Toronto
5 min

Live or Memorex?

Concerts showcase three new queer albums

SUGAR & SPICE. Evalyn Parry seasons politics with humour -- and yes, her new release includes "Always," the maxi pad song. Credit: Xtra files

WORD UP



The medicine her politics, the sugar her humour. Evalyn Parry does “serious” well with love songs like “Canada Dreams Of California,” “Bucket Of Time” and the bitter-sweet ballad “Ecuador,” but what lingers after her new CD Unreasonable stops spinning is the witty delivery of her politics.



Unreasonable is the solid second release from queer, local folk singer Evalyn Parry. In a time when the mainstream paints queer as 18-year-old pop singers who make out every time the camera is on them, it is refreshing to know Parry is in no way a naĆ®ve marketing tool selling a 21st-century version of lesbian chic. Parry is an insightful songwriter who dismantles the myth of gay men and lesbians as just a marketable lifestyle. As she writes in “Profit In The Margins,” “When you see me walking down the street hand in hand with my girlfriend we are not only a market we’re a target.”



This new album features Parry’s clear voice accented by the sweet backing vocal styles of Suzie Vinnick. Unreasonable showcases Perry’s intelligent and layered lyrics that are particularly poignant on tracks like “Drive Thru America” and “After The Revolution.” The most memorable song is about feminine hygiene sung from the perspective of a maxi pad called “Always.” Forget sex, how’s that for taboo subject matter? Better still “Always” is designed in such a way that it makes you want to sing along around a campfire wearing Birkenstocks.



I have seen Parry perform live and it is a quirky, fun, musical experience that borrows freely from her background in theatre. Her shows are as much about comedy as they are about the music, her humour taking centre stage when she takes to the mic. I was wary of how she would translate her performance on to CD, but Parry makes it work, mixing traditional folk songs with jazzy tongue-in-cheek numbers, country twang, political spoken word and Latin-influenced ballads. Unreasonable is definitely an eclectic album but it is a well-rounded one by a modern day Joni for the young, political queer.



— Suzy Malik



* To launch Unreasonable, Evalyn Parry performs at 8:30pm on Sat, Mar 22 at Hugh’s Room (2261 Dundas St W). Tix cost $12 advance and $14 at the door; call (416) 531-6604.



UNREASONABLE.

Evalyn Parry.

Outspoke. $20.



***

JAZZ HAS HER HEART



I started following Heather Bambrick’s career on Toronto’s jazz scene about four years ago, after a music fanatic friend saw her perform and declared that the singer was amazing, the real thing. She is. Immediate comparisons to Jann Arden come to mind – Bambrick has a knock-you-down voice that can rip your heart out and a similarly wacky sense of humour.



Her first CD, entitled It’s About Time, is quickly gaining the 32-year-old from St John’s Newfoundland a wider audience – and that’s about time. She’ll play in the village this Sunday afternoon, upstairs at The Looking Glass. Two weeks ago, a packed house at R & D’s BBQ And Blues, including a surprise show by her parents who flew in from The Rock, helped launch the disc, which is getting considerable play on Toronto’s Jazz 91.5FM, hit number 10 on the jazz charts at HMV and six in sales at Fred’s Records in the singer’s hometown – thanks to a little push from pals.



“My friends were in line when Alan Doyle from Great Big Sea walks in,” says Bambrick, “and they say, ‘You have to buy Heather’s CD.’ And he says, ‘Our Heather has a CD? Well, I’ll buy hers if she buys mine.'”



The 11 tracks are a sampling of the singer’s range of interests and talents. “Love For Sale” is a light-hearted yet soulful rift on the Cole Porter classic. There’s an achingly beautiful rendition of the Newfoundland classic “Let Me Fish Off Cape St Mary’s.” One of the strongest tunes, “That’s Falling In Love,” has a neat story: Bambrick wrote the lyrics atop the World Trade Centre, after playing a set at the Windows On The World lounge.



A graduate of University Of Toronto’s jazz program, Bambrick possesses an amazingly pure mezzo-soprano that, thanks to a penchant for mimicry, can lilt from R & B to rock to folk to ballads. But jazz has her heart.



“The lyrics are over the top sad and depressing or over the top saying life is wonderful. Jazz is funny, kooky, amusing yet, lyrically, it can rip your heart out. Harmonically, it’s thick and open to interpretation and very interactive with the audience. You can react, yell out, laugh and jeer, whatever.”



That appeals to the singer who plied her art at down-east kitchen parties. “The Newfoundland humour really comes through in my act and connection with the audience. We’re really into entertaining each other and that comes out mostly in jokes and music. Our history is mostly told in songs. If something tragic happens, somebody writes a song about it. A boat going down gets 23 verses.”



— Margaret Webb



* Heather Bambrick appears at The Looking Glass (582 Church St) from 4pm to 7pm on Sun, Mar 23; call (416) 929-4779.



IT’S ABOUT TIME.

Heather Bambrick.

$18.99.



***

PUNK AS FUCK



Punk as fuck and queer to the core, Skinjobs are out to challenge conservative queer values, daring you to “burn your rainbow” and get back to the roots of what is queer, what is punk – in other words, what this community is all about.



Heading to Toronto to perform at Vazaleen on Fri, Mar 28 at Lee’s Palace and Fruit Market on Sun, Mar 30 at Sneaky Dee’s, Skinjobs are a smart and sassy group out of Vancouver who are tearing up the homocore scene and at the same time building up a contingent of fans and followers. Their new album, Burn Your Rainbow offers polished yet ballsy punk rock, that is both influencing and influenced by Vancouver’s queer punk scene.



The three members of Skinjobs (the derogatory term used for Replicants in the sci-fi classic Blade Runner), Mason Newlove (Mimi Mahovlich), Mitch Fury (Kim Kinakin) and Lee Hendon (Laura Schultz) got together in 2000 at the birth of Vancouver’s Queer Punk Collective. Since then, they have exploded on the west coast scene, playing in Vancouver, Seattle, Olympia and all points between.



Skinjobs are ready to act out, with music as their message. The nine tracks of Burn Your Rainbow are augmented by the addition of bonus spoken word tracks by other well-known Vancity queer punks, Trish Kelly and Michael V Smith. This is a group that sticks together to fight against the oppression of the ruling gay class.



However, it is the music that really shines on this disc. It is far too easy for punks to fall too far into the DIY ethos when recording and end up with an inferior product. But not Burn Your Rainbow. This is a solid album with catchy hooks, emotional and intellectual lyrics and top-notch production values. All of this plus the political messages makes Burn Your Rainbow a must have in these days of resurgent punk rock.



But don’t think that going to see Skinjobs is going to be like seeing any of the other punk bands currently popping their way up the charts these days. Their shows have taken on the act of spectacle with the aid of Skinjob go-go dancers who get up and shimmy, shake and celebrate the music.



Audience members often join the band on stage – sometimes at the request of the band – for some impromptu spoken word.



Are Skinjobs going to be the poster kids of Pride Day anytime soon? No way, and they just don’t care. So if you’re out to challenge this scene, remember that the Skinjobs are recruiting.



— Jon Pressick



* Skinjobs play Vazaleen on Fri, Mar 28 at Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor St W), see page 29, and appear at the zine fest Fruit Market on Sun, Mar 30 at Sneaky Dee’s (431 College St), see page 28.



BURN YOUR RAINBOW.

Skinjobs.

Bongo Beat. $20.99.