So, you guys know I’m a pretty big cheerleader for my friends. From New Idea Society who I pretty much preach the gospel on, to Katy Otto who runs Exotic Fever and plays in Trophy Wife, I get into what my friends do. I feel lucky that most of my musical heroes are people I know and love. In that same vein I am a big fan of what my friend Chris Clavin is doing with his Plan-It-X Record label. I met Chris a few years ago because these awesome dudes Ryan and Wade put me on a show with his band Ghost Mice (as well as Rachel Jacobs and Christian Brady who are equally as awesome and loved). Then they put me on a few more shows with Ghost Mice. Then I went on tour for a few days with Ghost Mice and Heathers in 2009 which is like one of the most awesome moments of my life. Anyway, I got to know a lot of Plan-It-X bands because of Wade and Ryan and getting to know Chris.
It’s been a while since I sent Chris some money for releases. I try to keep up on all the new releases that I can, whether I have heard the band or not. I believe in what Chris is doing, putting out interesting music and making it very cheap and accessible. He doesn’t do any online advertising or in any of the remaining punk zines. He doesn’t even take orders online (you can get all the PIX stuff through NO Idea online). Instead he does mail order, like they used to do in the old days. Times have changed a lot. Not many people are buying CD’s and I can tell you from search results that bring some people to this blog, people are still way trying to steal this music. It’s a shame and it makes me sad. Plan-It-X is trying to change with those times, we shall see what happens, but anyway, onto my haul.
The Max Levine Ensemble, DC’s pretty much exclusive pop-punk band, turned 10 years old recently. In an effort to celebrate this milestone that barely any band in DC makes it to, they re-recorded a bunch of old songs. Mr. Gikokovich 2000-2005: A Retrospective is the awesome result. The band wanted to capture the way they play the songs now in a more updated sound then the originals. Some of the songs, I don’t think I even remember hearing recently like “Leopard Print Girl” or “Tidal Wave” so it’s nice to hear old songs that don’t feel like old songs. Then of course the band tackled some of the classics. Super fast versions of “Poop Farm” and “Nihilism” make you realize how ADD this band has become. The whole CD is just over 20 minutes and it feels like it. If your just learning about pop-punk but NOFX and Pulley are overbearing and dull, start with this album. You’ll be able to keep up next time The Ensemble pulls into town. If yr an old crotchety punker like me, you’ll love the updated sounds of the classics, just the way they play them live now. It had a purpose and Mr. Gikokovich delivers on that purpose.
Another thing about Chris Clavin is that he is totally prolific. He has something like 7 solo albums and easily 7 split tapes. He used to release albums under the name Captain Chaos (of which I only have one, which is lame) and a few years ago he put out a great album on Crafty Records called The Road Leads Everywhere. The thing is, at least from what I own, all his songs are pretty great. In the past it was just him and his guitar, but in 2009 he put out a split with Sara Cilantro called Secrets that was him playing ukulele. I missed out on his split with Madeline Ava (I was gonna order it on this haul) but I have his two most recent one. The first one I listened to was his split with Kyle Hall. Chris’s side is pretty good stuff. He plays both ukulele and the guitar and has other instruments accompanying and accentuating his songs. IF yr familiar with the Ghost Mice you will feel all cozy with these songs. Kyle Hall is a young dude from California. I think I traded zines with him. Anyway, he’s clearly a convert to the Plan-It-X way of life. His songs, I think pay, homage to a lot of the Ghost Mice canon, which is great because Kyle tells great stories in his songs. I really dug “Nothing Gold Can Stay” a lot. It’s a sentiment I can relate to.
The other split was with Waxahatchee. Waxahatchee plays these really dark songs on an electric guitar. It was kind of sad to listen to while reading about the vastness of space last night. I can honestly say, I was a little melancholy while listening to those songs. They were recorded in a way that felt disconnected, like they were being played behind a curtain. It was chilling. Chris’s songs on this tape were also more sad. He has one song called “Greyhound” where you can tell he’s really trying to keep it together while he delivers the tale about a friend who wasn’t allowed on a bus to visit him. I think it’s about Plan-It-X cofounder Sam, who died pretty recently. It made me want to bawl my damn eyes out. The songs on this split are really good. It’s songwriting that’s getting a lot more intricate and complex from Chris. I’ve always thought he was a good guitarist, but I always felt like he held back on the solo stuff and with Ghost Mice. This is a great tape release, with an awesome cover and everyone should get this like now.
I also caught up on two other CD releases. Taxpayer’s To Risk So Much For One Damn Meal floored me as soon as I put it on. The drums remind me of early Against Me, the songs are like a hyped up Mountain Goats if John Darnielle was a bit more upbeat kind of guy. He isn’t, but the people in Taxpayers are. I really, really like this album. It just has that Plan-It-X feeling to it. Sometimes it kind of reminds me of (Young) Pioneers even though I don’t think this band really sounds like them Richmond dudes. There are a lot of influences, instruments and vocals here. They make me want to dance my ass of and get into the pit like the old dude I am and do the lawn mower until some 15-year-old kid knocks me over. Taxpayers are just some intense, hyperactive people who play really great music. I’m way into it.
The other album I got was by Small Bones. They released their Self Titled album last year and I wish I had gotten it sooner. There some dudes from New Orleans that play some really driving, up-tempo punk rock. They sorta remind me of a lot of DC bands that never quite made it out of DC, the names of which I forget now. But they have some awesome blast beats and chilled out guitar breakdowns. The vocals are young sounding in a higher register than people are singing these days. It’s like the post Braid, Promise Ring type of poppy-noisey-punkish music that was sorta big for like a year and then kind of faded out. Either way it’s another excited release from Plan-It-X, from a side of the label that I think is under-associated to the legacy. It’s good times.
So yea, Plan-It-X is still alive and kicking despite these despairing times. I got all this music for 25 dollars. I totally gambled and as always when I roll the dice on the Plan-It-X craps table I come up sevens man. Chris Clavin is doing it real, and I really hope he can continue. There is nothing I have heard on the label yet that has disappointed me. Keep up the good work Chris! I love you.