If there was an all-star team (like that cartoon about Bo Jackson, Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan solving crimes) of individual musical brilliance, that would be the gentlemen of RUSH. Over the course of their 40-year career, Geddy Lee (bass, vocals), Alex Lifeson (guitar) and Neil Peart (drums) almost constantly graced the magazine covers of their respective instruments. When musicians cite their influences, these three gents usually come up at some point in the conversation.
But these Great White North (born and raised in Toronto) boys were A BAND. One of the most popular (over 40 million albums sold does the trick) and most influential (The Foo Fighters inducting them into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame takes care of that) Canadian artists EVER. Time to get to the heart of these prog-rock deities and their story.
The band started in Toronto's Willowdale neighbourhood with Alex, bassist/vocalist Jeff Jones and drummer John Rutsey. The "RUSH" handle was suggested by Rutsey's brother Bill, who came up with the name while the band was - wait for it - 'rushing' (HAH!) around to get ready for their first gig at a local coffee shop call The Coff-In, located in the basement of an Anglican church (?). That lineup was short-lived, however, and within a couple of weeks, and just before their second performance, Jeff Jones left the band and was replaced by Geddy, who had gone to school with Alex.
It was only when John Rutsey left and Neil Peart came into the fold, that RUSH became the three-headed prog-rock monster of Rock. Yes, Neil knows his way around a drum kit, but his mind-expanding lyrics were the glue that truly made this trio tick. In many ways, they were the jumping-off point for everything else the band did. Whether it was fantasy worlds, political issues or the human condition, prog-rock's Holy Trinity made it work, and sometimes it even may or may not have involved moustaches, double-necked guitars and double-necked basses...
For awhile, RUSH recorded almost an album a year, but quite possibly their true strength was playing live. Their tours seemed to never end at times, which made recording so many albums in their earlier years even more amazing. One of the best-sounding live acts, they released eleven(!!) live albums over the course of their career, and they probably have enough material in the can to put out ten more.
But two things that might have got them over the top into true legend status: 1) An entire Paul Rudd movie based around them. 2) A collaboration with Bob & Doug McKenzie. They've just completed their final major tour, but that doesn't mean they're done for good. The Holy Trinity will get back together again, whether to record, play a few killer shows, or simply to talk about the good times over great food and a case of wine.
This week's entry is a band renowned the world over, but even some of their fans may not know they're as Canadian as The Beachcombers, Casey and Finnegan, and Jim Carrey (Whaaa?!? Him too?!? The conspiracy continues...): Montreal's Arcade Fire.
When asked about the rumour that the band's name refers to a fire in an arcade, frontman Win Butler replied: "It's not a rumour, it's based on a story that someone told me. It's not an actual event, but one that I took to be real. I would say that it's probably something that the kid made up, but at the time I believed him."
They've done their own thing right from the start, with their own sound and style. They're the epitome of what every band wants: creative control from the start, with fans loving what you do and not bending to anyone else's whims.
You can pick out any one of at least 10 different musical influences in each song, but they all come together to make the signature Arcade Fire sound. They could record Dolly Parton's Jolene and The Prodigy's Firestarter on the same album and the songs would become Arcade classics. Two of rock's most revered Davids, Mssrs. Byrne (Talking Heads) and Bowie, professed their love for these Canucks.
Not too shabby.
They've made the unrefined, elementary-school art of papier-mâché into a viable rock n' roll prop...
...and they even inspired a former Spider Man/Best Actor Oscar nominee to dress in drag for one of their videos:
Arcade Fire is, well, on fire (heh heh) at the moment. The world, as the saying goes, is their oyster. And you know what they'd do with that oyster? They would turn it into an eccentric-yet-anthemic gem of a tune that could only come from them.
Who doesn't love an underdog? A smalltown bunch of guys done good? What about the Rudy of progressive metal bands? Who do we mean? V-O-I-V-O-D! What does that spell? VOIVOD!!
The origins of this legendary cult band begin in Jonquière, Quebec, a suburb of Saguenay, a city which happens to be approximately 5 hours drive north east of Montreal.
In his early tweens, After surviving a near fatal car accident when he was five years old, drummer/founding member Michel "Away" Langevin began to have nightmares, and then drawing them (!) This self-therapy seemed to have guided his early visions of the yet-to-exist VOIVOD. From this he started to draw pictures from TV and began to create his own characters. He created an early, rough version of the 'Voivod' character when he was about nine or ten while spending most of time in his room reading books about science fiction, particularly J.R. Tolkien's "Lord Of The Rings".
While reading Bram Stoker's 'Dracula,' Michel came upon the word 'Voivod', a kind of Eastern/Central European lord or prince. He was inspired to create a "post-nuclear" vampire who lived in a land of constant war called 'Morgoth' and also came up with an early type of the "new-age 'Voivod/Korgull' machine. This reverse engineering of forming a band finally led to learning to play drums and finding others who would help bring his concept to life.
VOIVOD officially formed in 1981 when guitarist Denis "Piggy" D'Amour had been searching for several musicians to start a band with. He found Jean-Yves "Blacky" Thériault, who agreed to play bass. There was a slight issue however, as Blacky didn't know how to play bass at the time. Blacky then hired (Away), who had been a friend from high school as their drummer. But Blacky's and Away's respective skill levels needed a bit of seasoning, so after about a year awayof honing their craft, they reformed, and aside from a few band member changes, they've been going ever since.
Rock heavyweights like Metallica, Dave Grohl and Soundgarden have cited the guys from Jonquière as major influences. Their stew of NWOBHM/punk/prog-rock/early Pink Floyd psychedelia has stood the test of time, and even their earliest works sound fresh and relevant today. A big part of this is their lyrics about themes such as science fiction, post-apocalyptic visions and Reagan (substitute in Trump?)-era Cold War politics.
See? VOIVOD's story could be Hallmark Channel movie-of-the-week! Only it would be the only Hallmark involving near-fatal car crashes, rural Québec towns, heavy metal and post-nuclear vampires. Tomayto-tomahto.
On July 1st, it is Canada's birthday - the 150th to be exact, and over the next month, this space will be all bands from the Great White North and how they came about their handles.
That being said, let's get this over with: Nickelback is from the little town of Hanna, Alberta, and their name is from the five cents change that bassist Mike Kroeger gave customers when he worked at Starbucks, saying, "Here's your nickel back".
Good. Let's never speak of that ever again.
Cape Breton-via-Toronto band Alvvays is a buzz-band made good. Lead singer Molly Rankin (progeny of the first family of Canadian Celtic music, the Rankin Family band) picked the name Alvvays because she liked that it had a "shred of sentiment and nostalgia." The unique spelling of the name was to get around the little issue of there already being a band named Always signed to their label, Sony.
They've already carved out a nice little niche in the indie pop game, appearing at South By Southwest in 2015...
...then making the true big-time, playing the legendary Glastonbury Festival the same year. Playing upon King Arthur's burial ground is nothing to sneeze at.
You know when you really want to name your band after a pair of pants but nothing sounds just right? The Khakis, Corduroy Mayhem, Denimator...
How about going less literal and more making-up-your-own-homonyms-for-foreign-languages? Let's open our textbooks to Zoobombs and refer to how they morphed the Japanese word for "trousers" into a perfect foil for their indefatigable, sweat-drenched funk/alt-blues stew of a sound.
So, to review: they took "Zubon"/trousers, messed with the syllables and came up with Zoobombs. There's a band name formula in there, and not just Japanese/English linguistic alchemy...
1) Khakis = (Japanese) "Kakisu" = Cocky Sue
2) Jeans = (Spanish) "Pantatlones" = Panther Loners
3) Bell Bottoms = (Italian) "Bottoni Di Campana" = Button Up The Camper Van
4) Corduroy = (French) "Velours Côtelé" = Velour Cut N' Lay
Okay, it needs a little work. Let's take a break and get into the Zoobomb gang:
They've been around since 1994 and they play every live show like it's their last. It hasn't been proven, but they could probably sustain entire cities with their energy, if there was a way to hook up a adrenaline-powered battery. Oh yeah, and since they're Japanese, they're genetically disposed to filter and transform North American pop culture into something weirdly amazing.
Here's further proof we could do away with fossil fuels, power plants and whatever other environmentally-unfriendly energy source by simply hooking these guys up to a big ol' Rock N' Roll turbine:
This week's entry was an impromptu one, and obviously not under the best circumstances. On May 17th, Chris Cornell was found in his Detroit hotel room, post-triumphant-Fox-Theater show, without vital signs and with a band around his neck.
Soundgarden was formed in 1984 by then-drummer/vocalist Chris Cornell, bassist Hiro Yamamoto and guitarist Kim Thayil. The band named themselves after a wind-channeling pipe sculpture in Seattle titled A Sound Garden. Scott Sundquist joined in 1985 to allow Cornell to concentrate on vocals. In 1986, Sundquist left the band to spend time with his family and was replaced by ex-Skin Yard drummer Matt Cameron.
The band signed to Sub Pop, and the label released Hunted Down in 1987 as the band's first single. The band released the 'Screaming Life' EP in 1987 and the 'Fopp' EP in 1988. A combination of the two was issued as the Screaming Life/Fopp LP. They signed to SST Records in 1988 and released their full-length (and Grammy-nominated) debut, Ultramega OK. Louder Than Love followed in 1989, further honing their Zeppelin-meets-Sabbath-with-a-dash-of-Voivod sound.
Then came the Grunge Era, with Pearl Jam, Nirvana and others kicking the doors down and replacing hairspray and leather with plaid and Doc Martens. Although they were way more prog-metal, they were from Seattle, and fit in perfectly with their 1991 (with new bassist Ben Shepherd) album Badmotorfinger's sound balancing the tightrope that was, at the time, alt-rock and heavy metal.
Then in 1994 came the ultramega (see what I did there?) hit that was Superunknown. Five-times platinum, Grammy-nominated, debuting at #1 on the Billboard charts... Soundgarden became one of the biggest bands in the world. On top of Spoonman and Black Hole Sun, 'The Day I Tried To Live', 'My Wave' and 'Fell On Black Days' became rock classics.
And not only do they have an educational name, they graced their presence on an episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy!!
After 13 years together and 5 albums, the band acrimoniously broke up in 1997. The fifth album, Down On the Upside, had been released in 1996 and was a big part of the implosion, where the guys were at odds over the musical direction of the album and the band in general. Chris formed the supergroup Audioslave with everyone from Rage Against The Machine except for Zach DaRocha, while the other Soundgardeners took on various projects...
... until 2010, when the band got band together to jam, start recording, and adding a previously unreleased song to the (remember this?) Guitar Hero video game. 2011 saw them contribute a new and quite solid tune to the Avengers' movie soundtrack, and 2012 brought their first album in over 16 years, the like-we-never-left gem of an album, King Animal.
In 2015 they began putting together a new album, and close to half of the tracks had been completed by summer 2016.
They began to tour in 2017, with a late-fall album release in the works.
Which leaves us where we are right now.
R.I.P. Chris. You are deservedly in the (a deservedly-used word here) pantheon of truly great rock voices: Plant, Mercury, Springsteen, Joplin et al. But what made you truly unique is your ability to wail like a banshee and yet also sing like a troubadour. That is why you will never be forgotten.
What comes to mind when you hear the words, "Russian Circles"?
- Crop circles found in the Krasnodar region that may have been made by aliens?
- The upper echelons of the Bratva ie. the Russian mob?
- Being under surveillance by the KGB?
- An ice hockey practice drill?
- An overwhelmingly loud post-rock three-piece out of Chicago named after an ice hockey practice drill?
If the last two thoughts were bouncing around in your cranium, give yourself a lollipop!
The group formed in the early Aughts, and in the struggle to come with a band handle (bandle?) before their first show, guitarist Mike Sullivan and drummer Dave Turncrantz remembered a drill they did during high school hockey practice. The drill was introduced to the world by the 1980 Soviet hockey team.
The band's aim is to create sonic environments that envelop the listener - much like Mogwai, but a tad more aggressive.
Long story short... if you like epic, face-melting instrumental rock with your Iron Curtain hockey trivia, PLEASE go see them.
Okay, kiddies! Today we are learning about the link between Scottish new wave bands, horse racing, and the War To End All Wars. Ahh... I thought that might get your curiosity piqued!
Scottish dance-rock band Franz Ferdinand is named after a racing horse who is named after an Austrian Archduke whose assassination triggered World War One. Got all that? Good.
Franzie's offing aside, World War One was essentially a family feud that just happened to involve around 70 million people and 16 million casualties. If that doesn't make you think war is stupid, nothing will.
Let's look at the creepy relationship between the main players, shall we?
- German Kaiser Wilhelm II was the cousin of Russian Tsar Nicholas II and the King of England at the time, George V.
After Ferdinand's assassination, Tsar Nick and King George ended up against Kaiser Willy and it blew up from there...
But there's a band to talk about here! Franz Ferdinand shot to fame in 2004 and have built up a nice little career ever since. They watched a racehorse of the same name and started looking into the Archduke. The alliterative sounding name stuck and has become a cool accoutrement to their lively, dancefloor-worthy rock, complete with nods to the Russian avant-garde art movement.
They even formed a New-Wave-Voltron-like supergroup with pop legends Sparks in 2015. No word on who was the yellow lion.
And since they've gone and written a song about some U.S. president who may or may not use a weasel in place of hair, who's to say that 20 years from now a band named Donald Trump is taking the world by storm with their chart-topping song, "Miss You Bigly" (apologies to anyone who just threw up a little in their mouth after reading that)?
Many apologies... we can't end things off like that. How about more of this!?!
Happy May The 4th Be With You Day!
In the fictional universe of the Star Wars franchise, a "nerf" is a domesticated bison-like quadruped. In The Empire Strikes Back, Princess Leia insults Han Solo by giving nerfs and those who herd them, a bad name...
At face value, the name sounds perfect for an eccentric indie band, but once you add in the Star Wars connection, you are the nerd band of all nerd bands, and Nerf Herder from Santa Barbara doesn't disappoint. They achieved solid (but nowhere near the level of the band who inspired the song) radio airplay back in 1997 with their hit "Van Halen"...
'How geeky/nerdy are they? Let me present the evidence:
5) They appeared in the finale of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer TV show (oh yeah - they wrote the bloody theme song!)
4) They have a song titled 'Doctor Who'.
3) They have a song about about the ill-fated Ghostbusters III:
Have to admit - the line, "You're never gonna be my Zuul" is pretty solid.
But I digress.
2) They have a song about comic book conventions. Heck, they even play at conventions.
1) They have a song about Spock.
So there you have it. Could there be a nerdier band out there or to ever come along? As the esteemed Vizzini in The Princess Bride said, "Inconceivable!" Could there a nerdier reference to prove a point than the previous sentence? Inconcei... sorry.
But this is May the Fourth, and Nerf Herder is a Star Wars-influenced band, so until there's a rock band named Boba Fate or a rap group that goes by Millenium Falconz, the Nerfs take the crown.
Hold on!! What about a death metal band called Dark Helmet!?!
Sorry. Someone please help me.
Some band names are so straightforward (Loudness, Cannibal Corpse, Bread...) there's no confusion about their intentions. Then there are those bands whose names are the reason you become curious/interested in the first place.
Auckland, New Zealand's The Naked And Famous falls in the latter category. They came up with the moniker from a lyric in trip-hop legend Tricky's song 'Tricky Kid'. It has that killer combination of vague/profound/provocative (vaguefoundcative?) potential. I had to know: are they a scandalously volatile new glam rock band? Ironically subtle indie folk combo?...
...I was rewarded by my curiosity with three albums worth of the catchiest, most atmospheric indie-electronic pop out there.
And on the subject of names, vocalist Alisa Xayalith could also be a benevolent leader of a resource-rich planet in the Alpha Centauri system.
But less words, more earworms!
The officially unofficial blog of Faux Rawk. Everything you read is true, although some of what you read is 100% false. Whoa... trippy, man.