Genticorum Nagez Rameurs a True Delight

Nagez Rameurs
Mad River Records 1024
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Québeçois music is known for its frantic pacing and ragged tempos, but the first track of Genticorum’s latest release signals the ways in which this trio takes a smoother approach. The song, “Tout le long du voyage” is a cautionary tale for young men informing them that life in Hudson’s Bay isn’t always the stuff of romance. It has the constant clogged percussion one expects from tunes from La Belle Province, but also polish, precision, and deliberate timing. This is typical of Genticorum’s approach.  “Turlutte hisuite,” for example, is energetic and exciting, but listen carefully to the way in which Pascal Gemme’s cascading fiddle runs neatly intersect the rhythms he lays down with his feet. Listen also to the gliding wooden flute of Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand on “Les Menteries.” Genticorum delight in defying expectations. You’d expect a song written to synchronize the strokes of rowers to be sweaty and driving, but the title track is more of a casual glide than a strained-muscle sprint, and the call-and-response vocals are marked by delicate harmonies. Or how about a Cape Breton log drivers’ song (“Grand voyageur sur la drave”) as slow and melancholy--more wistful than lustful? Mix in some pastoral waltzes, and you have plenty of contrast for the unabashed double-time tempos of the barn dance-like “Galope Deux Bedon,” the appropriately named “Reel Circulaire,” and the frantic “Quand chus parti du Canada.” The last is the funniest song on the album–a quirky tale of a French-Canadian world traveler dismayed over the shortness of women’s skirts around the globe. For the record, I’ve chatted with many Québeçois men over the decades, and this is not a problem that a single person has ever mentioned to me!

This is a sublime album that balances what we expect with what we might not anticipate. Genticorum keep up us off balance to the end. The final cut, “Canot d’écorce” pays homage to the fur-trader voyageurs who established European colonies in Québeç, but does so with an understated sweetness, the nonsense vocalizations of the chorus notwithstanding.--Rob Weir


Neil Young Psychedelic Pill Just What the Doctor Ordered

Psychedelic Pill
Reprise 531980-2
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Neil Young turned 67 on November 12, so he’s entitled to a little nostalgia. His latest double CD, Psychedelic Pill, is a veritable flash back on his life and career. There is, for instance, “Born in Ontario,” one of the few laid-back selections on the album (and one of the shortest), a countryesque ditty about simpler times and a slower pace. “Twisted Road” is his musical career in a nutshell, starting with the “First time I heard ‘Like a Rolling Stone,’” and complete with mentions of Hank Williams and the Grateful Dead. The latter reference is appropriate, as many of Young’s guitar solos have the same crystalline clarity for which Jerry Garcia was famous. Another Dead evocation is the very length of most of the tracks—most are over ten minutes, several surpass fifteen, and “Walk Like a Giant” crosses twenty-five. In each case, Young finds a groove and allows the music to flow like a long straight road; it’s the same kind of semi-trance state that one obtains on a lonesome stretch of highway when the radio is blaring and time seems suspended.

When Young isn’t paying homage to Dylan or the Dead, he plays to another persona: the grandfather of grunge. He’s been playing with several members of Crazy Horse since 1966, and this album rekindles some of the magic that emerged on classic collaborations such as “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere” (1969) and “Rust Never Sleeps” (1978). If you know those records, you know part of the formula: Young’s high, expressive vocals and riff-laden lead guitar immersed in power chords, muscular percussion, and well-placed feedback and dissonance. Young builds and layers the sound, lets it find its path, and steps back to allow the tones to meld, blend, and envelop. Listening to “Walk Like a Giant” reminded me of why so many punk rockers loved Young, and why so few of them ever attained his following—he’s simply so far out of their league they’d need a bus to get to the same area code. And the old guy still gets righteously pissed off about things. “Driftin’ Back” contains the repeated refrain “Blockin’ out my anger,” but don’t believe it. The song is a catalogue of things that get his goat: megachurches, the commercialization of Picasso, faux gurus, hip hop haircuts, and MP3’s: “When you hear my song now/You only get 5%/You used to get it all....”

It may sound like an oxymoron, but Young is in superb voice on this album. He’s had choir-like backup singers for years, and Crazy Horse fits that bill on Pill. Young also has the wisdom to dial things back; he can’t hit those screaming-eagle high notes of his youth and he doesn’t try. But his facility with mid-range tones gives his voice an earnestness that conveys emotion better than histrionics. “Walk Like a Giant” finishes what may be Young’s strongest record of new material since 1990’s Ragged Glory. And, yes, he gets very nostalgic on this one, admitting that he misses youthful days when “I used to walk like a giant on the land,” and lamenting the loss of idealism and innocence: “But then the weather changed/And the white got stained/And it fell apart/And it breaks my heart/Go think about how close we came.”

I adored this record. Does Young recycle some tunes? He always has! Is the album too long? Probably. Does he milk some of his hooks dry? Well… he and drummer Ralph Molina had a very cool idea for ending “Walk Like a Giant” that would have been brilliant at one minute, but is tedious a ten. But, as the title track reminds us, “Age has nothing to do with having a good time.” Take two psychedelic pills/discs and you won’t need to call me in the morning.—Rob Weir


Veterans Day Screed on Taxes

Wow, look at how the welfare system drains the federal budget. Not!

I’m sick of paying taxes for a bunch of freeloaders who think that the government should take care of them. You know whom I mean. That’s right– veterans. It’s time to get their sorry asses off the welfare roles. Look, the United States is a land of opportunities, one of which is the choice to enter or not enter the military. It’s an all-volunteer outfit hence the decision to enter is a lifestyle choice. Soldiers know when they sign up that there’s a chance they’ll be killed or maimed, so don’t come crying to me and ask me to open my wallet when that happens.

Let’s stop wasting taxpayer money on veterans’ hospitals. Close them and let vets get care in the private sector. If you’re injured or disabled while serving in the military, man up and move on. You got hurt on your job, so what makes you different from any other schmoe who gets injured on the job? Borrow money and get retrained. Saw some bad stuff and having psychological troubles? So rent a therapist, like the rest of us do when we have “issues.” Why should I be expected to pick up your disability pay or pay for your training, your hospitalization, your drugs, or your shrink? Ditto your burial. Okay, I’ll concede that the decent thing to do with those killed in battle is to ship their bodies back to the States for free, but it should be up to families to make funeral arrangements and dispose of corporeal remains. The rest, especially veterans’ cemeteries, is welfare.

 Don’t tell me that soldiers were preserving my freedom and that I “owe” the military. We have this thing called the Second Amendment in America. I didn’t ask anyone to take up arms on my behalf. I’m willing to take my chances that the Russians, the Chinese, the Taliban, and the European Union will leave me alone and, if they don’t, well… you don’t hear me asking for a handout, do you? I’m sick of paying all this money for the Pentagon. Why should my paycheck go for military bands or fancy airplanes? Why do military colleges need my money and why should I pay taxes so they can have football teams? Why am I subsidizing the lifestyle choices and mistakes of other people?

Do I have your attention yet? Are you angered by my provocative and incendiary words? Good! Now let me ask you a question: Do you know what horses’ asses white middle-class suburbanites sound like when they rail against paying taxes to support social programs? Can you imagine what sanctimonious fools they sound like to a single mother trying to raise her kids, a young adult up to his eyeteeth in student debt, or an elderly person trying to scrape by on Social Security? Is there a more boorish, selfish, heartless group in the history of humankind than the pampered American middle class?

No soldier ever chooses to be wounded or maimed, so why in the name of the 16th Amendment does anyone think more than a handful of hippie wannabes and romantic Quakers choose to be poor? Is it a lifestyle choice? Hardly, given that roughly eight of ten fall into one of four categories: children, single mothers, the elderly, and people working fulltime jobs that don’t pay enough to lift them above the poverty line. (Most of the rest are disabled non-vets, mentally challenged, or non-voluntarily unemployed.) Spare me all the Welfare Queen anecdotes and tell me how whatever faith you hold justifies not feeding their children. I’m guessing that if those kids could really make a lifestyle choice they would choose to have families as rich as Mitt Romney’s, but would happily settle for the comfort of just about any tax-bitching white suburbanite. I know I would have—back in the days when my family needed assistance.  Now tell what moral code you hold that says your kids deserve subsidized college loans, but your local public school needs to make cuts. Or why your bank account and pension deserves to be insured, but other folks are on their own. Or why the potholes in the neighborhood streets deserve to be patched, but we don’t need to spend money on low-cost housing. Or why your town deserves a hospital, but it should only treat those who can pay. Tell me why I should care about what happens to your elderly loved ones if you don’t care about those who aren’t in your family. Tell me why I should give a rat’s fanny about your wounded vet if you don’t care about children growing up in the shadow of urban violence.

Angry? You’re damned right I am. I’m sick of the whining and the greed. I’m sick of the mentality that defines “fair” as “mine” and “handout” as “yours.” I’m really sick of hearing pampered people pretend that they’re struggling. I remember struggling. If you can’t decide what to have for dinner, you’re not struggling; struggling is not knowing if you can have dinner. Cutting back isn’t struggling; struggling is doing without. Deferring desire isn’t struggling; struggling is deciding which necessity must be delayed as long as possible.

If you’re not willing to give those in need a hand up when they need it, don’t tell some kid that ten years down the road that he owes you or the nation a damn thing. By your reckoning, that kid will be made or unmade entirely of his own effort. If you want to worship at the altar of individualism, don’t ask someone else to serve your interests. Full disclosure: My dad was a disabled World War II vet. He died in a veterans’ hospital at the age of 78. The Veterans’ Administration spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on him. While he lived, dad was also a union guy who hated those he called “selfish bastards.” I never heard him rail against people on welfare. (And how could he? He took government assistance.)

Hate the tax system? If you want to hold a forum on tax equity, I’m there. If you want to hold a rally on making the rich pay more, I’ll lead your parade. A discussion on finding new sources of revenue? Count me in. Though I’m skeptical it’s worth the effort, I’ll even get behind a crackdown on those taking benefits who don’t deserve them. (There are so few actual welfare cheats that it would cost more to catch them than we’d save.) But if you’re just a spoiled middle-class whiner who doesn’t have a sense of civic responsibility, I have just seven words for you: shut up, man up, and pay up.