Sunday, November 18, 2007
Friday, November 2, 2007
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Monday, October 22, 2007
Friday, September 14, 2007
Ahem, so if you live in NC please come to Hell tonight (a bar in Chapel Hill) to support The Hatchet and watch some really good bands (Monologue Bombs, Jews and Catholics, Cantwell Gomez and Jordan) and simultaneously watch me have a nervous breakdown/ kill someone.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Beverages and Ghosts
The first sound on Beverages and Ghosts is that of a drum machine being programmed. Soon, synthesizer cymbals, the kind that sound like the those played by a performing monkey in the streets of Calcutta, perambulate before and behind a voice, that of Scott Phillips, a stirring dichotomy of buoyant texture and gravitas. Album opener "December ‘83" is the paramount example of a Monologue Bombs song. Deeply personal, but strangely not confessional or of the naval gazing variety; instead Phillips’ canvas is more akin to Polaroids, the ones we all have in baby books or crumbling photo albums locked in the closets of our parents’ old houses. A funeral where all we can hear is a pop song, the first lessons of empathy, of resilience. Phillips has the uncanny ability to make you feel better by making you feel normal. Like Springsteen, Mangum, or the Mountain Goats' John Darnielle, Phillips is not only a great songwriter, he became one by being a great story teller, one whose characters remind us of our uncles or boyfriends or elementary school best friends. We see our lives and ourselves in his songs so connecting to his music comes naturally. The comparisons to the aforementioned artists are not on accident, with special consideration for the influence of Darnielle on Phillips’ delivery. When he performs as Monologue Bombs (as he is in several other notable local projects including the always excellent Goner and sound engineering antics of Heads on Sticks plus probably a dozen more) it is alone on a stage with a body full of instruments; a one-man accordion-keyboard virtuoso. Despite the heavy burden of his instruments his voice is surprisingly lithe, and reminiscent of vocalists whose charm resides in the ability to sound like no one else exactly but reminding us of singers already loved. Fans of Neutral Milk Hotel, The Boss, The Boss’ dark brothers in arms- Richard Buckner and Randy Newman or any modern piano balladeer will find this first album infinitely satisfying. You will take your iPod off shuffle for this album. Often Phillips is able to pull off what would seem clumsy or inchoate in other hands; like writing songs from the perspective of already established and beloved characters, as in "Chino’s Song". In the same song, Chino calls to Maria, "It’s a dirty little island/Liquor signs and neon drones/ find us here, far from home, Corazòn". Most of the time when white boys try to impersonate brown ones they get it unequivocally wrong, but Phillips sings the Spanish words like they belong to him. You can picture her there, or more accurately, not there: the empty fire escape, the river running by, the sound of water falling off of bodies. While Phillips may not be Chino exactly, you believe him when he sings in his voice. Imagine R.E.M.’s "Nightswimming" gone Broadway and you’ll start to hear this song. While Sondheim and Berstein musicals may not be your fortè, remember the story is about star-crossed lovers and the things we do when we are desperate. Again, Phillips is able to make accessible and compelling something previously thought the territory of the other, of drama nerds and mothers.
Three songs in we meet Jason Weaver and hear his story in "Jason’s Song". A 25 year-old pizza delivery "boy" who dropped out of college but still hangs around campus, transporting pies to students both younger and more tenacious than he. He meets a seventeen-year-old "townie-girl" and heartbreaker who dances with him "at the Lazy Star to some watered-down covers band" but ultimately leaves him for school in Texas and a future that doesn’t include him. Jason Weaver isn’t just every man, he’s ever dumped man, but one that ultimately concludes that it is better to have gone through with it than never feel the love that blossoms while you "fall asleep in a tangle on the couch". A vibrant and lively accordion along with the catchiest hook on the record keep the song from being morose, and to the contrary, the sad story of Jason Weaver is another example of how the most acute and significant moments on the record are those that emerge from the contrast between the story and the sound of it being told. You may feel sorry for Jason Weaver, but in the end, you really just want to take him out for tequila shots and a chance to give him another all-nighter to remember.
Phillips is an Anthropologist of relationships, recovering shards of poetry that reveal our intentions like forensic diary entries. He knows that love, like hate, is a thing between two people, and the best way to understand love is to examine what remains after we have left. The next three songs are recovered pieces of relationships. "The Night You Were Conceived" is about the private language that exists between partners and the mundane images that still hold beauty over us. Every day matters (in both senses), the relief and wonder of finding home. Phillips croons over a softly tinkling keyboard here, very nearly a lullaby, and the shadow of Springsteen stands very near the darker edges of this song. "Floaters and Empties" is also about the private language between two people, but unlike the gentle affection in "The Night You Were Conceived" the conversation in this song is the torturous kind; a kind of savage intimacy. Mistakes made under street lamps after the rest of the party went to bed and you are left staring at a sink-full of beer bottles and cigarette butts. The jaunty accordion here seems fueled by the energy of regret and makes the last lines sung sting like smoke in your eye: "Sometimes I wish you’d never met me/ We’re so done for, darling Nikki". "Corner Lights" is about taking chances, ignoring sense, the risk of letting your self be watched, the possibility of love around the corner, the next person through the door. Characters who only know escape from the minutiae and monotony, through the same old drinks, the trysts in dark alleys, ultimately allow themselves to believe that something beautiful can exist after all that, can see "Corner lights, little stars that never fall". Though, it is a precarious kind of tightrope they walk upon, one that can be broken by a few minutes waiting, by self-doubt and anxiety.
"Shadow Tagger" is the most personal of all songs on Beverages and Ghosts, a letter to a friend lost unexpectedly. It is the only song where Phillips does not create a character or someone else’s voice to sing in. Phillips’ voice radiates over muted keyboards, though tender, as he sings a broken-hearted eulogy :"As long as you keep cooling my shoulders/Keep pushing me on/ Keep tagging my shadow/ Sweetheart so-long". Instantly recognizable as something sincere, honest and above all true, this song stands out on an album full of remarkable songs.
Fundamentally an album about relationships, Beverages and Ghosts stands above the deluge of records by other, less talented singer/songwriters simply by being better at what makes the genre great; the melodies are strong and the stories ring true and compel us to listen and remember. The songs are never weighted down by the seriousness with which Phillips takes the characters in his songs. Instead the music remains revealing without being maudlin, and snippets of dialogue sung naturally as part of the story being told propel the narratives and the subjects from mere pop songs to pieces of invented history.
1. How am I feeling today?
"Cowgirl in the Sand"/Neil Young/ Everybody Knows This is Nowhere
Holy shit. There is a line in this song that goes "You know it’s the woman in you/ that makes you play this game". That seems apropos. Also, I have felt stuck in quick sand all day and I’m frustrated with where I’m at in my pursuit of my degree so I definitely feel like this is nowhere.
2. Will I get far in Life?
"Exit Only"/ Fugazi/ Steady Diet of Nothing
I am officially depressed. The lyric "Will we leave the last place burning? /Or do we just get leaving?" is particularly awful as well as the album title. Is it possible to plateau at age ten? Stupid shuffle game.
3. What is my best friend’s theme song?
I have a couple so bear with me
a. "Sorry Entertainer"/ Daniel Johnston/ Welcome to My World
Robyn is one of The Hatchet’s writers. Her pieces are my favorite b/c they always make me laugh. She’s the one who begged the Fiery Furnaces not to get arrested before their show in a show preview a few months back. This is funny on so many levels.
b. "Fool for You"/ Ray Charles/ The Birth of Soul
Paul is one of my oldest friends. He’s also the whitest guy I know. But he’s very cool and sweet anyway.
c. "Sentimental Journey"/ Ray Charles/ Genius Hits the Road
Sasha and I have been friends since we met at a birthday party for our mutual best friend Heather when we were in seventh grade. We ditched the other stupid girls who were cruising for Cary middle school guys and got Blue Razz Icees. We haven’t seen each other much lately, though I don’t know why. When I think of her I think of the past, as we had some very fun times. Weird the iPod chose two Ray Charles songs in a row. Freaky-deaky, even.
d. "Jumping Fences"/Olivia Tremor Control/Music from the Unrealized Film Script: Dusk at Cubist Castle
Mike. Wow. All I can do is quote the first two lines. "Lazy man who can't find his words/All caught up inside his head" Mike and I have done more talking about music than all my other friends combined. We also get in fights constantly. I love him, and we broke into a golf course one summer many years ago, though I don’t remember jumping fences. He was also a film student and worked in L.A. for a bit so this seems right.
4. What was high school like?
."The Youth are Getting Restless"/ Bad Brains/The Youth are Getting Restless
Mother Scratcher! Awesome shuffle game!
5. What is the best thing about me?
"Beautiful Morning"/ Little Brother/ The Minstrel Show
I am an awful person in the morning. But this lyric is totally my MO: "Speechless is all you'd be if we ever met up/ I survived far too much now to ever let up, motherfucker"
"1001 Pleasant Dreams"/ Mission of Burma/ The Obliterati
Today was a shit-tastic day. Maybe when I go to sleep my day will finally get better. The iPod says so, so it must be true.
7. What is in store for this weekend?
"Jakov’s Suite"/ Tapes ‘n Tapes/The Loon
Better than a Magic Eight Ball. The iPod sees this for my future; "come to me, for silence songs/ it's love the cold sugar-coated shit songs" AKA I will be working on Hatchet stuff all weekend. Just kidding. Whatever.
8. What song describes my parents?
"Ice Age"/ Junk Science/ Feeding Einstein
My mom prefers rubies. But my dad does drive a Jag so maybe there is some obsession with status symbols... It’s especially ironic that it’s hip-hop, as they absolutely abhor rap of any kind.
"Blind"/ Talking Heads/ Naked
The iPod is not very cheery about who I am or where I’m going. Officially mad at the iPOd. Especially considering this lyric "Now tell me what the Hell have we become? /Some dirty little bastards/ What the Hell is going on?" Fuck that, man, though it’s true that occasionally I am a girl in a window and I do not want to die. Like John Irving said, "Keep passing the open windows".
10. What song will they play at my funeral?
"Don’t Have to Be So Sad"/ Yo La Tengo/ Summer Sun
A couple of years ago I got my boyfriend hooked on Six Feet Under and we had a lot of conversations about what we wanted to happen to our bodies after we died. Eventually he made me stop because he was so uncomfortable discussing this inevitable future. When my aunt died a few weeks ago he found out about the history of cancer and heart diseases in my family was really sad and scared for me. It made me love him that much more. This song is such a beautiful song about the relief that love brings, the companionship and the small moments. It’s definitely going on my next mix CD for him. This is a perfect choice for a funeral because it’s about being happy that you know someone and that’s the best we can hope for. I love this part of the song "Because I love you so, and I pray you know/ But I'm not much for praying/ I knew I couldn't say that without making a joke". Love you Bagel, I’m definitely not sad with you around.
11. How does the world see me?
"Long Time Jerk"/ The Clash/ Super Black Market Clash
Ha! Oh my God, this is getting so good.
12. What do my friends really think of me?
"Life Will Pass You By"/ Kaleidoscope/ Egyptian Candy
OK, this is starting to creep me out.
13. Do people secretly lust after me?
"Where is My Mind"/ Pixies/ Surfer Rosa
I have no illusions. I may have designs, but not illusions. Besides, who needs ‘em? Though this is my favorite driving song of all time. How can you not feel like a badass when you are listening to this song at top volume, speeding down the road? Then, they lust for me, I know they do. OK, maybe I harbor a few illusions.
14. How can I make myself happy?
"While My Guitar Gently Weeps"/ The Beatles/ White Album
Give me a fucking break, iPod. I know that I have intimacy issues and that I Hate sweeping floors but I pride myself on being a good repressed puritan, so I was most certainly not "perverted". Maybe I need to be perverted and inverted and alerted to be happy. Maybe I need to sweep the kitty litter off the floor. Or maybe I just need to stop being such a pussy and let myself trust someone. Whatever iPod, I know your game now.
15. What should I do with my life?
"In the Aeroplane Over the Sea"/ Neutral Milk Hotel/ In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
This is one of those desert island albums, those perfect, impeccable pieces of music that changes your life. Maybe I’m supposed to be writing about music like this more often. I love this part of the song: "And one day we will die/ And our ashes will fly from the aeroplane over the sea/ But for now we are young/ Let us lay in the sun/ And count every beautiful thing we can see". Maybe I’m supposed to find Jeff Mangum and finagle him out of hiding. And then I’ll have his babies.
16. Will I ever have children?
"Double Rocker"/ Stereolab/ Sound-Dust
Twins! That love rock music! Possibly francophiles!
17.What is some good advice?
"Everything is Fair"/ A Tribe Called Quest/ The Low End Theory
Here is some better advice. Listen to this album as it is still the coolest and just as stellar as it was in ’91. Except for the Arsenio and pager references.
18. What do I think my current theme song is?
"Who Loves the Sun"/ The Velvet Underground/ Loaded
I just got sunburned really badly at the beach last weekend. And I am so over this fucking heat wave.
19. What does everyone else think about my current life?
"Hotel California"/ Gypsy Kings/ The Big Lebowski Soundtrack
Holy shit. I hate the fucking Eagles, man. But this cover is super awesome. So I’m awesome. Clearly the iPod loves me. Plus, "It don’t matter to Jesus".
20. What type of men do I like?
"Rise Up in Dirt"/ Voxtrot/ Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives
Obviously, I need a man who is multifaceted. A good man, a hard-worker, one that sees me for who I am and still loves me. "Cause I can be a father/ I can be a brother/ I can be a flower/ rise up in the dirt" The album title is funny for this question, though.
21. Will I get married?
"Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing"/ Marvin Gaye/ The Very Best of Marvin Gaye
I’m taking this as a yes.
22. What should I do with my love life?
"We Dance"/ Pavement/ Wowee Zowee
This seems pretty straight-forward. I love the first line of this song. "There is no castration fear/ in a chair you’ll be with me"
23. Where will I live?
"Sick Friend"/ Aesop Rock/ Appleseed
This does NOT bode well. I feel like I just played M.A.S.H (boys, ask the girls) and got the shack.
24. What will my dying words be?
"Jack the Ripper"/ The One Way Streets/ Back from the Grave
I’m not sure what Jack the Ripper has to do with it but clearly I’m not gonna be gone for long! You can’t get rid of me that easily! Motherfuckers! Bruhahahahaha
25. When I’m having sex I say:
"Busted Afternoon"/ Old 97’s/ Fight Songs
My boyfriend is not happy about this.
26. When I meet a boy for the first time I say:
"Heretics"/ Andrew Bird/ Armchair Apocrypha
27. When my parents are angry I say:
"A Good Man is Hard to Kill"/ Beulah/ The Coast is Never Clear
Seriously, the man is not gonna bring me down.
28. Will I ever get the career I want?
"Be My Queen"/ The Chentelles/ Back from the Grave
That is totally my dream job. Yeah! Good iPOd!
29. What do my colleagues think of me?
"Long Story"/ Rudy Mills/ Let’s Do Rocksteady
Ha! Appropriate. But at least it’s reggae so maybe I’m laid back…though I doubt it.
30. Do I believe in God?
"I Burn"/ Toadies/ Rubberneck
Hmmmm, maybe I should rethink the whole Atheist position. I’m not completely set on that, right?
When the people who throw the All Tomorrow’s Parties festivals announced the line up for the cheekily named Don’t Look Back concert series, I and many of my rock nerd brethren and sistren creamed our pants. Nevermind the $20 ticket price, we didn’t get to see Slint play live b/c many of us were in grade school. Holy shit! It was our chance!
Three members of the original Slint: Brian McMahan, David Pajo and Britt Walford, were rounded out by two other players to perform Spiderland as a five piece at the Cradle on July 19th. The tension was palpable. There were a lot of serious Slint fans there, along with many younger kids who may have been turned on to Slint by older siblings or cool uncles or the wacky indie rock neighbor with so many eighties TV show lunchboxes. As long time Slint fan and man about town Jay Winfrey said "I don’t want to be that guy, but there are a lot of kids here who were probably born the year Slint broke up. Shit. I am that guy." Honestly, it was hard not to notice the demographics. It was also hard not to notice the gargantuan, shiny, silver tour bus out front. Also, hard not to notice the $18 price tags on tee shirts.
Raleigh’s very own and very awesome Strange were excellent as always though maybe a weird (notice I did not say strange) choice to open for Slint. Strange is really dynamic and the sound is huge and guitar-y in a good way layered with off beat instrumentation like trumpet. I’m glad they’re back, and looking forward to weirder and wilder outings from them. The pairing with Slint’s quiet quiet quiet LOUD quiet quiet syncopation was like watching Flava Flav get it on with that old blonde lady. Something. Seemed. Off.
What’s stranger than Strange? Watching hundreds of rock nerds queue up to watch a band perform an album that they listened to obsessively fifteen years ago and be disappointed by it. I’ll admit that I was underwhelmed. I’ve written before about music that is intensely private, the kind that you listen to alone, feel deeply connected to because it feels it is being performed for just you. Spiderland is one of those records. It’s hard to listen to with other people, as they inevitably talk over your favorite guitar tremors or whispered lyrics. In my case it was an album I have always connected with deep and needless loneliness, not for any small reason because I too often listened with someone I desperately wanted to pay attention to me. At the show my case was not helped by a girl who was literally resting her can of PBR on my neck as she gyrated to "Breadcrumb trail". Don’t ask me how you dance to that song. I don’t know. I also don’t know how the most obnoxious/ drunkest/ loudest/ dumbest person at a show zeros I on where I will be standing and decides to be right next to me or behind me or in front of me. Said girl finally asked me if she could just stand in front of me as "I was supposed to be on the guest list. I know Dave. Dave Pajo. I was supposed to be on the guest list." She then proceeded to yell out his name and dance through the remainder of the show when she wasn’t going to the bar to refill two cans at a time. Seriously? Stay home. No one cares that you had sex with Dave Pajo or whatever.
After moving out of the vicinity of the ass and hips of the Dave Pajo groupie I was able to notice how much empty space there was. This was not a sold out show, and I was surprised. For an album that matters so much to so many people I was really shocked by how few came. The real surprise hit me as I tried to assimilate what I was hearing with what I had hoped to experience. I wanted to hear Slint play Spiderland, right? Didn’t I? It turn out the answer was, not really. They played beautifully, flawlessly even, That’s when it started to bug me. I was talking to Dave Cantwell of the venerable Cantwell, Gomez and Jordan and he told me he was amazed by their precision, by the fact that "…all those things on the record, the smallest things you thought were mistakes, were recreated there." Exactly. As Art Sieg;eman said, "And that’s when my troubles began." Why do you go to see live music? When I go to see bands I already like I want to see them fuck around, surprise me. I want it to feel spontaneous and special. I was starting to realize that this was going to be the same show that they played in Brussles, in Chicago at Pitchfork, in Las Vegas. This was the album note for note. (They also played two songs from the untitled EP and a ten minute monster called "King’s Approach" which was my favorite moment in the show and the only time they got loud enough.) The show was disappointing because Spiderland hasn’t changed at all, while the rest of us have. I want to make perfectly clear that these guys are excellent and the album is still important. But like a person who is forced into assuming a title he never asked for, I think these guys became something in the minds of fans they never asked to become. They wanted to play the album because they got to go back and learn old material, see how it felt, not deliver the missed opportunity of a lifetime to hundreds of die-hard fans. They never wanted to be the emperor and they sure as hell were not prepared to bring clothes. That being said, the emperor was not only naked he was splayed spread eagle on a stage before a quiet and confused crowd. As my friend Taylor said, "I forgot my policy of not seeing reunion shows, not ever, because they never fail to disappoint." It was good, it was not great. I let my expectations get the better of me, and that always brings out the worst in me. I think the Don’t Look Back series is not a bad idea, per se, I just don’t think it’s what we expected it to be. I’m glad I saw them, but seeing them didn’t matter. None of this matters, not really, not like when it did when you fell in love with the album the first time. And like all love affairs that are maligned by comparisons to that first, sweet and perfect love, this relationship started to feel hollow, empty, a mockery. I couldn’t help but notice that there was some Very Serious Nodding going on. Especially on break out track "Good Morning, Captain", the track that is the quintessential Slint song, the deadpan "Dude, I am loving this band so much, I’m gonna nod my head real slow and hard" track. It made me laugh. That’s when I started to enjoy myself. I had nothing to prove and most of all I realized that seeing Slint didn’t matter, I already had the best experience I was ever going to have falling in love with Spiderland while my then boyfriend resisted falling in love with me. Now what would have been awesome is if they could have performed just for me, at my house, while I sat on my couch with no drunken bitches and no other people around. Because, when it come down to it, you don’t want to share, not really, not with those people.
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Am listening like crazy to Songs:Ohia, my favorite voice of Midwestern arrested development and tortured beauty. I wrote Mike today about when I saw him (Jason Molina of Songs: Ohia, not Mike) several years ago at a now defunct club in Carborro, (near Chapel Hill), called GO!, and he was sick, drowsy on NyQuil; the tortured voice of all my teenage fantasies, the manifestation of all my Midwestern longings. He is the songwriter for any girl who knew the beauty of the Ohio, who had dreams of losing your children in the raging river under the rusty bridges, of loving boys you were too smart for but not too good for, the tragedy of the towns near it, over it, beside it, the miracle of coming out clean on the other side. It means a lot to me, it probably means nothing to the rest of you. You just have to grow up there, you just have to understand the finality of growing up somewhere where you can never be surprised because you can see the horizon for two hundred miles. There is a stoicism and a grandeur and a dignity that the rest of the world lacks, in the Midwest. There is the unavoidable realization of death and I think it drives us to be ,pre free and stranger and scarier than the rest of the world. Plus, the corn is so pretty in the summer. We were just there,in Shelbyville, the town I grew up in, and it made me want to weep, in fact I did, often, unsparingly, remembering something so quintessentially Midwestern, to run through corn fields, and trip on soy beans, accrue cuts on my arms and suffer allergic reactions. It made me want to feel something. I don''t know, I really don't but in the words of Lloyd Dobler "At least I know I don't know". We visited my elementary school, now closed and empty. (let's talk about metaphors) all this beautiful marble and granite rests, quiet, stoic, in the dirty and quiet halls of a condemned elementary school. The place where I wrote my first story and recited it to my brother's fifth grade class, the place I made out with Allen Adkins in the closed stairwell to the side of the building , the place where my first best friend left me, because I wanted her to leave her other best friend, the place where I learned my father was missing, the place I learned, on Valentine's Day, he was found. We visited my old house, forever in my mind as 607 Shelby St., but since we moved sixteen years ago, known as 613 Shelby Street. We couldn't, my brother and I, find our initials in the driveway, they had been worn down. or paved over. Talk about a metaphor. We went to the house my mom owned and ran as a Bed and Breakfast, the Store my dad used to own, my Grandparents' house, and then finally, the place they were buried. The headstone is pink and beautiful, and it states the facts: when they were born and when they died, and there are birds, doves most likely, with olive branches in their mouths. Jeff, being a good but uncertain Bagel, asked me if I wanted a picture. I declined, it seemed too ghoulish, strange. I was already crying, unbelieving, it's been seven years since my grandmother died and its unequivocally the worst thing that has ever happened to me. Mostly because my father watched her die, lost his job and because when I saw her last I knew it was the last time. How do you say goodbye to the person who made you who you are? I guess, when it comes down to it, that's the question I've been asking since I've been losing people. I'm crying right now, writing this, it's unstoppable, this faucet, this long montage of Indiana and death and corn and Grandma and regret, of the river Ohio, of brothers lost to wives and friends who have departed and the ones I've done the same to. Chris reached for my hand while tears dripped down his long chin and in the end I turned away, as I always do, and he took a picture on a cell phone, b/c he knew my dad would appreciate it. So did these people, this picture being funny in a Six Feet Under kind of way. He just seems so happy, so positive and hopeful to be in a cemetery.
For those who don’t know, two months back I used this space as an opportunity to talk about a rash of blogs I had been reading about albums listened to and loved in high school. I also began a list of my own top ten, which, when all is said and done, is more like fourteen but ten sounds better and fuck you anyway it’s my column. You might ask yourself why you should care about albums that I listened to ten years ago. You probably don’t care, but you might find yourself agreeing or vehemently disputing what I have to say, and that in turn might make you think of the albums you listened to and loved, and why you have or haven’t listened to them recently. In my experience when you spend hours listening to Sebadoh in your bedroom while smoking surreptitious cigarettes and pining for boys in Ohio, those songs leave an impression, like a body missing from the sheets. Or they make you whole, or make you miss what made you whole. So, in short,
If you like this list, try these others: (http://cangrejeros.blogs.friendster.com/how_not_to_blog, (high school years 1991-1995)http://jennystarr.blogs.friendster.com/ (high school years 1991-1995), http://millionsuns.blogspot.com/ (high school years 1988-1992), http://beneaththeunder-dog.blogspot.com/ (high school years 1998-2002)
Or write your own, go remembering, surprise yourself, don’t be embarrassed. AB
Released in 1991, and just as important as any Pavement record in the indie cannon, and even more important in my own personal experience. I first found III in 1993, in a used bin in an underground (literally) record store in Bloomington, IN. I was there for Christmas, visiting family and the already estranged friends of my childhood. I remembered this guy Lou Barlow from the then disintegrated Dinosaur albums, and something about the picture, a blurry black and white with a dog and two kids, one on the ground and one in what looks like an ad-hoc Mexican wrestler’s mask. Weirdly homesick for Raleigh, yet in my home state, it reminded me of my brother and I, somehow. Of the memory of us as kids; jumping in leaves and rolling down the hill in front of our house, lounging in piles of raked and gathered foliage at the curb on our street until quiet voices whispering "slugs" prompted sudden and hysterical leaping onto each other and the newly cleaned grass of our lawn. I listened for the first time that night on Discman headphones, swag I got from Christmas, and heard the inimitable balance between Barlow's pot addled lullabies and Eric Gaffney’s electric gallops. This album introduced me to the Minutemen, via "Sickles and Hammers" and it made me miss my boyfriend when I heard "Truly Great Thing" and "Kath". It was low-fi and pretty and yet still kick ass and filled with energy. I bought Superchunk’s Tossing Seeds that day too, and I kept thinking I hit the indie rock jackpot with these two albums. When I read all the other blog posts about high school albums the same phrases kept coming up, "I know all the words to this album" or "I still know every word." It’s true that I still know every word on this album, and the dumb jokes like "Smoking a Bowl" still make me laugh and the bitter confessions like "Rock Star" and "Spoiled" make me long for a time when I was hearing this sound, these songs, feeling these things for the first time.
The CD Version of the First Two Records
Kill Rock Stars
Riot Grrrls have suffered from a retrospective lack of respect, a kind of, "I went through that Riot Grrrl phase, you know" kind of chagrin. . If you think feminist is a dirty word or liberal, you should see the reaction when you ask any woman, of a certain age if she was ever a "Riot Grrrl". Seriously? What the fuck is wrong with being a Riot Grrrl? Listening to The CD Version of the First Two Records for the first time in years makes me wonder why anyone would deny the ferocity, the strength with which we held on to that moniker, the pride in belonging to our all girl army. "Double Dare Ya" starts with a howl "We’re Bikini Kill and we want Revolution. Girl! Style! Now!" Kathleen Hannah screams like an injured animal and the adventure begins. I had the pleasure of seeing Bikini Kill at Duke Coffeehouse in 1993. We drove up in Suzie’s sea foam Honda Prelude, listening to Bikini Kill on the way to the show, no doubt. We stood in line behind a girl who looked like the skinny version of Margaret Cho talk about her obsession with Evan Dando. Who the fuck gives a shit about boys?, I wondered, I mean, we were waiting in line to see the greatest female band of our generation! (Ahem…eh, much given to hyperbole, I was) The place was jammed with punk guys, and some girls too, an aggressive punk band was opening for BK. We went in to the bathroom to get some relief from the sweltering crowd. Sara had a nosebleed. We tumbled into the bathroom and inside on the floor were Bikini Kill, we stalled and tried to get the nerve up to talk to them. They gave us a free T-shirt which Sara bled all over. When the show started Kathleen Hannah called for the boys to move to the back and make room for the girls. We cheered and ran to the front to take our places. The music starts and Hannah controlled the stage better than any front "man" since HR of Bad Brains. Prowling like a stealthy cat in ripped black tights and short lime green dress. She was angry. So were the rest of us. She condemned the men that had touched us when we were little girls, the back room deals that kept this shit quiet. The CD Version of the First Two Records gave us anthems like "Liar" and "Jigsaw Youth" and "White Boy". Songs that riled us into a frenzy, that made us mad, that made us not afraid. When Hannah sings, both on the record and live, her voice breaks. She’s not a professional singer, not a professional musician, but she didn’t give a damn. It wasn’t all lectures and politics either, by the way. There is the fun and the "seedy underbelly" of "Carnival", where Hannah introduces the song by way of "This is about 15 years old girls giving carnies head for free rides and hits of pot. I wanna go, I wanna Go!" It was about really being fifteen and saying "I’ll win that Motley Crue mirror if it fucking kills me!" It was about being sexy and not afraid of being sexy, of being girly but not submissive. Like a funnel cake dropped in the dirt, or run and ruined pantie hose. Sweet and vulgar and too damn bad. These women had balls, they sang "Suck my Left One" and lambasted the male audience for making it hard on the girls. They were playing with punk guys in front of mostly male, punk crowds, rife with skinheads and Doc Martens, they demanded the girls get to come up front, dance. She pulled two girls on stage, girls who knew every word to every song. Girls who, undoubtedly, remember that concert as well as I do, know that it changed them, with or without a nosebleed-stained tee shirt. When I hear "Rebel Girl" it still makes me miss that time in my life, when "Riot Grrrl" was the only kind of girl I wanted to be.
Enough has been written about this album that it will suffice to say that this was the soundtrack to the summer of 1995. I remember watching the video for "Fake Plastic Trees" in Laura’s living room in Rochester with Mike and Sara and we all sat with our jaws on the floor. Radiohead, having become what they have become, don’t need me to extol their virtues or explain why you need to hear this album. You already have heard this album. But think back to a time when Radiohead were a fucking joke, man, when the release of this album caught everyone by surprise. This is two and a half years before O.K. Computer, before anyone took them seriously, let alone, waited with bated breath for the next album. It was beautiful, it didn’t sound like anything else, and it made me break out my Pink Floyd records and listen unabashedly, crappy fan base or not.
Outside of "Friday I’m in Love" which makes me want to tear my eyes out, this is a nearly perfect Cure record, surpassed only in my book by Disintegration. Like most records I listened to in high school, this one was often heard blaring out of the windows of my friends’ cars or from under the door of my bedroom while I privately mourned my first lost love, my C in Chemistry, jealousies and hurts and the make-up of teenage life. "From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea" and "A Letter to Elise" are still two of my favorite Cure songs. It’s just now I don’t cry for boys in New York or Ohio, or, oh, lord it’s true, drip wax onto the pages of my journal while writing (believe it or not) extremely long and wordy poetry about being miserable. In the same vein, Robert Smith seems to have become more of joke than the cultural zeitgeist we considered him then. They parodied him of South Park, fer Chrissakes. Has it become harder to take misery for misery’s sake seriously? I think so. Then again, perspective is often a good thing as we can’t go around dripping wax into our journals forever. But wouldn’t it be nice to go back to a time when you thought you might be the only one doing so? The only one who really got what Robert Smith was saying? The only one who listened to tracks 3,4,5,7. and 11 on repeat as programmed on your boom-box? Maybe not.
Brighten the Corners
Okay, so I’m cheating again and in more ways than one. Technically, I bought both these records before I graduated from high school, making them viable under the terms agreed upon at the Top High School Albums Convention so I’ll include them, briefly, here. As I am an honest person, I’ll also admit that the bulk of my listening was done the summer after I graduated, driving in my first car, a gorgeous little Acura I named Bean. (That smelled like mildewing pineapple due to a problem with a leaky sunroof and some unfortunate air fresheners.) I lost all my friends that summer, not having misplaced them but having them "dump me" because of some dumb shit that I did (like lie about bands I listened to or had seen play) and apparently some horrible shit that I was falsely accused of doing. (By one person who shall remain nameless but who by the way lost that Bikini Kill shirt and the cigarette that Courtney Love gave us after her show at the Ritz) I was lonely. I ate sushi form the newly constructed sushi bar at the TajMaTeeter every night for dinner. I went out with a boy who was clinically depressed and only listened to Brit Pop and made me mix tapes that I still have. I also made a lot of mix tapes myself that summer, and as I did not have a CD player in my car, I often dubbed albums onto tapes, making careful consideration of what albums would compliment one another. As you can probably guess these two albums were one of those tapes and literally, for weeks at a time I listened to nothing but these two albums and Billie Holiday. I listened to these albums so much that I actually had not listened to either of them since that year until this year, when I made my boyfriend listen to Brighten the Corners. Neither band ever achieved a better moment than on these respective records. The misery and longing and pedophiliac lust of Rivers Cuomo finally come to the surface on Pinkerton, an indie rock opera of long distance torment and lesbian crushes and the fact that sex really does get old. Brighten the Corners is the most accessible Pavement record but anathema to indie rock 101 it’s also the best. The wonderful mess of Wowee Zoweee, the low-fi magic of Crooked Rain Crooked Rain are pieces that led to the last Pavement record anyone cared about. (The real last Pavement record, Terror Twilight, is so awful that I can barely acknowledge its existence. Malkmus’ "solo" records are better by far but still not as good as anything else Pavement put out. At least that’s how I feel today.) The paranoia and charm of both these records made me long for people to be close to. Not boys who broke down in my parent’s driveway, not the girls who I thought would be my friends forever and who left me more heartbroken than I have ever been, even to this day. I hoped that college would be better, that new friends would save me and music would save me and getting the fuck outta Raleigh would save me. It didn’t But it’s not all bad.
I have stopped listening to albums the way I did in high school. That’s probably a good thing, as back then I mostly wanted music to make me feel a certain way, sad or strong or not afraid or superior. I stopped letting Pop music choose me, as much as I can, as anyone can, I suppose. I don’t listen endlessly on repeat and I don’t let it get the best of me unless I want it to. But man, there’s something about that time that I do miss, an ability to love unabashedly, with vigor and defiance and chutzpah. I read something Douglas Coupland wrote once, where he said, and I paraphrase, that the thing he was most afraid of was of having no more new feelings, of running out of new ways to feel. When you listen to music you know that the ability to be amazed never ends, that every day there are new ways to feel. I paraphrase another writer though, when I say, man, I never had albums like I had when I was 16. Jesus, does anyone?
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
If I was young, I'd flee this town
I'd bury my dreams underground
As did I, we drink to die, we drink tonight
Far from home, elephant gun
Let's take them down one by one
We'll lay it down, it's not been found, it's not around
Let the seasons begin - it rolls right on
Let the seasons begin - take the big king down
Let the seasons begin - it rolls right on
Let the seasons begin - take the big king down
And it rips through the silence of our camp at night
And it rips through the night
And it rips through the silence of our camp at night
And it rips through the silence, all that is left is all that i hide
Inspired by the last blog about Poetry, and Because we are going to Ohio this weekend for my Cousin Nan's wedding, I made a mix CD today called "For the Sleepwalkers"
here is the track list;
"Tonight Will be Fine"- Teddy Thompson (covering Leonard Cohen)
"Disaster"- Besnard Lakes
"Emily"- Joanna Newsom (live)
"Mount Wroclai (Idle Days)"- Beirut
"Fiery Crash"- Andrew Bird
"In Our Talons"- Bowerbirds
"I Feel it All"- Feist
"Cross Bones Style"- Cat Power
"Hearts of Iron"- Handsome Furs
"The Flowers She Sent and the Flowers She Said She Sent"- Magnetic Fields
"If it Be Your Will"- Antony (of Antony and the Johnsons) (covering Leonard Cohen)
A broken Hallelujah, indeed, upon looking at this sketch of Leonard. Oh, there is this site pretty cool called Cover Vs. Original where people vote on which is better. Mr Buckley toppled Mr. Cohen in that one.
The Besnard Lakes and Handsome Furs records are in constant play right now as is everything by Beirut. There is a terrific video on YouTube of the song "Elephant Gun" from the original EP. Feist is getting some heavy rotation but not as heavy as last month. The Andrew Bird record gets better everytime I listen to it. The L.C. covers come from I'm Your Man a really terrible "documentary" "about" L.C. but these are the best performances out of that whole train wreck. The Antony one, in particular is devastating.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
So anyway, while I am with the majority of people who feel cheated by the whole Sopranos ending, I am glad to say that I have found a new TV show to obsess about and fill the huge void left by the nearly hyperventilating Tony Soprano. (How can a person breathe that loud? How?)
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
"Tonight I want to say something wonderful