Thursday, August 28, 2008

See You Friday

Why do I like the Subhumans so much? Their songs are pretty simple and straightforward, after all; musicially and lyrically, they have more in common with Woody Guthrie than Harry Partch or LaMonte Young or Zoviet France or the No Neck Blues Band or any of that highfalutin' avant-artschool stuff that I digest so eagerly. Part of that's what I LIKE about them, though; as with Woody, there's something straightforward and easy to process about what they do. There's no need to dig for meaning, as long as you can read their lyric sheets, and the act of thinking about their songs is tied to thinking about real social problems, without much question as to where they stand or what they're saying. Each songwriter in the band has his own unique personality, too... Mike writes perceptive "musical journalism" that Phil Ochs would appreciate; though they require a little more effort to unpack, I tend to enjoy his songs most ("Urban Guerrilla," "Firing Squad," "Behind the Smile") and his wordplay ("I put the idiot in ideology," from "Celebrity" - nice!). In general, Gerry seems to have the most finely-honed sense of crafting "big dance thumps" - the best propagandist of the bunch, in terms of turning his politics into catchy populist anthems ("Fuck You," "Slave to My Dick," "I Got Religion" - etc). Meanwhile, Brian has the wittiest lyrics, his sense of humour and perhaps his personality best captured in his songs; not all his songs work equally well musically - I'm actually not that excited by "Modern Business" off the new album, but when he's on he's great ("For the Common Good," "People of the Plague," "Dead at Birth" or - relatively serious for Goble - "No Wishes, No Prayers," a great song, too-seldom heard) . All three have unique personalities - filtered into something that isn't THAT musically distinctive, but is like the musical equivalent of whole wheat bread, for me: a staple food. And they come from Vancouver! Having been broken up for more years than they've actually been together, they may not have played the torch-bearing, scene-maintaining role that DOA have played, and they sure as hell don't hold a candle to (my real faves, locally) Nomeansno as songwriters or musicians... but I'm delighted that they're playing again on Friday night. See you there?

Oh: and Personality Crisis' reissue of Creatures for Awhile (with current Subhumans drummer Jon Card) should be available at this gig, along with Chris Walter's Personality Crisis bio; and the big man should be selling and signing his books and t-shirts and stuff (I still love East Van best of all). See my Jon Card interview in the current Skinny for more, including fun use of a zombiewalk pic!

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