I Mother Earth

June 2, 2012

“Take this home and listen to it.”

The request was made by my boss who really wasn’t my boss as I was an unpaid intern.

Leaving the label’s office, I studied the sleeve of the cassette.

It was five-song demo, some band named I Mother Earth.

I popped it into my Walkman and listened on the forty-five minute trek to the record store where I was working a closing shift until midnight.

It was tribal.

It was percussive.

It was riff-heavy rock that was aggressive, trippy, melodic, funky, psychedelic, hypnotic and “oh so sonic.”

I had just begun to have the opportunity to hear demos and most I couldn’t truly hear, but this one was obvious.

I heard Jane’s Addiction, The Doors, and Santana.

I was completely and totally smitten.

The next day, my buddy asked if I’d listened to the tape and – as much as an unpaid intern could make demands – I demanded we sign the band.

It was not to be.

He explained that he’d gotten the demo from a friend at Capitol, the label that had won a bidding wore between several major labels for I Mother Earth.

(who, if I recall, had only played a dozen shows and none outside of the quartet’s home in Toronto)

For the next eighteen months I pestered our Capitol rep on his weekly visit to our record store for news on I Mother Earth and when their debut release would arrive.

Finally, two years after I’d taken that demo home, Dig was released and, from the opening notes, it proved to have been worth the wait.

Not long after Dig‘s release, the band came through town for a show and the label rep took me to lunch with the band. For a band that had been so seriously courted by the major labels, the foursome were surprisingly down to earth and polite.

(hell, for any band, they were down to earth and polite)

I still remember Bruce, the bassist who looked like he was sixteen, asking the rep if he enjoyed shepherding bands around on promotional visits.

“Well, right now it’s great,” he replied. “The album is finally out and you’ve just started the tour, but, in six months or so, you’ll come back through town.”

“And?” one of them asked.

“Either the record will be massive and you’ll be assholes or, the record will have missed, you’ll blame the label – and me – and be assholes.”

(Tom, the rep was a good guy and a straight shooter)

I went to the show that night at the club which was packed to capacity and the band delivered what is still possibly the most ferocious live set that I’ve ever witnessed.

Afterwards, I hung out with the band in their dressing room, drinking free beer and knowing that I would boast years later of hanging with one of the biggest rock bands on the planet.

Six months or so later, I Mother Earth did come through town again.

The album had – at least in the States – been summarily ignored.

(in their native Canada, Dig spawned several hits, gone platinum, and won a Juno)

Oh, it got a bit of attention, but the label, possessing the wisdom that could only come from middle-aged, white guys in suits, had inexplicably pushed the band as a metal act at the height of the grunge era and sentenced them to obscurity.

(well done, Capitol, well done)

I don’t know if the band had become assholes. I bumped into Edwin, the lead singer, and had a brief conversation with him.

He seemed stressed.

When the follow-up to Dig was released, it was issued in January, 1996. I knew that if the label was putting the album out in January there was no intention of promoting it.

Scenery And Fish was undeservedly headed for the cut-out bins by summer, though it was even more successful than the debut in Canada, going double platinum and scoring the band another Juno nomination.

By the time the ensuing tour ended, it was announced that Edwin was leaving I Mother Earth.

I Mother Earth put out two more albums with a new lead singer that weren’t even released south of the border and I didn’t care enough to seek them out as imports.

I had fallen hard for the band that afternoon twenty years ago when I first listened to that demo, the raw music of a band that I knew would be mammoth.

I was disappointed that the world had missed out.

It was not to be.

Here are four songs from I Mother Earth…

I Mother Earth – Not Quite Sonic
from Dig (1993)

If I recall, Not Quite Sonic was the first song on the I Mother Earth demo and the opening – slightly reminiscent of the opening to Guns ‘N’ Roses’ Welcome To The Jungle – drew me in.

And, if I recall, I rewound the tape and listened to Not Quite Sonic again before moving on to the next song.

I Mother Earth – Rain Will Fall
from Dig (1993)

I don’t believe the hyperkinetic Rain Will Fall was on the demo, so I didn’t hear it until Dig was released and, then, it quickly became a favorite.

I Mother Earth – Levitate (acoustic)
from So Gently We Go single (1993)

The version of Levitate which appeared on Dig rumbled along with a heaviness that belied its title. The stripped-down, acoustic take on the song was an interesting change of perspective and accentuated the psychedelic vibe of its lyrics.

I Mother Earth – One More Astronaut
from Scenery And Fish (1996)

Though Scenery And Fish wasn’t quite as impressive as the band’s debut, it still deserved a far better fate than it received (at least here in the States).

The surging One More Astronaut took the vantage point of the titular protagonist, a working man isolated in space lamenting the boredom and isolation, “the powdered food and piss bags.”

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.

Noah, Noah, Everywhere…

May 4, 2010

Several co-workers got all excitible early last week over news reports that Noah’s Ark had been discovered.

It immediately took me back to being a kid and the spate of documentury films in the mid-’70s on the search for sasquatch, UFOs, and Noah’s Ark which were regular viewing fare on Saturday afternoon matinees at our hometown theater.

During the hulabaloo of the pious over this latest “discovery” of the bibilical mariner’s vessel, I heard one of them ask loudly to no one in particular about the a link from the “news” site to the original story.

“What’s sun dot co dot uk?”

Maybe there is an antediluvian cruise ship permanantly in port somewhere on Mount Ararat, but I think I’ll wait for a source other than the UK’s The Sun.

There’s no shortage of folks ’round here waiting for Jesus to bring the porkchops and I quickly forgot about this interest in the flood.

Then, a few days later, I came home from work to find Paloma watching Evan Almighty, a film starring The Office‘s Steve Carell as a modern-day Noah.

Still, I thought little of it as I ventured into the rain early Saturday morning to have some regular maintenance done on the car. I muttered to myself on the drive about the dismal performance of the windshield wipers, making a note to have them replaced.

“You’re going to love these,” Thomas, my mechanic, told me enthusiastically as he brandished a wiper blade. “These are like going from dial-up to a DSL.”

(Thomas is well aware that any automotive suggestions he makes to me are best expressed in non-automotive terms)

As I drove home, the storm increased in intensity, making for a good test of the new wiper blades and their performance was as good as advertised. I returned home, thinking that I would wait ’til later to do a few other chores.

I stretched out on the couch to the soothing sound of steady rain drumming on the eave outside the window.

Thirty-some hours and fifteen inches later, the rain finally stopped drumming on the eave outside the window.

It was a lot of rain but maybe I should have seen it coming.

There is no shortage of rain songs. Here are four that I felt like hearing today…

The Carpenters – Rainy Days And Mondays
from Gold: 35th Anniversary Edition

One of my earliest memories of music is The Carpenters and I can effortlessly picture sitting in the back seat of our Gremlin and there always being something on the radio from the duo. At five, that suited me just fine and it still does.

Albert Hammond – It Never Rains In Southern California

Right in the same time period during which The Carpenters were dominating the pop charts, Albert Hammond was also all over the radio with It Never Rains In Southern California and the five-year old me absolutely loved the song.

The 45 for the song was one of the first few singles I ever owned and, as I didn’t really develop an interest in music for another six or seven years, that was high praise indeed.

I Mother Earth – Rain Will Fall
from Dig

I Mother Earth’s debut Dig was recently featured over at the very cool Forgotten Disc Friday. I serendipitously discovered the band before Dig was released.

Out of college, I worked a couple of internships for record labels, including one in radio promotion. One afternoon, on my way out, my boss gave me a cassette and instructed me to critique it that evening. When I popped it into the player, I was blown away. It was demo recordings of I Mother Earth.

Combining the blistering, tribal rock leanings of Jane’s Addiction, the otherworldly poetry of The Doors, and percussive elements reminiscent of Santana (they actually toured with an ex-member performing percussion), I Mother Earth should have been huge. Our label lost them in a bidding war to Capitol Records who torpedoed their career by marketing them as a metal act. Well done, Capitol. Well done.

Garbage – Only Happy When It Rains
from Garbage

I loved the first few Garbage albums. I’d adored Blondie in my teens and, a decade later, Garbage filled a void that had been left when Blondie split up. Butch Vig parlayed a hot hand as a producer into one of the finest alternative rock acts of the ’90s.

I kind of lost track of Garbage and have only heard tracks here and there over the past decade. The songs I have heard were pleasant enough but didn’t lead me to believe that I missed too much.

And, as it was posted a couple years ago, you might have missed the near-miscommunication between lead singer Shirley Manson and me.