Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Sep 10th 2009 2:30PM by Damian Abraham
With the Polaris Prize awards coming soon, I have to pause and reflect on the absurdity of my situation: I am a bald, 300-lb. 30-year-old who makes his living yelling in a band with an expletive for a name. Not only that, but said band has somehow found itself nominated for what is arguably Canada's most important music award: the Polaris. Since we are the first band from the punk, hardcore, metal axis to make the shortlist, I feel it is my duty to recognize the forebears who laid the foundation for us and never received any real recognition of their own. So, in the spirit of the Polaris, I present my shortlist of some of the most absurdly overlooked Canadian bands.
5. Schizoid, St. John's, Newfoundland
This mid-'80s band recorded one of the greatest Canadian hardcore seven-inches of all time, 'Bear Thief,' and nothing else. One of the only hardcore records to make it out of the Maritime provinces, they play it tough and fast and are said to be the best New York hardcore band not to come out of New York. (OK, it's only me who said that, but I stand by it.)
4. Ceramic Hello, Burlington, Ontario
"Cultural hotbed" is not a term commonly associated with the city of Burlington, but for fans of minimal synth (Imagine new wave music on heavy downers), that is exactly what this community turned out to be. That reputation comes from its position as base of operations for obscure new wave label Mannequin Records. The label only ever managed to release a handful of records, but the lot of them have become coveted collectors' items. Perhaps none moreso than the seven-inch and LP released by Ceramic Hello, the band fronted by label manager Brett Wickens. Described by many collectors as "godly," even the late-'90s reissues now command a small fortune.
3. M Blanket, Victoria, British Columbia
Emerging from the mind of Dave Wenger in the early '90s, M Blanket played a brand of intelligent pop-punk that would fit perfectly on a mixtape with bands like Jawbreaker and Husker Du. During their short career, M Blanket only managed to release a demo tape, two seven-inches of their own, a split seven-inch and a smattering of compilation appearances. Wenger's life was tragically cut short in 2006, and the fact that these records are lost to the dollar bins of punk stores across Canada hardly seems a fitting tribute. I must have flipped by their records a thousand times over the years, not paying them a second glance until an American friend tipped me off to their brilliance earlier this year.
2. Blasphemy, Vancouver, British Columbia
A militantly anti-fascist, multi-racial, black metal band from the late '80s/early '90s, they played a style of metal that is not for the faint of heart. To describe this band as pummeling, punishing and powerful would not only be a good use of alliteration but also an understatement. Their two studio albums have been reissued by Nuclear War Now, so collectors can avoid paying the several hundred dollars they sell for on eBay. And by the way, number of kids I saw in China wearing Metric shirts? Zero. Number I saw wearing Blasphemy shirts? Two. You do the math.
1. The Viletones, Toronto, Ontario
Those of you familiar with the genre are probably crying foul because the Viletones are widely known in the punk world. Yet, in terms of popular music, they remain totally unacknowledged. The Viletones were a phenomenal first wave punk band from Toronto. They only managed a scant two releases before the original lineup broke up, both of which are stone classics. In fact, I would argue that 'Screaming Fist' is one of the best Canadian rock songs of all time. In one of his books, Henry Rollins talks about the massive influence the Viletones had on Bad Brains, who in turn would go on to inspire the Beastie Boys and countless others. Connect the dots. For more on the Viletones and the other bands that made the early Toronto punk scene, check out this hilarious vintage CBC news item, or for more current history, check out the book 'Treat Me Like Dirt' by Liz Worth.
This is only a minute sampling of great Canadian bands that have been lost to the sands of time. There are literally hundreds more, and hopefully they will one day get the recognition they deserve. But until that day, they I hope they will find some solace in the fact that their music is intertwined with F---ed Up. Our nomination is their nomination.
Stream F---ed Up's 'The Chemistry of Common Life' and the other nine nominated albums in our Polaris Prize Full CD Listening Party