The Era Of Canadian Bacon Is Upon Me

October 2, 2011

It’s an exciting time to be alive and I’m not referring to the jetpacks, hovercrafts, teleporters and such.

No, it’s bacon.

Canadian bacon.

It’s not really Canadian Canadian bacon (which is, actually, back bacon) but American Canadian bacon (which was invented by McDonald’s).

I brought up the subject once with a Canadian friend and he dropped his head, shaking it slowly back and forth. Like the stereotypical Canadian, this fellow was polite and generally good-natured.

“That’s not bacon,” he sighed.

I’d seldom seen him so peeved as he was over this perceived sullying of the good name of Canadian cured meats.

I was moved by the fact that the rarely witnessed state of agitation had not been brought about by politics or religion, finance or romance, but bacon.

I doubt I had ever respected him more.

But, several weeks ago on the weekly trip for foodstuff, a yellow sale tag in the meat section of the store lured me like a siren’s song to Canadian bacon.

I’d never purchased Canadian bacon though I had enjoyed it on Egg McMuffins.

Now, I’m hooked.

No, it’s not bacon, but it is meat, enchanting stuff blurring the line between ham and strip bacon.

It isn’t the greasy chore to make like strip bacon is and it is the perfect size for an English muffin.

It’s pretty damned wonderous stuff.

(even Paloma, often a reluctant carnivore, is smitten)

Here four slightly random songs from Canadian acts…

Rush – The Body Electric
from Grace Under Pressure (1984)

By 1984, I’d begun to spend most of my radio time listening to album rock stations, of which I had a pick of perhaps half a dozen in our swath of the Midwest depending on the reception.

(if conditions were favorable – usually at night – I’d try to pull in the modern rock of 97X, instead)

So, I was hearing a lot of Rush, particularly their more-accessible, synthesizer-laden albums of the time like Moving Pictures, Signals and Grace Under Pressure. Sure, the stoners in band were most passionate about the band, but Rush was held in high regard by most of my high school classmates.

Though not essential Rush, the galloping The Body Electric had an android on the lam, binary code for a chorus, and a reference to a work by Ray Bradbury, making for a pretty groovy mix.

I Mother Earth – So Gently We Go (acoustic)
from So Gently We Go single (1994)

The Toronto-based foursome I Mother Earth will forever be, to me, one of the great lost bands of the ’90s and one that served as an introduction to me on the harsh realties of the music industry.

With a sound that fused elements of then-current bands like Jane’s Addiction and Sound Garden with Pink Floyd and Santana, I Mother Earth was also one of the most ferocious live acts I’ve ever seen.

(I think I tested Paloma’s patience when I obssessed over the band for a few weeks recently)

So Gently We Go appeared on the band’s 1993 debut Dig and here in a stripped-down version here that highlights a trippy stoner vibe that was often present in their music.

Kim Mitchell – Go For Soda
from Akimbo Alogo (1984)

Guitarist Kim Mitchell has apparently had a long and successful career in his native Canada, but the only thing I’ve ever heard is Go For Soda, a minor hit here in the States.

My friends and and I dug the song and it inspired a game we played often our senior year of high school. If we decided to “Go for soda,” the object was to leave school grounds, get to the Kroger supermarket (it was the closest food), and return in time to attend our next class with a bag full of snacks.

We had ten minutes

The Pursuit Of Happiness – I’m An Adult Now
from Love Junk (1990)

I was still in college when I first heard I’m An Adult Now and was greatly amused by the humorous take on growing up. It’s still a pile-driving, power-pop tour de force (produced by Todd Rundgren) that I adore, but the humour is a bit more gallows in nature now.

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Oh Canada

July 1, 2011

It’s Canada Day today.

The older I get, the more often I consider Canada and think, yeah, now that seems like a country that has its act together. There’s football and rock bands and rivers and streams of pure maple syrup.

Paloma and I were watching episodes of The Kids In The Hall last week when she suggested we move to the land that gave us Bruce McCulloch.

“I don’t think that they want us.”

Not that we’re trouble. We’re quiet, well-behaved and have both seen Rush live.

Hell, I’m watching the Lions and Alouettes in the opening CFL game at this moment…seriously.

(no billionaires fighting with millionaires for the last dollar there)

But Canada doesn’t want us.

(and this is a country that put out the welcome mat for the Quaids!)

But it’s cool, Canada. Paloma and I still think you’re swell and we thank you for all of the groovy stuff you’ve exported to us.

Here are four fairly random songs by Canadian acts…

Rush – Subdivisions
from Signals

I quickly realized upon entering high school that Rush was the only band that mattered for the stoners in band. At the time, I might have known the Canadian trio’s Tom Sawyer but likely little more.

But the group had a hit from Signals New World Man – that was getting played on all the stations and, upon hearing the album, I became a devotee of the band, eventually owning most of their catalog, and catching them a couple of times live.

The pulsating Subdivisions, which chronicled the pressures to “be cool or be cast out,” seemed awfully deep at the time and, if it might sound considerably obvious now, it’s still pretty stellar.

Gordon Lightfoot – If You Could Read My Mind
from Greatest Hits

I’ve read that If You Could Read My Mind is about the break-up of Gordon Lightfoot’s first marriage and it certainly is a somber affair. Of course, it also might be a good example of the smooth-talking ways of Lightfoot, as I imagine he was fairly suave when it came to the ladies.

Leonard Cohen – Democracy
from Leonard Cohen

Management at the office where I slave has a penchant for using the term “rock star” as praise.

There are no rock stars where I work.

Acerbic, witty, literate, and with a delightful hint of menace in his lyrics and vocals, Leonard Cohen has had his songs covered by everyone from Elton John and Billy Joel to The Pixies and R.E.M. He spent the early ’90s linked to actress Rebecca DeMornay (who was half his age) and the latter part of the same decade living in a Buddhist monastery.

That is a rock star.

Bruce Cockburn – A Dream Like Mine
from Nothing But A Burning Light

Though Bruce Cockburn has achieved iconic status in his native Canada, the literate folk rocker remains mostly unknown south of his homeland’s border, though one with a devoted cult following.

The ghostly-sounding A Dream Like Mine found Cockburn well matched with producer T-Bone Burnett with the latter’s wife – the wonderful Sam Phillips – adding background vocals. The song just keeps trucking along with the same resilient spirit that runs through a lot of Cockburn’s prolific catalog.


They Were Going Where No Man Had Gone Before But They Were Going Without Me

January 20, 2011

I would be in my teens before cable television was available and, thus, my first experiences and earliest memories of the medium were limited to a handful of channels.

There were the three major networks, PBS, and two independent channels.

Of those two independent channels, our reception for one was so poor that most of the time it was just possible to make out shapes that might have been people.

Or possibly trees.

The station – from across the river in Northern Kentucky – taunted me when I’d leaf through the TV Guide, searching for something to entertain me. There, next to the small box with a nineteen in it, something would be listed that was far more interesting than the offerings on the channels available.

Channel 19’s line-up was heavy on syndicated kid favorites like Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch with late night reserved for horror/sci-fi b-movies.

It was as though I had a ten-year old doppelganger programming an independent television station.

So, I’d optimistically flip to the station, hoping that it was one of those rare nights on which reception was good and I could try to watch The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant through snow flurries.

Usually, I’d find myself staring at a full-blown blizzard.

But the one show that the station aired which I wanted to experience more than any other was Star Trek. The show had ended its network run before I could read and, though it hadn’t had the resurgence it would by the end of the ’70s, I was somehow aware of it.

(I think that a classmate, Kate, with whom I was quite smitten, was a fan)

I had to see it.

And the only station airing Star Trek was the one that I was unable to watch.

I tried, making efforts on a nightly basis, hoping against all hope that the reception might be good enough for me to meet Kirk, Spock and the rest of the crew of the Enterprise.

It didn’t happen.

It was maddening.

Soon, channel 19 would amp up its signal and Star Trek would be a staple on other channels, but, as kids at such an age are prone to do, I had lost interest.

I’d eventually see the first five movies that the series spawned, but, to this day, I’ve never seen an entire episode of the television show or any of its spin-offs.

During the time that I was not watching Star Trek on channel 19, I witnessed Capt. Kirk perform Rocket Man on some sci-fi film award show (which aired on the other independent station).

It boggled my ten-year old mind.

Here are four random songs by acts that, like Capt. Kirk, are from Canada…

k.d. lang – World Of Love
from All You Can Eat

I had never really listened to k.d. lang when I got dragged to one of her shows following the release of (but before the mainstream success) of 1992’s Ingenue. It was a free ticket and I figured what the hell.

Lang turned out to be one of the most charismatic live performers I’ve ever seen, possessing a genial personality and a wickedly charming sense of humor. Though I own a handful of her albums, I often forget what a stellar body of work she’s produced with songs like the lush, sophisticated pop song World Of Love.

Neil Young – Buffalo Springfield Again
from Silver & Gold

It seemed as though every time I looked up in the late ’80s and first half of the ’90s that Neil Young was releasing a new album to rave reviews. I was partial to the grungier stuff with Crazy Horse like Ragged Glory and Sleeps With Angels.

I still prefer the Neil that rocks.

But the mellow Buffalo Springfield Again, from 2000’s Silver & Good, is wistful and endearing as Neil reflects on his first band.

Jane Siberry – Calling All Angels
from When I Was A Boy

A friend at a record store in college introduced me to the eccentric music of Jane Siberry with 1987’s The Walking. Over the ensuing years, I’ve owned most of her catalog and, much like Neil Young’s, Siberry’s oeuvre takes some zigs and zags.

I first heard the achingly beautiful Calling All Angels when it appeared on the soundtrack to the movie Until The End Of The World, one of my favorite movie soundtracks of all time. A year or so later, the track was on her album When I Was A Boy, a record that, if I compiled a desert island list, would certainly make the cut.

And, as further evidence confirming my suspicion that everyone in Canada knows everyone else, the voice heard duetting with Siberry on Calling All Angels is k.d. lang.

Arcade Fire – Wake Up
from Funeral

I’ve become quite loopless to new music since the turn of the century. I’d heard of Arcade Fire and knew that lots of folks were twitterpated over the band. I’d even checked out a few of their songs, but I was only lukewarm about them.

Then I heard Wake Up in the trailers for Where The Wild Things Are and was blown away. It’s an epic that roars to life and soars like a rocket.

I still haven’t delved any further into Arcade Fire’s music – there’s barely time to listen to all of the music I already love – and perhaps I never will, but we’ll always have Wake Up.