Most commenters were either surprised or congratulatory over the greatness of the recently announced Polaris Music Prize Short List. “As they should be, it’s a pretty good list,” I thought to myself, but one comment on an American music blog caught my eye, and stuck in my craw: “I’m flummoxed. More and more data keeps coming in that Canada is, in fact, a real place.”
Maybe I’m falling victim to the world’s recent resurgence of nationalism, but what does a country have to do to become a musical superpower? Based on numbers alone, it seems impossible for Canada. But our artists and the musical communities and scenes that nursed them shouldn’t be meekly compromised and ignored to better serve the narrative that popular music was born, lives, and will die in America. That narrative deserves a 6.8 anyway.
Our geography and density has always been a burden. Canada’s earliest pop music revolutionaries were defectors. Neil Young and Joni Mitchell went where the work was and where the people were. You can’t blame them, and you can’t blame the countless bands and artists that continue to pay their fees to cross the border and try their luck at making it within the American music machine.
Adrian Teacher and the Subs are a rock band from Vancouver. They have yet to play in the United States (as far as I can tell). Thier debut album Terminal City, available from You’ve Changed Records, has so far proved to be my “album of the summer”. It’s fun, smart, catchy and highly proficient, taking the sunniest parts from your obligatory list of post-punk originators, gets rid of the excesses and ensures the songs remain stuck in your head with subtle hooks and Teacher’s oft-funny declarations. Perhaps the most obvious sonic outlier on the album is “Forget America”, based around an ever-looping groove, occasionally elevated by a glorious sax riff that hits the spot every time.
I’m not sure exactly what Adrian Teacher is singing about in “Forget America”, but the sentiment strikes a chord. For Canadian musicians–and most certainly for their fans, there has never been a better time to act on Teacher’s advice: Forget what blogs and “tastemakers” in the States are selling you. “Wow! Their tunes are awesome and they’re nice”. Ignore what radio stations are playing over and over again on the hour; if they could they would be playing even less Canadian content.
Canada’s musical output is better than it’s ever been. All of Canada feels like it is on the brink of being the next Seattle, New York, D.C., but the royal we aren’t going to notice until the gate-keepers of popular music make it so.
Be vigilant as a Canadian music fan and consumer. Champion the local, regional and national bands that you love because no is going to do it for you. If you don’t know how, that’s okay. We’re here to help.
Don’t wait for the tastemakers in the States or DOMINIONATED to start writing about the bands you adore, do it yourself. This is your space to champion, eulogize and share the music that moves you, and we’d love to help you spread the word. There is an amazing web, rich in history, connecting all the musical threads being spun across Canada, and even though it feels so right (i.e. Canadian), here at DOMINIONATED, we will not apologize for that, and neither should you.