CANADIANA

This time around: Canadian reissues from two recently reinvigorated Canadian labels. Some classic pre-punk sounds from Supreme Echo (who did the Jerk Ward retrospective and Polski Punk comps a few years ago), who also have a Neos discography LP, Dishrags comp LP and more Twich on tap, as well as the now-available reissue of Arctic Inuit-rockers Northern Haze. More details here, ordering info for the below singles is located here and you can e-mail the label direct at kwiateczku-at-hotmail.com or check their not really updated website.

Simon Harvey’s Ugly Pop has been delivering the goods for many years, whether it be crucial Japcore (Paintbox, Warhead), Raw Power/Fratricide/Dream Dates reissues, early 2000’s Canadian hardcore and punk from his time in both Toronto and Vancouver, but he’s recently started work on a incredible Canadian garage and punk reissue spree, the first two batches of which are reviewed below. First wave was Dream Dates/Arson/CK5, second wave is RNR Bitches/Hot Nasties/Spys and the third wave will be comprised of Sixties garage rock 7″ classics from A Passing Fancy, Bent Wind and Northwest Company and will even later lapse into modern day punk with a Hygiene single, a Hackamore Brick reissue(!) and even more in the works. Watch this page for more news.

The Twitch “Things” EP
Four tracks from obscuro 1973 Vancouver rockers who graduated from the Sixties teen garage scene, compiling their first two 45s over two sides. “Things” is the centerpiece, a brooding bad-trip sounding proto-punker that bridges the gap between Sixties garage and psych (even if the band held the burgeoning “psych” movement in disdain) which was backed with the biker-rock “Pickup Is Illegal on 401 (Hitchhiker’s Blues)” that certainly brought their dreams of being a true hard rock power trio to fruition, with what you have to call a stone-groove of a drumbeat interrupted by tough vox and power moves on the chorus. Their second 45 fills the less-essential B-Side, with “Sweet Thursday” being an uptempo and sunny rocker that reminds me a bit of the brighter moments of CCR with a poppier bent and the joke of “Country Tune”, which could be the early equivalent of the 70’s anti-disco punk tune which they fry out at the end with some fuzz pedals and a squealing solo. I imagine Stompin’ Tom Connors was none too pleased if he ever heard this. The accompanying booklet provides a great history, repros of early newspaper clippings and vintage pics. The striking group you see on the sleeve is what the band evolved into later on in ’73, cribbing from Alice Cooper or Roy Wood, and seeking to push their already “ear-splitting” reputation further they adopted the make-up and costumes, two of them looking like Norwegian Death Metallers twenty years ahead of their time while the drummer opted for impersonating the In-Betweener. According to the liners, they went into a “Dark Years” phase which had them turning into some sort of proto-doom band, with heavier tunes and imagery, which I would love to hear based on the Stooges/Pentagram description dropped by the label for the forthcoming LP compiling this era. Well packaged and researched, this is a pretty choice package for the A-Side alone. There’s supposedly a limited version that comes with full color trading cards as well.(RK)
(Supreme Echo // www.supremeecho.com)

Sphex “Time” 7″
Absolutely killer reissue from small-town Ontario Seventies rockers Sphex, whose story is told in great detail in the booklet, but to paraphrase they obviously never got much recognition outside their hometown due to your typical bad timing/tough luck story. They recorded these songs as part of the soundtrack to a film, which were released as a small run single a little too late to save them, and then an ill-fated tour nailed the coffin closed. The proto-punk tag doesn’t seem so fitting for this one. What you can hear are some prog leanings, but they thankfully cater to the more space-rock side of the genre than sprawling Yes-like bores. They’re rockers for sure though, prog-style or not. Guitar player is a total cape-wearing nut and his playing carries the tunes all the way. “Time” certainly summons up some phased-out spacetime bliss, with teenaged hot licks splayed all over while the band steers the vessel with some surprisingly talented drumming and steady rhythms. “Leaving This Crazy City” might actually warrant the proto-punk tag, sounding like a more well-mannered Soggy. It’s a killer riff-driven hard rocker that chugs with a certain punk-like menace, and the soloing on this side sounds more Stoogey than the noodly work on “Time”. As I’m sure I’ve said 100 times before, it’s so rare these days to find unheard-of gems like this, and the quality of both tracks is pretty impressive. Singer might be a Seventies hard rock stereotype, but the thud on Side B is certainly worth a look. Impeccable packaging again, well done on all fronts.(RK)
(Supreme Echo // www.supremeecho.com)

Crash Kills Five “What Do You Do At Night?” 7″
Pre-Young Lions (! – who I’ve always been told were Toronto’s first hardcore band – and best along with YYY) and pre-Shadowy Men on Shadowy Planet (!! – and I should mention the Shadowy Men discography is being reissued on vinyl by Mammoth Cave this summer in conjunction with a couple of reunion shows – and Ugly Pop is releasing a 7″ from Filthy Gaze of Europe which features Don [Shadowy Men/CK5] and Dallas from Sadies/Elevator playing with guest vocalists…)!  These Toronto punk rocker’s only single from 1980 gets the reissue treatment here on the reactivated Ugly Pop label. Pop hooks and catchy choruses abound, title cut has a particularly Buzzcockian build, “It’s Always There” has a Ramonesy dum dum vocal and adept rock-n-pop mix, “Special School” continues with some more punk edge offset by backing harmonies. A fine compliment to The Diodes, Teenage Head and other hyperactive hook-driven Ontario punks of the era. Informative liners in a nice tri-fold insert presentation (an idea that probably could have saved insane Tim Warren from having to print a gatefold sleeve to cover all the Psycho Surgeons liners…) including the anecdote that after their remaining singles sat around the bass player’s apartment for years after band called it quits, he decided to give them away to trick-or-treaters one Halloween. Tasty treats indeed. (RK)
(Ugly Pop // www.uglypop.bigcartel.com)

Arson “White Folks” 7″
Faithful repro of this obscure ’79 punk jammer from Arson, a super group with members from Viletones, The Ugly and others, with “Coho! Coho!” being a favorite of mine from back on the first volume of ‘Smash the State’, a total guitars-blazin’ punk rocker with frantic and rough pacing and a great singalongable chorus. Sort of a friendlier (or just Canadian) Dead Boys approach that carries over to the B-Side as well, which is a slow burner called “(Livin’ With The) White Folks” where the singer shows off his well-honed sneering and leering Stiv-like delivery. Definitely my fave of this first batcch, and probably the most overtly punk. Both sides are more than worthwhile and this is the one to get if you only have enough lunch money for one of this inital round of pups. Nothing as far as liners, but does come with a lyric insert.(RK)
(Ugly Pop // www.uglypop.bigcartel.com)

Dream Dates “Surfer Joe” 7″
Not technically a reissue, but the release of the Dream Dates final single recorded in 1979, from the same sessions that gave us “The Mess You’re In” and “Moans on the Phone” 7″es which Ugly Pop unearthed some years ago (and were comped on a 12″ by Re-Force as well), so you know this is a special band as far as the label CEO is concerned, and rightfully so, as they’re probably one of the more well-rounded of the classic Toronto punk outfits – and one of most American sounding, if that makes any sense. Two covers this time around, which is a slight bummer, but they do a killer buzzsaw-guitar take on the Surfaris’ tune, which sounds like a way uptempo Dolls and even a bit like The Saints. They do “Tallahassee Lassie” on the flip (and keep in mind these covers made a lot of sense 30+ years ago) which has super crunchy guitars and sounds like a Heartbreakers/Dictators jam session/drinking marathon. If you have the others, there’s no reason to not complete the set. Insert features a promo shot of Beef Stu and Co., but no sign of the leather-catsuit wearing minx from “The Mess..” 7″ sleeve…(RK)
(Ugly Pop // www.uglypop.bigcartel.com)

Hot Nasties “Invasion of The Tribbles” EP
Fantastic 1980 punkola from Calgary’s Hot Nasties that isn’t so much young, loud and snotty as it is young, dorky and fun a la a more serious (and proficient) Gizmos or other nerdy rockers on the sci-fi referential “Invasion of the Tribbles” with some art school nods in the back seat. Reminded me a little of the best 63 Monroe cuts even. “I Am A Confused Teenager” is inspiringly angsty with lyrical content that belies the seemingly fun-loving tune, great cracked-voice “singing”, lots of UK-style bonehead plodding all over a good hook and pub-style singalong chorus. B-Side is the slowed up “The Secret of Immortality” that sounds quite British in a more serious DIY fashion for a change of pace. I should note that band “leader” Waren Kinsella is now a lawyer/politician of some stature in Toronto, but still acknowledges his punk roots. Only in Canada! Contains fold-out  insert with lyrics and humorous liners. My favorite of the very strong second wave/trio of the label’s reissues. (RK)
(Ugly Pop // www.uglypop.bigcartel.com)

Rock’n’Roll Bitches “Wild West” EP
Edmonton punker’s super-rare and only record from 1980 reissued. Teenage Head vs. The New York Dolls is the recurring theme, with some Thunders-esque guitar melded to a punker template throughout. “Someone Could Lose An Eye” is the sing-a-long anthem, “Broad Daylight” is frantic and buzzing with strong riff and vocals. “Welder’s Song” reminds me of Canadian City Rock, with a hearty Midwest feel to it even if the vox are a bit off (I think there’s a different – and not as confident- singer on this one), but it adds some charm. “Wild West” closes with some Maximum R&B infused Saints-esque raving. A real solid mix, all four tracks are worth a spin for a definite got-your-moneys-worth satisfaction. Comes with two inserts showing off vintage pics.(RK)
(Ugly Pop // www.uglypop.bigcartel.com)

The Spys “Underground” 7″
Two song banger from Windsor, ON, which is the Canadian burg directly across the water from Detroit for those of you bad at geography. There’s a definite Motor City buzz to “Going Underground” (Windsor also boasts a GM Transmission plant, by the way), but it’s also real deal KBD tough rocking with a bit of attitudical snot.  There are certainly plenty things punk about going underground, one way or another, and it’s a sneakily catchy number. Flipside is “Machine Shop”, complete with fake jazzbo intro which breaks into post-Groovies rock’n’punk, simple yet effective, very Ramones-esque as well. Repeat the same five or six words or so along with the title – “All work, no play, hey!”  – and you’ve got a winning formula. A strong single from 1980 that sounds like it could even be a couple years older than that. Comes with repros of both sleeves plus some unseen photos. The sleeper pick of the second batch, I don’t remember the A-Side being this great!(RK)
(Ugly Pop // www.uglypop.bigcartel.com)