So concerned are the folks at EMI Music that Radiohead's forthcoming Kid A album -- due out October 3 -- might end up on Napster, that they're not sending out advance review copies to the press.
Instead, invited music scribes were ushered into a room in a downtown house furnished with beanbag chairs and 10 sets of headphones and told to listen closely.
Facial reactions ranged from bemused to nearly comatose -- one guy looked like he was asleep. That's not surprising, really.
Kid A sounds nothing like the much-praised OK Computer disc. In fact, it sounds like Radiohead cut to ribbons.
Someone got a new computer. Everything on the 10-and-a-half-track album has been processed, diced and reconfigured to shit. Beats, when they're there, stutter and hiccup. There are no guitars on the first three tracks. Vocals are regularly treated beyond recognition, there's an Arkestra-ish brass orchestra and the album ends with a piece built around harmonium, a harp and what sounds like a singing saw. No surprises indeed.
Commercial suicide? Maybe, but it sure sounds nice. There will be no videos or singles, but a more conventional rock record is said to be in the works for release next spring.
The band plays one Canadian show before 2000 and is rumoured to be hosting Saturday Night Live October 14. In the meantime, buy a new set of headphones.
Harbourfront, Fri, September 1
Knowing that veteran vibesman Roy Ayers was touring in support of self-released album Smooth Jazz, concerns about whether the jazz-dance pioneer would bring the funk to Harbourfront were not unreasonable. The appearance of a synth set-up beneath his electrified vibes offered little comfort, but once Ayers, sporting a brown zoot suit with yellow pinstripes, tore into Evolution and Running Away, it was clear that he knew what the majority of the audience had come to hear.
The biggest response of the night followed We Live In Brooklyn Baby, which the seasoned showman updates nightly. But it wasn't the "Toronto" substitution that drew wild cheers. It was the searing runs by guitarist Calvin Brown. He dropped stinging Telecaster leads all night, but at that point he took off on a raunchy three-minute ending with a Purple Haze quote that brought folks to their feet. Without Brown's surprising firepower, it could easily have turned into just another oldies night.
Lee's Palace, Fri, September 1
You'd think the threat of a three-hour rant from chronically cranky punk-for-hire Jello Biafra would be enough to keep people away from Lee's Palace Friday night. But the joint was packed tight for the Jello spew-fest. Looking slightly tired and rumpled, the Alternative Tentacles label honcho stood gesticulating as he read with a condescending professorial bellow from the coil-bound Book Of Biafra.
Questioning the prescribing of Ritalin for school children and making a few cracks about SUVs isn't terribly incisive social commentary, but, hey, Noam Chomsky he ain't.
Biafra didn't really light up until the intermission, when a generous fan turned up backstage with a copy of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's Building On The Rock (Singcord) album, in which the televangelical terrors go sock-puppet-crazy. "Do they sing in puppet voices?" inquired the kitsch connoisseur hopefully, to which the crate-digger nodded in silent affirmation.
"Oh gooood," Biafra beamed, gazing delightedly at the cover. It was the high point of the evening.
GUELPH JAZZ FEST
Kicking Toronto's ass again
Yes, it's out of town, but you really owe it to yourself to make the trip to Guelph September 6 through 10 for the city's annual jazz festival.
While the dear helmsmen of our Downtown Jazz Festival blame their backward programming on uncertain funds, the Guelph fest -- with help from 29 major sponsors, none of whom is a major tobacco company -- has put together another challenging lineup of local and international artists. Well done.
The highlights come fast and furious. Confirmed performers include Kevin Breit, Jane Bunnett and her Spirits of Havana, the Equal Interest Trio -- featuring Joseph Jarman, Leroy Jenkins and Myra Melford -- David Murray, Matthew Shipp and Mat Maneri, George Lewis and many more. There are also lectures, workshops and other community events.
Full details and ticket info available at www.uoguelph.ca/~jazzfest/
Full props to Choclair and the rest of the winners at last week's second annual Urban Music Awards.
The potty-mouthed MC got the nod for best album and best video during the ceremony at the Bamboo Thursday. Fellow Circle crew member Jully Black won for best R&B song, Jacksoul picked up the award for best pop record and Baby Blue Sound Crew, whose major-label mixed tape drops via Universal Music this fall, were named the city's best DJ crew.
Dream Warriors manager Ivan Berry and CKLN host Norman Otis Richmond took home lifetime achievement awards.
Surfing the boob tube on holiday Monday night, we happened upon Toronto's own Barenaked Lady Tyler Stewart holding his own against members of 98⩝, N'Sync and Sugar Ray -- not to mention Whoopi Goldberg -- as part of the revamped Hollywood Squares game show. Evidently, the week was being sponsored by Teen People magazine, hence the pop-star lineup.
And boy, did Stewart do us proud. Not only did he get an American history question correct (Abe Lincoln is not buried at the Lincoln Memorial), but the drummer also secured a winning X on his square with a response concerning Kraft Dinner, an obvious wink to fans and a Canadianism that slipped by the show's editors -- in the U.S., the gloopy stuff is commonly referred to as Kraft Mac And Cheese. Watch for BNL's new Maroon disc, arriving September 12.