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, July 22, 2009

More like BR sides, amirite?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 13, 2009

More like Dear Friends and Gentle Farts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emergency House Party -

Your Ass Ain't Laughing Now -

Meals and Entertainment -

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

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cobra Skulls are still one of the best punk bands ever

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

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

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

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

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


Problems with Preconceptions -

Back to the Youth -