On the Download

Jul 23, 2008 at 12:00 am

When it comes to jams in "South Detroit" (aka Windsor, Ontario), as Steve Perry so arguably put it, Windsor exists in a weird sort of parallel universe: close enough to Detroit to claim "rock city" props when necessary, but certainly more attuned to the London-Hamilton-Toronto 401 circuit, audience-wise. So while you may not make it over to Coach & Horses nearly as often as you'd like to peep the scene in the 519, you can river-hop free of fee via the Internets.

A good place to start your arm's-length tour is the site for CJAM-FM (at 91.5 on the dial and uwindsor.ca/cjam on the computer machine). It's the station for the University of Windsor and a gateway drug view into our neighbors' noisy obsessions. And since they rock Canadian content (by law) and you can download MP3s of all their shows, it's a rad entry point.

Cruise around local guides like allwindsor.com or by Googling through the MySpace results, you'll dredge up a decidedly mixed bag of emo knockoffs, headbangers and, of course, the sort of literate acoustic folk music that has made Canada so justifiably ... well, not "famous" per se, but let's just say "known."

But there's also a crop of heavy bands working the city that — to a tourist like me at least — seem like a cohesive "scene." To wit: Explode When They Bloom, LoDown and fiftywatthead.

Explode When They Bloom bill themselves as the "New Sultans of Swing," which is, of course, just the kind of witty pop-culture reference we've come to expect from Canadiana. But, as evidenced on the jam titled "Got 'Em in Spades" from their latest offering, As the Animals Make Their Way Through the Crowds, they do offer up a kind of swing — even if it's couched in vocals that head toward histrionic and buzzing post-punk shredding. The hi-hat-snare-kick rave-up chops away underneath a manic guitar energy that should alternately have the kids pogo-ing or running into one another. Can't be all bad, right?


Explode's neighbors LoDown take a different, more self-consciously heavier tack, exemplified by their self-descriptor: "Buy album, listen to album, wreck the house." I'm sure that through something other than shitty iPod earbuds or computer speakers, jams like "Thor," "Century" and "Dirty Heshan" (now there's a damn appropriate song title!) sound way more like the sledgehammer Nuge-meets-Soundgarden cousins these dudes envision. Overdriven guitar? Check. Growled vocals with gratuitous use of the word "baby"? Check. Giant, crashing drums flailing against sludgy bottom-end? Check.


But perhaps the heaviest of this heavy trio of Ontarian acts is fiftywatthead. They have a jam called "tshitnami," ferchrissakes! Said jam is the sound of youthful metal aggression locked in a tin shack, force fed a steady diet of ephedra and raw meat while trying to create a new soundtrack for Hellboy ... or something like that. Their newest jam, "Fogcutter," is low-grind Sabbath worship. LoDown and fiftywatthead are a potent reminder that — even on the eve of its 20th anniversary — the stereotypical SubPop sound (aka the Grunge trademark) still resonates with da yoots.