Raine Maida’s Cold Winds of Montréal

I’m not 100% sold on it, but heard it the other day and thought, what the hell, let’s post it.

I discovered it was featured in what I can only describe as an overly dramatic Hockey Night in Canada intro from a few weeks back. For your consideration:

Though I enjoy the aerial shots of the city, Sweet Christ, this was laying it on a bit thick.

But the fans got a kick out of it I suppose. I think it was a step in the wrong direction to Americanize our game by developing story-lines for pro sports. This notion that multi-million dollar professional athletes are engaged in near-Herculean struggles to provide you with a vague sense of home-town pride is a tad laughable. The overt commercialization of professional sports doesn’t really allow for a tangible link between team and town as players and management personnel are bought and traded in proportion to the success of the club’s marketing department, and the relative success of their efforts to sell you on someone to root for. It’s always been like this in one way or another, but there was a point in time in which hockey, in this case, didn’t really need to be sold to anyone at all. Build an arena, form a team, people will come and watch. Back then the people out on the ice could very well have been your neighbour. Hell, even the rink typically involved public investment – those bonds don’t quite exist today.

It’s all a crafty pastiche of old-school sports journalism, re-packaged as a soaring montage that will very quickly cut to the show’s principle beer sponsor.

Doesn’t it feel great to drink this smooth Canadian lager? Mmmmmm. Patriotastic.

In any event, back to the HNIC video – yes, we have snowstorms here in Montréal. Frankly, it is our indelible bond with the rest of Canada – we suffer the snow like anyone else – I’m glad the fine folks at the CBC pointed it out. I’m not sure how many Canadians pushed a bus this winter, or risked eating fifty pounds of snow dropping off the roof of a skyscraper, or swam down MacTavish, but I’m sure what they call winter is trying on them as well, in their way. I heard people had to ware scarves one day in Toronto…

As to Maida’s song, well, it’s clear he likes Arcade Fire, but I would argue he probably likes a couple other local bands too, both past and present, who crafted similar sounds with backing brass. Harmonium comes to mind. Ron MacLean referred to Maida as a Montrealer, which I was not aware of but welcome nonetheless. I wonder if he was inspired to move here by another well-known 90s Canadian alt-rocker, David Usher of Moist, who made a bit of a fuss back in the 1996 when Moist ‘officially’ relocated to our city (I’m not sure how long it lasted either, but I digress).

So –

Is this a song about Montréal?

No.

Not in my opinion. The lyrics are very open, lovely in their way, but in my opinion not overly profound (though I’m no lyricist, not by any stretch of the imagination).

But it’s simplicity and straightforwardness gives it its universal charm, as Montreal is largely irrelevant, or at least there’s no link (in my eyes) between the city and what the characters are going through – as I said, it could be anyone, under any circumstances – it could be the cold winds of Timbuktu, or Chicago. Sufjan Stevens might consider giving this the Hootie and the Blowfish treatment, if you catch my drift.

Assuming that it is about Montréal, well, all I’m going to say is I hope we’re not type-casting ourselves as the perennial land of ennui. Ennui doesn’t pay the bills, and malaise never inspired anyone. I’m glad we got hit hard by a bitch of a winter – more snow means a higher water table, a wetter spring, makes for slightly cooler summers but brings the possibility of an Indian Summer, something we haven’t had in a while.

In other news the Hip will play a park in Verdun sometime this summer. I’ll see you there.

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