Thursday, November 28, 2013

Overdue- Victory and Associates Better Luck, Next Life

Why "Overdue"- because head V&A guy Conan Neutron has been on my radar since, umm, I think, August. So, given my parameters, you'd be forgiven for thinking that I didn't care for this- which isn't the case- but the truth is that it got a bit lost in the shuffle, so this is an overdue discussion.
So, Victory and Associates play what could best be described as "post punk", but it's more unique than what that might seem to describe. See, the thing is, if you date Punk Rock to 1977, it's "classic rock", right? Because, if Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who and Led  Zeppelin are "classic rock"- how many years different is that? Likewise, the secret to what became "post punk" is that it was just when Punk Rockers started to inject Punk with whatever pre-punk music they were into. The usual suspects were David Bowie, Dub Reggae, and Chic, but could include everything from Jazz to Country to Rockabilly. My personal stance is that's what made Post punk great- the cross-pollination of various music types. So, Victory and Associates mix some punk rock aesthetics with a whole lot of early 1970's pop hard rock- FM radio circa 1974 mixed with the rawness of mid 1980's bedroom raw lo-fi punk rock ( as opposed to hardcore). This is a formula that can be applied to everyone from Tom Petty to Guided By Voices, so why do I say they are unique? Because while the sound design is a lot closer to Bob Pollard & company, the actual core song-writing is a lot closer to Tom Petty. Which is- this is traditional rock songwriting, classic rock songwriting, almost entirely, but given a garage punk outfit. I don't hear a lot of that, these days. Also, as per the FM radio songwriting, this doesn't sound as good over headphones as it does on a small, cranked stereo. I bet it sounds best on somewhat worn vinyl, but that's a theory I cannot test, just yet. Which, again, brings us back to that early 1970's thing- you really don't want a CD of Bad Company, or Foghat, or Bachman Turner Overdrive, you want that Vinyl copy you got when you were 9, and played 800 times on your radio shack turntable, until your poorly maintained needle wrecked your record.
But, let's get a little closer- tracks like album closer "Taste the Danger" demonstrate just how right I am- at first, you might think it sounds like early Fugazi, but it's too relaxed, and too "in the pocket" for DC postpunk, and then, you realize how poppy the structure is, so you start thinking of Sloan, but then Sloan and Fugazi have very little in common, right? Well, except a secret affinity for Blue Oyster Cult- and then, it all falls into place. Album opener "We'll Have to be Our Own Heroes" might sound like Quicksand, until you realize how big of a Who fan Walter Schreifels is, making this into a mod power pop song. Even the most "punk" sounding track 'The End of Memory" shares DNA with both TSOL and Ted Nugent.
That a Melvins producer (Toshi Kasai) recorded it makes total sense, now, doesn't it?
However, the earnestness, and the sincerity lyrically espoused keeps this from Grunge/Alternative Nation/ Generation X irony, so Conan Neutron's vocal similarity to David Byrne should not be taken for distance from the music made- he's got a singer-songwriter's heart, but a cock rocker's golden god guitar, and, in the end, that's the best way to view this- an LP from a group of Rocknroll true believers- fanatics, even- of a type that most of us can't muster up the courage to be much after the age of 20.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

New To Me

So, I've been, shall we say, a bit underwhelmed with the music that's been coming to me.  No big secret there, right? ( Although the new Capsula came in the post yesterday, and I've not yet listened to it- I'm psyched, to coin a bad pun)  So, I did what I always do when the situation declares it- I've been rooting around on Bandcamp.  Seriously, for a music fiend like me, there is no better resource. Yes, I know Record store day, Vinyl vs Mp3, and la di da. I stand by that. There is no way that a noise rock band from Yucaipa can get their 7 inch record to my local indie retailer. But, I can find them in a few clicks on Bandcamp. Then, when I purchase the MP3's it's about as direct as is possible- I know that both paypal and Bandcamp will take their cut, but I am pretty sure its not as bad as distribution costs are for selling vinyl. So, I'm still really into Bandcamp.
What have I found? Well, music that while maybe not entirely new, is new to me.
First, I found Stella. They're from Columbus Ohio, and I had to triple check that. They really are from 1984,  somewhere in the south bay near Pedro in the greater Los Angeles area. What I mean is I have rarely heard a band that sounds more like they belong on the SST label, back when that was a good thing. I'm hearing Black Flag, the Minutemen, a lot of Saccharine Trust, some Slovenly, maybe even some DC3 or Das Damen. Which means, for people who aren't total music geeks like me, they sound like raw mathy noisey post hardcore punk rock. Really excellent stuff, and if they ever read this, might I suggest they move to Chicago, as they'd fit right into the current noise/math/post hardcore scene there. Even my cats think so.
Next I found "From Indian Lakes" who must be from northern California, but I really don't know. All I know is they do a really intriguing sound. It's very pretty in a New Zealand kind of way- I mean the Dunedin sound, like they belong on the Flying Nun label. Ok, I know that's pretty obscure- how's this- They play  swirling, gentle psyche rock like a lo-fi and prettier version of what The Church used to do. But, they add some of the drone and dynamic of Deftones post-shoegazer metallic post hardcore- just a little mind you- enough that they might qualify on the "post metal" genre, but only if you really stretch the definition. What I mean is that they end up somewhere in the Echo and the Bunnymen territory, only with pretty falsetto vocals that sometime scream, but they're approaching that from a totally different direction. Folksiness, yes, but almost zero hippie neo-1960's . I realize that this might not seem like my cup of fur, but I've really enjoyed their stuff from the "Able Bodies" release.
Finally,  I found Ma Jolie from just up the road from me. Now, I'm not a big fan of Pop punk, but this is done right. Very "Americana" styled, in the New Jersey kind of way. By that I mean Gaslight Anthem, Titus Andronicus, you know, that Springsteenian, without sounding like Bruce Springsteen sound? But with a lot of midwestern energy- like Dillinger Four, Bear Vs Shark, Lawrence Arms- that sort of thing. The end result is like a less southern Hot Water Music. I hope they do well in Gainesville, though. I think they belong at that fest, and whatever the case might actually be, I definitely want to see them live, because, unless studio trickery is involved, they have that tightness and interplay that makes a band sound like friends in a club, or a gang. I will admit I prefer the new one, but get both LPs if this description has you interested at all. Calling pop punk, while accurate, does them a disservice. This is intricate, melodic,  passionate music, that clearly is coming from an honest place that, unlike the pop music on Vevo or MTV, isn't about to insult either your intelligence or your humbleness. It's real music made by real musicians, and if the only round hole to fit their square peg is "PopPunk" then, I guess I'll use it, but don't expect either Green Day or NoFX- this is oceans away, and mountains more elevated than that.
That, by the way, is why I still hunt for new music- to be taken by surprise by people I've never met,  and expanding my appreciation of life by doing so.