Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked at Me

What came before is absolute history. It is defined by an ending.

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92f1582013383cd1dfa259fa86468a10.1000x1000x1 Mount Eerie
A Crow Looked At Me
P.W. Elverum & Sun

I’m not even sure I am fully prepared to talk about this album, but this story is all I can think about lately. In the wake and waves of so much tragedy, horror, terrifying prospects that linger on the horizon it is Phil Elverum’s story of loss and the attempt to move on from that loss that hangs over my head. I seem too, unable to move forward, because here in an album, Elverum captures the exact fear of trying to use the tools we know best to cope and still finding it too difficult. A Crow Looked at Me asks that question, when the motions for getting through this life become so bare and honest, what else do we do to move fowrad?

Last year, master musician Nick Cave dropped Skeleton Tree which contained his misery and longing about loss and relationships not just in the wake of that loss but leading up to that loss. I remember walking under a bridge, graffiti covered and filled with the remnants of vagrancy – empty beer cans, needles, discarded clothes too worn away and dirty – where that album really hit me. I sought a place of solitude to deal with it. I returned to a similar space with A Crow Looked at Me, driving my car north towards Taos. Halfway between Espanola and my destination, I pulled to the side of the road. I placed the vehicle in park, rolled down the windows and sat in the rear, hatchback open. The sun was trying to warm the atmosphere. Looking at the waters of the Rio Grande and eating a lukewarm cup of soup I listened. But for the sound of a few cars passing and the waters flowing away from me, I was alone with Phil and his loss.

When musicians and artists tackle death they often try to make it more poetic and violent than it often is. But nothing in the lyrics of the songs contained within are anything less than stark, honest and straight forward. They are not formed to fit pretty melodies or personify some kind of meaning or mataphor. Instead they are the musings of a person left to live in the despair of losing what they loved. Here, Elvurum’s child seems to pull at his shirt tail, asking him questions, snapping him into a reality he’s so absorbed in that he’s lost. He remembers the birds, the birds all around him that speak to him as omens, as fortune tellers, as creatures that commune with the dead. Ravens and crows sit and watch him work, haunt his daughter’s dreams, show him of a future he will never have, remind him of his wife who is no longer there.

Elvurum takes us through his life, plain and simple. Every moment is a reminder of her, his wife, his lover, the mother of their new child. It’s hard to imagine that this album came with thought and purpose, because the actions and words are almost mundane and resigned. Rather, it feels like this just came to be, through the purpose of motion, the same inertia that propels his mourning life to go on.

I feel extremely guilty too. When art is this striking, it’s only natural to want to explore more work by the creator. But here, with this stark album about death, this absolute truth, what else could exist outside it? Elvurum has a long, well-regarded career and I am sure his music and poetry and art is stunning. But what could reach these levels, for this is a world he’s only lived once and will now live forever? This is not a starting point, at least not yet. What came before is absolute history. It is defined by an ending. Only what comes next seems relevant, but the possibility of what that could be is no more clear than the end of life that gave us such a beautiful coping mechanism.

Snail Mail – Habit EP

If the education system doesn’t collapse I might become a teacher, standing in front of a room full of teenagers like Jordan who were born into a world whose chaos is no longer contained and try as the powers that be might cannot be covered up. Bullshit leaks through the pores of Baby Boomers and the Generation X guard of which I am a part of (and generally disgusted with).

 Snail Mail
Habit
Sister Polygon Records

Music is an important part of my fiction. Characters and stories develop from songs I hear and from their I create a soundtrack to moments of their lives. When a song strikes me so deeply, that’s where my mind goes, into a fugue of imagination and curiosity about the possible lives one might live. Fantasy comes smashing into a brain that probably needs to focus on other, more pertinent and adult things, like getting a real job and perhaps buying my own house or retiring to Port Angles, Washington, a place I have never been but whose waters still call to me.

When I first heard “Thinning,” the opening track on Baltimore dream pop trio’s Habit, I was instantly hit. My brain went cold, put on a hoody, slipped headphones in and felt the moisture not just on a face, but wetting feet as well as cold breath was exhaled. It reminded me, once I came too, of the frigid mornings in Virginia that I would walk to school, the twilight of dusk breaking down under the weight of a rising sun. And considering I was a angsty teenager in the 90’s what better sounds and words to remind me of those mismatched days.

Since the heyday of indie rock when that phrase actually described an ethic rather than a commercial aesthetic, the dream pop trio has kind of faded away. And while people want their Fugazi, Nirvana and Jawbox worship, I always wondered when Velocity Girl, Unrest and Edsel were going to get their due. Finally I found it in Snail Mail with dreamy guitars accompanied by mid-tone bass and understated but excellent drumming. That kinda shit was just as jarring and punk and life affirming as Superchunk but we were left with Shellac and Indie Rock(TM) became a product that watered down the rock aspects and overstated the introspective lonely boy poet to disgusting lengths.

And make no mistake, principle songwriter Lindsey Jordan goes deep inside. She’s ill, she’s love struck, she’s bored, she’s alone in her room staring at the ceiling, dreaming her days away. All of this however is delivered not with a feigned modesty saturated in woo-is-me self loathing, but with the kind of aside you would expect from a teenager wiser beyond her peers but stuck with the same suburban experiences. Unlike the chorus of 1,000 sad boys to afraid to make a move, Jordan is fearless against the apathy and tiredness that seems to overcome her in every song. You might think she was resigned, but then of course if she just sunk into the lulls she sings about she never would have wrote such somber and beautiful tunes. If she gave up we wouldn’t have gotten the half punctured guitar solo on the title track that could give J Mascis a run for his melancholy money.

If the education system doesn’t collapse I might become a teacher, standing in front of a room full of teenagers like Jordan who were born into a world whose chaos is no longer contained and try as the powers that be might cannot be covered up. Bullshit leaks through the pores of Baby Boomers and the Generation X guard of which I am a part of (and generally disgusted with). The anger is not punctuated in today’s youth, so far as my old ass can see. It is resigned, not to the adopted apathy of the grunge era, but to the dismissal  of generations that let shit slide. With the world at their fingertips, today’s kids are a full fledged middle finger, and that’s probably the best stance they can take. So, if this is going to be material in the bridge I used to get across to them, rather than even the echoes of Cobain or Corgan or Deal, than so be it. This is the good shit. Don’t sleep on it.

Shit I Actually Liked in 2016 – Part Two

redemption and self-love that are not always easy and proof that we are all much more complex than we let on.

It’s 9:03 on a Monday morning. I don’t have work for a while. The bank account is quickly draining. I should pay bills this week too. The world is literally a mess and it’s not just in Exene Cervenka’s kiss, though we should all be so lucky. Right? Whatever. America is a failure and all we have left is escapism, which is probably going to be abandoned en mass is we don’t all want to live in a fascist regime. Shit. We’re so fucked.

As such, I am truly afraid that enjoyment of making and in taking art for the sake of art is now gone. 2016 is the last gasp of a trend we’ve been on since World War II in terms of consumption for consumptions sake and production for production sake. Which isn’t to say people should stop creating what they feel and believe or tell the stories they want to tell no matter how cosmetic they may be. But who’s really going to have time for the superficial when the fuck heads are shouting everything down with fear tactics?

Which is hard because for someone who likes sadness music more than the battle hymns of revolution, I really enjoyed the depressed adults making music arc that 2016 was. Maybe it was all these people tapping into a darker fear and bleak reality lying under the surface, but a lot of sad shit came out this year and I was way into.

Creative Adult is one of the most Joy Division bands out there that doesn’t really sound like Joy Divison. There Fear of Life LP is simply brilliant. It’s also British as fuck with out feeling derivative. The classic Marshall tones, the distinct, mournful bass lines and drums that sound like they were taken from a Lush album make Fear of Life perhaps one of the best albums to sink into before the end of the world comes. Singer Scott Williams haunting voice, buried just at the perfect Steve Albini levels and nearly indistinguishable are the perfect cry for help.

As a Washington DC expat I am always pleased when new bands from there tickle my fancy. I’m totally stoked that there is a great burgeoning hardcore scene once again in the nation’s capital but it’s old friends who really blew me away. I had the pleasure of hosting Big Hush this summer and our little dusty town was not disappointed. Also washed out in fuzz their new EP Whose Your Smoking Spirit is aptly titled and beautifully executed. All of the instruments and vocals sound like they are being played behind a wall with the occasional wailing guitar. Vocals and harmonies are so fragmented and well placed as to sound almost accidental but heavenly at the same time. Bad Moves has also won my heart with their self titled 4 song endeavor. Both bands have left me wanting more. DC’s never been a town known for its singing, but the harmonies and supplemental vocals on this enrich the great pop song writing. I can’t stop listening to “The Verge”. Four songs is just not enough, but these two EP’s together makes for an enjoyable and extended listening experience.

It pains me how much of a fan of Self Defense Family I am. But it’s true. Patrick Kindlon has been one of my favorite lyricists over the last few years and on the last several singles and EP’s he’s been exceptional in his personal, confessional narratives. On Colicky, their final offering of the year, he gets supper into letting himself loose on the wax and behind him is a band unhinged from their past. The repetitiveness and Lungfish worship is still present, but form and exploration have also taken over. And fuck if the epic ender “Brittany Murphy in 8 Mile” isn’t about the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. Benny and Chris are both dicks though.

On the heavier side of things veterans Darkthrone released another banger in Arctic Thunder. Black Metal as a genre was rather humorous and never really reached the levels artistically and aesthetically that it should have. But the duo from Norway, one of the early progenies of the scene are still making great records. They have largely abandoned tenants and rules of the Black Metal Coven and instead just tried to make great metal albums. This year’s work is no different and it even has traces of their original sound.

The return of Planes Mistaken for Stars is one that also personally warmed my heart. The Denver quartet remains one of the most haunting bands I listen to. So when Prey finally emerged this year, I could not have been more pleased. The band hasn’t skipped a beat in their ten-year hiatus. Prey stacks up to their legacy and in many ways even exceeds some of it. Gared sounds just as desperate and broken as always and the songs are punishing to fatal degrees. Bands who reunite or reemerge for a second go rarely capture their former glory, but hopefully this is the beginning of another trip back to hell that we can all be dragged along with.

My final entry for music in 2016 is of course the great voice of Canada, John K. Samson. His Winter Wheat album is the perfect soundtrack for these cold mornings as fall descends into winter and the world crumbles underneath us. But don’t listen to “Virtue at Rest” because you will cry. But thanks John for another album to give me some sense of comfort that sadness doesn’t always have to be a struggle and we can do beautiful things to get by.

In terms of books, I did a piss poor job of reading this year. I didn’t read a single piece of fiction all the way through, though I started plenty of classics. But Baldwin and Rushdie and Fitzgerald just didn’t really do it for me. But it was a good year to read about music. I found a few memoirs disappointing in their execution but two tales I was rather surprised at how much I enjoyed considering I was skeptical of both. Larry Livermore, the once bright and quirky king of pop punk relived his experiences of the rise and fall of Lookout! Records in How to Ru(i)n A Record Label. Once being a young, suburban punk, Lookout! played an central role in my love for the poppier sides of punk. Green Day and Operation Ivy and those damn Crimpshrine records were on constant rotation in my various Sony Walkmen. Reading the story of their simple rise and unfortunate and greedy downfall (despite putting out great Ted Leo and Pretty Girls Make Graves albums) was heartbreaking. Something that did not have to be was and pop punk suffered as a result. On another part of that spectrum is the band NOFX and their tell all The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories was easily the best book on music I’ve ever read and perhaps one of the most punctuated stories about success that’s ever been written. The California Quartet are not known for being anything other than dick head goofballs, but this biography characterizes the real people behind this band. It’s hard to have respect for Fat Mike and crew sometimes because his songs and antics are childish at best, but after reading this book I can honestly say that I am on his side, even if I can’t defend all of his choices. This is a book about hurt and pain and the attempts at redemption and self-love that are not always easy and proof that we are all much more complex than we let on.

So, that’s my 2016 in quick narrative form. There was more great shit, but this is what stood out for me. Uh, yeah, whatever. This is a terrible ending and I am going to jump ship now before I cause more damage. Peace.

That thing humans do to see if they’ve made progress, self assessment in public by means of putting things into lists at the end of the year

2012. December. End of year. Blah. Blah. Blah. I’ve been wanting to write a lot more in my life as writing is something I crave to do. The ever flow of creative head vomiting in any form, fiction, criticism, correspondence, opinion. But I find myself coming to the page and the keyboard far less than I used to. It’s not a matter of time, but will(?), comfort(?), desire (?). I’m not actually sure what’s kept me from the extolling upon a public my inner most thoughts ad nauseam. The accolades and recognition have never been enough to boost my ego. But the exercise of any activity is always more important than the end result.

This globloggoglsgsfla was intended for me to talk about the music and musical artists I like. Music is the “thing” that I like most and it continues to be such. In fact, 2012 was the year I spent most of my time on music over everything else. I played in a band, I started DJ’ing at a radio station (fuck I gotta call D-Cat. Yes, I have your CD’s), I booked a couple shows, had strangers stay at my house while they were on tour, took the photos, bought the records I couldn’t afford, traveled out-of-state, stayed up late, immersed myself in a genre I’ve always appreciated but never obsessed about, and generally thought the world was crazy for the shit it continued to purchase and revere as brilliant. Music. Music. MUSIC. Why bother with everything else. In a world of constant let down it seems like there’s always some musician or artist doing something totally new, exciting, dangerous and brilliant. If you don’t think so, stop reading this, grab a shovel, go into your back yard, shared common area, local park or the middle of nowhere, dig a hole, lie in it, stay there.

In the mists of all of this I have lived a year that has been extreme in all senses. It’s been the best and most difficult year of my life. At 35 I think I’m getting better at knowing  when being an asshole isn’t serving me and when it’s absolutely necessary to be a pain in someone’s ass. Which has meant that I’ve needed music as a backdrop for my sanity and celebration in even greater measure. Incidentally I found one of the reasons weddings irritate me is because I never, ever like the music selection of the couple. There always seems to be this point in weddings where you are subject to far too many pop hits that are so awful as to be maddening. It made me realize that maybe I don’t hate weddings, love and marriage, but that DJ’s and people with shitty taste in music make me want to cry. I also learned that I just can no longer tolerate people’s taste in music anymore. I can’t take what you people listen to. If I have to be subjected to nostalgic bullshit in public and private then there is no reason I shouldn’t declare an audible war on my friends, loved ones, neighbors and the greater, tone-deaf community at large.

So, this is the point where I do a top 5 favorites of the year. But much like last year, lists and extolling the greatness of bands that the four (? do I have that many) regular readers don’t care about anyway is not something I want to engage in with any terrible excitement. But I am still compelled, like any good music geek dick head who thinks that their opinion is penultimate and should be bowed in front of by the masses. So, here goes. 2012 in review.

White Lung a punk rock group out of Candaduh put out the most dangerous, fucked up, hyper and intense record of the year in their sophomore presentation Sorry. This is no slump issue. They kicked it up a notch. I can’t even begin to describe how insane this quartet is. And I do mean insane. The rhythm section is in such tight lock step as to be mind-boggling. I’ve not heard a drum/bass duo this strong since Eric Axelson and Joe Easly. At the rapid speeds they play at, to accentuate the different elements of the beat and rhythm is amazing. Topped with awesome, crisp high guitars that just slice your face like bats with razor blade rings and vocals that are a combination of shouting and singing, White Lung punches where other bands whimper. Shirt, fast, dirty, tight as fuck.

I turned 35 this year and celebrated the event by seeing Cattle Decapitation here in Albuquerque. They played a pretty interesting set, filled with lots of tunes off their new album Monolith of InhumanityThe album is the vegan inspired death/grind bands most realized work.  It’s rare to see a band of their stature push beyond their back catalog. After ten plus years and five albums most bands just start phoning it in. Cattle Decapitation instead pushed forward, reinventing what a Cattle Decapitation song is and thus who Cattle Decapitation is. Also, their video for “Forced Gender Reassignment” which is not work safe, was pretty much what you should have thought it would be. If your into metal and were in any way shocked by the violence and gore then I question just what the fuck you’ve thought the genre’s main themes were.

It’s also nice when bands from my former stomping ground continue to make music, push the boundaries and move forward. Though I will probably never see them again live, Pig Destroyer has a place in my heart. I bought the deluxe CD version of their newest Book Burner  and am not disappointed in the slightest. It’s everything you want from a Pig Destroyer album and then there is Adam Jarvis. When you think a band can’t get any better, put Misery Index’s skin stomper behind the throne and see what happens. I wasn’t expecting Book Burner to exceed my expectations, but it did.

I didn’t know that Floridian native Will Thomas was one of my favorite song writers, but I’m pretty much stoked that Grabass Charlestons put out the most excellent, semi thematic album Dale and the Careeners. It’s all kinds of jangly pop punk and awesome rock. The clean guitar tones, sounds like some high-end Fender amps to me, are fantastic. The compliment of Thomas and long time guitarist PJ Fancher is perfect. No one’s over doing it. It’s punk rock to sooth the aged punk kid. It’s so much better than the shit most of the kids are putting out.

When Kingdom dropped in my lap this year, I fondly remembered why I love Ireland’s Heathers  as much as I do. The vocal harmonies of the Macnamara sisters still melts hearts as they step out of being a folkish duo and into the realm of pop song makers. The punks might take offense to the studio slickness but I love the addition of piano, drums, electronica and the other influences these ladies have. They proved that they don’t know just how to write a song but how to craft one. The bigger sounds and songs only made me fall in love with them more than I already did. They’re making waves in Europe and in Ireland but the ripple has only, barely hit the United States. I keep trying to tell you people, but I guess it doesn’t help them that one of their biggest fans is a grumpy, old, combative 35-year-old white boy. Talk about lacking authenticity and sway. Sorry ladies.

There were other great albums too. El-P finally got around to dropping his excellent Cancer for Cure. He picked up much where he left off five years ago and made another fantastic, futuristic and angry record. He is the master of his craft and people should give him more props. Weakerthans front man John K. Samson released a great solo album early on this year that I just love to death. Provincial isn’t totally new to everyone, but if you love the Weakerthans, and how can you not, then you should pick this one up. Napalm Death fucked up lives with Utilitarian pretty much showing the world that they still deserve respect for being the forefathers of Grind. The album had a saxophone track in it and it worked. WTF?

I really wanted to, but never found time, to immerse myself in the new albums by The XX and Sigur Ros. I spent so much of my time learning about metal in such a deeper way that I lost them in the shuffle. Also, it’s really sunny here and neither of those albums fit the mood for sunshine. Boots Riley made the best song of the year with “Parent’s Cocaine”. The track comes from The Coup’s  latest album Sorry to Bother You which is worth checking out in full. Also, the reissue world was beautiful to us from our friends at Dischord records. They dropped Faith, Lungfish and Void on us, updating sounds, scouring tapes and letting us hear new songs by these always great, never forgotten bands. If this business model works, I hope they keep it up. I’d love to hear some more.

So, on this cold, overcast(ish) Saturday morning, sleep deprived and sinus sick, that’s my 2012 music in review. We lost some good people this year that made music. We lost some people this year that were close to us. We saw love conquer all and ignorance and hate squander so much. But for me anyway, music kept me going. 2013 is an ominus feeling year. The trials and tribulations of this writer don’t seem quite over. There are hurdles to jump and barriers to cross or break. Music, among many other things, is gonna help get me through. Peace.

More Short Reviews

I’m In a bad mood and I don’t feel like doing a god damn thing today except listen to a shit load of music. I downloaded a bunch of new stuff recently so I am going to listen to shit and review it as it comes, again. If you don’t like the process, the reviews or the manner in which I do things, kindly, go fuck yourself. I don’t fucking care.

Music is the Enemy
Hollywood Finally
Self Released (free)

I love watching this local quartet (quintet? I don’t know if they have five members still) thrash faces. Music is the Enemy is one of those bands that has it going on. They rock hard, sometimes just thrashing about in chaos, sometimes delivering pummeling riffs ripe with dirty execution. It doesn’t hurt that the band drenched it’s persona in a bit of Nation Of Ulysses worship. Some might find it childish and cliché, but I think it serves a purpose and a point here in the small city in the middle of a desert surrounded by nothing and so isolated in culture creation. It’s clear that Music is the Enemy wants back as much as they give, singing “Nothing in this city ever changes and every dead artist is a poor man’s vindication” on “I’m Danny Tanner Material”. The thing is, despite the cynicism, they deserve the praise and glory. But the bottom line is this is some great punk music, filled to the top with vitriol, piss and gasoline. This five song EP is enough to sustain, but not quite satisfy my need for more stomping. Especially since it’s a step up from their debut full length. It packs a punch while still having that homemade feel, but rather than being owned by drums and vocals the bass and guitar finally get their push in the mix. They lose nothing and gain everything. Not only that, but the riffs herein are fantastic. Karie Morgan is just as much fun to listen to as she is to watch stamp and stomp all over the place. Her rock and roll inspired shredding turns this into a driving ruckus. They’re bringing it all down, singing “This is Hell/But We’re Still Dancing” but having a good time destroying everything.

The Mountain Goats
Transcendental Youth
Merge Records

I’m not gonna lie, I like John Darnielle more as a public figure and as an interview subject then I do as a musician. It’s not that the Mountain Goats (his musical moniker) don’t make great tunes that I find rather pleasant, but  the music mostly just songs the same to me. After the last two albums, All Eternals Dark and The Life of the World To ComeI couldn’t really distinguish what I was listening to. After one listen of Transcendental Youth I think I’m back on board. At least I am with this album. You know, John’s just a great artist to be interested in, even if he isn’t hitting home runs with every album. But this album packs a bit of that great punch that Heretic Pride did. It’s like a twin album or a really close companion. It’s not subdued and subtle, instead it’s full and rich and even has moments of grandeur, like the big horns on “Cry for Judas”. It also feels like they take some rhythmic risks that pay off. I love the groove in “Counterfeit Florida Plates”. It’s got this Paul Simon on Graceland feel to it. It’s so good it’s probably gonna be in like ten shitty indie rom com movies starring Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zoeey Deschanel or who ever we get to replace them next year. Further, there feels like a bigger use of electric organ, keyboard and piano throughout. Really, these choices just make the album sound fuller and gives them energy. I honestly don’t have much memory of the last two, but Transcendental Youth will be filling up the halls of my home for a while.

The Ambulars
Dreamers Asleep at the Wheel
Self Released (Free)

I’m pretty sure that indie pop is making a big come back. What with all this Swearin’ and Big Eyes and like nine hundred bands that Mikey Erg is probably in, pop punk with that indie swing is the shit. This is a late summer album that’s gonna help bring you into fall. It’s catchy, but light and soft. It’s total cuddle music. Michael Cantor has about the sweetest voice that just drips with syrupy love and sad dog eyes. It’s a dreamy kind of awesome rock.The slinky Fender guitar solo on “Teenage Hate” comes at you like some of the best rippers Superchunk ever throw at us. In fact, this is another one of those great bands that really understood the awesome power of the ‘Chunk. Over all, Dreamers Asleep at the Wheel is filled with great song writing, not wasting time and getting you right into. Recorded by Joe Mitra who is the sleeper engineer. I just wish there was a bit more Jen Twigg on this (she did a really great zine or something in a zine that I can’t find or totally recall, if someone wants to jog my memory). But other than that, this is pop perfection.  It’s too bad this band is in two cities (Chicago and Philadelphia) and made of kids going to school. Hopefully the public catches on and they can get an opening slot on a good tour next summer cuz people need to hear this. I’m sure Swearin’ will be huge by then, they should hook these DC ex-pats up!

The Blank Fight
House Band Feud (Reissue)
Silver Sproket Records

So the Blank Fight was a superhero band that has now been launched into mythical proportions. Including zinesters Cindy Crabb and Aaron Cometbus along with future This Bike is a Pipe Bomber Rymodee, all three would go on to different projects and bands that would gain much more acclaim in the DIY punk world. And so this album, released in various formats with various songs gets itself a proper vinyl release. It’s chock full of anthems and dirty rockers knocking people in the faces. This album would serve as a bench mark for a shit ton of Florida bands, The Tim Version doing the best with this sound. Some of Rymoedee’s future is present here, and his style as a guitar player and song writer becomes more defined. We even get a little harmonica on “Old Trick” which has a very Avail style riff. That makes total sense since Avail was kinda like the common language when this band was around. House Band Feud is slightly dated in sound and style, but the updated treatment makes it quite an awesome treat. It’s a history lesson and a great reminder, plus seriously, Cindy Crabb and Aaron Cometbus are like zine heroes playing music together. If that doesn’t get you excited then you should re-evaluate being friends with me.

Busdriver
Arguments with Dreams
Self Released (Free)

If Busdriver isn’t your favorite, motor mouth MC on this odd planet then you clearly aren’t paying attention to hip-hop. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this guy on a big stage where he felt like an alien and on the floor of a DIY space where he seemed more like a professor schooling a group of college kids. Both times his rapid fire vocals which are more like an instrument then a lecture. And so, here he is once again giving his fans some crazy space shit and he brought along Das Racist to get weird on a track with him. Busdriver he’s one of those dudes that pretty much every other rapper things is amazing but somehow the kids don’t seem to get him. Maybe it’s because he’s a bit political and abstract at the same time. Like the best of Picasso, fucked up faces, wide spreads of colors, rich in content but hard to handle, Busdriver gets it done on Arguments With Dreams. The cover says it all, this dude is running on some kinda rocket fuel that’s so crazy he’s gotta wear a dog on his t-shirt.

Noisear
Turbulent Resurgence
Willowtip Records

When I listen to grindcore I don’t even know why I bother to talk to people who don’t. I don’t even know why I bother writing about it on a blog that like only a few people read and no one cares about. When I listen to grind core I don’t know why anyone talks to me or tries to relate with me or any of that shit because Grind is fucking brutal and smashes faces in and I just don’t think the rest of the world really understands how FUCKED UP everything is like a good grindcore record. Everyone is psyched for the new Pig Destroyer, but I have been eagerly awaiting this new Noisear album with just as much ferocity and blood lust. Turbulent Resurgence does not disappoint with its 23 tracks in under twenty minutes, it does what grind is supposed to do, beat in your brain until it slides down the back of your rotten skull and slides down into your neck, past your spinal column and out your stupid ass. Why am I even bothering with this review. You don’t care that Noisear took a turn away from the tech-grind and went super heavy. You don’t care that the vocals are more vicious and perfectly sit just underneath the pulverizing riffs. You don’t care that the drums are fast and furious but sound more natural and ass kicking while still being totally weird and all over the place. You don’t even care that there are a lot of great brutal metal albums out this year worthy of your attention but that Noisear belongs in rotation among Cattle Decapitation, High on Fire and Municipal Waste. I don’t even know why I bother with you.

Well, that’s all I feel like doing for now. Got some other albums I haven’t even heard yet that I am gonna play here in a minute. I honestly hope that today, I insulted you. If you read this in the future, I am sorry for any bad, mean things I said that hurt your feelings. If you read this today on 10/4/12 and don’t go listen to some awesome music, especially Noisear, then I hope you have a rotten day and fuck off and cry. Shit head. 

Lungfish – Indivisible

Lungfish
Indivisible
Dischord

Confession time. I wasn’t always a Lungfish fan. The story goes as such, a friend of mine was selling CD’s she wasn’t into and part of that stack included Indivisible by Lungfish. I asked if I could take it home and listen to it and if I was into it, she said I could have it for a few bucks. I went home, dropped the disc into my player and sat back confused at the weird “art” music that was being made. I managed to listen to all of it, annoyed at the number of instrumentals and backwards interludes and decided that it wasn’t for me. I returned the disc, none to politely, remarking that this “art rock bullshit” was what was wrong with music in the mid to late 90’s.

The only thing that was wrong was my filter. I saw Lungfish open up for Fugazi a few years later and was still off put but curious. Sometime after the release of Artificial Horizon was I turned in to Lungfish. I became obsessive. I desperately searched the bins of the used record stores I went to in search of their albums.

I don’t remember the chronology of when I re-discovered Indivisible. It was not one of the albums referred to me (most people seem to think Sound in Time is their masterpiece in my experience) by the many people I obsessively talked to about this band. But at one point I did stumble upon this album and remembered the dark, depressive, artless cover. It sat in my hands like a cold stone, shifting my comfort. I would have to confront this album, my past judgements against what I had built. I was afraid everything would come unwound and my new devotion would be for not.

Chronology is also a problem with these reissues. On the one hand, some of my favorites have already hit the shelves in my home. But its hard to go back and contextualize these superior presentations with the CD’s I have from the past. And as Indivisible can easily be seen as a the mid-point in the Lungfish output, it’s difficult to feel honestly without referencing other records (something I have tried to avoid since Dischord began this project).

As it stands, Indivisible is my personal favorite Lungfish album, it’s weirdness intact even amongst a most esoteric band. The album is cold and seemingly lifeless. It has musical tones not unlike Joy Division, but it’s also when Dan Higgs starts losing grasp with the reality the rest of us know. Yet it’s not the space and time re-con mission that Artificial Horizons would be or the mind origami give in Unanimous Hour. Instead, Indivisible was kind of subdued.

This album always was subtle, a collection of Lungfish ballads, if ever Lungfish were to write a ballad (they did, a few times actually, they are quite beautiful). But there was almost something old world about this album. Though it hits at all the points a Lungfish album should, it sounded and felt like it was made in another time. There was nothing contemporary about Indivisible. It doesn’t sound like anything anyone was doing at the time.

It remains, to my ears one of the most repetitious albums to date. Filled with lots soundscapes (“e=fu” and “William Fuld” named after the Baltimore native who launched the Oujia board into a household name) these atmospheric breaks make the other tracks stand out more. Anchored by “Tick Tock” and song reminiscent of Joy Division’s “Digital”, where in the concept of time leaves us and we are left frustrated, Lungfish created something wholly new and different. But fuck if that song also doesn’t have a groove, the verse and chorus only separated by Mitch Feldstein’s change in the beat. But rather than follow this up with something powerful and rocking Lungfish fall into another odd instrumental jam “Cut To Fit The Mouth”, where a layer of toy Casio piano sits harshly over a quite little jam. The album is quite frantic, manic-depressive maybe, like Wish by The Cure, but in Lungfish’s unique pallet.

Of all there albums, Indivisible is probably the Baltimore quartet’s most inconsistent. Never finding that groove and layered with way out sound escapades, Indivisible is not an easy listen, despite a band that is pulling back. Here we find Lungfish experimenting. After establishing their own sound, Indivisible finds the band stepping back and playing around. Much of what they would produce would weaves its way quietly into their songs later on. The white noise, the piano plunks, the use of space in different ways. Indivisible took context and twisted it, making it a turning point in an unpredictable career.

Lungfish – Talking Songs For Walking

Lungfish
Talking Songs For Walking
Dischord Records

Sitting down this morning, no coffee, cobwebs in my eyes, a pit in my stomach and too much already on my mind, listening to Lungfish’s second album, Talking Songs For Walking, I am truly hearing it for the first time. This was back when Lungfish was raw and still sort of resembled a basic band. In fact as “Kissing” rings out as I write this, I see just how pedestrian of a band Lungfish was in their infancy. Yes, the beginnings of their own style were emerging, but it was still soaked so thoroughly in that DC energy, reminiscent of the mighty Rites of Spring, the gritty Ignition and the pummeling of early Fugazi. The repetition or hypnosis doesn’t feel so pronounced here in their infancy (though it’s certainly there).

What is great about these reissues of all these Lungfish albums is that we get to reconsider them. During their height I was a Compact Disc addict. I rarely bought vinyl and it hasn’t been until recently that I have succumbed to the mp3 hoarding nature prevalent among us nerds and assholes. My interaction with Talking Songs for Walking was on CD and thus also included their debut Necklace of Heads in one, very long package. The distinction between the two were not always easy to find. But now as Dischord remasters these great albums, I am compelled to take the time and sit here with Talking Songs for Walking.

A true rock record, the spit and sour of punk rock rests firmly in the veins of this band. John Chriest, the original bassist is most pronounced here, driving the songs into sonic fury where soon the band would step back into a more hypnotic groove. But here, the band is typical in giving just ten songs, but they shave a good ten minutes off the running time. It is only now I realize how economical Talking Songs for Walking was. Confined and compressed by speed, the band delivers a true rock record, made in their own recipe.

As Lungfish is presented here with more urgency, the same riff patterns from our man Asa Osbourne that normally sooth and calm the beast suddenly become more feet shuffling and fist pounding. Here, Lungfish is more of a war cry then a meditative om. It isn’t until we reach the lovely “Put Your Hand In My Hand” that the band slows down to the laid back groove they would become known for. And yet somehow, Asa lets the main riff rule space, somehow showing a complex dynamic. This song also has one of the most dynamic bridges that Lungfish has ever written. In fact, all over  this album moments of great change can be found, making this a rather unique entry into the known Lungfish canon.

We also get a young Dan Higgs, more poetic with his words, not quite embracing the bombastic military bark he would become known for. At this point he was more beat poet than psychic head trip, telling odd ball stories. I am immersed for the first time in the song “Descender”, delivered in a slacker cool that Higgs seemed to embody but never project later on. The weirdness is there, but the crazy hadn’t quite emerged. It’s an interesting contrast, a band known for being relatively laid back (in theory, not always in practice) and a front man being “out there”, Talking Songs For Walking gives us a rather subdued Higgs. Of course, what the remaster does is give us a better presentation of some of the accompanying vocal work, hinting at the bark and yell we would later find.

Unfortunately, the remaster process isn’t all kind. The deficiencies in the recording, obviously caught in the trends of the day unfortunately resonate more. The bass is muted and the drums sound far too treated, an insult to Chriest and drummer Mitch Feldstein, but unfortunately this was par for the course back then. More labor intensive and possibly even unattainable, a treatment of the original masters, stripping down the added effects and giving the bass it’s proper due might make for a powerful re-imagining. This is the first time a remaster does very little to bring forward the nuances and instead shows the deficiencies more.

To this guy though, that doesn’t matter. I am happy to have a second look at my favorite band once again (this was also remastered in conjunction with Indivisible, this writers favorite Lungfish album which we will write about very soon) especially the earlier part of the catalog I have not spent as much time with. It’s nice to find a Lungfish that was once interested in kicking faces in with some foot stomping rock instead of tearing them off with hypnotic, esoteric leanings. As Dischord continues this project, and hopefully unleashes more from the vaults like A.C.R 1999, us fans and devoted “dum dums” can find more nuance. For me, it reminds me to listen to music. To pay more attention and consume less. I can assure you for weeks, maybe months I will be entrenched in Lungfish.