Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Best of 2011: Rooftop Vigilantes - Real Pony Glue

Since I first heard and fell in love with Rooftop Vigilantes second album, Real Pony Glue, like two years ago, I couldn't fit it into the list I'm making of my favorite albums of 2011. But it certainly belongs there, since it got left out of last year's and the year's before and since there's a funny story where I called dibs to review it for the Pitch way back when (and when a new editor had just started) and it took so long for this album to actually come out that a NEW new editor was in place and that didn't end up happening. But this is the sort of album not meant for this sort of "Best of 2011" list which is just a general catalog of music of the year that blah blah blah. This is the salvation of local music. To me, at least, and that's probably stilted maybe but not to me I guess. I don't actually own the album (save for the one-track MP3 mentioned in the review here) and have been listening to it track by track on the band's bandcamp page wishing I wasn't poor and wishing they didn't release it on goddamn cassette tape and hoping that once haters realize how good they are, this gets a vinyl release someday.

Rooftop Vigilantes – Real Pony Glue

Oh the woes of the local music scene. I first heard (and subsequently fell in love with) Rooftop Vigilantes troubled sophomore LP roughly two years ago (only judging from the “REALLY ALMOST PONY GLUE MIX” MP3 in my iTunes which is just one 40 minute track dated 1/15/10). The record was recorded by indie rock legend (and Jawbox frontman, indie rock legend first though) J. Robbins and never saw the light of day until the band released it on their own (and on goddamn cassette tape, which I know it’s organic and tangible and all but it gahhhhhh) this year. It’s a tragic thing, because I think Rooftop Vigilantes is the best band from Lawrence, and the best band that’s come out of Lawrence in a long time. I could talk your ear off about the fucking local music scene, but it’s just too long a conversation and one that makes me look like a horrible asshole. So I’ll leave it at “I love Rooftop Vigilantes.” Or I’ll amend that, “I love Rooftop Vigilantes and it’s not just because I know these people and I played in a band for a minute with the drummer and I think they’re generally very on it folks, I legitimately think this is a great record and even if they were all assholes I would STILL think this was a great record but fortunately they are not so that’s cool.” So where was I? Oh yeah, the tragedy of Real Pony Glue having to toil away in obscurity where it will have to become some sort of local legend like an artist who’s work isn’t appreciated til after he’s long dead and can’t reap any of the awards (like free coffee and favors, you know, the usual). This seemed to be true when I thought the band had broken up and I applied Guided by Voices references to them (See: “Bright Paper Werewolves” – “They want to get out of here/ But they can’t find the exit/ They cling to the cinema/ And they can’t find security/ Then they finally got recognized/ So they left in obscurity and misery.”) which was probably welcome but still pretty sad. But they’re NOT really broken up which is great, but they’re also not playing a show every couple of weeks, which is not great because that was the greatest when that was happening and a winter or so ago I had the most embarrassing moment of my life when I very drunkenly attempted to do vocals on their THIRD run through of Big Star’s “September Gurls” on the day of Alex Chilton’s death and proceeded to trudge the three blocks home in an intense snow storm where I stumbled on the sidewalk and ripped a hole in my jeans and thought about how people by jeans with holes torn in them and in my case I was just fucking annoyed cuz I’d just bought them a couple weeks ago and would have to go by a brand new pair but it was worth it even though oh god the horrific embarrassment still haunts me to this day. Rooftop Vigilantes taught me that it’s really wonderful having an open dialogue with a band you honestly love. You get to see all the minutiae, warts and all, and how that not only builds your appreciation for the band but for how music is made in general (read: like sausage, ugly but supremely tasty). The point is, I wish Rooftop Vigilantes was the house band at the Replay Lounge if only because this album’s title is an anagram of said bar. And it’s a perfect title because paying homage to that bar is pretty much paying homage to that part of Lawrence that this album stemmed from. I know it, people I know know it, and people who don’t know it can still sort of experience it by listening to this. It’s a fucking college town in the middle of nowhere (well, not really but I say Kansas, you say “The Middle of Nowhere”) and we’re just like you in INSERT CITY HERE. I love this record because today it seems like to be a band you have to be from Brooklyn and really, you can be from anywhere (read: Minneapolis in the 80s, a time period Roofie Vig no doubt adore with their ever present show-closing cover of the Replacements “Can’t Hardly Wait”) and I think we’ve sort of lost that. For the longest time, all the decent bands seemed like they were trying to get better so they could move to Brooklyn and Rooftop Vigilantes seemed like they were OK being in Lawrence and just did what they did because that’s what they did and there was no bullshit. There STILL isn’t any bullshit, and this record is a testament to that. And this reads like a love letter to Rooftop Vigilantes, which it is. I’m excited they’re making music again, and I’m sorry this had to have an obligatory spot on the list when it should have been higher but lists don’t matter and fuck everyone should listen to this album because:

Top 5 Reasons why Real Pony Glue is tragic because no one will give it the time of day:

5.) The Back Half of this album is just insane – Really, the back half of an album is usually reserved for filler. At least the back middle part, and then the last two are usually pretty OK, but all of these songs are real damn good. The front half is pretty rad too, but that’s expected, but burying “Seth No Jump,” which was the song fucking SPIN MAGAZINE wrote about, in the middle of the fucking album is bold, ballsy, and not even intending to be because that’s just where it fit and the craftsmen/craftswomen in this band know better than to put the single at track 3.
4.) The lead off track is dedicated to the hold policy of Lawrence’s finest record store – THIS IS LOCAL MUSIC. This is what I think of when I think of Lawrence. This band, this album, this song. There’s just SOMETHING I can’t even explain that I always wanted a local band to have and this band has it and I get really excited and every time they play a show I wanna rush out and go to it (although they played at fucking Love Garden like a couple weeks ago and I fucking forgot about it and I DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TO WORK THE NEXT DAY but I’m not too hard on myself because I thought this band was broken up for like, a year SO THERE). I can’t tell if my judgment is skewed. I mean, I KNOW it is, but I just don’t know how skewed it is because everyone loves the bands from their hometown. Although I usually tend to treat local bands with the same criticism I’d treat any band (which is only fair, you should be able to handle criticism and I remember some instances on music staff where a local record would be denied entrance to the coveted KJHK rotation and words would be had with the music director at the time where he would just say “OK we’ll give it another shot because it’s local” and it would be voted down again because goddamnit, you can’t have affirmative action for local music. You can grade it at a curve, sure OK but if it’s shitty it’s shitty and you can’t deny it just because they’re from your town they deserve to know and to learn from that because no one is ever gonna get better if you tell them that their shit music is sunshine and roses GODDAMNIT ok there was that long conversation about local music but moving on…) and if this band was from Boisie, Idaho or Augusta, Maine, I think I’d think they were awesome and I’d praise their clear love of the Replacements and GBV while not totally ripping them off and sounding like a real goddamn band.
3.) “Cartoon Crush” – This is the song that should open every set. This is the song you play to make all the people content to talk in the back and sip their PBR go “Whoa, this is actually pretty good.” And it has one of the best transcendent moments on the album at 1:10 when (I’ll probably use this again) when the whole motherfucker tips over and rushes off to the end of its short existence. Did I mention I love the fact that their songs are short, GBV style, which is kind of like getting to eat at Golden Corral everyday without getting fat (which is, basically, the greatest dream any man can have).
2.) “Fists of Gary” – Rooftop Vigilantes’ catchiest songs usually come from Oscar while Zach’s songs are the glue that kind of holds their albums together. But “Fists of Gary” is just so fucking good it makes me want to fucking scream. It’s written in vein that every Guided By Voices fan understands, and the transcendent quality to this song is ultimately what makes me so, so sad that labels didn’t flip their shit and sign this band immediately. This is the song that makes me want to have a trust fund just so I can start a record label and sign this band. LISTEN TO THAT GIRL GROUP DRUM DROP IN THE BREAK! GODDAMNIT!
1.) That part at the end of “Desperately Seeking High School On Ramp” (see: 1:20) – Zach and Oscar’s interplay as songwriters is the rocketfuel of this band (not to slight Seth (who is my favorite drummer in this town, and not just because I’ve played with him, but I jumped at the opportunity to play with him because he’s my favorite drummer in this town) nor Hannah (who’s farfisa skills add that extra something that separates RV from everyone else) and it’s so fun to have a band with dual songwriters who are probably constantly challenging each other to get better. But this song is Oscar’s best on the record because of that moment at 1:20 where it just all tips over and spills out. Fucking god. This is the part I think about when I think about this album when I think about this album.

Naturally, this review is heavily biased because this is a hometown band and touting this record would be like me praying for the Kansas City Chiefs to win the Superbowl. It's hometown pride, but it's more than that because my whole identity is tied to where I'm from despite trying to pretend that's not true. But then there's the aforementioned hate of local music and how Rooftop Vigilantes make me want to go to all of their shows because they're so goddamn good beyond anything I ever expected. They're a goddamn Kansas City Chiefs Superbowl, Royals World Series, and Jayhawks National Championship all rolled up into one little bundle that I can carry over my shoulder like a hobo wherever I go. Hell, they're better than that because they actually EXIST (with the exception of 2008, which I think RV understand based on Carrot Atlas' "Charley want Mario Chalmers"). More bands need to be this awesome, no matter where the fuck they're from.

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