Rusty's World

Dead Man’s Pop

January 29, 2020
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Eventually this a review of the newest release by The Replacements, but it will take a bit getting there.

I gained my first exposure to The Replacements by listening to CBC’s late night ‘alternative’ radio show, Brave New Waves. I recorded the show a few times, and those cassette tapes became my Walkman fodder, and inspiration for further purchases. One night they played ‘Waitress in the Sky’ which led me to pick up ‘Pleased To Meet Me’ from Lyle’s Place in Victoria.

I was immediately a convert. The album was great, end-to-end. It became part of my usual playlist – driving around town in Shawn Kilpatrick’s dad’s Chevette, with my portable boom box in my lap, as the car didn’t have a stereo system.

I knew nothing about the band. I just liked the album.

A couple of years later, I was working at Arthur’s Place in Ottawa, at the tail end of my failed first attempt at post-secondary education. Most people thought of Arthur’s Place as a comic store, but we also bought and sold books, records, tapes, and a fairly new medium called compact discs. One of my roommates, Wayne Beaton, bought a fairly cheap stereo with a CD player on it, but I still didn’t own one. We played CDs at work though, pulling something out of the used stock to play on the store system. During the day that meant Walter playing some lame post-disco dance club stuff on repeat. I worked evenings, though, and that meant a mix of things like Wynton Marsalis and David Wilcox. Then someone came in (during the day, when I wasn’t there), and sold a bunch of CDs to the store, including a trio of Replacements albums – ‘Hootenanny’, ‘Let It Be’, and ‘Tim’.

The band was so much more than I realized. To this day, this run of four albums (including ‘Pleased To Meet Me’), running from 1983 to 1987, is my favourite group of albums by any band, ever. I later would often refer to The Replacements as my favourite band, but I was really referring to this group of albums, even though there was one prior (plus a ‘live’ album), and two following, not to mention Paul Westerberg’s solo work.

Now, I LIKE the other albums, just not as much. To understand that, you kind of need to understand the band, at least as I see them. 

Paul Westerberg is an incredible song writer. More specifically, he is a very talented writer of pop songs (in the best sense of the word), despite not being in a band that is known for pop songs. The rest of the band (including Westerberg in practice), were a punk band, in both musical execution and attitude. If Westerberg fronted a band full of highly proficient, technical musicians, with a keen handle on their professional careers AS musicians, The Replacements might have ended up being The Dave Matthews Band, for better or worse. (And before you think I am slagging the band for their lack of technique, one of the band, in a live recording was heard to say ‘we are about as technical as oatmeal’, so they knew their own limitations.)

The Replacements’ output became the result of layering expert, even poetic, lyrics and songmanship, performed by a band where energy and volume was of greater importance than precision and technique. The end result was unique and impressive.

Earlier Replacements work (specifically ‘Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out the Trash’), had the raw power, but it overwhelmed the still nascent strength of Westerberg. Later albums, ‘Don’t Tell A Soul’ and ‘All Shook Down’, got slicker, with higher production values and a lot of that chaotic bravado of the band was pulled out of it. There were still great songs, but the mixture of the various elements had shifted lost a bit of the magic.

The brings us to the new release, ‘Dead Man’s Pop’.

This is NOT a new album. It is a box set readdressing the 1989 release ‘Don’t Tell A Soul’. Apparently, the first time the band had the album produced and mixed, their label was not satisfied with it. Based on the version we have here (the Matt Wallace mixes), the album was too raw and not polished enough. Hearing and understanding that, I now wonder how much of the shift away from the live energy of the band was forced upon them, rather than being a product of Westerberg’s growth, as I always thought.

So, is the new box good?

Well, I am on my third straight listen through, despite in being 60 tracks. 

First you get the Matt Wallace mix of ‘Don’t Tell A Soul’. Is it better? Many songs, I think you would be hard pressed to pick between them. Others, however, are very different. (Is that a banjo on Talent Show?) Taking off a bit of the sheen from the original release recaptures some of who the band was, rather than who it was through the filter of corporate record labels. (Some of it. More on that later.)

Then you get an album’s worth of ‘rarities’.  Mostly that means different versions of songs you already know, many of which are on the first disc. There are some other songs, though, like a cover of Gudbuy T’Jane by Slade, and more importantly, more tracks featuring Tom Waits.

Most Replacements fans will know of Date to Church, which is a great song that features Tom Waits on backing vocals (which understates his importance to the song). It turns out, there were more from the same sessions! For the  most part, it is clear why the others haven’t been released before now – they are rough, without clean run throughs. There is a blues number called Lowdown Monkey Blues, that is pretty intact, but it is the versions of If Only You Were Lonely and We Know The Night that seem like missed opportunities. If they had only gotten a clean recording! These are the best part of the release.

Lastly we have what seems like a full concert from 1989 (29 tracks!). It is listening to THIS that reminds you that The Replacements aren’t really what you get on studio albums. This is where that mix shifts far back the other way and you get great songs lost behind drunken near disasters. Paul forgets the words of many songs. There are times when the songs start to ramble or stop abruptly. But still, as rough and raw as it is, you can almost imagine being there. It is an experience worth having.

From the first song to the last you get to see the range of what it means to listen to The Replacements. And yes, they are still my favourite band.

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Rusty’s Reading List 2020

January 28, 2020
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I have met both Archie Goodwin and Scott Hampton separately, many years ago. My copy of this book includes a personalized signature and a Batman pencil sketch by Hampton.
And, with all due respect to the late Archie Goodwin, it is the art that sells this book. It is fully painted and most pages look art gallery ready. Painted art like this is a bit antithetical to comics – you lose a lot of the dynamism – but what it is this well done. that can be overlooked.
The story doesn’t quite get there, however. It feels like it wants to be about child abuse, but that almost seems like the setting rather than the point. The story is still good, but it feels like it could have been more.

2020 Reading List

Batman: Night Cries – Goodwin / Hampton
The Chameleon Couch – Yusef Komunyakaa
Batman: Shaman – O’Neill / Hannigan / Beatty
Flux – Joe Denham
Bowie – Changes 1976-2016 – MOJO Collector’s Series

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Rusty’s Reading List 2020

January 26, 2020
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Sometimes when reading poetry, meaning seems secondary. That does not mean that there is no meaning, just that it seems less important than the beauty and intricacy of the words themselves. Meaning is superfluous.
Then there are times when, as you are winding your way through this word garden, suddenly the meaning becomes so intense, through the magnification snuck in while you just thought you were reading some pretty turns of phrase, that it can take you breath away.
This book is all of that – the former and the latter.
Wonderful poet and a very good book.

2020 Reading List

The Chameleon Couch – Yusef Komunyakaa
Batman: Shaman – O’Neill / Hannigan / Beatty
Flux – Joe Denham
Bowie – Changes 1976-2016 – MOJO Collector’s Series

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Rusty’s Reading List 2020

January 25, 2020
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This is a collection of the first story in Legends of the Dark Knight, which started in 1989, when I was working at Arthur’s Place in Ottawa. What I remember most about that initial story is the amazing painted covers by Ed Hannigan and George Pratt. The story itself is solid, but it annoys me that the culpability of Bruce Wayne is glossed over and he is never truly punished for sharing as tory that he promised to keep to himself. Not only did he share it, but he did so off panel, like it wasn’t even important. Sure he was told off (a bit) at the end of the story, but it wasn’t given the depth it deserved.

2020 Reading List

Batman: Shaman – O’Neill / Hannigan / Beatty
Flux – Joe Denham
Bowie – Changes 1976-2016 – MOJO Collector’s Series

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Rusty’s Reading List 2020

January 22, 2020
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I picked up this book after reading Regeneration Machine, by the same author, which I was quite taken with. This one is from 2003 and while it didn’t have the same impact on me as that book, it is very good. It travels a bit, starting with a series of poems that give you insight into working on a prawn ship. I have always found something romantic about working on a fishing boat (something I would certainly be disabused of, if I actually did it, I am sure). Plus I am from the west coast, where Denham was, so there are certain touchstones that really work for me. He goes from there to the streets of Vancouver, and this is something I have less connection with, but I found it engaging and well written.
Strong work. Highly recommended.

2020 Reading List

Flux – Joe Denham
Bowie – Changes 1976-2016 – MOJO Collector’s Series

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Rusty’s Reading List 2020

January 18, 2020
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I finished this about a week ago but haven’t had a chance to post it.
It is no shock that I am a huge Bowie fan, and I really enjoyed the first volume of this series. This one, a little less so. It gave really short shrift to the weaker periods of Bowie’s career, like ‘Tonight’ and ‘Never Let Me Down’, while giving more to Tin Machine… which was also a pretty weak period. There were also real inconsistencies based on the worker, about things like ‘Let’s Dance’. Was in a high point of his career or a low point? (I tend towards the latter, personally, though it is better than I used to give it credit for. I still think ‘Tonight’ is much better while being mostly ignored.
I think I learned more about Iggy Pop in this book than Bowie, in a lot of ways, but that is okay.

The two volumes together were definitely worth a read.

2020 Reading List

Bowie – Changes 1976-2016 – MOJO Collector’s Series

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Rusty’s 2019 Books of the Year!

January 2, 2020
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My books of the year (with the caveat that these are books I read this year, not necessarily things that were published this year. I believe the Neyer book came out in 2018, for example), were pretty easy to choose.

I broke it into three categories, because why not? (No comics this year. I certainly read some, but I am just not feeling a ‘best of’ among them.)

For Fiction, it was definitely ‘This Is How You Lose the Time War’ by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. With the disclaimer that I consider Amal a good friend, I will also say that I was blown away by the style and deft handling of words in this book. This is not the book you grab if you are looking for hard Sci-Fi Time Travel, but it absolutely IS the book you grab if you want to read beautiful prose and compelling dialogue.

For Poetry, Titilope Sonuga’s ‘This Is How We Disappear’ rocked me. I have known Titi for years and knew she was a talented poet, but I was unprepared for the impact of this book. I want to see her get the accolades that she deserves.

For Non-Fiction, Rob Neyer’s ‘Power Ball’ takes the (no) prize. It is no secret that I am a fan of baseball and no book I have read lays out the current state of the game as weak as Neyer does here. As I told him on twitter, I would love to see him go back in time and write a book like this for every decade or so, so we could really see and understand the evolution of the game.

2020 is here and what will be the first thing I read? It looks like the Mojo Collector’s Series ‘Changes 1976-2016 Bowie’. Or maybe a Yusef Komunyaka book.

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Rusty’s Reading List 2019 (Final)

January 2, 2020
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Even though I am posting on Jan. 1st, I actually finished this last week while on vacation in Victoria.
While this isn’t the best baseball-related book I read this year (that would be Power Ball by Rob Neyer), it was definitely interesting and well worth a read. It isn’t that there is anything unexpected in the book, but reading about a girl growing into woman while travelling the worlds of High School, College, and Professional baseball is definitely interesting. The book also follows a parallel story of a gay woman who was raised in a strictly religious household. More time could have been spent on that, and it would have been worth it.
There were certainly things left unsaid in this book, but it seems like there is a lot between the lines. (By my accounting, her father was abusive in a myriad of ways and while Borders doesn’t shy away from his crimes, she also won’t put a name to it and often defends him.)
Well worth a read.

2019 Reading List

Making My Pitch – Ila Jane Borders with Jean Hastings Ardell
Batman: Arkham Asylum – Morrison / McKean
Batman Year One – Miller / Mazzucchelli / Lewis
Mad Long Emotion – Ben Ladouceur
Scalped Book One – Aaron / Guera
Event #47.1
Black Abacus – Ian Keteku
This Is How We Disappear – Titilope Sonuga
Batman: Strange Apparitions – Engelhart / Wein / Rogers / Simonson / more
Poetry Is Dead #17
Fools Rush Inn – Bill James
Grain #46.5
Fiddlehead #278
Denver Quarterly Vol. 53, No. 2
Batgirl Vol. 1: Batgirl of Burnside – Stewart / Fletcher / Tarr
ARC Poetry Magazine #89
Bowie: Changes 1947-1975 – MOJO Collector’s Series
Indiana Review Vol. 41, No.1
The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
Doom Patrol Book Two – Morrison / Case /McKenna / Jones / Dringenberg / Yeowell
Marvel Masterworks – Daredevil #2 – Lee / Romita / Colon
This Is How You Lose the Time War – Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
Why I Hate Saturn – Kyle Baker
The Cowboy Wally Show – Kyle Baker
Transmetropolitan Vol. 4: The New Scum – Ellis / Robertson / Ramos
The Obelisk Gate – N.K. Jemisin
Gotham Central Book 2 – Half A Life – Rucka / Lark
Walking to Aldebaran – Adrian Tchaikovsky
Just Words: On Speech and Hidden Harm – Mary Kate McGowan
Star Wars Vol. 1 – Skywalker Strikes – Aaron / Cassaday / Martin
The Tower – Simon Toyne
ARC Poetry Magazine #88
The Fifth Season – N.K. Jemisin
The Walking Dead Vol. 7 – The Calm Before – Kirkman / Adlard / Rathburn
A Pretty Sight – David O’Meara
Avengers: The Korvac Saga – Shooter / Michelinie / Mantlo / Perez / Various Artists
Indiana Review Vol.40, No.2
Avengers: Death Trap: The Vault – Fingeroth / Lim
This Wound is a World – Billy-Ray Belcourt
The Auteur Vol.1 – President’s Day – Spears / Callahan / Anderson
Astro City Vol. 2 – Confession – Busiek / Anderson / more
Astro City Vol. 1 – Life In the Big City – Busiek / Anderson / Ross
Animal Man Vol. 2 – Origin of the Species – Grant Morrison / Various Artists
Power Ball – Rob Neyer
Denver Quarterly Vol. 52 No. 3

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