Canadian music fans collectively blew off confetti cannons and threw their arms in the air in a resounding "Fuck yeah!" when this past February, Guelph, Ontario's beloved Springsteen-punks the Constantines announced that they'd be reforming to play shows in run-up to the reissue of their Sub Pop debut Shine A Light for its 11th anniversary. This pronouncement meant that one of indie rock's hardest working outfits hadn't really clocked out like we'd all assumed, but moreover, it marked a momentous validation in an industry with kudos as fleeting as a Best New Music. Shine A Light should still be heard. It deserves a second life.
It's not every day that a Canadian album gets that treatment, effectively a sponsorship to the broader indie rock canon and a medal of honour that says this is a great work that ought to live on. The greatest impetus for an increase in reissues has come from the return of vinyl as the collector's preferred format, especially when it comes to the wax-averse '90s. But, to be certain, the business of reissuing is as much a sales move as it is a service to fans or anything to do with the noble enterprise of recording history.
The Shine A Light re-release got us thinking about which other Canadian albums have earned a rebirth. What else do we think is so important that we want to keep it in stock? Here are ten Canadian releases so special that they've been reissued in the last five years. Each make worthy additions to the CanCon canon — essential listening for any self-respecting Canadian music fan.
Arson, White Folks (1979/2012)
When the band Arson, made up of members from Toronto punk heavies The Viletones and The Ugly, came out in '79, they caused a stir — they were one of the scene's first supergroups and their 7-inch White Folks was hot, hot, hot. Thirty-some-odd years on and they're rarely mentioned in the same breath as those bands. In the interim, White Folks had become an obscure recording, a rarity. The good people at Ugly Pop Records have been doing some of that noble history-telling that I talked about up top, unearthing and reissuing lost and out of print Canadian punk bands. In 2012, they re-released the White Folks single, flipping the A- and B-sides to let "Coho! Coho!" — a punk ripper if there ever was one — get a whole new generation of scuzz balls all turned up.
D.O.A., War on 45 (1982/2013)
Vancouver's D.O.A. along with The Germs, Black Flag and a handful of others (see: Penelope Spheeris' The Decline of Western Civilization) are responsible for the growth of hardcore on the West Coast in the very late '70s and early '80s (D.O.A.'s sophomore album Hardcore '81 is thought by some to have coined the term). While Hardcore '81 has been mostly kept in print, the rest of D.O.A.'s catalogue hasn't been treated to the same availability, including the excellent follow-up War on 45.
In 2013, for War on 45's 30th anniversary, Sudden Death Records reissued the album on vinyl. You know, in the interest of remembering and reasserting our national contribution to North American punk rock. Or probably because it just plain rips. Either way.
Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, Savvy Show Stopper (1988/2012)
You know them for the theme from Kids In The Hall, but every bit as much as "Having An Average Weekend," the above jam is essential Shadowy Men — one of the first tracks they ever cut. Released in '88 on Glass Records, Savvy Show Stoppers compiled the band's early 7-inches from '85-'88. Whether you call them punk rock or a fucking surf band, the three-piece instrumental act became the nucleus of the late '80s and early '90s Toronto underground – a quaint and bygone time when Much Music, college radio, and the CBC were crucial in keeping the country's disparate scenes connected.
In 2012, Lethbridge-to-Toronto transplant Mammoth Cave Recording Co. announced they'd release the whole of Shadowy Men's output on vinyl, starting with Savvy Show Stoppers. It's a sign of the times. Connecting wayward music communities is no longer the trouble; now, it's about preserving and telling a history, and punk rock, maybe most of all, needs hero worship.
Skinny Puppy, Last Rights (1992/2009)
Though industrial certainly doesn't sound like a Canadian sport, Vancouver's Skinny Puppy released a spate of genre-defining albums from 1984 through the mid-'90s. Released in 1992, Last Rights was the Puppy's seventh studio album, the final by their classic lineup. Though they never reached the commercial success of Nine Inch Nails or even Ministry, their influence on electronic music reaches as far as contemporary icons like Autechre and their theatricality presaged Marilyn Manson. On the results of a fan poll, Nettwerk reissued Last Rights in 2009 as a double LP — a present to their massive cult following and the earmarking of a landmark recording.
Sloan, Twice Removed (1994/2012)
Geffen wanted The New Nirvana, but got the East Coast Beatles. Twice Removed, Sloan's 1994 sophomore release, is the album that got them dumped from a major. It's an artifact from a stranger day when big money labels were willing to scour the indie rock hinterlands and take pretty incredible risks to find the next big thing. While their debut found radio airplay in “Underwhelmed," Twice Removed made the band famous at home.
In 2012, the band reissued Twice Removed on vinyl, the first release in a mission to revisit their earliest LPs, saying: "Because 1994's Twice Removed has alternately been called our 'finest' album (hmmm..), our 'underdog' record (perhaps), or the best Canadian LP of all time by certain publications [it was mid-'90s Chart] (now there's a healthy debate, Joni!), we thought this LP would be a good place to start." It seems at once like a bone thrown to hardcore fans and a career back half, look across my kingdom type gesture from a band whose position in the CanRock pantheon is pretty well-cemented.
Limblifter, Limblifter (1996/2012)
Initially a side project to Age of Electric, Limblifter released their 1996 self-titled debut on Mercury Records, scoring radio hits in "Vicious," "Screweditup," and the Big Shiny Tunes-defining "Tinfoil." An essential bit of mid-'90s Canadiana — they made post-grunge power pop earworms that could crack Top 40 airplay, rule The Wedge, and basically garner wall-to-wall coverage in Chart Magazine.
In 2012, We Are Busy Bodies reissued Limblifter on vinyl — a gift to the generation of music nerds who came of age through and are still influenced by the golden era of CanRock (i.e. could come home from school and see Limblifter on Jonovision) as well as the younger cohort that totally missed out on the first go-round.
Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars, Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars (1999/2013)
Though Sub Pop hasn't moved on reissuing any Eric's Trip, Jagjaguwar has been more than happy to offer up re-releases of Julie Doiron's post-Trip output. In 2013, Jagjaguwar reissued Doiron's Juno-winning third studio album a full decade after it's original release, helping to spread the good word of one North America's most underrated songwriters. Obviously, she has some fans at the label. Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars is a grey, tender record — a classic in the spirit of Joni Mitchell that speaks timelessly to anyone who knows how shitty a companion the Canadian winter makes.
The Weakerthans, Left and Leaving (2000/2011)
Besides the Cons, few other Canadian bands remind me of the very early 2000s quite like The Weakerthans. Their steely touring ethic delivered their considerable charms — the way they made punk feel vulnerable or folk feel flippant; John K. Samson's, by turns, sardonic then stoic take on prairie-living; that you could whistle their hooks for days — from St. John's to Victoria.
Epitaph sister label Anti- reissued The Weakerthans' first two releases Fallow and Left and Leaving on vinyl in 2011 — about a decade after their initial releases — for those who've been dying to take in Samson's enduring poetry on the "warmest recording possible, dude."
Peaches, The Teaches of Peaches (2000/2011)
Peaches' debut, The Teaches of Peaches, in all its aggressively sex-positive, upfront feminist glory, landed like a nuke in 2000. Are we still using "electroclash" or have we settled on the catch-all "synth punk"? Whichever, it sounded like the danceable future of subversion.
XL Recordings reissued The Teaches of Peaches on pink vinyl in 2011. If it's anything more than collector-bait, I'd like to think it's a small act of terrorism released against insipid radio pop and middle-of-the-road indie rock, a flipped-bird to teetotalers signed by one of the most vital performance artists working (though not enough) today.
Arcade Fire, Funeral (2004/2009)
Now they're the biggest band in the world, packing stadiums and requesting dress code of their fans, but the story of the little Mile End collective that really fucking could starts with their 2004 debut Funeral. Although they didn't invent chamber pop, Arcade Fire was central to a cadre of maximalist, string-and-brass-huggers that defined the sound of indie rock in the mid-aughts. Given the waves they'd already made, it was good business for Merge to turn around just five years later and reissue the whole highfalutin parade for vinyl collectors.