Journalism: The Glamour Never Ends
You always hear people say: "I like my job because every day is different."
Well, I had to work today and the day was surely different.
I covered "Dog-o-ween," a costume contest for dogs. Rather than simply write about the cute winners of the contest -- something the newspaper has done for years -- I decided to try a different approach.
I have been reading George Gimarc's "Punk Diary" for weeks now, so I tried to think of the most PUNK ROCK way of covering a costume contest for dogs. Hmm... I know! I will dress as a cat!
I interviewed the owners of the winning, dressed-up dogs per usual, but from a certain feline perspective. I would ask how their dogs react to cats and I asked bemused event organizers what would ever happen if a cat entered the contest (the main organizer said he feared there would be fights!).
My story of the event won't win any awards, but at least I tried to breathe a little life into an event the newspaper has covered the same way for a decade.
Indie's classic duet
It is so hard to believe that radio stations don't play "C is the Heavenly Option" on a regular basis.
This classic duet between Heavenly (led by former Talulah Gosh singer Amelia Fletcher) and Calvin Johnson (of Beat Happening) sounds like a big hit, even if it is only revered by music's underground fans.
You can go to Amazon.com, located here, and download this track for free, and you really should. Still, it seems beyond unfair that more people aren't humming this song as they walk down the street.
I did the dishes this morning while listening to some indie pop songs on the iPod, and I danced around the kitchen to "C is the Heavenly Option."
The song's lyrics are in the form of one of those romantic tests found in some magazines:
My boyfriend says he will leave me
Should I (A)
Get down on your knees
Should I (B)
Tell him where to go
Or should I (C)
Kiss him until it shows.
Amelia and Calvin trade off the lines, so that a boy and a girl each give the romantic advice.
The catchy chorus?
And if you're a (C) you'll end up like me
And love will bowl you over.
Hmm... I would hate to think "C is the Heavenly Option" is too clever for mainstream tastes. That, I am afraid, would be a damning indictment against the mainstream.
I almost slept right through the FRIDAY QUESTION.
I was sick this week, my father-in-law spent time in the hospital and work kept me busy as well.
Luckily, 6-year-old Route 1 assistant (and daughter) Annika jarred me out of my slumbering haze.
"What's this week's FRIDAY QUESTION?"
I had no idea, so I let her pick one.
"What is the music you listen to before you go to sleep?"
Ann M. -- The music I hear before bed, courtesy of my fiance, is the theme song to ESPN's SportsCenter.
Kerstin H. -- "Everywhere" by Tim McGraw.
Mary N.-P. -- Great question Annika... er... Erik. I don't listen to music before I go to bed because I won't be able to sleep with the melody (or whatever) running through my mind.
Jill H. -- Annika, I like to listen to soft jazz, a little Chet Baker or whatever else Daddy picks out.
Mike D. -- Most likely a tune from one of the sing-songy books that I read to my children at bedtime. "Do Your Ears Hang Low?" has been a requested favorite lately.
Dave B. -- If I listen to music before I went to sleep, I would never fall asleep.
Inger H. -- I don't really listen to music before I go to sleep, but I'm pretty touchy about what I'll listen to when I'm waking up. This morning Modest Mouse just seemed too noisy and screechy. I defaulted to the mellow moods of the Garden State soundtrack. It got me to work in one piece.
Rick T. -- The theme from the show "Night Court." Love that show.
Erik H. -- I usually only fall asleep to downtempo instrumental music (but not Miles Davis, because I typically concentrate too much on his melodies). Lee "Scratch" Perry's dub reggae track "Khasha Macka," based on the Gatherers' tune "Words of My Mouth," is one such song that can soothe me into sleep.
Annika H. -- I can fall asleep to any song.
A little indie while I wait
My father-in-law is in the hospital today, undergoing a follow-up surgical procedure on a knee he had surgically replaced 10 weeks ago.
I was waiting by myself in the surgical waiting room, bored of news from Washington, D.C. and slightly numbed by continuing news coverage of the World Series (but hey, let's here it for the Sox!).
So I turned to the iPod.
I decided to hear some indiepop classics: Do-it-yourself gems by bands such as "Girl on the Bus" by the Thin Yoghurts (1980), "Say Yes to Everything" by St. Christopher (1991) and "Words and Smiles" by Tiger Trap (1992).
These are songs you simply won't hear on the radio -- at least where I live -- but they deserve to be heard. The roots of Neutral Milk Hotel, Belle and Sebastian and the Decemberists can be heard in these songs. I hope they always resonate.
Music for the unwell
The worst thing about a sick day is that although you are not at work, you don't feel well enough to do anything worthwhile.
I couldn't even manage getting out of bed today, so I faced hours of staring off into space.
Thank goodness for the iPod. I at least had some good music to listen to as I stared off into space.
One of the bands I heard today was the legendary Talulah Gosh. Vocalist/guitarist Amelia Fletcher (born in 1966, like me!) formed this band with her drummer/brother Matthew in 1986, and for three years this Oxford quintet produced a whimsical, jangly type of indiepop that would eventually be called "twee."
Entire Web sites and generations of bands subsequently embraced the twee movement.
I listened to a pair of BBC radio sessions Talulah Gosh recorded -- one in 1986 for the Janice Long show and another in 1988 for John Peel. Both are wonderful, and helped pass the time as I stared up at the ceiling during my sick day.
Letting the days go by
My, how the days have gone by.
Today marks the 25th anniversary of a trio of monumental rock moments. On Oct. 24, 1980...
1) U2 released their debut album, "Boy." It's quite hard to believe that this Dublin quartet were "little known" at the time. Now, bandmembers (well, at least one) jet across the world to lunch with heads of state.
2) Blondie released their cover version of The Paragons' "The Tide is High." What sort of a landmark was this eventual No. 1 single (on both sides of the Atlantic)? My 6-year-old daughter Annika knows all the words, and would be happy to sing them to you... over and over and over and over again.
3) Talking Heads released their fourth -- and some say best -- album, "Remain in Light." This anniversary makes me feel old. I can remember buying "Remain in Light!" Of course, everybody sang along to "Once in a Lifetime." There were other great songs on this fantastic record as well. Remember "Houses in Motion?" Remember "Born Under Punches?"
Surely you remember "Crosseyed and Painless?"
"Facts are simple and facts are straight."
"Facts are lazy and facts are late."
"Facts all come with points of view."
"Facts don't do what I want them to."
Brilliant. Happy anniversary!
1) I am a nerd 2) great band name 3) me? nerd!
Yeah, yeah, yeah!
Two blog posts in one day make me such a NERD.
Here's what makes me a NERD (I mean, besides the fact that I am speaking these words out loud while I type them)...
I have listened to an obscure 1979 single called "It's Only Love" about 10 times today (NERD!) not only because it is a great lost song, but also because I read about it (NERD!) on Page 247 of "Punk Diary" by George Gimarc (possibly: NERD!).
I have come to the conclusion, while thinking about this song incessantly (NERD!) that the band that produced it played under the GREATEST BAND NAME EVER.
What was that name again?
LITTLE BO BITCH.
I don't know much about Dermon Maughan (keyboards), Bob Wainwright (bass), Steve Carroll (guitar), Terry Reece (drums) or Tony Watson (vocals) -- although, I do know all their names (NERD!). However, I surmise that they were five HIP Londoners to come up with the name LITTLE BO BITCH.
Just say it... "LITTLE BO BITCH."
Too awesome, as a matter of fact. The seeds of the group's demise came when the American record company (DWEEBS!) decided it would be better if they renamed themselves The Lonely Boys.
What a crappy name. Especially when you consider the original.
I was thinking about crafting an online petition to retroactively replace all historical references of The Lonely Boys back to the original LITTLE BO BITCH, but I am a NERD, not a LOSER.
Perfectly grey day, perfect grey day band
Some bands naturally lend themselves to grey, dreary and gloomy days like today.
Bauhaus comes to mind, and I have been listening to the Northampton, England band off-and-on throughout the day.
"Bela Lugosi's Dead," their 1979 debut, sounds great when skies are abnormally dark. Three-quarters of the band found later fame as Love and Rockets and singer Peter Murphy proved a successful solo artist. I liked them all best in their original incarnation, however. Bauhaus will always be a great band for the greyest of days.
More like "no need for music school"
I love irony and I found it driving to the public library just now.
I was listening to an iPod playlist of northern UK bands and Ed Banger and the Nosebleeds' 1977 classic "Ain't Bin to No Music School" blared out of the speakers.
I couldn't help but laugh as Ed Banger (Edmund Garrity) ranted in typical punk fashion about the band's pride in its lack of formal musical training.
In Vini Reilly, the band happened to possess one of the most brilliantly original and influential guitarists Britain has produced!
His shuddering chime sounded like nothing else in 1977, yet provided a template for post-punk guitar bands for the remainder of the decade and beyond.
Reilly's influenced gathered strength when he later fronted the Durutti Column and the guitarist who "ain't bin to no music school" effectively "taught" generations of musicians. Like I said, I love irony.
As a postscript, I read a great interview with Edmund Garrity the other day in which he laughed about the two "no-hopers" who eventually replaced him and Reilly in the Nosebleeds... a certain Morrissey and (future Cult star) Billy Duffy, respectively. More irony from a band seemingly steeped in the stuff!
Check out these chicks
This week's FRIDAY QUESTION asked Route 1 readers to name their favorite song by a female singer.
Annika H. -- "Redneck Woman" by Gretchen Wilson. Because I get to say "hell yeah" loud when I sing along.
Rick T. -- Jeannie Seely singing "Don't Touch Me (If You Don't Love Me)." Great song.
Kerstin H. -- "If I Could Turn Back Time" by Cher. I love the beat!
Dave B. -- "Mandinka" by Sinead O'Connor. I just love her voice.
Diane H. -- "Closer to Fine" by the Indigo Girls, which is technically two chick singers. I love singing along to the harmonies and it reminds me of good times in college.
Ellen B. -- Alanis Morissette's "You Outta Know."
Mike D. -- "Vision of Love" by Mariah Carey (before she got weird), because it was the first dance for my wife and I at our wedding reception.
Erik H. -- "Just What I Always Wanted" by Mari Wilson came out on a 7-inch 45 (remember what those were?) in 1982 and I purchased it immediately, probably because I loved the cover (a beehived Wilson stood in the middle of a delightfully retro living room). One listen to the song and I was a fan for life. It remains my favorite song by a female lead singer.
Just a nice father-daughter chat...
... about Siouxsie and the Banshees!
Kerstin and I listened to Siouxsie and the Banshees en route to one of her orthodontist appointments this morning.
My 10-year-old rock-fan daughter asked about the music, so I told her how Siouxsie and the Banshees were formed by Bromley, England schoolmates Sue Dallion (Siouxsie Sioux) and Steve Bailey (Steve Severin) in 1976 and how they gigged around London for a year as one of the most popular, unsigned bands in the country.
"So, people could only hear them if they went to the clubs?" Kerstin said. "I bet the clubs were soldout all the time."
I explained that Siouxsie and the Banshees eventually signed with Polydor in 1978 and that a drummer named Budgie (Peter Clark) joined the band in 1979.
Kerstin was especially interested to learn Budgie and Siouxsie eventually married.
Give it up for... Y Trwynau Coch?
I read more of George Gimarc's fabulous "Punk Diary: The Ultimate Trainspotter's Guide to Underground Rock, 1970-82" during my lunch break today.
Reading the entries for the summer of 1978 inspired me to dip into my music collection to hear a pair of songs by Welsh-language punk band Y Trwynau Coch ("The Red Noses").
Formed in Swansea in 1977, the band included Ian Jones, Huw Eurig, Rhys Harris, Alun Harris and Huw Chiswell.
Following the punk ideal, they formed their own record label, upset radio executives by singing about watching 15-year-old girls walking down the lane and refused to sing in anything but Welsh. This latter decision probably limited their potential for career growth outside the principality, and Y Trwynau Coch disbanded by 1980.
Band members have since become accountants, doctors and Welsh television executives. Their place in history is assured, however, as they provided a spark for the Welsh punk scene. Modern groups from Wales, including Stereophonics, Manic Street Preachers and Super Furry Animals surely owe Y Trwynau Coch a debt.
Today I listened to their songs "Byw Ar Arian Fy Rhieni (Living on My Parents' Money)" and "Mynd i'r Capel Mewn Levis (Going to Chapel in Levis)."
Going to chapel in Levis? Oh my! That's about as "punk rock" as you can get. Maybe.
Can you put this on my next CD?
It's easy knowing when 10-year-old music fan Kerstin loves a song: She requests it on an upcoming CD mix.
We were driving to the library recently when a song passed her litmus test.
It was "Holland, 1945," one of the fuzz-rock masterpieces on the epic "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" by Neutral Milk Hotel.
The song opens with some great lines:
"The only girl I've ever loved/Was born with roses in her eyes/But then they buried her alive/One evening 1945."
That was it for Kerstin.
"Can you put this on my next CD?"
Sure. I don't mind furthering the indie-rock education of my kids. I'll do anything to keep them away from the unoriginal drivel that fills the airwaves most of the time.
Buster loves Bollywood
Buster the Bird and I share a musical passion.
You can read all about how bird-sitting Buster became an apparently full-time occupation at the Dog Town Talk blog, located here.
This morning I discovered something new about Buster the often-irascible parakeet: He loves Bollywood film soundtracks.
I was enjoying some coffee and a Mohammed Rafi CD when I noticed some peculiar behavior from our feathered friend.
During Rafi's duets with Asha Bhosle or Lata Mangeshkar, Buster would become unusually animated. He rang his little bell with an almost religiously fanatical fervor and dragged his dangling ball toys from one end of his cage to the other while chirping along to the Hindi film sangeet.
Buster reached his Bollywood epiphany during "Yeh Ladka Hai Allah," the classic from the 1977 film "Hum Kisise Kum Naheen, in which Asha sings the first three verses before Rafi surprisingly comes in for the fourth verse. Buster went crazy. He acted as if India had just defeated Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup. It was like the Holi festival without the paint-splattered faces. Buster loves Bollywood!
You know, I'm starting to warm up to this little winged fellow.
No... It's not my anniversary. It's not even the anniversary of Route 1 (although, this is the 200th post since Route 1 debuted in March).
Today is the 25th anniversary of Yello's "Bimbo" single, released by San Francisco-based Ralph Records on Oct. 15, 1980. I purchased the single shortly after its release and I still have it, as you can see in the photo.
I know today is the anniversary because I have been immersed in a book I got this week.
George Gimarc's "Punk Diary: The Ultimate Trainspotter's Guide to Underground Rock, 1970-1982" is everything it says in the title. Gimarc has produced a meticulously -- almost redonkulously -- researched tome laid out in diary form, detailing the daily happenings of the American, Australian and (mostly) British punk and post-punk scenes. It is basically 744 pages of facts about a musical form I have loved well before Yello released "Bimbo" 25 years ago.
You'll be reading more about Gimarc's book because I will be reading more of Gimarc's book. It appears to be the definitive history of the times that continue to shape modern rock music.
Now, a word about "Bimbo." I found it on mp3 and listened to it on the iPod as I went walking earlier in the week. I love it! Yello were the Swiss electronic band best-known for the (IMHO) overplayed "Oh Yeah," a.k.a. "that song from Ferris Bueller." "Bimbo" is far superior. It's a vocoder-led track in which vocalist Dieter Meier (a former member of Switzerland's national golf team!) intones that he doesn't "wanna be the standard guy" and tries to convince himself he is special because he hears "hip music, ain't got the blues." Overdubbed vocals, however, chant that he's nothing but a bimbo man.
Listening to the song now, I can see how its style has easily influenced the electronic dance acts of the present. Hard to believe, then, that it turns 25 years old today.
Did you even hear a word that I just said?
Sorry to shake you from your reverie, but this week's FRIDAY QUESTION seeks a song that never fails to capture your entire attention. Hey! I said: Never fails to capture your entire attention. Weren't you listening?
Mike D. -- While rocking out to Guns 'n' Roses' "Paradise City" in July 1991, I ran a stop sign and T-boned a 91-year-old man and his wife in their Bonneville. OK, there the additional distractions of having my wife and two brothers in the car as we were searching for a particular storefront in an unfamiliar Wisconsin town with odd intersections. No one was injured, but those present never forget to remind me of the incident when we hear that song.
Tom J. -- Sting's remake of Hendrix's "Little Wing." The subtlety of the lyrics and quitar work are mesmerizing.
Kerstin H. -- "Don't Want to Miss a Thing" by Aerosmith.
Rick T. -- "Think I'll Just Sit Here and Drink" by Merle Haggard. Just about says it all!
Erik H. -- Present reality fades from view when I hear "Millimillenary" by the Cocteau Twins. Even now, this ethereal track from 1985's "The Pink Opaque" compilation reminds me of a summer spent bicycling near a lake. The light seemed filtered through a golden lens and I felt infused with love and the scenes and the scents mingled with Elizabeth Fraser's indecipherable lyrics and the warm glow of -- Whu? Huh? Did you say something? What did I miss?
See, I lose all touch with the here and now with "Millimillenary."
Soft spot in my heart
I've always had a soft spot in my heart for lost causes.
Hmmm... Perhaps that's why I support Sheffield Wednesday football club?
This morning before work I am listening -- over and over and over again -- to "The Pressure's On," a 1979 release by one of rock's greatest lost causes, Rudi.
Rudi were perhaps among the top 10 of Britain's second-generation punk bands in talent. Yet with all this talent, the band sank without a trace -- apart from a tiny devoted cult following -- because of where they called home.
Singer/guitarist Brian Young, bassist Gordon Blair and drummer Graham Marshall hailed from Belfast, during a time when sectarian violence flared to such a degree that clubs were closed and live music opportunities were scant.
Unlike Derry's similarly styled Undertones, Rudi also lacked the hip patronage that could have helped secure them a record deal. Rudi put out a few adrenaline-infused singles, such as "The Pressure's On," and they became legends in Ulster. However, geography and politics conspired to limit their potential for success and their inability to crack London eventually confined them to footnote status when compared to peers such as the Buzzcocks and The Jam. During a 1978 trip to London, poverty stricken Rudi members even resulted to siphoning gasoline from cars to keep their van traveling to the capital.
They are one of rock's great "what-if" stories. What if they had hailed from Manchester or Leeds instead? Or even Dublin? Would people consider Rudi one of rock's great trailblazers had they come from anywhere but strife-torn Ulster? Or was this a band doomed from the start to sink into undeserved obscurity?
For more on Rudi's story, check out this page here on the excellent Punk77 Web site.
I am having it so much better with Franz
AllMusicGuide panned it. The Guardian, New Musical Express and Pitchfork loved it.
I am listening to Franz Ferdinand's sophomore effort, "You Could Have it So Much Better" while my family prepares -- rather chaotically -- for the day ahead. I quite like it.
When Franz Ferdinand burst on the scene, I thought the Glasgow art-rock quartet really breathed some fresh air into a rather deflated rock scene. I had grown soooo tired of the identical-sounding so-called "emo" bands and I resent the fact that people with no memories view the current crop of pop-punk bands as "original." They are as original as the Buzzcocks records in their older siblings' record collections.
So, I welcomed Alex Kapranos and the gang. They truly sounded fresh.
They still sound fresh on this second album, which comes as a relief to fans. Right now, I am listening to "Eleanor, Put Your Boots On," one of the romantic ballads -- romantic ballads!? -- that marks this new disc as different from the debut. It's a wonderful song!
In fact, this entire disc is enjoyable. You can dance to it and think to it. It sounds like Franz Ferdinand have beaten the "sophomore slump."
Not enough ears to listen
Scene: Just now in the car, driving my daughters Kerstin and Annika to school. "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais" by The Clash plays on the car stereo...
"Midnight to six man/For the first time from Jamaica"
Kerstin: Daddy, what if they had...
"Dillinger and Leroy Smart/Delroy Wilson, your cool operator"
Kerstin: ... shoes that... Daddy?
"Ken Boothe for UK pop reggae/With backing bands sound systems"
Kerstin: Daddy?! Daddy?!
"And if they've got anything to say..."
Erik: Huh? Whuh? Oh... Oh dear, "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais" must be one of those songs that I tune everything else out to hear. Hey! That would make a great FRIDAY QUESTION.
Kerstin: Oh! I know what mine would be: Song No. 3 on my butterfly CD.
North of the border, up Halifax way
In honor of Canadian Thanksgiving Day, here are SEVEN GREAT THINGS ABOUT SLOAN...
1. All four band members, bassist Chris Murphy, guitarists Jay Ferguson and Patrick Pentland and drummer Andrew Scott, take turns writing songs and handling lead vocals.
2. When Geffen records stupidly dropped the Halifax, Nova Scotia band after 1994's "Twice Removed," Sloan nearly broke up. Instead, they hung together, formed their own independent label Murderecords, and released the masterful "One Chord to Another" in 1996.
3. The line "I told her affection had two F's, especially when you're dealing with me" from Murphy's song "Underwhelmed."
4. The siren that heralds the beginning of Ferguson's song "Money City Maniacs."
5. Pentland's quote about selling a Sloan brand of men's underwear, from issue 55 of The Big Takeover magazine: "We made men's underwear that says 'Nothing lasts forever anymore.' As you could imagine, that one's not flying off the shelf."
6. The video for "The Other Man" (view it on this Web page, here), hints at the machinations within a youth orchestra.
7. Murphy's answer to the this Big Takeover interview question, also from issue 55:
Q: If you guys existed in the 70s, when Cheap Trick and KISS were at their peak, do you think you would be playing arenas as well?
A: Personally, I think those bands would have been opening for us.
You're so bloody thin you don't even begin
I couldn't get to sleep last night.
Wire's "Pink Flag" kept me awake until 1 a.m.
I hadn't heard the British post-punk pioneers' 1977 classic for so long. I had forgotten how arresting they made those short songs!
The longest song clocks in at 3:58. The shortest at a mere :28. Most of the songs are completed within a minute-and-a-half, yet they all pack a punch.
"What is this feeling called love? What is this crazy scene I can't work out anyhow?"
That line comes from "Feeling Called Love," all 1:22 of it. Why same more than you need to say? That seems to have been Wire's defining principal.
I even found myself dancing!
The old saying goes that not many people purchased the Velvet Underground's debut album, but those who did formed their own bands.
The same must surely be true of "Pink Flag." Echoes of this brilliant, rule-breaking record resonate through the whole of alternative music.
It was definitely worth staying up for!
Music by that mouse next to the elephant
The late Canadian Premier Pierre Trudeau once described Canada's position in relation to the United States as akin to a mouse next to an elephant. As the mice prepare to celebrate their Thanksgiving Day (it's the second Monday in October), Route 1 readers offer their thanks by answering the FRIDAY QUESTION: What is your favourite song by a Canadian musical artist?
Jill H. -- I love the Barenaked Ladies' "Gordon" CD. Each song brings back happy memories!
Inger H. -- At the moment, my favorite is the Weakerthans' "One Great City!" from their album "Reconstruction Site;" a simple little song that includes the catchy refrain... "I hate Winnipeg."
Clint A. -- "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" by Gordon Lightfoot. After two-and-a-half days of 40 mph winds with gusts over 50 mph and over 4 inches of torrential rains with 12 to 16-foot waves on Lake Superior, this is what sticks in my mind. I cannot imagine being out on the lake in conditions worse than that.
Mike D. -- "Lookin' Out for Number One" by Honeymoon Suite was a great adrenaline-pumping, guitar-crunching rock 'n' roll ride by the 80s hair band.
Roseanne H. -- Any song by Anne Murray.
Kerstin H. -- "Summer of 69" by Bryan Adams. It's a got a great beat.
Ellen B. -- Bryan Adams' "Cuts Like a Knife."
Lisa Y. -- Mine is "Summer of 69" by Bryan Adams, because I can't remember any other Canadian artist.
Scout S. -- "Underwhelmed" by Sloan.
Eileen M. -- "If I Had a Million Dollars" by the Barenaked Ladies, because it's a pretty good tune and more importantly, I wish I had a million dollars.
Rick T. -- "Movin' On" by The Singing Ranger, Hank Snow.
Ken B. -- "Temple of Syrinx" by Rush.
Diane H. -- "If I had "$1 Million Dollars" by the Barenaked Ladies. It gets way overplayed, I know, but I still sing along when I hear it and it's very hard to be in a bad mood when you listen to the Barenaked Ladies, who are neither ladies nor barenaked.
Erik H. -- Reportedly, bassist Chris Murphy found himself in a messy relationship, caught between Calgary-born singer/songwriter Leslie Feist and Andrew Whiteman of indie stalwarts Broken Social Scene. The result? "The Other Man" by Sloan. This song never fails to capivate me. "Now I'm the other man, no one's rooting for me/If I'm the other man, nature will abhor me." Sigh... I wish you could switch on the radio in the United States and hear Sloan.
Year's best video
I have the feeling many more people will be falling in love with the Decemberists in the coming days.
It's all to do with the Portland, Ore. band's new video, for the single "16 Military Wives." You can see it here.
In a way, I am a bit sad that this great indie band will be gaining greater fame. One of the joys of being a true music snob is loving artists that no one around you has even heard about. That's what makes being a snob so... snobbish.
On the other hand, I am overjoyed. Colin Meloy's band have become successively better with each release, refuse to "dummy down" their sound for the masses, continue to produce some of the catchiest music you will ever hear and have yet to follow Death Cab for Cutie onto the soundstages of television dramas for teenagers.
So rock on, Decemberists.
Two posts in one day? I must be off work!
I am off work, actually.
I am also listening to "Castaways and Cutouts" (Kill Rock Stars, 2003) and compiling SEVEN REASONS WHY THE DECEMBERISTS ARE MY FAVORITE CURRENT AMERICAN BAND (until Scout reforms Firecracker in a blaze of alt.country glory).
1. Colin Meloy. He is America's current best lyricist, in my opinion.
2. The songs are melodic. Catchy, even. I love that.
3. The band's official biography begins with the line: "I'm a poor, drunken orphan with nowhere to go but the grave," wailed a waifish and non-plussed Mr. Chris Funk as he lay supine by the railroad tracks. This is exactly how I would open my band's official biography, if I had a band. Extra points for the use of the word, "supine."
4. The Decemberists are based in Portland, Ore., but leader Colin Meloy grew up in Montana. I lived for five-and-a-half years in Oregon (and all my dad's family were based there) and I lived in Montana when I was about 5 and 6 years old. Eerie.
5. The Decemberists based an entire EP, "The Tain" (Arcuarela Discos, 2004) on the 8th-century Celtic Ulster poem "Tain Bo Cuailinge."
6. Their Web site, located here, includes a featured called "Ask Crutchy McGee," an advice column that is absolutely hilarious.
7. I trust the band on the basis of three works. I don't have the 2005 album "Picaresque," but unless it is total crap, the Decemberists are the most original band currently based in the good old U.S. of A.
Indie's Magna Carta
It's kinda fey. It's kinda jangly. It's kinda shambling. It's kinda raucous.
Above all, it's ridiculously good. This past weekend I immersed myself in the legendary C86 compilation.
The British music newspaper the New Musical Express gave away the C86 cassette compilation in 1986. The tape compiled songs from some of the top independent rock bands of the day, providing a broad representation of the classic sounds available to music fans outside of the mainstream.
Bands such as The Mighty Lemon Drops and The Pastels trafficked in the jangly pop-rock first fashioned by Orange Juice. Other bands such as Stump and The MacKenzies remained committed to the post-punk ideal of stretching musical boundaries.
Some of the bands went on to bigger and better things -- Primal Scream and The Soup Dragons scored UK hits and the band McCarthy evolved into Stereolab. Others gained their brief fame from their C86 appearance. The bands Mighty Mighty, Close Lobsters and Big Flame probably fit this latter category.
Ultimately, the C86 proved immensely influential, even spawning a sub-genre called "C-86" that featured a lo-fi pop approach. Thousands of bands modeled their sounds on what they heard on the compilation, and even today a close listen to "alternative" radio reveals more than a passing nod to the gems that first surfaced on a 19-year-old cassette.
There's always something left behind
I purchased my first full album from iTunes this past week. Usually I "cherry pick" selected songs from CDs, so if I was going to purchase an entire album, it had to be a classic through and through.
Well, this one fits that criteria!
The Wedding Present emerged from Leeds in the latter half of the 1980s. Impossibly fast guitars and the half-sung, Northern England-accented vocals of David Gedge characterized their sound.
After appearing on the legendary indie compilation C-86 (more on that gem later), The Wedding Present unveiled debut album "George Best" in October 1987.
It is absolutely f***ing brilliant. I had heard a handful of tunes by "the Weddoes" (their nickname) on American alternative radio over the years, notably later tracks such as "Brassneck" and "Kennedy." Nothing prepared me for the comprehensive high-quality of "George Best," though.
Gedge sings of heartbreak, but he sings from the point of view of the angry, not of the downtrodden. "Jealousy is an essential part of love," he sings on the classic track "My Favourite Dress." The song features the memorable chorus: "There's always something left behind/Never mind" and the song's narrative concludes with the stinging couplet: "To see it all in a drunken kiss/A stranger's hand on my favourite dress."
I listened to the album -- slightly reconfigured with two additional EPs as "George Best Plus" -- all day yesterday, as I drove to various assignments for work. Our family is going to help my father-in-law with some autumnal cleaning today. As I scrub floors (or whatever), be assured the iPod will be positively ringing with the Weddoes' bracing indie fare.