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.

The Arch-Nemesis

September 21, 2011

For a good decade or so, I have had an implacable foe, an entity which I have formally and officially declared to be my arch-nemesis.

Making this struggle more complex is that my arch-nemesis is the brother of a good friend.

In truth, I don’t know David very well. I’ve been buddies with his brothers for close to twenty years, but I’ve been around David no more than a handful of times.

Our rivalry has no origin other than a decision I made to declare him my arch-nemesis.

(it actually was encouraged by his brothers)

But David is a good guy, so this confrontation has gone no further than our mutual understanding of the conflict and our verbal acknowledgement of it on the rare occasions that we do meet.

Our relationship lacks the cold war sizzle that existed with my previous arch-nemesis –

The Dutch.

I had never had an arch-nemesis until a half dozen or so of us who were drinking buddies and worked at a record store together suddenly began hating the Dutch.

(it happened during an evening of drinks)

We took to the idea with enthusiasm, blaming the Dutch for all of the ills of the world several years before it was chic to blame Canada.

We would shuffle into the back room of the store, muttering expletives directed at the Netherlands under our breath after dealing with difficult customers.

If our usual barkeep at our favorite watering hole was not working and the music being played did not meet our approval, it was a plot originating in Holland.

But our distress over the Dutch was inexplicable.

I had assumed – for some reason – that it dated to the 1994 World Cup, which we had followed that summer.

One evening, during the 1998 World Cup, I asked one of my buddies why we hated the Dutch.

He proceeded to tell tale of another large record store where he had worked and a customer visiting from the Netherlands who threw a tantrum over some perceived grievance, bellowing to all who listen that his mistreatment was because he was Dutch.

“I figured that we must have some long-standing issues with the Dutch and I wanted to do the least that I could do,” my buddy said with a shrug. “It would have been unpatriotic to not hate the Dutch.”

Of course, we didn’t really hate the Dutch. We just enjoyed having an arch-nemesis.

Here are four enemy songs since arch-nemesis is a bit cumbersome to use in a lyric I suppose…

Swan Dive – Sweet Enemy
from Circle (1998)

Swan Dive’s music has been described as bossa nova pop.

Sweet Enemy is light, breezy, and sophisticated stuff, but its just a hint of the wonderous sounds made by the duo of Bill DeMain and Molly Felder.

The Waterboys – Be My Enemy
from This Is The Sea (1985)

This Is The Sea was my introduction to Scottish band The Waterboys. I’d been prompted to purchase the cassette after hearing the glorious The Whole Of The Moon before school one morning on a rock radio station out of Dayton.

(it might have been the only time I’ve ever heard the band on radio)

I was immediately smitten by their “big music” and the tape spent a lot of time in my Walkman that senior year. The rollicking Be My Enemy clatters alongs with a dizzying urgency that caught my attention and made me hit rewind a time or two.

(which, of course, drained the double-AA batteries rather quickly)

Roger Hodgson – Had a Dream (Sleeping with the Enemy)
from In The Eye Of The Storm (1984)

If you have followed my babbling on this site, you might be well aware of my affection for Supertramp (at least Breakfast In America). By 1984, founding member Roger Hogdson had left the band for a solo career that didn’t exactly pan out.

Had A Dream (Sleeping With The Enemy) got some airplay on some of the stations to which I was listening at the time. In truth, it could have been on Breakfast In America and not sounded out of place.

Rage Against The Machine – Know Your Enemy
from Rage Against The Machine (1992)

I didn’t immediately gravitate to Rage Against The Machine. I thought their politics to be somewhat half-baked. However, seeing them live, opening for U2 – a band for whom the same accusation could be made regarding politics – made me a fan of the sheer sonic force of Rage’s music.

A few friends and I bumped into the band before that show at a vegetarian restaurant. The might have made some angry music, but the band members and crew were quite polite and friendly.