Monday, September 22, 2008

The Smell of Maple in the Morning

(This is a column that was originally rejected when I was writing for It was rejected on the basis that the owner of the site and I had a difference of opinion on what I should be writing about. Yet another reason I stopped writing for them. Enjoy!)

Strap on your skates because this week we are covering music from the Arctic tundra known as Canada. I am not Canadian, nor do I play one on TV, but I do have a fondness for both their bizarre brand of comedy and their love for violence on ice, which is sometimes referred to as hockey.

I know how hard it is to discover new and unusual music because it may not be deemed cool or trendy by the pop stations, the CW or MTV, which just play the same five songs over and over and over again. I am not for downloading music off of Kazaa or Morpheus (*cough* anymore *cough*), but I must say it did cause me to purchase more CDs than I did before simply because it opened up new bands to me that I never would have heard otherwise. Since I stopped downloading music (which was right around the time the FCC started arresting people), I have bought only three CDs. Over the six months I was downloading music, I purchased about thirty or forty CDs. As usual, though, I am in the minority on this so I’ll get off my little make-shift soapbox and tell you about three bands, well, technically, two bands and a comedy troupe that I think need to be brought to your attention. Forget everything you know about Canada’s national musical treasures like Bryan Adams, Alanis Morrisette and Bare Naked Ladies.

The first band I’ve called you all here to discuss is the Arrogant Worms. I discovered them accidentally when I was looking for music for a birthday mix CD. I did a search for any song with birthday in the title and came across “The Happy, Happy Birthday Song.” I listened to it and then immediately downloaded a few other songs by them. I got hooked and went out and bought several of their CDs. They’re one of those bands that are funny, clever, witty and all around entertaining. They can also sing and play their instruments well, too! If you’ve ever listened to the “Dr. Demento Show,” you’ve at least heard one or more of their songs.

The Arrogant Worms are three guys named Chris Patterson, Mike McCormick and Trevor Strong, who formed in 1991 at Queen’s College in Ontario. It’s hard to find that perfect mix of humor and music, but they seemed to have found it. They are not everyone’s cup of tea, but I knew I would like them just based on the titles of some of their songs. Some of my favorites are: “Jesus’ Brother Bob,” “Carrot Juice is Murder,” “The Last Saskatchewan Pirate,” “History is Made by Stupid People,” “My Voice is Changing,” “Mounted Animal Nature Trail,” “Me Like Hockey,” “Canada’s Really Big,” “Rocks and Trees” and “Celine Dion”. They have a ton of albums, so this is merely a small cross section of titles. I highly recommend picking up one of their “greatest hits” type albums called “Gift Wrapped” or “Live Bait.”

Excerpt from “Carrot Juice is Murder”:

Listen up brothers and sisters come hear my desperate tale.

I speak of our friends of nature trapped in the dirt like a jail.

Vegetables live in oppression, served on our tables each night.

This killing of veggies is madness, I say we take up the fight.

Salads are only for murderers, coleslaw's a fascist regime.

Don't think that they don't have feelings, just ‘cause a radish can't scream.

Although it may come to a complete shock to you, some of the music you download is credited to the wrong band. I know! Can you believe it? There are a few songs mislabeled as Arrogant Worms that were in fact done by a comedy troupe called Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie. I knew I’d like them just based on their name, but it turns out they have talent too!

The three trolls in question are Wes Borg, Joe Bird and Paul Mather, who have been performing together since 1986. Their brand of comedy appeals to people with computers and/or people who use the internet. I’m not sure if anyone reading this qualifies, but still. One of the funniest sketches they do is called, “Welcome to the Internet Help Desk.” A veteran tech support person is training a new guy by going through a sample call with someone who can’t get their email. If you have ever been on either end of a tech support call, you will laugh your butt off. Their other sketches are: How to Buy a Computer, Dot Com 1999, Behind the Scenes at Microsoft, How to Keep Your Parents Off the Internet, and many, many more. They have a few songs as well related to computers: Breaking Up With My CPU and the System Administrator song, which are my favorites. In addition to the computer humor, they have other sketches and songs like: Drug Weather Report, Darth Vader’s Employee Evaluation, The White House Burned (War of 1812) Song, The Toronto Song, and many, many more. I recommend picking up either “Skit Happens” for the more computer-oriented jokes or “Steaming Pile of Skit” for the more general jokes and jabs at Canada. Once you get hooked, you can check their site for other goodies they offer.

The next band was recommended by a friend of mine to my cousin who then recommended it to me who originally found them mislabeled as They Might Be Giants who saw them pass out at 31 Flavors last night, so I guess it’s pretty serious. Moxy Fruvous (whose name, according to their website, means absolutely nothing) have some truly awesome songs which are both funny and what most people would refer to as normal as well. If you like They Might Be Giants, you will like Moxy Fruvous.

Mike Ford, Murray Foster, Dave Matheson, and Jian Ghomeshi joined forces in 1990 just outside of Toronto to form a musical empire that would melt a Canadian winter. That’s how hot they are, well, in my mind at least. Of course, I’ve never been in Canada during the winter and I hear it can be quite cold, so ignore the previous statement. Words I would use to describe their music are catchy, fun, addictive, flavorful with long lasting effects. Some of their lyrics are a bit smarter than the average bear and at time very clever, but don’t let that stop you.

The first song I heard of theirs was “King of Spain,” which is usually the first of their songs I play for people to show them how good their music is. I follow it up with “My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors” and then change gears into an awesome song called “Gulf War Song” which is really quite moving. I would recommend picking up “Bargainville” to try them out and see if you love them as much as I do. Their “Live Noise” album is also a lot of fun, especially when they get the crowd to guess which state has the lowest highest point is in the US. You hear people guessing different states including ones with mountains and thus, hilarity ensues.

Excerpt from “My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors”:

Well you should see my story reading baby, you should hear the things that she says,

She says "Hon, drop dead, I'd rather go to bed with Gabriel Garcia Marquez."

Cuddle up with William S. Burrows, leave on the light for bell hooks,

I've been flirtin' with Pierre Burton 'cause he's so smart in his books

I like to go out dancing, My baby loves a bunch of authors

My heart's so broke and bleedin'. Baby's just sitting there doing some reading.

If your keeping score at home, these are three more things Canada can proudly take credit for besides Wayne Gretzsky, William Shatner, Shania Twain, Lablatt Blue, and, um, uh, Alan Thicke?

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