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.

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 -

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ninja Gun is actually a pretty cool name (3 Ninjas aside)

So I was lounging with my lady today listening to the new Tim Barry album (it's fucking great, believe me), and I just kind of blurted out, "why the hell are all the great contemporary country albums made my drunk punk rock frontmen?" While this is probably not entirely true - people like Keith Urban need to die in a fire - it seems true to me. Country has become chiseled twits singing pop rock with a twang added for effect...and sales. Like hip-hop, it started out as a rugged, honest representation of the times for the downtrodden poor, and now has become background music for idiots, at least as far as its mainstream face is concerned.

Of course, you could argue this is where the two diverge. Mainstream rap now represents every moron with more exhaust pipes than brain cells across every board, whereas mainstream country, it could be argued, still represents its base pretty accurately - xenophobic flag wavers who believe in the three T's of titties, trucks, and torture against foreign nationals. I have to laugh at super nationalistic country singers who pretend to be rebels. It's gotta be nice raging FOR the machine. As ridiculous as it is when someone as lame Conor Oberst stumps for a politician in between warbling about the women who broke his heart because he's a sad sack loser with ugly hair, it's far, FAR more ridiculous for Aaron Tippin's crowd to be singing "drill here, drill now!" back to him with utter disregard for their own interests. So long as someone wears a $200 stetson hat and pays cliche lip service to small towns, American-made trucks, and not letting gay people visit each other in the hospital, sales at Wal Mart will be brisk. (iPods are for arugula-downing elitists, what with their internet access.)

So maybe it's not all that odd that tattooed punks like Chuck Ragan, Old Crow Medicine Show, Hank Williams III, and so on are the only types making country music worth caring about. I've made a lot of rural drives in the past few months, and there's a reason Merle Haggard and Hank Snow sound so fucking right. When you're all alone, driving through tree tunnels and open pastures, and passing faded signs for down home cooking, "Moanin'" and "Dixie Cannonball" and "Hey Porter" sound like the most perfect things ever written. I've sat on many porches on many Southern summer nights with many cheap beers, and slide guitars and down-home tales of loss, love, and pride make more sense than the angriest metal song or the funkiest pop hit. "Six More Miles to the Graveyard" and "My Best Girl" have reduced me to a sobbing mess more than once.

So it heartens me when bands like Ninja Gun come around. Hailing from the frankly shit town of Valdosta, GA, these farmers' sons are making some of the most honest contemporary music of any genre. It's poppy int he same way Big Star is - seemingly obvious on the surface, but the more they suck you into their world, the more twisted and delicious it all becomes. "Red State Blues" is one of the best songs of the year, and its wailing lead guitar is one of the reasons. Fronted by the sweet-as-the-tea Jonathan Coody, it sounds honest as the sweat on your back at the end of your shift. The choruses are the soundtrack to shedding your work clothes when you get home, popping a beer, and reacclimating your mind to the real world.

That's not to say it isn't thoughtful. The lyrics belie the relaxing, almost familiar nature of the music, and thank god. It's nice to hear from someone who farms all day and isn't interested in singing rah-rah bullshit talking points. It's equal measure Lucero, Gin Blossoms, and the Replacements, and I couldn't be happier about the fact. Restless Rubes is one of the best records of the year, and it sounds to me like one that is going to stand the test of time. Goddamn if this isn't going to sound perfect sitting by the riverside on a camping trip.

So maybe it makes sense that the punks are making the best country music. The scene is falling apart around us. Our heroes are getting old and ragged, and the subculture we all so carefully watched and contributed to has been raided, pillaged, and raped by carpetbaggers armed with little more than mascara and faked angst, more concerned with making a dollar than a lasting piece of art. It's enough to make a soul drink more whiskey than they ought to and light votive candles around portraits of Johnny Cash. At least in death he can't get a severe haircut and shriek.

Asking Price -

Eight Miles Out -

Red State Blues -

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Hahaha, you said 69

Tonight was a hoot. Not only did I get to see Ted Leo and Against Me! in a relatively tiny club (compared to their usual draw), I got to hang out with the best people in the world. Andrea (best date in the world, no wonder I'm going to marry this girl), Neil, Ryan the Red Lion, Jordan, Ryan B, Andrew, Ward, and Matt are the cat's pajama's. Andrew and Neil, I owe you two more drinks than exist! You fuckers are the shit. We're going to drink the club dry of PBR again.

What else is going on? We're moving soon. I finished Vol. 8 of The Walking Dead, and all I can say (in addition to "holy shit!") is that I can't wait until the next trade comes out. It might be the best comic going. You would do well to check it out.

So after going to drink cheap beer and rock out to groups who kick out the intelligent punk jams, it's always nice to come home and have a little whiskey and listen to the rah-rah dumbass of some old school British street shit. Sham 69 has always been a favorite of mine. They usually get pooh-poohed outside of the Oi! scene because their music is basically working class anthems set to soccer chants, whereas I find that to be part of their charm.

I hate it when super British performers alter their singing voices in order to appeal to the American buying public. Listing to Sting warble and you'd never know his land of origin, despite the fact that his accent is as thick as Yorkshire pudding. What I like about bands like Sham 69 is that it's very clear where they're from, and the fact that they take great pride in that is pretty heartwarming, especially since they're from the generation before where it became contrived. Nearly 30 years later, it sounds like de riguer street punk fodder, but back in the day of high-minded punk lyrics, a verse like

Does she tell you not to swear?
How to comb your hair?
I can get by I can get by
Is your sister on the pill?
How does your mum feel?
I can get by I can get by
Cos it's better than getting chucked out
Cos it's better than being alone
Cos it's better than growing up fed up

was probably simplistic, but representative of a genuine experience, which is the ultimate goal of all art. It may sound like an overly simplified platitude, but having something to say and saying what you mean are the twin brothers of what makes great art. So while it might not be the words of Yeats, genuine yobs being the first to write chants about the working class experience in a punk rock setting may be just as valid. It might not fly in academia, but singing about having to take the bus is as vivid and real as it gets.

All you genuinely need is the half studio/half live LP Tell Us the Truth and one of the various singles collections, but if you're into punk at all, this is a band well worth checking out. Know your roots, kids.

Borstal Breakout -

Cockney Kids Are Innocent -

Family Life -

Hersham Boys -

Hey Little Rich Boys -

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The moon, Cat Power, and me acting wanky

Something more people should care about but don't is the difference between Sunday morning music and Saturday night come down music. They might bear passing similarities, but they are two entirely different things.

Sunday morning music is relaxing. It can be sad, but stuff like the Fruit Bats or Mississippi John Hurt's quiet air of sadness reflects what it's like to know you have to be back at work in less than 24 hours and provide a good soundtrack for making eggs and toast and sitting in a hammock and letting your liver process whatever it is you took on Saturday night. Saturday night come down music consists of tunes that would make you want to kill yourself if you weren't so fucking wasted, usually by the likes of Leonard Cohen, Nick Drake, or Cat Power.

One of the most magnificent moments of my life came my last year of school. After I had dropped a friend off after seeing the Black Lips destroy everything in sight at the Drunken Unicorn, it was about 3 AM and I was wired on booze and god knows what. No way I was going to sleep anytime soon. So in the chilly quiet of a Georgia night, while everyone around me slept, I sat out on my porch, smoking a joint and listening to Cat Power's masterpiece of an album, The Greatest. The moon was bright, the smoke was hot in my lungs, and the music sent my body a million miles away.

A passing listen can make you dismiss Chan Marshall's lilt as "mellow," but at its heart its as fucked up as anything you can imagine. It's the kind of music you imagine hearing in some empty dive bar after you just got dumped. It's the voice from beyond the grave when you're driving alone at night. It's not for everyone, but for those whom this music was intended, it tazers your nerves and gets under your skin in a way that won't soon wash out. I played Cat Power records way too much when Andrea was gone. That might have been a mistake.

For fans of: The Exploited, Sham 69, Discharge, the Freeze

Could We -

The Greatest -

Speak For Me -

He Turns Down -

The best seven inch I've had since last night

Ghost Town Trio might have released the best seven inch of the year. Since 2008 has seen the release of the Measure [SA]/Off With Their Heads split and the Steinways' Unoriginal Recipe, this is quite a feat. These are three young dudes who clearly wore out the grooves on their Jam, Motwn, and Replacements records, and if you know me, you know I think this is a very very good thing.

The Have You Heard? EP just kinda came out of nowhere. Usually if a band have reached the level of being signed to Team Science, I'll usually have at least heard their name. (This is more of a "I'm an obsessive weirdo" thing than an ego thing.) A chance download of the song "Cold Machine" was more than enough to sell me. A tightly wound piece of rock 'n' roll topped off with a frontman who has some fuckin' pipes, it's one of the five best songs this year.

All four tracks are JAMS. Catchy songs, fantastic rhythm section, great for singalongs when you're alone in the car and drumming on the steering wheel. This is definitely a band to keep your eye on. Say you knew them when before they start opening up for the Hold Steady.

Cold Machine -

I Thought You Were (But You're Not) -

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Fucking people are unbelievable

I will never forget the first time I had a beer. It was a chilly-feeling night. Stars were out. We were in between vans. Cops were out, so we had to be wary. There was a girl hanging out, so I had to be extra cool. I was surrounded by guys I loved, guys I respected - I couldn't choke. I handled the Miller Lite like it had been my destiny, and choked not as I choked it down. It tasted like hell, but the last thing I wanted was for the guys I idolized to laugh at me or call me faggot.

It was hard for me. I felt like I was in the presence of royalty. I had been destined to see Upper Cut the night Violent Society was set to play with Eight Dollar Experiment and the UK Subs. They bailed, like half the bands on the line up. It was right after 9/11, so cast your judgement accordingly. They played at Jaxx shortly after, and it was like hearing the pop band my generation had been waiting for. We all loved Plan 15 and the Daycare Swindlers. Loving anything remotely punk in Springfield Virginia is easy as hell. What's not so easy is being some dumb as hell teenager and finding your pop god and genuinely feeling it.

I was a dumb kid. I am a dumb kid in a lot of ways. The expectations are so lowered that it's almost too frank to admit that you've met your own Dee Dee Ramone or Ray Davis. The first time I heard Upper Cut, I had plastered a sticker across my forehead from the first. I couldn't believe that the people who'd written "Round Meadow Days" and "Better Day" were really in my presence, and were willing to talk to me.

So there I was. My itchy, neurotic self, holding a recently popped beer. All the guys were there being such. I couldn't be a pansy in front of the people whose approval I desperately sought. I was the odd duck out. So I forced Miller Lite down my throat and smiled. No one noticed, which was my ultimate goal. So there I was. Everyone in the band, the would-be management, and the eager fans. I swallowed beer and didn't make a face. It was an achievement for me.

That's my ideal memory as a roadie. I had a rare chance to be near one of the best pop groups of anyone's time. I miss them and everyone else should. Being 17 and sitting there in the bar and listening to the most rousing bar pop you've ever heard has got to be a moment worth you fuckers giving a shit about.

I miss these guys. I really did think they were going to be the thing that replaces River Cuomo's overrated ass. Tell me what you think.

You're Gonna Lose -

Empty -

Round Meadow Days -

Solution -

Better Day -