• T(F)IC #6: An Essay on Lungfish

    5 okt 2012, 20:26

    "wages of sin / wages of sin / wages of sin / WAGES OF SIN"

    There is something incredible to be said for solid consistency and for dependability. Unfortunately, for the derogatory at heart and the evil amongst us who wish to gnash teeth endlessly about the negative aspects of euphemisms such as "minimalist" and "boring" and "the same over and over again", other buzzwords such as "consistency" and "dependability" become lifeless; unimportant, mundane, and forgotten. It is with a heavy heart and a considerable burden that I recognize that Lungfish have disappeared from a world that so desperately needs them.

    Electronic music for example, as it has been titled, depends on a solid rhetoric of repeated motives that revolve, commonly, upon a simple drumbeat that encourages people to move their body, and divulge to the sinful delight of their inner greasy funk. The bass lines form a solid basis that interlocks seamlessly with the drum pattern and aligns itself into a formidable rhythm section. Guitars are not always present, but when they are, they are typically used as a means to texture, and not as a means to dominate the forefront of the mix. If they are used, the vocals consist of meaningless drivel; the kind that is easy to remember and require little to no critical thought. Yet it is not considered "minimalist" nor "boring" by the people creating it, nor is portrayed this way by the people in power (read: record companies) because they know what to promote, how to promote it, and how to convince the public that it is necessary to be purchased, loved, enjoyed, and assimilated into their everyday lives. In essence, though, this type of electronic music IS minimalist and potentially boring to the listeners, although they are not encouraged to think this.

    "the trap gets set / when the bait gets laid"

    They drive on primal urges; sex, love, shelter, food, fun, etc., and also the consequences that come from these base-level desires of the flesh; sweat, exhaustion, exuberating experiences, what life "ought" to be, why people should purchase the artist's record, etc. This is now accepted as a mainstream thought process when it comes to music; and when you step into any clothing store, bar, car with a radio, commercial, or whenever music is placed in the background of a piece meant to be informative or entertaining, this "electronic" music, or one of its many derivatives, is used. It has become the pervading thought, the dominant movement, and the centerpiece of a culture that is never led to formulate its own opinions, never fostered, nor encouraged, to be independent nor to THINK. Not only are people not encouraged to think critically about themselves, or why they believe what they do, or enjoy what they do, but even worse, people are not encouraged to critically analyze the people that foster this thought process. We, as consumers and as people, are never trained to question that which becomes status quo, or that which is in place to tell the people what music is "good", or what music should "move" you, or what music should make you "feel"; all of which are terrible adjectives and which personify a lack of critical thought.

    "they developed external organs / like guns and television sets / they believed that they owned things"

    Lungfish, unlike any other group, embodies these characteristics, yet encourages the body of their listeners to actually do something about it. Much like the beloved electronic music, Lungfish operates similarly, yet to a much more effective, emotive way. There is a relatively simple drumbeat that remains constant throughout the entirety of the song, which matches up flawlessly and effortlessly with the bass pattern, and sets up a cantus firmus, as it were, for the guitar. The guitarist, Asa, uses the same chord progression throughout the song, and it creates a smooth texture for the vocalist, Daniel Higgs, to sing/shout/scream/growl/howl/talk/mumble alongside. It would be myopic to merely point out that this pattern is also used by electronic music, as at this point it should be obvious by the parallels that the two (i.e., the widely unloved Lungfish, and the universally praised electronic music) are nearly collinear; they follow the same pattern.

    "meet me at the junction / of two parallel lines"

    What is the main differentiator, however, is the presence of the vocalist, Daniel Higgs. Understandably, both his delivery and his lyrics are difficult to decipher. It is evident that many who hear them will perceive him as either pretentious or as a true poet in a world desensitized to truth. It is not my place to comment on either of these statements; only offer my view of them. Clearly, he has a keen intellect and an attention to poetic detail that the mainstream music progenitors would (and do) reject. His lyrics explicitly and extensively reference the Bible, and the ideas of his word poems commonly expand upon the Law and its consequences for humanity viewed through Christ. Whether it is the song God's Will on the 1999 masterpiece (and recently re-mastered and re-released) The Unanimous Hour, wherein Higgs and producer Ian Mackaye (of Fugazi fame) sing "God's Will / not yours / not mine" ad infinitum, or Fearfully and Wonderfully off of 2003's Love Is Love, which encourages believers to be "traveling like living Scripture", or to remember that we have been "fearfully and wonderfully" made by the "Song of warring, love, and wonder". Even more explicitly, on You Are the War from 2005's swansong Feral Hymns, Higgs shouts "You are the I-AM-that-I-AM You are / You are the Bright and Morning star" over a crashing three chord sequence that repeats throughout the entirety of the song.

    "what's circling / is not circular"

    Although the faith and "religion" of Higgs could be debated until eternity, the song remains the same. I have no place questioning his faith, his beliefs, nor his love for Scripture. He is not a Christian artist. Lungfish is not a Christian band. To limit them to a faulty personification of "Christian" would generate previous biases and limitations on the breadth of the Lungfish canon. To label any music as "Christian" is missing the point entirely, and thus is another reason why those who have criticized Lungfish have missed the boat, and will continue to. Let us leave it as it is; powerful, beautiful, at times completely Truthful, repetitive to a hymn-like quality, and emotive. My hand is forced to write this, but they are the true example (alongside like-minded Fugazi and Unwound) of what post-hardcore originally meant; to take the hardcore movement and boil it down in sound, but not alter in attitude or delivery. This is Lungfish. Don't allow the previous biases of what has developed over time concerning music to block you from listening and formulating your own opinions. Analyze and determine why you love what you love listening to, and that which you dislike. Lungfish is the ultimate litmus test of determining your ability to critically think about music. I encourage you to listen and create your thoughts on why you love them, or why you hate them. Analyze what it is that makes you formulate these thoughts. Question the creators of the music. Question the responses you have to the created music. Don't allow it to become like electronic music that moves by without care nor whim to your previous thoughts yet only seeks to alter them.
  • Listening through SUPERCHUNK.

    18 maj 2012, 17:27

    Howdy, all! My good friend Nigel and I are going to be journaling and listening through the Superchunk discography, and I welcome you to listen through with us! We'll be going by year.

    1989

    This year covers a 7" when they went by the name Chunk, and the Slack Motherfucker 7"!

    (These songs were later collected on the Tossing Seeds compilation, in case those seven-inches were too difficult to acquire.)

    The first seven-inch is a quick little blast of music. I think it is best viewed as foreshadowing of what is to come, as What I Do and My Noise serve as a formidable double-punch of power-pop with some heavier influence. My Noise, especially, comes away as the winner of the two. Train From Kansas City goes by without too much affair. The stutter-step drum beat is super nice, and creates an off-kilter feel while the rest of the song is really nothing too special.

    Too not acknowledge Slack Motherfucker would be a huge error; as its melody and angsty job-related worker lyrics are instantly accessible and applicable to ANYONE (read: me) who has held a menial part-time job. Clearly, this track is the winner. When Matador released this record, that HAD to know that they were holding a winner, and when the 'Chunk finally defected to their own record label, Merge Records, that they created for the original sole purpose of Superchunk recordings, they were developing into a formidable force. Although a few of the songs are certainly not great, the A-sides hold their own. Night Creatures, the B-side, sounds like a Minor Threat song at half-speed. Garlic, a track from a three-way split, is another one that goes without too much to comment upon. Jon Wurster, who is not yet with the band, would have certainly added something more to the song than the stale beat that moves this song.

    1990

    I have to admit, I have hardly ever critically listened to this year's only effort; the self-titled album Superchunk, but not out of disinterest. I am clearly biased towards the Wurster records, as the drumming on this record is not bad; but Wurster adds a different element to the recordings he is on. It is also important to remember that this record was recorded, mixed, and mastered in TWO (!) days in early January. It is definitely apparent in its sound, which is a pseudo-lo-fi punk record.

    Sick to Move, the opener, is especially wonderful; with its strange Sonic Youthesque intro/bridge part with the rolling toms, straight into the straight-forward punk thrashing and double-timed drum lick, makes this a great statement of intent for the record. The harmonies in the right channel are slightly grating, however, as Mac is not always on-key. Although I'm sure this is intentional, as part of that whole "I don't really care" punk movement around the turn into the 90's. The re-recording of My Noise is nice, and a testament to the song itself; one of the strongest on this record.

    Let It Go comes next, with its great little minor key bass line. Say what you will about the ability of Laura, the bass player, but on songs like this, she definitely holds her own. The song as a whole is not that great, but the bass line makes it worth listening to. 'Chunk has written this song many times, but they do it much better in the years to come. Swinging also doesn't do a whole lot for me; the drumming is relatively weak and off at times, especially when he switches between beats. The chord progression is also weak and the lyrics are even more inane than some of Mac's strangest.

    Slow is okay, and it is clearly named for its sound. It has this southern rock feel to it with all the weird bending chords. Mac's harmonies are nice, but this is not a song I will turn to for listening very much, I must admit. The recording here of Slack is the same as the 7", and is still always worth listening to in whatever mood, as the song is wonderful. It kicks of the second side of the record wonderfully, after the dross and way-too-long Slow. Binding is also a slow-burner, but again, Laura steals the show. The bassline is simple, let effective. Her tone is also wonderful. Down the Hall and its harmonies are great; and definitely make the second half the record hold up. Here, Mac seems much more transparent than usual, and it works. Especially with the subtle little modulation that leads into the bridge.

    To round out the record, Half a Life and Not Tomorrow come through. Half a Life sounds like the track you would use with Pavement's Here to round out your geeky mixtape for a jilted lover, and I must say that I will probably never listen to it again. Which is my fault, because it's an okay song, but that image is just too much for me. Thankfully, Not Tomorrow comes in and gives the record a wonderful punk finish.

    All-in-all, this record is a good debut record. It's slightly rocky, and definitely has its ups and downs, as well as its predictable moments (here's looking at you, Half a Life and Slow). With the gift of hindsight, it is clear that this is a perfect setup for the future records coming, especially the VASTLY superior No Pocky for Kitty, which was released merely one year later. It's nice to listen to this record, but I view it more as an element for foreshadowing than as an independent piece, which is definitely wrong and cutting them short, for sure, but I will be spilling praise upon almost everything else they do, don't fret. (One big positive of this record are those HARMONIES Mac uses; although some of them are strange and off-key, they are a device that Mac doesn't do too much in the years to come, and I lament this fact.)

    1991

    And OFF WE GO, with the Albini produced No Pocky for Kitty, and various other single/comp tracks from the Tossing Seeds anthology. NPfK is clearly a vast step in a positive direction after a somewhat bland, although promising of the future, debut album. The drums pop, the guitars sound biting, and the vocals are somewhat buried, yet the harmonies are super up front. Sounds like a standard Albini affair to me! Wurster, however, is still not present.

    Skip Steps 1 & 3 kicks things off raucously, and deliciously. The chorus riff and melody are so catchy, and the off-kilter harmonies are in full effect. Seed Toss comes next, with rather inane lyrics but GREAT distant backing vocals in the chorus. The drums are also super nice here, and fit the feel perfectly. Albini's production (engineering... whatever...) truly MAKE this song, as the guitars sound absolutely seething when compared to the crispy drums. Truly wonderful.

    Cast Iron is next, and is a song I have admittedly been quite cold to in the past. The breakdown/bass solo/guitar solo thing that forms the verses has always struck me as weird, but the odd time-signature of the next part makes this worth it. Again, weird lyrics that really don't mean too much, I can't imagine, but if you aren't doin' the "indie head bob" (so many things about that phrase make me physically sick) to this song, we probably are not friends. Mac's throats shouts towards the end are totally worth your time. Tower has a delirious metal riff that sounds like it belongs on the self-titled record. The lyrics are indecipherable as the vocals are incredibly buried, and the bass is nearly non-existant. Thankfully, Punch Me Harder comes in and saves the day. Live versions of this song are blistering, and the verse riff is a sight to behold, although it is one that Mac & Co. will rewrite (albeit, much slower) in the future to great effect. Again, the drumming is a massive step up from the self-titled.

    Sprung A Leak is another Superchunk song that sounds like it comes straight from an 80's metal tune viewed through this weird lo-fi DIY punk lens. Then the chorus comes and is all sorts of confusing, as the verse is all Metallica, and then the chorus is all Mac being Mac. Not the biggest fan of this song, as it holds nothing for me. Again, though, for every not so great moment, one worth redeeming follows, as 30 Xtra plows forward. The second guitar that just stays on that same chord as the verse/bridge come, and the double-tracked chorus vocals are beauties. Especially the subtle bass change on the second time through the verses; another time where Laura holds her own. Albini takes a weird center-stage here again with Tie A Rope To The Back Of The Bus, as the room-mic'd drums and live sound of the guitars take the main focus. Mac's vocals also sound live and in a wide open room, which make them fantastic.

    Not to ignore the punk roots for too long, Press starts with an awesome bass lick, although the chorus leaves something to be desired. It honestly strikes me as a weaker Precision Auto, and as more of a filler track. Those drum fills in the bridge are super nice, though. Sidewalk creeps by sounding like the type of song that The Promise Ring would make if Davey would've stopped being so obsessed with being cute as opposed to just being punk. Continuing the one-word titles (normally resigned to self-aware self-titled albums, I might add) Creek blasts triumphantly, and is quickly becoming a favorite, even though it just sounds like a Minor Threat song with a quirky off-time chorus riff. But that harmony and that off-time riff are EXACTLY what make it unique and one of my new favorites. Also, Jim's second guitar during the chorus is insane.

    Closing off the disc is fan favorite, and frequent member of encores, Throwing Things, which is arguably the most Superchunk song on this entire album. The sounds of Foolish and On the Mouth are clearly foreshadowed here, and the bridge is CLASSIC 'Chunk. Truly a GREAT song.

    NOW come the singles. Fishing features backing vocals from Laura, which make it fantastic despite its minor key dirging. Cool, a song that has mysteriously reappeared as a staple in recent setlists, is the b-side to Fishing, and complements its A-side commendably, but buzzes by without too much fanfare in my eyes. The weirdly intervalled guitar parts are super Fugazi and nice, but don't save the song. The Breadman sounds like a basement recording, or a recording made straight to a DAT tape and poorly remastered, but this is a GREAT thing. The acoustic guitar being frantically strummed and the tape drop halfway though the song are incredibly charming, and I am upset I overlooked this tune until now. The original recordings of Cast Iron and Seed Toss do not differentiate from the NPfK versions, except for being much more lo-fi. Cast Iron features an awesome fuzzy double-tracked vocal, which makes it MUCH cooler in my eyes here. The Sebadoh covers go by without too much over which to comment; they are quite faithful to the originals, and I guess that's a good thing. I'm completely indifferent to them, truth be told.


    1993

    ...is a powerful year for the 'Chunk, with the album On the Mouth, and ALSO the Ribbon seven inch, with a song on a Simple Machines comp.

    On the Mouth begins with the best one-two punch on any Superchunk album, with the absolutely blistering Precision Auto; easily one of their best songs. Wurster's presence is felt from the very beginning, and the guitars absolutely seeth. I have extremely strong emotional attachment to this song, as it is the first Superchunk song I ever heard, WAAAAAY back in 2007ish, when Jimmy Eat World was frequently covering it in concert, and I was still ignorant to the world of the 'Chunk. From the Curve follows, with an amazing turn-of-phrase, musically, in the drum beat with those ghost notes from Wurster on the snare during the intro/chorus parts. "Right now I'm just a psycho / and I'm ready to leave again" is the rallying call of this tune, and it's perfectly fitting, considering the acrimonious leaving of the original drummer. (Also considered a reference to Pavement's Gary Young, and it's really all too fitting there, as well).

    For Tension is more classic Mac, really. The stutter-step beat in the chorus and the soaring harmonies are already taking the formula begun on the self-titled and ratcheting up several notches on the effective meter. This song is far catchier than any of the self-titled songs (save Slack) and is just as potent. That breakdown, also, would not have happened pre-Wurster, either, and it makes the last time through the chorus actually sound like Mac means it. "For tension / guess what I use? / For tension / you can use me / your attention / for tension / your attention is all I never / need" is a very Braid-like emoish lyric, but it sounds genuine and not as contrite and dumb as it can coming from Bob Nanna's shredded larynx. (Remember, shredding your vocal chords =/= genuine). Mower is a passive song that is effective in the album tracklist to take the power of the first three songs and lower it for a moment. "It was a robin's egg / and it was blue" is relatively inane, but we don't tax A.C. Newman for his clunkier efforts when it comes to finding words to fit a song, so I'll save Mac that one.

    Package Thief is another great tune; like an updated Punch Me Harder with a better melody line and a more effective chorus. This time, the lyrics are super silly, with the title bearing the story of the tune. The irregularly occurring harmonies are fun and give this song a total summer feel. Credit Wilbur/Wurster for combined in a fantastic way during the breakdown before the last chorus and keeping it cohesive. Swallow That closes out the A-side of the record in a kinda cliché way; slow, lumbering, and more strange and oblique emoish lyrics: "If it helps you sleep / swallow that / until you're full". It should be noted that Mac and Laura broke up following the release of this record, and although Foolish is the breakup record, On the Mouth is the buildup to that occurring in my mind, so the strangely confessional yet oblique lyrics fit this mood perfectly. I'm not the biggest fan of this song, but Wilbur's harmonies on "It's just a body!" are great. Let's also not discredit the tambourine that comes through during the extended jam and dominates the mix, as it adds extra flavor when the song begins to speed up. This song is always only worth it just to reach the cathartic end; and although I like that a lot a lot a lot in songs, many have done it better, and the 'Chunk will prove they can, too.

    Opening the B-side of the album is a brief acoustic guitar riff into I Guess I Remembered It Wrong, which is a nice little power pop ditty with punk flavor. AKA, it's Superchunk. This one goes by without too much fanfare, but the continued motif of tambourine use being introduced is GREAT, so Wurster deserves another nod there. New Low is odd; as it foreshadows the entirety of the Majesty Shredding record, and almost sounds like it doesn't belong on this record. Rope Light, off of MS sounds the most similar to this song, but those distorted vocals are completely amazing. (When did Vanderslice get here?!) Again, Mac is getting in touch with his inner confessional songwriter, but in a rather roundabout way, so it doesn't get in the way too much, of which I am thankful. Untied kicks off and sounds like a precursor to the ending of the Foolish record, which again makes it sound slightly out of place with this album. The bass part is buried, but is crucial to this tune succeeding. Live versions FAR exceed the album version, but that quirky tom breakdown that leads into the chorus is where dreams are made.

    The crown jewel of the second half, however, is in setlist frequenter The Question Is How Fast. This song has a total Fugazi feel left and right, from the intro guitar tone, to the buildup, to the double-timed chorus, to the interlocking guitars. I know that Superchunk opened for Fugazi on the Southeast leg of the tour in 1993 from the Fugazi Live Archive site, but I'm honestly unsure as to whether it was before or after this album was recorded/released. Regardless, the Fugazi influence is ALL over this song, and Mac's vocals are super nice double-tracked like this. Another song with an awesome breakdown and strong emotional attachment, as I remember listening to this song during study hall my senior year of high school on a regular basis. So I can see the room I'm in and remember the smell of it and such just from listening to this song. Music's interesting, huh?

    Now to get negative. Trash Heap strikes me as redundant and empty. The awkward stop-start rhythm at the beginning falls really flat and the chorus is weak. The tide of the album is so incredibly strong that it carries this song with it, but I am not a fan of this song whatsoever. Flawless is another one of those Minor Threat slowed down, end of the album tunes, of which the 'Chunk has now ended their past three full-lengths. Again the distorted vocals return, and make this song sound like a grittier Precision Auto. Fun fact: this song played during a skateboard video my friend made in high school at my suggestion. As gross as it is to admit it, it fits the skateboard theme pretty well. The Only Piece That You Get is the album cover that all of your favorite emo bands tried to write, but failed. That drop-D acoustic guitar and the feedback that surges are a great combo. Mac's vocals are buried. Bass is non-existent. Again, this song is like The Promise Ring on steroids; as Davey could never pull this off successfully. Those screams that are submerged in the mix are unbelievably effective, and prove that this album is one of their best.

    The Ribbon single, backed with Who Needs Light, is an adequate example of how a 7" should work; as Who Needs Light is most certainly a b-side, with its 6/8 time that doesn't quite fit in with anything from On the Mouth, and also is a great complementary pair to the surging Ribbon, which is a career highlight as far as non-album tracks go. The second guitar part that is off-kilter with the rest is a previously unused tactic, and AGAIN, the tambourine absolutely steals the show. Wurster, you dog, you. YOU DOG, YOU. Night of Chill Blue is a song of no consequence; and its appearance on a compilation should indicate the band's thoughts on it.

    All in all, 1993 is a vital year for their development and evolution to the perfect trifecta of Foolish and the two that follow. More next week!

    1994

    ...is now here, and it's high-time to dive into the first truly diverse record in the 'Chunk oeuvre, Foolish. (Also included is the Driveway to Driveway (Acoustic) which is exactly as its title depicts it, and also the b-side, Connecticut, which features Wilbur on vocals and is wildly midwestern emoish and cold. Weird.)

    But Foolish, you guys. This is the classic break-up record. Not in that I See a Darkness way, but in the actual tangible way of attempting to pick up the pieces and trying to figure out just how to move forward. Empathy is the key word to this album, and without it, well, it's just noise. ANOTHER key to this album is its frustrating tracklisting, and also relatively annoying and superfluous outros on almost every song. Clearly taking cues from Polvo, Slint, and other bands of the time, each song stretches out to become something epic in form, and usually misses.

    Like a Fool is a mission statement. "You dove in / after trusting me / trusting me / like a fool". The lumbering album version features a more cohesive version of the original demo version released under the title Foolish, bearing the record's name. I once heard Ryan Adams cover this live. I wish I could erase that from my mind...

    The First Part is angst to the core. Mac's lyrics have never been this developed, nor have they been quite this memorable, up to this point. Although maturity is not the adjective I would use, it shows his development past the initial growing pains of songwriting. "One good minute / you'd ask me to hold you" is the kicker, though. Mac's vocals are sublime throughout the tune, and the extended outro takes it home. At least tambourine is used...

    Water Wings, though, is the real treat. Laura's bass is her best to this point, and the cute stutter-step rhythm JW gives it packs a serious punch. Wilbur's constantly feedbacking guitar and the best riff of the album make this song a contender for the best on the record. "She pointed out the black cloud in the sky / said that's what happens when you learn to fly". Can't get much angrier than that. Perhaps more obvious in intentions, this song is a pure punch in the gut to Laura, Mac's ex at this point. Driveway to Driveway, though, proves to be an effective counterpoint to the previous two songs, by interjecting a relative (albeit misleading) calm to the tide of the album. Rightfully so, this is a setlist staple, and the use of the motif of drunkenness might be a touch too much, as the kids say, but it does fit with the entire piece of the album.

    Saving My Ticket is an instant classic, with its ping-pong guitars and Wurster laying out a very prolonged snare fill in every line of the chorus. (If you recall my Sugar's Copper Blue review, I said that Wurster could fill this role for Bob Mould solely on the basis of the original drummer not being able to pull off this kind of fill with any grace nor confidence. I stand by that opinion.) The tambourine that comes in halfway through the verses is also a beautiful thing. On a relative low note, Kicked In comes in, lumbering like an updated Swallow That with no real payoff. This is Ben Gibbard's favorite song, and I guess it makes sense, because Gibbard has a similar tendency to build and build and then coast to no resolution whatsoever; a tactic some like, but does NOTHING for me, especially when the 'Chunk can (and will, and do) this so much better than here. Kicked In is truly a frustrating song to me, and one I commonly skip.

    Well, truth be told, I'm too excited to get to Why Do You Have to Put a Date on Everything, which is the crown jewel of Foolish. Its surging intro, to the humming bass throughout the breakdown into the verse, and the whiny "You used to cut me up inside / won't let you do it again", "why do you have to put a date on everything? / can't you just strike the bell? / thought that your skin would crack / it's just wrinkling / why do you have to put a date on everything?" and "you keep your face / and I'll keep the rest" are all absolutely bitter, angry lines, that really are quite resonant. It doesn't hurt that some of Mac's best lyrics are backed up by one of his best melodies and riffs. The only thing that kills it is that stupid extended outro that goes absolutely NOWHERE. Ugh. Thankfully, Without Blinking redeems us a bit. This intro always foreshadows Cursed Mirror to me, as it has that same ascending feel not previously employed by the 'Chunk. "Did you really do this without blinking? / or was there concentration first? / When you said you were sorry you did it without blinking / You can’t pretend to not know how that hurts" is the best lyric Mac has ever pinned.

    Unfortunately from this point, Foolish descends into filler levels. The overly repetitive and emotionally lacking Keeping Track blurs straight into Revelations, which features a very Sonic Youth instrumental intro. I must admit that this song is a complete sleeper on me, as it sounds like it's drop-D, and it also has nice tension and release; like Kicked In if it actually went anywhere. Stretched Out, also, has a very nice Indoor Living feel to it, and an odd-timed melody in the verses. I can't get away from how Promise Ring this song sounds, except infinitely better. "You never taught me how to read" is an oblique line that, for some reason, sticks with me every time I hear this record. I cannot get over how Indoor Living this song feels! I wish I had nice things to say about In a Stage Whisper, but it does nothing for me; it's an overly lethargic Like a Fool.

    All-in-all, Foolish is a great record. It's methodical, dark, cold, and had to have turned off many a fan when it came out, much like the similar in atmosphere Red Medicine to Fugazi fans. This record led to many break-up rumors; mostly due to the break-up of two band members, which I find super interesting. Later this year, though, they will head into the studio to record on the best 90's records put to tape. More about that next week!

    1995

    is upon us, and this means the pinnacle of the Superchunk sound, Here's Where the Strings Come In, alongside the Hyper Enough single. This album is my personal favorite of theirs, and is also their strongest. The songs are meaty, sonically open and still heavy, and the production is great. Wurster's drumming, as typified on opener Hyper Enough, is becoming more complex by this point, and also more unique to his personal style. The fills that lead with the hi tom and quickly back to snare, a JW special, are all throughout this album, and literally litter Hyper Enough and Animated Airplanes Over Germany; even kicking off the latter. Laura's bass playing is also given more room to breathe in the mix, and on songs like Silverleaf and Snowy Tears, really takes center stage. Mac's melodies are extremely sharp, as is his guitar playing. The songwriting itself is also kicked to a higher gear; with new tunings and new outlooks on lyric writing. Credit Wilbur for adding extremely great complementary guitar parts, as well. ALSO, credit Mac for subtly introducing the organ on Silverleaf, that of which will become integral to the 'Chunk sound moving forward.

    Make no bones about it, THIS is the Superchunk record that is essential. Hyper Enough surges with punk power and the catchiest melody + lyric combo Mac has ever written. Silverleaf and Snowy Tears is a testament to the maturity of the songcrafting. JW's drums are some of his best on tape; the ostinato part at the last verse before the bridge into the halftime beat is one of his finest moments. Combine that with great ping-pong interplay on guitars, and you have one of their best songs ever. Yeah, It's Beautiful Here Too kicks off with drums, and two guitars, before the bass layers in and adds muscle. "Cracked a hole in the glass bottom boat / now the things we killed are beginning to float" is the march of this anthemic number. Again, the theme of discontinuity in relationships is approached, but with characteristic opaqueness. However, when the title of the song is "yeah, it's beautiful here too", and the main catch of the song is "and all this scenery looks fake", you better believe olde' Ralph Lee McCaughan is smarter than what meets the eye.

    Iron On is a song that could NOT have been written by 'Chunk even a year before this. Following their tour with Polvo, new tunings had been introduced, and also a new eye on restraint. Iron On plods through without much affair, but this is a GOOD thing. "Will you send me a picture / so I can remember?" is a cold, but affecting line. Sunshine State is almost super overstated in its sensuality; like Bonnie 'Prince' Billy but with a punk band. The minor key transitions also make it standout as a part of the new 'Chunk way of songwriting. Key to the success of this record, however, is in the tracklisting. After the soaring conclusion to Sunshine State, the cymbal striking of Detroit Has A Skyline never ceases; and the conclusion to Side A is reached after one of Mac's best songs, lyrically and musically. "Drank my sleep from a can / played track six / track seven / again and again / I had a crush / nothing works out" and the tag of "meet me again / maybe a year from now / meet me again / I think we both remember how" are both extremely powerful phrases; and when matched with the punk thrashing of the chord progression, produce the best song on the record. Wurster smacks the drums like none other on this track. This was one of the first 'Chunk songs I heard, and it was absolutely essential to me liking them that I heard this song, as it is extremely special and oddly relatable. Oh, relationships LOL.

    Eastern Terminal begins Side B on an interesting note; again, detuned guitars take center stage. Although songs on former 'Chunk albums definitely had a feel of copping Fugazi, this is one of the songs that takes that Fugazi formula and shows that Mac & Co. can place their own unique spin upon it, which results in one of the best tension and release songs in a discography filled to the brim with exactly those. Animated Airplanes Over Germany is a cousin to Hyper Enough; it sounds almost exactly the same in second guitar part and structure, but is different in chorus and lyrical quality; two of the most important qualities in this song. The overdubbed acoustic guitar is critical to the success of this recording; and Wurster's double-time in the middle of the song is a sight to behold. Green Flowers, Blue Fish is one of Mac's finest slower songs. Placed perfectly on the album, Green Flowers is a very emotional song; as the finest memory I have of this song is hearing it played on The Best Show when a friend of the band had passed away. The chorus comes completely unexpectedly, and the passion in the vocals in unparalleled. "You made your mind up". Also also, THAT TAMBOURINE. Goodness, Wurster, have my children already. For goodness sake.

    The title track, Here's Where The Strings Come In, is a rather tongue-in-cheek title, but one that holds more weight when Indoor Living appears two years later. One of my favorite moments on any Superchunk recording is hearing the way the song ends, with Mac singing "yeah, here's where the strings come in" as the song ends. Although I think the chorus is quite unremarkable, and sometimes makes this song easy to skip, this song is key to the flow of the album, as the blistering Certain Stars follows. This, according to Wurster, is one of the only songs that they never played live, because there were apparently too many moving parts and they could never pull it off. The transition from double-time to half-time is a marvel. Also, take note of the synth leads.

    B-side to Hyper Enough, Never Too Young to Smoke, is a great little tune that has the same minor key feel as Sunshine State, except without the sexual overtones. This song would've fit wonderfully on Strings, right between the title track and Certain Stars, but lyrically it differs greatly; featuring an odd focus on what punk rock really is, and a focus on advertising companies and encouraging those punk rock kids to smoke. Very interesting topics for Mac to cover, since these are things he never really does.

    Overall, Strings is the quintessential Superchunk album. Sonically, it is their best. Lyrically, it is near to their best (although Mac raises the bar CONSIDERABLY on Indoor Living and afterwards). Wurster is at his most innovative and fun. Laura is featured prominently in multiple songs. Wilbur adds his most interesting and fun guitar parts to every song, as opposed to merely playing the role of filler and texture as previously. It is definitely a product of its time, and it is definitely quite dated; much like the earlier 'Chunk records. Glancing at the pictures contained within, and the overall graphic design of the record, it is clear it is from 1995, and I would not have it any other way. Strings is emotionally powerful, consistent in A+ songwriting and craft, and is perhaps their finest mission statement in terms of consolidating the Superchunk sound. Although Indoor Living and following all expand sonically and add different element of color to their palette, Strings is the measuring stick against which all other 'Chunk records ought to be measured. Jimmy Eat World spent three albums trying to write a Strings; Lee Renaldo's favorite album from the 90's is Strings, and many acts like Archers of Loaf and Heatmiser internally struggled when some of their members wanted to make a record identical to this, eventually leading in breaking up.

    Bottom line, if you don't have it... get it. Please.

    1997

    The intro drum part to Unbelievable Things is like kicking the door open to the unbelievable thing that is the mindtrip of power-pop nuggets that litter the perfect Indoor Living. Mac's melody is the sight to behold; with the octave difference in the lead line, and the "let me pin this on you" repeated in the cacophony of overdubbed guitars. More relatively inane lyrics: "counting cashmere sweaters / counting cracks", but I'll forgive him on account of the wonderful drop-D lead attack.

    Burn Last Sunday and Marquee are a one-two punch of wonderful composition. Wurster always complains about his parts sounding to choppy and sectioned off based on the parts of the song; like they're mechanic and over-rehearsed, however, I largely disagree. There are not many drummers that manage to still have serious chops, and tone them down for the benefit of the song as he does; and both these songs are serious testaments to this. Check that open hi-hat alternating riff on the bridge/pre-chorus of Burn Last Sunday. Also, check the Portastatic-esque synth leads on almost EVERYTHING.

    Watery Hands, the obvious lead single, is unbeatably catchy. "she building pyramids on water-skis / and we both know that I've got bad knees" is one of Mac's best in-jokes. Throw in an insane video: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIoafYpHeY) with David Cross and Jeannine Garofalo, and you have an instant winner. Wurster's half-ostenato lead on the hi-hat is astounding; as is the tambourine and full-on ostenato during the chorus. The overdubbed acoustic on the second verse is a wonderful touch. Next is the Laura-pinned riffage of Nu Bruises, a long-time favorite. I'm harsh to the atonal synth wankery that occurs at the very end, but at least it is complemented by solid feedback wankery, which I always enjoy very much so.

    The secret of this album is in the gloriously beautiful Every Single Instinct; a drop-D led song with wonderfully muted instrumentation. The bass part during the vocal-led part is slightly grating, especially because it doesn't match the rhythm of the rest of the song, but I will not hold that against Laura; it sounds intentional, even though it is distracting. Mac's voice is genuinely passionate and quite pretty here. Very Portastatic.

    A long-time favorite of mine, Song for Marion Brown, comes next, with the intro to Wurster's obsession with the open hi-hat best shown on The Mountain Goats' album Heretic Pride. Mac's lyrics are hilarious, silly, and touching. The double-tracked octave lead is again a wonderful touch. A unique chord progression leads the chorus; and pushes straight into The Popular Music, a more uptempo right out rocker. Wurster's drums are active and fun, Laura's counter-melodies are perfect, and Wilbur's little fills are very effective. Mac, also, continues his string of delicious melodies. "I got my ear to the ground / and I'm listening for you". Wonderful. Although it makes me feel like I'm a horse or something. That bridge, too. "This happy homecoming / etc."

    Under Our Feet, however, is a slight misstep in my eyes. Although the multi-tracked harmonies are phenomenal, and I wish I heard much more of that, this song seems like the only true foreshadowing to 1999'sCome Pick Me Up. However, the stutter-step rhythm does nothing for me, and the electronic piano in the background is too muted in the mix to do anything. The Polvo-esque European Medicine is a beauty, however, with its 7/4 stutter step into 5/4 into 4/4. Wurster and Laura kill it on those snare rolls; interlocking in greasy funk for the ages.

    Ending on the strangest note for a 'Chunk album, Martinis on the Roof is a really puzzler. Although I enjoy it, and I think of it as a fun party song, its inclusion on this record is a testament to the fact that it's okay to parody yourself, and to include it on a record. Again, Wurster's open hi-hat takes center stage, although the strange flange effect on the guitar is a queer choice.

    All-in-all, Indoor Living might be my favorite 'Chunk album with which to spend time in the car driving. Its summery feel, and beautiful, full production are both irresistible to me. Although the songwriting is still way above average for a band already six albums in, it does not quite hit the heights of Strings; but that's okay, as it paves a great path for future albums. Indoor Living is the first record to which I would recommend to fans of lesser "indie" bands as an example of what good, clever, and fun songwriting ought to look like. I hate the word indie. Let it die in a fire.

    Cheetos and 100 proof / martinis on the roof.

    Amen. Cheetos? We were on a break!
  • T(F)IC #5: "The B-Sides for Time to be Clear"

    24 mar 2012, 23:02

    Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - The B-sides for Time To Be Clear


    Label: Drag City, Domino
    Grade: A+

    Three songs. That's it. Three songs. No hyperbole contained within; you NEED this record. Bonny Billie, Billy Bon-Bon, Bonnie Billy-Willy, or Will Oldham if you prefer, already released a album less than six months ago, the tepid Wolfroy Goes To Town, and by his prolific nature, we knew he wouldn't be gone too long. He has ANOTHER 10" planned for Record Store Day, several collaborative EPs/singles out in the past month, and MANY compilation appearances scheduled before the end of the year. ...and with his track-record, we know that they will be worth hearing. These three songs do EXACTLY what the majority of Wolfroy didn't; in that they are driving, catchy, funny and somber simultaneously, and feature beautiful melodies and lyrics. In other words, this is just another Bonny Billy record. Thank goodness for that.

    Time To Be Clear is the second best track on Wolfroy; next to the wonderful Quail and Dumplings, with its muted guitar lead. Billy sings "I want to peel the wallpaper / and swing from chandeliers", which is a humorous statement when given the context of the line. It's just him and a simple plucked guitar. That's it. Yes, I know it's the same formula Oldham has followed for many years, but he's the best at doing it, and that's why it matters. When those harmonies come in, thanks to The Cairo Gang and Angel Olsen, (alongside an apparently impromptu aria/descant), tell me that this song doesn't have you sitting there bobbing your head up-and-down, headphones in, glass of wine in hand smiling as widely as humanly possible.

    The first b-side, Whipped, features a firm riff that repeats throughout the entire song; forming a basis for the muted percussion, simple guitar fills, and wonderful call-and-response vocals. The lyrics describe the willingness to accept the fact that it's okay to get old; to be older, and that the main protagonist is in fact, whipped. A strange talent of Oldham's is that he can tow the line between being sexually explicit (such as on So Everyone, where he desires public oral sex from his lover, and on the numerous tracks where he describes the "taste of your box / on my 'stach", like on A King at Night) and composing a genuinely affecting love song. This song is no exception. In fact, this song sounds like the perfect denouement to Nomadic Revery (All Around), which echoes similar themes. (Plus, that bridge and the one in Whipped are so similar in their out-of-this-world-what-is-happening-no-one-else-could-ever-pull-this-off development, that they feel like they are one-in-the-same).

    Rounding out the 7" is the bombast and hilarious Out Of Mind. This, had it been on Wolfroy, would've been the most upbeat and rockin' song on there by MILES, and that is a welcome addition. The beautiful thing about a 7" is the comparison between the A-Side and the B-side, and this song, lyrically AND musically, stands in direct opposition to the first two songs. Sample lyrics: "But nobody answered / nobody answers / or will look me in my eye / you are out of my mind / but now / so am I", which is a genius of a lyrical turn. The organ/keyboard solo that leads into the guitar solo is a jammy development that is rarely on Oldham's recorded output, but usually reserved for the live shows, which contrasts with the tight grooves of the A-side.

    Will Oldham is quickly developing into an artist I respect more than almost all others; his ability to be hilarious and somber, quiet but driving, insane yet controlled, loud with unparalleled dynamic control, and usually all of these things in one song, repeated throughout the rest of the record, are attributes many folk musicians would die to have. Scratch that. ANY musicians spend their entire career attempting to obtain these attributes. This 7" is no exception; as great to the most avid follower of Oldham as it would be to virgin Oldham ears. Long live Bonny Billy, and let him never be apart of the "future that will diminish / by what today [he] did" in this fantastic record. Viva Oldham Blues. Forever.
  • T(F)IC #4: "Copper Blue"

    7 mar 2012, 00:10

    Sugar - Copper Blue
    Label: Rykodisc

    Grade: B+

    Nostalgia's a tricky thing. That's all that can be going through Bob Mould's mind right now, I would imagine. He's now got a killer tight band with Jon Wurster on drums and Jason N on bass, both extremely capable and well-known musicians in their own right. He's released more new music in the past ten years than he released from 1990-2000, alongside having INCREDIBLE musicians play with him; Wurster notwithstanding, he's had Amy Dominges and Brendan Canty of Fugazi fame, as well as Ted Leo, Dave Grohl, etc. That's impressive, no matter WHO you are, let alone the former frontman of a heralded band such as Husker Du. As if this isn't enough, Mould has come out as a proud gay man in an indie-rock subgenre of "Alternative" (*shudder*) that does not usually embrace such revelations as such with such excitement and passion as those who have come to support Mould. With all of these exciting developments in his life in the past several years, Mould has been recently bucking that "new" trend by touring with his trio-format playing Copper Blue, his first album with his post-Husker Du band, Sugar, on its 20 year anniversary. Revisiting the album, it is a refreshing album from Mould that broke the string of several subpar solo albums in the post-Husker Du wake, that also predates the Foo Fighters led alterna-rock phenomena that swept the "indie" landscape after Nirvana came and went.

    The lyrics on Copper Blue, with the exception of The Slim, a song about a friend (or possible lover?) who died of AIDS, are mostly vague and about unrequited love, with tight sugary harmonies throughout, and (relatively) simple double or triple tracked guitar lines. The drummer is also a very good drummer; although he completely abuses the studder-step snare roll leading into a fill or breaking up a straight beat (see the intro to A Good Idea), which becomes slightly annoying and distracting when it happens in EVERY song and usually once per EVERY phrase. Thankfully, Wurster with the live band tones this down, and makes the songs his own. The secret weapon of the band is the bassist, and although his lines are usually very straight-forward and simple, he plays counter-melodies and simple ascension based licks that compliment Mould's voice extremely well.

    The album opener, and frequent set-opener for Mould in the past ten years or so, is The Act We Act. It functions as a great statement of intent; and completely sets the tone for the entire album. A Good Idea, follows suit, creating a mantra-like song on the idea of a girl and a guy continuously saying "Well, that's a good idea". The bass line is a total cop of Pixies' Debaser, but given the fact that the entire Pixies' catalog is a total cop of Husker Du, I think he's completely forgiven.

    Changes comes charging next, introducing the strange theme of the songs in the middle part of the record that feature a slightly ethereal/ambient ten second intro that features the prominent melody line repeated several times before kicking into the song. Changes, Hoover Dam, and Slick all do this, which gives the album an oddly cohesive feel while still sounding slightly disjointed. Who knew this was even possible!? Changes plods along for five minutes or so, with a clever alternating riff that the drummer compliments by switching between ride and open hi-hat the entire song.

    The first true highlight of the record, Helpless, begins with a snare roll and tambourine moment that sets straight into, possibly, the catchiest melody Mould has ever written. Combine that with lyrics such as "Will there be time / time after time / to change your mind? / I want to help you / but you seem less than helpless / time after time / what's on your mind? / You make me feel so helpless" and you have what should've been the hit single. The song is simple in structure, with only one chord progression, but Mould's harmonies and lead part on the "feel so helpless, I" parts that connect the verses and choruses seal the song as one of his best.

    Hoover Dam strikes me as a good song, but also as somewhat of a more filler-like tune. The acoustic that comes in almost immediately is a nice break from the barrage of distorted licks in the first four songs; but the lyrics are slightly inane and are about being swept away in the Mississippi, etc. This is one of the songs that I see Grohl taking and making into a watered down Foo Fighters song that millions of people sing along to in arenas, which is frustrating, considering its source material, although one of the weaker tracks, is SO much better. (See that synth line that unexpectedly comes in around the 2:10 mark. Grohl could NEVER pull that off.) The Slim, with its drop D riff, passionate lyrics, and unexpected breakdowns is a somber tune that sounds slightly disconnected from the rest of the album, as it is clearly an autobiographical tune that is so specific and directed, unlike the other songs. This does not take away from the power and the beauty of the song, especially the way that Mould delivers the lines, with the most power and authority in his voice in years; "With your breath / on my pillow" and "I'm now left behind" being the most powerful lyrics in his entire oeuvre. (btw, the unexpected transition at the 2:50 mark is the basis of all space rock groups, and if you think that isn't true, I suggest you listen to Failure's Fantastic Planet and then The Slim again, and tell me IT AIN'T NO BE TRUE).

    If I Can't Change Your Mind, the acoustic-led tune that stands in direct opposition with The Slim, goes by without much to discuss. This is clearly the fan-favorite, as it has been in Mould's setlist since he wrote it, but I listen to it and realize that Helpless is clearly the better of the two. Fortune Teller, Slick, and Man on the Moon round out the album exactly as it started; furious guitar riffs, and great melodies from Mould. Fortune Teller, specifically, employs some of Mould's best melodic turns on every time he says the words "Fortune teller" between verses.

    Again, I can see how a record like this influenced much lesser bands and songs, and for that, it makes it difficult to listen to this album at times. Bob Mould is a great songwriter, and deserves much more of the credit than he gets for his role in influencing bands that copped his sound to the nth degree. As Mould is now over 50, he's the most active he's been since Hskr D, and he's moving forward the best he knows how; even if that forward movement involves a field trip to the past. With a past like Mould has, though, I don't blame him at all.
  • T(F)IC #3: "Born to Die"

    13 feb 2012, 03:28

    Lana Del Rey - Born to Die
    Label: Interscope Records

    Grade: C

    Full disclosure: I really don't care what Lizzy Grant's backstory is. I don't really care about how she might have been a failure and was reinvented. I don't care if she was really a talented guitarist and is just being misunderstood by the mass "indie" audiences. The reality of the fact is that we now have an album in our hands that is one of the most hyped albums I can remember this side of Nevermind, and I can't help but listen to it with the slight perverse desire to HATE it beyond all words. With that in mind, I have listened to the album several times and come to the extremely dissatisfying conclusion: the album is NOT bad, but it definitely is NOT great. This is just another case of the sad truth that the ALBUM is dead, and that SINGLES are all that matters.

    To combat all the BS reviews that have accompanied the album, I'm actually going to review the SONGS and not the crap that is behind it. (A novel idea, right?)

    The lead single and first song, title track Born to Die is a simple song with rather heavy-handed and up front string arrangements. It also introduces the key elements of this album: heavy (AND I MEAN HEAVY) strings, vague lyrics about first world excesses and access to lots of expensive alcohol, and odd samples with 808 drumbeats. Also, it should be noted that Grant has the odd (and sometimes really annoying) gift of sounding like 15 different singers at any given time in the song, which makes the listen through the entire album slightly disjoint and confusing. She freely goes from smoky nightclub to power-pop to atmospheric head voice; which clearly displays that she has talent, whether you're willing to grant it to her or not. Let it be stated, however, that this talent does not always translate to success in terms of a good record.

    Let me now take a meaningful tangent: Look, if pop songs were to be judged solely by lyrics, everyone could find MANY things to complain about concerning beloved artists, like the Beatles, for example. Although I'm a purist and a stickler for terrible lyrics like the ones that accompany the next song, Off to the Races, (example: "light of my life / fire of my loins / gimme them gold coins / gimme them coins"), it is unfair to completely resign pop music as a whole for having terrible lyrics. Yes, there are lazy personifiers, "tar black soul", "puttin' on my cognac make-up", "bright red nail polish", etc., but again, the goal of this album, at least as far as I am concerned, is not to write the next Dylan record. It is a highly danceable and singable album, for sure, but that does not a solid album make, in my eyes. She has succeeded in making the album she wants to, but that doesn't mean it is for everyone, nor that I am particularly taken to it.

    The next single, Blue Jeans, features a genuinely GREAT melody, and is one of the most enjoyable songs on the record. The real drums that accompany the drum machine make it sound more urgent, and it makes lines like "I wanna love you 'til the end of time" actually feel like she MEANS it. The sincerity of the presentation continues onto the next song, ANOTHER single released from the album, Video Games. Admittedly, Grant sounds like she's suspended in a room that is literally unreachable by the listener, so when I say "sincerity", it is only "sincerity" in the most liberal sense of the word. Grant has said that Video Games is a very sad song, and that she apparently gets choked up singing it sometimes on stage; which I have a hard time believing, but it definitely has the feel of extreme melancholy. This time around, the string arrangements fit the feel and contour of the song, and don't stand in direct opposition to EVERYTHING ELSE that is happening; meaning that the single/b-side combo of Blue Jeans and Video Games comes off as a major success of the record.

    The strength of the record, to me, is on the song Diet Mountain Dew Although the lyrics are slightly inane ("Diet Mountain Dew, baby / New York City / Do you think we'll be in love forever?") and the central hook of "You're no good for me!" is a tired, well-worn cliché, the lyrical comparison of this unrequited love to taking a drag from a cigarette and feeling the ashes fall on your hand is a goofy, yet genuine line about just how it feels to be out of love. The song is EASILY the strongest on the record, with live drums and another instantly catchy melody and a great piano line supporting the bridge.

    Then, out of nowhere, things start to fall apart a bit. National Anthem is a pastiche of 60's (surprise) with hip-hop, and Grant's delivery is successful, but the lyrics about wanting to be taken downtown, to the Hamptons, and how "Money is the anthem of success" fall on deaf ears. Comparing yourself to a failed political statement of how the national anthem is all about money while singing about how you want to be sipping cognac with the stars and be swept away by a successful man (Read: has MONEY) is painful and not well-thoughtout AT ALL. Dark Paradise continues this theme, except this time Grant is saying that "every time she closes [her] eyes / it's a dark paradise". The song is catchy, and features a nice little trip-hop beat, but it also features the SAME melody/sample from Video Games, only sped up, which means this must be the dreaded filler.

    Radio features a rather gratuitous F-word in the chorus that is unneeded, (after a "sweet like cinnamon" personifer...) and also features an oddly meta lyric about how she's playing on the radio. The "how do you like me now?" hook is also nice, but again repeats the statement above about how she is portrayed as trying to be extremely relatable, yet sounds more cold and distant than anything I've ever heard. On Carmen, this theme again continues, with lyrics about how the liquor is "top shelf" and how she is "dying" because of failed love. This song has all of the potential to be great, as the embellishments musically are tight and cohesive, yet it fails because of the sterile delivery of the otherwise fine lyrics.

    Million Dollar Man is a more bluesy song than any of the others, and features the smoky vocal stylings of Video Games. The "one for the money / and two for the show / I love you honey / I'm ready / I'm ready to go" hook in the chorus is gut-wrenchingly bad, but the chord progression on this part is the most unique and pleasant presentation on the entire album. Summertime Sadness is more of the same; "kiss me hard before you go / summertime sadness / I just wanted you to know / that baby you the best" is pretty much a painful lyrical summation of the entire album, and the drum beat is an 808 pattern from just about every single song you hear at your local brotasticular bar around, which takes a song that could be great, and throws into the category of trying to hard to be the next big single. Album closer This Is What Makes Us Girls starts off pleasantly, and then the hipster-hook conspiracy nerds can take off and run, as Grant namedrops PBR (on ice?!). The song is tired and forced, as well as the generalization that "this is what makes us girls / we are looking around for heaven", while "skipping school / and drinking on the job / dancing in the local dive" and "drinking cherry schnapps / c'mon take a shot", etc., etc., etc.

    As I completed the album for the fourth time, I realize that I am okay, in theory, with this record. For all the terrible and lazy lyrics, there is a nice melody to counteract them. For all the filler songs, there are very good singles. I would give the Blue Jeans/Video Games single an A+, as it is an effective single for many purposes, and contains genuinely good songwriting... but as far as the record is concerned, it is rocky, inconsistent, and a very difficult listen for its supposed accessibility. The thing that perturbs me the most about this record is not the blacklash it has received, nor "who" this Lizzy Grant is... but rather the fact that this is but more proof for the fact that the album is a dying format. Which I will lament until the end of my days.
  • T(F)IC #2: "Mr. M"

    11 feb 2012, 01:31

    Lambchop - Mr. M

    Label: Merge Records
    Link to purchase/more info: http://mergerecords.com/store/store_detail.php?catalog_id=834
    Grade: A

    To say that a record sounds "more like [insert band name here] than anything they've ever released!" is such a dry, 2383 year old comparison that music reviewers go to out of laziness, perhaps spite, and out of thinking that by mentioning this, they are instantly going to become the next big thing. The trouble of this catch-22, however, is that... well, it's all I could think to say to start this review and get my thoughts a'rollin' concerning Kurt Wagner and company's latest outing, Mr. M. There are "lush strings", (as the Merge lead sheet states), more of Wagner's opaque lyrics that could mean really, well... ANYTHING, and more of those delicate Tony Crow piano lines. After 20 years in the business, and more incredibly solid albums (here's looking at you, I Hope You're Sitting Down, How I Quit Smoking, Hank and OH (Ohio)) than the average band even comes close to, what else is there to say? Lambchop has made another solid record; one that doesn't require any gimmicks nor any big moves to get the point across, and still make a wonderful statement of intent that furthers their sound while still looking toward the past.

    The first song that was released to the public, lead-off song If Not I'll Just Die is a perfect summation of Lambchop past and present; with beautiful restraint vocally and with a string arrangement to die for... not to mention Wagner dropping the F-bomb a mere 7 words into the song. SOME THINGS JUST NEVER CHANGE. ...and this is a good thing. 2B2 comes next, with a nice female backing voice and a double-tracked octave lead vocal that makes a five minute song feel like it goes by in 13 seconds. The third song on the album, and also the second song that was made available for streaming, Gone Tomorrow, is perhaps the closest that I've heard Lambchop as a studio band come to sounding like Lambchop as a touring band. This is a GREAT thing. After a pleasant three and-a-half minutes of the song, an extended jam (with what sounds like two separate drum tracks at one point (!)) takes the rest of the song home. Let's not forget the tablaesque drone that kicks in around the 4:30 mark, either...

    After "Gone Tomorrow" ends, a string quartet kickstarts the next segment of the album on Mr. Met. The congas that come in towards the end are a welcome addition, as well as more of those great Tony Crow supporting lines on the ivories. The three songs that follow Mr. Met all plod along like a Lambchop album should. Gar is a beautiful instrumental, with female harmonies, a stop-start rhythm to the intro of the "chorus", and muted percussion that I could listen to on repeat until those cows a'come runnin' home. Nice Without Mercy features Wagner harmonizing with himself, which is something that I personally think should happen MUCH MUCH more, as it adds a nice power to the song. The tambourine which is mixed high in the left speaker also complements the movement of the song without being distracting. Buttons, the next track, also goes through the same formula.

    The Good Life (is wasted), one of the few songs on the record under five minutes long, is a welcome reprieve from the longer stretches of songs that are in the middle of the album. Finger picking and droning electric guitars have never failed Wagner, and that theme continues through the rest of the album. Kind Of has one of the album's only moments with Wagner approaching the higher register (besides the aforementioned harmonies), and Betty's Overture is another VERY rewarding instrumental track, proving that even when Wagner steps out of the way, Lambchop is a force to be reckoned with.

    The true shining moment of this record is the album closer Never My Love, which has a chord progression so saccharine, that it could cure the common cold if it so desired. The piano and strings counter-balance the guitar perfectly, as well as more of those wonderful female harmonies that close out the song.

    Lambchop to me has never been a "singles" band, nor a band that puts too much attention on the "song". Which makes me enjoy and respect their releases as a WHOLE, and not as a collection of songs. Mr. M, thankfully, is more of the same. I struggle to find anything highly critical to pin on this album, which is truly a testament to the power and genuineness that this record emotes. It is not overly downcast, nor are the arrangements heavy-handed, nor is it just a re-hashing of older material in the Lambchop oeuvre; but it is a solid album, and a statement that Wagner is going to keep moving forward and releasing albums the way HE wants to be releasing them, and would be proud to present. If anything, this album drags in the middle a touch due to long run times and jammy sections not present on some records of yore; but this works to its strength in most aspects, as it presents the closest similarity between Lambchop Live and Lambchop On Record, which is something I am very grateful I have the opportunity to hear.
  • T(F)IC #1: "Rad Times Xpress IV"

    6 feb 2012, 16:53

    Black Bananas - Rad Times Xpress IV

    Label: Drag City
    Link to purchase/for more info: http://www.dragcity.com/products/rad-times-xpress-iv
    Grade: A+

    I woke up this morning and lifted the covers off my my body. I then promptly stumbled to the shower, struggled to locate the soap, labored through every stage of the cleansing game, and finally made it into my room to put clothes on my body. I felt disconnected from reality, momentarily forgot where I was, whilst being incredibly slaphappy. This is kinda how this album feels; disorienting, confusing, early in the morning, but moist, groovy, cavalier, grimy, and catchy. Look, I'm no expert. ...but Jennifer Herrema and company have made a completely badass record that desires all (and so much more) of the attention it is going to get.

    This album is a continuation and amalgamation of all of the previous reincarnations of Royal Trux past. The lead sheet for the album describes it as the "most Royal Trux since "Accelerator-era RTX", and some of that is true, as the album is a swirling mix of psychedelia, acid-rock, grunge, Stones-era blues rock and awkward but insanely catchy guitar riffs straight out of 1974. Which is pretty much the basis for that RTX album. Mix in Herrema's crazy but awkwardly compelling voice, some autotune for good measure, and cowbell. On paper, this sounds like it could be a train wreck in motion. BUT IT ISN'T, YOU GUYS. It isn't.

    It's Cool, the opener, is probably one of the most challenging songs on the record; although that does not say too much about the rest of the record. TV Trouble takes off where the previous song left off, with indiscernible lyrics and segueing into the next three songs, which are ALL absolutely killer. Acid Song and Hot Stupid feature incredibly strong distorted power chord riffs that all are centered around Herrema's voice. Choice lyrics from this section include the failure to pay the rent due to purchasing too much green. Sounds about right when you look at the cover, yo. RTX Go-Go sounds like it contains a Bon Iver sample throughout, which would be incredibly weird if that's the case, but regardless, it fits and creates this slithery groove that is impossible not to shake dat money-maker all-up-in and to.

    Do It, lead single/pseudo title track Rad Times, My House, and Foxy Playground are the heart and soul of this record, and are all worth the price of admission alone. "Do It" features Herrema dropping the F-bomb a whole lot, but beyond the distorted vocal line, it isn't distracting. "Rad Times" is the perfect song to be the lead single, as it contains all the weird, goofy elements of the album, while still remaining catchy, accessible, and singalongable. "My House" and "Foxy Playground" also are more of the same; with "Foxy Playground" containing the album's best and most grimtatcular riff, while "My House" features Herrema's best lyrics and vocal performance on the entire album.

    The next few songs, Earthquake and Overpass all go by without too much to complain over; same with Nightwalker. "Earthquake"'s piano line in the background is wonderfully restrained and clean, and when contrasted with the hazy guitar(s), is effective and wonderful. Same with the saxophone on "Overpass". The ending track, however, sums up the entire album in one phrase: Killer Weed. ("What else do you need?").

    Again, I'm not an expert, but I know when I hear something that is original, fun, and is overall a great record. With all respect to Neil Michael Hagerty (and his work with many of my favorite Drag City recording artists, as well as his great backing band The Howling Hex), Jennifer Herrema has stuck me as the one who has come away as the leading solo artist of the two, especially after dropping her best album since RTX's first in 2004.
  • obligatory "seen live" journal

    16 aug 2011, 18:32

    this seriously has taken me two weeks to compile. not because i've seen a lot of shows in my past, but because i have a terrible memory. which really does not assist in the whole "trying to remember stuff" thing.

    this is not chronological, nor alphabetical, but it's who i have seen with the best of my memory and THINGS. okay. let's see. (also, i tried to include the openers as close to the main act as possible. in fact, i separated the list by each individual show. how cool is that? not very.)

    i'm sure i'm missing more than several. will update as time calls for me to!

    Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
    Phantom Family Halo

    Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
    A Hawk and a Handsaw
    Pillars & Tongues

    Kevin Devine
    Owen
    Andy Hull

    Pavement (reunion tour!)
    No Age

    Built to Spill
    Disco Doom

    Sunny Day Real Estate (reunion tour!)
    The Jealous Sound

    Maritime x2
    The Dukes
    The Yugos

    <\3 >_>

    Joan of Arc x3
    Ponytail
    uno lady
    Goodbye Ohio
    The Love Of Everything

    The Decemberists
    Blind Pilot

    Meat Puppets
    Retribution Gospel Choir

    Camera Obscura
    Anni Rossi

    David Bazan x2
    Headlights x3

    Joanna Newsom
    Robin Pecknold

    Tegan and Sara
    Steel Train
    Holly Miranda

    Deerhunter
    Light Pollution

    Owen Pallett
    Snowblink

    The Antlers x2
    Phantogram x2

    Quasi
    Let's Wrestle

    Laura Marling
    Smoke Fairies

    Metric
    Bear in Heaven

    The National
    Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

    Califone (they played to their movie, which was sweet. then they played like 10 more songs. the show was almost three hours of solid awesome.)

    Jimmy Eat World x3
    Viva Voce
    We Were Promised Jetpacks

    Sufjan Stevens
    DM Smith

    The Mountain Goats
    Megafaun

    Damien Jurado

    Horse Feathers
    hello mtn
    The Ridges

    Disappears
    Sundown

    Eels
    The Submarines

    Brand New x2
    ROBBERS
    The Builders and the Butchers

    Thrice
    Say Anything

    Dashboard Confessional x2

    Paul McCartney x3

    Bob Dylan

    Eric Clapton x2

    Morrissey

    The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

    John Ralston

    Margot & the Nuclear So and So's

    New City Gypsy x3
  • Listening through the Mountain Goats! 4AD/MERGE YEARS 2003-now!

    6 maj 2011, 02:43

    2003

    This is the year that our friends tMG kick it into high gear in terms of studio time. Add Peter Peter Hughes, and Franklin Bruno, and we're entering winning territory.

    This year (LOLOL), we're going to cover Tallahassee, the See America Right single, and also the Palmcorder Yajna single. So excited!

    First things first, let's do the two singles. See America Right, of course, is the track that Pitchfork infamously described as sounding like Cake, and I cannot even begin to describe all the things incorrect with that statement. Anyway, seeing the picture of PPH doing the bass drum on this song with his right hand and a mallet pretty much makes my life. The distorted, lo-fi drums of New Chevrolet in Flames and the AMAZING lyrics make me wish it were included on Tallahassee proper, "my love for you is 90% proof/...I put on my smoking jacket.../...has a more complicated history than the American south" etc. I could go on. Some of my favorite JD lyrics ever. PETE BROWN CAN SATISFY ALL YOUR NEW CAR NEEDS. Design Your Own Container Garden also deserves plenty of love. To me, it foreshadows songs like All Up The Seething Coast and others from WSABH.

    Now, let's hit PY. I will save my thoughts on PY for later, as it is a fantastic song. However, I want to discuss Butter Teeth now. I understand why it did not fit onto WSABH, as it has a very different timbre. The auxiliary percussion is so good. "stray electric currents/trying to find the ground... Portuguese warships cresting the waves..." AHHHH. This song is in my loved tracks. Snakeheads is another song that would not have fit on WSABH proper, however, the piano and bell sound is fantastic. Very tasteful arrangement. As always, really.

    Okay. What we've all been waiting for... the first 4ad album, Tallahassee! TRACK BY TRACK.

    Tallahassee: the rotating bass line, sounding like it plucked directly from a rotary amp or something. Great opener. “The destroying angel”… the way JD sings that is very touching.

    First Few Desperate Hours: this track was one of the first tMG songs I ever got into. The E to F# to A chord progression (a.k.a 1-2-4) is one of my favorite chord progressions ever, which JD first used on Source Decay... and it rules. PPH dominates the bass here. Specifically on the "and the good times roll on" and "on a hillside struggling to stand" lines. The ride cymbal bell is nice touch.

    Southwood Plantation Road: let's just say, this song absolutely slays. The tambourine throughout the entire thing, the B-3 hammond organ set to its most distorted setting... the bass solos which provide great counter-melody, etc. The "new" version of this on tour lately with JW drumming is my favorite tMG song ever. Lyrics, as always, are solid. "All night long, you giggle and scream, your brown eyes deeper than a dream... we are going to stay married in this house like a Louisiana graveyard..." LA LA LA LA LA! (post-mingling with unsuspecting Christian men, of course.)

    Game Shows Touch Our Lives: I remember on my first listening of this song, being really confused about the title. ...now, upon many listens, I get it; the "fabulous showroom", etc. I know Pitchfork ripped JD for the "what do they know about friends?" line, but I think it's a genuinely affecting line in the song. I always really liked that line. Hmm. Also, of note, the EADGBD tuning... I was very thrown off by that initially too.

    The House That Dripped Blood: JD's vocals here are awesome. ...and PPH takes the song over with his chorused/overdriven bass. Absolutely kicks it. I have stolen that sound/his licks like this so often in worship team stuff on Sunday morning, and in my recordings, that I should probably pay him. "the cellar door is an open throat". AHHH. Love it. The harmonica sounds good overdubbed twice at the end, however, I sometimes think I would like it better without it. Sounds a touch overdrawn. Maybe I'm crazy.

    Idylls of the King: ALL OF THEM ALL OF THEM ALL OF THEM ALL OF THEM ALL LINED UP. Had to. Sorry. Anyway: this song sets up No Children beautifully. On initial listening, I liked this song, but sensed the album was beginning to drag a little. Had no idea No Children was next, but this song sets it up wonderfully in terms of track listing. I'm assuming Bruno is doing the overdubbed guitar in the left channel; it's perfect. This song features a strong bridge, which I think JD was starting to develop solid bridges at this point, and had not had previously. Chord progression is wonderful.

    No Children: what is there to say about this song? The piano, the bass-line counter-point, the lyrics so wonderfully alcoholic and bitter... the best sing-along song this side of This Year... my goodness. The disturbed side of me wants this song played at my wedding. For the lolz. If you listen to no other song by tMG, you should listen to this one. Live bootlegs with the crowd singing usually give me goosebumps.

    See America Right: this song also kicks it. A great counter to No Children, also. Plenty of "your love is like..." similes that are unique and utterly fantastic. AND WALKED IT TWO MILES TO THE BUS STOP. Franklin's overdubbed guitar at the end is my favorite of his besides the part in How I Left the Ministry.

    Peacocks: On my initial listen, I did not like this song. I felt it was too overdrawn, and kinda cold. Which is odd, because I now think this is one of the warmest in tMG oeuvre. I will admit, I think it sounds a touch thin, and the lyrics are unrelatable to me at this stage in life, so I am not very emotionally connected to it. However, the first chord progression in the verses is SO beautiful. I will never know why there are peacocks in the front yard.

    International Small Arms Traffic Blues: I am preparing for a poo-storm on this. This is my least favorite song on Tallahassee. I cannot tell whether I love the lyrics or hate them. The addition of the "ooh baby, can't explain it" is either cringe-worthy or absolutely fantastic. I can't decide. I will say that I know Nigel loves this song, but it is honestly not one of my favorites. Describing love as "like the border between Greece and Albania" is fantastic, though.

    Have to Explode: I jumped on the bandwagon with this track far too late. The chord progression on 5-4-3-2-1! in the lyrics is one of the most beautiful JD has managed. That ALWAYS unpredictable minor chord that swings in there. Even though I KNOW it's coming, I always sit there and think, "that's an AMAZING chord". I love how I can hear the room, or rather uh, "feel" it? That bass tone is so warm. The slight piano bits fall in just the right places. How many times have I been in a relationship where it feels like she speaks in smoke signals and I'm speaking in code? Too many times. Sometimes human relationships have to explode. They do. (We'll get back to this with Get Lonely.)

    Old College Try: Again, this is not one of my favorites. The hammond b-3 organ, of course, is fantastic. I would've liked to have seen New Chevy in this place, but I think this song does for Oceanographer's Choice what Idylls of the King does for No Children.

    Oceanographer's Choice: THIS track. PPH's linear drumbeat, the cycling organ, the electric guitars that sound sped-up and slowed-down and looped... and those lyrics. Maybe they're having sex? Maybe they're fighting and it's become physical? The world will never know. These lyrics are some of my favorite tMG lyrics ever. Throwing off sparks! Stubbing cigarettes out against the west wall! WHAT WILL I DO WHEN I DON'T HAVE YOU TO HOLD ONTO IN THE DARK?!

    AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.


    2004

    Okay. Here comes 2004; another quality year. This year contains the Letter From Belgium single, a compilation featuring the song Beat the Devil, and the wonderful studio album We Shall All Be Healed, abbrev'd as WSABH HENCEFORTH AND WAYWARD.

    First, Beat the Devil is a wonderful song. Completely overlooked this one until now, which I deeply regret; a great little tune.

    On the LfB single, first is the song itself, which I will save for the album description, but it contains two b-sides, Nova Scotia and Attention All Pickpockets. Nova Scotia, when I first heard it, was something I was not expecting at all. It features distorted vocal (here's to you, Vanderslice) spoken-word and acoustic guitar percussion, and light, airy drums. Attention All Pickpockets is the secret treasure here, however. Gang vocals, midi-cello/violin, rolling bass line from our friend Peter Peter Hughes, and great lyrics. "And us too; not the same people that our old friends knew!", "...white long-sleeve Oxford, pushed up to just before your elbows, black pumps, and a medium length black skirt eating a path through the dark, damp earth". So great. One of my all-time favorite b-sides of any artist. I see how these two songs did not fit on WSABH proper, however, that does not diminish their quality at all.

    Now, to WSABH. This album is one of my favorite of the 4ad albums, when taken as a whole. I think the distorted John Vanderslice vocals fit the style and lyrics very well; however, I often have fits concerning the rather, uh... pedestrian drumming on this album. The exceptions are Letter From Belgium, and the spazzy Enon-like jazz breakdown of Cotton. Otherwise, I would love to hear a rendering of the songs with JW drumming, as I personally think the drum tracks are rather... flaccid. Not the biggest fan of the sound of them, nor what is actually being played by the drummer himself. Harsh criticism, I know, but I DO know what I like when it comes to drums, and what I don't. Just personal preference.

    So, let's start!

    Slow West Vultures: A great, great opener; almost like the mission statement of the album. In a short year, JD seems to want to prove he is content with the sound of Tallahassee, but wants to push it just a little more. The aggressive staccato attacks on the piano between verses, the broken glass/radio interjections, the introduction of strings to the 4ad world, another quality "Goddamn" from JD, this song has got it all. "Ready for the world about to come". The drums do sound good here; especially the overdubbed snare on the ending. Another quality JD song in rapidly strummed E.

    Palmcorder Yajna: HOPE BOULEVARD. BETWEEN GARY AND WHITE. These lyrics really help define the album to me; the ones to the entire song, that is. JD is obviously a great lyricist, but with my background and musical developments with artists like Elliott Smith, Jimmy Eat World, Owen, etc., it is the confessional style of this album and his following two that really got me to like him as a lyricist in terms of the VAST number of songs he composed... uh... not about himself. That digression aside, this song absolutely slays. The piano breakdown in the bridge, PPH's wonderful harmonies (THE HEADSTONES CLIMBED UP THE HILLS, I hope they incinerate everyone in it, etc.), and the propulsive distorted/overdriven guitar in the left channel make this song a great choice for a lead single. Hooks abound on this one. This is not your older brother's tMG anymore.

    Linda Blair Was Born Innocent: Opening a track with harmonics is a 70's rock 'n' roll trick, so I dig it. PPH's bass line + the plucked violins in the intro hook me into the entire song. "patches on our jeans", "hungry for love, ready to drown, so tie down the sails, we're going downtown", "higher than weather balloons". Again, simple reflections of what is around JD, but it works.

    Letter From Belgium: This song threw me for a loop when I first heard it; almost three years ago. I had only heard Sax Rohmer #1, This Year, and Woke Up New by this point; and I think the title is what drew me to listen to this one. What is there to say about this song? The awkward distorted organ in the right channel that overpowers and drives the song, and fabulous lyrics:

    "Susan and her notebook, freehand drawings of Lon Chaney
    Blueprints for geodesic domes, recipes for cake
    Yeah, we're all here chewing our tongues off
    Waiting for the fever to break"

    ...and the descriptions of paranoia are great; people closing in like a wolfpack, waiting for the fever to break, etc. As all users know, the only thing that is terrible about feeling high... is the feeling that you are high. AND EVERYBODY KNOWS IT.

    The Young Thousands: I was dating a girl named Veronica the first time I heard this song. Roughly a year ago, as it was during Spring quarter. I was about to mow my lawn, when I left Letter From Belgium on too long as I was tying my shoes to prepare to head out. I was talking to Veronica on the phone, and this song started to play. As it hit the first break between the verses, with that beautiful piano coming in, I told her I had to go mow; but I really just wanted to hear how the song played out. True story. After I heard it in full, I texted Nigel almost immediately. The rollicking bass line (which is a darned difficult one to play, I MIGHT ADD, ESPECIALLY the fourth verse. But goodness, is it beautiful), and the wonderful shots of piano which all escalate towards the wall of JD's singing the refrain. "There's someone waiting outside with a mouthful of surprises". Isn't there always? That wall of JD's singing the final chorus is what hooked me. This is the only song I have EVER only heard once, and instantly added it to my loved tracks. I've listened to almost 90000 songs. I have 181 (I think) loved tracks. This is the ONLY one to have me hear it once, let alone less than 15-20 times, before I added it to my loved tracks. I could go on endlessly about this tune. (Actually, in reflection, I already have...)

    Your Belgium Things: Nice counter-melodic bass line, and the solid chord-based piano is wonderful. The line of "32 expos...........ures" is perfect. I never thought too much of this song; except that it serves as a wonderful denouement from the apex of the previous two songs. "Bones from deep down in the Fertile Crescent... but Jesus, what a mess... a tiger's never going to change its stripes... walking gingerly across the bruised earth", etc. More images of disorganization and the loss of concept of time, which are throughout this album to an extreme. For an album about substance abuse, though, that makes sense.

    Mole: For the longest time, this was the weakest song by FAR to me, of the album, and for his entire oeuvre. Bold, I know. I always (and sometimes still) feel like it drags a little, although the whole progression and disappearance of other instruments, like a bell-curve, fits the lyrics about seeing someone in a hospital, and feeling as though JD and this person are the only people in the world ("In the desert...") once he passes away. The bass that comes in on the "Information... information." part in the lyrics steal the show. Not so hot on the rotary style piano bit that comes in between the second chorus and third verse; it sounds almost too cheesy, for a song and lyric set that is anything but.

    Home Again Garden Grove: is the first song where the distortion-driven guitar, bass, and vocals really find a true groove together, and sound like a cohesive unit. LET'S GO WHERE THE JACKALS ARE BREEDING. The chord progression, another rapidly strummed tune in E, is killer. The sole harmony on the last iteration of "...garden grove!" before the verses end is very effective and beautiful. "Now we are practical men of the world, we tether our dreams to the turf..." again fits the motif of substance abuse perfectly. The feeling of being invincible and that there is nothing capable of bringing them down; there are truly "home again", whether that means a physical home, or a metaphorical comfortability in a high.

    All Up The Seething Coast: NONE of the lyrics of the entire album, however, paint as vivid a picture of meth use better, or more concretely, than this. The ability to have desire to eat has disappeared, taping pictures to the walls or carrying an apple in the pockets just to remind him to eat; going dinner rather reluctantly, or "because you tell me to". The trips back to places the user feels comfortable about, while simultaneously seeing people standing at a bus stop, and feeling so paranoid that the user imagines that the people there are gossiping about him. So vivid, yet simple in its description, this is one of my favorite songs of JD's. The de-tuned guitar, (I THINK it is CGDGBE, the same tuning for similar-sounding Flashing Lights off of Sweden). Beautiful song.

    Quito: is another killer JV-driven tune. The distorted, rotary bass line is really something to behold. I would really love to hear it isolated and individualized so I would know exactly how to copy it, haha. The tambourine that comes in on verse 2 is perfectly timed, and necessary; as I feel it ties the entire song together. The fantastic violin solos that intertwine like a solo from The Allman Brothers. Salmon at the spawning, indeed.

    Cotton: more weird underwater rotary piano here; however it fairs much better here than in Mole, as it is much simpler, and it fits the song. The simple bass line, based on fifths above the chord progression is nice. The harmonies on "let 'em all go" are absolutely delicious. I lust after the info on how they mic'd the drums on that breakdown. They sound very open. Something in post-production, methinks.

    Against Pollution: Okay. The drum pattern here; a linear pattern where nothing is played at the same time, and only one thing sounds at a time, i.e., hi-hat, hi-hat bass, hi-hat, bass, snare, etc., is a great pattern. However, I honestly do not think it fits this song at all, really. That aside, live versions of this song are absolutely phenomenal. I will still attest that I think this is the weakest song on the studio album. However, the live versions make me think of it as one of the strongest. The "I don't understand how the metal gets rusty, as it never rains in here" is a perfect line. Definitely have used that as a Facebook status or 12.

    Pigs That Ran Straightaway Into the Water, Triumph Of: is another track where I think the linear style distracts me from the song. That hi-hat just sounds repulsive. Especially at the end. Sounds like a trash can lid striking the rest of the trash can. The shaker sounds great, though! The harmonies make up for it to me, though. The lyrics are odd to me; as I do not quite grasp their full meaning, although the orange jumpsuit lines get me every time. Evidently, JD heard this play in a Gap store once. That amuses me behind plausible belief.

    I'm done now! What to do? Well, I guess I'll just have to go to Claremont.


    2005

    Oh yeah! This year (LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL) is a biggie, again. Covering: The Sunset Tree (and respectively Come, Come to the Sunset Tree, alongside the Dilaudid single and several other comp tracks.

    FIrst off, the cover, White Box of a Jandek song, is exactly as it should sound like. A Jandek cover. Porcile, meanwhile, sounds like it is a track that setup the following album, Get Lonely. With lyrics about being alone in a house, things being bad for the narrator, etc. The Dilaudid single contains the album versions of both Dilaudid and This Year, alongside b-side (and CCttST demo) Collapsing Stars and the guitar lead version of Dilaudid titled Dilaudid (Marrtronix Version). The guitar/bass version of Dilaudid sounds very good; however live versions of the song with acoustic guitar trumps it. Collapsing Stars is a minor key song that would not have fit on tST; it is much more percussive and driven by dark low piano. The strings on the "hold tight, hold fast, catch lightning in a jar" part is wonderful. Makes the song very full. Sad that this version could not make it on a proper album, but it is a treasure. The arrangement is beautiful. (And the piano solo at the end. Yes!)

    Now, on to tST; i.e. The Sunset Tree. This album is a fan favorite. Maybe better said, from my approximations, a newer fan's favorite album. Every song on here has a great purpose; and we all know the story of the album, being about JD's abusive stepfather. The entire album fixates on images of a broken household, light violence, the narrator's dependence on either substances, his girlfriend, etc. This album was an early favorite of mine, although only really the first five songs or so. It finally clicked last spring for me, as I was walking across the oval at Ohio State, and listened through the album in its entirety. Know it's cliché, but the ending of the album hit me like a ton of bricks.

    Anyway, let's get on to the album. Yes.

    You or Your Memory: Great opener. The shuffling drum-beat, already an instant step-up from We Shall All Be Healed, and the piano driving the song in the background. Very effective, palate-cleansing opener from the sonics of the previous album. St. Joseph's baby aspirin ftw?

    Broom People: Loved track of mine here... one of the best of the best. The circular, rotary bass line (which is incredibly fun to play, I might add), lyrics that set the scene; dishes in the kitchen sick, half-eaten gallons of ice cream in the freezer, friends who don't have a clue, well-meaning teachers, etc. The best lines though, without a doubt: "I write down good reason to freeze to death / In my spiral ring notebook / But in the long tresses of your hair / I am a babbling brook". I love the narrator's dependence on a girl here; very relatable (fortunately or unfortunately)... and that brings us TO:

    This Year: One of those songs. THe handclaps/rim-knocks, the melody, the instantly singable lyrics, the feeling of power and self-assurance in the way "I am gonna make it through this year, if it kills me!" is sung. There are no words. It's really in the little things, though; the little bass trill that happens after the lyrics "I could feel the alcohol inside of me hum", and the way that reverb ONLY happens in the song when JD sings the lyrics "...stepfather's face..." Flawless. Harmonies by Peter Peter Hughes are great; there are still times when I listen to this song and get chills. I feel as though I am right there with him. As though I can empathize suddenly with a situation that I am unable to actually empathize; that is, with parental abuse. Goodness.

    Dilaudid: As some of us who have spent time in the fields of pain relievers and opiates know, Dilaudid is a very effective side-step to heroin/morphine or any "actually" harmful drugs. It's a very expensive (very, very expensive) reliever of serious pain/use for a high. THe song itself is great; another JD shout: "for Christ's sake!". Killer. The string arrangement is perfect; easily beats out any guitar/bass combo version of this song.

    Dance Music: Another specific song. "Dance music!", yeah PPH harmonies! The congo drum/shaker are perfect accompany here. Drums would drown this song, I think. Counter-melodic bass line that is incredibly fluid, another great little bridge; really, the beginning of the development of a pattern for JD's songs. Great lyrics + fluid bass line + catchy bridge + ??? = PROFIT.

    Dino Lipatti's Bones: I was the coldest on this track for a long time. I thought it was a complete momentum killer after the perfect beginning to side A with the previous songs. The electric guitar sounds jazzy and smooth; and I was not expecting it the first few times I heard this album. His vocal delivery is quite pretty here, but I think I like it when he sings it with his chest voice, rather than falsetto. Just preference. The low tones on the piano steal the show, however. Just too good.

    Up the Wolves: "Our mother has been absent ever since we founded Rome, but there's gonna be a party when the wolves come home". Apparently, this was the first track recorded/written for tST, and what a great one it is. PPH encouraged JD to keep writing in this autobiographical style, and it really worked. This song is one of the true highlights of the album for me. The strings pop out in the mix and feel warm. The electric piano sounds smooth and light/airy. ("lighter than the air!") Bass is punchy and PPH's harmonies steal the show again. Great shout-a-long line here: "IT'S GONNA TAKE YOU PEOPLE YEARS TO RECOVER FROM ALL OF THE DAMAGE"). One of my loved tracks. ...and goodness, do I love it so.

    Lion's Teeth: It might be a tough one for ole' JD to sing, but it's a FABULOUS song. The punchy electric guitar on that opening Em chord onwards, the drums/bass/strings that combine to meet the rhythm, it's fantastic. This is another highlight to me. JD said this is a kind of revenge fantasy song, and I can see how; the cops come in and bust down the doors, he's "holding on [to the lion's tooth] for dear life". You really get this true feeling that you WANT JD to hold on. You're on his side. The "I am dreaming of you" line makes me think that he's putting his girlfriend in front again, but I could be plucking the line out-of-context. Never read one lyric line. The slightly distorted vocals win here; super subtle. Super groovy.

    Hast Thou Considered the Tetrapod: "One of these days, I'm gonna wriggle up on dry land". Another in a series of rather bleak, yet somehow inspirational songs. Confessional songwriting has got NOTHIN' on this dude, yo. The bass drum that is slightly muted and phased out is fantastic. (Even if the chord progression is only a SLIGHT variance on Short Song About the 10 Freeway). Great bass solo. (I could go on and on and on about PPH's bass playing... oh wait... I already do...) "Alone in my room, I am the last of a lost civilization, and vanish into the dark, and rise above my station". So perfect. If only more songs could have organ sounds as perfect as this one, the world would truly be a better place.

    Magpie: Reminds me of Quito a little bit; as it kinda serves the same purpose on this album in terms of track sequencing. It's a bit of a different timbre from song of the previous songs, and it prepares the listener for the songs to come; in this case, three acoustic ones. Whoever is playing the light plucky guitar (which is capo'd at the 10th fret? LOL WAT... I'm assuming it's Franklin Bruno?) is a winner. Same with whoever's idea it was to use open mic recording on the break part where the bass drum/shaker/tambourine come in. It sounds so so so so so so so good.

    Song for Dennis Brown: live recording here is wonderful. If it took all the coke in town to bring Dennis Brown down, will it be much different on the day JD's lung collapses? Probably not. Again, the substances come into play here. The overdubbed second acoustic guitar is soft, melodic, and beautiful. Same with the synth-pad-like strings? I shall run to the mountaintops and shout to the villagers about that second guitar part. Very simple, yet great. AND WHEN THAT BASS COMES IN.

    Love Love Love: "Now we see thing s as in a mirror dimly, and then we shall see each other face to face". YOU ARE NOT GOING TO FIND MANY LYRICS BETTER THAN THAT ONE. Okay. Ahem. Everyone yells this song out at concerts. I mean, it's a great song, but I don't think it's one of the best. Pitchfork said that some of the references (specifically the Cobain one) were cheap/easy. Not sure I agree with that, as they fit the concept of the song. ...Not completely sold on this tune as one of the bests ever and the best of the bests LOL. Which is okay, because there are things about it that I love. The distorted electronic -sounding drum beat and overdubbed keyboard part? Gold.

    Pale Green Things: Perfect ending to this album. The fact that the one thing that JD chooses to remember about his stepfather on the day that his sister calls to tell him that he passed away... is his trip to the racetrack. A positive memory. ...absolutely killer. I mean that in the heart-sinking way. The world falls out from under me every time I listen through this entire album and get to this song.

    ...on that note, it sounds very much like a song that would fit on the universally hated Get Lonely; string part, rapidly yet soft strumming part. Softly sung lyrics, etc. I will always sing the praises of GL, yet as I listen to Pale Green Things, I hear a LOT of GL in it. Oh well. 2005 is in the books. Looking forward to next year. :)
  • Listening through the Mountain Goats! PRE-4AD VERSION 1991-2002

    19 feb 2011, 19:41

    so i understand that i am a day late with this, Nigel Ewan, and for that, i apologize! however, i listened through all of JD's 1991 work, Taboo VI: The Homecoming, and his contribution to some random compilation.

    Favorite song: I'm going to go on a limb here, and say that Wild Palm City is my favorite of 1991. There is just... something about how you can tell that this has to be the first song he recorded; like he just picked up the guitar and started strumming it. I mean, the chord progressions don't always match up, and there are errors, etc. It's quality. I know "Going to Alaska" would probably be the definitive answer here... but... I like Wild Palm City lots.
    Favorite lyric: Hmm... I think I'm going to go with "I'm going to move all my vital organs to someplace outside my body/The wiring is something you would not believe. from Ice Cream, Cobra Man. Just the imagery is quite cool; imaginative. JD is a solid songwriter, in my opinion, for putting together simple phrases that seemingly have nothing to do with each other, and connecting them. Love it.

    Although the Hank Williams cover got on my nerves after about thirty seconds of the Spanish translation overtop it, I will admit.

    See you next Friday with 1992! Get pumped.

    1992

    Okay. 1992 contains three albums, The Hound Chronicles, Songs for Petronius, and Transmissions for Horace. I personally think that John must've taken steroids somewhere in between these two years, as the sheer volume and quality of songs is incredibly superior to 1991, it is not even funny. Aha! Ha! Aha!

    Favorite Album: hmm. Probably The Hound Chronicles. It also contains my favorite song, the one with the title of the Hebrew word for "quiet". That casio jam kicks butt. Like, totally.

    Favorite Lyric: I hate to do this, but really the lyric from No, I Can't about the filing cabinet. I lol'd upon hearing it for the first time. Here it is: thanks for the filing cabinet/i don't know what i did without it!. So goofy, but yet important to the song. So awesome. Also, the lyrics to the early Alpha songs are very good; and extremely reminiscent to me of the more familiar Tallahassee songs.

    Other Things And Stuff: Well. Going to Wisconsin is an incredible song, and I also throughly enjoy Alpha Double Negative: Going to Catalina. Yay!

    See you next my Friday with 1993. :)

    1993

    So. Another week has gone by, and ergo another entry! This one is for 93, another turbo productive year for dear John (not the movie). So! Let's get going. The albums were:

    (several tracks from comps... and...!)
    Chile De Arbol
    Hot Garden Stomp
    Philyra

    Favorite Song/Favorite Lyric: This one for me is tough, because I really like Hot Garden Stomp as a whole, honestly. However, Feed This End is absolutely amazing. The intro, the lyrics (well... duh!), and the chord progression where he says my favorite lyric, "you taught me something about power/in its purest form" is nearly perfect. My goodness. I first heard this song as I was sitting in my geometry class, waiting for it to start, and I listened to it passively; then immediately stood up, walked out, and listened to it three times on repeat before re-entering the room. (Then sent a text to Nigel. I was overwhelmed.)

    Honorable Mentions/Stuff: I was almost shocked at the cursing in Billy the Kid's Dream of the Magic Shoes. It really took me by complete surprise, actually. Also, I personally love JD when he sounds absolutely bitter; so Fresh Berries for You is another highlight.

    The lyric "there are certain gardening skills/that you don't have yet", out-of-context is extremely goofy. However, in Sun Song it sounds amazing. I am personally a huge fan of HGS. I fully approve. Going to Japan is similarly AMAZING.

    Cannot wait for 1994! See you soon.

    1994

    This week, we're concerned with:

    Beautiful Rat Sunset
    Yam, King of the Crops
    Taking the Dative
    and
    Zopilote Machine
    amongst other comp tracks.

    Favorite Song: Torn between Alpha Sun Hat and Going to Maryland. These two songs feature strong lyrics, as always, and catchy guitar parts. I mean, I know Going to Georgia is the definitive answer here, and don't get me wrong... the song rules. Similarly, Orange Ball of Peace and Going to Bristol are honorable mentions. The pre-chorus/chorus part to Going to Bristol features a great, great, awesomely great chord progression.

    Favorite Lyric: I hate saying this, since it is not one specific lyric, but the entirety of Alpha Sun Hat. The cute mention/foreshadowing of Tallahassee, the "1 2 3 4!" part about it not being a rock song... all of it. The sample in Chino Love Song 1979 deserves mention here too, as it ties together the lyrics of the song. ...he also mentions Riverside Dr... which is the name of a road very close to my house here in the suburb of Columbus called Upper Arlington. I definitely lol'd and re-listened to it about 3 times making sure I heard it correctly.

    There really are too many great options here. This is getting progressively more difficult as time goes. ...Zopilote Machine is also becoming one of my favorite pre-4ad albums. Up and down, it is an easy, solid, enjoyable listen. ...mind, I know the songs on that specific album don't push two and a half minutes, but still, it's a quick, light, awesome lesson as an entirety.

    Other mentionables: The chord progressions of Going to Tennessee and Yam, the King of Crops are AWESOME.

    1995 NEXT!

    1995

    My goodness, what another solid year. This time, we get to look at:

    Sweden
    Nine Black Poppies
    Songs for Peter Hughes
    several singles, comp selections, etc

    Okay. Disclaimer: 1995 contains some of my already favorite songs, so this was an easy year to listen through, as this is the beginning of the time when the majority of the material is not hitting my ears for the first time. That said, let's continue!

    Favorite song(s): Let's not kid ourselves here. The entirety of "Songs for Peter Hughes" takes the cake, for me. Every song on there is GOLD. Absolute GOLD. Rachel sounds great here, and I would argue her basslines here mirror PPH's in the future the most; they are great little counter-melodies, and her voice matches JD's so wonderfully. Short Song for the 10 Freeway, the re-working of No, I Can't, the beautiful Song for Dana Plato and OF COURSE, The Sign.

    Similarly, and I include Favorite Lyrics in this discussion, Cubs In Five, although most likely the definitive choice here, sounds fresh every single time I play it. Raja Vocative, a track Nigel and I covered a year ago, is absolutely incredible; some of my favorite lyrics of JD's. Very simple, but paint a great picture.

    You may be thinking, "but Ian... where is Sweden in all of this?!". And you would be correct. I have purposely postponed my praise for Sweden... until, well... now. <_<

    Although it was ultimately Get Lonely that would get me hooked on tMG, Sweden was the first pre-4AD album, (alongside FFG, if we must be honest) that REALLY hooked me to the boombox approach. ...believe me, it took a hot minute before I really enjoyed the sonics, but the songwriting of Sweden is too solid to ignore.

    The Recognition Scene comes into my mind every single time I see/hear any derivative of the word "Sweden". The Steely Dan cover FM makes me smile purely because I KNOW there have to be people in existence that hear that song and DO NOT KNOW it is a SD cover. Which amuses me greatly.

    There are several on Sweden I do not like as much as the rest, I fully admit. I get restless about halfway through it; but mostly because I know what treasures lay at the end of the album.

    The VERY BEST SONG of 1995, however, is Flashing Lights. It not only predicts the softer approach JD has embraced as of late, but also features a Drop C tuning. Which is pretty metal. ...and if anyone disagrees with me about this, I will personally slap you in the face. >_> Not really. However, I LOVE THIS SONG.

    Next time... 1996? The year Al Gore invented the internet?!

    1996

    So, again, I am ashamed of my insane tardiness with this, however, that does not mean I ignored our beloved tMG. :)

    1996 contains two great things in JD world: Nothing for Juice and Jack & Faye.

    Now, I know my good friend Nigel has his personal preferences in terms of albums, and that our favorites do not exactly line up. Case and point, Nothing for Juice. That aside, I think that really shows the diversity and excitement contained within why I think tMG are so special in the musical canon of bands I enjoy. The diversity contained within tMG catalogue is astounding.

    Anyway.

    Favorite Lyric: Definitely the "I KNOW WE'RE DONE FOR" from Going to Bogotá. Maybe a cliché pick, however, the delivery and build-up is wonderful. The entirety of Alpha Double Negative: Going to Catalina, "I see your veins throbbing in your neck/I know what you're saying/I know what you're saying it for/I'm not listening/I'm not listening anymore".

    SO GREAT. I am extremely partial to those pseudo-relationship songs, and so that one is great. This version builds on the previous one on Songs for Petronius only slightly; the addition of Rachel is wonderful.

    Which brings me to another point: although I LOVE Rachel on Songs for Peter Hughes, I might love her on Nothing for Juice even more. Her basslines are subtle and usually follow JD directly; foreshadowing the aforementioned PPH.

    Other favorite things: The chord progression and combination of harmonies/delivery/way JD sings the words of Raid on Entebbe is amazing. Pretty sure that after a few more listens, this song will join my loved tracks. This song embodies everything that is so GOOD about the pre-4AD Mountain Goats. Almost a shame it's tucked away on this little EP, but I am super glad that Nigel and I are doing this, because otherwise I might never have searched out to find songs like this.

    Rachel Ware, I want to collaborate with you. Come to Columbus. Make my songs as awesome as what you do with JD. Please. I have a nasally voice too! Make it sound beautiful!

    1997, 1998, 1999

    Since it seems as though JD took a break/was preparing very hard for the amazing 2000 effort, The Coroner's Gambit, Nigel and I decided to combine these three years, as they cover Full Force Galesburg and New Asian Cinema plus several comps.

    To start, I feel it is necessary to say that FFG and NAC hold interesting points for me; FFG was the first tMG album I remember listening to in full. NAC is the LAST tMG album I finally got to listening to; which I find very interesting, as NAC is growing to become one of my favorites. Lalitree's banjo playing, the subtle organ on Cao Dai Blowout, JD harmonies on only one line of Korean Bird Paintings and the fantastically beautiful harmonica overtones on Treetop Song.

    Favorite Song and lyric: Tough one. FFG is one of my favorites. Alongside the aforementioned Treetop Song, New Britain fascinates me because when I heard it, I was not expecting the DADGAD tuning, as I had only previously heard standard (EADGBE) tuning from JD before that. I absolutely love the chord progression to it. So great. "This morning I know/Who you are". SO GREAT.

    Ontario and especially Down Here are also personal favorites; the overdubbed electric guitar fits it perfectly. The chord progression and lyrical flow of Chinese House Flowers is fantastic. "The windows look like frosted glass if you see them from the street... And i, i pressed up against you again/I could hear your heartbeat steady, and hard, and pure/I used to love you so much that i was sure it would kill me/And i want you the way you were". The way JD says "the GLEAM IN YOUR EYE". Yes.

    Similarly, the live version of one of my new favorites, Raid on Entebbe, from the YoYo a GoGo live comp is great.

    Few points of interest here, however. I know that Minnesota and Golden Boy are favorites to many. I know this. However, both songs do not strike me as being incredibly great standout tracks. They are solid songs, but are both some of my least favorite tMG songs. Maybe it's because I know a lot of people like them, I'm not sure. The last verse of Golden Boy is quite good; repeating that line about how there are no supermarkets in hell, but it just doesn't click with me the way some of the others from these years do. Minnesota is a solid song, for sure, but I find myself getting bored with the chord progression, I think, because it is the same progression to many other songs I know. Praise songs, specifically. The lyrics, of course, are absolutely great. I just... get bored with it. Never thought I'd say that.

    Getting excited for some of my favorites coming up! So glad that this project happened, or else I would never have heard some of these songs. So excited to move forward!!!

    2000

    Big year here. Both Isopanisad Radio Hour and The Coroner's Gambit this year.

    Favorite Songs/Lyric: This year, I think both the album and the EP are amazing. I feel like IRH has to be the songs recorded for tCG that did not fit on the album; as all the songs have roughly the same recording timbre and feel. Cobscook Bay, with its bells and subtle electric guitar is an amazing track. Everything about it is a winner. Baboon is also wonderful; the lyrics are biting, and the drums sound fantastic alongside the humming instrument; which sounds like a harmonium or even a casio. I am under the assumption JD is playing drums here; as the riding tom 16th notes push the anger through it, and it is fantastic. I decided to put most of Baboon here, lyric-wise, as it is of high quality. Especially the spirit/flesh line.

    ...and the spirit wasn't really willing anymore, but the flesh was very very strong.
    and i've got very little money left, and i've got no sense,
    but I'll have none of your god damned impudence...

    daisies on the hillside like cancer on the skin.
    pretty little yellow eyes that flutter in the wind,
    I'd be grateful my children aren't here here to see this,
    if you'd ever seen fit to give me children.

    day breaking... spring cleaning!


    Those are fantastic. The additional guitar parts on Horseradish Road make the song, alongside the multiple references JD makes to other artists, including LeAnn Rimes, (a song he hates...<_<). ...and what would tCG be without Family Happiness, the first pre-4AD song that really, really, REALLY stuck with me. The Tolstoy, the guess I'm supposed to figure these things out, I guess it's supposed to be self-evident, the engine shuddering like a "dying man", etc. Trick Mirror and Elijah's falsetto/breaking vocals are killer. Insurance Fraud #2 and its open tuning leave me (sometimes) wishing JD would visit his DADGAD tuning more often.

    Like God was going to catch you by the ponytail is the line I hear almost every time I see someone with a ponytail walking directly in front of me, and the Daytrotter version of There Will Be No Divorce still rocks my world.

    What I like most about tCG is it is a very important record in tMG oeuvre. The violin, backing acoustic guitar/electric and drum/bell/percussion additions make the best case for JD becoming a solid studio arranger come 4AD years. ...I find myself liking tCG with each new listen. It sounds fresh to me in places where some others have started to not; like the grating Hot Garden Stomp or the album closest to setting the stage for tCG, Nothing for Juice, or the album that still has yet to really sink in for me, Zopilote Machine.

    IRH contains some hidden gems to me, as I feel songs like Pseudothyrum Song and Abide With Me are hardly recognized. The latter containing very Christian overtones; perhaps sardonically, not sure. Perhaps since it was only a vinyl release, some people do not have mp3 copies of it, however, with its proximity to the very popular tCG and All Hail West Texas in terms of release date, I am surprised I do not hear more talk of it, as it is bookended by two very strong albums.

    2001/2002

    Hello there, campers. Here's my week-late/on-time coverage of 2001/2002, respectively. Yay!

    Covering:

    On Juhu Beach
    All Hail West Texas
    Devil in the Shortwave
    and
    Martial Arts Weekend

    On OJB, I think we can all agree that the tape hiss is incredibly present, however, that only adds to the songs in wonderful form here. Initially, I was rather turned off by it, and could only really listen to Burned My Tongue. Everything about Burned My Tongue is still amazing to me, I must say. Some of my favorite lyrics ever, and the delivery is outstanding. The line "do i have to hit you over the head with it?" is great, from the last track, World Cylinder. Hotel Road also rocks. This little EP is pretty nice and compact, and I enjoy it greatly, but I would take several over this one easily (see Nine Black Poppies, Beautiful Rat Sunset, ANDDDDD:

    Devil in the Shortwave. The line about guys "building graduate student housing" is one of my favorite to sing-along to in the song Crows. I now understand why Commandante is so highly requested at tMG shows, as this song KICKS it. So great. Always smile at the "Chairman Mao coat/Che Guevara pin", and the line about "banjo on my knee". Great, great lyrics. DitS might be one of my favorite EPs. Perfect mix of lo-fi and 4ad-forward albums; it is great. They almost sound like songs recorded for AHWT, but (clearly) did not fit the theme nor the overall timbre. I really, really, really like DITS.

    Now to the main course, All Hail West Texas. I admit, I have been relatively cold to this album in the past, merely because I perceived a lot of people really loved this one, and I never understood it because I never understood the seemingly complete solidarity in hatred towards Get Lonely, although that is a story we'll save for 2006! These songs, however, might be JD's most solid collection at this point in his recorded history. The entire album follows from song to song. That said, for me, the album loses momentum greatly with Riches And Wonders and Blues In Dallas. I will always listen to these songs, as I love the album now as a whole, however, I have grown tired of these two; not out of overlistening, but mostly due from the fact that I really do not like neither of them. Riches and Wonders and Blues in Dallas both strike me as a touch too overdrawn; the melodies don't stick with me, and I feel as if both of them are very cold. Perhaps I'm being too picky, or I am just jaded, but I am not big fans of those songs.

    However, AHWT is better with them there, in the sequence. I think there are momentum dips with the aforementioned songs, but songs like Color in Your Cheeks, with its great and unique for JD (at this point) chord progression, Jenny and its breakdown after a very good "Goddamn!", Balance, "two tall glasses of sweet iced tea!", really shine out. I cannot even begin to describe Source Decay (he says Mobius strip! AHHHH) nor Absolute Lithops Effect ("night comes to Texas"!!! YEAH FORESHADOWING OF TALLAHASSEE. I understand I am doing the album disservice by not describing each individual song, however if I started to, I would never cease writing. My goodness.

    What strikes me as to why AHWT is SO good, is the fact that JD finally started deviating from his beloved reliance on 1-4-5 (sometimes 2, sometimes 6) chord progressions, and moved towards more expansive chord progressions. Source Decay, Fault Lines, Pink And Blue, Balance, the wonderful The Mess Inside, and Absolute Lithops Effect all have extremely unique chord progressions for JD at this point, and foreshadow greatly the melodic turns and curveballs he throws on his 4ad/Merge albums.

    (I will admit, also, that while I think The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton and Fall Of The Star High School Running Back are some of the best storytelling songs JD has done, and are deservedly loved universally, I would take several of the songs on the rest of the album almost instantaneously over these two if I had to.)

    Now, we move on to the first true studio endeavor with higher fidelity common amongst the 4ad albums, Martial Arts Weekend, by the Extra Glenns, is perhaps the tMG-related album I have listened to the least of all of them. However, Franklin Bruno might be one of the best people possible in the entire world to collaborate with JD. His arrangements make JD really, really shine. See the subtle palm-muting and auxiliary percussion of Ultra Violet, the piano/electric guitar somewhere from the early 1960's on Twelve Hands High, the dueling guitars and reverbed JD of Going to Morocco, the AHWT-esque chord progression and harmonies of Malevolent Seascape Y, and the humorous bass/guitar + lyrics combo of All Rooms Cable A/C Free Coffee.

    In total, Franklin Bruno is the man. The absolute man. His arrangements are always tasteful. Going to have to go listen to Nothing Painted Blue now...