Sunday May 28, 2017
Part of my motivation in starting Some Party as a weekly newsletter was to force myself to operate outside the daily news cycle that Punknews and the rest of the Internet music apparatus thrives on. There’s a formula to how a new music is disseminated and it should sound familiar. A band will make mention of their next album, perhaps by sharing a title or who’s producing it, sometimes just their intent to record, that will kick off a round of press coverage. In the lead-up to the release you’ll see the usual collection of stories, dribbled out over time. Studio photos show up on Instagram. Perhaps there’s a studio clip of the guitarist noodling out the hook from a new song on Facebook. Eventually a single shows up on SoundCloud or BandCamp, and it’s “exclusively” announced on one news outlet or another. That repeats a few times and eventually the record’s released. The band, the label, a PR person if that’s in the budget, and the press kick that ball back and forth.
What you’ll rarely see is news that an album has been released. That crosses the incredibly nebulous line between reporting and promotion.
While it’s become more common these days to see bands big and small forgo the lead-up and surprise fans with a new record, it’s remains awkward to report on. “Product exists for purchase” isn’t a great story. The exception of course is if the artist is of global name recognition, then the story shifts to how utterly awed we all are that they dared buck the system for the sake of their art, or some nonsense like that. Small bands don’t get to play that card.
I was elated that this week saw the sudden and unheralded release of a new album from Toronto’s Soupcans. Pleasure Overdose is 9 songs in 18 minutes of erratic, gloriously bonkers punk rock from one of the city’s shining examples of how the genre can remain dangerous and unpredictable in 2017. This was not only a release worth celebrating ,but it’s precisely the kind of thing I want to talk about on this newsletter.
Furthermore if you follow the band online one gets the distinct impression that they had broken up following their late-2015 Telephone Explosion album Soft Party. Rather than simply accept and celebrate this new record, my instinct was to put on my reporter hat and dig a bit. I reached out to the group and got in touch with bassist Nick (lastname withheld) who graciously agreed to talk to me. I proceeded to ignore the circumstances of the release and throw him a bunch of rote online music news questions (which in retrospect amounted to “please write me a press release”), followed by a postscript that read
“If you’re shooting for a level of weird mystique with the whole thing then by all means don’t break that veil by telling me anything.”
I did get answers, because Nick is great. I also got the distinct impression a veil of weird mystique is the preferred mode of operation for the band. If I was reporting for a news website I’d be more inclined to share the boring details I extracted, but that’s not the goal here.
You should go listen to Pleasure Overdose because it’s cool. It picks up on the speed and moments of pure sludge that made Soft Party so vital, and tosses in a mix of free-flowing new ideas and deviations. Enjoy it for what it is. You can pay what you want for it at BandCamp.
Human Party Trick
I caught the first night of the Dine Alone package tour in Hamilton on Thursday. While I’ve seen both the Dirty Nil and the Flatliners more times than I can recall, it was my first live experience with the Toronto-via-Waterloo group Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs, who opened.
While I enjoyed the band’s last record, the material they’ve assembled for their upcoming self-titled Burger / Dine Alone co-release is something else. The six-piece, in matching denim, put on one of the strongest and most engaging sets I’ve seen in a while. The new songs feel like big, muscular covers of 80s pop-rock hits and I mean that with as much affection as possible. This band’s been all over the place stylistically in the past, but the place they’ve landed is really enjoyable.
The rest of the bill had me playing anthropologist.
My love affair with Dundas, Ontario’s The Dirty Nil is pretty well known, but I couldn’t help but be a little worried about the band. After countless small bar shows the last time I saw them was opening for Flag, and they had the unforgiving task of opening a sparsely filled Lee’s Palace, which felt cavernous and foreign. This would also be the first time I’ve seen them perform since losing bassist Dave Nardi. I had no doubts that Ross Miller, his replacement, would be able to carry the songs. Ross has been a fixture in the Niagara music scene for years and he’s proven to be everyone’s go-to sideman. Dave’s absence is notable because his stoic stage presence and aggressive, serious performance always felt like a perfect counterpoint to frontman Luke Bentham’s playful, showy charisma.
The Nil sounded great though. Ross isn’t Dave, but he wasn’t trying to dial back his own strong personality to fit someone’s mould. It’s a new dynamic, but it worked. The more intimate venue (Club Absinthe) and the hometown crowd shook off any sense of fatigue I sensed back at that Flag gig. It’ll remain to be seen what kind of material the band writes without Nardi’s tastes in the mix, but so far, so good.
The Flatliners have been through their current trials before. The band had been easing away from their 3rd wave ska trappings for years but with 2010’s Cavalcade made that transition complete. There were shows back then where you could feel the crowd’s trepidation with the new material. A room that was bouncing one minute locked still the next until something familiar returned. The big punk anthems the band was writing though turned out to be so damn likable that it didn’t take long for those to become the new standards.
The songs of Inviting Light, the new record, step away from the roaring anthems and fist-pumping crowd-pleasers. What you’re left with is a rock’n’roll band with few genre conventions to hide under. I’m not sure the crowd was quite into it yet, but what struck me seeing them live is that these new songs have incredibly strong bones. It may not be what a lot of the old guard fans want, but the songwriting’s there and the band’s confident in it. There’s a pretty dynamic set list to be built between these and the Cavalcade era anthems as well. I’m feeling a lot better about this record than I was initially.
That said, after the requisite encore of the decade-old ska-punk favourite “Fred’s Got Slacks,” someone turned to me and said ecstatically “Dude! It’s like high school!” so I’m not sure what people really want.
One band playing this year’s Explosion is Hamilton’s Sweet Dave and the Shallow Graves, the gothic, esoteric project of TV Freaks’ David O’Connor. His touring band, which in fact includes the aforementioned Dave Nardi, will hit the road following this Summer in an eastward trek to land them at Sappyfest in Sackville, New Brunswick in early August.
Keeping with the theme of referencing musicians from earlier in this very newsletter, new Dirty Nil bassist Ross Miller also plays with London, Ontario’s Single Mothers. That band’s new record Our Pleasure arrives on June 16th via Dine Alone. They previewed the new song “Leash” at Brooklyn Vegan this week and have three release shows announced in Ontario this June.
I’ll leave you with a feel-good story about the teenage Peel band Vinyl Ambush. The group was playing a house party that was hit with a noise complaint, and the police officer who arrived at the scene ended up playing with them. You can find the full account at City News and see the evidence below.
A huge thanks to the folks at srcvinyl for sponsoring this first month of the Some Party newsletter. Check out the great selection at their online record stores at srcvinyl.ca or srcvinyl.com if you’re south of the border. They’ve got friendly physical locations at both 5904 Main St in Niagara Falls and 1695 Queen St West in Toronto for you to check out too.
Originally published at www.someparty.ca, a Canadian music newsletter, on May 28, 2017. Go there to subscribe.