Friday, July 24, 2015

N is for A Neon Rome and New Pornographers

"We were sitting on the bus one day and there were 5 of us hanging out. There was only one beer left in the cooler and we actually all took a little cup and split it. It was a pathetic day in a rock and roll when five grown men have to be sitting there sharing a beer."

Zak Wylde, guitarist who played with Ozzy Osbourne when they were all just starting out.

     Rock n' Roll is the new herion.  That was the motto put forth by Toronto punk band, A Neon Rome, back in the 80s when they were making waves in the burgeoning Toronto punk scene.  Known for their outrageous and, even dangerous, live shows, A Neon Rome became cult favourites among those who craved the adrenalin rush of music being played completely without boundaries; threatening to careen wildly off the rails at any given moment.  No one was supposed to feel safe at A Neon Rome show. After all, Rock n' Roll in its' purest form is supposed to be dangerous.

     A Neon Rome stand out from the myriad other bands that hurled anger as an energy.  While they routinely rioted on stage, destroying everything in sight, they were very aware that chaos was their brand and their willingness to market that brand was very deliberate. A Neon Rome made their own handbills and would plaster them on walls and telephone poles all over the city. But, they never listed the date of their next show. Instead, they would create unique posters with their band name on them and, often, they would include philosophical ramblings such as A Neon Rome being the new herion.
     Not long into their career, they approached famed Canadian movie director, Bruce McDonald, to help them film a movie based on a idea that they had that revolved around recording live performances while fans were menaced by sharks.  McDonald quashed that idea but, intrigued with the band, pitched the idea of making a documentary about them travelling through small towns in Northern Ontario.  By the time it came to begin production, the lead singer of A Neon Rome had shaved his head and taken a vow of silence. The drummer had stopped bathing himself. A homeless man began appearing on-stage with the band and, well, yes, it all started falling apart.  The band imploded.  But, out of the wreckage of this implosion came one of the great Canadian movies of all time, Roadkill.
     As British band, Oasis, once opined, that bands often get hooked on the drug that is Rock n' Roll and want to live forever.  But,  very few bands do actually stand the test of time.  The average term of longevity for a band who has produced at least one album or EP is between two-four years. A Neon Rome didn't live forever but, they have gained immortality just the same; their legacy, captured in all its' insanity, on film.

     I will conclude our look at noteworthy "N" bands by showcasing a group who have won worldwide acclaim for all of their albums but, because of their name, have trouble being granted mainstream radio airplay.  That group is The New Pornographers.
     The New Pornographers are from British Columbia and have been together for over fifteen years.  In that time, they have been hailed by such esteemed music magazines as Rolling Stone, which declared the second album, Electric Version, as one of the top 100 albums of the decade (2000-2010), Blender Magazine, which heralded their fourth album, Mass Romantic, as one of the top 25 Indie albums of all-time (and the second best Canadian Indie album after Funeral, by Arcade Fire) and, finally, The Village Voice, which has listed every album The New Pornographers have ever issued in their Top 40 Year end polls.  And yet, how many New Pornographers songs are for sale at Walmart?

     There is some mild dispute as to the origin of the band's name. In one interview, it was stated that the band was named after a Japanese documentary called, The Pornographers.  But most people believe that they chose their name in response to a fundamentalist preacher from the southern U.S. who called Rock n' Roll, America's new pornography.  Since the band played Rock n' Roll then, to them, they must be The New Pornographers.

    While there songs may not get as much radio airplay as they may warrant, The New Pornographers still get their music out.  Their tunes have made their way on to soundtracks for everything like Canadian television shows such as Queer as Folk, U.S. television shows such as The Gilmore Girls, Weeds and Ugly Betty, movies such as Canada's own, Men With Brooms and the U.S. release, Management, as well as, video games such as, Rock Band.

     As was the case with Toronto bunkers, F**KED UP, The New Pornographers are challenging the mainstream music industry to look past monikers and just play their good music for the masses.  Below is the really cool video for Challengers.   Other well-received songs of theirs include Mass Romantic, Champions of Red Wine and Brill Bruisers.   

     A big tip of the hat for the following performers whose name starts with the letter, "N":

80s rockers, The Northern Pikes, The Pas' own rock star, Bif Naked, FM's most unique band member, Nash the Slash, Acapella singers extraordinaire, The Nylons, New Waver, Aldo Nova, 80s rock group, National Velvet, Stadium rockers, Nickelback, Metalists, No Means No, Blink 182-soundalikes, Not By Choice, Alt-country stars, New Country Rehab, Montreal punk rockers, The Nils, the only heavy metal/ska band I know, Ninjaspy, Award-winning jazz group, The Nuefeld-Occhipinti Jazz Ensemble, the rock-pop stylings of Never-ending White Lights, Quebec pop stars, The New Cities, Winnipeg rockers, The New Meanies and, of course, that most super of supergroups, Northern Lights.

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