Sunday, March 25, 2012

The smell of burning leather, as we hold each other tight. 
Some videos to look at, and a few thoughts on each:

Do you ever wonder what your beliefs really consist of? I'm not talking religious beliefs. I mean what, at your core, you truly give a shit about. One time I was challenged to give a description of what I care about, and I say 'challenged' because it was asked not so much with gentle curiosity, but with a sort of 'prove to me you have character, right now' attitude. It was as much accusation as it was question. And it was coming from a girl for whom I had endless warm love-y feelings, so it was extra acutely wonderful (I was also driving, stuck behind someone going 3 mph under the speed limit). No idea what I answered, and I'm sure I didn't say what I was really thinking, but right now I believe in a world where there is room for what is happening in this live Tubes video. I caught this for the first time a few weeks ago at my friends' house and I keep thinking back to it, not just because it's sexy and wild and the music is great and the transition from "Don't Touch Me There" to "Mondo Bondage"--visually and musically--is so well-executed. But also because seeing this made me realize how much of a drag most shit is. I know that's real descriptive. What I mean is, thank christ things like the spring 1977 Tubes tour existed so that life isn't just the feeling of waiting at the check-out line at the grocery store and hearing your boss talk about Newt Gingrich. There's some questionable content in this clip, but fuck it, questionable is a good thing. Isn't life more exciting that way? Am I taking this too seriously?? Also, musical theater is rough, but this works. I don't know why. Also, watch The Tubes 1978 Documentary to get a better idea of the band, and go get copies of their first two records.

On a lighter note, Shirt Tales. Look for punk shirts!

And then Bill Evans. It's sunday as I'm writing this, so this makes sense. It's also just beautiful, and I found out where that sample from Madvillain's "Raid" came from. Seriously, I've listened to this full set 4 and half times today, while I read the new Paris Review. FYI: the Terry Southern interview is pretty good, and the short story by David Searcy ("El Camino Doloroso") is good enough that I almost ordered one of his books right after I read it. Haven't gotten into the John Jeremiah Sullivan piece yet. Shit is like 60 pages! I'm going to read the Crass interviews from the new ANP Quarterly right now. See ya.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I wasn't that surprised.
Some notes on two 7 inches from 2011. Grass Widow released Milo Minute on their own label, HLR, last year, and when I got it, I didn't listen to it right away. Something about their Past Time LP left me worn out, although I've since come to my senses. Past Time is excellent, an album of effortless, slightly mathematical hooks (see "Shadow"). It's tempting to just emphasize the radical girl-ness of them, to place them on a riot grrrl continuum (they're all-female, they have a record on Kill Rock Stars, they've played with the reunited Raincoats), but there's more. The video for "11 of Diamonds" almost feels Maya Deren-ish, like avant-garde beach noir from the earliest days of counter-culture America. On the flip side of Milo Minute, they cover Neo Boys and Wire, and in interviews they've cited '60s Brits The Move as an influence. And while their strength is often in their restraint (no wild distortion, no super fast parts or freak-outs), they have something of the pop rush and bounce of The Buzzcocks, and they hint at the briskness and poetics, the guitar jangle and bass rumble and adventurousness, of the Minutemen, but take it in another direction. They're a model female punk trio, no question, but you can go deeper and wider with them. "Milo Minute", the song, feels like their attempt at a jaunty 2-minute pop burst--plenty of craft, without a ton of overthinking. In the video for "Milo Minute", they go to Boston's Franklin Park Zoo and play music for gorillas, and it's here, with the band on one side of the plexiglass and a gorilla habitat on the other, that the song seems to grow. The band is so charming, they seem like they were going to the zoo to play anyway, and then said "oh! you should bring your camera, we need to make a video!" I did have some questions, mainly about whether or not it was good for gorillas to hear amplified instruments and drums, and then also what their hearing frequency was like. Is it like a dog's? Dogs don't seem to notice bands. The gorillas seem fine with it, especially by the end. Grass Widow have a way of making the complicated very uncomplicated and natural. They make it look not only easy, but desirable.

Grass Widow - "Milo Minute"
Grass Widow - "Time Keeps Time"

 One of the things I don't like about rock duos is that there's always some kind of shtick. They're married, or they're dating, or they're smiling too much, or they're really "stripped down", or they're really LOUD FOR A TWO-PIECE, or they only wear certain colors. It's rare that they're just two people in a band and that's it. Soccer Team is one of those rare bands. They're platonic (I think) and modest, and the closest they come to a gimmick is the use of a lot of tremolo, especially for a band that is not at all a garage band. The 3-song EP they released last year was partly recorded in 2006--the same year their last record, "Volunteered" Civility and Professionalism, was released--and partly in 2010. It sounds like it--same home-recorded (4-track cassette, 8-track reel-to-reel) DC indie rock, same wry humor and wordiness. They're smart and funny, and sound like they're experimenting without losing sight of the song. "World Series Apathy" rolls out images of damaged ear drums, Gods and Goddesses, long goodbyes. Ryan Nelson drops the line "clouds will cover every person and sweep through every living thing". He sounds like a mostly-composed post-breakup man trying not to think "defeat", possibly with the benefit of some distance, while cycling the line "Did we cry 'assistance!' when our hearts sank into the sea?" and not making it sound like bad emo. "Mental Anguish Is Your Friend" is a stunner and gets better with every listen. Melissa Quinley calls to mind Mary Timony or Liz Phair, the same lower register female voice, and gives off what sounds like a one-take perfect set of imperfect notes. I'm just reading over all the lyrics now. Fuck, is this record bleak, way more so than "Volunteered".  It's all doomed and damned, fuck this and fuck that, "I can't wait to die alone and broke". Nothing is gonna be ok, but we can kinda laugh about it? Maybe?

Soccer Team - "World Series Apathy"
Soccer Team - "Mental Anguish Is Your Friend"

Elsewhere--I watched a bunch of Cat Power interviews the other day, these two for example. And I listened to Container's "Rattler" on the way home from work. Gnar dance stuff! Oh and check out this Yaphet Kotto gem. Incredible. Ok, that's all I got for now. More tomorrow!

Friday, March 02, 2012

Some belated notes on Davy Jones. The Monkees were my first favorite band, the first I identified as clearly being the coolest. I spent hours on the green shag carpet of our TV room watching re-runs of their show on some local Fox affiliate,  and I remember telling a friend of my sister's that Davy was my favorite, although I think I switched to Mickey because he was funnier and I thought his songs were better. I remember walking down the streets of Toronto as a 6-year-old, holding a Monkees 45 my sisters had just bought me because they were especially cool (still are). Years later I started a band called The Chuds and we wrote a "Chuds Theme Song" because the subliminal power of the Monkees was THAT STRONG. As a high school straight edge kid who mostly wanted to listen to S.O.A., I didn't enjoy/understand Head at all, didn't want anything to do with it. I saw it again a month ago (as a 32-year-old Genny drinker who still wants to listen to S.O.A.) and I could not have been more wrong--it's one of the greatest movies of all time. You need to see it. So good and so fucking funny. Anyway, you should know that The Monkees were great, and that Davy was great. Here are a couple clips I saw in the past few days that I watched multiple times. RIP RIP RIP.