April 14, 2007
Super Puny Humans
As I desperately try to finish up the final draft of my thesis, distractions abound at every corner. One of the most pleasant distractions to crop up is an upcoming tour of central Scotland playing in my wee band. We're doing a series of gigs with a great Falkirk band called Y'all Is Fantasy Island and a novelist named Alan Bissett. It's guaranteed to be slightly off the wall, but if you're in the neighbourhood at the beginning of May, it would be great to see you out at a show.
You can read the press release below, or check out the tour website here.
"SUPER PUNY HUMANS! is a 4 date tour featuring three of Glasgow’s most exciting young talents: Y’all is Fantasy Island, ZVG, and the novelist Alan Bissett.
Alan was featured on the recent Ballads of the Book CD, organised by Roddy Woomble from Idlewild, uniting the cream of Scotland’s writing and music talents. The album twinned him with Arab Strap’s Malcolm Middleton for the song ‘The Rebel on His Own Tonight’.
The CD merges Scotland’s vibrant indie and writing scenes, a testament to their ongoing crossover. Irvine Welsh duetted with Primal Scream in 1996. Edwin Morgan appeared on Idlewild’s album The Remote Part. Iain Banks is currently arranging a CD of songs by bands based around his book Espedair Street. Young novelists Rodge Glass and Doug Johnstone moonlight in bands, while, conversely, Aidan Moffat has gone into spoken word.
For the first time in Scotland, however, two young bands are uniting with a writer to go on tour. Super Puny Humans! will see Alan Bissett reading from his novels Boyracers and The Incredible Adam Spark between sets from the acclaimed Y’all is Fantasy Island, and up-and-comers ZVG. A fizzy, trippy night of words and music is assured."
Posted by matt at 12:24 PM
January 09, 2007
Hip hop hostilities
I watched James Brown’s “homecoming” funeral service on Boxing Day, and I was struck by the Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson calling on black musicians, particularly rappers, to change the lyrical content of their songs. They’ve done this before, but the difference this time was that they bolstered their opinions with the views of James Brown himself, who had an immeasurable musical influence on rap music, and who in his last conversation with Al Sharpton had apparently expressed the following sentiments.
CNN transcript of Al Sharpton eulogy: [James Brown said] “I want you to keep fighting for justice. But I want you to tell people to love one another. I want you to fight to lift the standards back." He said, "What happened to us that we are now celebrating from being down? What happened we went from saying I'm black and I'm proud to calling each other niggers and ho's and bitches?" He said, "I sung people up and now they're singing people down, and we need to change the music."
This isn’t a new debate, but it made me wonder using Brown’s memorial service as a platform, watched by millions the world over, might provoke a noticeable response from hip-hop artists and the media that covers them. I wonder no longer:
Excerpted from The Guardian: "In the highly competitive and at times violent world of New York hip hop, it is anything but unusual to hear rappers attack each other verbally in forceful terms. But seldom do they go as far as the writer of a new song that calls for fellow rappers to be lynched…. It singles out what the author calls "you fake-ass gangstas" and says "y'all should all get lynched". An accompanying video shows pictures of black men swinging from trees....
The rapper in question is NYOil (pronounced NY oil), a Staten Island-based artist who has posted the song Y'all Should Get Lynched on his MySpace page. The song has been downloaded tens of thousands of times, been highlighted on hip hop radio channels and provoked lively debate among listeners…
His beef is with well-established rappers such as 50 Cent, Jim Jones and Flavor Flav of Public Enemy whom he accuses of spreading irresponsible messages to black youth. Most hip hop lyrics, he believes, glorify selling drugs in the hood, doing time in prison, gang violence and murder for money. They also objectify black women as "hos" (whores) and "bitches". NYOil has also written a song bemoaning black people's use of the n-word in self-description, called "What up my Wigger". In it he argues that by failing to show themselves respect, black people are opening themselves up to the disrespect of others....
Though his use of language may set him apart, NYOil's critique of mainstream hip hop strikes a mood that is steadily intensifying. Fellow New York rapper Nas recently hit No 1 on the Billboard chart with his new album, Hip Hop is Dead, in which he rhymes "Heinous crimes help record sales more than creative lines" and "Everybody sound the same/Commercialised the game"."
Posted by matt at 01:35 PM
November 15, 2006
Hello friends! Just touching base to let you know I'm still alive and well in Glasgow. Still trying to balance the thesis, teaching, and band, but so far all three are still intact. If I manage to keep all three of these balls in the air until the end of the year, it will be the kind of miracle that only Christmas could bring.
For anyone in the Glasgow area, the band will be playing a free show at Brel with the excellent Y'all Is Fantasy Island on Thursday, November 23, as part of the now infamous "Out To Play" nights presented by Say Dirty Records. Maybe I'll see you there. Otherwise, keep it mischievous until we meet...
Posted by matt at 10:22 AM
October 05, 2006
Canadian reggae-funk, new band name, and the Angelshakes
This semester is easily shaping up to be the busiest period of my life so far. I'm a teaching assistant at Stirling University for a class in Film and Music, I'm a lecturer at Glasgow University for an introductory class to Popular Music Studies, and I'm trying to write up my PhD thesis. Sheesh! It never rains but it pours. Fortunately, these are all things that I want to be doing, and I feel like my life is on a busy, but ultimately fulfilling track. A few other neat things are happening as well:
I recently wrote an article on Toronto reggae, funk, and soul for The Dominion. You can read the article here.
I used to have a Glasgow band called The Lost Marbles, but we discovered that when people googled for us all they got were totally unrelated American wedding bands using the same name. So we have officially changed our name and logo to what you see above, which we like, if only because when you google it we're the only band that comes up. We've been playing a good run of shows at Glasgow venues like the 13th Note, the Barfly, and Nice and Sleazy's. We've also got a myspace page with free MP3s.
Finally, my kid brother has also recently made his debut on the myspace scene. His name is Pat Brennan, and he's got a great musical project called The Angelshakes. You can check out his fine music here.
Posted by matt at 05:19 PM
June 23, 2006
The Lost Marbles, Part 2
My new band has just posted a couple of homemade demos up on myspace.com. If you're familiar with myspace, be sure to add us as a friend! We recorded the songs in a living room in Glasgow with one microphone cradled in a leather shoe, because we didn't have a mic stand. So we're not talking about high fidelity sound, we're talking about music made with soul (or sole?), like your mom's chocolate chip cookies. You can listen to our efforts here.
Posted by matt at 10:08 AM
June 09, 2006
Introducing The Lost Marbles
I've been playing with some fun musicians these days, and we've just formed a little band and played our debut gig at the Liquid Ship in Glasgow last night. We're called The Lost Marbles. Between the three of us, we cover drums, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, viola, casio keyboard, laptop and fx, accordion, and vocals (times three).
Our second show will be at Gilmorehill on Friday, June 23, as part of the Glasgow West End Festival. We'll be sharing the bill with two other bands, Robbie and the Reluctants and The Lights. Tickets are £6. If you want tickets, get in touch with me via e-mail. Hope to see you there!
Introducing the band:
The rough and tumble Michael John McCarthy and Matt Brennan.
The rose between two thorns, Kim Moore.
Posted by matt at 07:30 PM
April 03, 2006
The man in black is trendy as can be
Johnny Cash seems to be everywhere these days. My band (the Distractions) recently played a charity concert with a bunch of other artists at the Bongo Club in Edinburgh, and paid tribute to the man in black. Our band's special repertoire for the evening included punked out versions of Folsom Prison Blues and Jackson, as well as a tune called "Let the Train Blow the Whistle" from my favourite Johnny Cash album of all time.
Since I moved to Glasgow, I've been trying to meet musicians and get involved in a few new musical projects. I've met a talented guy named Michael John from Cork, Ireland. His band in Cork was called Elephant and we're trying to get a few tunes together and perhaps play a little gig in the near future. But we need a band name. Got any suggestions?
Posted by matt at 04:45 PM
January 31, 2006
The Adventures of Slim Johnny... Performed
The Maritime Rock Opera Club got together and delivered the world premiere of "The Adventures of Slim Johnny" at the Stereophonic music festival in Sackville, NB, Canada. It was raw and ragged, my voice was perpetually out of tune, and we had no stage lighting, but the audience was warm and wonderful and in the end the rock opera was a success.
Jamie Brewer, our M-ROC guitarist, is putting together a little website to preserve the memories. You can check it out here.
We also got covered by the CBC, so feel free to check that action out here. Cue the show to 17 minutes 38 seconds for talk about the Stereophonic festival, 21 minutes 40 seconds for the rock opera itself.
Posted by matt at 10:08 PM
January 12, 2006
The Adventures of Slim Johnny
My time in Fredericton is once again at an end. I depart tomorrow to Sackville, New Brunswick, to be part of a little music festival called Stereophonic. While I was at home over the holidays I put together a crew of friends to form the Maritime Rock Opera Club, and tomorrow night we will premiere a fairly ridiculous 30-minute opus entitled "The Adventures of Slim Johnny." Here's the synopsis:
“The Adventures of Slim Johnny” is the story of a twenty-something-year-old everyman who works at a call centre in the Canadian maritimes and battles with the quarter life crisis blues. While at work Johnny daydreams about moving to a shack in the woods to whittle sticks and contemplate the universe. But one fine day he falls in love with a feisty tae kwan do teacher named Red, and the two discover that together they make a formidable crime fighting team. After clocking out from work each day, Slim and Red happily moonlight dancing a ballet of vigilante justice, putting a stop to corporate crooks, cookers of books, burglars, swindlers, and thieves of all sorts.
Sadly, the lovers’ crime-fighting honeymoon is not to last, as it is discovered that the entire human race is about to be wiped out by a plague of unfathomable deadliness. But all is not lost: a collective of noble scientists discover a rugged miracle coral growing in the North Atlantic ocean, and they enlist the trustworthy Slim and Red to harvest the precious cure in two tiny submarines. The journey proves perilous and our heroes almost lose their lives in the dangerous ocean depths, but they are helped in the end by dolphins. Surfacing just in time to save the day, Slim and Red return the coral to the scientists and quietly head back to work, but with the realization that superhero potential is in all of us.
Posted by matt at 07:08 PM
November 24, 2005
Singer-songwriter Chris Whitley died this week after battling with lung cancer. He was 45. I was introduced to him through an amazing album of cover songs he recorded called Perfect Day. You can order it from your local independent record store, or else buy it here.
Posted by matt at 03:01 PM
October 18, 2005
Up and coming Norwegian rock star
Once upon a time, in the summer of 1994, I was lucky enough to do a one-month student exchange to Norway. This trip had a formidable impact on my fourteen year old brain, not least of all because my lovely host family introduced me to the Beatles. I was paired with a Norwegian kid named Snorre Busch, but it's been over ten years since we've seen each other.
I got back into contact with Snorre last year, and was elated to discover that he's also grown into a music obsessive, as well as a talented songwriter and performer. It would be useful to know a bit of Norwegian to understand his personal website and his band website, but you can also download a song of his with English lyrics called "What Is It Good For?" here.
Posted by matt at 04:45 PM
May 03, 2005
End of classes gig
As some of you know, I play in a covers band called the Distractions. Last weekend we played our biggest show ever, with 1000 drunken, costumed, undergraduate revellers in attendance. Jen Birks took some nice photos, and using the very latest in computer technology, I somehow managed to make a slideshow.
If you're using a PC with Windows, you may need to download the free Quicktime Player before you can view the slideshow.
Posted by matt at 02:20 PM
October 26, 2004
John Peel dies at 65
It's a sad day. John Peel, music broadcasting legend of the BBC, has died. Being able to listen to his show on the radio was honestly one of the best parts of moving to the UK for me. I had no idea music radio could be so good until I heard his show: he consistently introduced me to wonderful music I would never have heard otherwise, and I'm a music fanatic, so that's not an easy task. And he dedicated himself to new music with a verve and enthusiasm that was nothing short of life-affirming. The airwaves will be not be the same without him.
To read the news story, click here.
Posted by matt at 03:37 PM
September 27, 2004
The trouble with Kenny G
A famous jazz guitarist (as far as jazz guitarists go) named Pat Metheny has written a scathing essay vilifying easy-listening saxophonist Kenny G. It's passionate, venomous, and even mildly thought-provoking. Here's an excerpt:
"When Kenny G decided that it was appropriate for him to defile the music of [Louis Armstrong], who is probably the greatest jazz musician that has ever lived by spewing his lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, f*cked up playing all over one of the great Louis's tracks (even one of his lesser ones), he did something that I would not have imagined possible.
He, in one move, through his unbelievably pretentious and calloused musical decision to embark on this most cynical of musical paths, sh*t all over the graves of all the musicians past and present who have risked their lives by going out there on the road for years and years developing their own music inspired by the standards of grace that Louis Armstrong brought to every single note he played over an amazing lifetime as a musician.
By disrespecting Louis, his legacy and by default, everyone who has ever tried to do something positive with improvised music and what it can be, Kenny G has created a new low point in modern culture - something that we all should be totally embarrassed about - and afraid of. We ignore this, "let it slide", at our own peril."
Check out the full article here.
Posted by matt at 04:37 PM
May 24, 2004
Hey people, it's Bob Dylan's birthday. Give the man some props. And if you're not into Bob, spoil yourself and buy his Freewheelin' album. I swear, it's mighty good.
So a few Fridays ago (May 7, 2004), after living here almost two years without drums, I officially made my UK percussive debut playing for a covers band called the Distractions. We're an unlikely gang of Film and Media students and staffers, and without bragging too much, I must admit that we rocked the department's end of semester party. Check out the pics below to relive the glory...
The thronging masses of revelers:
Our lovely singers in mid-clap, Mike, Maggie and Christine:
Rhythm guitarist Pedro and lead guitarist Adam, playing it cool:
Bass player Mark, who does an admirable job of jumping around the stage like a gleeful maniac while executing some solid low-end lines:
Yours truly, making my usual range of drumming faces, from elation to constipation:
Christine, singing Nena's "99 Luftballoons", I believe:
So there you have, the first gig. Hopefully not the last.
Posted by matt at 02:51 PM
March 25, 2004
I just spent a long but satisfying week putting together and presenting a lecture called "The Story of Selling Out." I tried to trace the roots and development of the idea of "selling out" in popular music from the 1920s through the 1950s.
As a reward for my toil, I spoiled myself by finally buying a copy of Garageband (a piece of music recording software for my Mac laptop). I've been playing with it all morning: it's basically a "recording for dummies" type program, and I was surprised by its annoying limitations and even more surprised by some of its very high-end features. One thing's for sure: it's very fun to use, and already more than worth the 35$ Canadian I paid for it.
I plan to put the program through its paces by writing and recording some original material on it. If the songs turn out to be half-decent, then maybe I'll post them on the net for you folks to hear and tell me what you think...
Posted by matt at 01:51 PM