This is an mp3 blog attempting to document the gross amount of music I listen to. About once a day, I'll post something I like. If you're a copyright holder on anything I host, get in touch, and we'll settle things in a steel cage instead of a courtroom.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

House Boat and my death wish

People dumber than I like to deal with like to ask me how I would describe the band House Boat. And I like to say "People from my favorite bands wrote my suicide note and then added poppy power chords to them."

This band is literally what happens when you combine the Steinways, the Ergs, and Dear Landlord into a big catchy mess of what happens when you fucking hate your life. They turn anthems about hating into hating your work schedule into pop punk anthems I fucking promise you will be singing along with in 20 years.

I saw them during a surprise show a few months ago when Mikey Erg was setting up stuff prior to a Dopamines show. I was approximately 20 inches from Grath's faces when he was singing, and I can't remember when I saw such I sad face. He really wanted to jump off the 13th floor because of the girl in the black hoodie. All the jokes in the world can't keep away The Darkness, and trust me, I fucking know about that.

For years I was in love with a woman who is the absolute definition of "Alonelyloneylone." "I'm still trying to find a way/to get to sleep without you." It's like the Dopamines almost, but with desperate surrender that is normally unseen.

Houseboat is better than the Steinways, and I will stand by that.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rumspringer is rad

So I met the members of Rumspringer in a gay bar.

This was the bar next to Charm City Art Space, and the only bar really in walking distance. The fact that DIY spaces can't sell drinks is bullshit. If it comes factory sealed, I don't give a rats' ass who serves it to me. "Ohhhh they might serve it to CHILDREN!" 1) Kids need booze, because their life sucks balls and 2) If you're old enough to vote and get sent to the desert to get shot at for a fucking lie, you're old enough to drink a beer. SAYING.

Anyway, I'm at the point where saying "pleased to meet you, I'm Matt Ramone!" is met with drawbacks and "ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh"'s. These dudes said "fuck yeah!" and wanted me to buy them drinks, which I did happily. Most punks are dumb as shit, but not these dudes.

Rumspringer are one of those pop-punk bands that even the crusties like. I told them to their face: "You do Crimpshrine better than Crimpshrine did." Imagine the riffs of O Pioneers but with better lyrics and more continuity.

My boy Sam put their new full length out on his label, Traffic Street Records. It's flawless. The hooks hit you in the face like an unexpected dick. It's pop punk down in the muck, kicking its legs and blowing its tongue. It's like if Nobby Nobbs suddenly said something erudite.

I have heartburn so here are the songs:

It's Literally Tearing Me Apart:

Poison Bear:


Back from the grave, back from the liquor store! Listening to the Hall Monitors reminded me why I starting this thing in the first place, which is punching you in the face with some rad as shit rock'n'roll that you're too lame to find on your own.

Some things have changed, some things have stayed the same. Just know that I'm loaded the fuck up on gin and ready to stay out and keep it up all night long.

New post later today.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

More goodness from Boner Pirate*

So much good music hasbeen coming out this year. Year end list is going to be a raging boner jam, no lie. Practically every one of my favorite active bands have been hard at work in the studio making albums or split seven inches or babies or whatever. It's been a relief knowing that even as "punk rock" is being fondled in the rectory by the likes of Father Epitaph and Head Deacon Tooth & Nail there are still girls and guys out there making shit worth caring about. Fake Problems, Turkish Techno, American Steel, Arms Aloft, Cobra Skulls, Too Many Daves, Strike Anywhere, American Riot, Teenage Bottlerocket, Something Fierce, the Takers, the Dopamines, Dear Landlord, Paint it Black, Dead Mechanical, and Red Tape Parade have all put out AWESOME music this year. Between this year and last year, I honestly believe that we're in the midst of some sort of punk golden age. Hell, even the Bouncing Souls are making their best tunes in more than a decade.

We've also seen some bands come into their own and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with, for lack of a better word, forebears. Spawning from the now legendary Rivethead (which also featured Zack of Dear Landlord and Off With Their Heads), Banner Pilot made what is arguably the best pop punk album in a year full of them. It's poppy, it's mean, it's drunk, it's got great choruses that sag with the desperation that seemingly only Midwestern bands can sink to.

Fortunately, Nick's Schwarzenbach-on-downers lyrics are Hail Mary'd down the line by Nate's insanely great music in a way that turns into boozy, woozy catharsis. It's why lines like "stay here much more and we'll get outlined in'd another year turn out so bad?" become fist-pumping anthems and "to hell with red lights driving on/an open cage, this bird is gone/but I can't leave this town if you're not with me" becomes an almost wistful paean to friendship and loyalty. "Starting at Ending" on a glancing listen can sound like a love song until you realize it's about being desperate for the work week to be over so you can get drunk and fall asleep reading. "I pick a day to say I'll quit/I'm either filled with hope or full of shit" indeed.

So they made one of the best records of the year. So the fuck what, Matt? People make good records all the time. Well it's a good thing they BRING IT live. When they played Insubordination Fest this summer, they PACKED the second stage area. I can't remember the last time I was in a show that crowded. And practically every person there knew all the words to "Empty Your Bottles." It was intense. People were chucking shit. Crowdsurfers couldn't get back on the floor because there was no room. I saw two teenagers toss their (I think) 8 year old brother in the garbage can, which he continued to rock out in. One dude was dancing on the bar. When it was over and I caught my breath, I felt the way I do after I've had a really intense therapy session - drained, lightheaded, and like I have just vomited up my soul. If you miss seeing them live you're gonna kick yourselves when they blow up and go down in the history books.

Central Standard -

Starting At the Ending -

Northern Skyline -

Farewell to Iron Bastards -

*I would be remiss in failing to point out that Andrea coined the phrase "Boner Pirate" and thus rightfully insists on credit

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

More like BR sides, amirite?

There's a couple ways to measure how great a band actually is. When their output is prodigious enough, a surefire sign is not being able to anthologize them with anything less than two CDs. Once you have all the "hits," rarities, b-sides, soundtrack contributions, and album cuts you like and you can't get it all on one disc (and it takes up at least a lot of disc two), you know you have a potentially great band on your hands.*

This is tricky in the case of a band like Bad Religion. They have approximately 40 studio albums (jokes!...kind of), which is what happens when you start a band to pay off your heroin dealers and kind of accidentally sort of strike gold in the process. As much as it pains me to say this, they're basically the punk rock version of U2 or AC/DC at this point. (Except, you know, they still make records worth listening to.) They've been around longer than pretty much anyone and still make music people care about. They're elder statesmen to multiple generations of pissed off kids who skip therapy in favor of two chords and a dictionary. And unless you buy No Substance, you won't really be disappointed.

So yes, you could say that because they've put out consistently amazing records and have fucking KILLED it live every time I've seen them, that's criteria enough to be A Great Band. However foolish reader, you forget that I am a card carrying post-war music nerd, and therefore my nose turns itself up reflexively at all but the most nose-favor-currying sonic entertainments. So then how about the throwaways? The outtakes and the b-sides and half-finished demos usually give an insight into true creative flourishing. If a band's b- and c-material is better than most other groups' A game, it's pretty telling. (See also: the Smiths)

So presented is a collection of Bad Religion's "detritus." It's a sign of a truly great band that the songs they leave in the ditch make a pretty disc unto themselves.

*Also if it's a band Andrea likes, they scooch up the ladder like a greased up Brazilian** with his ass on fire. Never underestimate the power of making your significant other not totally dislike whatever music you're playing.

**Look at him, eating candy like a Spaniard!

Monday, July 13, 2009

More like Dear Friends and Gentle Farts

There's no two ways about it: American Steel is an amazing band. Starting as East Bay ragers laying down stone cold punk rock classics like "Close Enough Away" and "Every New Morning," their third album Jagged Thoughts found them openly embracing their pop, dance, folk, and Motown influences. Like all punk rock bands ahead of their time, they were disdained out of the scene by the Tru Punx who think no bands they like should be heard in coffee houses and college dorms. To them it doesn't matter that "Maria" is one of the greatest ever rock songs ever by anyone ever. Melody and Big Choruses (no matter how honest) are Tools of The Man and His Establishment, donchaknow. So Rory and Ryan basically said "fuck this, I'm out" and changed the band's name to Communique and started playing dance rock that was, once again, about five years ahead of its time. By the time Franz Ferdinand was tearing up the radio, Communique was silent, putting out a really great record to an indifferent world.

Then, for some reason, they decided to be American Steel again in 2007. Rory wrote a bunch of songs about how much he hated religion and Ryan wrote a bunch of songs about his dead dad and they married Communique's dancey pop rock to American Steel's huge-sounding uptempo guitars and put out one of the decade's best, most memorable records, Destroy Their Future. Seeing them live, it was weird hearing ballads like "Speak, Oh Heart" bump up against 15-year-old venomous rants like "Rotting," but it somehow all worked. (if you haven't seen them live, do yourself a favor and look up their touring schedule.)

They're getting ready to release their second post-"reunion" album, Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts. I've had it for about a week now, and like everyone else I definitely think it's amazing. It's not as strong as Future, but it's not exactly weak either. It's definitely way more pop. Despite its lyrical content, "Your Ass Ain't Laughing Now" definitely reaches for the Top 40 chorus and instrumental bridge, all distortion being polished off. This is not necessarily a bad thing. "Where You Want to Be" and "Lights Out" make think of what I wanted Alkaline Trio's major label debut to sound like, a.k.a. more like old Smoking Popes and less like the Killers.*

"Emergency House Party" is definitely the standout "single." A great big drunken singalong in the tradition of the Lawrence Arms or the Newton Neurotics, it features a fucking insistent treble guitar lead and a killer refrain of "it's been cold and dreary/why the fuck have you not phoned me?/grab your stuff, we're getting shitty/we only need a song to dance to/we only need a chorus to sing along to!/Pabst tall boys and all of our friends/drink and dance a sing along/everything'll be alright/(if only for tonight)." It's the best "I love you, man" song for drunk beardpunks since Banner Pilot's "Empty Your Bottles."

Oddly (and I say oddly because I appear to be the only person in the known universe who likes this song), "Meals and Entertainment" is the song on the record I like the most. As I've documented before, I'm almost always a sucker for the midtempo ballad on an otherwise uptempo album. (See also "Daydreaming" being the best song on Love Songs for the Retarded and "Nightswimming" being the best song on Automatic for the People.) It reminds me of the great weeper music Johnny Marr used to write before he thought he was Steve Miller meeting the sardonic, inudstry-aware lyrics of Paul Weller before he thought he was Oasis (or Otis Redding.) You could wake up hungover to this song and it would still be flawless.

And like the first verse of Strike Anywhere's "Ballad of Bloody Run" goes, "all the punks too drunk to stand, stand upright." This is the record to make us do just that. This is a record to make us dance and hug and chug and love. I guess you could say that makes it another winner for American Steel.

Emergency House Party -

Your Ass Ain't Laughing Now -

Meals and Entertainment -

*Speaking of which, I think it's a crime for a band as wimpy and awful as they are to have a name as awesome as The Killers.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cobra Skulls are still one of the best punk bands ever

The girl has been yelling at me to update this thing. Apparently when I don't express myself creatively (i.e. making you listen to bands you're otherwise too lame to know about) I'm kind of a bastard. I like to say that it's mostly just the fact that I'm currently obsessed with Avatar and see too much of my 16 year old self in Prince Zuko.

I found my favorite bar in Baltimore tonight. It's the perfect combination of dingy, populated by alcoholics, and a jukebox with Buddy Holly and Wire. Next time you're in town, if you don't drink at Club Charles, you have no soul. (And yeah, it can be a hipster bar, but just don't go when there's an art opening down the street and you'll be fine. Plus John Waters drinks there all the time, and why the fuck would you not want to drink at a place John Waters likes?)

Last night I tried to explain to Andrea why Taxi Driver is such a great movie. "A bad person does terrible things over a 12 year old prostitute" is not exactly a tagline born for movie posters. I oughta stick to Pokemon tips.

ANYWAY, Cobra Skulls just put out a new album that rules so much. It's called American Rubicon and it rocks like you want it to. So many punk bands, when they go for the pop, try to sound like a nasally version of Cheap Trick. Cobra Skulls rock super hard without necessarily sounding like they want to be New Found Charlotte. Also, any anti straight edge song is cool with me. Just because you're catchy doesn't mean you have to go for the sugary choruses. All the melodic nods to Bad Religion ("Muniphobia," "Exponential Times") are perfect in the way that Bad Religion was perfect.

I love the ambling bass lines. I love the chugga-chugga train tom-tom drum lines. I love the half-crooned vocals. I love that it's more ska and rock'n'roll and still more punk rock than anything they've ever done. Best band ever out of Nevada? One step behind MIA, but got-damn, it's close.


Problems with Preconceptions -

Back to the Youth -

Monday, April 27, 2009

Gentlemen Jesse and His Men rule school, that is all

The first and only time I met Jesse Smith, I was tripping balls on ecstasy and ran my mouth too damn much about the Zero Boys and "the fuckin' keg, mannnnnnnnn." He was super nice, though, and put up with my ramblings about unappreciated hardcore and my vain attempt to wow myself into the Atlanta scene in order to get a job writing for local fuck-you rag Stomp and Stammer. I had just seen his crazed punk destructo band The Carbonas tear the FUCK up in Rob's basement (where Rob's House Records gets its name from)

Based on what I saw that night, I had no idea he would go on to form a band of pure, undiluted power pop, nor would I have guessed how fucking glorious that band would be, standing shoulder to shoulder with greats like Shoes and The dBs. The burn-down-the-suburbs ferocity of the Carbonas didn't really hint at the stupidly catchy choruses or toe tapping basslines or awesome harmonies.

This really is one of the best records that came out last year, and one I cannot suggest picking up enough. Don't let the good scores on Pitchfork scare you - this actually sounds like music.

Highland Crawler -

The Rest of My Days -

You Don't Have To -

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My teen idols had muscle tees

Insubordination Fest made me think of an Anti-Flag show I saw when I was 15 or thereabouts. This will make sense in a minute.

I doubt I'm sacrificing much cred when I say my parents used to drive me to punk shows. Your parents all did too, and you're lying if you've ever said otherwise. This means I got dropped off a good hour before the first band went on. This is in drastic opposition to now, where my friends and I weigh seeing the opening bands vs. how much more pot we want to smoke before stumbling off to the Ottobar.

ANYWAY, one of the big shows that required parental driving was Less Than Jake/Anti-Flag/New Found Glory/Teen Idols. I think this was around 1999/2000. Anyway, New Found Glory had just struck it huge with their very first radio hit, so Nations (now only requiring pat downs for weapons, not drugs!) was PACKED and it was an equal measure between bros who liked LTJ, dress up punx there to see Anti-Flag (me) and junior high kids in orange Abercrombie shirts and frosted tips.

For those of you unfortunate enough to have been to Nations before it got torn down in the city's vain attempt to turn the Anacostia ward into something safe for middle class white people, you will remember that it was divided up between a huge open floor and balconies that stretched all the way around the club. Between sets, there was this massive exodus on the parts of both groups. After New Found Glory's set, the mass of orange parted like the seas and allowed in all the kids who were trying wayyyyyyyy too hard with patches and safety pins (once again, me) while they all scampered off upstairs to await chaperone pick ups.

(I would like to point out that I spent the entirety of NFG's set in the upstairs lounge trying desperately and fruitlessly to get this punk chick's phone number. Even then I knew they were bullshit, but I had no idea that they would sound like the fucking Beatles compared to the wave of screaming crybabies who would follow in their wake.)

But before any of this, before any crowd shifts and typical teenage boy awkwardness and snuck in whiskey in the bathroom, the Teen Idols came out to keep the crowd of hormonal angst at bay while Anti-Flag finished their vegan imported scones or whatever. And they fucking KILLED.

At that point in my life I was slowly being turned onto the 50's aesthetic (mostly through monster movies and rockabilly rarities comps), so when a group came out before a bunch of Angry Punx and Cool Rich Kids (not that the two are mutually exclusive) with pompadours and old microphones and sang super catchy songs about porno and pill popping and aliens controlling your brain, it was kind of a shock but in a good way, at least for me. At that point I was mostly concerned about American military involvement during the last 20 years and how much teachers suck ass and how dare they tell us what to think. (I point out for the third and last time that I was there to see Anti-Flag.) I was in a really awkward relationship at the time (she would eventually come out as a lesbian, if the third party accounts are to be believed), and someone singing about girls in a way I didn't think was completely lame was kind of a revelation. That and Heather was super hot and while this is an incredibly sexist thing to say, the lizard part of my 15 year old brain responded quite hard.

So they're getting back together to play Insubordination Fest just down the street from me and I'm excited to see them again. Their last album blew and Heather quit so they hired Another Girl Bassist (which I have my own issues with but will probably put up with just so I can hear "I'm Not the One" live again), but Insub Fest is the land of second chances. Bands that would never be able to pull off a successful reunion tour on their own are treated like the Rolling Stones by the thousand assembled drunk pop punkers, and for that I will be grateful. If I'm going to experience them again, I would much rather it be with people dancing and singing and STOKED instead of incredulous early birds waiting for this week's new pop idols to grace them with their very existence.

What else can I say? It's pop punk at its finest. They put out three really amazing records on Honest Don's, and that's a better batting average than almost any band or their ilk has ever managed. Here's hoping they don't fuck it up. (And word to the wise - if their merch booth has a kissing jar, be prepared to have Keith give you smooch.)

Let's Make Noise In the Bathroom:

Test Tube Teens:

Midnight Picture Show:

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I wish they were on methadone

So Travis from the Cute Lepers is dead. I wish I could make that sound starker, but you fucking can't.



Dead from mixing pills and booze, apparently. (Joe Queer is saying it's heroin, but Joe Queer says a lot of things.) I've done this before and I'm sure more than a few of my readers have done the exact same thing. You're hanging out in the vicinity of a show and drinking; someone offers you some pills which you take cause hey why not? Most of us wake up.

Sex and drugs are really two verboten subjects on the punk circuit. If you sing about them too openly and/or too joyously, you're seen as a poser. Someone who doesn't get it. Punks don't sing about smoking weed or getting laid, do they? Human beings do stuff like that, and no tru punx would ever be caught doing stuff a real human would do. After all, the trash at Gilman needs taking out.

I don't mean to turn this into a manifesto or take advantage of Travis' death just to make a point. Sometimes when we lose someone, we freak out as a community. I say we take the pertinent lesson and hopefully move on. It's terrible what happeneded, and we hope nothing but the best for the families.

Provie It:

Terminal Boredom:

Cool City:

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Take THAT, the government!

It took me forever to find a picture of The Riot Before that was not 1) live or 2) taken while they all stood on a porch. What do you expect? They're from RVA. It's almost expected in the land where PBR stands for the People's Beer of Richmond.

Late last year they put out Fists Buried in Pockets, which was one of the best records to come out last year. (And considering how good last year was, that's saying something.) They are definitely a punk rock band, but it's hard to put your finger on why, exactly. They play melodic, undistorted, uptempo rock music with only mildly gruff vocals. So I dunno. Maybe it's because their bassist is a fat guy with an epic beard. Maybe it's the lyrics - "We Are Wild Stallions"* is about how love of music and community trumps paydays and comfort with a rarely matched passion, which the nu metal and screamo-pop bands certainly don't do. Maybe it's because you can so very easily imagine singing "WE'LL GET AWAY, WE'LL GET AWAY WITH THIS!" at the top of your lungs in some basement. Like Cheap Girls or Tranzmitors, other rad bands, they're a group who on the surface may not seem like the punkest band in the world, but underneath everything they are punk rock to the fucking bone. Plus, you know, references to the Royal Tennenbaums for the fucking win.

We Are Wild Stallions [sic] -

They Rode on in the Friscalating Dusklight -

*Bogus Journey is the superior of the two movies, I'm just saying. They play Twister with Death. What more do you need to know?

Friday, February 27, 2009

I get gross

I've written about AC Newman before, and with good reason. He's one of the best pop-rock songwriters alive. If you can listen to the song "Drink To Me Then, Babe" without feeling something you are probably something subhuman. Like, Buffy would stake you. This guy understands the melodies that wind around the human consciousness and knows when to squeeze. In the best way possible, of course. Only he could write a song that would sound so much at place in a Wes Anderson movie and on your Saturday lounging, be it day or night.

He's one of the few people who can produce solo records that I like despite the fact that he has no one to fact check him, in a sense. This is bad for a lot of people. Who says "no" to Paul McCartney, anyway? He was a Beatle. It's also probably why pretty much every solo song he did sucks so hard they could create a black hole vacuum. Newman's still in the state where he's in complete control of his musical faculties and it will sound perfect on basically every fire escape on which you've ever sat.

AC Newman reminds me of those horizon gazing Sundays after those coke snorting Saturdays. It's arre that I listen to him and don't think I should be rocking a cigarette. Maybe it's the fact that I've been watching so much Buffy lately and stuff about high school sends me for the hills and the nostalgic music, and Newman is primed for nostalgia. I bet if my parents had heard this 30 years ago they would have made out to it. That thought is terrifyinfg until I remembered that their first date was to see Rocky Horror Picture Show and my mom still decided to fuck my dad despite that and here I am, so maybe not everything that came out of that shitty movie was terrible. Um, what was I talking about? Here are some mp3s. Go buy AC Newman's new album Get Guilty.



All My Days (And All My Days Off):

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I forget the area code

A lot of good albums have come out in the short amount of time that is 2009 so far. No one has penned a line that makes me sing along harder than "when you're young/when you're dumb/when you're drunk as hell and in love/when you're sad, when you're no one/pretending something more than you are/(but you're not)." Fake Problems were always a pretty good band, even if they started as kids who held Crime As Forgiven By Against Me! as gospel (which I wish more kids would).

The thing I liked about this band above all else is that no matter which of their releases I was listening to, I always felt like I was listening to exactly what they had intended to release. Fake Problems do not at all reek of compromise, which makes the horns and the chorus on their new album It's Great To Be Alive sound all that much better and sincere. Chris Farren still sounds like he's spilling out his blog in time, and the band still sounds like they are keeping up with each emotion step for step. The fact that they are as young as they are is pretty much lost in the wash of strummed power rock music and a drummer who knows what the fucking score is.

Fake Problems are the feeling you get when you buy your first legal drink and you get carded. It's rad.

Dream Team:

Diamond Rings:

Heart BPM:

Friday, February 20, 2009

Oh god this is terrible - or - TIMBERWOLVES!

I'm bringing this ugly bitch back to life and I'm starting it off with a groaningly-bad song. Because this is a brand new leak and the company involved will probably be zealously searching using obvious keywords, let's just say it's the new song from the band Dreen Gay, and it's the title track from their upcoming schlockfest 21st Century Breakdancing. WINK.

It's not Hawthorne Heights level awful, but it's like seeing an ex-girlfriend who got fat from having kids with some asshole who's now in jail for making meth in the garage. It's sad. Dreen Gay apparently think they're the Who and/or U2 now, and must make IMPORTANT songs about SERIOUS topics because they're ADULTS now. This is the band that once sang about being too bored to masturbate. They also used to be one of the best summer rock bands ever to exist. I guess arena tours and major label budgets do awful things to artistic ambition sometimes.

Anyway, expect this to be hailed as "punk album of the year!" by rock writers who don't really know what punk is. (Hint - they think it's still entirely by and for the fashionable boho hipsters of big cities. This is why shit bands like Be Your Own Pet get labeled as "punk" when in fact they are just "assholes.")

Anyway, enjoy the song, I guess. Or don't. I didn't. And doesn't that artwork make you want to punch whoever did it in the dick?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

"This hat is my most prized possesion"

Sorry for the absence. Andrea and I live in Baltimore now, a few blocks down the street from two of our best friends and the Ottobar, so you can imagine I'm happy. We're officially engaged, and I live in the land of $6 cases of Natty Boh. Life is good.

HOLY SHIT THE ELECTION IS OVER FUCKING FINALLY YAY! And the guy who might actually do a good job won out over the walking ghoul and his ignorant, lunatic sidekick. Needless to say, I got good and shitfaced and participated in a mob.

The last time I was that stumbledrunk (I am the king of segues) was when we all piled on for the Revival Tour, which was three solid hours of insanity and discrete, drunken man hugs. (To which Andrea rolled her eyes and was probably just thinking "boys will be boys" over and over.) Also, flannel. Lots and lots of flannel, and the facial hair to match. Of course Chuck Ragan and Ben Nichols and Tim Barry were amazing live, but I was surprised how much I loved the opener.

Before he stepped on stage that night in a PBR hat and a striking British accent, I had only heard the name Frank Turner and had only heard one of his songs in passing. I was bummed that the other stops on the Revival Tour were getting "name" openers. Sundowner. Tom Gabel. Austin Lucas. Who was this Frank Turner guy and why was he preventing me from seeing the Gabel tear through his new solo songs?

All of that went out the window in the space of about ten seconds as he less played his guitar than attacked it, very clearly singing with some fucking backbone and enthusiasm. And man, that cat has some pipes and knows how to write a catchy melody. I know every semi punk-related limey who goes the solo route without trying to hide their accent is going to get compared to Billy Bragg from now until the nuclear apocalypse, in this case there's actually some validity. (It doesn't hurt that Turner, like Bragg, often has a neat turn of phrase in a seemingly bottomless arsenal and an eye for insightful observation, personal or otherwise.)

I left converted and acquired a good portion of his solo material. It's not often that you come across a singer-songwriter who covers Black Flag and sings about partying with the dying. Start with "Vital Signs," one of the single best songs of this decade. If scathing indictments of the people who populate fringe subcultures (like punk) are your thing, you're going to love "Reasons Not to Be an Idiot," which while critical, does not treat its subjects with complete contempt. He treads familiar ground, but it's done with more humanity and optimism than a million howling "you're a poser!" punk and hardcore songs.

(Do not, however, go looking up his old band, Million Dead. If the name is not a dead giveaway, the group was a subpar, also-ran Refused ripoff. Frank clearly can sing, but it's in the wrong context - think Ted Leo being in Animal Crackers.)

Vital Signs -

Nashville, TN -

Reasons Not to Be an Idiot -

Substitute -

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A dorky dude talks about rap music

Tomorrow is the Revival Tour, and I couldn't be more stoked. The dudes and I have an unofficial pact where if one of us cries at any point, no one is allowed to bring it up ever again. If Ben Nichols breaks out "Nobody's Darlins," I'm all but assured to lose it.

What else is going on? Not much. Moving to Baltimore soon. Hope to temp some before then. Rereading Batman comics is the high point of DIY ethics, and if you disagree you're a poser

So I was watching the newest in a long line of Clash DVDs, and one of their performances made me think, of all things, the birth of hip hop.

The birth of punk and the birth of hip hop are often compared. Usually the people doing the comparing are lazy, borderline racist assholes who are too busy scoring cheap cultural points to think about what that argument actually means. If they gave it a moment of thought, they might realize it's actually an entirely valid point of view, but hey, someone needs to go back to jacking off the Arcade Fire instead of focusing on music worth giving a damn about.

Both forms of music were, in their own ways, Year Zero. Punk was the cumulative effect of 15 years of people saying fuck you to orchestral rock music and the demigod mentality. It was "fuck off! You might be able to play every scale ever conceived, but we got songs and rage and you go die in a fire." Hip hop was born of a similar attitude, kind of. If the early pioneers sound skeletal and primitive, it's because it was made by people who didn't have shit. If you had a turntable and someone who could rile a crowd, you could jam basement parties. No disrespect to Rick James or Parliament, but not everyone could front a 20 person band and release records with high production values. It was DIY at its rawest, funk and soul music for people of limited means in the same way that punk was rock music at its barest, created by people who sold blood for guitars and wrote songs about kinky sex and horror movies. They both were forms that, intentionally or not, cut through the bullshit, reduced bloated forms of music to the bare essentials, and in the process changed the course of music.

It's hard to evaluate hip hop today in its current form. It's become a genre that appeal to such a broad spectrum - I would argue the most popular type of music in the world - and ranges from the shiniest of the mainstream to the dankest of underground, as as such it's difficult to sum it up as a genre. However, I immediately discount all people that are akin to my ex-girlfriend's parents who said (no shit) "it's just tree people talking about welfare over a drumbeat." (Dating people from GA is hit or miss. My current gal is nowhere near this ignorant, as she is a human being who is 1) not racist, and 2) capable of dressing herself, jesus fucking shit.)

The sampler presented is in no way intended as definitive or the product of a true head. This is the hip hop I've found that rocks my world, and I want to share it with you in the hopes that those of you have written it off give it a chance, that it's not all "Crank Dat" or whatever. It's a messy, complicated genre that rewards digging, much like 'most any other types of art.

Hip Hop Sampler -