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

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

Belly, the band who released the great 1995 album King, to Tour UK and US this Summer

When Tanya Donnelly announced in February that Belly, the great 90s Alternative rock band, was reuniting for a tour, it was enough to crash websites and cause a happy panic in long dormant but still devoted core fans around the world. Always underrated, this band enjoyed some success but never got their due or longevity of a career that some bands enjoy (however these are fewer and fewer these days.) This relegated them to that special place in our world where we will always keep the CDs and they still get played, only with an added reverence and an untouchable glow. Their album King is, in our view, a let it play start to finish masterpiece.  All of this has placed Belly atop many fans’ wish list for reunion.

Social media has totally changed the lives and relationships of fans and musicians, for those who are willing to (bravely) engage with the people, as Belly and many others of their generation and positive, down to earth attitude do, gamely. Instead of aloof and mystery, artists now have to reckon with personal requests and may find themselves involved in heavily administrative and PR work that comes with the social media territory. If these bands are both deserving (as Belly’s members are) and lucky, their fans can form a supportive network that gives cues about the feasibility of touring and / or recording new music, but they are cues only. The band still has a big risk and a sea change ahead to mount such an endeavor.

Belly’s February announcement of the planned summer tour came along with the promise of new music- another welcome sign of a sea change for this band (and, as flag bearers for the 90s resurgence we so crave, dare we say, for music itself.) While many 90s bands have reunited to tour on the strength of their past hits, the news of new music is rarer but is the catnip new fans and the blogosphere media tends to crave.

In the case of Belly (the band) there is the possibility of confusion about news, touring information and music, due to a situation beyond the band’s control. There is another solo artist performing under the name “Belly”, a rapper from Canada who entered the fray around the mid-2000s. As such, be sure to suss out touring news about Belly (the band) via the band’s official Facebook page or their website. 

Unofficial and semi-official ticket touting sites have already begun confusing the matter by using the wrong picture (of Belly the band, or their logo) for a gig belonging to the solo rap artist who hails from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Please cross reference any such info with official sources.

Belly the band: Tanya Donnelly, Gail Greenwood, Tom Gorman and Chris Gorman, kick off the U.K. leg of their tour in Glasgow July 15th, with stops in Leeds, Manchester, Norwich, Notts, Bristol, London and Dublin (July 23) before heading back to the U.S. starting with Boston August 9, and hitting major U.S. hubs (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland, Philly & more) for the rest of the summer.

Jacqueline Howell

The Subways and PINS at Mod Club, Toronto / North American Tour

“What will we do. What will we do. What will we do – when our dreams come true?” is the rallying cry from Manchester’s PINS, whose voices, in unison, infuse each repeated line of the phrase with multiple meanings. It’s gutsy. It’s fresh. It’s a delicious throwback to a time we all want, no, need to get back to when music was always raw, alive, sly with a twist of menace, pretty and dangerous. It’s the real deal. And we are getting it on the back half of a major spring tour as they’ve worked their way from Cardiff to Austin to here.

It is, unfortunately, always worth noting when Toronto rock club show crowds allow themselves to impart emotion, enjoyment, be seen moving, or express much sound beyond the furtive “WHOOO”s that come out of the dark from people like us, answered in kind by other anonymous owls in the darkness. This is just our way in Toronto the dry. One wonders what visiting bands think. Bands out of England, from places historically known for bottling their disapproval, a nation of experts and hecklers, a land of regional identities and generations of music lovers and real night owls, ones who can hold their pints, characters bred for toughness.

In the belt-tightened economy of the live music scene today, outside of the grey concrete nothingness of mega stadiums, a place like Toronto is ever-more privileged and lucky to be included in so many “American” tours of visiting U.K. bands that one could almost weep. We are routinely presented with no less than the cream of the still thriving Indie world of the U.K. and Europe, and we are visited by the best and the brightest bands of recent years and those of tomorrow-the ones who still deserve much more love after years of grinding.

On nights like tonight, it all comes together. Jaded industry types are forced to the margins while real music fans come alive. There is no pit, no obvious security, and the boundaries of stage and and crowd are respected by mutual agreement, except when a singer sits and stands among us, at first surrounded by sheepish men who cannot meet her gaze, then by females who move in and fill in a circle around her and rock out in a way long missed in these parts.

And so faces are turned upward like old footage of the devout in far away Pentecostal churches, and we come alive for a few hours on this Tuesday night, given permission and power by the marvelous energy of five strong, talented women known as PINS. This is their first time in Toronto. The music is noisy but clean, powerful and confident. The look of the band is intense, and as wonderfully uniform as all the great bands are/were once. They are young but like the best, most galvanizing young bands ever did and still do, they’ve done their homework: visually and musically. Wow. It’s all there: Jesus and Mary Chain. My Bloody Valentine. Hole. Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Early Cure. The Ramones, even. PINS feels like vinyl sounded on headphones. They’re exciting. A real find. And PINS comes as we always knew it would, again, in Doc Martens. Clad all in black tonight, in all its best variations, in pitch perfect styles referencing the best days- when live music was mostly still captured in black and white. And what other colours do you need?

The Subways are the headliner tonight, and they bring a well honed body of work that is four albums strong (most recently, 2015’s self-titled release, along with a regular output of EPs and special issues). The Subways hail from Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, U.K. and their name is a bit of a curiosity for Anglophiles in Canada and the States as we know that the”subways” of our bigger cities is akin to London’s “tube”. But the subway of the band’s name is an underground walkway to cross a road (thank you, Wikipedia) an obvious choice of youth hangout which has a pretty universal, parent-defying appeal by any name anywhere as long as there has been skateboards and graffiti and Smirnoff in underage back pockets.

The Subways are a tight three-piece unit who’ve been around just long enough to be able to claim one of music’s highest honours- John Peel was the first radio DJ to play their single on National radio. This energetic band sounds much bigger than their number and brings the feeling of a great gang. In the Mod Club tonight, locals and visitors from U.S. border cities are treated to something ultra-rare and special in our culture that one imagines and fantasizes is the province of British pub life nightly at gigs big and small – some truly great stage banter that makes us feel like instant and forever friends. After the exciting cold shower of PINS (who dedicate their second-to-last song to The Subways), the headliners immediately make the stage their own with their unique rhythms and energy. The Subways emerged out of that great global mid-aughts movement that brought us The Strokes, The Killers, and Franz Ferdinand when corporate pop and dance music was seriously threatened for the first time in a while. And tonight’s good news continues, The Subways are still flagbearers. They still sound so immediate, youthful and fresh, and are still needed for the revolution we are fighting for in music which will not be machine made but just like this: stripped down with a great rock vocal that is timeless, one reminiscent of the great energy and irrepressible defiance of Liam Gallagher.

In between songs, and a stage dive where Singer Billy Lunn is caught and returned to the stage with love and care, Lunn regales us with pub-like fireside tales that we don’t write down because you had to be there. The band is gracious, warm, and approachable. The set is full and fulsome. The band banters with each other and gives each member their time in the spotlight, including a great drum solo-ish song (complete with spotlight lighting) for Josh Morgan. It’s the first North American trip for the band in eight years, and there is a definite, honest, and well-earned mutual appreciation society vibe. This band has traversed the open stages of Glastonbury, T in the Park, and more across Europe (2005’s “Rock & Roll Queen” was a massive chart hit in UK and North America and is an instant classic that gets a rousing response tonight, but is among other older and newer songs equally strong). You can hear this great potential in their sound even inside the walls of the mid-size Mod Club, and a definite wish is formed to see them again somewhere in the world among one of these festival crowds. Thousands of miles away from those storied fields of the great festivals, the crowd in Toronto is made to feel just as big, just as important. Rock n’ Roll with heart and grit will win. The revolution rolls on.

The Subways North American Spring Tour 2016 rolls on through May 3rd, with support from PINS (all dates). Get out there, West Coast!

The Subways. Facebook. Special Record Store Day release out on Pledge Music

The Subways are Billy Lunn, Charlotte Cooper & Josh Morgan.

PINS. Facebook.  Wild Nights LP on Bella Union

PINS are Faith Vern (vocals/guitar), Anna Donigan (bass), Lois Macdonald (guitar), Sophie Galpin (drums) & Kyoko Swann (synths/guitar).

Jacqueline Howell

The Watchmen: Life in Stereo (Live Review)

The Watchmen
Saturday January 30th
The Danforth Music Hall, Toronto

It sounds like bullshit but you ever notice
This whole town of ice and snow
Gets you running, yeah, to chasing something
What it is I’ll never know, just hope one day that it shows

Any day now it will come  (“Any Day Now”)

Canada is a difficult, rugged, and vast place. Always has been, and always will be. See Leo DiCaprio with icicles in his beard in The Revenant. That’s us. Easy to forget this for those who’ve never traversed even part of it, whose only experience with it is to see our major cities masquerading as New York or Chicago in countless films. It’s even easy to forget for those of us in it, difficult really, to see past our own regional concerns or provincial borders. The cosmic difficulty of knowing and seeing this country is probably best understood by our musicians who spend years of their lives in bars and concert halls, from University towns to steel towns, and across impossibly long stretches of road that separate us. They’ve actually criss-crossed it over years and seen rocks give way to plains, to concrete, to small towns charmingly frozen in 1960, to the sea that arrives gently in the east, always too suddenly and without fanfare.

Geographically, the United Kingdom could fit comfortably inside Manitoba with room left over. Yet much of our musical vocabulary comes from England or the U.S. For awhile, it was different. In the 80’s and 90’s, Canada enjoyed a too-brief renaissance of our own, due to our original, well-supported and diverse music industry and local scenes that enabled many great bands to thrive and grow. Our heads were turned, for a while, from the envy/bemusement/annoyance of the noise coming, always coming, from the U.S. and the British Imports we treasured and rated above all other music we heard.

Aided by MuchMusic, thriving college radio stations, and a then-solid presence of rock/Alternative radio (in Toronto, CFNY 102.1), not to mention a rock club and pub scene that was strong more or less from coast to coast- 5000 kilometres across country- rock music and we kids came of age amid a rich musical heritage that matured from cover band rock and east coast fiddle music to incorporate all those foreign influences we’d always absorbed from the air and to form something new. In other words, Canada itself and Canadian alternative/rock music at last became cool while becoming dominant to an unprecedented degree. This wasn’t the tradition of one band breaking through to the U.S. and becoming claimed by them. It was a sea change that was too big and too strong to be poached or lured away, and it was ours. Books will be written about it.


The Watchmen were formed in 1988 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Gigging and radio station on-air visits led to their by now quite accomplished body of work with debut 1993 album McLaren Furnace Room, which was named for their early rehearsal space, the furnace room of The McLaren Hotel in Winnipeg. This title is funny, humble and full of heart=Canadian. Gaining prominence alongside other strong Canadian bands such as Blue Rodeo, Grapes of Wrath, The Tragically Hip, The Lowest of the Low and The Pursuit of Happiness, The Watchmen took their name from the highly original, literature redefining 1986 graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The band shared with their contemporaries a well-read intellect but an approachable attitude mixed with an outsider type of wry humour, an arched brow but always good humour.

In just five years, The Watchmen released an impressive four rock solid records: McLaren Furnace Room (1993) In The Trees (1994) Brand New Day (1996) and Silent Radar (1998) these were followed up with the compilation Slomotion in 2001. It’s no wonder we took them a little for granted, like so many good things of the 90’s, as The Watchmen became part of the fabric of our lives; believing we could always see them on the road; that our record stores would be our generation’s news stand forever; Edgefest would continue summer in and summer out; Eden Music Fest was just the first of many huge festivals to come and our College radio stations would continue to thrive and deny the encroachment of manufactured pop music that had retreated for awhile. We were there, we had the T-Shirt. The 90’s momentum, its genuine optimism and hope about the music industry and all the industries and culture itself that it fed, felt permanent and infallible for awhile. Fortunately though, we read our Watchmen back in 1988 too. We all braced for dark, even nihilistic times ahead, and as 70’s kids, were also well-fed on nostalgia. The great Alternative music era of the 90’s was about to be usurped by boy bands and Britney. The Watchmen would secure a strong legacy for their fans, but in this difficult, rugged and vast country, were and are yet underrated in the musical landscape.

At The Danforth Music Hall, the largest Toronto stage we’ve ever seen them on, the college girls of the 90’s still sing all the words, louder than the PA, for “All Uncovered”. The whole crowd treats themselves to singalongs. Singer Daniel Greaves shares this spotlight with the crowd, generously, saying “you got this.” We get more than 20 songs, a bit of bongos, a bit of a cappela (Billy Bragg’s Richard!) The crowd at the Music Hall is shoulder to shoulder, wall to wall, polite, exuberantly happy.

What you need to know about The Watchmen in 2016 is they are still remarkable. They sound and look as strong and vital as if they stepped out of 1998. But as a band of that special, bygone time, they bring something back to this great stage that is increasingly hard to come by. The talent that grows through the authentic hustle. The working musician’s seamless, stoic energy and power. The sound that is brewed out of countless miles, years of guys-who are friends-in bunks trying to sleep in fits and starts, smokes shared outside hammered-in back doors of beloved and now endangered institutions like The Horseshoe with fans, and creating original, essential entries into the canon of rock music. It’s a sound that once was standard but can only be made by the noble few who’ve managed to travel this country and unite people far and wide for music and for love – all the intangible stuff of life that spreads so much further than money.

My life is a stereo
Kind of cheaply made though
How bad does it show
What ever did become of all my friends
What ever happened to the likes of all of them

My life is a stereo
Turn me on and let’s go
Turn me up louder
I’ll scream as loud and clear as I can scream
If you like what you’re hearing please hang on to me (“Stereo”)

Essential tracks: Silent Radar, Run & Hide, Stereo, All Uncovered, Crazy Days, Any Day Now.

The Watchmen play The Burton Cummings Theatre, Winnipeg, Manitoba, March 24th, Casino Regina March 25th, and Marquee, Calgary Alberta, March 26th.

The Watchmen’s official site The Watchmen on Twitter (All lyrics quoted in article c. The Watchmen.)

By Jacqueline Howell

Guilty of Everything by Nothing

Nothing is a band for introverts; they make music that’s best for headphones – for muting all the cars and people, and just watching the rush of life silently go by like leaves washing down a stream. For years the Alt-Rock genre was led by pioneers like Sonic Youth, Pixies, and Dinosaur Jr. To the savvy listener, Nothing sounds like the next wave of leaders for the new Alt-Rock. Nothing is paving the way forward, a renaissance of noise, of fuzz, of pure awesome. The 2014 album Guilty of Everything builds tension through its slow, climactic builds. This music is an adrenaline shot right to the soul; it can lift the bags from under the eyes, and palpitate the heart as effectively as a few shots of espresso.

The hardcore punk-rock influence of Nothing is evident in the wall of noise approach of the guitars, it’s heavy, even daunting to the listener – but the melodies are sad, lonely, infectious. Dream-pop infused with punk is never a bad thing. The vocal delivery on this album is like the soul boiling over. If the guitar, drums and bass of Nothing are the chaos and frustration of life, then the vocals are the soul, the human spirit lifting off to transcend everything else. And it only just makes it out – the vocals barely rise above the noise, just loud enough to deliver the corresponding melody and maybe a few coherent words now and again. It’s beautiful stuff, and with such a delivery track after track, “Guilty of Everything” becomes one endless delivery of pathos.


Bent Nail

Bent Nail is a Sebadoh inspired track that blisters with an old school melodic punk energy. The guitars are furious and fuzzy, before opening up into a lush, even fuzzier, power-chord laden, climactic and ambient piece of shoegaze. This track, rather, this band, is what nowadays would be called a retro call-back to a time when alternative rock was fresh, dangerous, and even scary – when it was just a bunch of long haired kids wailing into a mic.


Endlessly picks up where Bent Nail left off. The guitars on this track scream. They scream like a dying, primordial beast gasping for one last breath. Images of the urban landscape bubble up from the melodies, but enclosed in dank mist; a swamp of modernity, where we’re all, in a way, stuck. Endlessly sounds like what it would be like hurled through time, and then looking back, a million years from now, onto our extinct civilization.

Get Well

Get Well is my favorite track on the album. Pure punk energy, it winds up the body like a coil spring. I can feel this track in my muscles, in my eyeballs. I haven’t heard anything with such raw energy since the Pixies. It explodes with simple melodies and instrumentation, but this is a good thing. It’s at the tail end of a couple tracks that are slow-building, emotional pieces of musical poetry. Get Well is the catharsis of Guilty of Everything.

We also wrote about Nothing’s live show and more on the album Guilty of Everything here. We have another photo gallery from Nothing’s recent tour stop in Toronto here. NOTHING is on a U.S. tour from May to June 2015; they also will play Montreal’s OSHEAGA Music Fest. Get more info at the band’s official Facebook page.

Cory Zydyk is a Vancouver-based writer who is a frequent contributor to Step on magazine and writes on both music and film. Recently Cory reviewed Headlights by The River and the Road.

Nothing Can Save Us

“There’s no such thing as old or new,” sang a resigned Nigel Benjamin on “Career”, Mott’s 1976 hymn to blank horizons, “Cuz everything’s been said and done before.” It was a sorry indictment of the music scene from one of the country’s most inventive bands, now at the end of the road. An impasse had been reached; there was no way forward, no tomorrow. To carry on in the same old way was meaningless and empty; all that was left was to grow old and fade. Little did Benjamin know that a new generation was already on the rise, fueled by the energy, anger and fearlessness of youth. If history, tradition, received wisdom and musicality were barriers to progress, then they would be smashed apart and the broken shards trampled on with contempt. Odd fragments would be stuck together in a random order to create something different. The past would be rebuilt into a future with no rules, no inhibitions and no apologies. The most inventive and bravest era in musical history had begun.

Punk fractured the music industry and pried its deathly grip from the throat of creativity. Though the corporations were quick to reassert their hold on commercial pop, independent labels now provided a fertile breeding ground for those with scant regard for fame and success but a burning desire to express themselves in new and vital ways. The post-punk scene was a broken limb, loosely connected to the whole but hanging free, impossible to control and swaying in unpredictable directions. It could be painful, it could be shambolic, it could be bleak, but it could also be stunningly beautiful. In 1983, Cocteau Twins, at the height of their creative powers, released an album and EP of quite uplifting grandeur. The common track on the pair was “Sugar Hiccup”, a kaleidoscopic waltz that showered the listener in patterns of dazzling light as it spun them around the room. One guitar laid down a shimmering backdrop of the gentlest distortion, while another chimed gorgeously in front. A drum machine hurried the dance along, while Liz Fraser’s voice crushed you into a helpless, simpering wreck. There wasn’t the faintest clue as to what she was singing about; this music was about the textures of sound, the voice an instrument that gave the song both resonance and depth.

On playing NOTHING’s Guilty of Everything some thirty years later, it was a shock to hear “Sugar Hiccup” pouring out of the speakers. Yet this was that song drained of colour, devoid of light, injected with iron and titled “Endlessly”. Opening to a deliberately familiar, low-key guitar introduction, the background guitar scrapes rather than soothes, while the chiming guitar is now a siren, bursting in on the second line of each verse and soaring in pitch and waywardness until it reaches dangerous heights. This creates a void that is quickly filled, giving the song a reeling immensity. Its epic scope turns your focus to the vocals, as passionless and smooth as they are dark, “Stains on the sheets, childhood blood that would soak through our jeans”. It paints a terrifying picture with a longing for an endless release that never comes, “Heavy. The world’s so heavy. Carry…” Desperate and unremitting. There are no machines here, but purposeful and grounded drumming that keeps you rooted in reality. This is no skip through a magical wonderland, but a dance of the doomed. And where Cocteau Twins end their song with a little flourish that seems to say, “Beat that”, Nothing’s song ends with its own personal beating, a measured assault of the drums.

NOTHING build upon the past rather than stand in awe of it, brilliantly fusing their hardcore roots with other underground sounds of the last thirty years. It takes skill and imagination to mess with the best and still emerge with such potent results, but they manage it with a detached assurance, dragging grace from darkness and creating monochrome vistas that entice but reject all attempts at empathy. And it’s glorious.

In an interview with Noisey, Dominic “Nicky” Palermo, described the essential cocktail of music he ingested as a kid that shaped his musical influences:

“I grew up in a single parent home and my brother and my sister were out of the house. We kind of lived in a shitty neighbourhood, so I was shook and I think my mom was also shook. I would just sleep in her room all the time, and she would always listen to college radio and Cocteau Twins records, Siouxsie, all that stuff. And that used to scare the hell out of me because they had some creepy songs. Even the Cure, like Pornography, would terrify me. But I wound up knowing the songs and learning them. But it’s really weird music for a seven-year-old to like. My brother, though, was feeding me punk rock and hardcore, so I got a little bit of everything.”

A musician who, at seven years old, was “shook” and listened late at night to the early, great, darkest Cure, Pornography no less, and Cocteau Twins with a cool mom, then Punk and Hardcore, with his brother, is exactly what the world needs right now. Urgently.

All these ingredients of the perfect cocktail are there. A Molotov cocktail.

NOTHING’s Guilty of Everything combines lush vocal melody with a massive wall of instrumentation that reminds us how post-rock sensibilities provide a beautiful mix of grit and calm. Straight from the single “Dig,” you recognize the 90’s alt-rock Smashing Pumpkins/Deftones vibe with a blend of layered clean and distorted guitars in a driving pulse that places you under the lights of a crowded show. Tracks like “Somersault” bring a laid back groove with soaring guitar melodies to crashing drums that breathe gracefully. Each track compliments the last in providing this blend of pumping rock and big emotion. There is a certain appeal to this approach that definitely translates to the stage, and NOTHING provides this sound for listeners who enjoy the light melancholic vibe within crunchy, fuzzy guitars and pounding rhythms. 

Stripped back and genuine in sound, NOTHING provides a solid debut LP of headbangers and introspective moments of chilled out ambience that takes you away from the cluster of overly produced and generic rock music that frequents most popular media. The album consistently barrages the listener with dynamic louds and softs in a soundscape that strengthens the overall experience of an album and performance. 2.

Listen to all nine tracks of Guilty of Everything, a truly great debut LP/CD, like the rare and not always appreciated great debut records that came before it. Listen to it again: it’s greater than so many debut LPs that came before it. Released in March 2014, the band has been touring steadily in support of the album and generating solid buzz everywhere they land.

“Although they are often pegged as a post-shoegaze band, NOTHING’s live performance abandons the genre’s namesake, favouring a vigorous, animated stage presence over the passive stance contemporaries are known for. This is in part due to the band’s noisy, gritty live sound coming across as more powerful than their recordings. The layers of reverb that add a delicate feel to their recorded vocals are foregone in a live setting, and more dissonant elements amongst the instrumentals are introduced.” Exclaim review of Lee’s Palace show, Toronto March 21, 2015.

At Lee’s Palace, NOTHING’s music erupts; it doesn’t wait to be asked, and yet it’s the antidote to what ails society. Because there is always a new strain, a pop musical pandemic spreading like the one we are exposed to right now. Once in a great while, once in a generation, music may upend the balance and let authenticity, rage, grief, and pure, uncut art blast through to the masses. This time is here and now. There is nowhere to go from here. Pop music’s stars with their dead eyes are more than ever, cynical, manufactured, monsters. There’s no fun in pop left: it’s fascism, it’s death. It’s child abuse. Kids need to hear those minor keys and feel the vibrations from the floor of the rock club and be present. Luckily for us, in plain view of the suits, a generation of kids with moms who listened to college radio to get through the longest nights have picked up the guitars and have the sly, innate talent to B & E this rigged musical game.

Only once every few years, something comes along that vibrates the body at a primal level with the feeling of imminent danger one minute, and the flicker of impossible to believe happiness, of empathy, the next minute. Impossibly, this music understands you, speaks to you, slaps you in the face; turns things cinematic for a little while in your little apartment, in your little head, in your little life. For us, love’s gotta be like that: something that has those perfect layered harmonies, that revels in its human fragility, a voice or an instrument that has risen because of need and will, not because they heard they should be up on stage all their life. Maybe because they heard no encouragement all their lives. Maybe they heard nothing, except how to somehow survive, just like they did as kids. Like too many of us kids. Music like this comes from outsiders, from the self-made, from nihilists who are really brokenhearted romantics.

It spills from somewhere tough and genuinely rough, whether the poorest parts of so many American towns, The Ramones’ gritty world view of the Five Boroughs; the decaying English city so far north of the center that London cab drivers stop and ask you why you’d ever want to go there, a place the rags call “STAB CITY” (yet you go there, alone, to see your chosen history, the home of all the musical Gods of Manchester). Great music comes screaming out of rainy, starkly beautiful drug-addled hubs that have hidden depths of so many scarred, beautiful souls. It comes, too, from normal looking families that are secret battlegrounds for a hundred different private family reasons.

When things are dark, we each have our own private darkness. Yet, the dark nothingness is today’s shared cultural touchstone: we’ve all been sad for a really long time. It’s dark out here in the anti-social media world. Every click, every feed, contains semi-random snapshots that hold potential to delight, astound, cause a belly laugh, anger, disgust, repulse. Baby animals; kids saying the darndest things; Mommy taking a picture for Facebook instead of reacting humanely to a child’s embarrassment, shame or pain; disgraceful news media showing ISIS pictures before we can agree to look; people who are shamefully wealthy and famous for nothing at all any good. These things all scroll by as if they are all one neutral thing, while we wonder why we can’t sleep.

Music fans are either old enough to remember that new music was an event and trips to the record store a sacred ritual,  or were were born just in time to miss all that; when the last great true organic moment happened in music. For a while, the game board was smashed and 90’s Alternative music ruled, only to have it die too young, leaving a gaping shotgun hole and shoved off screen before the body was even cold, opening the door to worse pop music than ever before. But music, even then, was not yet devalued, compressed and shoved in our ear holes, alone from a tiny machine, a tool to survive the daily grind. In the last great Alternative wave of the 90’s, the idea that all the record stores, most of the dive bars, rock clubs and the shared public cigarettes in all the cities would disappear because of file compression technology was pure dystopian Science Fiction. Its become our dull reality. Internet and social media channels are what we largely have outside of the concert hall and the rock club. Likes and shares are really nothing, but they’re what we have- they’ve replaced the real tour posters that used to flourish in a city before we were told to see them as wasted dead trees and knew them as necessary, vital, and the only news that mattered to us in the street.

Real rock critics in the old days could love wildly as well as pan mercilessly, but wielded their power with a deep, uncorruptable knowledge of why they were doing either thing. The media is dead. Everyone’s a rock critic now. So be one. Buy into the Alternative bands you love. Spread the word. Ignore the pop vacuum, even the easy joke. Screw ironic detachment. Break something. Start a riot. Remember what it was the first time you heard The Jesus & Mary Chain, The Cure, Nirvana, or Slowdive. NOTHING in 2015 is transcendent, a light flickering in its own darkness. It’s a long awaited answer to Jane’s Addiction when Summertime Fucking Rolled; it’s an illegal fire, an uncontrolled burn to fight our endless winter chill.

NOTHING’s music, with its roots in hardcore, authentic musical knowledge and natural talent, makes for a tight and exciting live show that infuses the rock club with stadium-sized energy. It knows just when to quit, leaving you wanting another hit. It hooks the listener who knows what it means to be Guilty of Everything. This music acknowledges it all, brings it out into the light, and transcends all of that ugly. It comes from dark places and hits us where we live. It takes the bleakness of now and makes it tolerable, even beautiful.

Just listen.

By Step On magazine co-founders and editors with:

1. Adam Hammond: head of Isolation in Sussex, once a small record label and now an independent music website; also a gig promoter.

and 2. Alex Gougeon: a Toronto-based freelance Writer, Musician and Videographer who loves everything Film and Music.

NOTHING is on a U.S. tour from May to June 2015; they also will play Montreal’s OSHEAGA Music Fest. Get more info at the band’s official Facebook page.

The Jesus and Mary Chain to celebrate 30th anniversary of Psychocandy at Canadian Music Week


Today at 10:55 a.m. was one of those rare, special “refresh refresh refresh” moments as Toronto (and visiting) fans of the one and only Jesus and Mary Chain waited for tickets to go on sale  at 11:00. The just announced May 1st show at the Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto, Canada as part of Canadian Music Week’s program, was the biggest surprise in a  diverse and strong program this year.

Tickets can be found at Ticket Web and will sell out fast.

Click here to go to Ticket Web link

It is expected that JAMC will be playing their stellar 1985 debut record, Psychocandy, in full as part of their U.K. /U.S./ Canadian tour.

The Phoenix, as one of Toronto’s mid sized venues (less than stadium sized but bigger than many rock clubs) has a capacity of just 1,350 so tickets will be extremely limited.

We are so excited to have gotten our tickets (after much “refreshing”) and will have more coverage of the show and other notables on the CMW program to come in the months ahead.

Now, on with the celebration!

For as you already know,  “The Hardest Walk you could ever take is the walk you take from A to B….to C”

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