Brazilian

While I’m posting videos and thinking about Neruda…

Here are the Brazilian Girls (perhaps my new favorite band; incidentally, they’re neither Brazilian nor, for the most part, girls) with a rendition of “Me gustas cuando callas”:

Sadly the visuals for the above video are far from inspiring. It’s worth seeing the song live. Here’s a performance from a couple of years ago in New York:

One of the things I like here is that this rendition is something of a performative contradiction: though the poem speaks of absence and a woman’s silence, in the person of singer Sabina Sciubba we see a woman very much present and the focus of attention (while the male members of the band hide behind their instruments) and it is her voice that sounds out, rather than being hushed.

Indeed, is she telling us to be quiet?

Meanwhile, Sciubba is renowned for hiding her eyes. So while making herself the center of visual attention, she also seems to want to resist the gaze. In her words, “I can do whatever the fuck I want because nobody is going to recognize me in the street.”

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Weakerthan

Smug liberality is one of Canada’s less endearing traits. Some (too much) of that was on display yesterday at an event I attended that went under the title of a “Foreign Policy Camp” organized by something called Canada’s World. The basic impulse was to ask how Canada could lead the world, as it was apparently born to do, by spreading its fine liberal values to the less fortunate mass of humanity who sadly live elsewhere on the globe.

I participated in person (with a call for Open Borders that went down surprisingly well), but some of the discussion can be found on twitter. In the fray, I seem to have started a bit of an argument with one of Canada’s best and brightest after she was quoted as saying that the influence of “diaspora communities” made the country “vulnerable”. Oh well.

(And yes, those who are so minded can follow me on Twitter here.)

I also, incidentally, got to meet up with my old buddy and sparring partner Carlo Dade, who mentioned what to me is the astonishing fact that immigration has never yet been on the agenda of the Summit of the Americas.

Anyhow, I happily admit to having an ambivalent relationship to Canada. But increasingly I come to discover that such ambivalence is itself rather Canadian… and in so far as it can be considered a potential antidote to the temptation to smugness, it is one of the country’s virtues.

Perhaps the same fundamental insecurity drives the smugness, too. But far better for it to be articulated as openness to others, and a willingness not to tout “Canadian values” but to rethink them. For indeed, this country is far more hospitable to others than many. And, for instance, fear-mongering against immigrants has yet to make great inroads here, unlike (say) in the UK or the US.

But all this is prelude to the following video, which I was indirectly recommended by a guy, Gord McIntyre, whom I first met twenty years ago, at a very difficult moment, in Guatemala, when we were both attached to a human rights NGO in Santa Cruz de Quiché. (It was that experience that first really made me doubt the whole discourse of human rights, by the way.)

Recently Gord got back in touch, and it turns out he now lives in Winnipeg. He suggested I might like one of that city’s local bands, the Weakerthans, and I find that they wrote this marvellous song that encapsulates something of Canada’s virtuous ambivalence and self-doubt. Long may it continue thus. And long may Canada continue “weaker than” it would rather be.


To put this another way: let us all hate Canada in exactly the same way as the Weakerthans hate Winnipeg.

ukelele

In the same spirit as my love for ballboy, I’m now rather keen on getting hold of this record.

Meanwhile, I’m reading David Peace’s Tokyo Year Zero, and despite my previous praise for his work, my feeling is that he’s becoming too close to a novelty act for comfort. I very seldom abandon a book midway, but here I’m sorely tempted to do so.

Peace’s style, and particularly his insistent use of repetition, is becoming downright irritating. James Meek wrote a very good review of this novel’s sequel (Occupied City) in a recent London Review of Books. The title he chose for his review, “Polly the Bleeding Parrot,” is both a quotation from a character in one of Peace’s books, and also (as Meek observes) a rather good indication of the gore and the excessive doubling that characterize them.

consolation

The Wednesday quotation, part XII: Anthony Lane on “Lips” (on the right in the photo), the lead singer of Canadian heavy metal band Anvil:

How can you not love a man who thinks like that, dredging the television of consolation from the swimming pool of disaster? (“Rock Solid”, The New Yorker [April 20, 2009])

ballboy

I have been accused of having a taste for “novelty” books, and perhaps this is simply another instance of the same poor taste, in another sphere… but a large part of the reason why I like the Scottish band ballboy is because they consistently have the best song titles in pop.

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone else who has even heard of ballboy, yet alone a fellow fan. Their albums are hard to obtain, and don’t seem to circulate in North America. I ran into them first when I came across their single, “All the Records on the Radio are Shite.” How could I resist?

I later picked up Club Anthems (sample song titles: “Essential Wear for Future Trips to Space, “I Hate Scotland”, and “I’ve Got Pictures of You in Your Underwear”) and A Guide for the Daylight Hours (featuring “Where Do The Nights Of Sleep Go To When They Do Not Come To Me,” “You Can’t Spend Your Whole Life Hanging Around With Arseholes,” “I Wonder If You’re Drunk Enough To Sleep With Me Tonight,” and “I Lost You, But I Found Country Music”). And I’ve just belatedly received The Royal Theatre (“I Don’t Have Time To Stand Here With You Fighting About The Size Of My Dick” and “There Are Only Inches Between Us, But There Might As Well Be Mountains And Trees”).

Here they are live, with “You Can’t Spend Your Whole Life Hanging Around With Arseholes.” Though as they sagely observe, in fact you can spend your whole life hanging around with arseholes; but you shouldn’t.

demolición

It’s Peruvian (proto)punk. From 1964, would you believe? “Los Saicos” (pronounced “Psychos”) and “Demolición” (“Demolition”)…


The lyrics:

Echemos abajo la estación del tren / demoler, demoler, demoler, demoler / Nos gusta volar estaciones de tren / Ye ye ye ye ye ye ye.

Let’s bring down the train station / Demolish, demolish, demolish, demolish / We like blowing up train stations / Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah.

Update: If the video above doesn’t play, try this link.

To hear how that might sound today, here‘s a cover version.

Los Saicos are featured, along with other Peruvian groups of the sixties such as “Traffic Sound” and the “Shains,” in an exhibition “Arte nuevo y el fulgor de la vanguardia” (El Comercio‘s note here) that has just opened in Miraflores, curated by Emilio Tarazona and Miguel López. Go see it if you can.