Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 In Music

Is it just me, or was 2008 one of the worst years in music history? Not that it was as cheesy as 1984 (think '80s' without a record by GN'R or Michael Jackson or Prince - no balls at all) , mind you, but nothing really stood out in terms of records, albums...

Coldplay were the year's best-selling band, clocking in at well under 5 million copies sold worldwide, combining both online sales and physical CDs... a poor number by any standards.

Madonna, Britney Spears and Pink are back, sort of. Again. With half their records, at least, being utter blandness. And the rest not breaking any sort of ground either.

Spin magazine named Metallica and Guns N'Roses in their top 15, yet placed The Raconteurs at #46... so I know for a fact they've gone mad, because The Raconteurs' record was a solid piece of rock while Metallica's opus, even if it recaptures some of their past sounds and sentiments, is nowhere near anything they've done before, and should not be on anyone's list of tops of nothing (it's also too good to be on a list of shitty records, I'll admit that much). GN'R, on the other hand, could make a list of the year's worst, and likely did mine, with only one song, Madagascar, good enough to make the grade (as the worst song, perhaps) on any of their previous records, and the rest was just some overproduced crap that I got bored of after no more than three listens.

There seems to be a lot of decent independent releases, some only on vinyl, this year, but there were so many that it was hard to keep count. Looking at many of my friends' Top Of '08 lists, I found many acts I had never heard of before, and very few that were repeated from one person to the next, so either they were all trying to one-up one another in the 'oscure reference' department, or many starving artists who have only sold/given 5 copies of their stuff have made very good music.

At least there were memorable singles. The song of the year, without a doubt, was I Kissed A Girl, by Katy Perry. No contest. It was everywhere, it took longer than any other song to get tired of, it was sung by a hottie, and didn't just use a fashionable beat that we'll get tired of within year's end to bring its groove home, unlike, say, anything by Lady Gaga, who also takes the prize of worst name.

My choice for #2 single of the year is the theme from the latest James Bond flick, Another Way To Die, by Jack White and Alicia Keys. Many will disagree with this choice, as most people I've talked about this song to didn't like it; only actual musicians did. It's got everything you could want from a Bond song, from the fast breaks to the lush phrasing, but they added a sense of satire when bringing in the orchestral parts where it fits so well in the song that you could never fathom the song being without it, but at the same time seems like they're making fun of every past Bond song. It's really a pleasure to listen to.

Thirdly, I'll put a Coldplay song because it wasn't annoying, surprisingly, and the drum beats were quite penetrating. And, no, I'm not talking about the yawnfest that Viva La Vida was, I'm talking about the exact same song but with soul, the one they titled Violet Hill. Like Green Day, Goo Goo Dolls and Nickelback before them (and many others even further back), Coldplay have etched out a career for themselves by re-writing the same song over and over again, barely changing anything in the process, but actually making the more recent version a little more tolerable than the last (although since Viva came out after Violet, I guess they'll be regressing now).

The Raveonettes never get their due respect. Hopefully, the sounds of Aly, Walk With Me will keep rolling for them in '09; they sure deserve it.

And to round out my Top 5, Radio Radio may not have made a dent in the worldwide electro-hip-hop scene, but they made a killing here in Québec with their originality and humour. It's like as if the Beastie Boys meant something again. Cliché Hot, the title track to their CD, was on most stations' playlists and got them into a slot at Pop Montreal, but Jaccuzzi is the song that had more of everything they do right.

Top Singles Of 2008
1. I Kissed A Girl, Katy Perry
2. Another Way To Die, Jack White and Alicia Keys
3. Violet Hill, Coldplay
4. Aly, Walk With Me, The Raveonettes
5. Jaccuzzi, Radio Radio
6. Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It, Ice Cube
7. Rich Kid Blues, The Raconteurs
8. We Call Upon The Author, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
9. Gamma Ray, Beck
10. Nine In The Afternoon, Panic At The Disco

Top Live Shows Of 2008
1. Eddie Vedder, Place-Des-Arts, summer
2. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Metropolis, October 2nd
3. The Nevers, UnPop Montréal, The Pound, December 6th
4. Might, UnPop Montréal, Cagibi, December 4th
5. The Raconteurs, Metropolis, summer
6. Madonna, Centre Bell, fall
7. Radiohead, Parc Jean-Drapeau, summer
8. Eagles Of Death Metal, late fall
9. Coeur De Pirate, Laval, late fall
10. Sébastian Hell, Montréal Chose, Cagibi, April 27th (hey, it was a slow year, and I rocked!)

Top Albums of 2008:
1. TV On The Radio, Dear Science
2. Wolf Parade, At Mount Zoomer
3. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Dig! Lazarus! Dig!
4. Amanda Palmer, Who Killed Amanda Palmer
5. The Raconteurs, Consolers Of The Lonely
6. Coeur De Pirate, Coeur De Pirate
7. The Kills, Midnight Boom
8. The Raveonettes, Lust, Lust, Lust
9. The Nevers, single
10. Ice Cube, Raw Footage
11. Nine Inch Nails, The Slip
12. The Black Keys, Attack & Release
13. T-Bone Burnett, Tooth of Crime
14. Beck, Modern Guilt
15. AC/DC, Black Ice

Biggest Shits (in no particular order): Tam, Guns' Chinese Democracy, Nickelback released the worst record of the year for the fourth (?) time, rap had little to offer of consequence - and the major labels seem to have died - good riddance.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Guys Who Hate Bobby Orr

I'm one of those who would say Bobby Orr might be a tad overrated, particularly by those who say he's the best hockey player of all time.

Best of his era, perhaps, but I don't even think he qualifies for best defenseman ever. That honour likely belongs to Doug Harvey, who invented the end-to-end rushes Orr made more famous in an age of more media exposure, and the perfect Nicklas Lidstrom dominating this era's game makes a case for himself as well.

And the forwards! Wayne Gretzky's points totals (heck, his assists totals alone would make him the top point-getter in NHL history!) speak for themselves. Mario Lemieux was the most gifted player ever, if only his passion would have been equal to his set of skills. And what about 'Rocket' Richard, Gordie Howe, Jean Béliveau?

And if you include goalies, too? Patrick Roy, the best under pressure, for sure; Terry Sawchuck, Jacques Plante, Martin Brodeur, Dominik Hasek... Vladislav Tretiak in the USSR...

However, some guys take their Orr-hatred a bit extremely... The Folks at NoMoreOrr.com go as far as saying he ruined the game of hockey! A fun read, though, if you take it tongue-in-cheek!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Riots In Greece

For the record, it's scary as hell being in one. Living in the area where it's happening is even worse; your safety is compromised, and rioters rarely remember the citizens in their environments, much less remember to be mindful of them.

Yet, upon looking at pictures of the recent riots in Greece, and particularly in Athens, I could not help but think that the least few times these sorts of 'events' happened here, it was either to celebrate after a sporting event, or to show disarray after a rock show.

Over there, there was latent tension between the government and the People it should serve, what with a ridiculous unemployment rate and living conditions unfit of a European country in the New Millenium. But the pressure went past its boiling point when cops killed 15 year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos on December 6th. And the cop was charged, too.

Here, when police officers kill people, they don't even face murder charges, and the public outcry displayed rarely goes beyond small communities, usually visible minorities. The media talks about it a bit, people express their shame and fear, and we move on to bigger and better things, like waiting 12 hours before seeing a doctor at the hospital for a common cold, and the stories die down.

In Greece, and in most countries where Citizens have more power than Law And Order, when dissatisfaction occurs, it shows. Leaders' heads get chopped off, cops get set on fire, military coups happen.

The Disco Inferno:

Guess I'm Doing Fine

It's not the first snow storm of the year, it might not even be the second one, but it's the most annoying, for sure. The first one to make me forgo sleep because it'll be more of a bitch to get home and come back to work than just stay here and write.

I'll need caffeine and uppers: Pepsi, Rockstar (pomegranate flavour, with vodka, because it doesn't specify a daily limit I can intake), Wake Ups. To start. Then, in a couple of hours, I'll decide if I need more - or stronger - material. Hopefully not, because I'm more than due for a full night's sleep tonight... seven nights in the making. Wouldn't want my day's consumption to ruin the night I so rightfully deserve.

I'm seeing birds flying in the top-right corner of my right eye, my left eye feels like it's covered in Vaseline, my balance is off a bit; I probably look like a drunk when I walk the hallways going to washroom.

My headphones are on, and ironically '80s-style goth-rock fills my ears, adding to the sense that I'm out of synch with the world; Joy Division's Transmission, And One's Military Fashion Show, The Cure's The Blood... never has the 'random' feature been so focused.

My stomach grawls, as wretched gases fight to leave my body's premises. I'm freezing one minute, boiling the next. Outside, the world is not only covered in white Artic Leftovers but actually drowning in it, not inch by inch but foot by foot. Sitting inside, ten feet from the windowsill, I wonder if death will feel this weird, if I'm nearing it somehow with my decadent lifestyle. I wouldn't be ready, that's for sure.

To think two months ago I was in Cuba, the one place on earth that makes you truly wonder about divinity, but also the one place where you wouldn't need it.

My body is doing all it can to shut down. My eyes close, my brain blinks, my mouth won't open. Nine more hours and it'll be smooth sailing. Cold sweat covers me, shivers take over, a wonderful piece of machinery that needs to rest.

Beck comes on, with Guess I'm Doing Fine. Figures.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Exaggeration Is The Finest Form Of Flattery

Sheldon Souray, former star defenseman of the Montréal Canadiens, now with the Edmonton Oilers, showed an unusual amount of praise, and a bit of a reality check recently...

Indeed, he compared teammate Dwayne Roloson, a very decent netminder, to gods and legends Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur.

Now, I'll admit Souray almost knows what he's talking about: as a young rookie, he played in front of Brodeur with the New Jersey Devils, and also played with José Théodore, the only heir to Roy worth mentioning so far in Montréal since coach Mario Tremblay got him sent to Denver to finish his career as a Colorado Avalanche.

It's intended as a complimet to Roloson, for keeping his head up in a three-way battle for net time in Edmonton, where he shares duties with Mathieu Garon (Théodore's former pupil in Montréal) and newcomer (and Quebecer/Canadiens fan) Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, the Oilers' future star goalie. Indeed, Roloson deserves much respect for being to keep his team in games even at 39 years of age, after propelling the Oilers to the Stanley Cup Finals just a few years back...

It's also a bit of a slag on Théodore, who won the Vezina Trophy (best goalie in the league) and Hart Trophy (most valuable player in the league) for the Habs in 2002 after being the team's best player for the four years prior. Théo, as he is known, was chased out of Montréal when his off-ice problems started interfering with his game; it took him a year to get back on point, in Colorado, too, as he single-handedly brought the team to the playoffs last spring. His ego also got in the way of his game as he tried playing through an injury and was ransacked by Detroit when they should have been an easy target. This season, Théo is sharing duties with Brent Johnson for the Washington Capitals, winning most of his games, but giving up more than 3 goals per game, on average, a statistic that didn't mean much 15 to 20 years ago but puts him in the bottom third of the league at the moment.

Nice of him to keep an old-timer's spirits up. Lord knows he needs it, especially if he's to play more than the two others guys he's sharing a job with. But to compare a guy whose biggest feat was in the minor leagues with the two winningest goalies in the history of the league (and the best and fifth-best of all time, in my opinion, with Roy at #1) is going a little overboard, especially when you've played with another (perhaps) overrated goalie who has habits of being the best in a series of short stints but has struggled with consistency over the course of his career...

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I was thinking about this, talking with friends whose parents had passed away, some recently, one three years ago...

I'm the most independent person I know. Too much, at times, in a way. Many of my family members would like me to call more often, but Life gets in the way. I hope they know they're the most important thing to me, just that we keep different schedules and don't always think alike, but I still have all the love in the world for them.

Especially my mom. She's devoted to our cause like no other, always there for me and my brother. We do our best to not abuse it, she does her best to let us live, but I'd be lost for a fucking while if anything happened to her.

I see her once or twice a year; I'll see her soon, for the Holidays. It doesn't happen to me often, but these two weeks seem really far away...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Another Feel-Good Hockey Story

It had been in small-town papers, and slowly made its way towards bigger ones. It's now on the NHL's website.

Players from the Chicago Black Hawks, all of them in fact, instead of boarding a chartered plane and heading home for a well-deserved day off, chartered a pair of buses and went to a small town in Ontario to attend to their GM's father's funeral.

Then they stopped at a McDonald's on their way back and signed autographs for everyone there.

Feel-good. Millionaires who do good.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Day Democracy Died

I'm usually pretty fucking quick to respond to political events - especially the really big ones. I've been asked by many how I felt about the current situation in Canada, what with the prorogation and not having an actual government in place for the next month to month-and-a-half.

It's funny because both sides of the argument, at one point or another, have used the same arguments and same metaphors to describe opposing points, usually something about the ''rape of our democracy''.

It started with angry Albertans who blindly believe what ''their'' leader has to say, even when it's dumb, even more so when it's a blatant lie. By using Karl Rove's tactics that did so well for the Republican Party in the U.S. for a decade or so (but ironically got whooped just a month ago...), Stephen Harper has managed to divide the country... by blaming all of Canada's problems on 'separatists'. And since Quebecers have been the target of most campaigns of fear in this country since the '70s - the Albertans bit on the hook again, only this time, they're alone, because it really hasn't been an issue since 1998.

What was an issue, though, was addressing the current worldwide economic crisis. Stephen Harper, who was elected as a minority Prime Minister with barely 25% of the voting public's votes, thought doing nothing was best. Not just that, but to prove he was serious about silencing the opposition right off the bat, he came in with aggressive confidence motions in the first session of Parliament that go against most Canadian values, including but not limited to women's rights to equal pay.

The opposition, who represent not only more members than the ruling party but a vast majority of voters as well, decided to not let themselves be backed into a corner and reacted accordingly with Canadian law - by banding together to represent the vast majority of voters and change the course of where the country was headed. Because in Canada, contrary then in the U.S., we can stop mistakes like most of George W. Bush's decisions from happening, when they are contrary to what the majority of elected officials want. And all elected officials have to represent the district they came from, the voters who elect them - and their values.

What is difficult to understand is why the Governor General, the Queen of England's representative in Canada, went against the wishes of most Canadians' (and, therefore, a majority of elected officials') wishes and decided to give Harper time to either settle down and be more reasonable and convince others to join a more reasonable plan - or to call another election, 2 months after a useless one, two years after the last one. And have no government to deal with the economic crisis in the meantime.

Just last Friday, 1000 people in Grand Falls-Windsor lost their jobs, and there is no government in session to either help them or comfort them, and there will be none until some time in January. Who knows how many more will be let off in the meantime.

What's scary is this: So far, by using the same tactics that failed the Republicans just a month ago and diverting blame on his opponents, Harper has been able to not only keep his supporters, but also make them more angry and militant, ready for groundwork to their Cause, which in itself is wrong, but that's beside the point.

My guess is he'll be able to convince them that if the economy fails because we've had no government, it'll be the coalition's fault for not letting him rule as the (not really, but hey, it works) ''elected'' leader.

And if the economy doesn't really fail, he'll be able to convince more idiots that his no-plan wasn't all bad since no government didn't even kill the cash flow.

He's in the driver's seat, not realizing he's drunk, and refusing to let the designated driver drive. And he knows that, statistically, he has less of a chance to die than the car he'll be hitting in the one-on-one collision. Problem is, most Canadians will be pedestrians by the side of the road by the time this is all finished, and many of us will be collateral damage.

Too bad Stéphane Dion is hated by so many people, me included, the whole ''coalition saving the country'' thing will die just because he would have been the one in charge of it.

After capitalism showed us its limits in the past couple of months, this is democracy at its finest, I guess.

UnPop 2008 Is Over!

UnPop Montréal. Year Four: 4 More Days Of No Sleep And Good Music. It ended in the wee hours the morning, ended well in a warm atmosphere amongst friends in a climate of love... until it was time to leave and off we went into minus-30 weather. Ah, the joys of winter!

So this year gathered less media attention, most probably because it was completed in a haste, barely a week ahead of the scheduled shows. The turnout was generally fine, overall. And the money required to put the shows on was a lot less than that of years past. All in all, a success story.

It kicked off on Thursday night at Cagibi. Sébastian Hell, Might, Reason To Hide and Anti-School-Year.

Then off to The Pound on Saturday for weird music, with Merles Guitar Band, Launie Anderssohn, The Montreal Nintendo Orkestar and Raw Madonna.

Saturday night, still at The Pound, Smoked Meat Fax Machine improvised a set of instrumental madness, ElevenEighty grooved the house on down, and The Nevers brought the crowd home to an era most of them hadn't even lived in, early-80's Manchester, England, with a sound reminiscent of a cross between Joy Division and The Cure, but realer in a way than Interpol. It's pretty fucking hard to believe these kids are so good.

Then it was back at Cagibi for a case of Patrick Hutchinson (of Swift Years, formerly of Bare Bones), Will Austin, Allan Lento and Elizabeth Bruce. A top-quality finish, but one of those that usually goes unnoticed for too long.

Individual show revires may follow on this blog, as they will be posted from somewhere else.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Brothers Who Loved Boys Too Much

The Gazette came out today with an amazing in-depth look at sexual abuses at my alma mater, Collège Notre-Dame.

It talks about one particular case but also says the bulk of the cases reported to it took place in the 1970s.

I was there from 1990-95. I can say that cases in my era were absoltely not blatant and exposed. For one thing, Brothers no longer taught any classes, and only two were still on duty, in charge of the boys' dormitory for seventh graders.

Others roamed the halls at times, yes, because they still lived in the building, but most were never present when students were around.

It's hard to pinpoint how many kids were susceptible to have been abused, because you cannot assume a teen has been raped just because he acts weird.

But the two who tended to the boarding boys should not have been there in the first place. Whether accidental or intentional, some slips have definitely occurred. And to think that some kids were scarred to the point of committing suicide - for something that could easily have been avoided - by keeping the priests away from the kids. As simple as a math problem, really.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The 15 Stupidest Musician's Quotes of 2008

Leave it to a guitar manufacturer's website to come up with an original list of Top Tens (we,, fifteen, actually) for year's end: The 15 Stupidest Musician's Quotes of 2008. Some really are the dumbest fucking things, for sure, but others got me thinking ''wait, you mean to tell me Britney Spears didn't say anything dumber than that in all of 335 so far in the year''?

Then again, does she qualify as a musician? She doesn't have Mariah Carey's vocal chords, to say the least. Heck, she doesn't even have Chris Martin's. By the way, both Carey and Martin made the list. Sort of.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Germany's Top Goalie Plays Despite Incurable Cancer

If I had half this guy's will power, I'd sleep even less.

He has terminal brain cancer, yet still plays hockey at a top level in Europe.

He also has a wife and two kids, mind you, and maybe if I were in his situation, I'd try to see them a little more often than not, but you have to keep doing what you love to make it through the day, and if he can make time for both family and work/passion, all the better for him.

Hats off to you, Robert Müller of Kölner Haie (Cologne Sharks) in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga.