Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Brice Springsteen - Darkness on the Edge of Town

Bruce Springsteen – Darkness on the Edge of Town
Columbia, 1978
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2011
Price: $.25

I gave Born to Run a hard time when I reviewed it for this blog like, years ago. I still haven’t been won over, but I have found the Bruce albums that I really, really love. Tunnel of Love especially. That and a better appreciation for the sax solo (I know I like JUST faulted the Psychedelic Furs in the last post for their persistent use of cheesy sax, but again, THEY ARE NOT THE BOSS AND THEY IN NO WAY WROTE ANTHEMS DESERVING OF A FUCKIN’ BITCHIN’ SAX SOLO OK?!). “Badlands” rules, and the sax solo is brief and perfect and functions like a sort of modern harmonica interlude. “Adam Raised a Cain” sounds like the inspiration for Kurt Vile’s 80,000 renditions of his excellent jam “Hunchback” and that just has to be the case because both songs have that same sort of like, punch-in-the-gut badassery to them that just makes you wanna put on some sunglasses and cruise. Not doin’ anything illegal, just cruisin’ and lookin’ like a badass. I listened to “Hunchback” on the way to getting fired from a shitty property management company in Lawrence a few years ago, and it made me totally justified and totally ready to throw my keys on the table and walk out of that office like a badass. The Boss would have more than sufficed, too. I think I dig Darkness so much because it sounds like the panting after the marathon that was Born to Run. A step back and a shift, if that makes sense. The sort of record that needs to be made after a major hit for an artist to keep himself from going insane. A “minor work” that will only be revered as a classic years down the line. Like the Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible. Can’t help but keep bringing in the modern music! Don’t know what’s up with that, other than using modern music to illustrate the fact that these types of albums and songs keep existing to this day and that the Boss is the Boss for a reason and while I don’t like all of his albums or hits or all that, I hold the opinion that he is a badass dude who does what he wants and my opinion is meaningless in that argument.

I read that Springsteen bookended each side with an anthem and an emotional slow-burner, which I think is awesome without having any real reason to cite (note: Wikipedia reminds me that he did this with all his early albums, called it the “four corners” approach which is, like, kind of awesome. I think I think it’s awesome because I’m looking at Bruce in this white tee on the back of the sleeve and he’s just.so.ruggedly…cool I can’t help but not want to be like, his friend). It makes the record feel really balanced, I suppose, but not in a like, cookie-cutter way. There’s an organic flow at work, and the songs in-between the bookends all feel like a mix of that anthem/slowburn sandwiching. “Prove it All Night” is upbeat, and there’s a totally awesome sick guitar solo in the break, but the Boss’s vocals on the chorus have this like, longing to them that keeps the song from being a triumphant fist-pumper. The whole album is like that. Somber, really. But still like, full of ass kicking. It’s a weird marriage and I dig it way more than the straight-up balls to the wall of Born to Run (with the exception of “Thunder Road,” which is a forever jam). Just scanning the Wikipedia entry for this album the words “legal troubles” and “contractual obligations” and “three years of forced hiatus” stick out. And I think that explains it. The sort of brooding fuck you of it all. Great record.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pavement - Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain

Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
Matador, 1994
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2012
Price: $5

A supreme masterpiece from a band I for some bizarre fucking reason just can’t fall in love with. I mean, it’s like, “I love you, but I’m not in love with you Pavement.” That sort of capital L Love I reserve for the bands that reside in my bloodstream. But I love Pavement, that’s for sure. I spent the better part of the spring getting acquainted with the group’s final LP, Terror Twilight, and that has really opened up their earlier discography. Like the pot of tasty jams at the end of the rainbow where you can look back and see the arc from Slanted & Enchanted and all the development in between.

I feel like the falling in love could happen when I decide to wade through all those b-sides on those fantastic CD reissues of all the albums. It’s not like I don’t try to fall in love with Pavement, there’s just something that doesn’t hit me on the right emotional wavelength. They’re blindingly important, that is for certain, and I understand that, and their pretend slacker technical proficiency is awe inspiring, but what’s missing? I don’t know. I don’t care too much, either, and I still listen to Pavement constantly like comfort food. I love talking about how I can’t fall in love with Pavement for some reason. I don’t know why. It’s like “Yeah, they’re that friend that I love because they’ll always be just a friend.” And I think I talk about it because I just can’t figure out why the fuck I don’t Love love Pavement. Why I’m not obsessed with them despite trying my hardest to be obsessed. They have songs that make me feel, like down at the core. “Frontwards,” “Here,” and “Fillmore Jive” kind of kill me. Speaking of “Fillmore Jive,” It’s on this record and I always overlooked it because this record also has “Silence Ki[d/t],” “Range Life,” “Gold Soundz,” and “Cut Your Hair” which are probably like 4 of the Top 25 indie rock songs of the 90s. No lie. Crooked Rain, Crooked Lane is also a capital A album, which is MORE reason for me to love it.

But all Love aside, look at this fucking record. Something about playing this in the summertime feels optimal. Perhaps recreating the L.A. that birthed it. What’s most important about Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain for me is that the band was totally willing to be weird as hell in between writing some of the most tuneful anthems of the time. The album closes with “Hit the Plane Down” and “Fillmore Jive” which are TOTALLY fucking weird, although “Fillmore Jive” is, as I said, one of my favorite Pavement songs from their catalog and not really weird but it’s on a sort of different level from the rest of the album yet is still the only way I can see this album ending. The guitar work on that song is just breathtaking. The palpable exhaustion in Malkmus’ vocals that echo the refrain of “I need to sleep.” “Goodnight to the rock n’ roll era,” he sings as if ushering in the death of the rock gods and the arrival of these normal bros making this sublime music and making it OK to create masterpieces in one’s bedroom/garage/makeshift recording studio, whatever. There’s something immensely satisfying about sitting down and listening to this album. All the little intricacies that are intentional or accidental (doesn’t matter) that reward listen after listen and it becomes obvious why so many people can be obsessed with this band. I want to join you, brethren, and soon I hope. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

We Make Our Own Movies - May 25, 2012

Finally, video proof of Panda totally killing it at being a dog. He does this all the time. In filming the dog though, I thought why not make a little movie every week, a little music video! A little music video set to mundane everyday things! So more to come. It's also a sad way to try to justify studying film at the University of Kansas.

Songs About...: Moving

Two weeks ago the wife and I moved up north to the Twin Cities. There was a pros/cons list involved, and the only real con with leaving Kansas/Kansas City was pretty much limited to Family and that smell you get out in the country. But basically most of our closest friends had moved, Jenny had just finished grad school, I was growing increasingly depressed at my job and Sam Brownback was absolutely trying to beat Kansas into submission with a cross and the Koch Brothers and there was no fucking way I was going to move to Kansas City. Gigwork with the Pitch kind of ended once they got sold away from the Village Voice and I'm sorry but in the 8 years I spent in Lawrence/KC the only band I thought was amazing was Rooftop Vigilantes and that was the only band. Something about Kansas City not being capable of sustaining a vibrant arts and music scene. That's just a personal assessment, I may be out of the loop, but it felt deathly there. The thought of moving to Kansas City was cringeworthy and while I love Kansas with all my heart the politics there are so disgusting that I just can't imagine staying there. Maybe a sea change will occur and Kansas will revert to its badass roots but I just don't see that happening.

So here we are in Minneapolis, which may be in the same boat as Kansas City on the arts/culture/music front (I really have no idea, I've only been here two weeks) but at least I know it was at one time absolutely capable of sustaining a vibrant music scene (from Husker Du and the Replacements through Lifter Puller and Dillinger Four and, of course, the Purple One) and has arts funding written into its constitution unlike another place I have lived. Basically it's just different and when I vote it has a chance of mattering and anyway Minnesota has a lot going for it that is seriously boosting my quality of life. It's fun, I guess. That's the big thing. Adventurous. Like going to college again without the debt or the classes and just getting to explore all the excellent things these cities have to offer. Granted, the Royals just totally scored a comeback win against the Brewers and I went "YES YES YES!" and jumped up and down and scared the dog and probably the neighbors so there's a part of me still tied to KC, and there was a part of me that moving was absolutely necessary at this point in time. SO, I made a list of my favorite songs about moving or songs that I've always associated with moving or songs I discovered as I was moving this time around and yeah.

Jeffrey Lewis - "Moving"

The Weakerthans - "Sun in an Empty Room"

that dog. - "Minneapolis"

It's really bizarre thinking about how much I love this song, and how I've loved it over the years starting sometime during the KJHK days and I never, ever thought I'd move here.

Pavement - "Box Elder"

Teenage Fanclub - "Everything Flows"

This song came on my iPod EVERY SINGLE TIME I went running in the two weeks leading up to leaving. A sign, I suppose.

The Weakerthans - "Left and Leaving"

Although maybe this song is about the people sticking around.

Tullycraft - "Our Days in Kansas"

I lived in Lawrence for 8 years and went to the University or 5 and no, I never learned the KU fight song.

Gentleman Jesse - "Eat Me Alive"

Leaving Atlanta hasn't entirely grown on me, but this jam was a mainstay in the whole moving process. Mostly with lines like "This city's trying to eat me alive."