Show Business Giants

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I Thought It Was A Fig

Show Business Giants - I Thought It Was A Fig ©1991 Smoeff
1. Introduction
2. Shanty Tramp
3. Tummy Tuck Town
4. Let's Get Together
5. Chew Excavating
6. Kwellada
7. Last One To Know
8. The Flintstones
9. Boy With A Truck
10. T-Shirt
11. Let's Fill The World Up With Little Babies
12. The Love Boat
13. Baldwang Must Die
14. Floody Basement
15. El Catrin
16. Carrying The Ball
17. This World Is Too Crowded
18. Daddy Big Boots

Originally released as a cassette, I Thought It Was a Fig finds Victoria's Show Business Giants finally gelling into an actual accomplished musical act rather than the weird and often exasperating low-fi experimentation found on their first two cassettes (Gold Love and The Benevolent Horn). Two of the more notable aspects of this release is that it was the one Show Business Giants recording that features the same lineup all the way through the album (including Andy Kerr on bass and the towering figure of Scott Henderson on guitar), as well as the first one that actually sounds good. That said, I Thought It Was a Fig still wanders between utterly rocking and utterly baffling.

Ringmaster and well-known botanist Tom Holliston's humor is prevalent throughout Fig, although often so inside and obscure that perhaps even he does not understand why it is humorous. And things that should be humorous, such as the direct lift of Nomeansno's "Body Bag" intro on "T-shirt" turn out to have a much more mundane impetus. (It turns out Andy Kerr couldn't nail the bass line Holliston envisioned for "T-Shirt" and instead decided they should just start out with "Body Bag" instead.) At their best, the Show Business Giants could tear things up on Fig, with the rollicking "Kwellada" being a prime example. Their humor is best evident on the ending to "Last One to Know", which is absolutely genius. However, when the band missteps, they don't mess around. "Tummy Tuck Town" is abysmal, to say the least. The album ending "Daddy Big Boots" is just strange.

Show Business Giants would move on from this point to explore the entire universe of musical genres and obscure pop-culture reference in a much more refined manner, but Fig is a mostly energetic romp with plenty of good tunes to counterbalance the band's tendency to be annoyingly weird. If nothing else, the CD's back insert features a photo of a youthful John Wright that should serve as hilarity for the masses.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/2007

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Maybe It's Just Me

Show Business Giants - Maybe It's Just Me ©1991 Wrong Records
1. Fun To Work With Chuck
2. I'm A Square
3. I'm In A Love With A Guy Named Paul
4. Bats
5. My Slacks
6. Teeny Weeny Man
7. All Night Man
8. Soul Of A Woman
9. Story Of P
10. That Weiport Feeling
11. Acres Of Paper
12. The Things You Do
13. Crosswords
14. I Am The Yellow Fly
15. Pauline
16. Marvellous
17. Maybe It's Just Me
18. Mistakes Happen
19. Small Problem
20. Country Ride On Demerol
21. Baldwang Must Die
22. This World Is Too Crowded
23. Untitled
24. Ten Busy Little Men

They say genius is often misunderstood. For instance, Albert Einstein worked at a patent office until he finally stole the theory of relativity from a Dr. Smith and then ran off with the formulas. Fame naturally followed him, despite slamming God's head in an oven and stealing the formula for life on earth. The Show Business Giants are very much in the same boat as Einstein, only with somewhat shorter hair and less theft. Maybe It's Just Me is one of the two relatively easy to find discs by the Giants and is probably the best example of the band at their zany best. But even the most adventurous listeners are advised to give this one awhile to sink in. It's like calculus. On a whole, it's a mystifying entity, but if you break down into chapters and digest a little at a time, it makes sense. To a degree. I still haven't touched calculus since taking it as a freshman in college. In fact, all I ever needed to know was the arithmetic they taught me in grade school. Maybe it's just me, but I never built a bridge with calculus.

Maybe It's Just Me is a widely varying release that offers more styles of music than your local Tower Records outlet. The band alternates between crooning, lounging, swinging, rocking, punking and ringing bicycle bells on this CD, never letting one thing stick around for too long. The songs are broken up with some terribly random rants and some guy claiming he is a fly. But most importantly, there are some flat out brilliant songs here: "I am the Yellow Fly", "Acres of Paper" and "All Night Man", among others. The ease that the Giants move from one song style to the next is impressive. While this sort of thing may leave fans of formula rock such as AC/DC stuck in Camaros while the Show Biz Giants zip by in their touring van, it is very much worth the effort to get your head around this album.

After taking the time to appreciate this CD and enjoy the width and breadth of the endeavor, one is left with only a single question: what the hell is up with the bicycle bell that shows up in seemingly every song on the album?

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/2004

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Let's Have A Talk With The Dead

Show Business Giants - Let's Have A Talk With The Dead ©1995 Essential Noise/Virgin
1. The First Pygmy In Space
2. Mothra Has Taken Tokyo
3. Sugartown
4. Vampire Hookers
5. Ace & Joan
6. Soundcheck
7. Anything But Love
8. I've Got A Crush On Wendy Mesley
9. Good-bye, Luftwaffe Girl
10. She Called Me Pete
11. Primate Boogie
12. I've Got Gingivitis
13. I Can't Get Russell Johnson Off My Mind
14. I Am The Lickspittle Of The Animal Kingdom
15. Big In Real Estate
16. The Other Side Of Mr. Sulu
17. Fireball X-15
18. Wake Up & Roar, Bachelor God

Tom Holliston, now better known as the current guitarist for NoMeansNo, indeed has this mad genius look about him. Those black rimmed glasses and crazy hair are obvious indications that something slightly demented is going on inside that head of his. Show Business Giants were and are his original band, although a revolving cast of characters and cohorts make it appear to be a side project of sorts. Essentially anyone who is anyone in the Vancouver scene appears on Show Business records. Moreover, the band is a cavalcade of misinformation and complete tomfoolery, perhaps a bit more literally in this case.

The music of Show Business Giants is rather hard to peg since you're likely to hear more than a few styles fly by over the course of this album. Fifties doo-wop, Ramones-styled ditties, hardcore thrashing and tender ballads all coexist in this maelstrom of silliness. The lyrical nature is quite goofy throughout, presenting in deadpan fashion a whole host of absurd stories and confessions. At times Show Business Giants are a punkier, more deranged version of They Might Be Giants and quite possibly might appeal to fans of that outfit. The eighteen tracks on this CD cover more ground than Black Flag's touring van and are well performed. Moreover, the silliness factor doesn't drag down the music into novelty hell where one listen is all you ever need. Rather, this is an album you can listen to from time to time and still enjoy something besides blatant silliness.

Considering Show Business Giants feature both Holliston and John Wright from NoMeansNo, fans of that band should at least investigate the alter ego of their better known band. At the very least, you'll be impressed with their skill in aping pop culture and various musical styles.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/2001

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Will There Be Corn

Show Business Giants - Will There Be Corn ©1997 Smoeff
1. The Blood Of The Five Brothers
2. My Hometown
3. Woody Strode
4. A Walk In The Black Forest
5. Opening Day
6. Security
7. Someone Beneath Me
8. Gramma's Pies
9. Because He Comes From Here
10. Glow In The Dark
11. Candy And Dolls
12. Gold In Canada
13. Will There Be Corn?
14. The Crested Perry
15. Summer Is Coming To The Duplexes
16. Big Regrets
17. Try To Smile
18. Japan Is Turning Into Eric Burdon

Will There Be Corn?, subtitled "The Autumn Reflections of the Show Business Giants", demonstrates the third full length effort. Well, the third to see release on the brand space new spage age technology of the laser compact disc. The previous two Show Business Giants releases, Maybe It's Just Me and Let's Have a Talk With the Dead, both have more of a hodge-podge collaborative feel, while Corn tends to be slightly more "band" oriented. Featuring the likes of (but not limited to) Tom Holliston, Ken Kempster, Ford Pier, John Wright, Scott Henderson and Keith Rose, Corn features the best-to-date production and sound quality.

The eighteen tracks contained on Corn are truly a mixed bag, even moreso than the predecessors. For those who wish for a consistent product from the beginning of an album to the end, I suggest that perhaps you should stick with your AC/DC and Bad Religion collections. Not that I'm disparaging those two artists. They do what they do quite well and are comfort music for those who like one thing and prefer to stick to it. Show Business Giants are about risks. This should have been the soundtrack to all those extreme adventure sports where participants were required to attached rubber bands and bungee cords to a limb while wrestling with gibbons on the side of a steep alpine cliff. However, MTV and ESPN2 were never quite so daring.

Now where was I? Oh yes, pontificating the social ramifications of 1997's Will There Be Corn? First, it needs to be pointed out that despite my love for the Giants' music, Corn is a difficult album to sit through from beginning to end. There are a couple bizarre clunkers such as the title track and "Big Regrets" (two tunes that probably are someone else's favorite). The album also contains a couple amusing narratives, the opening "The Blood of the Five Brothers" and the George Kennedy inspired "The Crested Perry". Both are quite fine in their own right, but aren't always something I wish to sit through during moods where I want to rock like a hurricane.

On the plus side, and yes, Virginia, there is always a plus side, Corn contains some of the finest works Show Business Giants have ever belched into existence: "My Hometown", "Try to Smile", Summer is Coming to the Duplexes" and the arena sized rock anthem "Japan is Turning Into Eric Burdon". These songs are so well crafted that, if the universe were a truly balanced and fair place to live, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry would be ripping off these licks.

Despite the uneven nature of Will There Be Corn?, there is simply no reason for an SBG fan or explorer of obscure music to not have this album. Perhaps you are simply a timid person but why let mere cowardice deter you from expanding your horizons?

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 05/2006

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Self-Aggrandizement Keeps Us Going

Show Business Giants - Self-Aggrandizement Keeps Us Going ©2000 Smoeff
1. At One With Everything
2. The Irish Pub
3. We Don't Do TV
4. Typical Babies
5. Generic Children's Song A La Yngwe Malmsteen
6. My Brother's Kid's A Waste Of Sperm
7. England
8. Drug Days
9. Something To Me
10. Why Don't You Fuck Off?
11. You Can Count The Rings
12. History Aspires To Myth
13. Everything Comes From Here

On the final Show Business Giants record (to date, at least, as you can never predict the wily whims of that Tom Holliston fellow), ringleader Tom Holliston (the aforementioned wily one) gathered together a rather impressive crew of musicians and put together a well recorded album. Self-Aggrandizement features such towering figures in music as Ford Pier, Scott Henderson, John Wright and the stylish Keith Rose, which may be the finest line-up Show Business Giants ever featured. The only drawback is that this album lags just a bit behind the rest of the Show Biz back catalogue in terms of songwriting.

Naturally, caveats abound here. Show Business Giants had flashed so much outlandish brilliance and wit on earlier records that it's quite hard to top those achievements. It's not as though the Giants rested on their laurels and coasted through this album. After all, when you're in one of the most obscure acts to ever squeak out of Canada, there are no laurels for any sort of leisurely music making. That said, Self-Aggrandizement starts with one of absolutely finest songs the band ever recorded, the album opener "At One With Everything". It also ends with the amusing vocal interplay of "Everything Comes From Here", yet another smashing song that shows off the offbeat creativity of this act. However, in between is not all stratospheric chart toppers. "My Brother's Kid is a Waste of Sperm" compares the singer's nephew to Mark E. Smith (or monkey spit, if you have difficulties making out the lyrics, as I did for years). "Drug Days" explores the utterly vapid realm of rockstar tell-alls, when in reality nobody really should care how much cocaine such-and-such musician did back in the seventies. Rock and roll decadence is dull.

Self-Aggrandizement is definitely a pretty good record, but there just enough songs that fall into the "average" category that I'd suggest other Show Biz releases for newcomers (which, by definition, is nearly every music listener on the planet, but I'm trying to rectify that). The performances by the band are top notch throughout and the recording sounds quite good, particularly since you just know that it was a budget endeavor. As with the rest of the band's catalogue, this album becomes a necessary purchase once the brilliance of the Show Business Giants becomes apparent to you (and it damned well better).

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/2009

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