It is an old cliché, but necessity is rightfully said to be at least half the motivation behind all of our spectacular, ridiculous human endeavours. The Blocks Recording Club, based in Toronto, is an official, tangible result of a need for community within industry. With the motto, “Don’t try, do!!”, the club gathers members bent on doing music, dirtying hands as much as they can along the way. At Blocks, the people who record, produce, distribute, and promote the music are the same people who make it. For the audience, what this actually translates into are beautiful and strange artifacts of sound to be gotten on the cheap. As the people at Blocks explain, “We believe that working together we can accomplish far more than we ever could working apart and further, that by moving closer to a co-operative economy we’re helping in whatever small way we can, to minimize the harmful effects of capital in the world.” This is DIY, no fucking joke.
Perhaps an explication on this alternative economic philosophy is The Blankket’s Be Your Own Boss, a mini album of man-of-the-hour Bruce Springsteen covers. Known for his anti-corporate politics and an ability to capture the working class struggle, Springsteen’s music is a strangely appropriate bedfellow to the Blocks’ co-operative logic. That Blocks does business differently than much of the music industry should not preclude them from being successful in more traditional ways, like being able to pay their rent. Springsteen, for all his depictions of typical American life, must be making his own ends meet, no problem. And so, one hopes, the same is happening in the east of our country, because the music that Blocks is making is important. And gorgeous.
A founding member of Blocks, The Blankket is one man, Steve Kado. These covers hearken back to his childhood, a place where music was scarce, but Springsteen was nonetheless played on the car stereo as Kado fell in and out of sleep in the back seat. Obviously, these covers come from a place of love, but what Kado does is not really an honouring of their traditional form. These Springsteen covers explode the Boss, totally re-imagining songs that are very, very classic. The charge of creative bankruptcy often leveled against cover versions is here totally unfounded. Be Your Own Boss reads like an experiment as much as it does a memory, and this may be another reason The Blankket covers Springsteen—his image is culturally tied to ideas of freedom, and this small collection is an explication on freedom of form as much as it is anything else. These covers have wings of their own right.