Show Preview/Song Of The Day: Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, Good As Gold

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It really does come as something of a surprise that Sarah Shook didn’t grow up immersed in country music. Listening to the North Carolina based singer-songwriter’s sophomore album Years, you’d be forgiven for assuming that she grew up in honky-tonks and started mainlining country sounds from birth rather than coming to it later in life as she apparently did. Shook’s catchy, relatable songwriting embodies the spirit of country music so well and throws in a touch of punk rock for good measure too. I could go on about it, but who better than Sarah Shook herself to describe it? As she puts it:

This record is about finding a way. A way through exhaustion, depression, betrayal, hangover after hangover, upper after downer after upper, fight after never-ending fight. It’s about picking yourself up and dusting yourself off after years of being trampled and beaten down, jutting your chin out, head high, after they’ve done their worst, and saying, “Still here.”

This record is shouting “f**k you, I do want I want” from the rooftops to the mother******g cosmos.

Really, what more could you want from an album?

The album is full of gems such as “New Ways To Fail” (with its skateboarding-themed video that we wrote about here), “Parting Words” and album opener “Good As Gold” which features one of my favourite lyrics on the album (“No, it won’t be long ’til the wrong song comes on at the right time”).

Sarah Shook & The Disarmers will be playing a show at The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern on Saturday, August 25. It should be a good one. If by chance you can’t make it or you need something to tide you over until the show, you can check out the lyric video for “Good As Gold” below:

Concert Review: Joan Of Arc, August 14, The Baby G

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Over the course of their 20+ year career, Joan Of Arc has never been a band that’s been afraid to follow its muse in whatever creative direction it takes them, even when, as frontman Tim Kinsella himself admitted in a Noisey piece wherein he ranked the band’s discography, the results might sometimes fall a bit flat. This willingness to experiment and take chances has been a defining element of the band’s sound over the years and that’s certainly just as true of their latest release, 1984.

Released on the heels of last year’s He’s Got the Whole This Land Is Your Land in His Hands, 1984 takes the band in a different direction with Melina Ausikaitis taking on the role of lead singer for each song. It’s an interesting album, and one that sounds unlike anything else they’ve ever done with Ausikaitis delivering autobiographical-sounding lyrics in a twangy voice that recalls old-timey folk and country over the band’s expansive soundscapes.

In concert, Ausikaitis only took the lead on a handful of songs, spending the rest of the time either singing alongside Kinsella or playing her “fake guitar,” but two of those songs, “Punk Kid” and “Tiny Baby,” were among the highlights of the night. The rest of their set was a typical Joan Of Arc show – the experimental, arty indie rock the band is known for with a healthy dose of electronic elements added in – but also, in typical fashion, not terribly typical at all. Which is to say it was a unique, entertaining show.

Film Review: Slave To The Grind (2018, Doug Brown)

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Grindcore. If you’re a fan, you understand the music’s visceral appeal – everything as fast and heavy as possible, or as grind masters Brutal Truth once put it in the intro to 1997’s Sounds Of The Animal Kingdom, “Still not loud enough, still not fast enough.” If you’re not a fan, you might be curious what the hell all this noise is about and what exactly the appeal is. If you fall into either category, Toronto filmmaker Doug Brown’s Slave To The Grind is definitely worth your time.

Taken from footage shot over the last few years, Slave To The Grind is an entertaining and informative look at the origins and development of grindcore (a fusion of metal and punk) from the early days of originators Napalm Death and Repulsion to the beginnings of subgenres like goregrind and mincecore and on into the current state of grind.

The film features many notable figures in the genre, with the likes of Repulsion’s Scott Carlson, Earache Records founder Digby Pearson, Mel Mongeon and Topon Das of Fuck The Facts and the members of Agathocles all making memorable appearances throughout. It’s often the drummers though who make for the most entertaining interviewees, with Brutal Truth/Total Fucking Destruction’s Rich Hoak, AxCx’s Tim Morse, Terrorizer/Morbid Angel drummer Pete Sandoval and Dave Witte (who’s played in too many bands to mention here) coming up with some of the more memorable moments – not surprising when you consider the importance of drums and the blastbeat in particular to grindcore. And though he’s not interviewed in the film, a special mention must go out to Repulsion drummer Dave Hollingshead who, as Carlson explains, the band discovered after reading an article about him and some others being caught robbing graves. That’s pretty metal.

While I’m sure some grind aficionados might complain that certain bands or elements of the genre may have been overlooked or underrepresented, the film delivers a very thorough and entertaining look at the genre. And if you’re still jonesing for a deeper dive into grindcore lore (grindlore?), Brown did mention in the post-film Q&A at the Toronto screening that there was something like 1000 plus hours of footage shot so I’m sure that when the DVD is eventually released, there will be much more to discover.

Slave To The Grind will be going on a bit of a world tour over the next couple of months, Check it out if it’s playing in your city.

Concert Review: The Gaslight Anthem, August 9, Rebel

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After a quartet of songs to start off the night, The Gaslight Anthem frontman Brian Fallon addressed the crowd, focusing his attention on a very specific subsection of the crowd – the VIP area to the side of the stage. “What did you do to get put over there?” he asked them. “What are you, over 40? You look young – why are you sitting down?” After a couple more jokes about bottle service and security not being needed for that crowd, Fallon returned his attention to the show and to the rest of the packed house at Rebel with a simple “Alright here it goes. A bunch of songs.” And with that understated introduction, the band launched into “Great Expectations,” the first track off of The ’59 Sound.

It’s become all too commonplace over the past several years for bands to tour behind a classic album and though some may question the deep dive into nostalgia, it’s a good reason for a band to go out on tour without having to have a brand new release to promote and it’s certainly a popular move with the fans. And while I’m sure most of the devoted Gaslight Anthem fans in attendance would be happy to see the band perform any one of their albums in its entirety (OK, probably not Get Hurt), their sophomore album, with its punk-goes-Springsteen vibe and use of retro ’50s imagery, was their breakthrough and is the one that makes the most sense to get the track-by-track performance tour.

If by chance The ’59 Sound is not your favourite though, the band still played plenty of other songs from throughout their career (but no requests please), bringing out opener Matt Mays near the end of the set to join them for “National Anthem” before closing things off with “We’re Getting A Divorce, You Keep The Diner” and “American Slang.” No encore though, because as Fallon so eloquently put it, encores are stupid. Amen.