Talk – Action = 0 – Canadian punk legends hit the road again

By Sheldon Birnie

Over 30 years after forming Canadian political hardcore pioneers D.O.A., band leader Joe “Shithead” Keithley is back with on the road with a retrospective, Talk – Action = 0. Unflinchingly political, D.O.A. have played thousands of shows, and well over 200 benefit concerts for causes such anti-racism, women’s rights, anti-globalization and the environment. The book contains extensive rare photographs, show posters, hand written notes and lyrics, as well as a detailed history of the band and their activism. Preparing for the next leg of their tour, Joe took time out to speak to Stylus about the book, the band and the state of activism today.
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Hillbilly Highway – Gettin’ loose with Those Darlins

by Sheldon Birnie

Those Darlins are a group of three babes and one sweet dude who rock. The formula is sure fire – who doesn’t love babes? – but their output is above and beyond the pale.

The Hillbilly Highway is filled with groups with similar dynamics. Hell, Winnipeg itself is infested with successful groups of rootsy babes. But there’s more to kicking ass at every honky-tonk on the Hillbilly Highway than a pretty face or three. Those Darlins are different. Hard work, crotch punching songs and a bunch of hearts hungry for rock have combined: the result is an act to catch while you can.

Currently riding the road in support of their sophomore LP Screws Get Loose, the band is set to play in Minneapolis next week with the Drive-By Truckers, one of my favourite groups in the world. I am making the pilgrimage to Twin Cities, America to catch the gig, and I’d be a goddamn liar if I said I wasn’t pumped. Continue reading “Hillbilly Highway – Gettin’ loose with Those Darlins”

Son Lux – We Are Rising

The world seems to expand like breath in a bubble with the first note of Son Lux’s sophomore album. The nine songs on here have a frenetic back story – We Are Rising was conceived as a response to the RPM Challenge to produce an album in a mere 28 days – but in fact, it couldn’t sound any more polished. On the first track “Flickers,” gates creak open into a huge expanse of crystal music notes and a voice fluttering like a flag. Ryan Lott’s classical training and clear voice make this sound like an unsentimental walk to the altar – if there ever was one. It’s bare, measured, yet unbelievably passionate in the intricacy of its details. I could take a stab at labelling this… classical witch house? But really, Son Lux’s sound is something completely of its own. Trumpets and waving sighs accompany “All the Right Things” hip-hop throb. “Claws” is excellently fuzzy and heavy. So yes, Lott’s got range, but through this there’s a distinct peacefulness on every track that stems not from lack of sound but from the feeling that he definitely knows where he’s going and is getting there at the right pace. And even though the lyrics of “Let Go” consist of the same two words repeated 120 times, it’s far from boring: it’s hypnotic, with a curiously heart-pumping mixture of club-like beats and forest piping. All this sound rushes into a peak that makes you feel like a kitten being picked up by the skin of its neck and paralyzed by pleasure. Is there anything else you could ask for? (Anticon, Adrienne Yeung

AMEN DUNES – Through Donkey Jaw

Arriving to the party a tad late, I’ve since become a member of the church of Amen Dunes. Damon McMahon’s latest seems a little less improv than his debut D.I.A., and a tad more “poppy” and structured. “Baba Yaga” starts off the album with some beautiful meander and almost unintelligible lyrics (English, yeah, but the phrasing is odd). But whenever he sings the refrain, “You know that I, I lie,” each time more soaring than the last, the goosebumps start to pop up. Same with “Swim Up Behind Me,” the lyrics are always in English but are treated as another instrument, twisted and tangled and sounding unconventional. “Good Bad Dreams” sounds like a late ’60s Stones-on-mescaline trip, Satanic Majesties-style and “Not A Slave” sounds a little Eastern, like something you’d hear coming from the closed tent of a night-time bazaar. The whole listen is completely ethereal and a tad spooky, demanding repeated listens to peel back its many layers. Oh yeah, if you buy the CD version of Donkey Jaw, you get two exclusive bonus tracks, “Gem Head,” a shimmering jungle-beat jangly ’60s trip-out and the 10+ minute freakout “Tomorrow Never Knows” that sounds like Nine Inch Nails meets 23 Skidoo. Essential, if ya know what’s good for ya! (Sacred Bones, Patrick Michalishyn

Alpha Couple – WHNZ:27:NJNYC

After their departure from Winnipeg, Alpha Couple conceived this album on the road. Driving/touring/vacationing/living/playing somewhat directionless, Jax and Wohlgemuth eventually ended up in Toronto, where they have both called home together before—when they created their Alpha Couple concept. Coincidentally, I didn’t listen to this album until I was on a road trip myself, entering the California border around witching hour. Gone are Stalingrad’s pop sensibilities, and (through oddly emphatic associations) it seems like there is no destination to these songs either—samples and vocals drift or wave or fly by, anchored around some loop, acoustic guitar, or piano riff. And in the exchange, AC have honed in on the haunting beauty that has been the driving force behind them all along. Most powerful is the behemoth-length album opener “A Walk Through Central Park” at nearly 15 minutes. Consisting of reverbed vocals, only three acoustic chords (if that), and samples from the radio and answering machines, the song is a testament to their self-prescribed label “tweenoise.” Two songs of reconstructed Stalingrad tracks marks Wohlgemuth and Jax (who, for full disclosure, is a Stylus writer) heading headfirst into noise/ambient territory. All in all, this is an eerier, darker release than their full-length—and up for grabs through the Free Music Archive. Worth the download for anyone wanting to get out of their comfort zone and experience some freshly charted areas of music. (We Have No Zen, Taylor Burgess

TERRA LIGHTFOOT – Terra Lightfoot

A sleeping wolf, a feisty wolf – what album art could better depict the nature of Terra Lightfoot’s eponymous debut? Released this September on Hamilton based indie label Sonic Unyon, Lightfoot proffers an album that creeps from cool mellow alt-country tracks and minimalist folk ballads to brazen country and rock. With an unexpected nimbleness, Lightfoot hooks the listener changing the pace and direction of her songs, most notably on “Lucid Dreams” – a song about revisiting a past relationship through sleep that begins with cello and guitar and culminates in an intensely emotional rock jam. Known for her work in the roots-country group The Dinner Belles, Lightfoot’s subtle math-rock influence is a nice touch, making these songs distinct from most of the other indie-folk femmes bopping around today. Dale Morningstar (Gordon Downie, Godspeed You! Black Emperor) produces the 25 year-old’s lush first album. Sorrowful generally, with a bit of whimsy – this old sleepy wolf, this little playful one – sounds like a cross between The Cowboy Junkies and Julie Doiron (with a pinch of Don Caballero). If you missed Terra at the Lo Pub last week, make sure you don’t repeat the mistake next time she passes through town. (Sonic Unyon, Cole Snyder

Tim Hoover – Should Have Grabbed More Napkins

photo : Tyler Sneesby
By Adrienne Yeung

I know you’ve heard/seen Dj Co-op around town sometime, somewhere –  perhaps DJing at Grippin’ Grain, or as half of the Co-op/Hunnicut duo. But less ubiquitous is the name of the man behind the turntable. Meet Tim Hoover and his most recent project, which is a huge departure from hip-hop beats you might hear him spinning on any other night. He’s created 60 minutes of richly layered instrumental music, stirring together lost-and-found samples with his own compositions. The day after his album listening party at the Planetarium, we got away from the heat and the traffic at Bar Italia to talk about recording under his own name this time to produce this totally different sounding album, More Napkins.

Stylus: You said the “real” title of the album at the show last night. What’s that?
Tim Hoover:
It’s I Should Have Grabbed More Napkins. It’s just a thing that I’ve been saying for years. It should be on my tombstone. But it seemed a bit clunky for a full album title. I love napkins, but I never have enough of them!

[Stylus hands Tim a napkin. Tim says thanks.]
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Hillbilly Highway – Pit stop with Tim Hus

Tim Hus is a Canadiana Country singer based out of Calgary, AB. Born in Nelson, B.C., Hus has traveled the Hillbilly Highway back and forth across the Great White North countless times, by train, by truck and by thumb. On Thursday, October 20th, he rolls into the Times Change(d) here in Winnipeg for an intimate set in one of his favourite watering holes.

Hus’s latest album, Hockeytown, is a Canadiana beauty in the vein of classic Canadian storytellers like Stompin’ Tom Connors and Ian Tyson. The title track is arguably one of the best hockey songs ever put to tape, up there for certain with Tom’s own classic and Propagandhi’s “Dear Coaches Corner.” I caught up with Tim as he was rolling through rural Quebec, after spending Thanksgiving playing shows on Prince Edward Island, and we quickly got talking about the Jets.

“I’m absolutely thrilled that Winnipeg has the Jets back again,” Hus told me. “I always figured that if there was ever a Canadian city that should have a hockey team, it would have to be Winnipeg. So, I was disappointed when they lost the Jets, and I’m thrilled that you’ve got them back.”
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Dave Alvin – Eleven Eleven

Roots-rock artist Dave Alvin releases a grooving blues number for us with Eleven Eleven. Tapping into that rural-blues sound makes it a perfect listener for the backyard or in the truck blowing down our prairie roads. Alvin, a California native, has a long career of blues and roots music, all of which culminates in this release. For a roots-rock album, it does come off slightly polished on the production side, but this is made up for in the musicianship. Gritty guitar licks laced throughout and some deep soulful vocals get you moving. Timing is perfect as Alvin brings you down to the mellow side midway through, while keeping in touch with that rural vibe, and finishes off the album with “Two Lucky Bums” – a duet with Chris Gaffney – that livens your mood just in time to send you packing. Inside and out, it’s a respectable release. Dave Alvin looks exactly how he sounds and that’s how it should be. Good honest blues, and there’s no lack of it here. (Yep Rock, Kitchen for Stylus Magazine

Camp Radio – Campista Socialista

Once a while there comes a band that never puts enough songs on an album, and takes too long in between them. Camp Radio is one of these bands. Their debut came out back in ’08, ten tight, power pop, sing-alongable songs that hooked in and sounded better louder. Three years – THREE YEARS! – later, one song per year, Camp Radio have finally come around with a killer album #2. “The Girl Who Stole My Motorbike” sets the table with what you can expect over the course of half an hour: big guitars, vocal harmonies, nice ’n’ thick bass riffs, hooks hooks hooks, and Scott Terry’s big, beardy drum-fills. “I Have Designs” kicks into a steady chug, an “early ’90s” punk-rock anthem that would stand out on a Lookout! comp. It’s not all go-go-go, as proven with “I’ve Got You Up My Sleeves,” which takes it into sweetheart territory. Don’t take that as weakling rock; these guys can steep it in sweet without the eyerolling-sickeningness of a pop-ballad. That’s skill. “Slack,” “Cosmic Fair,” “Reinventing The Laugh Track”… really, there’s not a lame song in the pack. The album wraps up with the flexi-disc single “Turn Up The Radio,” marrying the geek-in-the-corner crushiness of a Weezer song with the loud-quiet-loud dynamic of the Pixies in what happens to be one of the best album-closers in recent memory.
Why Camp Radio aren’t spoken in the same breath as Sloan when it comes to great Canadian rock bands, I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m gonna try and change it. Hopefully I don’t have to wait another three years for more proof. Or maybe I’m just greedy. (Kelp,
Patrick Michalishyn for Stylus Magazine