Pass and Stow (reissue)
The economy is fucked, and I can tell by one litmus test. Dischord Records is not releasing new bands. Look, there are a plethora of new bands in DC that they could be putting out that totally fit the mold. Give pay homage to Dag Nasty and Swiz and all those mid eighties bands. Body Cop are just out of their fucking minds insane. Cephalopods are fronted by one time Dischord Alumni Hugh McElroy and make most bands look like a fucking joke. And then there is Imperial China who make most of the Dischord bands of yester-years look like a joke. If the music industry was kind and Ian was paying me to A&R while he was busy wearing old t-shirts and hanging out with his kid, those are the four bands I would sign to usher in the new wave of DC’s once again awesome and diverse scene. But the reality is, Dischord is a modest label, operating in a time when modesty doesn’t get you shit because all your fucking loyal fans turned out to be thieving assholes. So, in order to stay afloat, Dischord has turned largely to their back catalog and the archives.
Earlier this year we got a remastered version of the classic Jawbox album For Your Own Special Sweatheart (which I didn’t buy on vinyl and feel kind of stupid for that, but whatever). I’m not a huge fan of the remix/remaster versions of things. I mean, technology can make albums sound better, but sometimes, I just don’t want that original taken from me. But in the case of Jawbox, I knew it would be awesome and it was. But also, I just don’t really want to replace my entire record collection. Sure, an updated mix of Red Medicine and even In on the Kill Taker might, MIGHT be kind of awesome, I just don’t have the cash flow to repurchase albums I already own. But there is an exception to be made, and that comes in the form of anything and everything by Lungfish.
I have it on good word that there are no other immediate plans to reissue any of the other Lungfish albums anytime soon. This makes sense, because a lot of those records were re-cut early at the turn of the century. However, Pass and Stow getting refaced is pretty phenomenal. Any reader of this blog is well aware of my love, near obsession with Lungfish. I am a part of a cultish group that deeply loves this band. They are not for everyone. They seem, on the surface weird and off-putting. They do not seem intricate at all. Hell, on first listen, I wasn’t a fan either. It just sounded like a bunch of art school weirdo’s. But over time I began to understand that Lungfish were one of the greatest bands of all time (how often do I have to say that shit) and I think I pretty much consumed their entire back catalog in about eight weeks back in 2000.
Pass and Stow, well, I’ve always loved this album. It is a the face of Lungfish between two worlds. Prior, they released some pretty straight forward albums that made sense on the Dischord roster. Pass and Stow however showcases a cerebral band on the cusp of a cosmic overdrive. This is the foundation for everything that came later. Listening to “The Trap Gets Set” foreshadows so much of Artificial Horizons but it’s ballad like in its subtle beauty. That it is followed by “Computer” where Astral Higgs clanks “On the one hand you’ve got the law/on the other hand you’ve got the law” as the treble cuts and the bass and drums march along is a foundation of the sonic destruction the band performed throughout. And of course “Evidence” a song that made legions of Lungfish fans feel they were on a different temporal path gets no better. If ever they were to have a “hit” that would be it.
So is it worth forking over the money to buy albums I already own? Damn right it is. The remastering job on this record is fantastic. The album maintains it’s integrity. Nothing gets pushed around and remodeled. But the bass is so much richer, reminiscent of their live sound and paying a great tribute to original bassist John Chriest’s work with the band. Other performances that I have never heard, including buried vocals by Higgs are also clearer. The instruments are separated nicely and no longer sit on top of each other. I listened to both versions today, and the reworking is the clear winner.
A few months ago I got to talk to Ian MacKaye, Dischord founder and curator. Of all the things I have ever wanted to ask him, he graciously talked about Lungfish with me. He did so no so much out of politeness, but because he is first and foremost a fan, probably their biggest fan. I was given a peek inside their history during our chat. The band still gets along and never really “broke up”, Ian, like us is hopeful they will play again one day, and there are many songs the public has never heard. It’s possible we may hear these one day, but even with their label, the mysterious Lungfish gives up very few of it’s secrets, holding close their magical powers. Pass and Stow is a pinnacle in music history. The word underrated is so often applied to so many pedestrian musical groups. So many bands that get this label do not have the range, volume, unique sensibilities and the pure drive to make their own art. Lungfish created music. They were just four dudes with the most basic rock instruments. But so many have tried to describe them, and no one has succeeded. I won’t even try, because I know I can’t. They were a band, unlike anything, speaking their own language and doing nothing more than making the music that they made. Pass and Stow, renewed now with a sonic clarity is deserving of this band and this album. As a fan for life, I am very grateful.
This is the best stuff that the internet has to offer that I have found about the band. I urge you to become immersed.
Publicradio.net produced this.
Arlie Carstens of the criminally unknown Seattle band Juno wrote this.
Questionable Content artist Jeph Jaques had a blog and some dude wrote this.
This is from a blog called Dreamflesh.
AND if you can find them, I highly recommend the Punk Planet interview they did as well as Jessica Hopper’s column she wrote about stalking Dan Higgs one winter. A story she never finished. Seriously, weak.