Home Read Albums Of The Week: Art Bergmann | Late Stage Empire Dementia

Albums Of The Week: Art Bergmann | Late Stage Empire Dementia

Canada's foremost punk rabblerouser hasn't lost his touch — or the fire in his belly.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Art Bergmann’s music is meant for our current times. As we struggle to make sense of world events and the conflicts they have spawned, Art’s songwriting — as it has consistently done for the past four decades — cuts through the bullshit and hypocrisy with unflinching focus with the aim of finding some remnants of humanity that will pull us through.

It’s what used to be called “punk rock” when Art first established his reputation in Vancouver during the late 1970s, even though he’s never been a fan of that term. Yet his status as one of Canadian punk’s foundational artists remains unquestionable, to the extent that in late 2020 he became the first of his peers to receive the Order of Canada, an honour bestowed upon the country’s most revered cultural figures.

Art’s latest album Late Stage Empire Dementia pointedly demonstrates why he deserved the OC. On eight songs that sonically run the gamut from the jagged, speaker-shredding rock he’s long been known for, to the experimental, acoustic-based soundscapes he introduced on his 2016 Polaris Music Prize long-listed album The Apostate, he takes aim at political corruption, the dual unchecked epidemics of guns and drugs, and the plight of refugees yearning for a better life.

Photo by David Kotsibie.

Art states, “The Apostate was more a long view of human history, whereas this new record is a reflection of what’s occurred over the past four years in terms of the masks of fascism being stripped off. These songs say, ‘Here it is folks, your history is right in front of you and these are the reasons why.’ Since the advent of social media, and with cameras everywhere, everybody now knows about police killings, the plague and climate catastrophe, and who these purveyors of this nightmare are. Who needs sci-fi anymore when we’re living in the best Philip K. Dick novel ever?”

Late Stage Empire Dementia was recorded throughout 2020, with basic tracks laid down at Lorrie Matheson’s Calgary studio Arch Audio and most other tracks completed at Russell Broom’s Broom Closet studio in Vancouver. Bergmann is principally joined on this record by Russell Broom (Electric Guitar / Keyboards), Peter Clarke (Bass) and Ian Grant (Drums) along with cameos by Danny Vacon (Vocals), Kate Stanton (Vocals), Zoe Da Silva (Vocals) and Paul Rigby (Acoustic, Slide, Steel Guitars and E-bow), as well as Andrew Jessman, Guergana Brittain, Ann-Laure Hug, Laurie Meredith and Sylvie Matheusik on Backing Vocals. Although Broom and longtime Neko Case collaborator Rigby handle the bulk of the guitar playing, the song Christo-Fascists features a rare guest appearance by legendary MC5 co-founder Wayne Kramer, whose trademark buzzsaw tone remains as potent as ever.

But for each great example of politically charged rock on Late Stage Empire Dementia, such as the first single Entropy, there is an expansive, hypnotic piece like Los Desaparecidos (Border Art) or the nearly 10-minute title track that further illuminates Art’s evolution as a songwriter — completely unafraid to enter uncharted territory. It is that bravery that makes Bergmann’s voice as important as ever, and places Late Stage Empire Dementia easily among his finest works.”