Wednesday, December 16, 2009

hometowns & heartbreaks

sometimes one finds one's self far away from what he knows. saint louis, missouri, for example: a city with enough similarities to long-ago places like iowa, wisconsin, chicago, and minneapolis, that the chilly, hard midwestern air feels familiar, but different in those small essential ways that bring on a sense of mild alienation and discomfort. what does one do in such circumstances? if one is this one, one gravitates towards the consumption of beer, and the warmth of cuddling under blankets, illuminated by old movies.

but then one's companions might suggest that life is far too sedentary, and one may don long johns and gloves and heavy coat, pile into a small car, and travel twenty minutes or so, past college campuses and the odd minaret, where one finds one's self on a dark, brick-lined street, under the towering shadows of the old lemp brewery, freezing one's nuts off, and wandering into a tiny saint louis rock club to listen to a band who, like one's self, comes from far away, in their case, from canada. to be more specific, the band in question is the three-piece outfit, the rural alberta advantage (henceforth "the raa"), who continues the astonishing trend of canadian indie music sounding totally awesome in a particularly un-american way, and with great verve and elan. (for the record only one of the band is from alberta; originally a five-piece, there used to be three from that province. woo: useless trivia!)

i have not been to a rock show like this one in some time. sometimes in seattle, the "blue-collarness" of many concert-goers is questionably poseurish at best, and one can detect the distinctive odor of irony in the spilt pabst blue ribbon on the sticky floor. i would not go so far to say this hipster attitude was entirely absent in the club "off broadway," but there was a discernable sense of un-pretension that one finds more seldom at home. pbr was consumed, but also on offer was the home-grown lemp beer (we were, in fact, on lemp street), distinguishable as the first lager brewed in america (potentially arguable, but i will bite). it was cool. it was a cool club. i felt at home there in a sense, with its long wooden bar, tiny, wall-less stage, and modest attitude; and that was good.

and then there was the first opening band.
i will immediately confess that the name of the band, blood pony, caused in me an immediate impulse to cringe. their actual set only scarcely reinforced that impression, with a full band (six dudes! and yes! they were dudes) incorporating chamber-pop instruments like glockenspiel, horns, and strings to the standard indie rock kit, sometimes to positive effect, sometimes with a bit too much neutral milk hotel shadows cast upon them. the greatest disadvantage to my ear was the lead singer.
now, indie rock is notable for its great tolerance of vocals which are, quite bluntly, raw. however, blood pony's myspace discribes the vocals as "wounded," and sadly, that fits better than they should hope for. often the complete sound of the band compensated for the lead singer, but the "off" moments were memorable, and not positively so. there was also a lack of cohesiveness that is less apparent/more forgiveable with smaller bands, but which was more grating with such a large ensemble.
sadly, it should be said that i would've been a lot less judgemental about this stuff had blood pony behaved differently. unfortunately, they acted exactly like the stereotype of what they, in fact were: a local band, given the opportunity to open for a buzzy touring band, who abuses the privelege. blood pony played for over an hour, which is thirty minutes longer than i consider appropriate for a band in their position, and fifteen minutes longer than the maximum i think is ever appropriate for any opener anywhere. considering that the headliner, the raa, played a set of just more or less sixty minutes, the local boys were even more notably egregious. they also were very focussed on pimping their free cdr, available on a little table in the back of the room, which itself was advertising a show of their own the following week. altogether pretty bad form, and ultimately behaviour that darkly colored my otherwise positive impressions of them.

the second opener hit a little closer to home, figuratively and literally. portland, oregon's, the shaky hands rocked their way through a blistering set dominated greatly by their deft guitar work. the sense of relief amongst many in the room was palpable as the band brought the competance level notably up. oddly, my impressions of them are less distinct that those to blood pony, but the overall sense was far more pleasant. coming in at a standard 40 minutes or so, the shaky hands' set took some of the bitter taste of their predecessors out of the mouth and fulfilled their mission to whet the appetite for the headliner with great aplomb.
i have been listening to the songs on their myspace with pleasure, and am disappointed that they will not be accompanying the raa past portland on their way north by northwest (i hope to see the canadians again at the vera project; we'll see, haha).
however, i will certainly be keeping an eye out for my slightly-southern neighbors, with the intent to catch them again. (is it just me, or is it bizarre to travel so far to discover someone so near?)

so, finally the raa took the stage, making apt comments about precisely how unexpectedly cold it was on that night. singer nils edenloff began a little story about the mysterious lemp brewing dynasty which ended up a vicious tease as many audience members affirmed that they already knew the story. my friends and i felt unfairly teased! oh well.
edenloff, with percussionist paul banwatt and multi-instrumentalist amy cole, launched comfortably, energetically and cheerfully into a set which vastly eclipsed sonically the assumed potential of a three-piece. both cole and edenloff had keyboards planted in front of them, and driven at a viciously unforgiving pace by banwatt's stellar drumming, the three combined powers to create a rich, layered and harmonic sound that seems like it may only be found in canadian indie rock. with positive echoes of bands like (inevitably) the new pornographers, stars, and immaculate machine, the raa's members alternated instruments and vocal duties within songs to create a densly packed soundstorm filled with multiple keyboards, vocal harmonies, hard-strummed acoustic guitar, and glockenspiel--one that never felt the absence of the non-existant bass player so common in indie rock. the democratic spirit of the raa's playing was felt most strongly in a song ("frank, ab") where edenloff started the chorus with a trilling "oo-oo" which was seemlessly picked up and imitated by cole, shifting the dynamic to startling effect. another instance was on a song where banwatt abandoned his full drum kit and stood next to cole where both musicians played the same stand-alone drum. it was awesome. sadly, i cannot recall the song... oh well, haha.
i was given the raa's 2009 release, hometowns, on a week when i was clearing out my glutted itunes library: i listened to it once, thought "oh yeah that's nice," and put it away. having now seen the band play live, i have dug it out again, and hometowns is racing quickly into the top-ten list of this year's records. there was such passion, such positive energy, and such fluid skill displayed by the rural alberta advantage, that one can't help but envision a long, fruitful future for the band.
i hope so, at least.
i want more, please.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

their own pretty ways

i always think it's funny when i can precisely pinpoint where and when i heard a band for the first time; especially when it's love-at-first-listen.
i'm not much of a net-freak, blog notwithstanding. however, there is a particular chatroom where i sit-in frequently (but due to the overwhelming amount of trollish dowshes on the web, i'm not going to reveal it), and as the general focus, much divurged from, of the room is a band, the subject of what we're all listening to is a regular one. noticing the brightly colored, naively painted cover of a newly-acquired lp in one user's photos, i inquired what it was. "first aid kit," i was told, and another user sent me a link to a fantastic video with two elfin, flannel-clad young women sitting in a forest, singing a spare and full-throated version of "tiger mountain peasant song," by fleet foxes.
whoof. i was hooked.
the video begins with a sweet, but hardly-shy, dedication to fleet foxes, by way of introduction, then klara söderberg begins playing her guitar (thrum-ba-ba-ba-bum) with simple assertiveness. she begins, with a sweet, clear, slightly-accented voice, to weave the first verses into the song as her sister johanna sways shyly beside her. the shyness only lasts until the second verse though, when she opens up her mouth and adds her duskier contribution before both girls sing together in haunting harmony. every time i listen to it it still sends chills down my back.
to the best i can tell, first aid kit already had their ep "drunken trees" in the can before this video was made, and that due to the intense popularity of the cover, they re-released it with "tiger mountain peasant song" appended as an eighth track.
i tracked down a purveyor of said ep, and should add that it is very seldom i get so excited when a padded envelope arrives in the mail.
the only real criticism i have of "drunken trees" is that the reasonably charming, but long, sample that introduces both the album and the opening track, "little moon," is not on its own track, but is inseperable from the song. as a fan of listening to albums all the way through, and also of creating an overall texture and atmosphere, i'm all for that. however, i would prefer to sometimes not hear it, and get right to the music, y'know? but that's it. otherwise, the ep is fantastic, flat-out.
on their website(s) the band, or an especially adroit press agent, describe fak's sound as "gary numan if gary numan played folk music," which, yes, is glib, but is also a way of not taking their efforts overly seriously. basically, at it's roots, first aid kit is two teenaged swedish girls playing folk songs on acoustic instruments. the potential for overly earnest treacle is immense, but its well-circumvented here. on the album itself, the voice/voice/guitar relationship is deepened by autoharp, keyboards and subtle percussion--more rattles and shakers than drum kits--to restrained-yet-lush effect. at its core, however remains the simplicity of two sisters singing together.
the band has a single coming out in early october, anticipating a full-length effort sometime in winter. a song from the single has been posted on the band's myspace, and its shimmering, jangly guitars suggest that, not only will the lp be as good as the ep, but that winter may be just exactly the right time to receive it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

please turn off your dance music

this, if i know me, may well end up as one of those meandering and utterly pointless exercises in the documentation of catching up with all the other cool kids. so i may as well just come right out and admit that until last year sometime, i was not familiar with the work of julie doiron.
i am sorry. does that help? to be fair, i'm really the one who's been missing out, not you. trust me, i'm boring at shows. i wouldn't buy you a whiskey. and i just shuffle there, with my arms folded. getting into the music, y'know?

well. now i'm clued in. of course i'd heard doiron's name before, and that of her previous band, eric's trip. considering the copious stacks of indie material i accumulate, it would have been an act of will to avoid hearing about them. but, as so often happens when other bands fall to the wayside of some other obsession du jour, i never actually got around to listening.
until last fall (?–this date may be erroneous, can anyone remember when i got the big pwelverum & sun order? that's when; yknow, for those keeping track...), that is. that's when i got the mount eerie/julie doiron/fred squire record, "lost wisdom." i listened to it one time, and thought, not for the last time, "my god. i truly have a shitty needle on my record player." however, i also at this time downloaded a recording of many of these songs performed at the 2008 primavera sound festival, at the parc del forum in barcelona. (if said recording is still up on archive: get it.) i have listened to this recording any times, and am here to tell you, it is damned swoonable. the set features julie doiron's earthily fresh voice prominently, whereupon she compliments the weary boyish voice of phil elvrum to a remarkably effective degree, particularly with a strong-yet-empathic forwardness to his reticence. what was even more remarkable, was the song breaks, though, when this sensual and masterly voice broke into the most girlish giggles imaginable, ephervescent without being "bubbly," belying not a ditziness, but a great and holistic joy.
determined to delve more deeply into the discography of this person, i was distracted almost immediately by something else. that something was probably related to one of the three ridiculous eps that the mountain goats have recently, semmingly grudgingly released. i accept that i have a problem, can we move on? once i remembered that there were other albums in the world that desperately required my acquisition, i began to think about julie doiron again. as if by the intervention of fate itself, i "had" to order something from jagjaguwar/secretly canadian/dead oceans anyway, and thought, oh, i should get some julie stuff too! i imagine since i have been out of work, small labels and distributors have been starving...
so there i found myself ordering a handful of julie doiron cds, and sat back for the refreshingly old-school label to take the order, find the discs, pack and mail them, all without the urgent reassurances of normal e-commerce. i had to wait a little, and i must say, it actually whetted my appetite. not that i'd want to do that all the time though...
eventually, "broken girl," "lonliest in the morning," "goodnight nobody," and "i woke myself up" arrived at my door, and found their way into rotation on my stereo, with "broken girl" asserting itself most surely. sadly, i missed ordering the most recent album, "i can wonder what you did with your day," my order placed a week shy of its release. i figured then that i would order it in a month or so, but then i found myself out of work. it leads the list of "things to buy when re-employed," a long list, i'm afraid. happily, the wealth of material on these recordings is immensely satisfying, and is work i go back to often for inspiration, but also for its sheer beauty. much has been written about the qualities of julie doiron's voice and material, so i won't re-remark on those, but i will say she was one of my happiest discoveries of last year, and would certainly urge anyone to look into her work. for an easy first step, daytrotter has a lovely set from this year's sxsw session. or you could check out julie's site, which features taster-mp3s from a good portion of her work. oh, and there are lots of those youtube thingees.
i found the experience of searching out julie doiron's work, and the resulting rewards, as being akin to going out to the grey and cooly damp woods, with heavy boots, and and a sturdy vest over a wool sweater, to hunt for wild mushrooms, turning corners to find wild, beautiful and delicious growths nestled in unexpected places. happy foraging.

Monday, July 13, 2009

chunky, not smooth.

remember the eighties and nineties? there were those tape thingees. and for most people i knew that meant that you had a pile of pirated cassettes (taped on double-deck stereos of real, bought tapes sometimes, but mostly they were from records. i certainly had a high percentage of my music on tapes horded from friends. it was (cough. and is) a good way to exponentially increase one's buying power. barry would bring in the pixies. jay would get the retro stuff. all of us would tweak out on sub pop's many offerings. don't even get me started on the mixtapes; john cusack can do a better job singing their praises.

i used to have a superchunk tape. leave it to me to not even know which one i had*. i doubt i knew anything then more than their name, and how that tape sounded. how it sounded was different. different from the ur-indie stuff we could scrabble together, like the pixies and the smiths and the vaselines. different from the scene happening around us: the green river and mudhoney, mother love bone and screaming trees, the butthole surfers and nirvana. i was maybe as snotty then as i am now, but i really didn't have the knowledge or experience to explain how superchunk was different from grunge. i couldn't articulate now how i thought it was different. it was though, and i enjoyed listening to that tape. that, and pj harvey, and seaweed and they might be giants. haha.
as with so many parts of our youths, that tape disappeared somewhere along the line and, rather than miss it, i forgot about it as new sounds greeted my young ears. explosions of screaming riot grrls and gentle strums of twee maestros vied for attention with the newly-discovered (for me) nicks cave and drake. and others, more and more, for years.
i remembered superchunk's name, and "oh, those guys.... i had that tape." couldn't remember how it sounded though.

a few years ago i was rifling through the used cd bin at a local record store and i came across a superchunk cd ("on the mouth"). i said, "oh hey, those guys," and picked it up. it sat on my shelf for a little while, and when i put it on the player, i was a little shocked at how good and how raw it sounded. i hate to admit that after that playing, it went back on the shelf as some other record (in all honestly, probably one by the mountain goats...) took over my affections with an iron grip.
then several months (okay, maybe eight or so) ago, i came across another cd ("come pick me up"), this one for a real price, and i picked it up, and both went onto rotation chez matt. it all started to come back to me, the significance of this fine exponent of rocking the fuck out without being douchebags. i started getting wistful thinking about mac playing with the bats for their stellar "spill the beans" ep; about how jon was revitalizing the otherwise two-man mountain goats with his insanely good drumming; about the whole romantic history of a great band giving birth to a truly legendary label, merge records.
it was all just to much, and i fell in love properly this time--not just a fleeting crush.

i would've been content to harbor my feelings within if a few recent reminders had not spurred me into some rusty writing: i discovered mac mccaughan's excellent "portastatic"** blog, and have been enjoying that; then came the announcement, timed perfectly to co-incide with my recent unemployment, that not only was a superchunk ep now available, but a 7" single on clear vinyl would be available for pre-order--two more temptations from the nearly irresistable merge catalogue at just the wrong time; then there was portastatic's gorgeous cover of franklin bruno's "tableaux vivant" that scott from fayettenam hooked me up with. it was all too much. i caved and ordered the ep and single--i couldn't hold out any longer, and after all, what are credit cards good for if not going into debt for what you love? amiright? (it's gonna be rough this fall when merge puts out the clean's new studio album. argh. gnashes teeth.

unfortunately the single, "crossed wires b/w blinders (fast version), and crossed wires (demo)" met the vinyl production delay indie record geeks have come to regard as a natural pitfall of their endevors. however, in a classy move, the label sent out the download coupons included with purchase early so we who bought would not lose hair waiting. they are absolute darlings down there in north carolina, i tell ya. so i've been listening to three songs all day (ok, with a little julie doiron thrown in for swoonability purposes)--actually, two versions of one song, plus the middle one. ha. nerdy? yes i am.
but holy shit, they are so good.
especially good is the third track, the demo version of "crossed wires." the single track is awesome, and kicks every ass in the room, but the intimacy and immediacy of the more-acoustic version, with stereophonicly jangling guitars perfectly setting up mac's inimitable high-pitched and plaintive drone, is nearly impossible to top in my opinion. it showcases the strength of the song, one that's capable of being rocked to the edge, but also the depth of a more "humble" treatment. that it also highlights the range of this venerable punk band is a point almost rendered redundent, but it is one i will make nonetheless. can't wait to get some income again; then i can delve deeper into the back numbers...

* upon reflection, it was most likely 1990's "superchunk"
**portastatic being mac's longstanding other project.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

it's a mystery how we're so unaware

sometimes you take a long time to express affection for someone or something that you love.

i love the bats.

try doing a google search for this fixture of new zealand indie rock (before that they were 'alternative', before that 'new wave'--at least according to the daddy's highway press kit, or was it law of things, i forget?). try it, and all you'll get is 'release the bats'--and not even the birthday party song.
oh, you may stray across the myspace page or wiki listing for the bats, but it may well be obscured by the fog of lesser entities. you would do well to clear away the cobwebs and give an ear to one of the most enduring and consistent bands i've ever heard, a four-piece outfit who sound as fresh and vital on their 2009 release the guilty office as they did in 1984 when they began making records.

i first heard the bats about six or seven years ago (oof) on local 'college-radio' station kexp, and from the first notes i was hooked (on the guitar hooks! har). i have tried several times to figure out what song it was, but everytime i'm convinced i know what it was i get fogged out by another that's just as jangly-rifficly good. it was either boogey man off 1991's lp fear of god, or one of the brilliant tracks from the previous year's law of's ahrd to tell, as the sound from that 'first period' is like one huge fantastic album. from 1984 to 1995 releases came out every year or two, but since then the rate has slowed somewhat, with an entire decade seperating 1995's couchmaster from the shock re-emergence of at the national grid. it's been another four years until guilty office. these extended gaps stem from the fact that the bats, unlike many bands, are fairly heterogenous in their activities. songwriter and lead robert scott writes approximately two songs-a-day by some accounts (that may be an exaggeration) and performs solo, with nz legends the clean, and with a handful of local friends, most recently gina rocco, with whom he has released a solid full-length and a stunningly spare ep, called moonlight potato which to me, recalls his work with jane sinnott as the magick heads--a ridiculously difficult-to-track-down band (although douglas wolk still has an available release at dark beloved cloud). from what i understand, the bats do new stuff when robert comes up to christchurch, where kean and woodward, and grant all live, from the otago port of dunedin where he lives. up north the other three bats members keep active with the wonderfully jangly minisnap, for whom kaye writes most of the material.
i keep using the term 'jangly' and it's a bit of a crutch, i admit, but the reason is that the bats, along with the clean and the chills, were part of what defined the so-called 'dunedin sound' slapped onto flying nun bands in the eighties the way 'grunge' was slapped onto everything in the pacific northwest a decade later. i only mention these three bands because they're really the only ones in the fn stable who fit the name! the verlaines had a little jangle-jangle too, but the tall dwarfs didn't, and many of the subsequent bands on that label didn't either. anyway, i'll search for other adjectives!

after hearing the bats on the radio, i couldn't find out anything about them! it was very frustrating (especially since i was sub-savvy on the intraweb at the time), and it was probably more than six months before i happened to stumble across fear of god in a used cd bin. i actually let out an embarrassing whoop in the store. i got it home and popped it in the stereo, and just sat there in my chair for the duration, just listening. i can list the amount of records i have done that with on maybe seven fingers.
the used bin became my tried and true ally since most of the flying nun output has been o.o.p. for longer than i care to admit. i found the all of the first five albums (i don't count compiletely bats because it's a compilation, although i don't have it, and i want it desperately) and the stellar ep spill the beans (featuring mac mccaughan 'duelling wahs' with kaye!!!) in them bins, and when national grid came out i was so stoked to be able to actually buy a new bats record!
so often in my musical history, i've come across great bands too late to be a part of their extant lives, like young marble giants or beat happening, and it's been very special to me that not only have the bats (and the clean, for that matter) kept going when they easily could've called it a day before i'd even come across them, but i've even had the great privelege of corresponding with them. it's such a wonderfull feeling to have such a small connection with a band one loves...

back to the record at hand, the bats' first on nz label arch hill (who released the clean's live album mashed as well, i should note):
much has been written already about how the guilty office 'breaks new ground' with the sound, but stays true to the 'driving guitars' and lyrical 'darkness' affiliated with past releases. well, that's true, i suppose, but not definitive. the 'bats sound' being referred to is a simple set-up of the solid backdrop of malcolm grant's drums and paul kean's perfect-punctuation bass-work (on his hand-made 'barracuda' bass--so cool if you can find piccies of it). this tight rhythm works the low end and the bridge to kaye woodward's soaring riffs and jangly (sorry--that word again) trebly lines and hooks is made by robert scott's solid and subtle rhythm guitar (mostly, sometimes they switch roles). all the instrumentation is set of by the frankly lovely harmonies of bob and kaye's voices. bob has a low croon-to-high warble and kaye sets him off well with her sweet melodic backing vocals.
all of those characteristics have been present since 1983, and they continue to be the definition of what a bats album sounds like. which apparently draws some accusations of 'samey-ness,' which i find ridiculous. i think if a band sounds identifiable from record to record, then that's a good thing. if they sound the same i can see a doorway for objection, but when a band like the bats--or for that matter like the mountain goats, who sound like the same chords are used ad infinitum (not a criticism, btw)--places a high priority on the songwriting, as they do, then such claims become more baseless.
for the record, a lot of the 'new sound' talk comes from the strings (with harp!) arrangements done for the album by allan starrett, though these commentators are either forgetful or unaware that the band has past associations with dunedin's alastair galbraith. speaking of the starrett contributions, it was a neat experience for me to follow the progression of one of the songs on the record, crimson enemy. i first heard the song on a 'live to air' recording of the bats on kfjc (a san francisco college radio station) in 2006, a recording i got directly from robert, actually. it's a song the band 'just learnt up today' according to the recording, and i had to sit there for nearly two years waiting for it to resurface! slightly faster and higher-pitched than originally, the song popped back up on the bats' myspace page late last year, but didn't yet have the added strings. than the record came and the song had overdubs and other juicy studio details. it was really cool for me, trying to learn how to master my own songs, to see how theirs progressed.
anyway (how could this be one of my posts without an 'anyway'...), i should stop this epic post now.
if you can find bats records buy them. if you find actual vinyl bats records, buy them and email me and snail mail them to me and i'll paypal you!
seriously though, the bats defy the rolling-stones-dinosaur-please-please-stop model of how a band matures and ages, still making great, and sadly underappreciated, music. they have this new record (only a few months old!) and a 7"(i think?) in the works. they're touring europe this summer. one can only hope they'll make it to seattle eventually...

get onboard, ay?

Friday, April 17, 2009

you've never seen when i wear a turban

in the same line as getting to know a new band (new to me, natch) via the world wide double-yoo, i am obsessing about herman düne who, despite their recent seattle gig, i have not seen outside of my 12-inch laptop. have you heard of these fellows? i had not until quite recently. my friend carlos (a massive shrimper fan) turned me on to them when he asked me if i wanted to check out their show down in ballard towne. i say, well, who are dey? any good? he sez, well they're okay, i heard them on the shrimper, and i want to check them out. i say i'd like to go, and file it away in my head. i also go to their myspace and listen to a tune and think, oh french-swedish jonathan richman kinda thing, i can dig it. and so i friended them and planned on going to this show.
so a few weeks later, the night of the show's come up and i've got some nasty diarrhea (if this offends your delicate sensibilities, and/or you think it's too much information, you probably won't like it here... i still like you, i'm just sayin' though...) and anyway, going to a tavern in --it bears repeating-- ballard, was lowest on my priority totem pole. s i didn't go, and the next day my (former!) co-worker adam says to me, so dude, why weren't you there last night. shit shit. now i'm totally kicking myself because i have been listening to this shit over and over again. i don't know what it is, but sometimes i just can't kick a record. when i first got sweden i listened to deinara crush over and over and over for weeks before moving on to nine black poppies.

anyway. i've mentioned the concerts a emporter, the 'take-away shows' at blogotheque before, and they were key again in this instance. (if you don't know these, they are al fresco semi-improvisational and über-stripped down videos of musicians performing in unusual circumstances--check them out, you won't regret it.)
i've been on this whole kick for a few years of appreciating bands/performers highly based on their versatility, or more specifically, their ability to adapt to minimalist modes of performance. calvin johnson, mount eerie, and the mountain goats are the types who dress up a little for studio, but i've also flipped that esteem to compare favorably with guys like john vanderslice, the clean and (non-guy) st vincent, who drop all the studio trim to bust it out solo (or trio-lo). i don't know if i'm awake enough to articulate what i mean. i like maximum sound out of minimum means. that's what i mean.
anyway, these herman düne dudes, currently a two-piece, sound fantastic. their studio recordings have a lot of nice ixed percussion, layered guitars (like, rhythm and lead!), bass and lovely-voiced angelic back-up singers. but on the blogotheque vids it's just the two (david-ivar (yaya) and neman herman dune) guys singing and playing through the parisien streets. david-ivar plays this little parlour guitar and sings and neman follows along with a varity of little percussions like wood blocks and rattles. and that's all they need, and it blows my mind.

so is song of samuel. i cannot stop listening to this five-and-a-half minute story-song of a blossoming love between a young rich girl ad a violinist from the ghetto. goddamn it's gorgeous...

anyway, i don't have money now, and can't buy up their records, so until i get a new job (new life?), i'll have to make do with the blogotheque, with the myspace, and the excellent daytrotter session they did. right now they're on the top of my 'when i have money again i will buy...' list.

we're all gonna die

in the last several months i've been hustling to grab as much music as possible as soon as i hear something good, i've been hitting the interweb asap and bagging as much of said band/songwriter/whatever's back catalogue as possible. it's been quite effective as an acquisition strategy, but the downside has been that my 'absorption' rate has plummetted. with some exceptions, i've been giving most of the new stuff a listen or two then moving on to either a) old mountain goats b) new mountain goats or c) the next record. add to that the stuff i come across on myspace and daytrotter and blogoteque and you get one big pile of mess.
so now that i have no job, i've been obsessively listening to handfuls of records at a time, and am developing plenty of new music crushes. so the next few days should be a bit of a torrent...

in no particular order, i am starting the deluge with scout niblett.
i've heard about scout niblett for a while now, but had not heard 'them.' see? i didn't even know that they were a her. but then i finally got tired of not paying attention and started digging around. the first thing i happened to come across, by pure chance, was a youtube video from february, 2007, of scout (née emma) playing dinosaur egg at shepherd's bush empire (a london club).
i was gobsmacked.
there she stood on stage in a tatty pullover, long skirt and tousled hair, and a vintage fender jag (rather than the mustang she often favors) strapped around her shoulder. she played the first notes and they viciously carved their dischordant harmonies into my brain. as she began to sing, the high girlish whisper accelerated slowly into a febrile shriek rife with emotion and desperation.
i listened to dinosaur egg about ten times in a row that first sitting, just over and over.
then i got serious and started simply following the youtube links. the next video i watched was a performance, with her drummer, of song for scout in ten years. with just the three elements of her voice and guitar and his percussion i was convinced that studio engineers are highly overpaid individuals (sorry loren). the song started softly, but abruptly launched into a raucous hard rock attitude, then back, and so forth.

i haven't been so thunderstruck by anyone in a while (musically, *cough-cough*), and i was just in shock that this woman had been out there doing this for some little while. i immediately ordered whatever of her records i could find. have you ever ordered from the secretly canadian/jagjaguwar/dead oceans trifecta? it's very old-school (as these things go); no instant gratification, just some dudes in indiana going into their storehouse and mailing stuff. while it killed me to wait three weeks after hearing this shit, i still appreciated the hell of the fact that labels still function this way sometimes. insrt smiley face.

in the meantime, as i waited, i kept digging up stuff on the net, learning that scout niblett's songs are sometimes just her accompanying herself on drums, and that she's partial to a blonde wig or a roadworker's neon-orange reflective vest. i found the concert a emportér episode of her wandering up and through a parisien apartment building, in oberkampf, walking down a hall sweetly passed by an inquisitive and dapper frenchman, and finding herself in someone's flat where, when she finishes her song, the guy says "hello, would like some tea or some-zing?" and she giggles back "yeh, that'd be really nice." she's sweet and shy and goofy and ferocious and passionate and feral, sometimes at the same time, a bizarre combination of the insouciant type of woman you seldom find outside of england, and a patti smith-type chanteuse-maudit.
i also came across a lot of lazy descriptions of scout niblett in relation to either pj harvey, catpower, or both. i also came across a lot of reactionary denials that she was anything like either of them.
funny, that.
she reminds me a bit of what polly harvey sounded like back in the early nineties: both women are smallish with big grinding guitars and voices that whisper and scrape and wail equally effectively. that those voices are also english adds to a certain sense of sorority (and perhaps it is silly, but i have always found it sexy to hear a british woman's voice--a cliché i'm sure, but true).
i don't quite agree with the catpower assertion, though both are intense and powerful singers. i tend to think that the comparison stems more from chan marshall's supposed bipolar status and some sort of insinuation that scout niblett is as unstable. i think that feeling tends to come from people who, were they asked, would describe themselves as 'normal' for the most part. heh.

blah-blah. i could go on and on musing on the little things, i suppose. it seems a little innecessary to try to use words to describe scout, when one should listen to her. i'll leave this with words from niblett herself. i went over to her myspace page to listen to the tracks from her new single that she had just posted, and saw that she had updated the page thus: in the 'influences' box, she had written:

i just went up to a woman i didn't know to ask her about her dog. this is how the conversation went: me: 'arrr, what kind of dog is that?' she: 'chiwawa ....his name is weston' me: 'is he a puppy?' ( a logical question it seemed to me as he seemed extremely tiny for even a chiwawa) she then ignored my question and added before she walked off... 'you could turn your life around you know, you know that? at any time, could have a weston too!'

brutal. <3

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

from the vaults

several years ago i interviewed martin donald of the australian twee-pop trio the lucksmiths for a small seattle lit/culture magazine called rivet. it was pretty exciting. i was crazy about this band (still am to be frank), and very people had heard of them yet on this side of the pond. the rivet issues were conceived around central themes like "perspective," "invention," "value," etcetera. regular columns and features would reflect these themes, as would specials and illustrations, haikus and whatever else. so when the theme was announced as "luck" i thought, well, i'll shoot an e-mail to [the now-defunct label] candle records requesting an interview, they'll shoot me down, and my editor will know i tried. much to my delight however, candle's head honcho chris crouch not only hooked me up with an interview, but was nothing short of totally generous and encouraging. i was so stoked. i may as well have been interviewing tom waits or david byrne. or at least belle and sebastian. i nervously compiled my list of questions and sent them off to lucksmiths' lead guitarist and main songwriter, marty donald, in january 2005, as the band was finishing work on a new record.
a heavily edited version of this interview originally ran in rivet issue #13, the "luck issue," in spring or summer, 2005, i can't remember which. my friend andrea jean, a librarian, recently sent me a note saying how she'd come across a review of the magazine (in general) by one douglas mcclemont, of the library review service, which noted, "an interview with the possibly fictional band, the lucksmiths is a highlight [sic]." i lol'd as the kids these days say.
my mom's an editor. maybe that's why i've never liked being edited, i don't know, but i thought why not run the original, uncut interview for posterity. many thanks again to crouchy and marty for the generous sharing of their time and energy.

here it is:

matt neyens: in all your albums, there is a great mix of humor and heartbreak, sometimes combined. is there a concerted effort on your part to create that balance, or does it just happen in the songwriting process? also, how important is the humor to your songs?

marty donald: the combination of humour and heartbreak is not accidential, though neither is it entirely self-concious: i don't get to the third verse of a song and think 'this is a bit gloomy, better whack a pun in.' most songwriters i admire (and writers of all sorts, for that matter) strike a balance between the two; morrissey is probably the most obvious example of this, although david berman and bill callahan spring to mind as well. without wanting to get overly heavy-handed about it, i suppose having humour leavened with a little sadness, or sadness lightened by humour, appeals because that's largely what life is like, and artists who tend towards a more simplistic point of view generally seem to me to be missing something. a good deal of our early material seems (in retrospect) excessively jocular - favouring cleverness at the expense of emotional content - and as a result i shied away from that in my writing for a while. so i'm pleased if you feel i'm striking a good balance between the two.

matt: on the subject of songwriting, do you tend to bang things out quickly in a flash of inspiration, or do you tend to ruminate on songs over a long period of time?

marty: very much the latter. though there are exceptions (notably "the great dividing range," which i recall coming in a couple of hours), after the initial inspiration - usually just a line or a title - most songs take me weeks or months even, occasionally, years to finish. and this seems to be increasingly the case over time, which probably should be something of a worry.

matt: you write the lion's share of the lucksmiths' output. is this a comfortable relationship with you guys, first, and second do mark [monnone] and tal [white] tailor their songs to be similar to yours stylistically, are they similar naturally, or is there more of a collaborative effort musically than just bringing in a tune and saying, 'here, play this?'

marty: for me the balance of writing duties within the band is a comfortable one, although as you point out, i'm the one with the lion's share, so it might not be so for the others. but it seems to have evolved that way naturally; it's not something we've ever really had to discuss. i'm not much of a musician, as such (certainly less so than mark or tali); songwriting has always been the primary attraction of being in a band for me. as for the similarities in our writing styles, i'm constantly surprised by the extent to which this is commented on (even though i have the same problem with other multi-writer bands such as teenage fanclub and sloan). to me, there are very obvious differences between our songs. but i suppose these are disguised by the lucksmiths' sound they inevitably assume, and in this regard you're right to suggest a degree (albeit varying) of collaboration. arrangements and often individual parts are worked out collectively in the rehearsal room. and given the amount of time we've been playing together [as of this interview, about twelve years], stylistic similarities are unavoidable.

matt: i recently saw your label-mate darren hanlon (who has guest-musician-ed with you many times) perform here in seattle, and very few people knew who he was. how much exposure do you feel you and other bands from your local scene are getting, both in australia and abroad?

marty: i find it very hard to judge precisely how paltry the level of fame we have achieved is, and even harder to explain. within australia, we have been playing and releasing records for long enough to have established ourselves fairly well - an interviewer recently called us 'iconic!' - without having broached the mainstream to any real degree. as for the rest of the world, there seem to be handfuls of fans dotted here and there, and generally when we visit the handful seems at least a little bigger than last time. when we first toured to the northern hemisphere we were amazed that anyone at all had heard of us, and i suppose the novelty of hearing people on the other side of the world sing along to our songs has never really worn off.

matt: related to the last question, the lucksmiths have been kicking around since 1993. how do you guys feel about where you are as a band? you've obviously influenced a lot of the newer chamber-pop" bands, and your sound has been consistent - and terrific - over the years. are you a success? are you guys happy about how things are going for the lucksmiths?

marty: related to my last answer, i find it hard to say whether or not we're a success, although the very fact that we're still making music together must count for something. in a recent interview tali employed the frog-in-a-saucepan-of-water analogy to describe our career, which seems apt: even if it's been slow enough coming that we might not have noticed it ourselves, i do look at our (however modest) success with a degree of pride. and this is certainly so in a less careerist sense, and more an artistic one, which has always been more important to all of us: i have been happier with each successive record we have made, which is a nice thing to be able to say.

matt: you have a new single (which will be out by the time people read this) called the chapter in your life entitled san francisco. presumably this is anticipating a new full-legth[ed record] to be released soon. would you say something about either or both of these projects?

marty: i am typing from audrey studios, where we have just begun the mixing process on our forthcoming record, provisionally titled warmer corners, from which the chapter in your life entitled san francisco is taken. it's been a while between releases for us, and i'm quite excited about both the single and the album. it's distinctly more upbeat, and more fully-developed or textured than naturaliste [2003]; the songs seem (to me, at least) simultaneously more adventurous and more 'classic' than much of our previous work. (i should warn you, though, that this is the first time i've been forced to describe it at any length, so i don't yet have the pat little phrases from the press release at my disposal.) a big feature is the brilliant work of louis richter, who has been the fourth lucksmith in the live context for a year or two now, but whom we have not worked with in the studio before; he has brought to the songs an unerring ear for a jangly guitar line or a tasty organ part. ad we have again had the pleasure of working with producer craig pilkington, whose beautiful string- and organ-arrangements are the aural icing on the cake. the single, which is to some extent indicative of the direction of the record, takes its somewhat unwieldy title from a 1930s pro-californian-emigration pamphlett i stumbled across a couple of years ago in a secondhand bookshop.

matt: lastly, you're over there on the other side of the globe, and i often wonder what you guys are listening to that sounds great to you. what were your top five records from last year [2004]?

marty: my top five records for last year (already largely forsaken for the two new bright eyes albums; and including, given the geographical-remove thrust of your question, at least two australian releases) were okkervil river's down the river of broken dreams (which i think actually came out in the u.s. in 2003, so i'll include their sleep and wake-up songs ep as well); shearwater's winged life; the concrete's self-titled album; art of fighting's second storey; and our labelmate darren hanlon's little chills.

19 january, 2005; 14 february, 2005.

in addition to below:

i was racing yesterday to finish the post about the hollow earth benefit, and as time before an appointment grew shorter i was getting to the part i really wanted to discuss, but ended up barely hitting the pitch i wanted. so i thought just as a supplement i'd add something to the mix: the subject of mount eerie, specifically the album lost wisdom with julie doiron and fred squires, came up on a forum i sit in on, and after the show i posted the following:

update: overcame extreme anxiety and saw mount eerie last night (although technically it is now monday morning; so saturday night, then).
tiny vipers and a trio including lori goldston (who played cello for nirvana back in the day) opened: both acts very good.
but then phil took the stage and made the floorboards in the old church we all were in tremble and shake. there were bearded kids with flasks lying down on the floor, and people in chairs and people standing.
the stacked amplifiers practically shimmered with feedback that harkened to sonic youth and metal equally. phil 's body contorted and twisted, following the energy of his guitar like a dowser's twig on water's trail. his hands left the strings and arced throught the air like a modest diva as his body responded to both music and the emotion of his singing (slightly high-pitched, earnest and fervent).
i have seen very few performers, [the mountain goats] included whose emotional pitch reaches such an apex.
if anybody out there has a chance to see mount eerie live, i would certainly recommend it.

not really new information, since i covered most of this in yesterday morning's post, but i kinda like the phrasing in this; i was drunk at the time (highly) and tend to wax poetic in those instances. there's no real reason to add it i suppose, except that it's my blog and it amuses me to indulge myself...


Monday, March 9, 2009

mount eerie revealed

in what could become an (un)alarming trend, i went out again to a show! huzzah, my anxiety has been quelled once more. *knocks wood*

again, it was at the fremont abbey mere blocks from my home, but it was kind of special. it was the eve of dailight savings enforced sleep-loss, after a ten-hour bartending shift, and with another looming at 6:00 (no, make that 5:00) the next day. i had wanted to go to this show, a benefit for hollow earth radio with mike dumovich (who i'd not heard of) and lori goldston (who used to play with nirvana(!)), with tiny vipers (whom i had heard on the youtube but not in the desert of the real), and with mount eerie (over whom i've been mildly obsessing for about six months--this was my first oppurtunity to see him live).
i had wanted to go this show, but was convinced to the penultimate percentage that i would not be doing so. as it happens though, the restaraunt where i eat every saturday night is twenty feet away from the abbey, and as i left i thought, "oh what the fuck; i'll check it out."
i got up to the door as the h.e.r. emcee was opening the evening and found a solitary folding chair at the edge of the crowd and i settled in. i was gassy. sorry if anyone noticed...
but the show was well-worth the worry, and even worth the sleep i lost.

the dumovich/goldston/anne marie ruljancich trio was a nice solid opener, with acoustic guitar, cello and viola? violin? (i honestly couldn't see) combination taking full advantage of the excellent acoustics of the performance space to create longish lulling harmonies. goldston's cello work impressed me as much as it did when i saw her on perform with that other band a long while ago, with her proficiency creating dense sounds for her partners to ply into. anchored by dumovich's lead and ruljancich's accompanying vocals, the trio had a depth and feel that i intend to hear more of.

i first heard about tiny vipers, née jesy fortino, in the ramblings of kazutaka nomura, aka pwrfl power, when he interviewed himself for the stranger. since then she'd been on the back burner: i wanted to check it out, but hadn't got around to it. then a couple weeks ago when i was writing about cumulus, i noticed a concert bill with both of them, and i started checking out what was available on the world-wide double-yoo. i like what i heard, and that only added savor to my desire to attend this show--it also added bitterness to my surety that i wouldn't make it.
as for the show, fortino stepped quietly up to the chair set out for her, a small woman with a large guitar, which she hunched intently over, pulling back only when her songs required the full bore of her voice. she played long intense songs with a voice much older than her appearance, rich, soulfull and with a sense of fragility and damage whisping at its edges, set against the harmonics of seemingly every one of her steel strings, which seemed to resonate impossibly. i don't know if that was her sexy fender amp or the dynamics of the space, but the sound was overwhelmingly beautiful. i was pretty skint, but i bought an ep from the merch table (manned by phil (mount eerie) and genevieve (ô paon)--i felt shitty that i was buying someone else's record! but i didn't have nearly enough for his book, and i had almost all of those records already; i still felt churlish), and i'm looking forward to listening to it a few times.

as for mount eerie, phil elv(e)rum stepped up to the stage, solitary with an well-beaten electric guitar and massive amp stack, and smashed the acoustic ambience of the evening with a massive, powerfully distorted, sonic barrage. he writhed and contorted himself over his instrument, coaxing his lyrics out of himself with operatic gestures and obvious emotinal presence. his sound, a little metal, a little less folk, and just the right amount of sonic youth, was a great deal like his recorded material, but far more emotionally cohesive in person. the old church's floorboards shook and one felt almost lost. the songs were short, and many of them (apparently) new, but the immediacy and intimacy of both the songs and the singer were astonishing in their frankness and accesability. it was an awesome performance, and one of the most impressive i've seen i would even say that the ability of phil to entrance the audience was up there with john darnielle of the mountain goats. which is saying something, considering the rapid nature of his fans!

all in all, very happy to have gone. now if only i could get time off for what the heckfest...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

still happening

when i was a kid, my parents listened to judy collins and abba and john denver.
i remember feeling pretty fucking cool in 1987 or so when i discovered this amazing band called the beatles.
there were only a few radio stations that i could get--on my brand-new magnavox am/fmradio/doubletapedeck/recordplayer stereo--in the room that i finally had to myself, away from my little brothers. one of them was not kcmu, the college radio station that was broadcast from less than ten miles away, but which was overridden by larger in-city frequencies. at least in my neighborhood.
i got the king fm, the classical public radio station, and kbsg, the oldies station, at first (technically, when i was twelve i listened to top-forty shit to try to understand girls in my class at school; in retrospect it was not worth it, and it didn't work anyways). but it was these two stations i actually listened to a lot. especially the oldies, because it was actual rock'n'roll, which mysteriously drew me in. i knew all those old songs by heart, buddy holly, herman's hermits, ritchie vallens, tommy james & the shondells, all sorts of stuff. as the eighties waned, more songs from the seventies started creeping into the playlists, but at school i was getting hooked up with period music that didn't fit into the suited and boted conformity of '60s pop product. late beatles, like "obladi-oblada" and the acid-trip psychedelia were tantalizing and taboo and i flew through generations every couple months or so.
then two things happened when i was maybe sixteen or so. 1). a friend gave me they might be giants and violent femmes tapes, and 2). the slot on fm 107.7 became kndd the end, which started playing home-grown "grunge" bands in a mix with band like iggy and the stooges, david bowie and talking heads: bands that were already either venerable or deceased elsewhere, but still raw and vibrant on seattle's shitty commercial radio, and therefore, to its young listeners. i remember being blown away by elastica without knowing how deeply they werein debt to wire and the fall. i heard L7 and thought they were the meanest sexiest things on earth.i was scared my parents would hear this degenerate noise and take my stereo away from me.
you could not see (good) live music in seattle in 1993 if you were under 21 and you were me. obviously some kids got away with it, but i was way too timid to even think about getting a fake id. i didn't even start drinking until i was twenty.
finding new and interesting music became a game for my friends and i. we felt triumphant to have discovered the pixies, so raw and smart, from exotic new england. we swooned over belly's tanya donnely, and we were amongst those fooled into thinking urge overkill was worthwhile. along the way we learned about the vaselines from kurt cobain, realized that pearl jam was less relevent than superchunk (though if you'd asked us why, we would have had a hard time answering). we were beginning to catch up with those more savvy than we, but while most of us were thrilled to have a label like subpop operating in our own downtown, only the edgiest of us (of which i was not one) knew that the real shit was happening, and had been since the early eighties just down the interstate in olympia where calvin johnson's k empire was one of the hippest enclaves outside of the bowery.
i began getting a hint about this activity on my self-imposed exile to upstate new york for my one inglorious year of college. my new jersey roommate was listening to bands from olympia, and my reaction was nothing short of shock. really? this was going on under my nose? my high school cohort barry was also getting awoken to the rest of the world, and he sent periodic mixtapes from home off to me on the east coast. so did my friend jay. things were opening up and i think we all felt like we'd been blindsided a little. or maybe it was just sheltered me...

anyway, i don't remember exactly when i first heard beat happening, but it was not1983, when they first started recording songs like "our secret" and "down at the sea." it was not even 1992, when you turn me on was released.
i often wonder how different my brain would've processed things if i had heard beat happening earlier: would i have started making music before my thirties? as it was, i first started listening to calvin, heather and bret in my mid-twenties, and they were a revelation then, years after plunging into the musical deep end head-first.
beat happening still stuns me.
the wry disregard for polishand studio tricks; the offhand lyrics, ripe with poetic import but too playful for the arty-farty folks, and far too hip to be dismissed as gimmicky; the utter contempt for anything other than emotive immediacy where recording and production were concerned; all these things make bh's music unique.
the very name is romantically hip, summoning images of some musical lovechild of the two great counterculture allens, kaprow and ginsberg.
one sees old photos of the band, heather lewis' big glasses and roni horn-haircut, calvin johnson's slouchily sensual pout, and bret lunsford's impenetrable veneer or cool quietude. a litany of borrowed drums and guitars, that sexy old archtop, the crappy sears silvertone (sadly stolen recently from bret's protegée karl blau), all these brutally yet sweetly coerced into providing the minimal support for heather or calvin's plaintive voices.

when i listen to beat happening now they summon a nostalgia that i am not entitled too, but which should have been mine.
i had the ratty sweaters, and the yearning for something simple and beautiful: rimbaud with a snare.
bat happening could have helped to fill the void that haunted me back then.
but i didn't know they were there and as happy as i am to have them now, i wish i had them then...

Monday, March 2, 2009

little grrrls are gonna rock ya

i'm just jotting this note down real fast 'cause i wanna just say something. not gonna add a picture, not gonna add hyperlinks or anything all researchy or whatnot.
a good friend and i were talking today about gender and expectation in young girls (she has two) and i mentioned my blog (below) about cumulus and about how i came of age in the era and cradle of the riot grrrl ('90s, pacific northwest) and how i have been feeling, since the ascendence of britney spears, an increased discomfort and depression about how american society tends to commodify and objectify (everybody, but most specifically) girls and young women. to get very personal, i grew up in a household where i never was given cause to assume anything other than gender equality, and most (like all but two) of my best friends have been girls (then women, natch) my whole life, and everywhere i've ever looked i've seen competant, driven and talented females achieving things in whatever sphere in which they chose to operate. when i was in high school it became evident that my friends and classmates saw the world differently, and that opened my eyes to the ways women and girls were (and are) systematically and purposefully, or carelessly and unintentionall given short shrift by society. as i've always identified strongly with a feminine sensibility (fyi, i am an heterosexual, european-american, middle class male in my thirties) i have been partcularly sensitive to these issues for some time. which, not-incidently, was why the music of cumulus and the blow affected me so strongly).

so after this discussion with my friend, she lent me this dvd she had rented called GIRLS ROCK! the movie, 2008, a documentary about an all-girls summer camp in pdx where women like carrie brownstein and beth ditto help to give girls from 6(?) to 18 the option of rock'n'roll, teaching how to play music, how to write songs, and a host of other related activities like zine-making and band dynamics, and also (positivly, but sadly) self-defense classes.
there is a horde of little girls banging away on a (mouth-watering) selection of instruments, encouraged and encouraging, allowed to succeed and fail and laugh and love each other in an accepting way that, as far as i know, is totally unavailable amongst the company of boys and men.
some of them suck so goddamn badly, but seriously, they're children, and despite all the feminist history that preceeds them, they're oppressed by unfulfillable expectations and derisions that they are far from deserving, and this fact, coupled with the simple fact that (for all the "empowering" identification of these girls as "women"--they are not, many of them) they are beautiful and difficult children allowed to access creative wellsprings within them that were sometimes previously acknowledged, but which in many cases were heretofor untapped. for all these reasons it was beautiful to behold.
and then there were kids like the ready, who were indeed ready for a fucking record deal. i'd release their record at any rate! (btw, if you are a kid in that band--seriously, you are really good, i promise).

this may be too personal (is that actually an issue for a "web-log?"), but i want to go into vulnerable territory and say how very much i empathized with these girls. as some of you readers may be aware, i suffer from anxiety of sometimes overwhelming proportions, and depression. without going into too much detail, i will tell you that body, sex and identity issues have plagued me since puberty, and the self-destructive patterns i have fallen into have been eerily similar to some present in the girls in this film. i identified with them a lot.
i found myself rapt watching this documentary, wishing that i could do something to help the project (which i intend to discreetly look into), even though men are, by and large, not allowed into camp (the filmmakers--both male--and bandmates of guest performers (like The Gossip) were exceptions), and knowing that for all my feelings of identification i would not be understood or welcome, i wanted to add my voice to the chorus telling these girls that "things aren't okay, but you will be; the world may not think it needs you, but it's mistaken; you may be fatter, or not as pretty, or not as smart, as you think you should be, and as tv says you should be, but you are beautiful and special."
i also wished i had a place like this i could've gone to as a kid.

go rent this dvd. or video. or buy it.
if you live in portland, or don't, see if you can help this program.
america fucks most of us over. it's just what it does. sometimes it makes us better for beating back our adversity. sometimes we're broken and detroyed altogether, or forced to endure with nagging, dull, narcotic pain. mostly we fall somewhere between. to see women passionately devoted to helping girls find the positive aspects of life was uplifting in a decidedly non-oprah way. not only should their efforts be supported, but imagine a day when all children, regardless of ethnicity or gender, are given pragmatic-yet-encouraging environments in which to grow.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

happy two-for-one surprise

are you sitting down? as christopher lee so memorably said in the wicker man, "shocks are so much better absorbed with the knees bent." so are you sitting down?
i hope you're sitting down, because what i'm about to tell you will shock you.
i. went. out. last. night.

i know, i know. of course maybe there's one or two of you out there in the cyberspace who, unaware of my irritating social phobias and anxieties, are all like, "okey, you went out big deal, right?" right? no.
it should allay any major surprise if i qualify the above statement with the additional information that i went to a show at a venue which lies almost perfectly across the circumference of my little daily neighborhood walk. so that was easier then. wasn't it.

where (oh, where), you must be saying, was this place? well that's what i'm here to tell you. i only recently discovered that the nearby fremont abbey arts center plays frequent host to musical programs of the indie nature, and though it had occurred to me that i should investigate, it being a whole six blocks from my house, i had not yet found a bait significant to lure me from my hole. then i noticed that a performer i had a desire to see live, karl blau whom i've mentioned before, was going to be down from anacortes in a panel-type threeway performance (not nearly as dirty as it sounds) with led to sea and jason webley, neither of whom had i heard of.
and so, last night, a bitterly fucking cold tuesday, as jeopardy wound down, i thought, "y'know, i should go over there and check things out."
i was trepedatious, because i have been very sick lately, even missing work (a highly uncommon occurence, to be sure), and i was a little shaky still, but on went the hoodie and the gloves and the heavy coat and the converse low-tops and the little indie knit hood cap head-wear thing from south america (that everyone has, i know, but hey! WARM!). over i walked.
and then i saw more bearded young men than i have seen since lancaster, pa. many of them had glasses too, and i began to feel, if not at home at least invisible amongst the peoples. like that last page in "where's waldo" where there are hundreds of waldoes, and only one real one.
after a litany of arty introductions from the abbey's major-domo, my pockets already bulging with home-made merch, the performers came up to the stage. it should be mentioned before we get further that the space is really neat. it is the basement. the space is low and wide, with massive old-growth beams framing the intimate stage. scads of folding chairs arched around before the performers, but there was ample space for the standing others (among whom i was one), and, being that it was in a (former?) church, there was not the usual raucousness and there were no beverages stronger than cocoa. that and the all-ages made me feel very old, although not as old as the "trendy" grandads who are still looking for the sequel to the sixties. when their lives meant something, i suppose...
so the way this concert ended up working out was that the three performers, led to sea, hereafter known as alex (since her name is liz alex guy), karl blau, and jason webley, from stage right, in that order, would each play one solo song. then, a poet would come up and (sloppily, loudly, over-emotionally, and in one case with a sad case of "i'm a nerdy white guy, but i read my poems like samuel l jackson" way) read a(n ironically well-written) poem. then, alex would start a song, and karl and jason would (purportedly without having heard the song before, which actually was an inaccurate illusion, since alex and jason tour/record together, and at least one of them has shared a bill with blau; whatever) then accompany her, improvisational-like. then karl would start one, then jason, and the others would follow, et cetera. punctuated by more of the poetry (sigh).
a totally interesting (if, as i said, totally corrupt) concept.
i forgot to mention that, on stage behind the musicians, a painter was quickly painting a picture on an old cabinet door.

now, i had heard karl blau in his collaboration with bret lunsford and phil elvrum on bret's d+ project, and if he records with laura veirs as well as tours with her then i've heard him there too. in fact, if you are doing any looking into the anacortes scene, he is in every single photo, more zelig than waldo. i eventually got around to his myspace page to check him out for his own sake, and the first of his solo songs i heard was "mockingbird diet," from his k records release nature's got away (the title of which puns on a line from that song actually), which i reallyreallyREALLY liked (then i bought the record), then i saw the listing for this show and thought, oh yeah, maybe next month i'll go see that.
so that was why i went. and he was really good. it was a very interesting way to see a noted muliti-instrument and prolific musician like blau, and he played "mockingbird diet" which made me even happier, and i was glad i went. as i stood at the merch table before the show, i was informed by a small and attractive, but incredibly earnest, young lady volunteering there that many people were there to see this jason webley fellow. despite her insistence that this was the case, i decided to wait to buy some of his (massive pile of) records until afterwards. in retrospect, this was wise.
now i don't wanna be a hater or anything, and i will state right now that webley was not a bad musician, he just rubbed me a little against the grain. it may have simply been that he seemed so goddamned happy, which, if you know me, is excuse enough for me to be alienated. i found his schtick (he's got one, even if it's honest) a little weary and his songs a little hackneyed. everyone there was totally into him though, so this is most likely a personal thing, so no offense to him or his clearly numerous fan base. it's like michael jackson, to throw the metaphor out of proportion: clearly a star, but one i can't stand.
what i will also say about webley is that he was a phenomenally sensitive and generous accompanyist for the other two players, which i recognize and respect as being a hallmark of a really skilled and aware musician. major props to him for that.
of course he was already familiar with alex's songs *cough-cough* but whatever the artifice, the sound these three musicians made was truly fucking awesome. an unholy blend of gypsy, russian, indie, emo and minimalist tendencies.
also, he played a massive old accordian and a cool vintage guitar that sounded fantastic.

so i went to see karl blau, and karl blau rocked.
but what i did not expect was to be so blown away by led to sea, whom, as i said, i had not ever heard of.

so this woman comes out on stage with her viola and sits down, and, not knowing already how the evening would progress, there she was on blau's right, and there sat jason webley on blau's left with his big-ass accordian, and for all the world they looked like blau's back-up band. but then they were given the cue to start and alex starts hammering out this pizzicato rhythm, simple and penetrating and seductive, and then she bends down and i realize "oh, holy shit, she's got a looper down there" and as the rhythm continues to permeate the room she starts bowing out this haunting legato melody and then she leans into the mic and starts whispering the most gorgeous song. the song, btw, is "this moment," which is on her live ep fear of flight (i *heart* alliteration), but not on her self-titled eleven records release.
she used every trick in the book with that viola, scraping, keening, hammering out a percussion on the body, with the looper and the (either pick-ups or) mics shoving these fantastic sounds into our ears.
her songs are really stand-out too, and since i picked up both the ep and the full-length last night, i've been listening to them this morning, and they're all really good.
i look forward to hearing more from her.

so all in all, it was that (almost)rarest of rare things (the rarest is a good date) in my life: a good night out. woot.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

the quiet rage of clouds

a few years ago, when i started writing my little poems and ur-songs, when i didn't have a guitar yet, i was just starting to open up to the idea that, on the cusp of my thirties, i might be able to expand my creative life, for years dominated by painting and other visual artistic processes, to accept the inclusion of music. it was a little scary. i can't read music, and had no musical skills to speak of.* i was writing things though, for the first time in over a decade, and the idea that i could expand, in my maturity, into other fields that had previously cowed me into the role of mere spectator. i could play songs? i could make my own (tiny, modest) records? i was wholly seduced.
of course every band and "band" faces the existential hurdle of the infamous "band-name" question. and of course, i was no exception. even those who know me well will not bother to deny my gloominess, my greyness, my moodiness. it occurred to me that "the clouds" would be the perfect name for my endevours, and for months i photographed cloud formations from seattle to hawaii, with the intent of building up an archive to use for various album art compositions. i had pencilled in "by the clouds" on my lyric sheets. i was excited. i then realized that no less (and likely many more) than four other bands had already assumed this mantle. one of whom, the australian incarnation from the nineties (which morphed, in this decade, into "the girls from the clouds") i became quite fond of. damn damn damn. so i briefly considered another name before settling on "the black lines"
the name i considered was "cumulus."
i am now glad i didn't use it, because recently i discovered the music of a young woman up to the northern musical enclave of anacortes, washington, who performs under that name.
when one listens to cumulus' music, one can understand why a very minimal amount of information is available about her. apparently she is a small twenty-year old named alex, and her songs are quiet, beautiful, as bitter as burnt coffee and as angry as hell. she channels the eyes-wide-open indignation and what-the-fuck-is-wrong-with-the-world rage of your average sensitive and intelligent college student into songs that are anything but generically angsty or tritely simplistic.
in a voice tentative yet strong, and whispery yet full throated and melodic, with an unobstrusive infusion of reverb, alex sings against minimal soundscapes of gentle nylon strumming or plucking, looped patterns of voice or percussion, and sweetly-sung overdubs. each song is filled with a slightly rustic soulfullness that is aware and cogniscent of pop trends without the glassy over-singing of the commercial pop tart. however, despite the mathematics of girl+guitar, cumulus sounds less like the prototypical girl-troubador enabled by joni mitchell, and more like someone like laura veirs** or a less throaty, less-rocky kristen hersh. the intensity of the lyrics and the sweetness of the voice, combined with the simplicity of the guitar work does mean that cumulus could run the risk of being shoved (unwillingly, one suspects) into the chick-folkie corner, but her work is capable of rebuffing such efforts.
as far as subject matter goes, cumulus sings with the tender rage of early ani difranco, pointing out the inequities of the lives of girls and women under the threat of the implications of the male gaze. directly challenging this threat is the shockingly frank "wolves," which begins

you cast your gaze, but who says she wants it?

and launches into a document of young woman who is sexually assaulted and then blamed for the act by the curse/virtue of her womanhood. the tone echoes andrea dworkin, valerie solanas and early riot-grrl bands like bikini kill, particularily in it's sarcastically taunting accusatory refrain: doesn't every woman just want it? doesn't every woman just want it?. the "album art" that accompanies the song on cumulus' myspace page is a still from the disney "classic" sleeping beauty; it's an apt slap in the face of male fantasy, and a canny analogical thrust.
in some of the other material, the caustic tone of "wolves" is less in-your-face, but the general feeling seems to be not merely anger of female subjectivity, but a deep sadness. "why" is a compelling partner to "wolves" with its girlie-punk aesthetic of "oh-oh-ohs" combined with a looped rattle providing a pretty wallpaper for the indignant and vulnerable graffiti of lyrics scribbled across it. in "morning coffee" however, the disparaging tone is replaced by the sense that the cumulus' alter ego, with nostalgia and a sweet sense of loss, is nonetheless moving forward from lost little girl to empowered and sensual woman. the palpability of a relationship's arc is evident in the song as alex sings:

last night your lips touched mine
like a strawberry touches the ground
when it gets too heavy
when did this begin to
feel so heavy?

in my own relationships (not just romantic, but with close friends as well), i have encountered many girls and women who are facing this dilemma, of how to retain their individuality and assert themselves fully, even as they wish to be open and sensual, feminine as it is commonly and reductivley accepted. the paradox of being strong and yielding as it were. in the song cumulus seems to state her forward trajectory with positivism, but also allows for the recognition that love is nice too. it seems almost tragic that in this era, a girl entering womanhood still has to feel like prey and feels like she must reject certain emotions to be strong. honestly, coming of age in seattle in the nineties, in the cradle of the riot grrl movement, and having grown up amongst girls and women who settled for nothing less than respect and equality, it pains me to hear of young women still feeling opressed. it suggests that while many of my generation have gleaned personal triumphs for their efforts, those younger women cumulus speaks for have not (yet).

In "get close" alex says, "i don't wanna feel like i'm wasting your time."
that seems unlikely to be the case.

*less-kind listeners of the black lines may suggest that the situation in this regard has not changed...

**interestingly, anacortes luminary karl blau has played bass for veirs, and cumulus has recently played drums for blau.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


i would like to clarify that i am not actually a member of the cult of st vincent, by whom i mean miss annie clark, the saucer eyed gamine with the insanely rich and lilting voice and the ridiculous guitar chops, and not the home of the bearcats or the celebrated saragossan martyr of 304.

that disclaimer aside, i will admit to being wowed by (the video of) her performance at new york's other music. it's pretty impressive, with clark ripping through a net solo set with a sexy vintage archtop and a double-mic set-up that allowed her to channel billy holiday ('bang bang' in particular, is dope).

what really lights my candles though is a "dumbo" session (so-named for the chic brooklyn sub-neighborhood) where st vincent punches sweetly through a cover of the jackson brown song 'these days,' the one often attributed to the enigmatic teutonic chanteuse nico. as a fan of both the velvet underground and 'the royal tenenbaums,' the song is rich in associations for me, and annie's lovely version is less a "cover" than the sort of translation that used to happen when a jazz musician would perform/record another's tune: a tribute, a nod of the head, a chapeau of sorts. nice.

google it.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

i don't want just a girl to ball

as i was setting up the bar where i work this morning, a co-worker had his ipod plugged in, and much to the delight of we two, and the chagrin of everyone else, he was playing the eponymous 1976 release by the modern lovers (the original line-up of jonathan richman, jerry harrison, david robinson and ernie brooks). i have been feeling a little low lately. i am growing a little loving feeling in my dark, cold little heart, and along with the natural warmth that causes, there is a disproportionate monster of anxiety and unsurety, and jonathan richman's lyrics are a salve of sorts to those feelings. it's tough being a sensitive fellow, and jojo understands. and as he would no doubt add, it's tough too for the girls, and ladies, jojo wants you to understand that he knows this too.
i was especially drawn to "someone i care about." do you know these lyrics?* do you know this song? my goodness, it's so appropriate to all of my amorous intentions in my whole life, i suspect this richman of reading my mail. that is, if the song hadn't been written three years before i was born...
i first became aware of jonathan richman as a solo performer when my friend steven and i went to see belle & sebastian** years ago. we ran into my friend barry from high school outside the theatre and he was going on and on about the opening act (jojo) and how amazing he was. we were like "zuh?" because we did not know him. i have never seen repo man, and so didn't know "pablo picasso" from that, and i had seen something about mary but didn't know that the "greek chorus"-like troubador in that movie was jonathan. i was blown away by this performance. i don't recall richman's steadfast drummer tommy larkins being there, just this skinny, goofy guy, alone on stage with his acoustic guitar, singing these clever and darkly sweet songs.
i was hooked, man! from there i tracked down some of jonathan's solo records (mostly in used bins--a shame, i could not find new copies for the longest time), and the modern lovers "live at the longbranch" record (from france, no less). over the years i have delved deeper into jojo's repertoire, and saw him again in the far-more intimate surroundings of seattle's famed rockabilly haven, the tractor tavern. the circumstances in which i saw him on that night were fraught with my hopes of another sort of intimacy with a sexy polish girl, but in true modern lovers fashion, the romance was not to be (but i did not die--so some day we'll be dignified and old together). the show was awesome though. i can imagine some jaded indie so-and-so listening to jonathan richman and thinking, "say, my friend, what is this? raffi?" and i would say, "my goodness, you ignorant trollop. you simply must experience jonathan richman live in order to appreciate that in order to be cool, you need not in fact be cool. you must witness his spontenaity, his joie de vivre, his whole-body devotion to putting music into the world, and his unabashed willingness to smile while doing so." i suspect i would get a dirty, befuddled look for saying such a thing, but it's true. i am a gloomy, black-hearted pessimist, but even i defy anyone to see jojo play and to not smile. such people who are capable of doing so are the ones who will do horrible things to you if they catch you in a dark alley. they are pure sociopaths and need be shunned.
anyway, jonathan richman put out a really interesting record in 2007 called "revolution summer" named after the film for which it serves as soundtrack. amazingly, it is a lyricless album, and the deceptive simplicity of jonathan's musicianship is sidestepped by the revelation (were one needed) of his minimalist mastery. with many songs floating around the one-minute-mark, and one at 40-something seconds, "revolution summer" is essential listening for anyone who has a belief in the one-man-band conceit *cough-cough*.
then last year, another record came forth, "because her beauty is raw and wild", but this time it was a full-fledged studio release, jojo's first since 2004, with real songs and everything, but what sets it apart is that the stripped-down feel of "rs" remains, with jonathan's plaintive, sighing voice accompanied by his gentle, jangly strumming and tommy's unfussy drumming.
the typical ethos of a jonathan richman record is all there: the sweetly near-obsessive attention towards a particular lady; the dangerously emotional pitch, somewhere between deviousness and utter naïvité; erudite epigraphs such as the paen to johannes vermeer that sound simple despite their acuity; the prediliction for speaking in tongues, specifically spanish, a language richman truly seems to cherish. it's all there, like finding cats flitting around the paginated corners of a haruki murakami novel, and the familiar elements bring a sense of welcome that's nostalgically underlined by the lo-fi texture of the album as a whole. it reminds me personally of being in that small club on a bitter cold winter night, with a cheap lager in hand, leaning against a ragged old-growth pillar, as a goateed fifty-something stepping out from behind his microphone and, swinging his hips, and yelling passionatly into the crowd, winning their hearts.

*this is a selection:
well i don't want some cocaine sniffing triumph in the bar
and i don't want a triumph in the car
i don't want to make a rich girl crawl
what i want is a girl that i care about
or i want none at all

i feel warmer now.

**incidently, this was the first time i saw b&s live. it was amaaaaazing. i'm twee. i'm sorry.

the past is still ahead of me. hmm. could be a problem...

i have noticed that many of my posts begin with "so." to which i might be tempted to say, "so what?" i'll work on new intros.

this one time, at... oh shit.
i have a flickr account, as some readers may already be aware, and apart from clogging the internet with my own images (of late, an ongoing catalogue raisonnée of my entire body of work--ongoing with the possibility of completion-failure, that is), i also like to just surf from page to page, following a general search to start out and going from there. while on one of these immensly satisfying little cyber-treks i came across a photo of a musician i think highly of onstage with another musician at the second guy's show (doing the whole "and here's our friend john darnielle, to sing anchorless with us" thing) and someone had commented something like "o ye mortals, behold this trancendent moment, would there were a record of this auspicious occasion, to be celebrated through repeated digital viewings."* to which the author of said photograph replied "the internets doth provide." such a small suggestion, yet the hyperlink attached became a wormhole to an audio bliss-- an awakening not unlike the one robert deniro experienced with robin williams' firm administration of l-dopa. except for the whole thing of being in a coma. nonetheless, a coma is a good metaphor for the state of not knowing who the weakerthans were (for the record, this is a severely late-written post considering the actual timing of this event, just fyi, but i wrote about another canadian band last time, and figured maybe i'll try to get it out of my system).
whatever. i was hooked. apparently i have been missing out for some time, since the weakerthans arose from john k samson's evacuation from propaghandi in 1997 (and technically, the song on the video, "anchorless" predates that split, but what-evs). i am resolved to make up for lost time.
however, as yet i haven't actually gotten ahold of any of these records, cursed, unlike my friend steven, as i am to not hold a job where i have easy and free access to a, shall we say library? of albums. *cough*
i have however been listening to mp3s and youtube clips and mysoace samples and all that, and i am really loving this stuff.
i just wanted to say that.
(i mean, i could analize john k samson's gritty-yet-warm voice, or the interplay between jangly, delicate guitar lines (like in "strangulation" or "night windows") and the rocky rhythm section, or the charming love/hate relationship with the band's native winnipeg, manitoba, which indelibly flavors their sweet-sad lyrics. but maybe if you don't know the weakerthans, you should be like me (probably only in this endevour should you be like me...) and hunt them down.)

*this is a very liberal translation of what may actually have been said. -ed.

Monday, January 12, 2009

i call "bs" on you! yes i do!

i was going to start out by saying, "ok, man, you know i don't like calling people out, but..."
i shouldn't start out that way though, because my mouth has gotten me in more trouble oer the years than i'd like to think about. almost getting kicked out of college? yup. gotten me into a bad relationship? oh yeah. landed me the job i've had for the last nine years? worst of all...
however, though i've tried to temper my responses (slightly) i still itch to voice my contrary opinions. laced with less salty language perhaps...

a couple weeks ago, while meandering through the youtube labyrinth, i came across this video of "the new pornographers" in the back of an english taxi (at sounds like a porn site, but in fact is comprised of musicians in the back of black cabs performing in situ and rough-and-ready versions of a particular song). it was not, in fact, the whole band, but rather carl newman and kathryn calder, with carl on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, and kathryn on accordian and harmonies.
wow, it sure was gorgeous. that sounds a little disingenuous, but i assure you, i'm straight up. it wa so good, i'm convinced tnp should do an album just like that: acoustic and stripped alllllll the way down. it would be amazing. a.c., hook me up man?

anyway, i had heard kathryn singing with tnp when they opened for belle & sebastian a couple years ago, when they were "controversially" touring without neko case, and everyone was poo-pooing them, because she is the indie-goddess, and they are thebacking band (i could mention that bejar wasn't with them either, but that doesn't help my case). kathryn sounded fantastic, hitting all the "neko" notes right on target, and delivering a powerhouse performance with the rest of the band. so after seeing this video (in the interest of disclosure, i am a lonely-boy songwriter guy, and kathryn calder is ethereally lovely with a voice to match)...
*coughs sheepishly* after seeing this video, i did the ol' google-search to see if kathryn calder, like the other members of canada's most hippest "superband," had a side project or two, and i came across immaculate machine.
i have just spent waaaaaaay too much money on music in the last several months, and though it is on my hotlist(!) i haven't ordered their cds (ones and zeroes and immaculate machine's fables, both on mint), i notice there's another due this spring, so maybe i'll just make a typical matt-move and buy them in bulk.
there are a couple videos out there on the web, and (and here comes the gripe!--"aha," you say, "i wondered when (if?) that would come along") a daytrotter session.

now. i am not gonna ladle out a heaping serving of shit upon the good peeps at daytrotter dot com, because i believe in and am appreciative of what they do.
in the mini-essay introducing the session, author sean moeller writes:
"[immaculate machine] find familiarity in "dear catastrophe waitress" era belle and sebastian and travel with the wind-dried melodies of the new pornographers,* but they write songs that have some of that crackle of grungy seattle, via the 1990s, when sub pop was just getting its sea legs** there in the salty northwest."
to which i responded with a silence. mainly because i was alone, with no one to talk to. not that i am deterred by solitude. i talk to myself for hours. but i was stunned, in this case, into speechlessness.
immaculate machine do in fact sound a bit like the new pornographers. one could argue that if your uncle were in a hugely popular and influencial band, you might sound similar, too.*** i can see the b&s comparison too, since there's a nice amount of melody and musicality to the band that has been given more free rein since chamber-pop's ascendency. i can even see the 1990s thing. it's official, we born in the seventies are officially oh-el-dee (but luckily not as old as you even older fogies out there!), and the styles of "alternative" or "college rock" bands that we grew up on have deeply influenced a number of newish bands. but the '90s band that i hear most in immaculate machine is belly, the tanya donelly project that had my friend pulling out his hair in obsessive frustration back in high school. of course also the breeders and throwing muses and all that crowd (not so much pixies, though). they also sound like the defunct australian band the clouds. they kinda sound like the feelies a little too, but honestly, every other indie pop band sounds like the feelies (hello vampire weekend. i am talking. to. you.); i need to get ahold of their records so i can stop relying on their myspace fansite and the three songs available there. serious. also, it's a little funny that all four tracks (i never catch on fast enough for the temporary downloads) start with a very similar snap of the drums.
what bugs me is that, strictly from my own experience of seattle in the nineties, im doesn;t sound like anything me and my friends were listening to (from seattle--they sound like the boston stuff (but not "boston," which, in all honestly, we were listening to. i am so sorry...). they sound nothing like grunge. is that what the rest of the country thinks we were doing? i mean, "grunge" was the unholy spawn of hard rock (sometimes metal) and punk rock, with a very small dose of sarah records and postcard records stuff. that stuff was more of an influence on the olympia scene though (which in turn influenced kurt cobain and others up here). grunge was hard. it was violent and angsty, loud and emotive (it had close ties to proto-emo bands like fugazi and even ministry--all mentioned in the same breath with nirvana and mudhoney (we try not to mention other associated acts like pearl jam and chicago's urge overkill). grunge was scary for us kids. we liked it a lot, and we totally tapped into that rage and anger (and the indisputable feeling that there was depth to it: substance to enrich the feelings of frustration and anxiety--remember, we were involved in an iraq war then too). on the other hand, we were pretty sure that if we ran into mark arm at dick's he could've happily kicked our asses into the ground. (i hear mark arm is a great guy, but when we were in our teens, these guys were like "all doing heroin" and smashing guitars and all sorts of things we imagined happening behind the impenetrabe doors of the comet.****
i could be really nitpicky and go into how pavitt and poneman actually got revved up in the eighties, and how, by the early-nineties, sub pop was not only in full-flight, but was on the way towards transcending the "seattle sound" and becoming more eclectic, and *gasp* gentler. much later i would recognise, retrospectively, that arc in the rise-and-plateau of the "dunedin sound" in new zealand, and its connection with flying nun records, not to mention the untold number of scene and label histories out there.

i should actually make it clear that i am in love with immaculate machine. i heart them. they sound so good. i want to buy their records. i want to kiss kathryn calder's hand. their melodies will rock you with beautiful chiming feedbacking harmonizing pounding dance-in-your-chair songs.
they really sound a lot like belly though...
and that essay wasn't really bad, i was just all, "yo man, i was there! that's my youth you're talkin' about!"

*i don't know what this means: they're crusty? dessicated? pleasantly unscented?

**maritime references abound in the piece

***fyi: calder is newman's niece. and she in that band.

****one thing a lot of people may not understand, is that it was really, really difficult to get into shows if you were under 21 here. there were bands i had to wait a decade for (until they came back to town), and the ones i did see were in horrible stadium or festival formats--i mean, seeing nirvana and the meat puppets was groundbreaking for me, and seeing sonic youth at bumbershoot was like the deus ex machina, but largly we felt that the only way we could connect with our own hometown scene was to trade tapes and buy whatever records we could with our scrounged funds.