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.