Read: Canadian Rock (1985-95) Book

 

Recently published by
ECW Press, this expanded edition of
Have Not Been the Same: The Canrock
Renaissance 1985-1995 (by Michael Barclay, Ian A.D. Jack, and Jason Schneider) now features a section covering Arcade Fire, The New Pornographers, Neko Case, The
Weakerthans and others.

 

By Randy Harward

 

Maybe it’s American egotism that makes us treat Canada
like our toque-sportin’ retarded cousin who on occasion says or does something
cool or funny. Fact is, if we paid enough attention, we’d see that the poor
little hoser has quite a lot to say, and most of it’s insightful and
stimulating. Hell, the spaz may only have ADD or something.

 

We bow to Rush as Canada’s kickass export next to Moosehead,
heckle Ryan Adams about playing Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69,” and marvel at the
grasp The Daily Show‘s Samantha Bee
and Jason Jones have on the American political zeitgeist. Oh sure, we know all
about Broken Social Scene and their various branches and even pre-Grammy The
Arcade Fire. Maybe we’re just cool
enough to have gotten hip to Trailer Park
Boys
before Netflix, and have seen Fubar at least once. But a lot of us still mistake Neil Young for an American.

 

There’s a wealth of Canadian art that we miss out on,
especially music. Originally published in 2001, Have Not Been the Same doesn’t aim to right that wrong. Instead, it
chronicles a vast, varied music scene that has long existed as if in a parallel
dimension to the rest of the world. Over 700+ pages, the authors don’t simply
profile individual bands (as Michael Azerrad did in Our Band Could Be Your Life); they isolate a decade where Canadian
bands began to get their due. We’re taken into clubs, arenas and streets of Canada at a
time when labels started to mine the frozen tundra, and bands like The
Tragically Hip, Lone Justice, The Pursuit of Happiness, NoMeansNo, Voivod,
Sloan and Skinny Puppy rose to achieve international acclaim but mostly
domestic success.

 

Barclay, Jack and Schneider don’t treat this as a tragedy. At
home, many of these bands are arena rock giants – criminally under-appreciated
The Tragically Hip being a fine example. Some are more recognizable than
ostensible household names and faces like Metallica’s James Hetfield and Lars
Ulrich. In a telling story from the book, producer Bob Rock – whom Americans
may know from producing scads of hair metal albums as well as Metallica
juggernaut Black Album, relates an
instance when a waiter asked for his autograph instead of theirs. And the Hip
still packs arenas on their home turf, as opposed to clubs in the States.

 

Updated with an epilogue that covers a second wave of the
Canrock Renaissance, the post-Internet age where BSS, The Arcade Fire, The New
Pornographers, Neko Case, The Weakerthans and scores of other bands carry the
torch, Have Not Been the Same is a
statement of musical patriotism. “This book,” state the authors in HNBTS’s opening disclaimer, “is
dedicated to all the musicians, fans, technicians, engineers, promoters, clubs,
journalists, indie labels, campus radio geeks and industry weasels who set
these events in motion, put their lives and careers on the line and gave this
book a reason to be. It is also for the next generation.” Canadians and their
bands don’t need validation from America or any other country because,
as the authors write, “Canadian music is no longer an underdog; it’s successful
on every level around the world and respected at home as well.”

 

This is true. However, so many of us missed out on the bands
from the 1985-1995 era. Do yourself a favor and look ‘em up. It’ll open up a whole
new world of incredible music, and you’ll spend several happy years catching up.

 

 

 

 

 

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