Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Shellac Dude Incredible

So, it's been seven years. So, Touch and Go "retired" back in 2009. I can understand why folks might be excited at a new Shellac record on Corey Rusk's label. It is a good record, yes. I like it, but a few things nag at me about it. I want to just say " It's awesome, you need this", but that doesn't feel honest. I've seen the positive reviews, and they seem a bit forced and hyperbolic to me.  I'm not saying that I hate it. I've listened to it about six times already, and I just got it on Saturday. But, like I said, something about it nags at me.
One thing, right away, is that I'm just not in love with the sound of it. The bass is too clean and rubbery- like a jazz bass sound. The guitars are a bit too stately, with just a "tasteful" amount of distortion. I'm willing to bet it's the usual  guitar, into pre-amp, into tube amp. The microphone placement is superb, like Tony Visconti's on Bowie's "Heroes"- and creates an atmosphere that's both "dry" and ambient at the same time.
There are some new elements- a bit of country blues pedal tones on some tracks, some Jazz time signatures on others, and things keep on getting clearer to me- I have  heard this sound, Thirty five years ago, I heard a band that sounded a lot like this, only they played with fire, passion, and a steely eye on cutting out all distractions. In 2014, Shellac sounds like a jam session I heard the Minutemen playing in 1979. Only slower, and more academic, and dry.
Now, don't get me wrong, The Minutemen were glorious. Quite possibly the best American Punk Rock band, ever. But, after you've seen Dennes and Mike and George lay down the law- effortlessly fusing the British Art Punk of Gang of Four and Wire with Creedence Clearwater Revival roots, and Steely Dan  pop jazz, and doing so while stoned and spouting poetry that cannot be repeated- it's like a Sunrise over the Vermilion lakes in Banff National- the world comes alive in a way it never will again, and somebody pointing out another sunrise to you, and saying "See? See? Isn't this like it?"- you have sympathy for them, because they weren't there, but you just smile and hide your annoyance, and say "Yeah, that's kinda like it". You realize that it isn't fair, and that your experiences are yours alone, but it's hard to generate enough enthusiasm to  cover up your wistful nostalgia.
So, yes, it's a good record, but no,  I cannot play along to the hype. It's just a good record. A pleasing combination of notes. No Satori to be found here. My favorite tracks are " The People's Microphone" and "Gary". But, really, if you want  slightly mathy, slightly rootsy, super precise but noisey rock, with some punk, and post punk Aesthetics? Get some Minutemen records. Sorry to be such an old hipster about this, but truthfully, it's like the difference between glimpsing something  sublime, and seeing something pretty.

Marquee Release

So, as I type, I'm watching last night's Colbert Report, with his opening bit about Hilary Clinton's obnoxious "I'm Baack"- and it dovetails into what I want to talk about: We've got a new U2 and a new Shellac record this week.  I've heard, and enjoyed both, but I've got reservations about both, and those reservations have to do with fame, expectations, and hype. See, U2's new record came bundled with the new Apple's product, and the new Shellac record came out on a "retired" record label.  In both cases, the attempt is to create a "marquee" release- the assumption is "Hey, you like this band, and therefore you'll like us". That rankles me a bit. I won't do Apple products, and Touch and Go is just a record label to me, not a mark of quality. Still, I did get both, and I do like both. I'm not going to automatically do anything- I won't judge based upon anything other than the quality of the music. So far, both have some strengths and weaknesses. Neither one is what I'd call "10 out of 10"- both feature some coasting on the part of the band, and both follow some worn out tropes. But, I'll actually go over what I think of each a bit later- right now, I'm talking about the machine behind either release.
So, the point is?
Here's my point: I don't care that U2's record was auto-bundled with the new I-whatever, and I don't care that Shellac are "Indie Stalwarts", coming out on a hoary old label. I don't think anyone should care if U2 are this or that, or if Shellac are comprised of Uber producers, or whatever- the ONLY thing that should matter is if you dig the music. That's it. It's disheartening how little the actual music matters, whether people hate the machine ( U2) or love it ( Shellac).
This where Hilary comes in- people are talking about whether she'll run or not- but it's based upon her "profile"- just once, I wish it would be about her policies, instead.  Once again, it's about the machine, which is narcissism disguised as news. That has infected out discussion of art, philosophy, and aesthetics for too long- so, yes, I still want to know how long must we tolerate mass culture?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Just a mention because we're old

In a way, it hasn't been fair for new music. With the advent of digital music becoming acceptable, it's easy to find almost any recording ever, and listen, if not own, within minutes. So, with every great recording ever standing against, who can be for the untried, and untested new thing?
Well, I  do look for the new, all the time. But, I cannot ignore the old, either. Two recent classics have been given the delux treatment, and I must admit, they have been dominating my time, recently. You already know how I feel about them: Coliseum's first record, and Clutch's Earth Rocker. If you don't already have them, having missed them when new, I'd suggest you rectify that.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Moutheater Passing Key

I've had a little bit of a rough summer. I've had friends, family, and pets die. I've had a moderate depression, and lost friends because of that. I've had car problems, broken stuff in the house, and even a few minor ( or maybe not minor, we don't know, yet)  neurological issues . So, yeah, a bit rough.
However, Andrew Aircraft had a really rough time, at some point, because these are some seriously depressed and self- excoriating lyrics- like, even I am impressed enough to mutter "Dude, you need help" at certain points. So, please understand, despite the ridiculous name, and the type of music, this stuff is serious business.
So, what kind of music do Moutheater make? I think the shorthand would be "Grunge"- but that sells it short. A better descriptor would involve "Led Sabbath" style early 70's hard rock,  "Unsane Lizard" noise rock, with a large amount of Melvins at their most metallic. Soundgarden, this is not.
So, everything I've said so far makes it seem pretty harrowing, right? Why would you want to hear that? Because, as Bauhaus would have it, they "swing the heartache"- they make the anger, depression, and self recrimination ROCK. It's post modern blues- you go through the pain to overcome the pain. At least, that's the function it's serving for me.
So, just to do my usual thing- I'm hearing a fair amount of Gibson on this- probably a Les Paul of some description, but there are bits that sound distinctly sweeter with a more focused gain structure, so possibly something with a mini humbucker. There are bits where the feedback and hum overcome the signal completely, so I don't think we're talking about modern amps- I'm thinking more 1970's Fender, or Ampeg to get what the kids call a "bitcrushed" sound ( really it's just completely saturated on the even harmonics, but why bring sound engineering to a metaphor party?) The bass is your standard  Jazz bass into Ampeg- I don't think there's any doubt on that, and the drums, though close-mic'ed are ye olde trap set- no Neil Peart-isms here. Just hit those toms with clubs...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bereft- Lost Ages

Hey, while I'm not strictly into Doom or Death or Black Metal- I'm aware of the stuff, and even like a few things on the periphery of those genres. If, however, you're more into blackened Doom, with a small side of Post-Metal, I think you might dig Madison, Wisconsin's Bereft. They have a new one/debut coming out named "Lost Ages" that comes to me highly recommended.  I have to admit, the aesthetics lose me, a bit- but I'm impressed with the sincerity and passion for the form- so, yes, I'd still consider it valid, and worth your time if that's your thing...

Yob- Clearing The Path to Ascend

So, I've heard of YOB before, but I've never heard a full length by them. I heard they signed to Neurot, and got interested a lot more. So I was really happy to see this in the mail. I think I understand what the hype is about. Much like Baroness, Boris, and Neurosis, they play metal devoid of the genre restrictions- and, paradoxically, fulfill the genre requirements. These are 10 minute plus songs, with tempos that rarely get up to a heartbeat, yet there's power, beauty and excitement in them. Bottom line- yes, it meets the hype.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

I'll be back

Sorry I've be quiet. I did an experiment that failed, and I'll be back to the known, soon. As was said a generation ago- "A man's got to know his limitations."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

This is just for me

I just want to remember these links. You might like them too:
and again

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Drones of North America

I don't entirely know what to make of this band. All I can say, with any certainty is that I think like minded individuals should get on this
But what do I mean by "Like minded"? I  mean people who like very loud guitar rock that dips into hybrid pools. There are post-hardcore elements, there are metal elements, there are even a few noise and punk elements. 
To describe them, I want you to imagine a country. Call it "Outoftheloopistan" or "Backwardia", but the idea is this- imagine a place where they have no first-hand knowledge of all the minute subgenres being purveyed on Bandcamp. All they have is a music shop that sells  only punk rock instruments, and they can recall hearing some doom metal, and and a math metal track or two, when they were visiting friends in more civilized places. Got that? This is the noise they would make. From video evidence, there are Rickenbacker and Telecaster instruments, and they're a three piece. While I can hear that, there are also sections that sound, for all the world like an Ibanez guitar with a humbucker, and a Fender P-bass- so, I don't know how to give you my standard spiel- the overall impression is that unlike others who talk about torturing their instruments- these guys have made their instruments dance in ways they weren't meant to. I think it's in Exodus, somewhere : "Thou shalt Not maketh thy Telecaster to play Doom Metal melodies". I could be wrong, but I think it's there, in some translations. The vocals are in the Fugazi school of yelling in ways that approximate being in key, without ever being in key. 
What I'm saying is that it's really good stuff, but it blows out my mind, by defying my expectations in multiple ways- much like Tyranny is Tyranny- it defies both the band it comes from ( members were in straight metalcore bands before) and my preconceived notions of what are logical progressions. So, I'm still processing. But, I think you should process it, too.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Catching up on some random stuff.

First, yeah, saw a few bands this week. Brody Dalle would've been a good not great Rocknroll show, but she was followed up by St Vincent- who blew everything away by the first song- a completely mannered performance- like Laurie Anderson, or Bjork, but featured outrageous playing- Steve Vai level technique, but applied towards Adrien Belew/Robert Fripp/Elliott Sharp type experimentation- I mean, the first song she played this chromatic solo in 128th notes while choking out a bouncer with her legs, causing the 7 foot tall woman standing near me to say "What did we just see???" From there it was Talking Heads  meets Prince meets The The meets Brian Eno songs as performed by Robots trained by Bill Laswell- just jaw dropping stuff. Then, Queens of the Stone Age played a "Rock Star" set, that was flawed by an over-reliance on the new record for novelty but filled with authority- clearly this configuration of QOTSA knows exactly what they do, and do that extremely well.
But, musically, I've  mostly been listening to the new Boris and The Powder Room records, still.
So, TV- or, for me, streaming video- I've been watching both the American and Swedish versions of the Bridge, each has serious strengths and flaws. Also, my wife got into the first three seasons of Channel 4's MisFits, and I have been watching NBC's Crossbones, and Hulu's The High Road. On Netflix, I watched some documentary- A Band Called Death, Doc of the Dead, Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction, Bettie Page Reveals All , Mile Mile and a Half, and Tiny. Also, a couple of regular movies- World War Z, Lawless ( better than expected, by the way. You should give it a chance) and Machete Kills. On Vimeo I've been watching High Maintenance and it's really, really good. On Planes Trains + Automobiles, I've been watching Day Off and State X State. and on Youtube Epic Rap Battles of History. That's a crap tonne of TV, yeah? So, regardless of what the Supreme Court or Comcast has to say about Aereo, or how people watch TV, I know I prefer this to Cable and I'm not going back.
I had to do a little house sitting recently, and was forced into cable while there. Ye gads, it was awful- the paucity of choices, the tyranny of schedules, the imposition of the marketplace, in the form of adverts. I would never put up with that, let alone pay for it, now that I have another option.
We live in a culture where people are obsessed with verisimilitude- reality TV, self help books, Youtube clips, polls, charts, and arguments and speeches. But truth isn't necessarily what we crave- we'll deny climate change, Evolution, Science, itself. We try to surgically alter or chemically negate our biology, and we disguise ourselves online. We pay investment bankers who trade in derivatives- fictional money- hundreds of times more than we pay people who build houses. I could go on, but I think my point is made- so long as it "seems" true to the ignorant, people will believe any lies that the corporate elect tell them. So, they can think that, because I watch TV without Comcast, or Cox , listen to music without Sony or Apple,  and so on, I must be some kind of Somali pirate- desperate and somehow illegal just by being- and I know I've got very little sway to tell people differently- that I've actually got pretty high standards, and don't want to rip anyone off. Such is the dichotomy of what we still arrogantly call the "First" world. ( Can I be the first who wants to remove the "r" from that?)
Anyway, carry on- I just wanted to illustrate why the blog is called what it is...