Swans!!!!! (or Friday on my mind)

Assessing two recent shows put on by punk legends (PiL and OFF!) and recommending the best events of the coming week, from no-frills DJ nights to Halloween parties to the great Oct. 26 conundrum.

Okay, before I hip you Jack and Jills to what is surely going to be the show of the year (hint: it’s the title of this column), I’d like to take a moment and look back at two shows that happened in our fair burg over the past couple of weeks.

After witnessing the amazing return of legendary post-punk band PiL a couple years back, I was all goosebumps on my trek down to Corona last Tuesday. Unfortunately though, I only listen to PiL’s first three records (alright, mainly just Second Edition/Metal Box) and break out in hives whenever material made after that is played. Lydon and company’s current two-hour set list had very little for me to gnaw on as they played tunes from the entire length of their discography.

The band once again opened with “This Is Not a Love Song,” and I found myself actually drawn in to a song that I previously found to be banal  —  with its newfound varnish and added extensions, I settled in to let the dub bass guide me to Valhalla. Set highlight “Albatross” was also given extra wiggle room, reaching new heights and proving to be more sublime than ever. After this, though, things got a little patchy.

Lydon was indeed in fine form throughout, despite stooping to his Toronto-taunting yet again — he was just mesmerizing on “Flowers of Romance,” “Death Disco” and a very bass-heavy version of “Religion.” It was when he got off the dub/Can train and onto a saccharine pop and, dare I say, house music track that things went horribly wrong. Recent songs like the ska-fuelled “One Drop” and the tepid “Warrior” were just toothless, making Bono look dangerous in comparison. I understand that the band can’t be expected to stay in the bubble they constructed over three decades ago, but PiL are at their best when they ignore the existence of the radio dial, and are sadly painfully pedestrian when blatantly staring right at it.

This Monday, hardcore hipster band OFF! returned to Foufounes and, not surprisingly, absolutely destroyed. Although their mileage may vary, OFF! is everything I want in a punk band: fast and pounding songs that steals from the blueprint of Black Flag’s “Nervous Breakdown” at every turn. But you can’t slight them, as singer Keith Morris was indeed the man who caterwauled on that Flag tune from 1978, so if anybody has license to steal…

Rounded out by Rocket From the Crypt/Earthless’s Mario Rubalcaba, Dimitri Coats and Redd Kross’s Steven McDonald, OFF! is well executed punk rock that gets blood boiling. But it was Morris, the man giving the sermon on the mount, that kept the set runnin’ in the red. He may be a crank, but when his veins pop out of his neck and his eyes bulge out of the sockets as he screams out the barbed pearls in “Fuck People,” “Black Thoughts” and “Panic Attack,” the man is unbeatable. If you think current punk rock is just downtrodden with retread and plastic angst, do not miss this band the next time they come to town. It’s true that the PBR-swilling hipsters have embraced them, but don’t let that be a deterrent because OFF! is indeed the real deal.

Wednesday – Uncle Bad Touch’s Mikey Heppner guest DJs tonight as part of l’Escogriffe’s weekly Rock ’n’ Roll Radio. Expect some soaring psych, fucked up prog and greasy garage punk.

Thursday – NDQ is the place to be to hear an eclectic mix that runs the gamut from smooth R&B to gospel to punk rock, care of DJ Pascha and her monthly Save Us night.

For shows, the obvious destination for Thursday night is Bistro de Paris, where the demented garage of Crabe obliterates with Shining Wizard and Silver and Gold.

Friday – Although Halloween and its stack of parties are just around the corner, Friday is the most stacked night of the week. If you’re seeking greasy rock ’n’ roll/punk, and are yearning to don corpse paint and black armour, l’Escogriffe is the place to be for Helloween, a black metal costume party with sets by Genital Hospital, the Skip Jensen Group, Lip and Troma Lisa.

If that wasn’t cool enough, ex-Fleet Fox Father John Misty returns to Montreal at Cabaret Mile End. Misty’s Sub Pop debut Fear Fun easily squeezes into my top three records of 2012, so this should be a thrill to see, if he can pull of those masterful vocal harmonies in a live setting.

Now, Helloween and Misty could create a conundrum, but Friday also hosts what is guaranteed to be the show of the year: Swans, with A Hawk and a Hacksaw at la Tulipe. The Swans show at le National a couple of Pop Montreals ago remains one of the greatest shows I have ever witnessed. To add further ballast, the band has just released one of the best records I have heard in at least five years (The Seer) — this just might be the greatest active band that you could hope to see. Submit and surrender to the pummelling and expect nothing short of a completely fucking amazing live experience. Note: the start time for this show is 6 p.m.

Saturday – Even if the Swans show has left you an emotional shipwreck, pick up the pieces and make it down to Children of the Grave, with Raw Power paying tribute to the Stooges and Back Stabbathhh saluting Black Sabbath, at Rodos. If hearing two of God’s favourite bands isn’t enough, there are DJs Lynne T., Choyce and Raf K.

For a little bit less doom and fuzz, you can head down to la Brique to catch Silent Land Time Machine, Leopard et Moi and a solo set from les Momies de Palerme’s Marie Davidson.

Monday – Tonight marks the return to town of local giant Sam Shalabi, presenting his mammoth project Land of Kush at Sala. This will mark the first of his two-night stint, which continues on Tuesday. Shalabi and Pierre-Guy Blanchard open on both nights. ■



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