One might think of the three bands performing at Babylon on a humid Friday evening as a family tour. Not because any of the members are related (they aren’t) but because the headliner, Simply Saucer, is something of a father figure to underground bands in this part of the world: Ground zero for Canadian psych and punk.

Work kept me from witnessing the opening set by local trio Four’n’Giv’r; as I entered the strip joint turned rock club, Chicago quartet the Plastic Crimewave Sound was crunching its way through the early part of its set. Guitar feedback, thunderous bass and ultra-reverberated vocals put me in mind of the music of Mammatus, a bunch of psychedelic heavyweights who had performed on the same stage little more than two weeks earlier, opening for Acid Mothers Temple. Unlike Mammatus, the Plastic Crimewave Sound uses a strip down drum set to create a Moe Tucker style beat. It was just the thing to tickle the fancy of a Comets On Fire or Acid Mothers Temple fan. No Surprise there, since the band’s eponymous leader is a fan of both groups, has recorded with the latter and lauded outsider psych bands in his well-known hand drawn zine, 'Galactic Zoo Dossier'. Plastic Crimewave ended the set in a frenzy of microphone stand abuse and screaming guitar noises.

The Sound’s set was very well-received, but the real draw of the evening was Simply Saucer, a group frequently praised as the creators of the best LP in Canadian history (for whatever that’s worth ...).

Regardless of the truth of that claim, Simply Saucer is undoubtedly a strange and revered entity on the national music scene. The band’s absorption of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, the Velvet Underground, Terry Riley, The Stooges and early Roxy Music would be an anomaly almost anywhere in 1973.

In the hidebound Canadian music scene of the 1970's – then better known for aping the sounds of New York and London six months after they were last fashionable, they were an oddity almost without precedent.

Rising and falling (then briefly rising and falling again) in Hamilton, a steel town better known in the rest of the country for the Copps family political dynasty and the local mafia’s fondness for laying dead bodies on the rail tracks out of town, they completely escaped national notice until a decade after their demise, when local music-store owner Bruce Mowatt released a set of mid-1970's recordings and some live tapes of a rooftop concert as ‘Cyborgs Revisited’.

The compilation was lauded far and wide (both inside Canada and out), and received even wider notice after a 1992 re-release on Fistpuppet Records. Another release by Hamilton record label Sonic Unyon reintroduced the band to Canadians in 2003 with an expanded version of 'Cyborgs Revisited'.

Little was, however, heard of the band. Frontman Edgar Breau did make the news: First, by running for the socially conservative Family Coalition Party (and garnering slightly more than 1% of the vote) in 1999, then by releasing a solo album in 2004.

The solo album maintained the musical connection between Breau and Saucer bassist Kevin Christoff, and two years later Simply Saucer emerged from the depths for a one-off show at a Hamilton pub.

One thing apparently led to another, and thus, 34 years after it formed (and 32 years after its first brawl-inducing set in a Hamilton church) the band began playing out here and there and thought about making a new album. Of the original lineup only Breau and Christoff remain. They’re abetted by Daniel Wintermans, formerly of Hamilton goth-poppers Vampire Sex Chain : one-time Forgotten Rebels drummer Joe Csontos and Crawlin’ Kingsnake Stephen Foster.

They’re a seasoned crew. Breau, Csontos and Christoff all sport conspicuous grey hair, and the short, slightly rotund Breau now makes for one of the least likely looking frontmen ever. There is, however, still plenty of vitality in the band and live it tore into Saucer’s repertory with tremendous vigour. Breau has remarked elsewhere that his switch to the acoustic guitar after Simply Saucer disbanded has kept his electric guitar playing sounding just as it did in the late 1970's. The driving rhythm section and Breau’s wah pedal overdose stripped the years away, while Danielsen conjured up the spirit of the band’s old electronic whiz, the MIA Ping Romany, with his own ululating Theremin.

A ferocious version of ‘Low Profile’ early in the set had the audience worked up, and the band didn’t let the pace slacken through such favourites as ‘Nazi Apocalypse’ and ‘Dance The Mutation’. Songs from their 1978 single ‘She’s A Dog’/‘I Can Change My Mind’ were given new life with the injection of the monomaniacal energy of their earlier work. The tiny sample of new tunes fit easily into the set. The only setback was the quartet of drunks down front who kept bellowing for ‘Illegal Bodies’ (an obvious show capper) throughout the set.

No one could complain about the music though: It was a smashing return to form from a band few new even existed during its heyday.


Simply Saucer setlist:

Exit Plexit
Low Profile
Mole Machine
Nazi Apocalypse
Bullet Proof Nothing
Dance the Mutation
I Take It
Takin’ You Down
Now’s the Time for the Party
I Can Change My Mind
Get My Thrills
Illegal Bodies

Encore:

She’s a Dog
Cyborgs Revisited


















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