TOP FIVE 2007 – Preview (sort of)

Man let me tell you this was a tough year. This was tougher then in 2004 when the only record I was excited about was Planes Mistaken for Star’s Up in them Guts album. This year was different though because there were a lot of really good albums, but not GREAT albums. There were also a lot of disappointments too. So before I start to reveal my top five albums of the year, which I will do sporadically over the next few weeks I am going to talk about some albums that I had high hopes for but ultimately did not live up to the hype.

Bright Eyes Cassadaga was a record that I was so incredibly up on that when the 14 song over kill hit my ears I was just left with a lot of “huh?” in my head. No doubt the album sports some great songs like “Four Winds”, “Hot Knives”, “When the Break Man Turns My Way”, and “Soul Singer in a Session Band”. All of those songs are some of Connors best work and the group he surrounds himself with really brought these songs to life, but the album, much like his live show this year is a series of starts and stops. There is a lot of growth to be heard from Bright Eyes, but maybe it’s time to break away from the confines of the Omaha crew and let a new produce guide the next project. That’s what I’d like to see personally.

Ted Leo laid another album on us this year with Living with the Living and much like Cassadaga this album starts and stops quite a bit. When Ted is on fire the man is ON FIRE and writes songs like nobody else, but with some trips into Reggae-land and over kill on the word smith action on some tracks Living with the Living just didn’t perform over all as an album.

New Wave by Against Me was such a tremendous piece of shit that I am unsure why it is still on my iPod. I was really hoping selling out their principles (and yes I do believe this band (and perhaps only this band) sold out, I mean they were anarchists and now they are on fucking Sony) and working with Butch Vig would help out, but no this album sucks so hard and proves these guys burnt all their energy. Ben Lee salvaged this album with his complete cover of it, proving that they can still write songs they just can’t execute for shit.

Sam Beam came out and said he’s a pot smoking weirdo with The Shepard’s Dog and really that album just bores me. It makes listening to his previous two albums really difficult anymore. It’s one of those things I am probably going to have to get over.

I got into some good new music this year. One band was World/Inferno Friendship Society. I saw them open for Lifetime and honestly I didn’t really pay attention to what they were doing. But I read an interview with their singer in Give Me Back and decided to check them out. They released Addicted to Bad Ideas on the Bouncing Soul’s label this year and the album kicks some serious ass. I have a feeling I am going to look back on 2007’s number five spot and wonder why I didn’t pick the World/Inferno crew.

Also, we were lucky to get from Kill Rock Stars a collection of rare Elliot Smith songs in the New Moon double disc set. A lot of the songs from his KRS days had surfaced amongst fan sites for years, but no doubt many people like me were excited to have this collection in hands as a CD package (or Vinyl if yr into that kinda thing). While there is a tremendous amount of unreleased music out there (that has now become harder to find thanks to the ASSHOLES AT THE RIAA) from this time period and his major label days (email me and I will send you stuff on CD) getting this collection brings me hope that this amazing man’s catalog will see the light of day over the years.

Man there were so many good efforts this year too. I mean honestly picking a top five this year was very very difficult. maybe I’ll even list a top Ten this year because there were soooo many good records. Hell some of them albums that I am still really stoked on and could have been in the top five easily. The albums that I did pick this year are more unconventional picks. They are definitely albums that won’t be on too many top tens or whatever. One of them I know people are gonna be like what the fuck and probably won’t be on any one’s top ten, but it fucking should and you’ll find out why. Or at least I am gonna defend it.

So in the next week I will do a post on my top five songs for 2007. Then over the next few weeks I will have a new review of my top five records of the year starting with number 5 and working up to #1. Then I am hoping to create a mix tape for you all to enjoy of some of my other favorite jams this year and a preview of some stuff I am stoked on for 2008. Then hopefully I will start reviewing some new stuff in the 2008 and catch up on the 2007 jams.

Peace and Hair Grease My Loves

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On Finding Joy Division

On Findig Joy Division

One of my great regets in life is not appreciating the Clash in my teens. See I had this friend Sara and she had older siblings. Her older siblings caught on once that she was into “punk” as defined by kids from my town. They turned her on to the Clash and she in turn would make me mix tapes with Clash songs. Back then, I didn’t really get into it too much. I don’t think I really knew what to do with it and besides, like most teens, I was fairly narrow minded. So I never really pursued the only band that ever mattered until I was nearly out of College. Granted that was only a few short years, but I wonder how much different my life might have been had I headed the messages of Joe Strummer and Co. I might have dropped out of college like a smart person would have. But alas I didnt.

My experience with the Clash over the last ten years of my life has taught me there is a whole shit load of music I don’t know fucking dick about (Mission of Burma, Husker Du, Wire, Gang of Four come to mind) that influences a lot of the things that I listen to which, as a musician, I am ultimately influenced by. In fact two of my favorite muscians, John Fruciante and Mark Robinson are huge Joy Divison fans and I had never really gotten around to listening to this band.

To be honest, about three years ago I bought Substance 1977-1980. But the compilation was hard to swallow. The songs were so divergent and the sequencing was a mess (turns out the album is not chronological – which to me is herasy). I never really could get into the music. The genius that I have recently discovered was lost on me.

About three weeks ago I got 24 Hour Party People in my netflix cue. I didn’t really know what the hell the movie was about, I just read Manchester Scene and Music and that was enough for me. From this movie a light went on. I started listening to Substance a little more and more. I devoured all the knowledge I could about Joy Division that the internet would give me. I learned about “Ceremony” and New Order. I watched archived video, heard about the Biopic being made and went crazy (almost literally) trying to hunt down copies of Unknown Pleasures and Closer (which I finally found at the used record store where I didn’t have to shell out 50 bones for the reissues). Joy Division became my new obsession.

They were, simply, artists. They had a vision and an unrelenting desire to create. They weren’t going to let anyone stand in their way. Like their contemporary punks, they were raw and visceral, even at their most delicate, but they broke out of any kind of pre-dsiposed mold (like many English Bands from that era) and experimented with pop, synthisizers and melody. They had a central figue in the poet Ian Curtis (who’s death it appers has overshadowed the actual music) who spoke a language that was frigtening and personal. Even at his most primative in songs like “Digital” Curtis could work the inner anxiety of the human experience into blistering and poignant fury.

As the band continued on past the singles, they made two very dark, brooding albums. Apart from Curtis’s violent death at his own hands the bleak quality of Joy Division was unlike anything in rock’s relatively short history. It is a tone that has been envied, copied and longed for by many, with only a few really succeding in captturing the depth (Robert Smith of the Cure and Geoff Rickley of Thursday come to mind). Both Psychotic and Depressed, Joy Division is a fucking scary band. No death metal band I’ve ever heard has ever come close to the horrific emptiness of Joy Division in my opinion.

Despite all the despair and darkness though, the music is energizing. The late Martin Hannet must be commended on capturing this band on electromagnetic tape. He brings life to an aesthetic that could have easily been very bleak. The music breaths from the speakers in a way that music just doesn’t really do these days (because music is processed, and not recorded anymore). On “Novelty” for instance, you can hear the air being moved my the sticks agains the snare and the guitar presses through as it it’s in a hallway. It’s like your sitting on the kick drum and the rest of the band is outside, playing along. Knowing the little I know about Hannet that was probably the case. Today’s rock power cocks could learn something about how music is suppsed to sound by revisiting Joy Division.

Ultimately it’s clear I missed out for a long time by not having this music in my life. I mean in a way I have because of what I listened to. It’s been a discovery in a way bringing a great understanding to the music I listen to. I can’t help think that Sonic Youth was grooving on this music when they recorded their first EP, and I can see where Unrest got some of it’s cues (though from the sound of it New Order had a lot more direct influence on Mr. Robinson). At 30 years of age, coming across a classic band like this now has been even more of an eye opener for me, serving as a reminder that I must be open to everything and check out as much stuff as I possibly can.

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