Why does all the good music come from Canada?
Used to be we looked across the pond, now if we want to see who’s testing the limits, who’s satiating us while expanding our horizons, we look up north.
Somehow the U.S. has devolved, it’s like we’re a living Devo record, it’s the lowest common denominator, all a dash for fame and cash…how otherwise to explain the Black Eyed Peas? They’re rich and famous today, and will be completely forgotten tomorrow, just a marginally larger footnote than Vanilla Ice.
You can blame MTV, it killed the alternative. Used to be we had the mainstream and the alternative. Suddenly, we lived in a monoculture, where it was all about beauty and money, everybody selling out, with supposed societal approval. Huh?
Today’s music is so far from what blew up the business in the baby boom era, it’s laughable.
We had Top Forty tunes. Which were based on SONGS! Melodies, bridges, structures! Now we’ve got a beat-driven "mainstream" that’s really a backwater (cesspool?) that few pay attention to.
And then we had underground FM radio. Where the only criterion was that something be good. Didn’t have to be under three minutes, didn’t have to be catchy, just had to be ear-pleasing…and if it also had something to say, fantastic!
We got to the era where if you didn’t have a single, no one with any cash was interested.
But now you no longer need any cash to get started in the music business. Hell, if you take the cash, you’re immediately compromised. Those fucks have to feed their lifestyle, the same way the bloated touring acts do. They’re not about music, they’re about the bottom line. And if we’re gonna pay, we’d rather pony up for something with more value. Like an iPhone, whose apps exhibit more creativity than anything on the iTunes chart.
And in America, we end up with the popsters insulting the audience, as if they’re entitled to their "exalted" sell-out state. And "alternative" musicians who no one wants to listen to other than their friends and a few like-minded losers. To the point where so much of the audience has tuned out.
But it’s different in Canada. Maybe because there’s not quite the desperation. You can quit your corporate gig without fear of losing your health care. And your odds of becoming rich and famous are low. Ever notice that most of the successful Canadian musicians are not teenagers? Not even in their twenties? This isn’t something they’re cashing in on, this is a calling!
But don’t give up your day job.
That’s what stunned me when I went to Vancouver. The guy from Jets Overhead was working a 9-5. Put out an album in the U.S. and you feel you’re entitled to a tour bus and an audience. And endorsements from all those corporations the rest of us hate.
But the opportunities are fewer in Canada.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t make music.
Before Lee Abrams codified FM radio, it was an aural adventure. You could tune in a station and let it play all afternoon. Commercials were few and the songs were mind-expanding. "No Nations" is a throwback to that era. Drop the proverbial needle and the everyday world will fall away. You’ll be immersed in a bath of warm oil. If you want to turn off your mind, relax and float downstream, this is the soundtrack.
Dial up the very first track in the player, "I Should Be Born". The ethereal vocal will lift you to the sky.
My favorite track is now the follow-up, number two, "Heading For Nowhere". Get past the initial intro and hang in there long enough for the delicious pre-chorus and the heavenly chorus. If you’re a winner, a driver, this is not the music for you. If you don’t question where you’re going, if you’re not overwhelmed, if you don’t want to remove yourself and check out for a while, you won’t like this. But if you feel like you’re heading for nowhere but when the right track pours out of the speakers you feel like you’ve got all the answers "Heading For Nowhere" is for you!
Skip ahead to "No Nations". With its dreamy intro.
And while you’re on your initial way through, put time in with "Fully Shed". Let it play, you’ll get into it.
If this were the U.S., I’d expect Jets Overhead to break up. For someone to go to law school, another player to devote full time to Goldman Sachs.
But this is Canada, and people don’t give up that fast.
But I still don’t expect "No Nations" to make any headway. There’s no longer an underground FM station with critical mass in each metropolis that can anoint a hit. Fans make hits today. And do thirtysomethings embrace and proselytize? Do they live on Twitter?
But this demo and the baby boomers are looking for something new to listen to.
Jets Overhead is not groundbreaking. It’s not Hendrix, it’s not even Beck Hansen. But "No Nations" contains the essence that had me lying on my bedroom floor listening on headphones, going to the gig to hear these songs live. It’s a feeling. And it’s about the music. Not the trappings.
Check it out.