No KMA Sunday Service today, folks. At least, not in the usual way. I’ve spent this week in a blur of busy, and have posted a few things I’ve heard on an on-going basis. Thanks for stopping by, and let’s dig in, shall we?
A 2014 Bidiniband album about which I knew nothing? As a fan of this man’s work, I did the only thing anyone would do and ordered it straight away.
There’s a precedent for musicians writing about their current Canada, just as much as there’s also precedent for bands writing about being tired of the (then) Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government, like Blue Rodeo and Geoff Berner.
I add Bidini (and Rheostatics) in with the Tragically Hip as two excellent examples of our generation’s homegrown bands who add Canadian events, issues, and love of country into their songs with aplomb. Whether it’s direct comment on something, or just giving that feel of what it’s like to live here, they nail it every time. This whole record, then, is a nod, and many of the songs are a statement… a rather angry statement about how Bidini saw Canada at the time.
It’s hard to write political songs without sounding like a strident street corner shouter, and if you get too specific too often with names and events, the album can date itself very quickly (hello Neil Young). But I think Bidini had a lot on his mind, and most of this gets handled really, really well. It’s also notable just how great this band (Doug Friesen, Don Kerr, and Doug Linklater) really is (everything happening on this record is stellar), and they carry the messages through perfectly.
The Grey Wave starts us off with a sweet swing, a trippy gorgeous song that’s part country, part rock, part folk, pure Bidini. It’s gentle, it builds, it crashes… yes! Guest artist Selina Martin provides excellent vocals. Title track The Motherland’s rock punk happiness tells a great story. This is an infectious tune for sure. Hot on its heels, The Fatherland rock blasts us further up the road and oh my goodness I love this tune. What a guitar solo! If they ever played these live, I hope they only ever played Motherland and Fatherland back to back. They’re a set.
Maybe one of the best tracks here is All Hail Canada, an homage to our great country, pretty but with a real edge. He makes a lot of excellent points about how things really are here, politically and environmentally, and gives us lines like “All hail Canada,We’re number 1 in all the things the world believes we used to represent,” and “I hate to think that everything could disappear in four small years, but you and me won’t ever see what lurks behind their dark veneer.“ And we can’t forget “All hail Canada, where prisons grow from the minimum sentencing of the pot heads who were caught at home smoking dope lying in bed, we’ll send them to the prison with the Blacks and the Indians in the land of the brave and free.” It’s that sort of vitriol that powers this whole record.
(The Return Of) Fat is a long, toe-tapping country rock sweep of a tune that grows into a major guitar wailing pounding drums rock out before calming back down. Hey Jesus’ pick up truck country pleases greatly, and carries on the theme of the record.
Ladies Of Montreal rocks a celebration of the beautiful province of Quebec. Selina Martin returns, singing in French. I won’t lie, there really is something about the ladies of Montreal, that je ne sais quoi, non? My my my. Fun tune! Everyday Superstar is a pretty pop song chorus with a slinky rock bluesy backbone. I loved this one, for sure, especially the crazy perfect guitar solo. He even growls when he tells us he’s an animal out of control.
The Motherland Part 2 carries on wiyh a call to revolution over great guitar runs and a classic rock vibe. “From sea to sea it’s who we’ll be, to fight the fight, to seed the weed, the twisted words they use to keep us down,” and “They rape the land and whore the earth, from tired slums to poor reserves…” is all a shout and slap in the face to those in the crosshairs. I love the breakdown section, it’s jagged and riveting. The song is restless, giving us a myriad of sounds and approaches all with in its near 6 minute length. Incredible. “Politician on a covert mission to hide the truth, Stephen Harper you’re not my father…” Oh man!
And finally, Say The Names features Al Purdy and the Billie Hollies, and gives us a Purdy poem set to music. Lots of female vocals, a trumpet (I always cheer for the trumpets!) and, yes, it might plod a bit, but it’s meant to and therefore it is perfect. And the message, well-chosen in this work, continues our theme adroitly.
What an album!! I cannot stop listening to it. Do yourself a favour, find yourself a copy of this gem and play it over and over. It just gets better. Bidiniband have made a masterpiece, with this one, and I can’t thank them enough!
Even more pleasing, in the title track, he hints we might get more… “You might think I’m an angry, radical freak for all I’ve sung, but when it comes to speaking my mind, I’ve only just begun.”
We can only hope, Dave. Please never stop doing what you do!
I highly recommend that you check out Mike’s beautiful (and far-better-written than mine) review of this essential record right HERE.
Mike’s working backwards in his discovery of Bidiniband, first covering 2012’s In The Rock Hall. And now, today, it’s 2009’s The Land Is Wild.
Desert Island Poem has got to be one of my favourite songs ever. They’re skinning and cooking their drummer, worried about whether they’ll get to leave Drumheller (with a shout out to the Royal Tyrrell museum), a plane from Alert crashes…It all just resonates with me and my funny bone, and also the times we ourselves went through Drumheller… just perfect.
This is what I was on about last time, about the perfect Canada in the songs that guys like this write. It’s just endless, their experiences traversing this country multiple times, just soaking in the place and its landscapes and hockey and people, looking wistfully back at their youth, and letting it all come back out in beautiful music. All this, and anybody who can call it “Kwuh-beck” right before a freaking clarinet solo… Cool beans by me, man.
This feel, these stories, this LOVE carries right through the whole album. It’s in the insouciance and sharp elbow dig at what they see, in the acoustic and rawk tracks that are stirring and gorgeous, in the song about how terrible the song is, and all filtered through their hyper intelligence and awareness and a desire to see more. And more! And more!
I could go through this album song by song, but really all you need to do is buy it, play it often, and fall in love every time – just like I do. I fully recommend it.
Mike’s breaking out his comfort zone of the classic rawk blog reviews this year (and good on him for trying it!), so he’s going to be going through the stuff I bought on our trip to Toronto last fall, and we’re going to do simultaneous reviews! My thoughts are below, and I’ll be sure to link to his blog so you can read what he thought, too. Anyway, this is the first record he chose from my shopping scores, and an excellent choice it is.
Now, I should put out there that my bias is long-standing, as a fan of the Rheostatics from way back. So it’s a natural that I’d try to keep up with what the boys have done following the ending of that group.
The songs on this record are about the rock, very Neil Young via Rheos-style. This should come as a surprise to no one, if you’ve been following along with Bidini’s creative output and his influences. Acoustic touches here and there, but big fuzzy rock-outs prevail. Short little punkers and ambitious 8-10 minute creative bursts live happily side by side here, too. There’s even a goof on the 80s. It’s a record that forces you to pay attention, in a good way. You just never know what they’re gonna do next, and that’s a beautiful thing indeed.
Honestly, I can put this album on and play it start to finish and love every track. There’s just something about listening to these guys that makes me think of a perfect Canada. We need this band, we need them in the fabric of what we do and I hope they never stop. These are the hard-working and supremely-talented musicians who are out there right now, making our home great.
My one regret is that he was here in my town (of all places!) a few months ago, and I did not go because I somehow didn’t hear about it until it was too late. Dammit!