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.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

No post today (well, other than this one, duh)

No music post today, kiddies. I had planned on writing about two records I'd been looking forward to with the word "million" in the name, The Draft's In a Million Pieces and Suspersystem's A Million Microphones, but both ended up being pretty boring.

For those of you not in the know, The Draft is Hot Water Music minus Chuck Reagen. I had high hopes, but it wasn't all that good. It seemed limp and lifeless and the songs jog where they should sprint. I like that they seem to be Skynyrding it up a little bit ('cause, let's face it, Hot Water Music made pretty much the same record each time out, just with different production quality; if you got Fuel For the Hate Game, you were set), but there's nothing to distinguish this band from the million other bands doing the same kind of vaguely Southern punk. Basically, it just made me want to go listen to the Gaslight Anthem demo again because that has better songs.

However, I liked it a lot better than A Million Microphones. I really, really, really liked the last Supersystem record, Always Never Again. It was a smart record that brought some serious dance grooves; songs from their debut are always gonna find a place on my party mixes. The group goes in kind of a different direction with this one, but unfortunately the new direction blows. There's nothing boogie-riffic, and the songs don't really go anywhere. Some of the tracks (like "Prophets") are interesting, but nothing's really memorable. It's a shame, too, because they were one of the best dance bands I've ever seen. I hope they can bring these songs to life when I go see them live.

Alright, I'm gonna go grill some chicken because meat is awesome. I don't care what veggie fascists like Bonnie say. Hey Bonnie, stop committing vegecide! Trust me, she's a total cooze, and I don't know why she loves me because all I do is call her a cunt and phone her at 3 AM to sing her songs from Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Wanna Get Off!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Tilly and the Wall

By all rights, I should hate this. Not only are these kids associated with Conor Oberst, they go for that cutsey thing. Plus, they're signed to a label called Team Love (*barf*), which regularly features indie scumbag graphics such as: ATTENTION INDIE AMERICA: STOP BEING DRUNK ON GARDEN STATE. THANK YOU.

"So, Matt," I can hearing you thinking/preparing to type in a poorly-written e-mail, "why don't you just cut off your dick and go listen to Architecture in Helsinki, and maybe that twee girl who knits her own scarves will give you the time of day." Well, as nice as it would be to eat out some timid twee girl (to go where no man has gone before), being forced to listen to Arab Strap ain't worth it.

The reason I like this is because it's fucking great. Instead of a drummer, they use hand percussion and a tap dancer. Yeah, it's a gimmick, but it's a pretty cool and unique gimmick. They also incorporate more than your typical twee influences - god knows how many crappy records I've heard where it's obvious the only groups they've ever listened to are the Softies and the Field Mice. The brass is a nice touch, adding a bit of mariachi flavor to the proceedings, and the harmonizing is above average. It's obvious these kids know how to read and play music, as opposed to just going on stage and being cute and librarianesque. Besides, the songs are just goddmaned catchy, and who can argue with a catchy song?

Summation - sometimes flowers can grow out of a pot of shit. Despite the odds against them being anything but yet more kids who thought they should be "artsy" and "cutesy wutsey" and all that other crap that makes 80% of all twee music fucking unlistenable, they managed to do something original and unique with the genre. Their new record, Bottoms of Barrels, is pretty good (some weak spots, but still a damn good listen), so go check it out, Chester.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Strike Anywhere

First things first, I just want to say that Fergie's "London Bridge" is the worst thing since Khemer Rouge. Just what we need, another reason for illiterate Long Island girls to act like total cunts. Of course, it's what I expect from a member of the Black Eyed Peas, who are like the Roots for people who find The Boondocks comic strip to be too edgy.

Anyway, Strike Anywhere. For those of you not in the know, these Richmond dudes rose from the ashes of a group called Inquisition to release a killer EP called Chorus of One. It was followed up by the stellar "Antidote/Alseep" single and the jaw-droppingly good Change is a Sound, which I think will stand as one of the best punk album of the 00's. Before I had really heard anything by them, I saw them live in concert around 2001, and it was like the finger of God had been shoved up my nose and jammed into my brain. I had no idea what to expect when Thomas Barnett, a man with a full head of dreads and a Discharge t-shirt came onstage, surrounded by dudes in tight-fitting sweaters and birth-control glasses. They proceeded to blow the roof off of the 9:30 Club, and it still stands as one of the best concerts I've ever been to.

Then came 2003 and their second album, Exit English. Most bands suffer from the dreaded sophomore slump, but this was one of the worst. All of the grit and nimble explosiveness that had defined their earlier sound was replaced by shinier production, riffing, and songs that sounded lethargic and forced. While some tracks were winners (like the tasty "New Architects"), most of the album was boring, and many thought it sounded the death knell of the band that had at one time seemed invincible.

Their upcoming third album drops in two weeks, and having heard it, I can say that the group is back, sort of. Dead FM is characterized by Banrett once again bringing the pain at the mic. His voice is the band's best weapon, and his commanding, throaty emoting is as much an instrument as the bass or drums.

Much of Dead FM is an amalgamation of Strike Anywhere's first two LPs. While the band brings back some of the hardcore intensity of their early days, the guitars are still clean. It's a compromise, but it works more than it doesn't, especially on "Hollywood Cemeteries," with Barnett howling "I found out all my heroes are just parasites!" over a rollicking bassline and a melodic guitar part. While the band might never again approach the intensity of, say, "Sunset on 32nd," they probably won't ever sound like alterna-rock again, and thank Christ for that.

Greg Graffin

When people who know what it means hear the name Greg Graffin, the first thing that (rightfully) comes to mind is "hey, that's the dude that sings for Bad Religion!" Graffin has rightfully earned his place in music history as the voice behind one of the best American groups of all time. His operatic vocal style is part of what seperates Bad Religion from the rest of the pack. Of all the punk singers, he's one of the few that can actually sing. The first time I saw Bad Religion live (with my then girlfriend Jenny), I was blown away by his commanding presence and compelling voice.

He's done solo work before. He chronicled his divorce under the monker of American Lesion, the first time he really showed his stylistic range. Since then, home recordings of various folk standards like "Tom Dooley" and "Virginia's Bloody Soil" have surfaced, and Graffin has never made a secret that his introduction to music was his family's down-home hootenannies.

On his new record, Cold as the Clay, Graffin goes for broke. Recording mostly with 3/4 of the Weakerthans (everyone but John Samson), he isn't afraid to show off his folk roots. It's a mostly kickass record, one of the best of the year. Pairing Graffin's unique voice with a piano and mandolin was definitely a good idea. This is way better than indie rock jerkoff shit like Animal Collective. (If you listen to Animal Collective, you are officially an indie rock lemming with tin ears and no soul.) Basically, Graffin is a better introduction to folk music than milquetoast pussies like Sufjan Stevens, so have at it. I'll meet you by the Phil Ochs record.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Screamers

The big post has been abandoned for the nonce. Not only is it taking an ass-long time to do, I realized that I don't know enough about the subject to really do it justice. Maybe it'll be resurrected one day, but it's dead for now.

In other news, Nick Feratu and his merry band of zombie greasers the Limit Club have recorded a new song called "The Kids Are All Dead," inspired not only by the prospect of nuclear annihilation, but also this here audio blog. Check it out; it's pretty rad. Tell Nick I said "BOO!"

Anyway, on to today's band. It's going to be short and sweet since I have a forty and the new Simpsons DVD set calling my name.

The Screamers were one of the first punk bands on the west coast, and they were contemporaries of such seminal early California bands as the Dils, the Avengers, the Germs, X, and the Weirdos. Unlike those groups, however, there's nary a guitar to be found. Instead, they go for broke with two distorted-as-hell synthesizers and a drummer. Before even Devo, the Screamers were incorporating electronics and video into their stage show and probably the only band of the period that approached the multi-media anarchy of The Exploding Plastic Inevitable.

Fronting the band was Tomata du Plenty, the only dude with a stage spazz that was spazzier than Jello Biafra. Wildly, um, "eccentric," (pssssst! he was gay!), du Plenty often performed while jumping up and down like a kid with rickets on a sugar rush. Despite the lack of guitar and bass, the sound of the group was often hard-edged and didn't resort to using the synthesizers to create atmospherics like most of their contemporaries. Instead, the two synths are a kick in the gut.

The band played their first show for 500 people because they were so wildly hyped by Slash! on the basis of their early demos. They quickly became one of the biggest draws in Southern California, often selling out two or three night stands at the biggest clubs in the city. Unfortunately, they never recorded a proper studio released, not even a single. All that remains of their short history is a series of demos they recorded between 1977-1978 and a few live bootlegs of piss-poor quality. Any reunion hopes were dashed when du Plently died of AIDS-related complications in 2000.

They were really the first punk band to use synthesizers, and you can hear their influence in modern-day groups such as the Epoxies. Get rockin', Chester!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Big post coming soon

In case you're too retarded to read a subject, today's update for The Kids Are All Dead has been delayed by the sheer amount of time it's taking to put together such a massive project. When it's finally posted, it will replace this post. Word? Word. Hold onto your fucking britches, bitches.

Friday, August 25, 2006

One Minute Silence

There comes a time where every stuck-up hipster (me included) must take the skeletons out of the closet and let them dance. This time is now. For all my prattling on about indie culture, it's only natural that I have some embarassing secrets.

One of them is this: the first concert I ever attended was Warped Tour 2000. I went to see Anti-Flag and Good Riddance. What's even worse is that my dad insisted my mom attend with me. I know, I know. The only way this could be lamer is if Chris Reeve showed up to laugh at me. I was 15! Still the acceptable age for lameness. The same day, I ran into Tommy Beardsly, West Springfield High Punx Extraordinaire, and we both tried to pawn it off as no big deal that we were at BroFest 2000. I also ran into the drummer for the US Agents, but that's another story altogether.

Anyway, the first band I saw that day was One Minute Silence, a rap rock band from England. And I gotta say, they didn't suck. In fact, they kinda rocked. They were the only group from the nu-metal age that I liked. The punks at West Springfield didn't really accept me (c'mon, I was a pudgy dork extolling on the virtues of Pennywise - lame!), so I was hanging out with some of the Hot Topic kids because, hey, some of the chicks seemed like they were easy. Anyway, when I found out one of them listened to some shit like Korn, I passed them a copy of the One Minute Silence album Buy Now...Saved Later, saying "It's like Limp Bizket read Howard Zinn!" I wasn't proud of myself, but any band that thanked Bill Hicks in the liner notes of their CD deserves at least a little recognition.

I know, I know, it's rap-metal, but it's th ebest rap-metal I've ever heard. Give it a shot. Also, expect this kind of apology when I post songs from Handsome. I promise to go back to hyping poorly-produced punk bands now. I still hate 311. We cool?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Why this is called The Kids Are All Dead

I just wanted to address briefly why I dubbed my blog The Kids Are All Dead, which sounds like a Misfits song and thus ridiculously morbid. Nah, gentle readers. I enjoy a good child murder joke as much as the next chap, but it has nothing to do with actual dead children.

The name is derived, of course, from an EP by the absolutely amazing Dillinger Four, which is also called The Kids Are All Dead. Anyone who knows me knows that I think Dillinger Four is one of the best American bands of all time, and that I gleefully love playing "Thanks For Nothing, Pt. 2" and "!!Noble Stabbings!!" to some of my more timid friends. On just a level of memorability and catchiness, The Kids Are All Dead has a nice ring to it.

Of course, I'm such an obsessive nerd that there has to be more than that to it. The Kids Are All Dead was chosen because of my contempt for nostalgists and most of the people I encounter on the "scene."

The nostalgists (aka almost all of the Baby Boomers and now a healthy portion of Gen Xers), are the ones convinced that their generation was the best, yup yup yup, and there will never be a better one. There will never be a better festival than Woodstock/Lollapalooza, a better band than the Beatles/Nirvana, and theirs was the only music that mattered, maaaaan. They have effectively cut out the younger generation of performers and fans, dismissing them as children with bad taste or copycats who will never be as good as their venerated rock gods. To them, the kids might as well all be dead. For all the coverage they give to interesting new groups, Rolling Stone must run at least two massive retrospectives. Led Zeppelin was on the cover recently, and no one could explain why, except that "Zep was an awesome band, dude!" and they wanted to prattle on about them again. A band that's been broken up for 26 years has no business being on the cover of the biggest music magazine in the country "just 'cause." Same thing has started happening with the Nirvana/Pearl Jam/Soundgarden followers. They're starting to get old enough to have decision-making power at some of the bigger magazines (like Spin, which I don't think has heard a record made after OK Computer), and so they're turning into the college-rock version of Old Guard they held in such contempt. To them, too, the kids might as well be all dead.

While not as noxiously arrogant and victimized by rose-colored hindsight, I think hold most of those I encounter on the contemporary scene with much less regard because they've taken the fun out of rock 'n' roll. Rock is supposed to be energetic music that whips you into a frenzy. It's supposed to make you want to do childlike things like run around in circles and start fights and jump and and down and tap into something pure and primal. To steal a bit from Orwell, it should be Two Minutes' Awesome. I can't tell you how many times I've been to a show when the group was absolutely killing it, and I was the only one getting into it. Ted Leo, Supersystem, Sleater-Kinney...why would you watch these groups with your arms folded? When I went to see Supersystem, I boogied my ass off, and I was the only one. Everyone else stood there with their arms folded. What the hell? Is enthusiasm uncool? Is sincerity met with the kind of contempt that won't get you laid? It's like their inner child is dead, that they don't know how to have fun with rock 'n' roll anymore. Adults "make the scene," kids rock the fuck out.

Don't even get me started on the joyless nerds who collect music. I'm a record collector, so I love finding an obscure gem as much as anyone else. However, I collect the music I love to listen to. I've gotten so many weird looks when I've gone up to the counter with both a Discharge record and a Randy Newman record under my arm. I don't collect music because I have to have every single Congolese acid house song ever released or because I feel like the K Records catalogue is the only one with enough cred for me, and I certainly don't feel like I have to have every single limited edition seven inch released by every bumfuck record label in America and the UK. I collect music because so much good stuff exists, and I want to hear as much of it as possible. Music flicks a switch in my brain that makes me feel incredible, and if the music that got me off was Barry Manilow or Rod Stewart, I wouldn't care. Being cool has nothing to do with it for me; it's all about the feeling of joy I experience whenever I hear the perfect song. I don't care if the perfect song was written and performed by someone who sold 100 copies or 100,000. Obscurity does not equal greatness, just as mainstream does not equal crap. The zeal to out-obscure every other indier-than-thou nerd takes all the fun out of music. Once again, the inner child that just wants to find that one killer song is dead and has been replaced with the humorless adult. If I wanted to surrounded by over-dressed grown-ups who thought that they were better than everyone else, I woulda gone to the fuckin' symphony, dig?

I see far too many of the self-serious, unsmiling types at shows, and it bums me out, because they are in the middle of some incredible music, and they don't seem to be fully appreciating it. I'm sure when they all become 40, they'll start talking about the time they went to see Ted Leo and how "it totally moved me." Yeah, right. I was there. I saw you, you frowning prick.

Anyway, the point is that I called it The Kids Are All Dead because of the veneration of dead music over the music alive and kicking right now, and also because of the youthful energy that seems to have gone out of a large portion of the audience. In my mind, the kids really are dead, and the few of us left hate those that killed them. That's why I do this. It's not a whole lot, but I'm doing what I can to try and reclaim rock 'n' roll for those to whom it means something, anything, everything.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Jesus H. Christ. Another band from No Idea. Hey kids, I can't help it if they put out consistently great records (speaking of which, who else is stoked for the new Billy Resse Peters record?). All I can do is encourage you to go give them tons of cash and run away with an armload of records that will own your world.

That said, I think the debut record from Armalite has been criminally underappreciated this year. I figured with the pedigree of its members (Atom and his Package, Lifetime/Kid Dynamite/Paint it Black, Kill the Man Who Questions), people would be jizzing all over this band. This is the first time Adam Goren has rocked out with a full band since he was in Fracture, and Dr. Dan Yemin proves he can totally fucking kill it on bass.

Their self-titled record is funny, righteous, catchy, and totally fucking exhilirating. Who'd'a thunk I'd pump my fist to a song about having diabetes?

"Husker Dave" is probably the most honest song Adam Goren has ever written about his own life. It's an acknowledgment that some family can be harmful and that just 'cause someone has the same last name as you doesn't mean you have to love them. He admonishes the subject of the song "when you're a parent that means no committing suicide! Goddamn, what a miserable fucking bastard!" before admitting "it's nice to have you gone."

"When Nice People Think Dumb Things, Attack, and Vote!" is about how the American voter is not evil, but the lazy, "well-meaning everyman." If they weren't lazy and uninvolved, maybe we'd get some candidates worth pulling the lever for. I also love how this song cheekily asks why do "the homophobes all dance to the YMCA?"

"Other Entertainers" is a shoulder of support for the people struggling to keep the music they love afloat in the face of less-talented hacks (*cough* Underoath *cough*) who have achieved something resembling mainstream success while much better groups toil in obscurity. Sounds like it would be perfect for a singalong at a punk rock campfire. Having just typed that, yes, I do realize how fucking gay it sounds. Whatever. Just download and piss off, Chester.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Touch My Balls and Ass - A "Tribute" to John Lennon

I recently got a new computer, and in the process of moving all my old stuff onto my new hard drive, I spent some time revisiting some of my old writings. This is one of them. It was written last December during the hoopla surrounding the anniversary of John Lennon's death. As you probably know, I'm fairly critical of the Beatles. They had some killer records (including A Hard Day's Night and Revolver), but I feel their latter work was lacking in soul and spawned a plethora of horrible 70's rock in the same way Kurt Cobain is personally responsible for all the humorless, self-loathing gasbags populating modern rock radio.

While most people have (rightfully) deemed the post-Beatles solo work of Paul, George, and Ringo as boring and shallow, there is still a veneration of John Lennon's solo work. Their solo work showed each of the quartet's worst artistic impulses in full bloom - after all, who was going to say no to an ex-Beatle in the studio? Paul made trite elevator music that grasped blindly at trying to become lounge standards; George did all this faux-mystical hippie bullshit that only rich people with too much time and not enough brain cells on their hands can come up with; Ringo...well, Ringo's been picked on enough, so I'll leave him alone; John went overboard with his middle-class, guilt-driven politics, basically becoming in the process a self-righteous slug. Instead of facing the same critical derision as the other three, Lennon lives on in dorm room posters and annual dick-sucking articles written by balding hacks.

The following article was written in response to the pedestal upon which that smug, bloated Brit now sits.

"After reading yet another recent issue of Rolling Stone where they continue jacking off dead musicans, I think they need to change the name of the magazine to Baby Boomer Cocoon of Safety. I'm convinced they run more retrospectives than covering contemporary happenings. Rolling Stone is like a pop music magazine for middle aged guys who don't think there's ever been a band better than the Allman Brothers. I'm surprised that in their Top 50 Albums of 2005 feature, they didn't make 75% of the albums reissues.

However, reading people get all hot and bothered for John Lennon AGAIN just reinforces how much I hated that guys solo work. I don't know why people think "Imagine" is this mind-blowing work of genius. It's just tired paino chord changes and lyrics that are reminiscent of nothing so much as a stoned loser going, "hey man, like wouldn't it be cool if there were, like, world peace because everyone stopped, like, you know, fighting, and stuff?" Lennon had only three decent solo songs that I can think of off the top of my head ("Working Class Hero," "Look at Me," and "Mind Games"). All the rest are mired in pretentiously self-conscious "art making," oversimplified politics, shock tactics that were tired and hackneyed even then ("Woman is the Nigger of the World"?! come on, John!), and petulant antics. Of course, he does have those three songs, which are two more than all the other Beatles' solo work has.

I hate how people mistake boredom for sophistication. I like lots of music I know for a fact is retarded (Wesley Willis, AC/DC, Andrew W-K, Ludacris, and the Misfits all come to mind), but at least those guys mean it. Getting on stage and singing "Party Hard" with every ounce of your being is far more moving than the eye-roll inducing prancing of someone trying desperately to be famous by not challenging audiences. If the ability to read sheet music were all that mattered, Toto would have been the biggest band in the world. Even when Max and I were hanging out at Jaxx and watching the terrible opening band, we were still in awe at the ones that gave their all for a performance. Sure, it may be yet another group of bald guys playing hardcore, but when you could see the neck veins strain on the lead singer as he poured himself into his performance, you knew (to steal from Tom Gabel) that you were getting to bear witness to someone else's humanity for the price of a ticket. I never got that feeling from John Lennon. He always had that sneer, like he knew he was taking all of us for a ride; that by laying in bed, he could get the attention of the press. I don't think art ever mattered so much to John Lennon as did the selling of himself as a celebrity. He was forever trying to provoke ("I don't believe in God, I don't believe in Beatles") in ways that would get everyone's attention. I never got the feeling that being a couragous artist and showing us his humanity was as important to him as becoming and remaining John Lennon The Celebrity. Just look at what happened during a low point in his solo career: he was wandering around the bars in New York City, standing on tables and screaming "I'm John Lennon! I'm John Lennon!" over and over to anyone who would pay attention.

Mostly I'm just sick of how the Beatles are this infallable band. Yes, they did have some amazing albums, but also some terrible ones (Sgt. Pepper, Abbey Road, Let it Be, and 3/4 of the White Album - I think it's funny that their best work, Magical Mystery Tour, is the one most reviled by most fans), and their solo work is competent, but shallow. Morrissey and Marr were a way better songwriting team, and there are tons of groups better than the Beatles. Of course, I may be biased because I think the Smiths are the greatest British rock band of all time, in terms of songwriting, musical ability, killer performances, and aesthetics. None of the Smiths ever grew shitty hippy beards, so that's another point in their column.

Mostly I just want to see people getting excited about new music instead of getting hard over stuff that happened 40 years ago. It's ok, you can talk about it, like it, and listen to it all you want. But don't use it to deny that there is a lot of great stuff out there right now. Baby Boomers want to think pop music eneded with their generation, and everything that's happened since will never compare to a bunch of stoned 60's musicians. Where's the Rolling Stone cover story on the New Pornographers?

For further reading, please see Lester Bangs' article on why the Beatles albums will gather dust on the shelves as time goes by, but how he can still tolerate the first few Stones albums. I think it's called 'The Withering Away of the Beatles.'"

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

Other than Tom Gabel, Ted Leo is probably the best active rock songwriter in America right now. Other than some soft spots in his time with Chisel and a few regrettable recordings released under the name "Tej Leo/Rx," he's been been hitting bullseyes every time. The Tyranny of Distance, Hearts of Oak, and Shake the Sheets are all modern classics and well worth your damn time, you stuck-up losers. You're all "no no, we're gonna listen to Tapes 'n' Tapes because we still jack off every night to Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain!" Well, I jack off every night to the Jam's Setting Sons, which is why I get such a stuffy for Ted, errr, his music. It's livewire, energetic, melodic, righteous, and a kick in the ass. Imagine if the Jam and Thin Lizzy had a baby.

I saw him about a year ago, and my face was seriously rocked clean off, like so: I think I embarrassed my sister because she said I was the only there pogoing and the only one yelling "SUSPECT DEVICE!" between every single song. Stupid moron indie kids too busy trying to look cool. I wonder if they'd practiced looking bored in the mirror. Arms folded is not the appropriate response to Ted Leo. Losing your mind and spazzing out is. Even though I am one, I think I hate inide kids more than any other self-defined subgroup, even more than douchebag scenesters. Thom Yorke Media, I mean, Pitchfork Media is a symbol of everything wrong with the culture I love.

"Some Beginner's Mind" is a rehearsal demo for the upcoming album, which explains the echo-y sound, the kinda lame intro, and the skeleton of a solo. However, when they get to the chorus, it's like getting hit in the face with a shovel. If the rest of the album is as good as this song's going to be, it'll definitely be one of the best of 2006 ('07?).

Monday, August 14, 2006

Howlin' Wolf

There's so much to say about Howlin' Wolf. He's certainly one of the greatest American musical figures of all time. He drug the prewar showmanship of Charley Patton kicking and screaming into the 20th century. Along with Muddy Waters, he plugged and made the blues electric. He was the connsumate showman, often going into the audience and unleashing the fury and passion of his music inches from their faces - a frightening prospect when you consider he was 6' 3", weighed 300 lbs. (as he sang, "I'm built for comfort, I ain't built for speed"), had big bug eyes, and lived up to the "Howlin'" part of his name.

Unlike almost every other legendary bluesman from the prewar era to the end of the Chess era, Wolf wasn't proficient with the guitar, and while decent on the harmonica, wasn't in the same league as a Little Walter or Sonny Terry. This was due largely to his size; there are pictures of Wolf holding a full-sized electric guitar and making it seem no bigger than a ukelele, his massive frame dwarfing everything around him. However, what makes Wolf stand out from the pack is his incredible voice. Sam Phillips once said Wolf's voice was "where the soul of man never dies," and that about covers it. It's a raging storm, the kind that would have kicked King Lear's ass from here to Jersey. Hell hath no fury like Howlin' Wolf unleashed. He's easily my favorite blues singer.

"Smokestack Lightnin'" is his masterpiece and one of the greatest songs ever written. It's as iconic a piece of work as "This Land is Your Land" or "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" Wolf lived the lyrics, fleeing an abusive home by hopping trains when he was a youngster. The internal emotional conflict that he experienced is what drives the song, and you feel it in every pained note he yelps.

If I posted every single Howlin' Wolf song I loved, this entry would go on forever. I leave you with a few choice cuts in the hopes that they make you want to seek out the rest of his catalogue. "Evil," "Back Door Man" "Shake For Me" "Natchez Burnin' Down," "Goin' Down Slow," "The Red Rooster," "I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline)," "Moanin' at Midnight," and so on, stand as some of the best songs ever recorded in any genre. If you ever doubt that rock 'n' roll came from the blues, give Howlin' Wolf a listen and get back to me.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Black Market Baby

Before I get into today's band, I'd like to address something. Pointless Fest, a gathering of hardcore/crust bands (including the incredible Paint it Black), has been cancelled. Apparently, what happened was a small number of the participants got into a spat with the cops, and the whole thing ended in violence. While I don't know the details, it strikes me as dumbass white kids yet again getting mad at the people who protect them. I'm not saying the cops are always right; I grew up in a relatively impoverished neighborhood when I was younger, so my asshole instinctively tightens up whenever a squad car rolls by. What I am saying is that people who think the police are the cause of all the world's ills are usually ignorant, poorly read, and listen to crust punk propaganda. Humanity is not ready to be let free in an anarchic society - even left-winger Jello Biafra admits this. As a species, we need to police ourselves. Being a cop is a hard job. They deal with the dregs of society and see the worst face of humanity every single day. I would bet anything almost all of them are more concerned with getting home at night than oppressing the rights of people they don't like. Despite what some people would like to believe, America is not a police state, and I honestly doubt it ever will be. We like our privacy too much for some 1984-style monitoring to ever really get off the ground on a massive scale. Don't let a few bad cops trick you into thinking that all police officers are jackbooted fascists. They work hard for relatively little money to try and keep people from killing, robbing, raping, and otherwise violating each other. For every cop that shot at Amadou Diallo, there are thousands upon thousands of honest, good cops doing the right thing every single day, and don't you would-be anarchists or university Marxists forget it.

Anyway, on to today's band. As some of you know, I love the music of my hometown, Washington DC. I honestly think band for band, DC has had the best rock scene in the country. Of course, the in city that produced Duke Ellington, Marvin Gaye, Minor Threat/Fugazi, George Clinton, Trouble Funk, Rites of Spring, Chuck Brown, Jawbox, and Bad Brains, a few names were bound to slip through the cracks. Modern-day acts like A Day in Black and White, the Twats, Asheru, Alcian Blue, and Washington Social Club have been somehow ignored by the rock press at large, but I'd like to focus on an unfairly forgotten act from the city's past.

After the Bad Brains decided they wanted to be the fastest band in the world, a young band called the Teen Idles (featuring the ever-present Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson) decided they were gonna do the same thing. Around the Teen Idles, a big circle of young punk rockers moved in and out of an incestuous circle of what would become one of the biggest hardcore scenes of the 80's. By the time MacKaye and Nelson formed Minor Threat, virtually every punk band in DC was a hardcore band. That is, except for Black Market Baby. They took more cues from the British soccer hooligans like the Cockney Rejects and Sham 69 than proto-thrash bands like Bad Brains and Black Flag. They played an anthemic style of punk rock that was at odds with the rest of of the loud-fast-distorted crowd singing about the government, the then-burgeoning stright edge movement, and backstabbers. (Unfortunately, most hardcore bands still sing about the same three things exclusively to this day.) A history of the DC punk scene would be incomplete without a paragraph on these dudes. They rocked it pretty hard and made some cool records.

"America's Youth" is drawn from the Crimes of Passion 7", one of the best of the 80's. Blare this shit in the car - it sounds killer. Trust me.

Defiance, Ohio

Defiance, Ohio is a sextet from Coumbus, OH, that will own your world with their spitfire folk-punk. They put out a record this year called The Great Depression that might just very well be the best album I've heard this year. They're certainly the only folk-punk band better than This Bike is a Pipe Bomb. I know the dumbass DIY kids will lose their shit because I dared say there was a better band than TBIAPB, but whatever. No one cares about DIY kids and their ugly dogs or hockey puck earrings or vegan recipes. Yeah, sometimes I go to shows that aren't in basements and go to Wal-Mart for lawn furniture - guess that makes me a cultural terrorist or some dumb shit.

Anyway, folk-punk. It's a label most people are willing to give to any vaguely punkish music that has a double-tracked acoustic guitar or is straight punk music played with acoustic intruments, a la the first few Against Me! seven-inches. This is fine, I guess, but it's a misleading genre name. What I like so much about Defiance, Ohio is that they incorporate as much traditional folk music into their sound as they do three chord state smashing. I have a feeling they would get booed off the stage at a mountain music festival and CBGB's, and God bless 'em for it. They enjoy a musical telepathy that anyone this side of Fugazi or a Sonny Rollins session would envy.

The lyrics are political without being agitprop, so don't expect love songs or chants of "USA out of Iraq now!" Like Boots Riley, they're just mad as hell and they ain't gonna take it anymore, and they never lets politics force them to abaondon thoughtfulness or intelligence.

The Great Depression is available for free download on their site, but it only costs $6 ppd for the CD or LP, so buy it, you cheap bastard. People making music this good deserve to be rewarded.,_Ohio_Oh,_Susquehanna_.mp3.html,_Ohio_Petty_Problems.mp3.html

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Sundays

An unfairly forgotten college-rock gem for you to kick off your weekend.

The Sundays were a band that probably missed their time by about three years. By the time their debut album came out in 1990, their mid-80's-ish jangle pop seemed vaguely anachronistic. Despite a modest hit with "Here's Where the Story Ends" and an album peaking at 39 (atypical for such a throughly British band), they seem to have sunk into realms of obscurity (at least, if you're not some record nerd who spazzes out over shit that won't get you laid). Their next two albums also had respectable, if brief, chart showings. They probably would have done better if Rough Trade Records hadn't gone tits up in 1991. Despite the fact that the guitar line smacks of too much borrowed from "Cemetry Gates," it's still a throughly enjoyable pop song.

For fans of the Smiths, Mazzy Star, the Cocteau Twins, and the first couple My Bloody Valentine records.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Mountain Goats

This isn't really much of a post about the Mountain Goats. Yeah, I'm as much in love with John Darnielle's lo-fi croon and literate folk as anyone else. Hell, when I'm listening to the Mountain Goats, I almost believe I'm in a Wes Anderson movie, and what indie kid could want more?

This is more of a post about a friend of mine. I doubt she reads this, which is the only reason I feel comfortable writing about her. S'funny how much you can share with a stranger at a bus stop, stuff you wouldn't tell your own mother or dearest friend. That's what you are to me, dear readers - strangers in a bus station. Well, except I don't have to smell you or note the lone tooth hanging on for dear life on your top gum.

Ever meet someone and just click on almost every single level? Not necessarily in a romantic way, but just someone who was operating on the same wave length as you, had the same DVDs on their shelf, were familiar with all your haunts, cared about the same things you did, had the same immature tendencies as you did. This is how it was for me when I met her. For all the shit I give her ("why are you bothering me?" "stop drinking all my wine!" "I will so punch you in the vagina!" etc.), I actually looked forward to her nightly visits. Even when we would just sit on my porch, drinking and listening to the Drive-By Truckers, it was hoot number one. She's the kinda person that you never know when she might light Raid on fire or grab your hand and make you dance to the Weakerthans at 5 AM or steal your Cosby-esque sweater and not give it back for the whole fucking semester, even when it's 90 degrees outside.

I made a promise that I would be back to Atlanta, and I intend on keeping it, but the timetable has been altered significantly. I've been dreading breaking the news to her. I dunno why it's tearing me up. It probably matters more to me than it does to her. She's got about eight million people always clamoring for her time; I'm just #8,000,001. It's not that I think I don't matter to her, it's just a feeling in my gut that if I'm not around it's not going to be terrible news for her.

Anyway, the Mountain Goats. Being a rock critic, I'd abandoned the idea that people were going to intorduce me to bands I would fall in love with. Yeah, snobby and all, but it's the truth. However, the very first mix she ever made for me (which still stands as the best one anyone's ever made for me) contained an odd little ditty called "Fall of the Star High School Running Back." It kicked off my love affair with the Mountain Goats, and those songs always make me think of her. I suppose if we have Our Songs, these would be it.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


Jesus, it seems like most of the new rock 'n' roll I listen to is just collaborations between artists I already like. To wit, Armalite (Adam Goren, Dr. Dan Yemin), Greg Graffin (who did his new solo album largely with 3/4 of the Weakerthans), the New Pornographers (AC Newman, Neko Case, and even nerdy Dan Bejer or however the fuck that dude spells it), the Jelvins (Jello Biafra and the Melvins), the Falcon (Brendan Kelley, Dan Andriano), yadda yadda yadda.

Well, you can add Heavens to the mix. Ever since Matt Skiba (of the Alklaine Trio) abandoned Chicago for LA like a total dumbass, he's been living with Joe Steinbrick, aka That Weird Looking Dude Who Plays Bass for F-Minus. Since both are huge post-punk dorks, it was only natural that they would begin working on bleak music together. When I first heard they were collaborating, I was half-expecting Skiba's now-ho-hum macabre lyrics to be paird with the crustie thrash that's F-Minus' stock in trade. In other words, just what we needed - another hardcore band singing about blood and dying.

Imagine my surprise when the leadoff single "Another Night" was released. It was actually a rather enjoyable slab of Depeche Mode-influenced pop-punk. "Another night with your head in the oven/Simmering like a heat wave over you/Sweat drops hiss at the bottom/Blood droplets cook like glue" is as good as any opening verse you'll hear this year. For the most part, Skiba has reined in the more ridiculous lyrical tendencies he developed on the last few Alkaline Trio albums, and Steinbrick has actually written a couple of decent, layered songs. I've yet to hear Patent Pending in its entirety, but if it's as good as some of the songs leaked, then it looks to be a surprisingly decent album. I also wouldn't be shocked if this finds some radio play over the next few months.

Friday, August 04, 2006


Jonathan put it best when he said "DragonForce is like McDonalad's - bad for you, but still so fucking awesome!" He's right. I want to hate this and say it's cheesy power metal, but I can't stop banging my head. I just want to throw the horns while chanting "Me-tal! Me-tal! Me-tal!" over and over and over.

I know a lot of shitsuck hipsters have gleefully adopted DragonForce as the new Snakes on a Plane, getting hyped, but only ironically. "Haw haw, lookit the longhairs. Yeah dude, these fingertap solos are awesome!" Pay attention, you Lou Reed wannabes: sarcastically liking hesher music (xheshxcorex) makes you worse than someone driving a spray-painted Camaro that has a Van Halen cassette permanently melted in the deck. Yeah, it's cheesy and over the top, but it's fucking fun! Besides, it's so nice to hear a new metal album that doesn't feature the Cookie Monster on lead vocals. It's most of what I liked about the first two Iron Maiden albums (before they hired that histrionic douche nozzle Bruce Dickinson to replace Paul Di'Anno) and the Manowar catalogue and turns it up to 11.

If I were still throwing porch parties at Schmidt, you can bet DragonForce would be in regular rotation.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Go-Betweens

A familiar story for those who listen to indie pop: fairly talented group from England/a country England colonized makes sweet pop songs that appeal to indie sensibilities/you can makeout to after your bi-monthly thrift store excusrsion, produce one killer album (16 Lovers Lane, in this case), and then proceed to overstay their welcome. Such is the case for Austrailian popsters the Go-Betweens, who truly have some amazing songs but lack the consistency of, say, the Smiths.

I know they had a bunch of albums that preceded it and many more that came afterwards, but nothing in their catalogue, or really much in the realm of indie pop, can touch 16 Lovers Lane. They were the missing link that caused Renee to walk away to meet up with Belle and Sebastian.

I've had this song in my head all day because I spent all afternoon and some of the early evening hanging out with Cristina, doing Springfield on $0 a day. For those of you who missed out on all my histrionics and self-absorbed diatribes, when Cristina and I broke up freshman year of college, suffice it to say I didn't handle it in the best/most mature way possible. It took me a while to work through my issues, and I'm glad I did. Every time we hang out, it reminds me of why we were such good friends in the first place. Once there's a enough distance, I'm sure Kate and I will be friends again one day. As the Go-Betweens sing, "love goes on anyway!" The fundamental relationships and bonds you form with some people may strain and seem to break, but they don't. If there was a strong relationship as the foundation, time takes care of all the rest.

A friend of mine recently had her heartbroken (won't say who, in case she doesn't want me broadcasting to the tens of you who read this). It's hard and may seem like the end of the world, Mrs. Bolan, but it'll get better. This is a promise from someone who's been there twice.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Ugly Duckling

I think it's easy for people who don't give it an honest chance to misunderstand rap. After all, most of what we're exposed to in casual culture (channel surfing, big city "urban" radio stations, crappy entertainment magazines we flip through in the waiting room while our little brother gets a lubed up beer bottle removed from his anal cavity) usually paints a subculture obsessed with rims, brand-name alcohol, narcotic distribution, dental jewelry, casual misogyny, yadda yadda yadda. I'm not asking people to listen to deep, involved music all the time; shakin' it to Lil' Jon is more fun that words can describe. I just wish there was a sense of fun in rap music that was comparable to the genre's intial offerings. When rap first began to blossom, it was some of the best party music ever made - Afrika Bambataa's shit still sounds alive and captivating. It just seems that the pranksters no longer have a place in rap. Eminem was a step in the right direction, but one self-obsessed honky isn't enough.

I think that's why I took such a liking to Ugly Duckling when I saw them on the Storm Tour a few weeks ago. When they came out looking like three of the biggest dorks of all time (their DJ was in a track suit and a gold braid - what the fuck?), I was seriously unimpressed. They spent the next forty minutes making me a believer. The beats are old-school without being corny - in fact, DJ Young Einstein is a hell of a beatmaker and scratcher, one of the best working today. Dizzy Dustin and Andy Cooper are funny as hell, swapping clever lines and getting the crowd hyped like whoa. It's derivative as all fuck, but it's so much fun you don't care.

Get ahold of their new album, Bang For Your Buck, from which this cut is drawn. It's a hilarious piss-take on humorless rantings by faux thugs and their "gangsta pop ringtone rap." Also, check out the video - it's a low-budget delight.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


More vintage California hardcore for y'all. Just what I've been in the mood for, lately. Whenever I get cobwebs on the brain, a blast of thrashy punk is just what the doc ordered.

Founded by druken prankster Casey Royer and his usual partner in crime, musical whiz kid Rikk Agnew, DI is exactly what you'd expect from a duo that met in the first incarnation of Social Distortion and were behind the asshole-savant brilliance of the first Adolescents album. Stuttering blasts of melody careen into snotty lyrics and Royer's surprisingly charismatic delivery.

Virtually every live live recording I've ever heard of this band shows that Royer is a fearless asshole who baits the crowd at any and every given opportunity. There none of that "thanks for having us" or "it's nice to be here" crap. One on bootleg I have, before they even play their first song, he's declaring he doesn't give a shit where he is, then asks a crowd of drunk hardcore kids if they're just a bunch of valley girls before telling them to go see Van Halen. Balls on that one.

In fact, my favorite part of the movie Suburbia (the Spheeris movie, not the crappy 90's one) is when they play "Richard Hung Himself" and Royer pretends to hang himself with his microphone cord while making goofy faces, mocking the suicidally depressed. Hell, even Slayer thought these dudes were badass, covering two DI numbers on Undusputed Attitude.

The other song, "Imminent War," is drawn from Horse Bites, Dog Cries, one of the best hardcore albums of the 80's. Get on it if you don't have it, jackass.