Cargnello: a man for all seasons

The activist element invades the Hall Building once again this Oct. 25 at Reggie’s in the guise of folk-punk crooner Paul Cargnello, who launches his solo career with his new album, Lightweight Romeo.

Cargnello, at 23, is already a Montreal icon, at the frontline of the rock-reggae revolution known as the Vendettas since the age of fifteen, as well as being a published poet and the former editor of Blackbook, a socialist magazine. With the new album he focuses even more on his major weapon of choice – poetry, in an attempt to create “songs that make you think (for a change).”

The subjects are love and revolution with a backdrop of latin-jazz, folk, reggae and blues. Ever the performer, Cargnello aims to please. He does Manu Chao and Tom Waits; he sings in English, he sings in French; he is a feminist, he is a socialist; he asks you to name your own revolution.

“I’m talking about revolution as a very simple base: The need for change, for equality and for an egalitarian society.”

He addresses this more specifically in the songs ‘Skeleton Day,’ about women’s issues and ‘The Butcher of Beirut.’ about the Sabra and Shatillah massacres in Lebanon.

“I wrote that song, about Ariel Sharon, before he was Prime Minister, so it grew into its significance,” says Cargnello.

Does this mean that at the concert he will be violating the moratorium on Mid-East issues? If the cops do come for him, it won’t be the first time. He was arrested last March, along with his bandmates and girlfriend for participating in a police brutality protest. This is part of the reason that Cargnello professes such an affinity for a controversy clouded school such as Concordia.

“The tradition of Concordia is amazing in that you have a very politicized student body, as well as a politically active student union,” said Cargnello.

According to him, this can be partly attributed to the unique character of Montreal itself. Maybe because we all grew up under the threat of separation and that therefore we are all aware of social issues.

“It’s a given that we all protest, that we’ve all spent a night in the pokey,” he says.

Regarding recent events at Concordia, he places much of the blame at the feet of the police.

“The cops have become a bit overzealous in terms of arrests. They have reached the point where the intimidation is a bit extreme.”

For the show on Friday, Cargnello will be accompanied by a full band that reads like a who’s who of indie musicians in Montreal, in an attempt to fill out all the overdubbing he did of himself in studio. He will be joined by Adam Kardos from the Vendettas on bass, his brother Chris Cargnello playing the seven string guitar and Jeremiah McCush from Shamus, plus others on percussion and keyboard.

And for fans of the Vendettas, the band is only on a short hiatus, and will be regaling us with more mischief-making soon, according to Cargnello.

“Singing and song-writing is what I do, it is my day job,” he says.

Paul Cargnello is determined to make it, and perhaps he has what it takes – complete and utter faith in his own genius.

Paul Cargnello plays this Friday, Oct. 25, at Reggie’s.

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