Look back in anger

Sounding off on 2012’s (totally subjective) #1 story in local anglo media, and singing the praises of last year’s best band. PLUS quality over quantity on the concert calendar in the second week of 2013. Get your heavy here.

Okay, maybe this title for the first Hammer of the Mods of 2013 is a bit brash, but for many of us it sums things up nicely. With the nightly soundtrack of casserole protests banging out outrage in our streets, 2012 was definitely about making change and letting Montrealers’ voices be heard.

Hitting especially close to home, the need for unstifled expression and the embracing of change — albeit forced change — was especially apt for the people who make up the masthead of the virtual portal of hipness you are currently feasting yer peepers on. Montreal’s sole anglo weekly rag, the Mirror, finally got the axe from the corporate overlords in the summer of 2012, and although the paper’s employees had been waiting for the other shoe to drop in the wake of austerity measures, it still managed to blindside most of us with a suckerpunch to the throat.

Quickly proving the myopic corporate fuckwads dead wrong, the editorial staff of Cult MTL were able to quickly gather their wits, lick their wounds, shake it off and pretty much get on with it, when the Mirror’s body was barely cold. Although the sweat and blood is still poured in daily, this site actually became a success right out of the gate, proving Montrealers do indeed need a unique voice when it comes to local arts, culture and community.

Musically, 2012 proved that Montreal remains as vibrant as ever, with the underground branching out over every spectrum and proving there are audiences who dare to veer away from the spoon-fed mainstream. Marked by the emergence of more promoters and bands, as well as a wealth of local vinyl and cassette releases, Montreal continues to lead most cities on the musical map based on sheer support and passion for independent underground music. Probably most indicative of the support of grassroots independent music was the mass proliferation of hush-hush DIY venues that peppered the city and continue to provide stages for local bands and touring bands.

My highlight of 2012, both on record and live, was most definitely Michael Gira’s Swans. Towards the end of the fall, Swans released the definitive statement of their 30-year career with the mammoth slab of ballast, joy and despair, The Seer. But as near genius as Swans are on their last effort, it’s in the live setting that they really shine. Their two-hour pummelling at la Tulipe in October was easily the best show I’ve seen in years, one that had the sold-out room collecting their jaws on the way out. Gira proved himself the perfect band leader, guiding his expert musicians through hairpin turns and primal pounding that left us completely wrung out by the time the last note rang out. Just devastatingly good!

Although it would be rather convenient to say we’re starting the year with a bang after the reach-around I just gave the local scene, that’s sadly not the case. Things begin with a bit more of a whimper, as far as quantity goes, this week, but this handful of gigs is brimming with quality. As tradition dictates in our frostbitten burg, the post-holidays shows are primarily “locals-only,” as most tour vehicles tend to avoid our streets during the frigid calendar days, and this January is certainly no different.

Tuesday – Although the locals decidedly own the clubs this week, you can’t miss a chance to catch post-hardcore legends Quicksand tonight with Single Mothers at the Corona Theatre. Easily one of the most imitated bands ever, Quicksand’s seminal ’90s records Slip and Manic Compression easily stand the test of time.

Thursday – If you dig Northern soul and the dusty sides from Stax and Volt records, you’re not going to want to miss the launch of Shake! at Korova, with DJs Tinsoldierman, Commando and Jay. From the fine furry folks who brought you Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches, this is definitely the night for people who like to “shake it like a bowl of soup.”

Saturday – Anyone who likes their driving punk rock with a melodic bent should catch the Facials with the dark punk of Dekoder, Loudbag and Studfinder at Casa.

Card-carrying members of the Make a Riff Foundation can catch the denim-shirt-and-bell-bottom sounds of Eagle Tears with their heavy friends Rock Hard and Tank Whale at the best dive bar in the city, Brasserie Beaubien.

Sunday – If you dig the vintage power pop of labels like Bomp and Stiff, you have to come out to the continued Barfly residency of true songcraftsmen Dany Laj & the Looks. This Toronto transplant trio will continue their residency for the rest of the month, and add special guests throughout January and February. This whole shindig is over by 9 p.m., so make sure you show up early.

Monday – Finally, don’t miss a chance to catch epic post-rocker/avant-metal pedal pushers Near Grey, who unleash their sludgy soundscapes at Casa. If that wasn’t enough, the always amazing thisquietarmy will be opening. Tune in, turn on, drop acid. ■

Current obsession: Cluster & Eno, Cluster & Eno

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