Just an ordinary Wednesday for celebrating all the brave women in punk rock music. The playlist is one I created for our ongoing themed radio show on CFRC 101.9 FM (Or maybe not. I never get the station frequency right… give it time!)
Essentially, this is also me learning how to use technology and marvelling at how a playlist embeds… which was something I was pretty 50-50 on whether would happen or would fail and vanish midway, and will continue to be unsure of until I’ve hit publish… ah, technology, how I marvel at thee in spite of being a computer science major funnily enough.
Enjoy the music, appreciate the circumstances it was made under, and continue to cheer on the courageous women who continue to inspire the genre!
(Yes, I should’ve talked more about each song and the wonderful stories behind them. I did on the show. And I will here too. I’m just a little busy gaping with a dropped jaw at the embed. Technology. All hail programmers.)
(In short, yes, this whole post was just me testing out whether I can embed Spotify content on a blog without using the new editor, or not. The answer is a frustrating no.)
Canadian alt-rock band Goodbye Honolulu live at the Mansion, Kingston. Supports: Figure-8 and Fade Awaays.
Rock music lives in its clubs, bars and taverns. Anyone who has been to an “underground” gig can attest to that. There’s something about having a few hundred people tapping their feet to gravelling distorted sounds originating from an amplifier helped by a microphone, sounds that a little bar couldn’t possibly contain for any longer than an album or two; something about the dim, neon lights and black ceilings and dark walls; something about being so close to the ones trying to explain the inner workings of their minds on a little raised platform we call the stage, as they belt their hearts out, vocally, instrumentally; expressively. To anyone decrying the death and decline of rock music, a peek into its true dwellings would prove educational.
On Thursday, 24th October, Toronto-based alt rock band Goodbye Honolulu decided to give a demonstration worthy of representing the 2019 rock music scene as they opened their Fall 2019 tour at the Mansion in Kingston, ON.
They were joined in their endeavour by Gananoque punk rockers Figure-8, who opened the gig with a burst of energy, rocking out to a sum total of ten people as the sparse crowd got moving to fast paced, upbeat songs about growing up, tinged with a hint of Green Day’s 1994 hit Dookie.
Following them were fellow Toronto indie rockers Fade Awaays, a band with a sound bigger than the venue they filled tonight, with a tight, layered wall of sound emanating from the two guitars on-stage, occasionally doubling the rhythm section to form a formidable wall of sound. (For a band that only released their first EP this January, they have some surprisingly heavy weight behind them, having opened for alt rockstars Wolf Alice and up-and-coming Canadian rockers the Beaches.)
Goodbye Honolulu, who had been in the crowd for most of their supports’ sets, came on stage to a well warmed and receptive audience. This band packs fully formed chord progressions and rock riffs into a neat, loud singable pop package that makes their songs so memorable. Their on-stage personality is dynamic, and guitars and basses are frequently swapped onstage as they rip through their long setlist.
Tonight, the band gave the crowd many songs off their yet-unreleased album, a little dose of their own political opinions, in light of Canada’s just concluded federal election (“fuck Andrew Scheer! Fuck Andrew Scheer!”), many little exchanges with the audience, and on popular demand, crowd favourite single “Typical”.
I saw Goodbye Honolulu live at the Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto six months ago supporting Californian punk rockers SWMRS, and had thought them to be a very well organised act. This time around, in, if possible, an even more intimate setting than Toronto’s iconic club venue, the band let loose the raw energy of a band rearing to take on the notions of what it means to be a rock band as they embark on their latest tour.
Find all three bands on their respective websites (or better yet, at a North American live venue near you!)
Flowing out of tops like the memory of song comes on demand
Except for those agonising moments when you can’t remember
Which is great.
But the only defence of your own downloaded libraries
Is that every single piece on there
Is there of your own free will
And each song is really your own.
Shh, I know, I’ve been gone. I’ve been a terribly escapist vacationer. I’ve been home and I’ve been living the home life. The very home life. The doing absolutely nothing life. Allow me to sneak back into some semblance of normalcy. September is round the corner.
People are always complaining about how things have become so much tamer. People aren’t wild enough. They don’t take enough risks. They don’t step out of home, or their comfort zones.
It’s ubiquitous enough a complain, but it really seems to roar louder in the world of rock music. There are reasons for this.
Since the demise of the grunge movement following Nirvana legend Kurt Cobain’s death, the entire rock music scene lost momentum and spiralled inwards. By the end of the nineties, only the bands that survived the chaos of the younger half of the decade would go on to make it into the next era. The others would be lost, and so would their fans.
As a kid of the aughts, bands from the zeros seem closer and more familiar to me, but on the grand timeline, it could be argued that they were definitely more obscure than rock musicians have been in past decades. For those that did prevail though, the set of problems they faced were a little different in nature than their predecessors.
Of course, those who grew up in the ‘golden ages’ of the sixties, seventies, or even the nineties, claim that they don’t make it like they used to. The nature of showmanship has changed. The faces of venues have changed. Artists’ demeanour is more closely scrutinised than ever before, and they’re everywhere, all the time.
This is a big change. Earlier, the only exposure you’d have to your favourite artist would be through an interview they did with a music magazine, or an MTV special on the late night telly. You’d hear from them when they dropped their music, and of course, in their music, where they’d always be with you. None of these have changed, although as a compelling article in SpinMagazine argues, the interviews have become rarer, and the music has broken itself into smaller and smaller pieces: from albums to singles, and singles to snippets and breadcrumbs (a phenomenon I recently explored and outlined in this article).
What has changed though, is that in addition to this, you can find your favourite bands on YouTube, their personal Instagrams, Twitter, and for younger artists, even Snapchat. Like every other person, they find these platforms ideal to express their own thoughts and opinions. Of course, for a fan what this means is that your favourite stars are now living in your face, having comfortably nestled there after building themselves a little fire and drinking hot chocolate.
Metal exposed to free air for too long begins to rust, and the same is true of your interest in your favourite musicians. The tabloid has exploded, and everybody can be a reporter; heck, the artists themselves can do it. As you scroll through your news feed in infinite scroll mode, there’s too much stuff to catch your eye, and soon enough, the fifth reposted promotional picture of favourite artist becomes boring. You cast a momentary glance at a gothic, high-heeled, heavily made-up picture of that band you like who would swear to be so strictly folk rock that their getup would be otherwise shocking. But then you move on, because you just saw another picture yesterday.
Rock music was built on the social foundations of ‘rebel and shock’, but what used to shock people is either seen so often that it’s just not shocking anymore, or it’s simply unacceptable.
If Iggy Pop were a rising musician today, he’d have had a tough time.
Iggy relied heavily on the effects of the shock he could have on people, and do it more subtly than contemporaries who would proclaim themselves rebels. (See: MC5)
In particular, Iggy used to cut himself up with a blade live.
Today, he’d probably be cast as having mental health problems. He’d be told, it’s okay, everyone has darker days, and it’s great that you’re putting it out there for everyone to see. Self-inflicted harm? Total sign. Do talk to someone though, please!
And he’d have been a mental health advocate, broken by the stress we all face, a product of that system, with all our respect and our sympathy.
Rebels don’t get your sympathy, and that’s what endeared young rock and rollers to him. That’s what shocked people, and what made him a rebel. It simply wouldn’t work today.
In the face of this, the Noel Gallaghers of the world say that bands simply don’t have it in them anymore, that they’re not dangerous enough. They don’t wake up stoned or turn up drunk onstage (au contraire, only a month ago I witnessed a bassist down seven cans onstage). Artists do what they do. Only the implications of their actions have changed.
Of course, this also makes a band like Coldplay so likeable. In short, Coldplay are anodyne rock and roll: maybe a gateway band to artists more rock and roll, but also a band that you, your mother and your puppy can bond over. They aren’t out to offend and mum and dad won’t hate them. They won’t be in the news for the wrong reasons. In fact, all Coldplay have done to iff anybody is make more mainstream, pop radio-friendly music, and that seems to piss you off more than it does your mum.
But they’re hitting the charts alright.
This is something you’d see showing up all over the charts. Softer pop rock and more mainstream friendly artists are dominating the rock airwaves. Imagine Dragons, Coldplay and Twenty One Pilots are the biggest things rock on the charts. Oh, and probably Billie Eilish.
So is this the changing face of rock music? Has it become so mainstream friendly that it’s no longer friendly to those who created it in the first place? (Case in point: Greta Van Fleet. You either love them, or you love to hate them.)
The short answer is it’s not the end. The rock music scene was always stronger underground. A quick glance at Billboard’s archives tells you that rock music seldom dominated the hot music charts. There were moments when artists shone bright before being replaced by hotter tracks. The limelight was never meant for endurance, only an upthrust. And all legends are written in hindsight. Maybe we’ll be looking back on something we may have missed in our Instagram feeds and think it an incredible display of rock and roll showmanship.
In the meanwhile, do us all a favour and hit your local club, or a bar. There’s tons of good music buried under the unassuming air of carefreeness there that’s just itching to be discovered.
Tip: If you are looking for new music right now, here are some artists I could suggest.
Looking for some laidback surfside Cali blues, and generally a good time? Check out the Beach Goons. In their own words, they hate the beach. San Diego based surf blues-with-a-dash-of-Mexican-rock and roll, they’re my age.
Looking for something with the punk attitude but with catchier tones? I’ve said this before, but check out SWMRS. They’re also a lot better live than their records suggest.
Looking for some old fashioned indie rock? Come on, there are tons of bands out there, I won’t even try. Just go to a club, for goodness sake.
Looking for some hard hitting garage rock? Do, do, do check out Phono Pony. It took me forever to remember their name right, but it’s all worth it. British Columbia based duo hitting it in the vein of the White Stripes. Also, in the words of their drummer, “We’re not the White Stripes”. As a bonus, if you happen to be in Toronto tonight, hop down to the Horseshoe Tavern, they’re playing a midnight set.
That girl thinks she’s the queen of the neighbourhood
Well, I got news for ya— she is!
This is currently my favourite lyric and it just hit off with me immediately.
I’ve heard waay too many “that girl thinks she’s a queen/ when she’s just a nothing cog in the machine/ Trying hard to live a dream/ Don’t you know no one can hear you scream”, this was oddly uplifting!
(Is that an actual song? I just made those lyrics up. It’s a close approximation for some stuff I’ve heard. Female bands aren’t always very kind when it comes to their own kind, I suppose!
Well, what mattered was that it rhymed, didn’t it? Didn’t it? Weren’t you in the least bit sure that was an actual song?
Okay, then I’m on track to become a songwriter. Now to quit my metaphorical job.)
The lyrics above are from the Bikini Kill song Rebel Girl, and I love it already. I’m glad the band’s reuniting. The world can do with some good punk music right now, and with some female rock bands too!
Speaking of good punk music, I’m really getting into SWMRS. They’re a bunch of young Californian punks, and they sound good to the ear. They’re nearly my age, and it almost feels like I have reason to be proud seeing them come up. I read an interview with Rolling Stone that they’d done, and I felt, wow, they’re growing. It’s partly unsurprising, given Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong happens to be drummer Joey Armstrong’s dad, but they’re a band growing in their own right.
Sample some of the stuff off their latest album:
What’s more, I’ve just got to know they’re likely playing a gig in my city just next month! It happens to be in between two big important finals that I have, but they’re also a week apart. Hopefully, I can spare a few hours an evening?
I wouldn’t mind.
I’m itching to get back to my own music real soon, the real soon in question being anywhere between two weeks and a month. It’s a hard life!
But anyway, coming back to the main point of this post, if you think you’ve got it, you’ve got it. Just remember what Kathleen Hanna said! (If you forgot, look above. I’d have linked back to the top of this post, but that would be recursive. And I hereby declare, I’ve had enough recursion for one night. I’m off to bed, goodnight.)
Assignments can be a little woozy sometimes
Especially at 4 in the morning
I get that
I also get sleepy
And I care, you know?
I’ll see us through
I need to see me through too
And I have a strong back
And a stronger stomach
I’ll carry you
Sure I will
But not if you press down on me
And pretend you’re a hundred and four fucking kilos
And if you’ve a lot on your mind
Mine has blanked from exhaustion
And if I say, sure, I’ll take the heavier load
It means you take a load too, good sir
We learned in class
Of divide and conquer
That doesn’t work if the only dividing is between us
It’s slower if I need to look behind us
And go back to pick up the pieces of a mess
And when I say you get shit done
You get shit done, okay?
Because it might be my assignment too
And incomplete outputs might fail a test case or two
But I wonder what it’s gonna be like
When assertEqual returns an error:
“Expected return: True
Got “This method ain’t implemented cuz my partner didn’t do shit”.
This isn’t me, and I’m super thankful, but one of my friends is seeing a slightly less specific variant of this. It amazes me, and while I’m no one to judge how you’ve planned out your semester, why on earth would someone do that? It’s horrible. It’s disgusting. I try to imagine how many hours of my life I could’ve saved had I not spent all my weekend in a study space working on a problem set. How many more nights I am just not going to be able to sleep because we have an assignment due next week, and it’s big. It just irks me. It irks me a bit that I’m working. There’s no getting around it for me, sure thing. I’m not planning to. I’d feel awful if I did, and if I’m being honest, as hard as they might be, there isn’t too much to resent them for but time and the stress. I learn a lot from them. But someone absolutely shirking off their share of the work and still getting a grade, then flying high and coming down crashing after the final and then bitterly shitting on our school, that just disgusts the fuck out of me, it’s horrible.
And rant almost over.
As for my own case, I sometimes feel like my own assignment partners are more moral support than actual working partners. Some days, it just feels like I’m doing a proof or writing an algorithm or something, and they’re nodding along going, “yes, that makes total sense!” Sure it does, buddy, but can you also write the next proof so we’re done quicker? I really, really, want nothing more than an unbroken, undisturbed 11 hours of sleep. Just one night that I can sleep without planning for and booking off the first thirteen hours of the next day. Once.
Now for the better stuff! I’m going to see Muse this Thursday! I’ve been waiting for this day since November, and after five years of absolutely adoring the band, I’m finally going to be able to go see them live, and I almost can’t believe it!
No assignment, not even the finals could have kept me away, and nothing will!
Yeah, no, I don’t in fact know why I’m writing this in the first place.
So I’ve been slacking off schoolwork recently in the most counterintuitive, dumbly geeky way possible (it’s almost recursive, except I can no longer use that term ironically being a CS student, except when I’m using it HYPER-ironically): I’ve been shirking off my CS work to work on my own little CS project.
It’s a tiny little thing. It was something I started working on last weekend at a hackathon that focussed on sustainability. As a tiny contribution to a team of first years in a sea of third years, I started working on a search engine enhancer that randomly adds sustainability hotwords to your search.
So if you were trying to be a little more environmentally conscious with your day to day choices, looking up a coffee through my little code might lead you to organic coffee, or sustainable coffee, or something related.
Of course, given I’ve been working on it in little snippets, it doesn’t do anything super impressive. At the moment, the code doesn’t know enough about your search term to add sustainable words related enough to your search. It simply picks a random word from a bunch of hot words my team and I spent half a day googling up.
Just to be perfectly clear, there was more a reference to a White Stripes song hidden in there than an actual expectation that anyone in the year 2525 will still be able to read. And any 26th century readers that have a beef with me can take it up in the comments.
So yes, we had some funny results coming up, and here’s one that’s particularly stuck with me.
My friend was testing my search function out today, and decided to see what kind of sustainability a cat could have.
Mono-unsaturated fat cats.
I’m pretty sure that came from mono/unsaturated fats being not so healthy and having somehow snuck into my Ctrl+C.
Either way, this one just stuck. I like the name. Drop one unwieldy “un” and it sounds even better.
Monosaturated Fat Cats.
It’s brilliant. It’s chemical, its edgy, and it’s the perfect band name.
If I ever do numb my brain long enough to go bandmate hunting (and I really might), I call fucking dibs on this name, it speaks to me.
So, in summary, the point, if there is any at all, in this long, pointless post, is that you all know where you heard it first. Watch out, world. ∀ n ≥ n0, I mean, eventually, the Monosaturated Fat Cats are taking over.
I can’t get enough music these days: I can’t always find time to separately listen to music, and I’ve sort of lost the ability to successfully do anything along with music, except for music (which might shed light on my problem, wouldn’t it?)
Perhaps I can escape the music by turning the volume down low. But I can’t escape lyrics that invite me to follow a story. After all, one thing that anyone can confirm I am, is a storyteller.
(And like, also a musician, but I’m trying to make a point here. So for five minutes now, we will all sit with fingers to our lips and not talk about how I begin dissecting the music I hear when I hear it and end up not getting any work done. Deal?)
So I’ve found a loophole. I’ve started listening to French rock music, where I still get the music, but at low enough a volume to keep my focus on the proof I’m reading (we actually lay a decent focus on reading and understanding someone else’s proofs as well in my CS class), and without the words telling me a complete story.
Of course, the odd phrase will sit in my head, but it isn’t as bad as English where every word basically finds a match in my head straight away!
But you see, the trouble is, I’m actually making an effort at French in class and might soon enough have passable enough French to understand what’s going on. I have already found I’m able to pick out words distinctly, even if I don’t know what they mean.
So soon, I’ll find myself in the same situation as I’m in now.
I guess I’ll have to start hunting for a new language then.
Perl here I come.
Surely there’s a lot of other good rock music out there, and I can’t wait to get right at it.
Next stop: Finnish metal bands.
(Truth be told, I’ll probably start following just the sound of the language because, you know, you could call it music too.
I think I’ll eventually be stuck with Last Ride In by Green Day (it’s instrumental).)
Circa 2014, rock band Muse declared the album dead. One of music’s most lasting legacies since the emergence of recorded music, the longest format, with its relative simplicity, the band claimed, in the face of the digitalisation and ubiquity of music on the internet, had perished.
They weren’t entirely wrong. A statistical study published on the website Statistica recorded the annual music album sales from the year 2007 to 2017 (with ‘album’ including “CD, CS, LP and digital albums”). Most years, total album sales fell lower than their preceding years. Between the years 2016 – 2017, album sales dropped by 9.4 million units from 205.5 million albums being sold in 2016 to 169.1 million in 2017. In fact, only in the year 2011 did album sales see a marginal bump up from its predecessor (from 326.2 million to 331 million, a rise of only 1.5%). Overall album sales had fallen from just above 500 million units in 2007, to under 200 million in 2017. With streaming today giving many people the choice between paying $20 for 12 tracks or $10 a month for access to a seemingly infinite music database, the shift is hardly shocking.
In today’s age of digital music, where the number of streams and views on a song online is bigger news than an album’s garnering platinum success, the standalone single has emerged as the most popular format. It’s almost logical: give a time-pressed world a short three-minute catchy song with a video that looks good on YouTube (but perhaps not in your mother’s hands) and sticks in their head, and the world will reciprocate with its attention. It’s as simple a thing as giving people what they need. The radio will take care of the rest.
In today’s age, people want variety, entertainment and familiarity rolled into one, and they want it quick. The fifty-minute Length Play can hardly keep up with anything less than a traffic jam. The concentration asked of most experimental records won’t keep your eye on the road during your morning jog. And it’s no fun trying to keep up with something completely unfamiliar in rhyme or rhythm in the shower or on the dance floor. This is where the album, with its structure, discipline, and some may say, conformity, loses out in 2018. It’s also where your curated Spotify playlist wins.
Listening to the modern chart radio reveals a few patterns. Either in the contents of the lyrics, vocal and tonic technique, baselines or drum machine patterns; something seems homogenous. Something sounds familiarly like the last fifty songs you’ve heard. Something in the song knows what makes your foot tap from past trials and is here to serenade you again. Out-of-breath crooners are back in fashion. Trance baselines have been in for a few years and stubbornly refuse to leave the charts alone. Acid bass drops get you moving. Minimalistic drum taps interfere the least with your dance floor groove. (As a disclaimer, this is all terminology coming from a rock music listener who’s spent way too many holiday car trips with the Tops 40’s radio.) There’s always a story, either vocal or instrumental, that you’ve heard before and it becomes easier to fill in the rest. But there’s always something almost obligatorily new: a synth melody in a new key, a different chord progression (Hmm, perhaps playing ‘A#-D#’ this time instead of playing ‘D-A’ will sound extremely novel), a new instrument thrown into the mix; something to make a case for your argument in favour of variety.
What this sums up, to me, is a tired, wary society. We like our variety, in fact we’re wired for it, but only in micro dosages. We cling to familiarity and will take our blankets and pillow along with it. This is a generation that has seen more than its fair share of experimentation and variety in life and wants no more hard surprises. Yes, you can dye the cat purple for all I care, maybe the colour will even look good on her. Just don’t let me know that I can’t afford my rent this month. Don’t tell me my student debt has doubled and that I’ll probably never be able to retire. Keep the papers away. Oh, and while you’re at it, don’t mess with my music.
Pop music—historically short for popularmusic—is in this sense still quite a good reflection of society and its current mental state. Most of today’s adults the teens and preteens of the mid-00’s, a generation that grew up under the dominant reign of Disney Channel. This decade’s rise in (or perhaps, resurgence of) Disney artists in the popular music charts could well mean a generation of now-grown kids holding onto the last of their childhoods—a time when things seemed simpler, or were at least taken care of, and there seemed a lot more to look forward to in the future than they grew up to realise—through their childhood stars.
So are we holding on to something that’s over and smearing its remains onto our music– a large aspect of our cultural lives and legacy? Does the ‘death’ of the longest format of music represent a breaking down of barriers, the handing of the reigns to the listener to modify their listening experience to their own comfort, the result of our collective wishes as a generation to find familiarity; or is it the death of music as we once knew it?