Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Regressive tendencies?

Uncovering the obscure is exciting. Carter was elated in the valley of the kings, Stein recognised that recognition was recognition when she allowed herself to believe she'd discovered Picasso. Colmbus was draming of metaphorical sugarplums when he discovered what Leif Erikson had been relieved to land upon 500 years earlier (and what Siberians were probably nonplussed to find 15,000-20,000 years ago, since there was probably no real distiction from the steppes of northern "Russia" to an isthmus of indeterminate "american-ness").
We like discovering stuff. Sometimes people make a big deal out of it, like when the press discovered that the American military (and, by default, the CIA) had no scruples,videlicet Abu Ghraib.

I try not to make a big deal out of "discovering" bands that other people have known about for years, but that doesn't make me any less excited about doing so.
I am currently excited, scilicet about Mark Szabo.
Mark Szabo, you say? Isn't he a coach at Shoreline Community College? To which I would answer, sure, sine qua non Google as ultimate reference material. Thankfully, I read this, which brought me elucidation.
I had never heard of Mark until I read this, but now I have the album in question, a copy of "Alone With Mark" thoughtfully provided to me by an extremely astute Brooklynite, and a zipfile of the cassette "Regressing" generously provided here.
Since I can't (in any way) top what has already been written here, or in the liner notes of this by Franklin Bruno, so I think you should follow the links already (jeez) and get on the bus, bitches.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

plug, yo

so as you may be aware, i  also make music. and if you're reading this, this may not be news, but you never know, maybe you aren't on myspace, and have come here inadvertently and said, "oh, such prose! how delightful--and what's this? a record by the webmaster? i simply must check it out (and acquire it)!"
you might say that. 
but just in case:

the black lines have released their (or "my") second album.
it is called "your blood trail", after the chorus in one of the songs.
it is very minimal, and slightly folkier than my usual fare. i like it though.
and it's free.

i'm not going to drone on about it, but please do check it out. if you like it, feel free to send me flowery praise.

i ♥ new music; part ii

This isn't going to be a long post, just sort of an teaser, an amuse-bouche of reviews to come. It may be a little bittersweet too...
So, I've mentioned the good people at 555records (which is to say Stewart Anderson) and Red Square (which is to say Jen Turrell)--and it could be further mentioned that both of these indie-entities are blissfully entwined by marriage--and now I'm going to mention them again. A box recently arrived on my doorstep from Arizona, and it was crammed with a butt-load of indie CDs and gorgeous coloured 7" vinyl from the aforementioned labels. I haven't even got halfway through it all yet! I'm so stoked. Not just Boyracer and Mytty Archer (Stew and Jen's "main" bands) but also Steward, Que Possum, The Bright Lights, Jean Bach, Faintest Ideas, The Cannanes, The Love Letter Band, The Tall Boy, Kyoko, The Escargo-go's, Origami, CEX and more.
I don't think I did mention that Stewart's going to semi-close up shop soon. He's got cows and a wife and a baby and a life that takes every ounce. And he hasn't much left to pursue a music career that results in 25 sold 7"s. I wrote him a note saying how much I would miss his creativity and input, but I also sent him about a hundred and fifty bucks to get all this stuff. If you're reading this, go visit Jen & Stew's sites and buy some of their immense back catalog. A lot of the stuff is out of print, and there are some real gems to be found. They are records (not just in the disc-sense!) of a DIY ethos that was once beautifully analogue, but which is being subsumed by the vastness of cyberspace. It's so worth finding, and worth holding close, and listening loud to.
Of particular note, by the way, is the Red Square "The Way Things Change" series. It's a set of compilation 7"s, in coloured vinyl, of some of the best indie bands in the last several years. You can find Dennis Driscoll, Boyracer and Architecture in Helsinki on Volume 5 (blue vinyl), Mirrah and The Cannanes on Volume 3 (yellow!!!), and the brilliant Lucksmiths on Volume 4 (green). 
I can't believe how good some of this stuff is.
Help prevent it from just disappearing into fanboy nostalgia...


I want to set the record straight right off the bat:
I do like sports. This may surprise several of my friends, but in fact it is true. Oh! cycling, a boon to humanity thou art! Tennis! How sublime is thy Federer, how gorgeous thy various Russian women! How irritating yet impressive your tiny spunky Nadal! Oh! football (by which I mean soccer) the poetry (and by the way, anybody catch the fucking awesomness the Spain vs Italy quarterfinal match at the European Cup-- 0-0 in full time, followed by two scoreless OTs, preceding one of the only awesome shoot-outs I've ever seen) of your brutality (and vice-versa), your chess-like depth! Etcetera! 

I should also come clean here and say that I couldn't give less of a bloody shit about the degredation of rugby internationally known as "american football", and locally referred to without the national bias.
I don't like it. I grew up with the Vikings, and didn't really care, but then I moved to Seattle, and the Seahawks drove the coffin shut with their toolbelt full of crooked, rusty nails. I have noted that George W. Bush likes football, but insufficiently so to choke to death on a pretzel in its presence (almost, though...). I have noted that everyone (male) who ever bullied me liked football, and the idiots that try to bully me these days do as well. I suppose there is a balletic nuance, a poetry and beauty to the game, as there must be in all humanity's endevours, but to me such graces are obscured by the sheer ugliness of its lower adherents.
I guess I could have just said I don't like it...

Which makes my following admission all the more paradoxical:
Goddamn(!) do I love The Football Albums by DiskothiQ.
"Is that a joke?"  comes the voice from the chorus. "Whom, did you say?" perhaps from another voice.
Let me just expound, shall I?
DiskotiQ is a band made up of Peter Hughes, Kevin Hughes and Kevin Trapp. It doesn't do much right now, because one of its members is really busy with a more-well known project, but, before 2000, the band produced five records (four of which were released). 
Two of these records, which came out in 1999 on Sonic Enemy, are The Football Albums. The first volume (the blue one) is The Football Albums: National Conference; the second (red one) is The Football Albums: The American Conference. The ridiculousness and the genius of this project is as great and silly as Stephin Merritt's monumental 69 Love Songs and I albums, which is to say, a hare-brained concept gorgeously realized.
Basically, you've got 32 songs about 32 teams (somewhat dated due to time rolling on, but hey...). That is, thirty-two songs about the thirty-two teams in the USA's two professional NFL football conferences.
And the songs are really good. Like, really.
As I've said, I don't really know football, and even I get some of the stuff in these songs. And some of it you don't even have to get. Some of the lyrics are all insidery (with loads of name-dropping of coaches and players), but like most good music, some of the strongest stuff relies on acute social commentary. Like track 13 on National Conference, "Redskins."
It goes like this:

"Is there anything more offensive than the name of the Washington Redskins?
Why not just call yourselves the Darkies?
Why not just call yourselves the Yellow Men?
Why not just call yourselves the Filthy Thieving Jews?
Why not just call yourselves The Towelheads?"

Now. Peter Hughes is a football fan (and baseball fan, too) and he is still capable of this brilliantly vicious indictment of the casual racism of the continuance of the aforementioned team. He goes hard against the common tendency to shrink from criticizing something you love out of the fear that such candor will damage that thing--like the Bush administration saying that if you criticize America, then you can't possibly love America, as if patriotism were un-patriotic, or some bullshit. A more apt comparison, closer to home for me, might be that the sport of bicycle racing is followed and supported not just by left-leaning Independants such as myself, but also by a great number of Rightist conservative heels and racist Euro-centrists; the sport itself is not the cause, it's just that some fans are douche bags (and to be fair, the same is true about American football--it's not evil, I just don't care to follow it).
That's just one example, by the way. The emotional gamut is complete:there are songs flowing as paens to childhood inspiration and dreams, love songs to heroes and scourges of villains, teasing of coaches and weak points, extollations of sporting prowess--all the pageantry and emotion that makes people tune in to "Friday Night Lights" as well as Sunday Night Football. Al the things that make my brother, father and uncles go ape-shit in front of the tube on holidays. All in a capable and fluent indie-rock vernacular. 
Sometimes the ridiculousness rears up (like in "Giants", a frenetic drone-freakout filled with rolling drums and shrill feedback, the entire lyrics of which consisting of "Giants.", and "49ers" which you should hear rather than make me describe). But usually, the effect is really great, and cute, jaded indie girls should be able to shake their hips (while staying aloof) without necessarily buying into the macho "american-ness" of the subject matter.
My favorite song on the collection, by the way, is the 1:15-long track "Los Angeles." On the subject of growing up in a football-franchise-free city (LA) and how the TV provides an all-access arena, the song is a (willingly? un-?) parable of Americana. 
I came across DiskothiQ (or DISKOTHI-Q) sort of by accident (not, with much regret, having been up on every Shrimper release--sorry Mr Callaci--and I admit this knowing that my friend Carlos V. may indeed kick my ass (although I would counter that he don't know shit about 1970s New York (even Lou Reed) or British (WIRE!!!!!???) stuff) and while I thought The Wandering Jew was amazing (you can download all this stuff for free by the way, as well as The One-Hundred Thousand Songs of Peter Peter Hughes, but you could also pony up a couple of bucks, and PPH will mail you the discs direct--you should do that, these guys are not corporate suck-dogs like Metallica, Madonna or Britney Spears, and also, the second track of The Wandering Jew, "Tulsa Imperative" is a cover of an unreleased Mountain Goats song, so...).
So anyway, I have not been converted to the pigskin army, but who cares? You don't have to be gay to get a lot out of the brilliant songs of Canada's The Hidden Cameras (or the "gay and loud" Mr Merritt, for that matter), although I am assured by my friends of that persuasion that it doesn't hurt either, and you needn't be a wife-beater (or wife-killer, like OJ) or a mustachioed bully to get a great deal out of The Football Albums. In fact, like myself, you don't even have to like football. You just need to have appreciation and Respect (yes, capital "R") for the good, good indie rock of DiskothiQ.

I could mention that each album is ten bucks. Where I live, that barely buys you breakfast anymore. So pinch your pennies and eat a bagel or something, and send PPH some cash. These records are worth that much.