Tombstones In Their Eyes – Maybe Someday

When listening to a record for the first time, I can usually tell within the first thirty seconds of song one if I’ll want to hear it through, skip to song two (or deeper) in search of the chords and vocals that will connect with me, or stop it and never look back. There are also occasions when song one gets repeat playback because it’s so good. And then the same happens with song two. And song three. Music lovers understand this “Eureka!” moment.

Maybe Someday by Tombstones In Their Eyes was my 2019 “Eureka!” moment.

Comprised of John Treanor (vocals/guitar), Josh Drew (guitar), Mike Mason (bass) and Stephen Striegel (drums), Tombstones In Their Eyes is a band from Los Angeles that appeals to fans of psych, noise, shoegaze, alternative, and even sludgy doom metal. James Cooper, an old school friend of Treanor’s now living in New York, is also considered a member as he helped start the band and works with him on song creation. The band released a number of EPs, including 2017’s Fear which was my first introduction to their signature melodic yet crunchy sound, and 2018’s Nothing Here.

On November 15th, 2019, Somewherecold Records released Maybe Someday, and what could be described as a well-polished, cohesive collection of gritty psych-infused noise rock songs.

There is an immediate feeling of immensity on album opener “Open Skies” and the tangibility of this “bigness” caries throughout the title-track and “I Want You”, amplified by the swirl of guitars and the drone of Treanor’s ethereal vocals.  Bass lines and drums are clean and not overstated, effectively complimenting and driving forward the wash of sound enveloping them.

“Down In The Dirt” has a decidedly sludgier feel to it that fans of Philadelphia’s Nothing will appreciate and is a personal favourite, of many favourites, on the album.  Coming in at just shy of six minutes, it’s best played loud, with eyes closed and head bopping.

When listening to the “The One”, it’s not at all surprising that Treanor listed Electric Wizard as one of his favourite bands in our 21 Disarming Questions interview. It’s a dark and heavy stoner rock song, yet feels not at all out of place on Maybe Someday. Like “Down In The Dirt”, it pushes the six minute mark, but I’d welcome an extra long extended version of this one.  It’s that good.

Another shift in direction happens on “I Believe”, the most upbeat song on the album and closest to a “traditional” alternative/psych song before we slow down and slide back into the fog of “I Can’t Feel It Anymore” and “Up And Down” that fans of The Black Angels will surely enjoy.  We leave Maybe Someday with “Dreams”, an aptly-named soundscape of surreal fuzzed-out guitars, vapory vocals and keys.

Tombstones In Their Eyes manages to interlace so many sounds into Maybe Someday without defining the album as any one genre nor lose the mood set out from the album’s opening notes.  It’s a perfect balance and pace and warrants repeated play through from start to finish.

You can get Maybe Someday from the Somewherecold Records Bandcamp page on CD and digital.  Coming soon to vinyl.

Dave MacIntyre

Iwan Gronow Second Guess – Single Review

Iwan Gronow has just released his second single, “Second Guess” following lead off “In the Mire”. The former member of Haven and current member of Johnny Marr’s band has offered something altogether new and different within those two songs, demonstrating range and deep references of an in-demand musician who’s honed his ideas for some time, brewing them until time permitted them to come forth.

“Second Guess” is a darkly cool, instantly memorable track, full of atmosphere, and dark wave that is yet melodic. The driving beat is one some would call throwback, but those in the know would simply call it great, full of sounds we miss and never stopped needing to hear. For comparison one could look to early Erasure and Depeche Mode, both pioneers of New Wave that invented their own climates and atmospheres in their sounds. Music like this reminds us that synth music is so much more than the name suggests when layered just so, with tones of high and low, deep and ethereal.

Like “In the Mire”, the music has an urgent message and feels strongly connected to the earth. Here, Gronow examines what we do when we second guess ourselves: brew feelings or restlessness, we open up space for disconnection – in love, and even in ourselves. It’s part of decision making, but drives us mad. The dance beat has always been the best way to ponder the harder questions of life and of our natures. Turn it up.

Jacqueline Howell

Rev Rev Rev – Kykeon

Italian Shoegazers, Rev Rev Rev, have released Kykeon via Fuzz Club, a crunchy 10-track album that is as much a marriage of doomy metal and psych as it is a reverb drenched Shoegaze album.

Kykeon moves along slowly, but threateningly giving it a lava-like quality; sludgy, thick, deadly and unstoppable.  Tracks “3 not 3” and “Sealand” are great examples of this.

There are a few lighter moments. Mid-way track, “One Illusion Is Very Much Like Another” dials back the abrasive fuzz in favour of crisp guitars and unsuppressed vocals, as does “Summer Clouds”, but the menace is still there, barely hidden beneath the surface.

More “metal” moments include “Gate Of The Dark Female” that could pass for a Black Angels/Sleep collaboration, which is never a bad thing and album single “Clutching The Blade”, the fastest of Kykeon’s songs that has an early Smashing Pumpkins vibe that will guarantee repeat listens.

Kykeon is a perfect record for those that enjoy a band that can mix genres without losing cohesiveness.  Psych, Doom, Shoegaze and Alternative all play their part to keep the record fresh and interesting throughout all 10 tracks.

Buy Kykeon on CD and vinyl from Fuzz Club HERE or digital download on Bandcamp.

Dave MacIntyre

The Specials Encore: Well-Turned Out

By Jacqueline Howell

The Specials, by now an institution to those who know, reached their first number one album on the music charts in the U.K. in February 2019. Fans who do social media the right way are still sharing pictures, excited as kids at Christmas, of the new album being played on their turntables. We’re among them. The band’s extensive spring U.K. / Europe and U.S. tour will sell out as it always has and as it has, emphatically, since the band reformed around 2010. The tour will include several days in Coventry, where the band formed. They will kindly visit the U.S. and Canada, as they always do these days. And make no mistake: in a time of bleak, dystopic, machine-made pop music crafted from smoke and mirrors designed to obscure that today’s pop music acts are product mascots miming and dancing looking like lost pageant children, The Specials’ spectacular reception, rumbling as it has for some months through the authentic underground, quietly building momentum, finally broke through at just the right time, in a matter of otherwise bleak, midwinter days. It’s historic.

It’s no accident that The Specials first record in 37 years, Encore, is so successful and has been embraced so fervently by a generation (or two) who live unconditionally: who love things sincerely, waving them like flags, or not at all. The unequivocal success of The Specials’ new record is real, gritty, and pure. It’s not the result of ads and expensive handshakes, a contrivance of some branding genius somewhere, ensconced in a cool but lifeless concrete supervillain lair, who needs only his thumbs to influence the world for good or ill. It’s the opposite of things we’ve grown used to in music, trends that we suspect, that make us mistrustful of all media messages, while our critical thinking abilities and voices are regularly shouted down by thoughtless social media commentary that dominates so much public opinion. The success of The Specials in 2019 is (remarkably) the same as their success of their first records and tours: the result of hard graft, talent and something even rarer, an incorruptibility. Once again, we are seeing the rareness of originality rising to the top, and being embraced when it’s found. Only later does it seem inevitable or easy. Only from a distance. The ingredients of the new Specials record are the markers of genius that we’ve gotten rusty at recognizing because we are rarely offered it, point blank, no strings attached, in this new century that promised us so much more.

Lead single “Vote For Me” came out of the dark one day, sounding very reassuringly like The Specials of old. Terry Hall has always told us the truth, sounding fearless and confident, and detached in a way we all strive to be. “If we vote for you, do you promise / to be upright, decent and honest / To have our best interest at heart? You understand why we don’t believe you / You’re way too easy to see through / Not the best place to start.” YES. YES. YES.

Isn’t this what we’ve all needed? A crisp voice of reason, from a time, place, memory of when we had true musical outsiders we could trust? Where a dance beat and even a trombone could merge with punk rock’s ethos and whatever was coming next at the end of the century, telling us kids that things were dark, but we would still dance, resist, fight if we had to, and question what we were told by whichever grinning wolf sat in power? Thatcherite early 1980s Britain was full of turmoil, pain and glorious rebellion that was carried on music as much as anywhere, and maybe more. The Specials ducked in and out of taverns and working-class towns and down dark winding motorways in those days of emerging, to find out some people didn’t dance, but only ever threw bottles to express themselves. The Specials tenacity is well-documented, but as a reminder, they encountered seething, vile racism, out in the open, the violent kind, which made being a band like them dangerous, and yet, they sang, played, fought, resisted, and looked a million. There was no one else like them then. There’s still no one like them. Today’s political leaders have led their nations into darkness again, and the questions raised by The Specials in the late 1970s and early 1980s still ring out. Only now they, and we, have follow up questions. New sounds. More ammunition.

Encore is full of moods, ideas and painterly colours with pretensions. It’s a mature work, one that sounds like the organic evolution of this band. With a fairly short, tight and perfect back catalogue, the new record has been made with the attention and patience maturity brings. No need to repeat what was done before. No obvious label pressure to pander to pop or dance hooks (hell, they invented and adapted new kinds of hooks in popular music worldwide.) With a nod to the founding members’ divergent pasts, they’ve remade the Fun Boy Three song “The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum”, which deserves to be bopped to by new audiences. The inclusion of a Fun Boy Three song also points to the reality of the divergent paths the bandmembers have taken over the years, heading off any silly criticism about then and now and members’ departures. It’s a dark world, in which we have all lost too many, too young all the time. The fact that Terry Hall, Horace Panter and Lynval Golding are still here, and still here (making & performing their music on a global stage), is, as recent years’ concert-goers can attest, worthy of skanking your knees down to nubs.

Encore draws on the different musical styles that make up The Specials’ unique and genre defying bouillabaisse, with call backs to Prince Buster and Desmond Dekker’s music, as usual, spun with just an acid, British, twist. This band is still keenly in tune with not only the particular cultural concerns of Britain, but of the planet, too. Travel and life beyond the journey of a band grounds Encore firmly in the present moment, with authority to speak on the deepest concerns of today (as ever, with style): gun control. Black Lives Matter. Feminism, particularly in re-centering of the “I” of who has the mic and the power, a bold and sincere statement from a historically all-male band.

Which brings us to “10 Commandments”. The song features Saffiyah Khan, the activist who famously stared down an alt-right man while wearing a Specials T-shirt. This tune is a spin on Prince Buster’s “Ten Commandments”, in which the subject, women, are instructed how to behave.  Buster’s ten commandments have been remixed and remade in a kind of call-and-response.

“The Life and Times of A Man Called Depression” takes an insightful look at its subject. Terry Hall has been open about his depression as well as throwing support behind awareness campaigns in the U.K. Here, The Specials take another clear-eyed look at a subject that has too long been the subject of shame in families, in the workplace, and in the arts, where we demand of ourselves and our entertainers to be “on” at stage time, to perform and to give those waiting the time of their lives no matter what illnesses people are dealing with behind the scenes and outside of the 90-minute window of a gig. Depression among musicians seems, to us as journalists and music fans (first) to be a pressing issue deserving of consideration in the demanding world of entertainment. We need our artists well, and to get to retire, and to have private lives that are balanced with all they give us.

“He stands accused of being socially inept
Some say rude, aloof, devoid of any real truth
He lives in a world of self-doubt, self-pity, self-loathing, self-harm…”

Depression is an urgent subject for artists to become more vocal and honest about, as we’ve lost too many beloved artists in recent years to depression and its tragic outcomes. A song like this will no doubt hit home to so many, as well as affording a moment of empathy for our artists themselves.

The remarkable Lynval Golding steps into a bigger vocal role on Encore. He masterfully re-interprets The Valentines’ “Blam Blam Fever”, his authentic timbre ringing with the all the divergent experience of a Jamaican-born boy / now mature man living in America, a country of pain and strife today, much of it based around abuses of power and senseless gun violence. These themes continue into the very personal “B.L.M.”, in which Golding shares his life story through three countries and the casual, cruel brutality of racism he’s encountered along the way. His story is poignant, painful and clear: Black Lives Matter. Golding uses his warm voice and his platform to point to an ugliness that follows people of colour across time and space, that must be seen and called out with no quarter given, (including by everyone who hasn’t experienced it, as allies).

And so, we listeners and lifelong fans get to feel part of a brand new chapter, a continuum that started back in 1977 with a call for “black, white: unite”; the look, feel, style, and deeper messages of a sound and a loose philosophy called “two-tone”; the band who made it fashionable to be radical, peer over our hedgerows and borders, shake shit up. The Specials did this all while subtly giving glimpses underneath the well-turned cuff of a sharp suit, those unseen, countless, painstaking stitches, the labour that makes something as straightforward as fabric into art. The Specials will take this new music, blended with their classics, and their solid arguments on the road, as ever, facing down difficult subjects with the grace, power and euphoria of music.

Twitter: @JacksDisarm

All Nerve – The Breeders – A Whiplash Masterpiece

To preface: I was there. I was twenty years old in 1993. If you weren’t, please Nevermind the narrow story you’ve gleaned about the 1990s, one no worse or better than the one I heard about music at the time of my birth, but one that is just a charcoal sketch, despite the lies we are told that everything you need to know is knowable and downloadable, in seconds, and for free.

As successive bands who came of age in the early 1990s after paying their dues in the 1980s have returned (against all commercial odds but in response to a yawning musical vacuum) it presents a beautiful, but difficult, challenge. The writers who were there and still care enough to bridge the knowledge gap with the lack of archived 1990s media, try to play catch up. We writers and fans now (again) live in the moment; try to quantify our most shimmery, most precious memories of life; quiet our fist-waving frustrations about what should have been; and yet, try to be cool. We have no chill. Not with The Breeders new album, All Nerve, on repeat, as we are actually LIVING. We are celebrating. Our youth, our celebration was always thus: loud, passionate, know-it-all, savvy and naturally beautiful. We aren’t old. We are just different from those immediately before and after us. We were kids who grew and thrived in a world at the end of the century, spitting distance from Woodstock nostalgia, which deserved all the ridicule in the world as the hypocrisy it was, stacked right next to the glaring wound of the Manson era that “ended the Sixties”, concurrently (those murders weeks before Woodstock, in fact). We grew up in post-hippiedom, bloody anger and a future in question (since we’d missed “utopia”), and learned about promise and glory, and the violent ends, of the better days we had missed, all in one breath. Our parents were either hippie-yuppie profiteers or bitter failures of same. Enter post-punk and everything after. Enter me, him, and everyone we know. The Breeders are one of the mighty bands who straddled this chasm and knew how to kick its teeth in. Yet, unsung they were. But The Pixies were filled with a heaping scoop of Kim Deal, to place this in the context that is more shorthand, for a moment.

Despite what we were told to expect, and what has been reduced by reductive wiki-history to one or two bands in strange cities (as if LIFE was an e coli outbreak instead of musical history, which is what today’s music gatekeepers want you to think) the late 80s and early 90s was a time of rich musical diversity, all of it pure rock and roll in its most evolved forms. Bands led by women (or even all women) and people of colour reached some parity with the same old boys club, not even in separate categories anymore. Lollapalooza had started in North America, a phenom whose effect cannot be overstated, curated as it was for years by visionaries, not businessmen (who found that visionary ideas were even profitable) and with it, a greater demand and platform for diversity and breadth of line-ups. Lolla was our Woodstock, without the hype or recognition, and for a longer period. It was sincere, it was loud, and it was the same type of grass-roots movement we’d all heard was dead and gone and OD’d before our time. Kids everywhere picked up guitars and started bands in their garages again. If you could write, and hustle, you might even get a (multi-album) record deal. Music videos were a platform and key aspect of television, 24 hours a day, in stereo. We saw ourselves on MTV, on MuchMusic, no longer alone in nowhere towns, but a generation. A tribe. It was a little hippie-ish, in hindsight, without the cults. It was certainly optimistic; we were young and so thought time, life, progress & music moved only forward, creativity a force that was unstoppable and beloved by all, profitable too, so safe. Assured. We were evolving as a species, ready to shake off Cold War fear and enter the future we were promised would be shiny and cool.

We’ve written many times about the dark turn of music via technology and hubris of an industry that was never for the artists or the fans at all. So we only say, here and now in celebration mode of The Breeders hitting our own damn city tomorrow: fuck all that shit, fuck it. We got fucked over, but we Goonies & punks never die. We’re still alive. Most of us. And that which fails to kill us makes us stronger than steel.

But here, what of nerve/s, the Acropolis, and mom? What of the lede buried under excitement and nerves of a writer with a lump in her throat and tears that spring forth even after fifty spins, happy-sad tears of another time, another me, shaking awake these last few years and now shuddering & breathing into my full height again? What of this new music that peels back the layers we accumulate to survive, as if it were the music of back then?

The album is the globally lauded All Nerve, a perfect title for an epic, instant hit, packed into just 33 minutes. Economy is the trait of the most gifted artists; (not the fangirl I am only when I must be) the right word, the right number of notes, and knowing when to quit. To be sure, it’s never enough, the disk is flipped and restarted; the habit of the true music fan. A habit that is back. IT’S BACK!

The songs are incredibly different across the record: complete thoughts, tidy morsels, yet always pure Breeders (back with their most successful line up). The production is clean and straightforward, live-sounding. It sounds like it did before, but also new, because music like this was so far ahead of its time and was always underrated & underground. Whether fans of The Pixies, The Breeders, or other noteworthy sounds of the time they gained prominence, or even fans who may be new to this band, there is something, a lot, here for you. My true people who live to clutch lyrics to their chest, to carve imaginary tattoos or real ones, there is a treasure chest here, for you, too. The words haunt, drift like smoke, and now and then growl for your attention. They even meow, in an unaffected way, that’s how fucking great Kim Deal is as a singer.

“Wait in the Car” looks at the never-ending pull of memory and regret “as a sinner I unlock nothin’ but need”, a verse cryptic and plain by turns, like the best words, flexible, transmutable, even oceanic. Is mother “mother”? Or a metaphor. “Wait in the car! I got business!” It works both ways, myriad ways. “Walking with a Killer” is a delightfully chilly entry to a subject matter that belongs keenly to alternative music and end of the century girls who are only here because we all survived something. Many things. We are mindful. We must be. We were not always careful and were very often lucky. We tumbled out of wherever at a time when hitchhiking was normal and usually safe; when kids played, untethered, until street lights came on, or glided through dark streets in the illusion of safety and the wind we generated on our five-speeds. It was before now, when TV dead girls pile up like Lego, like it’s nothing, people almost unshockable after 20 years of true crime. Of true crimes that went on around us and slithered by us for no real reason. Music today has to shock them awake from TV’s spell, same as it ever was. Nothing could be more eerie than “the cornfields of East 35”. It’s plain. But we all know, too, the killers that lie within each of us, the plagues too many have been lost to, the ways we could die. It’s stark, and important. Take it both ways, just to be safe. Take it deep.

Some of the most towering lyrical statements can simply not be separated from the music, such as “Dawn, Making an Effort” which is indescribable. I will say only “Get it together. Rally. Rally.” will hit you where you live.

The album closer, “Blues at the Acropolis” is, like the rest of the album, stunningly spare but to close listeners, is an applause-worthy artistic statement, one in which Deal lets herself off the chain of self-restraint and splashes out a little. This lyrical Acropolis is a fitting epic, full of vicious men, stoned junkies, memories of heroes who “once bled out”, and one Capital sister. It, like all fine art, will not be pinned down to place, time, tense, metaphor, shade, anger, love, pity, success, or even happiness. “I got the blues at the Acropolis. I’ve got the blues at the Acropolis” (…I’ll get the blues). The blues, is maybe, assured, permanent, hardwired, s’ok, we now know how many of us fight and live with that reality, one of us driving, one of us riding, for the rest of our days. But we are here: climbing the steps, learning from those around us, living and dead, icons and monuments and idiots and bastards, boys and the limits of what we can learn from them – which is something women are finally saying out loud, thanks to women like Kim and Kelley Deal who carved this path, beginning in another century. What we learn from ourselves, from our sisters, if we can find them.

Each time an enormous band comes back to tour or release new music, another light goes on in the atmosphere; a clearing of cobwebs in the heads of both older and younger music fans. We simply don’t care how many years it has been, except to say, isn’t it great we are all still here, that you are back. That you can do all that. This magazine emerged at the same time of this recent shift (2015), and we’ve been witnesses to a revolution that’s been brewing and continues to rumble forward. But few announcements or releases have managed to shake the matrix to its core the way The Breeders’ new record has. We doubt few crowds we’ve seen will be as enraptured as that for the current tour will be. It’s the one we’ve waited for.


Jacqueline Howell

Wild Arrows – Dreamlike Dream

Wild Arrows
Dreamlike Dream
Black Vinyl

Dreamlike Dream, the second album by Brooklyn duo Wild Arrows pushes further into the realm of New Wave and Shoegaze than the band’s debut release Tell Everyone, which throughout, had an almost menacing Post-Punk angst lying just below the surface. Shiori Takenoshita’s departure from the band to return to Japan resulted in Mike Law joining forces with Yasmin Reshamwala on this album which at times is reminiscent of early New Order and OMD (specifically “Alphabet Girl”).

Opening track “Dark Me” starts with airy waves of synth and crisp electronic percussion followed by “Breathe Through” which is the closest to full-on Shoegaze the band gets without burying Law’s vocals, which is important because, despite the more upbeat music of Dreamlike Dream, the lyrics still contain darker themes that we loved on Tell Everyone.

The title track, a fast favourite that highlights Reshamwala’s vocals, is a moody song that pulses and hums electronically while its momentum slowly builds and slows again. The 50s-esque jangle guitar strum is reverb-drenched and haunting throughout. It is quickly chased by “Oh-H”, a song that would complement an Arcade Fire album, when Arcade Fire were at their best (Funeral, Neon Bible) and if the band ever delved in Dream Pop territories.

Closing out Dreamlike Dream is “Seahorse/Hummingbird”, a hymn-like soundscape complete with angelic horns that Robert Smith would approve of, and “Dead Ends” to complete the 9-song journey. Some songs immediately grab and don’t let go (“Breathe Through”, “Dreamlike Dream”) whereas others need to simmer, their deep flavours leeching out over time (“Deceiver”, “Dark Me”). But like all great music, the time invested in listening will pay off.

Dave MacIntyre

RUSTY RETURNS with Dogs of Canada

By Jacqueline Howell, DISARM editor

The early 1990s renaissance continues as even our personal wish list is coming true here in Toronto.

Rusty, whose 1995 debut album, Fluke, was one of Toronto’s best entries into the burgeoning early 1990s innovative Alternative boom, recently announced their new album, Dogs of Canada, their first in 20 years, is nearing completion.

Fluke, an album still cherished by Rusty fans worldwide, is full of blistering rock music that bleeds originality and feels spontaneous, urgent and empowering. Sharp, young, musicians that came of age in 1990 were steeped in rock, punk, glam, eighties post-punk, and indie. These self-taught marvels brimmed with energy and were capable of creating new music forms. Most have been overlooked and overshadowed by the reductive corporate-strangled labels nobody wanted, (such as “grunge”). The 90s was full of good music of the last real youth movement that has sharply failed to flourish in the (corporate-strangled) new age. Rusty was among the best of this music made anywhere in the world.

Rusty’s debut has a song called “Misogyny”. This word is more common today but was not a common conversational or musical topic then. The band’s ideas were grand, theoretical and important – but if you didn’t feel like intellectualizing, they also rocked really hard. This casually-brainy, effective rock music is a mark of the greatest Canadian bands. Rusty were also fused with a then-new snowboarding culture, worked with cutting edge video director Bruce La Bruce, and were a bright part of a cool new Canadiana. But like other iconic (underrated) artists, Rusty’s ideas are translatable, global, universal:

“She moved down to L.A.
She met a dude, okay.
He sawed her head off with a knife,
Now she’s gone away.

California’s nice.
It snowed there once or twice.
Bullets fly across the sky.
The path is smooth and tight.
I caught one at the bus stop.
I said: “Hey man, I’ve been shot.”
I felt the warm blood rolling down,
Now it’s gone away.” – California

As the world cascaded open with social media’s borderlessness and lack of filters, brave people who risk their hearts for true engagement and connection face daily stories like the ones simply, bluntly, told in the song “California”. Every day. Are faced with what to do with this knowledge. How to live, how to cope. How to help? What to do? There’s a laugh but no catharsis from a meme. That’s what music is for.

And in 1995, a song like “California” (and “Wake Me”, and “Groovy Dead”) was more than what social media is today. It was a young person’s newspaper. It blew away 60 Minutes with decibels; it drowned out stale TV and radio debate with something clean and true. “California” was a beacon of a generation waking up to the world, to hard truths, to an unsanitized version of terrible events as they happen. Women were attacked, and killed, brutally, by men who they loved and trusted, or men they met through bad luck. Women still are. Regularly. Innocents catch bullets at bus stops, not just in L.A. anymore, amid a local gang war in a particular cross-street but anywhere, in the wrong-place-wrong-time reality of U.S. out of control gun violence. At school, attacked by fellow students, in a pandemic of violence now. Reportedly there are more guns than people in the U.S.A. today. Are we safe yet?

“California” is also a dichotomy: it is stunningly beautiful. Like all of Fluke, it emotes the rage of a generation who inherited this world and were not going to sit idly by listening to people reminisce about the 1960s. Corporatized nostalgia is a handy way to keep us from action and resistance to whatever we are told is “now”. Now is forever. Singer Ken MacNeil’s throat stripping delivery is relentless, sincere, empathetic; his vocals full of anger, fear and love. “California” speaks about disconnection, of indifference as true horror: “Hey man, I’ve been shot.” This line sounds like a gunshot victim is being ignored, in public, unseen, hit with a smooth tight path of darkness that is possible not just in public but in private. There are no safe spaces. We knew that, once. Were galvanized, organizing against the darkness. It is a Canadian perspective of negotiating our frail border and the world; of travel; of meeting interesting, beautiful people and seeing them leave and face awful fates beyond our reach. It is post-modernity that we are stuck in, lost in now.

Will you wake me up? Will you pull my cuff? – Wake Me

That’s what the era’s music captures, and one reason why it will not be cast aside, is still needed, and why our greatest bands are returning to us to fill a void in the very heart of culture and music in 2018. Despite label help or support. We were supposed to have jetpacks, not emojis. We’re backsliding, overwhelmed by the rapid changes of tech and communication and the disappearance in leadership in both things, so we make our own. New records. Raise funds. Mount tours. Rebuild community. The next era of Rusty is going to be a hell of a party.

In the 1990s, we all raged and rioted inside and in our music-loving way in the crowd, believing our intelligence and enthusiasm could change the world, who certainly must be led by the young people as it always is. The music changed everything then and had limitless potential to continue to. What happened in the back half of the 90s and post – “Y2K” was a deliberate and destructive assault from a dying, exploitative music industry against everything indie: from Kurt Cobain’s regularly misunderstood truly subversive and revolutionary (good) ideas: against homophobia, sexism and hatred;  to the many bands who promoted and created a world of gender equality in music on world stages that made everyone money and made everyone who believed in this progress happy. The music labels, that had contempt for their artists, customers, and tech innovation itself, pivoted whiplash – fast to belly buttons and boy bands, machine music & artists they could control totally. It’s been a cold war ever since. And not just an indifferent war on underexposed bands; Canadian bands who’ve always struggled to traverse and be heard and seen in a vast country, (never mind beyond it) and the Indie world that, at the moment, has no choice but to stay underground. It’s been a long cold war on real music itself. Innovation, new ideas, big ideas, pauses to question violence, misogyny, purpose, survival and new sounds made by instruments have lately been labeled as unimportant, even dying. But real, challenging ideas rarely, if ever, come from puppets owned by dominant music brands, the “music” which dominates public space and most entertainment now. This corporate backlash happened precisely because 80s & early 90s emerging bands were so important, so innovative, and so grown up. So independent and unreliant on the actually dying industry that ate itself. Alternative music by its very nature is wild and cannot be broken.

We link Rusty to this argument because they are a perfect example of this entire story and the “trends” around what has gone down in the last two decades. Because we’ve loved them for 20 years and have never stopped listening to them. Because they’ve stepped back to the fore since 2011 with occasional gigs and tours losing not an ounce of fire, life and passion. Because they’ve worked quietly for two years putting together demos while juggling regular lives and families. Rusty deserved more and better, even at their height. They were and are important whether you’ve heard of them or not, whether you are nostalgic about them (and then) or not, whether you may even be a real music fan who understands there is nothing nostalgic about art because art is timeless. Hey, we all pine for our youthful energy, but what has happened to music and the chances of independent artists to break through and to grow and to stay and earn their way is way more painful than nostalgia. The truth is very different. And darker. All this great music must be heard out loud and in full and sat with and listened to from track (song) one to ten to really get or know. Slow down. Think about what is missed. What was denied. What is owed to our generation. And what can still be.

Rusty during their 2011 reformation show in Toronto. Photos by Dave MacIntyre

Wild Arrows – Tell Everyone

Wild Arrows
Tell Everyone
Black Vinyl (Gotta Groove Records)

Wild Arrows, the Brooklyn Alternative/Dream-Pop duo once consisting of Mike Law (vocals and other instruments) and Shiori Takenoshita (drums) released Tell Everyone in 2014, an album that was planned for release two years earlier, but had been cut dead by the devastating arrival of Hurricane Sandy. The band’s instruments, recording equipment, the studio itself, and all the countless hours of time invested in the album were wiped out by the ruthless winds and rain. Amazingly, Law and Takenoshita persevered and overcame these overwhelming obstacles to ensure Tell Everything saw the light of day.

It’s an interesting and complex album both lyrically and sonically. Musically, the album floats in and around Alternative, Post-Punk, New Wave, Dream Pop and even Psych-Rock aesthetics without losing any cohesiveness. Album opener “Ruiner” sets the dark lyrical tone that is consistent throughout the entire record.


Despite the obvious angst in both the lyrics and Law’s vocals, they are offset and complimented by the warm jangle of guitars and background wash of synths. Takenoshita’s drumming is a driving force throughout, adding yet another layer of contrast to the warmer sounds coming from Law’s instruments that are unrushed despite the urgency of the percussion.


Without knowing the backstory of how the album came to be, it’s still perceptible upon listening that Tell Everyone was a labour of love. There is care, purpose, and meaning infused into the record that bears repeat listening sessions to fully appreciate.

Stand-out songs:  “Ruiner” “Hey Liar”, “All Of You”, “Disease”

(We will soon follow this piece up with a review of the band’s newest release, Dreamlike Dream.)

Dave MacIntyre

Pete Fij and Terry Bickers – We Are Millionaires

As the summer turns and the shadows begin to lengthen, the soundtrack to the approaching autumn has already arrived. We Are Millionaires is the second offering from former Adorable mainman Pete Fij and Terry Bickers, the highly-rated guitarist of The House Of Love. The sleeve of the record says everything, a trail of rusting cars abandoned in a forest: a symbol of decay amid a backdrop of beauty. For this represents life for the duo, who once were on the brink of stardom before they crashed under the intensity of its particularly unsettling light. Nothing is without blemish, nothing endures. Their experiences of the music business have left Pete and Terry harbouring an obsession with failure, with might-have-beens, where melancholia is a constant companion, almost comforting in its intimacy. What soundtrack, then, could be better to lead you into the season of decay and the failing of the light? Of course there is re-birth and new life in the spring, but autumn always follows, and all things fade away. This is how it sounds.

The album follows on from 2014’s Broken Heart Surgery, a gloriously maudlin collection of downbeat ballads that marked Pete’s return to the music scene for the first time since Polak split in 2002. A move to the Sussex coast had seen the singer-guitarist record a solo album in 2004, but the tapes of this were buried in a kitchen drawer for many years until the recruitment of Terry, who was residing in Brighton, gave him the enthusiasm to resurrect the songs, record them as a duo, and finally release them into the community.

“I was in Adorable then Polak and when I’d finished with Polak I decided that I wanted to do something different. I got fed up. Polak was very labour-intensive in the studio. We used to go to the studio and spend days and days there, I mean weeks. Rather than getting things done in the rehearsal room, lots of the songs were written in the recording studio. But then I wanted to have a release from that. I just wanted to do something that was straight, free and easy and recorded really simply with all the flaws still in it, not over-polished with a gazillion overdubs. So I recorded this acoustic album. Then I finished it, really liked it, but just didn’t play it to anyone. I didn’t send it out, I just didn’t do anything and every New Year I kind of went, “Right, this year I’m going to send it out or I’m going to release it.” And I never got around to it. I just sat on it for years. I mean ‘Betty Ford’, when it was originally written, was called ‘Rehab’ and when Amy Winehouse brought out her single I changed it, that’s how old that track is. It’s pre-Amy Winehouse. About seven of the songs from the solo album are on Broken Heart Surgery in some shape or form. ‘Betty Ford’, was barely changed, but others were reworked and reshaped. ‘Downsizing’ was originally in a different form and that has been changed quite a bit.”

A Pledge campaign, the success of which surprised the duo who barely register on the optimism scale, saw Broken Heart Surgery released to extremely positive reviews. Delightfully dark, its misery tempered by irresistible wit, overflowing talent and some sublime guitar playing, it was always going to be a hard act to follow, but We Are Millionaires succeeds on every level. There’s more meat on the bones of the nine tracks, both musicians adding some welcome bass lines, while the songs flow into
more divergent channels with plenty of melodic twists and a greater depth of vocal harmony. It’s an exceptionally smooth-sounding record, almost refined, with Pete singing beautifully and Terry adding some astonishing guitar parts, all the more telling for their general brevity. And though most of the songs for the first album were already there to be adapted, Pete had no problem in coming up with new numbers for the follow-up, with the bonus being that Terry was on hand to help mould the songs
from the onset.

Fij and Bickers. Photo by Guy Christie.

“The songs came pretty easily. My head is like a giant notebook with lots of notes and scribblings in it, and I had quite a few songs logged up there written without having to pick up a guitar. It’s the way I seem to work these days, often writing without an instrument. There’s only space for a limited number of songs up there, though, so when it reaches about five or six I seem to stop writing until I have recorded one of them thus freeing up precious memory space. The songs were still written in much the same way. The chord structures and backbone of the song is written by me, pretty much complete, and I then present the songs to Terry who adds his parts, and also makes arrangement suggestions. I suppose the difference this time is that he was on board a lot earlier in the songwriting process – these songs hadn’t been demoed as such – whilst the previous album had been recorded once which meant the structures ended up a little more cemented in place. This album is more expansive and definitely Terry’s input is a large part of that. I think he has more scope and freedom on this album, and maybe subconsciously when I was writing the songs I was thinking of leaving space for Terry, whereas the previous album was largely written prior to Terry being on board. Seeing someone else’s perspective on a track is really interesting.”

The new album opens with ‘Let’s Get Lost Together’, a song that dwells on the relationship between the two musicians. It’s affectionate and witty, and in scope mirrors closely the sound of Broken Heart Surgery thus making it an excellent bridge between the two records.

“There’s a genuine friendship between us which is very rewarding. I love Terry, and find him exasperating and exhilarating in equal measure, and I sense the feeling is mutual. I wanted ‘Lets Get Lost’ to be a bit like ‘Jackson’ by Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra – where they diss each other but underneath the squabbling you realise there’s a love between them, and to me it’s a pretty accurate portrayal of our relationship. It was written because there was a documentary being made about us (Various Songs, 2014) that as it was being filmed we sensed was missing a rather crucial point about us. So I wrote the song to explain our relationship and offered it to the director for what I thought would be an interesting angle – a song explaining the relationship between the two people in the film. Tellingly he just ignored it and made a film that was so dull, unfocused and missing the point of what we were about that we disowned it. I was interested in having a song that had two males having a ‘bromantic’ moment. I couldn’t really think of anyone else who had done that. We are very different people, and work in different ways, but we’ve learned to deal with each other’s quirks. I quite enjoy the singularity and purity of a duo: there is only us two to hone and discuss the music, and there’s no band politics to work through.”

The whole tone of the album then expands with ‘If The World Is All We Have’, which explores new depths, emerging rather like a downbeat Bond theme from the Connery era. But the track has more sinister roots.

“This was written as an out-and-out pop song, not for Bickers & Fij, but originally with the idea of entering it into Eurovision with a female vocal and a far more uptempo electronic backing. It was maybe Depeche Mode meets Madonna, with a nod to John Barry. I revisited it with Terry and we changed a few elements, slowed it down, emptied it out and did a little re-write on the vocals and it took a character and life of its own. I see a lot of our songs as pop songs hiding under a veneer of melancholy. I have a love of Eurovision. I know lots of people are snidey about it, but it’s fascinating to see how each country approaches it every year. Yes it’s kitsch, and yes there can be a lot of power ballads, but there’s a real art to getting a song that sounds interesting, catchy but not too throwaway all within a three-minute framework. Belgium’s entry this year wouldn’t be out of place on 6 Music’s playlist. Radiohead, Morrissey and New Order have all sounded off in the past how they are going to enter, but they are all mouth and no Eurovision trousers which kind of pisses me off. Actually I don’t think Radiohead or New Order are right for it, but Mozza could pull it off – as could Jarvis. I’m not the right kind of artist either but I’d love to write an entry. I’ll keep plugging away, but you have to find an artist to front your song and it’s not easy.”

As the mind boggles, ‘Love’s Going To Get You’ shows Pete’s voice dominate; surely this is one of his best ever vocals? There’s a real retro pop sound to this, with its resonating keyboard sound and one of his most obviously tongue-in-cheek lyrics including a surprise “OMG” from the literary sophisticate.

“We originally recorded a couple of songs with a full band sound and this was one of them (along with ‘Let’s Get Lost’). It sounded very polished and professional, a bit Elbowish maybe, but wasn’t floating our boat, so we went back to a more stripped down sound with little or no percussion and only some bass here and there. This track has a kind of ‘dream pop’ vibe to it – Melody’s Echo Chamber ‘I Follow You’ was a reference point. I like to think my songs have a sense of humour. Without it the downbeat elements would be relentless. Actually a lot of what people think are keyboards on the album are either Terry’s guitars or our backing vocals put through various effects. I want to form an OMD tribute
band called OMG!”

‘We Are Millionaires’ takes a wry look at the duo’s career, gently feedbacking for half a minute before the song is finally shaken awake, though it seldom breaks out of its resigned torpor, the sound of a life support machine working at reduced power. Terry’s guitars are gloriously anaesthetised, his vocal harmonies barely conscious. As he narrates, Pete wonders whether even success would break the grip of melancholy that holds the duo firmly in its grasp.

“Success is relative – my ultimate aim would be to make my living out of making music, which sadly I currently don’t. My driver is that making music is my creative outlet, and to a certain extent it’s what I feel I have to do. I wish I could just sit on the sofa and watch all these box set TV programmes on Amazon Prime that everyone raves on about, but I just don’t have time. Music is a blessing and a curse.”

‘Waking Up’ then bursts into life with poppy enthusiasm before settling down with slight
embarrassment. The lyrics stand out for their positivity, a rarity in the duo’s music, though the song concludes with Pete singing, “It’s been a long, long winter” for nearly a minute. It’s a hint at emerging into the light, but it’s more of a dream than a statement of fact.

“I’m not sure I have emerged from a long, long winter but it doesn’t mean I can’t write about that idea. We all need some hope to cling to! I made a decision to try to write some more positive songs after Broken Heart Surgery. It isn’t my default setting, and inevitably the idea kind of went off course, so even in a song which has a bright positivity about what lies ahead, it ends up with repeated coda talking about the dark past that is behind.”

‘Marie Celeste’ again clings to the idea of positivity, the song lapping at the shore like a summer sea. It’s a pure love song, but again it is the thought that attracts the singer more than a real situation.

“ ‘Mary Celeste’ is more of an ideal I think than a real person. In some ways this is one of the most ‘pop’ lyrics I have written in the last ten years. It’s a rare thing in my writing of late – a love song, without a twist.”

But as soon as the light has appeared, the duo snuff it out with the forlorn ‘Over You’, where love is once again a purely damaging concept. “I know I have to face the facts that you are never coming back, and it’s over…” Eight and a half minutes of happiness is your lot with Fij and Bickers, though the smiles return on the brilliantly mournful ‘I Love You’ which opens, “I’ve been waiting for a train that will never come…”

“This was an attempt to be positive. I started off with a positive title, and had pretty much failed by the end of the first line…”

Terry Bickers. Photo by Guy Christie.

Perhaps this is the crux of the matter, Pete and Terry have an inability to escape the darkness that constantly threatens to overwhelm them. Album closer ‘Sometime Soon’ is almost a plea for redemption, casting a longing look at a future where genuine happiness dwells. You cannot escape the feeling that this is what Pete is really searching for.

“Yes, it is. I had a particularly bad year in 2015 when we started writing and recording this album. I had to quit my beloved second hand bookstall after twenty years of a lovely work life, and ended up in a nightmare job. My dad was bed-ridden, dying slowly of cancer. I met a friend who was going through a similar bad time and they said something that echoed my feelings – there was that hope and belief that sometime soon things were going to change. We need to cling to this hope even when it seems forlorn, and it feels like you’re in a very, very dark tunnel. I came out the other side, as did my friend. There are more tunnels, but hopefully not as dark as that one in 2015.”

It’s a sombre conclusion to a record that can tug at your emotions whilst still making you smile through its nicely balanced wit and helpless charm. There are flickers of light here, but you have to wonder whether they are the first glimpses of the dawn or sparks from the accelerant that will burn your house to ashes. There’s no doubt that Pete was looking for more positivity in this album, but only he can make positivity sound like regret, and only Terry can frame his words with the saddest guitars you have ever heard. Don’t come here for salvation, it doesn’t live here, but if you like your music to be intelligent and beautifully dressed Fij & Bickers always deliver.

We Are Millionaires can be purchased from

Adam Hammond

Slowdive: Slowdive – The love and the Fight

“Nothing left to lose. Nothing left to fight” are really a person of reason’s fighting words.Slowdive’s self-titled new album is out today, May 5th, amid the first week of the band’s current tour. The life of a music fan that used to mean sleeping out for tickets, lining up for midnight releases, and wearing the t-shirt at the gig and the next day as a talisman is back for the passionate in the cities on the tour. We are, today, the closest we ever get to sports fanatics. Sonic Boom’s meet and greet meant that Toronto fans were among the first to get physical albums and even get them signed by the band as well. Young & talented musicians were among those devoted fans. The world is expanding and brimming with hope again.

We Slowdive fans who have the tickets, bought the album and will meet in these cities are among the last, triumphant members of the tribe that once (27 years ago) seemed like it was everyone, a generation of kids millions strong, who would take over the world (somehow) and create the best music festivals celebrating real alternative music in all its genre splits and subcategories, all of it real, authentic; upending bottom lines and redefining success measures. This was supposed to be happening now, in our 40s. Our renaissance has been delayed, waylaid, trumped by all the skirmishes we are stinging from in a broad cultural war, amid all the other wars and upheavals which have made too many of us create bunkers for bingewatching instead of real music festivals (in North America, at least).

So we music lovers of all ages sometimes feel like the flag bearers in a film’s army attack scene who somehow doesn’t get killed in the raid despite a woeful lack of armour, beating hearts too easy targets, ranks thinning all around us. Looking foolish as our flag is not recognized by too many anymore- not just the establishment but our own former comrades-at-arms. We’ve felt like that, as every single point of discussion, appreciation, purchase (?) and attendance at live music gigs are things that have become another kind of armchair football for the stay-at-home-crowd who are much better at debating and bloviating than they are at getting up and moving their feet. At putting their money where their mouths are. There is real music, and there are real music fans. We’ll meet tonight. It is Christmas.

Slowdive’s new record is the exact sound of what it means to be happy to be alive, and to be unafraid of everything else.

To have come to the edge and back, to know the triumphs of the soul, the body, the brain, the heart, and all that other stuff we take for granted until one or more of them has us by the throat. To be on the other side, the slimmest margin side, of machines beeping out statuses beyond our comprehension, nurses coolly discussing us in jargon that reduces us to toddler helplessness. To have had countless pin pricks in every vein, in places you never thought about having veins, the same veins, the same clotting that can kill or save you depending on the context. To have rewritten the cliches of the bedside, to find you can be an orphan and still be enough for yourself. To find new depths and new heights. To become the rarest of things: a slim statistic that others misunderstand as a lottery win instead of a labyrinth of correct & careful choices and expertise and heroism within and without. Heroism is no accident. And with all this, to remain grounded, too.

We’ve never talked about this outside of our tight friendship circle, but our Co-founder Dave survived, with a 20% chance, a lightning-strike brain aneurysm in late February that took us out of the running of regular life and suspending our passions- music, gigs, photography, and celebration, this magazine, until just recently. After 2 months, the prognosis is a full recovery with a few battle scars. Every spring gig we were anticipating and pre-celebrating, Slowdive chief among them, will forever now be lined with our truth, our joy, and our utter lack of anything left to fear. The ability of music to project itself onto your heart and become a friend has a new depth and resonance today. And there is no finer sound to mark a good man’s return to life.

This bold statement, that Slowdive’s new record is the exact sound of what it means to be happy to be alive despite the odds, was a spontaneous one from the first few listens,  erupting from the opening 1:14 of “Everyone Knows”, which not only reminds us of something keenly felt, of private hardships, but also fuels the passion of a writer and of a photographer, two lifelong music fans celebrating it for 23 years together, and now, with this website about music. The swirling lift of “Everyone Knows” carries our hopes and drives for music itself, for its future, for its survival and revival despite odds and recent evidence, despite apathy and cynicism, despite fear, despite this young century which let us all down so badly. The ending of the song trails with a tambourine that evokes a rattlesnake. This is war alright. Get ready. Choose your weapon: guitar, pen, wallet.

The album’s lead singles “Star Roving” & “Sugar for the Pill” can now be heard and enjoyed in album order, in a focused, proper way. And there you will find, halfway through, that the opening of “Everyone Knows” is a rich layered tapestry of everything Slowdive, and Slowdive alone, is known and rightly admired for. Why we, why music, needs their intervention. One thousand words in a digital article is blasted clean by one harmony from Rachel and Neil. This record is drenched, like the slim, elegant body of Slowdive’s work before it, with real musicianship combined with rich and rare vocal harmonic layering from people who know each other best (and bests, and worsts) and whose special magic is untouched by time or outside forces. It is precise and clean, unfurling and filling the air just long enough to make you want more.  It is hypnotic, it is definitely Shoegaze- if you love that word- and it is definitely not Shoegaze- if you oppose that label or labels themselves. It is Slowdive. It is music. It will make you understand what music is and can be. It is the musical equivalent of Stanley Kubrick’s 60s films, which invented new techniques in secret in obsessive ritual or bursts of kismet or expertise among real, rare artists that lessers and even other geniuses marvel at, revisit, try to decode even now. And maybe forever. It is fucking art. It is not a file, a download or something you can steal or sneer at.

The repeat & close listening of the real music lover/critic will reveal that there are numerous call backs from within the new songs to other songs, and other Slowdive albums. We’ve all heard the stunning “Yesterday”, a Pygmalion – era demo, notes of which emerge in the new record, first in lead track “Slomo”, beautifully. It’s a statement. It’s picking up a thread and making it seem effortless, it’s the lovely painting that does not reveal 10,000 hours of labour. It’s godly.

“Slomo” almost defies description. Without lyric sheets, one can only hope that a lifelong urge to pick out words is correct (not wishful thinking) in interpreting a single utterance of a line in the bridge as “give me your heart again give me your hide” for the truth of love is deep, not for the faint of heart, and pagan. Here on the ground, it gets messy. We fight for transcendence. We bear scars if we’ve lived.

As fans of post-Slowdive project Mojave 3, we hear some layers of Mojave, particularly in some of Neil Halstead’s solo vocal arrangements. This thrills us to no end, as it sound tracked and healed our own mid-2000s break up. We came back, stronger, too.  The Mojave references, subtle as they are (Mojave was always a folk-esque stripped down Slowdive) makes the new Slowdive album a continuum of a larger artistic work, one unbroken by time and, well, breaks (for both bands) one with a purity and majesty that this underrated and yet cherished band deserves. One that will reward listeners for years to come. One that invites future tours and new innovations and capabilities for expansion of an already solid set of early material, and lesser heard essential Mojave material, if the million strong 1990 army awakens and dusts off their Docs and gets a new, maybe roomier T-shirt and meets us outside in the new fields of the next few summers.

The payoff will be grand.

Jacqueline Howell with Dave MacIntyre

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