CMW 2013 Film Review: Big Star – Nothing Can Hurt Me

big-star nothing can hurt Us Film

By: Myles Herod April 3, 2013

big-star nothing can hurt Us Film

During their existence, no one ever heard of Big Star.  And if you did, you were cooler than most.  

At the heart of the touching new documentary, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, is a dilemma synonymous with musical lore: what went wrong.  

Big Star never grasped the fanfare that was worthy of their proto-power pop sensibilities; a potent mix stewed by stalwarts Chris Bell and Alex Chilton – both musical wunderkinds of sorts. Not unlike Lennon and McCartney, both Chilton and Bell epitomized that rare cosmic pairing, searing their lyrical prowess, sonic ambitions and aching voices on what would their debut, ‘#1 Record.” 

Though their first two albums earned raves in major publications, notably Rolling Stone Magazine, their labels distribution problems and  record company woes made them nearly impossible to find on the shelves.

The film does an interesting job in not only tracing the bands rise and fall, but also capturing the texture of the era. Case in point – a long, but humorous sup-plot involving a Memphis rock critic conference held in 1973, where debauchery and greasy-haired excess culminated in a Big Star show, the only time the band connected with perfect audience, as the film highlights with bittersweet nostalgia.   

Cited as “one of the most mythic and influential cult acts in all of rock ‘n’ roll” the film uses never-before-seen footage and superb interviews to great aplomb. Here is a tale of forgotten pop forerunners, from their initial creative explosion and subsequent commercial failure, to their fractured split onto the beaten paths of punk, depression, death and revival. If nothing else, Alex Chilton, Chris Bell, Jody Stephens and Andy Hummel had and immeasurable power over the likes of R.E.M. and others, who in turn, would mold their sound into what would be coined ‘alternative’ music 20 years later. Truth be told, they’re bigger stars now than ever before.  

CMW 2013 Review: Diamond Rings

Toronto Musician Diamond Rings - John O'Regan

By: Myles Herod April 2, 2013

Toronto Musician Diamond Rings - John O'Regan

Diamond Rings, the creation of John O’Regan, is of another era.

With a chilly facade and distinct baritone, his set was by far the most theatrical of the night; one of many headliners of The Indies on Friday March 23rd. Blasting across the stage with powerful synths, an electric six string and a white tee, the stage contrast was evident. Fashioning a sleek look of Bowie and Vanilla Ice, O’Regan’s conviction strangely that of an ’90s boy band hopeful, albeit a sexually ambitious one, especially when uttering such sugary sweet lyrics as, “one, two, Iet me love you.” By design, his newly recruited backing band was doused in dark shades, a symbolical ying and yang of visual minimalism.

Whatever the case, O’Regan was still front and centre, with a passion that oozed from his physicality, a choreography of arms reaching for the sky and kicks flying freely. It’s hard to decipher what the crowd took away from the half-hour set. Was the glam friendly pastiche too much for indie denizens to sink their teeth into? Certainly his polished pop/rock preening was something to admire, if not behold. Like the diamond in his name, O’Regan’s future looks bright. At least in my books.

CMW 2013 Review: Besnard Lakes

Montreal Indie band Besnard Lakes

By: Myles Herod April 2, 2013

Montreal Indie band Besnard Lakes

It never clicked that The Besnard Lakes might be a shoe-gaze band. Yet, after their show at Lee’s Palace, there was no doubt left in my mind.

I despise using the word ‘cosmic’, but that is what I was met with, a swirl of colossal sounds making up the band’s forthcoming LP, Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO; an exclusive unveiling of sorts to those in attendance.

The Montreal troupe are a hard one to pin down sonically – analog keyboards, dense guitar effects and falsetto vocals, courtesy of frontman Jace Laske, which would make Brian Wilson blush.

Truthfully, the encapsulation of their set was a headphone album played live, like a Canadian My Bloody Valentine, but with a tip of the hat to Neil Young at his most wasted. The key ingredient, mind you, congealing the beautiful mess into a devastating whole remains the chemistry of Lasek and his wife Olga Goreas, utilizing a sense of intimacy that gives the band its ‘edge’.

Finishing a setlist of entirely new material at 2am, fans were treated to a handful of old cuts. By then it was too late, The Besnard Lakes had transported me to another realm, world, and all of the above. They are truly a band to be reckoned with – one of epic portions.

CMW 2013 Review: Metric

Emily Haines of Metric performing at CMW in Toronto

By: Myles Herod April 1, 2013

Emily Haines of Metric performing at CMW in Toronto

In the past few years, the live persona of Metric has grown.

Emerging through the white and red strobes, Emily Haines lead charge, but the band commanded as a whole. Drummer Joules Scott-Key, bassist Josh Winstead and axman James Shaw weaved together like lockstep, burning bright like a pulsating electric current.

Haines balanced dual roles as songstress and mascot, gliding effortlessly above the surging crowd at Kool Haus, her unbridled energy and sleek frame feeding hungry onlookers. It should be noted that Haines, at 39-years-old, is a front woman of ageless poise and spirited vocals. I would’ve guessed her for 29.

The show kicked off with “Artificial Nocturne”, an electro rocker with an almost motorik beat, while ‘Speed of Collapse’ appeased to all those gamers familiar with FIFA 13, finding a sultry Haines purring beneath a wash of crisp drums and glacial synths.

As the show progressed, the crowd hung onto every word, singing along to the anthemic hits of the band’s storied past. They’re no longer rock stars in the making; they’re now a Toronto institution.

CMW 2013 Review: Colin James

Colin James CMW 2013

By: Myles Herod April 1, 2013 

Colin James CMW 2013 

There are no frills with a Colin James show.

Riding solo as Canada’s most acclaimed blues guitarist, his nearly sold-out Lee’s Palace gig on Thursday proved just that, with wall-to-wall baby boomers swooning to his meat-and-potatoes brand of rock.

Touring in support of his latest album, Fifteen, the 48-year-old James gave the Canadian Music Week audience a selfless serving of fret firing action with a side of gusty vocals.

“It’s good to be at Lee’s Palace, I think it’s my first time,” James quipped with a genuine smirk.

Opening with Saviour, from his ’95 album Bad Habits, he dished out a slew of cuts from Fifteen, including ‘I Need You Bad’ and ‘Sweets Gone Sour’ – adequate musing on the blues genre that he has honed for so many years.

As a spectator, my report is rather biased – Colin James is not an artist I’d seek to listen to on a regular basis. However, James’ wizardry on the guitar — rumour persists that he had 22 on hand that night — was a captivating treat, beginning to end. More than anything, it proved that the man can make his instrument wail, bringing it to life like I have rarely seen.