Different But Normal

Spoon’s childhood strife: I can relate

by Emmet Matheson

Rae Spoon

Rae Spoon - My Prairie HomeRae Spoon
My Prairie Home
Saved By Radio
4 out of 5

In her recent essay “Ten Things I Learned from Loving Anne of Green Gables” in the Los Angeles Review of Books, writer Sarah Mesle notes of Anne Shirley’s childhood, “Its sadness is real but also normal.”

My Prairie Home, Rae Spoon’s new album –– a companion to an upcoming National Film Board documentary-musical of the same name –– also tells a story about  childhood sadness both real and ordinary.

Both film and album act as a sort of musical memoir of the Alberta-born transgendered musician’s coming of age in a rural, Pentecostal setting. At first blush, okay, that sounds kinda atypical but Spoon has developed into a real master of intimacy over the course of their songwriting career, and this fundamentally human story of a person who longs to be loved for who they are, even as they try to figure out who that may be, connects.

The album is a mix of the film’s score –– short, incidental pieces that highlight the atmospheric pop aesthetic of co-producer Lorrie Matheson (no relation, that I know of) –– and autobiographical songs that grapple with concepts of home, family and identity. It begins with “Amy Grant”, which describes the moment when young Spoon’s religious upbringing, symbolized by the titular Christian pop star, begins to loosen its hold. “Where was Jesus when we needed Him?” Spoon sings, almost droning over electronic strings, the unmistakable sound of prairie wind against a microphone somewhere in the mix. “Where was Amy Grant? I thought she was His backup.”

It’s Queen, especially its lead singer, that breaks Spoon free. The song’s last line is “I like to think I found Him just in time.” Does Spoon mean Jesus or Freddie Mercury? Maybe both.

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Dinosaur BonesDinosaur Bones
Shaky Dream
Dine Alone
2 out of 5

Imagine a custard. Imagine all the custard you’ve ever eaten in your life, suspended above you in a giant bowl. Now imagine that custard slowly pouring out in a thin, relentless, custardy stream over your head, until you regret ever having tried custard in the first place. Sometimes the custard drips down in unusual rhythmic patterns, and every so often there’s a lemony flavour that’s not so bad, but after a while you realize it’s never going to improve. You want to get up and run, but you know that the custard bowl will glide along after you, keeping pace with every dodge and feint. There’s no escape from the sticky stream of the stuff. Got that? Okay, now replace “custard” with Shaky Dream, the second album from Toronto indie rockers Dinosaur Bones. A custard jug of Autotune and minor chords was upended onto the retailsphere on Aug. 6. /Aidan Morgan

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Pop.1280Pop. 1280
Imps of Perversion
Sacred Bones
3.5 out of 5

The New York City noise group Pop. 1280 put a video up on YouTube before the release of their second full-length, Imps of Perversion. In it, the band sits in a disaster area of a basement, talking about stuff while recorded by a jumpy video camera. Without getting into what they’re saying, the message is clear: this shit’s supposed to be creepy. The songs are little tales of depravity with heavy, outsider-style noisemaking. Singer Chris Bug sounds like an even more deranged Mark Arm (the singer from Seattle grunge legends Mudhoney). The band matches Bug’s vocals, going into abrasive post-hardcore in the vein of Mclusky. The music is finished off with No Wave-type synths (No Wave = a 1970s response by New York punks to New Wave). This latest release from Pop. 1280 is one creepy collage. /James Brotheridge

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Dog PartyDog Party
Lost Control
Asian Man
3.5 out of 5

Lost Control, the debut from Sacramento guitar-drums duo Dog Party, burns through classic rock lyric tropes of the cut-the-bullshit variety. But hey, a lot of people are still kinda bullshit so the old clichés still work. In any case, we’ll give the Giles sisters a pass for working with well-worn ideas — Gwen and Lucy are 17 and 15, after all, and yet they hit the essence of Detroit garage-rock in a similar vein to a band like Prairie Dog faves the Pack A.D. (For another idea of where Dog Party comes from, they do a dead-on cover of X’s “Los Angeles”.)

One very small nit-pick: the two-instrument set-up sounds just a little thin — another instrument might help. Even if the family only had a couple of kids, couldn’t they have found a second cousin to play bass or something? Still, Dog Party come close enough to nailing everything they’re doing — especially the vocals and lyrics, which alternate between cool disaffection and wild rebellion. Real rockin’ stuff here — check ’em out. /James Brotheridge

2013-08-08