Thursday, February 17, 2005

blame canada

On this what must be a pretty dark day for our neighbors to the north, it's probably high time that we give a little love to Canada. They've lost hockey. Their nation's most distinguishing feature is its cleanliness. "Big" Canadian bands that tour America in recent past--Tragically Hip, to name one--are exceedingly adept at drawing...Canadians (at least in Los Angeles). And, to make matters worse, at least to Americans like me, their main pop cultural exports up to this point are not exactly a murderers row.

Commonly cited Canadians:

1) Mike Myers (single-joke franchise machine and sequel destroyer)
2) Triumph (Fight the good fight every moment).
3) Loverboy (crossed fingers held across an ass in red leather pants. Need I say more?)
4) Rush (Ann Rand set to prog with vocals that could sterilize a goat)
5) "You Can't Do That on Television" (introduced slime to a nation of grateful children)

Sure, I'm oversimplifying. There are plenty of grand Canadian exports. The Kids in the Hall consistently were funnier than Saturday Night Live when they were both on television (and there's really no comparision to what passes for SNL now). Hockey is like faster soccer with violence on the playing field (rather than in the stands). Hash bars outnumber Starbucks in Vancouver. All fantastic examples of Canadiana.

But it seems that lately Canada's getting far more adroit at doing their own thing and, frankly, kicking holy ass all over what we've got happening. CBC news (carried on the International News Channel--a channel created once CNN stopped serving that need) is a source not only of a semi-global persepective on what Georgius W is doing to the world, but also offers a quaint look back to what news looked like when the news was enough to keep people watching, rather than throwing a couple of smartly dressed experts in studios and watching them fight it out for your eyeballs.

Musically, Canda's experiencing a rennaissance as well, again, at least as far as us sudenlanders are concerned. I first experienced this with Godspeed You Black Emperor!, an instrumental collective that sounds like the house band for the end of the world. They compose terribly serious, terribly frightening and terribly good vignettes that stretch into the 20 minute range that are more evocative than most films, thanks to the use of bizarre field recordings of homeless lunatics, street preachers and unfinished short films. Crushingly great.

Then there was Do Make Say Think, a series of action verbs piled on top of eachother that sounds like Chicago's Tortoise if they were bore a little bit bleaker world view. Broken Social Scene, who pitchforkmedia built a shrine to a few years ago and, surprisingly, are also pretty good in a fey art-school kind of way. Both of the above bands share members with Godspeed, by the way, who oddly just aren't as good now that its members have started spreading themselves around.

Now there's the band Stars, who I was listening to on the way home. They had a great song called "Elevator Love Letter" a couple years ago that was just about as close to perfection in a pop song as you can get. Jangly guitars, anthemic chorus, the whole bit (wouldn't it be great if I could link to these songs and let you hear them like all the big kids' blogs do?). I was prepared to consider their new album just another in a long line of new wave fetishists, with their wispy Sundays-lite vocals alternating with a more non-descript fellow who probably has too many Smiths CDs in his collection than is healthy. But then...then came this change in the second song, a complete transition from a straight ahead new-wavey thing to this string-augmented piece of taffy that lifted them above, say, their American contemporaries. A little touch to show they care, and, by the way, they're Canadian and thus a little off.

Between that, a health care system and a distinct shortage of blowing things up with global sabre-rattling, Canada's looking pretty good.


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