and Amedeo. I had gotten into the group eight years earlier with their shoegaze influenced masterpiece “23” and was neck deep into the two albums that had been released since. It was monster show, all droning noise and feedback on a Friday night under the stars. It was lovely.
Point of reference song: Dripping

Amedeo Pace of Blonde Redhead
Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead
Simone Pace of Blonde Redhead
The Pace twins
Kazu Makino rocking out
Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 2012: #14 Dum Dum Girls “Season in hell”

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I got into Dum Dum Girls, the sadly now defunct project led by Kristin “Dee Dee” Gundred, with their very excellent sophomore record, 2011’s “Only in dreams”. Though it wasn’t issued as a proper single from the album, “Bedroom eyes”, and the video made for it, became a personal favourite of mine, landing at number five on my Best tunes of 2011 list. And with the repeat listens of that album, I was super excited to see them at the Osheaga festival in Montreal in August 2012. I remember rushing over to their stage right after Of Monsters and Men finished up their eye-opening early afternoon set and though Dum Dum Girls’ performance was shortened due to sound problems, they were fantastic, all attitude and noise.

The following month the group released an EP called “End of daze”, featuring three songs held out from the “Only in dreams” sessions, and I loved it. It was one of my favourite releases of 2012 and it’s one of the very few examples of where I agree with Pitchfork media’s reviewers when they said it was the best thing Dum Dum Girls released up to that point. My only problem with it was that, at a five song EP, it was way too short. I was left wanting more, more, and more. It is still such a favourite of mine that it is one of only a small handful of EPs that I purchased for my vinyl collection and it regularly gets pulled down for a 45 rpm spin.

The final track on the EP is this humdinger called “Season in hell”. It is Sandra Vu crashing away at the drums, soaring guitars all around, that familiar reverb-drenched production by Raveonettes’ Sune Rose Wagner, and Dee Dee’s vocals uplifting and floating in space, way up above the heavens, hinting at a change in direction and a hope for better days.

“Doesn’t dawn look divine”

Taken in hindsight you can read a lot into this track. The ‘season in hell’ could be referring to the period before Gundred’s split with Crocodiles’ Brandon Welchez, or it could be that she was starting to feel constrained by the image, aesthetic, and sound that she had created for Dum Dum Girls. That hat certainly feels tipped at in the couplet that ends the song and gives the EP its name: “Lift your gaze, it’s the end of daze.” And it’s a theory that feels more concrete when taken in context with her next album, Dum Dum Girls’ swan song, “Too true”, where the haze and gaze is all but dispensed with in favour of a glam and britpop influenced sound.

Again, though, that’s only in hindsight and if you’re in a mood to read into things. I typically avoid such heady topics when this particular song comes on and I just give in to the excitement and joy. The bliss and the hope.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2012 list, click here.