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.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

"The pills you take don't turn me on" - Owls and Crows

I'll be honest. This is a band I don't know shit about. Never seen them live, but I'm going to fix that tomorrow. They're headlining one of the Black Cat's infinite local band nights at the backstage portion of the club (yanno, downstairs, next to the Red Room...).

I'm basically a huge gaywad for garage rock, even some of the revival stuff (but nothing as queer as the Von Bondies). The Teenage Shutdown comps are basically my bible as far as primitive rock 'n' roll is concerned, not counting the Billy Childish albums I own. I love the primal, gut-churning inarticulateness that's at the heart of all good rock 'n' roll, whether it's the Sonics, Jawbreaker, or My Bloody Valentine. Last time I was in Atlanta, my buddy Josh and I visited his rehearsal space after probably the best Halloween ever ("HEAVY METAL STRIP CLUB!") and ended up drunkenly jamming for a while, and I felt something that John Flory only dreamt of. There's something absolutely orgasmic about feeling the vibrations of sheer noise explode from the amp behind you as you vamp barre chords on an electric guitar.

This is the feeling I get when I listen to Owls and Crows. They sound like a three-chord rendition of naked tree limbs bared against an indifferent grey sky. It's Edgar Allan Poe's compiled edition of Nuggets. It's simple, repetetive, and it feels like the black bile listlessly pumping through your veins when you're supremely pissed off at something you're unable to name. They sound like that feeling you get when you've done something you know is wrong.

At its best, rock 'n' roll is an evil, nearly-mute beast that terrorizes its surrounding. Owls and Crows live up to that nicely.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"What's the use if you don't want it?" - Squirrel Bait

Squirrel Bait is one of those amazing bands that somehow no one ever really seems to remember, which is unfortunate, because they put out two of the best records of the 80's. Listening to them today, it seems hard to believe that most of the members were high school aged at the time, especially vocalist Peter Searcy, who sounds like he wrote the alt-rock singing guidebook that Kurt Cobain rode to stardom. They were easily one of the most innovative post-punk bands of all time, combining metal sludge with hardcore's pissed-off ranting and some killer stop-start rhythm changes.

I suppose it's helpful that three members went on to one day form Slint, a band that rock geeks jizz for pretty much every day. I like Slint, too, but not so much as to lose my mind over every note in their small discography. Squirrel Bait, on the other hand, are a band well worth going apeshit for. It's especially amazing to me that such talented, visionary teenagers found each other in Lexington, KY, of all fuckin' places. Whoever thought a bunch of kids would be part of a very, very small group of bands that would define a sound that would define the next decade? You can bet your ass the first wave of alternative rock bands that swamped the airwaves in the 90's had Squirrel Bait and Skag Heaven in their tour vans.

Monday, November 27, 2006

"Scatter ash in the wind" - Mastodon

News item the first: Back from the holidays, not the dead. I wasn't internetting too hard over the holiday weekend, and I figured you wouldn't be either. I was mostly trying to get drunk to make palatable the fact that my family watches any and every football game played by any team on any level.

News item the second: Blogspot is a huge pain in the ass now that they merged with Google. Since when did a search bar become the Standard Oil of the internet?

I interviewed the Hold Steady this weekend (although my as yet unpublished interview with Leftover Crack will likely be going up first), and lead guitarist Tad Kubler and I started getting into how gay we both are for the new Mastodon record, Blood Mountain. He told me he constantly listens to it on headphones in the middle of the night, and it's so loud that it wakes his girlfriend up in the other room. ROCK. Glad to know even though the dude is pushing 35-40, he still knows how to jam.

I don't really listen to metal that much (too much Cookie Monster screaming for me, honestly), but this record fucking blows me away every time I put it on. I'm thinking about planning my next trip to Atlanta to coincide with one of their hometown shows.

Unlike a lot of metal acts, these dudes don't pummel you with lightning-fast double bass kicks or try to wow you with shredding. They just hit hard and heavy, like being punched in the gut repeatedly by an angry bouncer at Club 112 ("one twee-zay!"). They understand the power of a great riff, strong songwriting, and a lead singer that actually sings instead of barking or shrieking unintelligably.

I'm tossing you three bones. The first is the single and leadoff track "The Wolf is Loose," which makes harmonic counterpoints sound as punk as spikes in your jacket (but not nearly as cliche or stupid). "Colony of the Birchmen" is more melodic, and features teen girl dreamboat Josh Homme of Queens of the Stoneage. The last, "Crusher Destroyer," is from the album Remission and my favorite Mastodon song. You better believe I rock this shit at parties.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

"Lost control again today" - Naked Raygun

There ain't much to like about the Midwest. When we used to go visit my grandparents in desolate ol' Ft. Wayne, IN, I would always make the joke in the car "this is your captain speaking. Welcome to Indiana. The local time is twenty-five years ago. Please set your watches accordingly." However, Midwesterners are good at producing two things: the morbidly obese and fucking amazing rock bands. It's not even just Detroit Rock Shitty! Minnenapolis has a history of amazing bands. Hell, it's the city that produced the Dillinger Four, the band that rocks so much harder than any other modern combo that I treat them as an outlier.

Chicago's also got a history of amazing bands. I guess in those heartland winters, there's nothing to do but fuck and rehearse. One of the best (some say the best) bands ever to come out of Chi Town is is the face-melting Naked Raygun. They brought together the older punks and hardcore kids of the 80's, and at one point were reportedly so popular in their home town that local promoters reschedules shows so that they wouldn't be competing with Raygun going OFF. On most nights, these dudes could blow anyone off the stage. The weird thing is, though, it wasn't through sheer guitar assualt (although they never shied away from minor-key riffness and the six-string being mixed super loud). Most of their oomph comes from their soaring vocals melodies. I don't mean like Barbara Streisand - singer Jeff Pezzati has this weird lilt to his voice, like he's harmonizing with himself. When he goes for the whoa-whoa-whoas, it sounds like a brick wall of sheer vocal muscle being thrown up.

When asked to describe their sound an interview, the band gave probably the best ever response to such an insipid question: "Blast furnace monomania (the end). 'Punk' is preferred to hardcore, but we hate being pigeonholed. It's as bad as being corn holed. We play aggressive, melodic, intense, chanty music... We call ourselves, hmmm, bat cave funk, zydeco bop, twist and ground flailer, closet motown...To get with our music as opposed to our lyrics, we'd like to get across that you can be aggressive and good without being repetitious of other bands and other widely known styles of music."

A weird mixture of hometown boys and Columbian immigrants, Naked Raygun got their start as a drummerless trio called Negro Commando. After just one show, they added a drummer, changed their name, and bowed with a spot on the local comp Busted at Oz. Two years later, the band dropped their proper debut, the six-song EP Basement Screams. I had an urge to post the whole thing in its entirety, but I urge to go out and buy the damn thing. It's weird avant-punk. The lounge-rock "I Lie" takes a typical punk song and makes it bouncy and choir-like, while the snarling "Bombshelter" sits comfortably next to the pounding, tribal "Tojo." "Swingo" brings out the horn section in ways Flipper could have only imagined, "Mofo" incorporate elements of the then-burgeoning rap scene, and the creepy, insightful "Potential Rapist" builds a world of its own. Even though it's only 12 minutes (and they did add some bonus tracks for the CD reissue), I can't encourage you to buy it more.

Meanwhile, Pezzati and guitarist Santiago Durango were also playing in Big Black, the monstrous brainchild of the ever friendly Steve Albini. I've always thought that playing Big Black's aggresive, confrontational style of industrial rock is what made Naked Raygun develop a more straightforward, aggressive sound that was different from their varied debut EP. The fact that Durango, who wrote most of the groups material, soon left Raygun to play in Big Black full-time, was to have an effect. Pezzati quit Big Black to concentrate on his primary band, and the group soon bunkered down to write and record their first album.

1984's Throb Throb was written by everyone in group, which made it more aggressive and less stylistically varied. However, it was still quality, and songs like "Rat Patrol" show the group beginning to develop the style that would define them for the duration of their existence.

After some more line-up changes, they released All Rise in 1985. It was largely written by Pezzati, a Buzzcocks freak, so it has more of a pop-punk edge and is more straight-forward and melodic, but I still think it's their all-around best album. After such an intense recording schedule, the band slowed down a bit, releasing only the "Vanillia Blue" single in 1987. It's one of the single best songs of the 80's. It's got a mind-blowing, reverb-drenched pseudo-riff (well, after the surf intro) and lyrics that sound torn from Travis Bickle's war journal.

1988 saw the release of Jettison, a killer album and the one most critics point to as the band's apex. It's a pretty smokin' record, and either kicks the party into high gears or clears it out, depending on the guests. 1989's Understand? saw the group leaning more towards a power-pop-punk sound, but it wasn't very convincing, and beyond the single "Treason," there wasn't much to reccommend it. Unfortunately for the group, bassist John Haggerty left the band after its release. Haggerty had been shouldering more and more of the songwriting duties, and his absence was more than felt when 1990 saw the release of Raygun...Naked Raygun, which even the group has admitted to disliking.

While there was no official break-up, the band pretty much ceased touring and recording in 1992. There have been blips of posthumous releases - 1997's Last of the Demo-hicans and the live recording of a reunion gig called Free Shit, which was named after the crowd chant that would prompt the band to throw weird items like tampons, wingnuts, squirtguns, and fly swatters into the audience.

The group recently reunited for two last gigs at some fest, but I doubt we've heard the last of them. Bands this good don't always die so easily. News flash 1009 - Naked Raygun will be headling this year's Warped Tour. Says My Chemical Romance, 'who? Geezers.'"

Friday, November 17, 2006

"I'm checkin' out for sure" - Webb Pierce

When I interviewed Hank Williams III a little while ago, we talked a bit about some of our favorite honky tonk records. Turns out we're both big fans od Webb Pierce. I guess it makes sense in retrospect. Even if Hank III hated every single song Pierce ever recorded, his the-fuck-with-Nashville attitude and bragadaccio essentially mirror the cocky attitude of the older man.

It's interesting to me how Webb Pierce has been forgotten by the public at large. In the 50's, he outsold luminous contemporaries like Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb, and Lefty Frizzell and was the face of country music. Yet I have feeling that if you asked the average person today who he was, they'd shrug and call you a weirdo.

I don't think his case was helped by the fact that he was a loudmouthed jackass who was prone to ostentatious displays of wealth. Before the days of people rapping about jewelry and car accesories, Pierce lined his cars with silver dollars and built a guitar-shaped pool, which is frankly one of the coolest things I've ever seen and is on my "if I win the lottery, I'm going to buy..." list. (The other two things are a yacht full of prostitutes and, to steal a bit from David Thorpe, a 1:1 scale replica of Michaelangelo's David made entirely out of cocaine.)

Bypassing the typical route of success in the country music business (playing for bad-suit-wearing industry types in Nashville), Pierce and his then-wife tried their luck in California, doing radio shows and playing clubs. It took them five years to get noticed, because I guess even in the 40's, Californians hated anything resembling the South. Anyway, he and his worse half each got seperate recording contracts - his panned out, hers didn't, and he moved to Louisiana in the wake of his 1950 divorce.

He managed to get a spot on the Louisana Hayride, which was a big stepping stone to success for a lot of country artists. He signed to Decca and started an incredible string of hits (it would eventually amount to four years of nothing but top ten hits, with ten going to number one). He got so popular, he was asked to replace the wildly popular Hank Williams when the latter man got fired by the Grand Ol' Opry. He would leave under a cloud of dispute, since he thought they treated him like shit and tried to keep him from doing anything other than the Opry.

Like all honky tonk artists that refused to change their sound (other than some pitiful stabs at rockabilly that are best left forgotten), Pierce's popularity sank after the explosion of rock 'n' roll and as tastes shifted in the country audience. As Nashville began churning out slicker and slicker records (that sounded more like pop with a twang than anything actually resembling country music - not much has changed), more and more older country artists began to sound tired and outdated. Pierce continued to have hits into the 60's, but sales continually dropped off. Finally, byt he 70's, he was all but forgotten by the public. He contented himself to live off residuals and investment dividends and spend his days pissing off his neighbors.

He never made it to the country music hall of fame, and he probably never will, despite being one of it's biggest-selling artists. Nashville doesn't pay tribute to the artists that don't bend over and take it from the country music establishment. Whatever. He left behind a stack of killer records. The best place to start is the excellent comp The Wondering Boy, 1951-1958. Get on it, losers!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

"Damn sure worth the pain" - Rumbleseat

Loyal readers will know that my favorite record label in these modern times is Gainesville's wonderful No Idea. Hell, probably a good third of the records I've liked this year have been put by those dudes. They specialize in the folk-tinged, whiskey-throated, soulful punk that has come to mean so much to me over the last few years.

Their two big finds over the years have been Against Me! (who left for Fat Wreck and eventually Sire) and Hot Water Music (who eventually left for indie giant Epitaph). However, HWM and the contingent of musicans from their various side-projects and former bands (like Blacktop Cadance) are constantly putting out stuff on No Idea and constantly making short-lived groups for the purposes of making a 7" or a one-off full length. One such group is Rumbleseat, an acoustic folk trio with punk overtones.

The latter was inevitable, as it features HWM's leaders Chuck Ragan and Chris Wollard at the helm (as well as Gainesville regular Samantha Jones on acoustic bass and backup vocals). However, while their two-packs-a-day harmonizing will sound familiar to fans, this is anything but Hot Water Music done acoustically. It's darker and more winding. Honestly, it has more than a bit of Southern Gothic tinge to it. It sounds like a bend in a dirt road feels, if that makes any sense to anyone who's never been south of the Mason-Dixon Line. It's porch music for those nights where the crickets join in, even the rocking chair creaks, and that last sip of whiskey warms you like a lover.

They released just a few seven inches (often in print runs of less than 1500) and compilation contributions before calling it quits. Not too long afterwards, Ragan left Hot Water Music to pursue his own solo work. I have to wonder if the two are related. Anyway, No Idea put together a Rumbleseat discography package called Rumbleseat is Dead, which collects all their stuff in one place. It's way too short, but it's well worth the cost. It's really been growing on me the last year. For fans of xmitchxclemxcorex.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"Rock the 40 oz.!" - Choking Victim/Leftover Crack

As the band themselves are so fond of saying, from all the way in the back of the food stamp line, it's the good, the bad, and the leftover crack! I love Leftover Crack ridiculous amounts, even if I find some of their politics a little silly, extreme, and unaware of how the real world works once you leave the squat. I can't wait to see them on the 22nd, as they are touring America as part of the Cracktober Fest 2006 package. I'm thinking of going dressed as a cop (or at least in my "I [heart] Cops" t-shirt). If punk is about being different and fucking with peoples' perceptions within the context of the community, I'll be the punkest motherfucker there. Certainly moreso than some lame, smelly kid with liberty spikes and those moronic patches all over his clothes. If nothing else, drunk moshing is always a good idea.

The Leftover Crack story begins in 1993 and with a bunch of homeless punks living in a dump known as C-Squat. Singer/guitarist (and ska fanatic) Stza put together a trio to play his brand of withering political ska-punk. After putting out a couple 7" records (including "Squatta's Paradise" and "Crack Rocksteady"), they somehow managed to get signed to Hellcat Record, the then-fledging label being started up by Tim Armstrong, formerly of Operation Ivy and currently of Rancid. I guess was afraid Stza would beat him up if he didn't sign his band, so he gave them money to make a record. Choking Victim promptly broke up at the end of their first day in the recording studio, but they put down enough material to release the killer album No Gods, No Managers. It was a wicked 42-minute blast of ska shot through the eyes of a hard drug abusing punk squatter.

Of course, being broken up, the band didn't tour in support of the album. However, it was a minor hit within the punk community (keep in mind things are all relative here, kiddos). Meanwhile, Stza and his former bandmate Ezra Crack were already plotting their next move. Forming Leftover Crack in 2000 in the wake of Choking Victim's breakup, the group put out 7" that year called "Jesus Has a Place 4 Me (Rock the 40 oz.)," and then once again signed to Hellcat for their debut album. The resulting record ran into two big problems. The band wanted to call it Shoot the Kids At School, but the label resisted, forcing them to rename it. The band shot back with the sarcastic title Mediocre Generica as a shot at the label's demands. Finally, when the record did come out, it was released on September 11th, 2001. Immediately after 9-11, many political bands found themselves shut out of venues and decried in the media, making it hard to tour in support of it.

It's a shame, because it was a pretty good album, all things considered. Sure, there was a ton of ska (see "Gay Rude Boys Unite"), but it also showed Stza stretching himself slightly as a songwriter and arranger. The horn-laden bridge on "Nazi White Trash" is a perfect example, and the record as a whole betrays Stza's love of hardcore, thrash metal, and classical music.

After all their problems with Hellcat, the band signed to Jello Biafra's anything-goes label Alternative Tentacles for 2004's brilliant Fuck World Trade. Stza somehow managed to take all the music he loved (which, in addition to the above listed, now included folk music and death metal) and incorporate them in ways that made sense within the song. I hate it when songwriters try to show off their record collections by throwing in a bunch of musical styles for no real reason. That ain't the case here. At one point in "Life is Pain," it goes from uptempo ska to classical to death metal to punk in the course of about a minute, and it all makes perfect sense. Fuck World Trade is easily the band's masterpiece. They even manage a sad (albeit political) ballad called "Ya Can't Go Home," and "Rock the 40 oz." with its fiddles and thrash guitars, sounds better than ever. The ska-rap "Gang Control" is an instant classic, as is the melodic "Super Tuesday." From start to finish, it's an amazing record, one of the best of the 00's.

The band is working on a full-length split with Citizen Fish, which supposed to be out early next year. I, for one, and all a twitter to see where they're going to go from here. I'll let y'all know how the show was (if I manage not to get knifed by some pissed-off crust punk who doesn't like having his worldview challenged). ROCK THE 40 OZ.!

Monday, November 13, 2006

"I'm spendin' all my money, and it's goin' up my nose!" - Eddie and the Hot Rods

Hey kiddos, if you ain't down with Eddie and the Hot Rods, get on the ball already! It's a pure rock 'n' roll jizzsplosion of sonic ecstasy. It's like having an orgasm in your ear. Ever wonder what first-wave British punk would have sounded like if the tarted-up fashionistas could have actually learned to play something other than barre chords?

Existing in that nebulous time in British rock history before punk but after everyone started realizing that Emerson, Lake, and Palmer and the Eagles were pretty much the most boring examples of why rock music was stupid, bloated, obnoxious, and full of self-serious, "sophisticated" nitwits who thought being mellow was way more important than being anything resembling thrilling. IT'S GODDAMNED FUCKING ROCK 'N' ROLL MUSIC! IT'S SUPPOSED TO GRAB YOU BY THE BALLS AND SWING YOU AROUND OVER ITS HEAD! Sgt. Pepper's ruined rock for a good stretch.

Nah, before the Ramones and the Dead Boys and the Clash came along to kick everyone in the ass and go "hey, liven up, Chester," Britain's rock scene went through a brief phase of pub rock. Since the Sonics never made it out of the American northwest, these drunken hooligans brought back the revved-up r&b of Chuck Berry and the early Who (back when they made records instead of boring-ass operas) and doubled the tempos and the volume and in the process made bar music that goes OFF.

Eddie and the Hot Rods were at the forefront, and the only group on the pub rock scene that could shut down the 101ers (featuring a stoned, young, pre-punk Joe Strummer). They turned standards (lord do I loathe that fucking word) like "Gloria," "Shake," and "96 Tears" and whipped them into horny, sweating balls of pure energy. They also wrote a ton of great songs, unusal for a scene dominated by cover bands doing "Maybelline" every night.

They dropped the "Teenage Depression" single in 1976, and holy fuck does it rip. If you think "Yakkity Yak" by the Coasters is the archetypal teenage experience song, you'll love this. Doing coke, looking trashed, drinking at school, telling your dad to fuck off...FUCK YEAH! Then you got the record of the same name that came out shortly thereafter, and it's fucking essential. Too bad it's never been released on CD. The only Hot Rods CD out there is a best of that's not bad, but the first two albums they did are fucking priceless.

Teenage Depression charted in England, and these sods even managed to get on Top of the Pops, although they had to change the lyrics to their songs significantly, which is stupid and gay. "Oh my god, he drinks gin! We must protect the children!" Anyway, they came back in '77 with the "Do Anything You Wanna Do" single and the Life on the Line album, both of which are crucial. The sound was slicker and more radio-friendly, but it still explodes with insane rock amazingness.

The band broke up in 1981, after shunting between various labels and releasing an awful piece of crap called Fish'n'Chips. They got back together in 2005 for a reunion album and tour, but don't bother. Why would you want to go see a bunch of old men sing about being teenagers? Talk about lame.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

"Some pretty mama better come and get this black snake soon" - Blind Lemon Jefferson

Chris and I go to the movies a lot. He's more of a buff than I am, but it's still fun going to see films with someone who enjoys a story to go along with explosions and titties. Of course, the music geek in me gets a chance to shine every now and again. We saw the trailer for Black Snake Moan, which looked awesome because frankly any movie where Samuel L. Jackson ties a drunk, white trash girl to a radiator is going to make for good cinema. Chris thought the name of the movie was an attempt to tie Sam Jackson to the word "snake;" I had to slap him on the back of the head Three Stooges-style and inform him it was named after the Blind Lemon Jefferson song from the late 20's. We don't have as much Blind Lemon as was recorded (he supposedly laid down more than 100 songs between 1926 and his death in 1929, remarkable for a colored musician in the prewar era. Hell, Robert Johnson recorded less than 30, and he's considered the giant of prewar blues musicians.

Born in 1893, Blind Lemon earned his name by being 1) blind, and 2) fat. Basically, jackshit is known about this guy. From what dorky, obsessive white guys have gleaned from the historical record, he started playing parties and such in 1912, but no one knows where he learned to play or who taught him. He's like Jesus in that he just kind of appeared, did awesome things, and then died. He also supposedly met and was a big influence on Leadbelly, but once again, the historical record is spotty at best.

Around 1926 he was discovered by Paramount and began recording gospel songs under the name Deacon L.J. Bates. This didn't last too long, and he recorded an insane amount of blues songs for the label, which resulted in an astounding 43 records (keep in mind that back in the day of the 78, they could only release 2 songs at a time, with many artists having fewer than five releases to their name). Throw in the fact that he was writing a lot of his own songs, unusual for the time, and he was an artist that was outstripping peers like the kick-ass Charley Patton.

Like all other artists with obscured personal histories, the true Blind Lemon is lost to history. Some say he was a sloppy drunk womanizer, while some said he was a churhgoing man who respected the Sabbath. Even his death is shrouded in mystery. Some say he has his coffee poisoned by a jealous lover. Some say he had a heart attack. Others profess that he froze to death in a snowstorm. Regardless, the dude recorded some killer songs, rocked hard, and died before he got ugly. Sounds TKAAD worthy to me.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

"The capitol is your proving ground" - The Evens

News item the first: The Stooges have been nominated for the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame (fucking about time). Much respect to REM, Van Halen, the Ronettes, Chic (shut it), Grandmaster Flash, and Patti Smith, but if any of those dudes make it and the Stooges don't, I'm going to burn Cleveland to the fuckin' ground.

News item the second: Reading Dream Boogie in your underwear while rocking Blind Lemon Jefferson and the Cramps is probably the best way to spend a sick day if you don't have beer and Chappelle's Show DVDs.

Ian MacKaye has probably the most commanding vocal presence in indie rock. This probably explains why when the Evens made their debut on DC children's show Pancake Mountain with the song "Vowel Movement," MacKaye made grammar sound like an anti-authority anthem. No matter what he actually sang, all I could hear was "they don't want you to have the vowels/the vowels are power!" MacKaye has had something inexplicably charasmatic and defiant about his voice, going all the way back to when he was yelling against the beat in Minor Threat in the early 80's. And while that voice and delivery have become more refined over the course of his time spent in groups like Pailhead, Egg Hunt, and especially Fugazi, it's still got that snarling, fuck-you tinge that has made him one of the most compelling rock vocalists ever.

After Fugazi went on hiatus following 2001's absolutely astounding The Argument (which friends and loyal readers will recognize as probably my favorite record of the 00's), MacKaye began writing songs with his "partner" (getting married is so not punk rock) Amy Farina, who used to play with DC group the Warmers. Rather than adding members to the group they were planning, they opted instead to cap it at the two of them - MacKaye on baritone guitar, Farina on drums, and both of them sharing singing duties.

Surprisingly, the combo worked better than I had expected when I first heard about it. On their first album, 2004's The Evens, they filled up the space in creative ways. As is MacKaye's M.O., he takes limitations and sees what he can do within those certain restrictions. Just listen to Fugazi's Repeater to see what he could do with just a Gibson, a Marshall stack, and no effects pedals. Of course, it's not just all Ian's show. Farina shows herself to be a creative, rhythmic players with a great sense of fills and the ability to complement. What really surprised me the most about the record honestly was how mellow it was. Songs like "Blessed, Not Lucky" showcase MacKaye's gentle croon, something he had never before brought to bear.

This seems to have largely fallen by the wayside with their new record Get Evens, which came out last month. By and large, it's a much harder rocking record, and songs like "Everybody Knows" shows MacKaye and Farina getting more in touch with their punk roots than on the previous record. It's still fucking killer, and one worth seeking out if you hang out in cool record stores like Crooked Beat or Orpheus. I can't wait to see these dudes live.,_Not_Lucky.mp3.html

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"Smokin' cigarettes and fingers goin' up their nose" - The Epoxies

While she may not know it just yet, Roxy Epoxy of the Epoxies is my future wife. Really, how could she do any better than to snag me? I'm a catch in the way Jim Norton is a catch, which is to say I'm more entertaining than virile or smell-free. How could she not want a husband that wants to make Turbonegro the godfathers of our brood?

But even if we never engage in the contemptible act of wedlock, the Epoxies will still be one of my favorite current bands, both live and on record. Rather than just being part of the snoozer Renewed Wave that spawned losers like the Bravery or the Killers, the Epoxies borrowed bits from Devo and early Blondie (aka before Debbie Harry started tripping balls and thought she could rap) and molded them into something modern. Their paranoid brand of electro pop-punk is never less than entertaining and utterly danceable. I almost never boogie at shows (I'm too drunk and lazy), but the Epoxies always make me into a rug cutter, as it were.

Bowing in 2001 with the "Need More Time" single (presented here in its re-recorded version), the Epoxies already showed their strengths, which consisted in large part of FM Static's squealing synths and Epoxy's vaguely yodel-based vocalizing. It didn't hurt that the songs were catchy as fuck or that they did a killer job covering "Beat My Guest," originally done by Adam and the Ants.

2002 saw two great releases from the group: the "Synthesized" single (also presented in a rerecorded version) and their self-titled debut album, both released on Northwest indie Dirtnap Records. The record was solid and full of killer songs ("Bathroom Stall," "We're So Small," "You," "Cross My Heart"), but the thin production prevented a lot of the numbers from going to that next level. However, Dirtnap had problems keeping the album in print, sales were that brisk.

After touring a ridiculous amount and building up a fairly large audience (for the punk scene), they did what all bands championed by Mitch Clem do - they signed to Fat Wreck for their next record. Three years after their last album, 2005 saw the release of Stop The Future, a record that was amazing in every single way. The sound is full, layered, and everyone involved sounds tighter and more powerful than ever before. I seriously want to post the whole album. "Radiation," "No Interest," "Wind Me Up," "Toys," "You Kill Me," "This Day," and their cover of "Robot Man" all go OFF, so pick it up post-haste if you don't have it.

They have an EP coming out that promises to be killer, and supposedly the group will be recording a new record here pretty soon, so color me super fuckin' stoked for that shit. You should be too.

Monday, November 06, 2006

"He'll chew on sourgrass while I wolf down Dexadrine" - The Mountain Goats

So I'm back from vacation. I had an awesome time in Atlanta, despite contracting the flu and/or strep throat. I got to do a lot of amazing things ("HEAVY METAL STRIP CLUB!"), including finally being able to see the Mountain Goats live.

Let me back up a little. Not to sound like a complete dickfart music snob, but I had given up on the idea of people introducing me to bands that I would fall in love with. Like, maybe. Mixtape, perhaps. But I assumed that any band I would fall ass-over-tits for I would find on my own. Then, towards the end of my senior year of college, I met a hellacious redhead named Mary Claire who would bother me all hours of the day and night, drinking all my wine, smelling up my porch with her cigarettes, preventing me from doing my homework, and going on long diatribes about Wayne's World. Needless to say, I took an immediate liking to her.

She also is still the only person I've ever met (aside from my ex-wife Sara Jean) that made me a mix CD that I was still listening to months after it was given to me. The first one she ever made me had a weird, lo-fi acoustic song called "Fall Of the Star High School Running Back" as the second track. It was strangely hypnotic, and the morning after she gave me the CD, I found myself sitting in my car before my International Economics class, hitting the "back" button every time the song ended. There was something completely mesmerizing about John Darnielle's reedy voice and uncomplicated strumming.

So, me being me, I wanted to hear more of what this guy did. Long story short, the Mountain Goats discography is anything but small. They have no fewer than 14 full-lengths, all released since 1995, as well as innumerable EPs, singles, cassette-only releases, and compilation contributions. It takes a while to work through, but it's by and large well worth the effort. Many of their early songs were recorded on a department store boombox, so the tracks have a fair amount of tape hiss and fuzz, but if anything, it sounds warm and comfortable, like cuddling on the couch.

Eventually, bass and piano began to work their way in, and the production quality improved noticeably when they signed to large European label 4AD. There's also been a marked shift towards more anthemic songwriting as opposed to the bedroom intimacy of their earlier recordings. And as we all know, indie fans are fickle and fearful of change, so there's been a lot of griping, but if you care about the opinions of the Pitchfork crowd, you probably don't read this thing, anyway.

If you can, go see the group live, especially if it's a night that Darnielle is going to be playing without a stool. He has this weird, locked-knees dance he does during the instrumental breakdowns, and his Mitch Hedburgesque delivery of banter was ridiculously charming. He's also a pretty fierce player live, wringing as much emotion out of his guitar as his voice. Andrea managed to snag tickets to their sold-out show at the stupidly small Earl, and watching him work the crowd was awe-inspiring in and of itself, despite the idiots who wouldn't cut out their chattering during the ballads. Still, "The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton, Ohio" and "This Year" turned into rousing singalongs that had every feel-good drunk in the place warbling along and stomping their feet. They closed their encore with "No Children," which they never play live, and which I had been yelling for after every previous song. "No Children" is a special song to me, as Mary Claire and I have two Our Songs (*barf*) by the Mountain Goats, and that's one of them (no, I'm not posting the other).

Basically, for fans of Wes Anderson movies.