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Archive for the ‘Slint’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DANKO JONES-Garage Rock! A Collection of Lost Songs From 1996-1998 (2014).

Danko Jones has released nine albums an a bunch of EPs.  Back in 2014 he released this collection of songs that he wrote and recorded before his first proper single (1998).

This is a collection of raw songs, but the essential elements of Danko are in place. Mostly fast guitars, simple, catchy riffs and Danko’s gruff voice, filled with braggadocio.  With a cover by Peter Bagge!

He describes it:

Back in the 90’s,the Garage Rock scene, as I knew it, was a warts-and-all approach that favoured low-fi recordings and rudimentary playing over any modicum of musical prowess in order to glean some Rock N’ Roll essence. However, once a band got better at their instruments, songwriting and stage performance, the inevitable crossroads would eventually appear. Deliberately continuing to play against their growing skill would only evolve into a pose. There were a lot of bands who did exactly this in order to sustain scenester favour. We did the opposite.

What you hold in your hands is a document of what we were and where we came from. We didn’t know how to write songs and could barely play but we wanted to be near to the music we loved so badly. We ate, slept and drank this music. We still do. That’s why we have never had to reunite because we’ve never broken up. After 18 years, we’ve stayed the course, got tough when the going did and, above all else, we have never stopped. This album is the proof.

The first two songs are the best quality, with the rest slowly deteriorating with more tape hiss.

1. “Who Got It?” a big fat bass sound with lots of mentioning of Danko Jones in the lyrics. [2 minutes]
2. “Make You Mine” is 90 seconds long.  With big loud chords and rumbling bass Danko says “one day I’m going to write a book and let everybody know how to do it.  Seems to me there a lot of people around who want to see if I can prove it.  I been a rock prodigy since the age of 20 and my proof… my proof is right now.”
3. “I’m Your Man” is a bit longer.  The quality isn’t as good but the raw bass sound is great.
4. “She’s Got A Bomb” is good early Danko strutting music.
5. “Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue.”  He would name an album this many years later.  This song is fast and raw and only 90 seconds long.
6. “Dirty Mind Too” This is a fast stomping one-two-three song that rocks for less than a minute.
7. I’m Drinking Alcohol? This is funny because later he says he doesn’t drink.  I don’t know what the words are but the music is great–rumbling bass and feedbacky guitars with lots of screaming.
8. “Love Travel Demo” and 9. “Bounce Demo” are decent demo recordings.  “Bounce” has what might be his first guitar solo.
10. Sexual Interlude” “ladies it’s time to take a chance on a real man.  I’m sick and tired of seeing you women selling yourselves short, going out with a lesser man.
11. “I Stand Accused” Unexpectedly he stands accused of “loving you to much.  If that’s a crime, then I’m guilty.”
12. “Best Good Looking Girl In Town” a fast chugging riff, “oh mama you sure look fine.”
13. “Payback” This one sounds really rough but it totally rocks.
14. “Lowdown” Danko gives the lowdown: “You want a bit of romance?  I got you an bouquet of Flowers and a box of chocolates.  Why you crying for?  That ain’t enough?  Me and the fellas wrote this song just for you.”
15. “One Night Stand” garage swinging sound: Danko is a one woman man and you’re just his type.
16. “Instrumental” is great.
17. “Move On” is a long, slow long bluesy track about love.

It’s not a great introduction to Danko, but if you like him, you won;t be disappointed by this early baby-Danko period.

[READ: August 10, 2019] I’ve Got Something to Say

In the introduction (after the foreword by Duff McKagan), Jones introduces himself not as a writer but as a hack.  He also acknowledges that having something to say doesn’t mean much.  He has too many opinions on music and needed to get them out or his insides would explode.  He acknowledges that obsessing over the minutiae of bands is a waste of time, “but goddammit, it’s a ton of fun.”

So this collection collects some of Danko’s writing over the last dozen or so years. He’s written for many publications, some regularly.  Most of these pieces are a couple of pages.  And pretty much all of them will have you laughing (if you enjoy opinionated music writers).

“Vibing for Thin Lizzy” [Rock Hard magazine, March 2015]
Danko says he was lured into rock music by the theatrics of KISS, Crue and WASP.  But then he really got into the music while his friends seemed to move on.  Thin Lizzy bridged the gap by providing substance without losing its sheen or bite.  And Phil Lynott was a mixed race bassist and singer who didn’t look like the quintessential rock star.  What more could Danko ask for? (more…)

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polinaSOUNDTRACK: SOFA-Grey [CST002] (1997).

greyIt’s not nice to compare bands to other bands, because it seems like they are copying the original. But since I just mentioned Slint the other day, I thought it worthwhile to mention Sofa today. They have similar sensibilities—noisy guitars, spoken/screamed vocals and a decidedly quiet feel.

I love the way this disc opens with the song “On/Off”—it has a simple bass with syncopated drums. And then the buizziest buzz saw guitar thrown in counterpoint notes. And then the singer comes in, sounding like Joy Division never went away.  The song builds into a cool noise and then backs off again. But song two, “CH. 2 Chi.” changes everything—a blistering punk song with super fast chaotic drums and fast vocals. The guitars are again punctuating rather than keeping melody. And when it plays the two high chords it adds incredible tension. “Monotone” begins a simple song of two notes (and some great noisy guitars). The vocals are less Joy Divison and more spoken punk. But each verse adds something new to the music, which gets more complex. “Current” has a more conventional post-rock sound—buzzy guitars and quiet vocals. It’s a good calming moment.

“80 000” has a slow menacing vibe. It builds a few times into some really noisy chaotic sections, where the guitars are willfully out of tune—and all the while the spoken word lyrics are quiet enough to make you lean in closer. “Red Lake” is another slow number (they could maybe have used a faster one by this point), but I really like the riff and the way the guitars play off of it. And there’s an actual hummable chorus too.

The fast noise comes back on “Comma” with a frenetic guitar line and pummeling bass. Even the stop/start of the chorus are frenetic. And when the song occasionally slows down, the guitars still punctuate with astonishing noise. “The Fence” opens with a cool bass riff and simple but interesting drums. “Travel” is a slow song that opens with just guitar notes and spoken/sung lyrics. I don’t care for these more atmospheric songs (especially when they push 6 minutes) but the band does it well. “Stress” follows this. This is the shortest song on the disc just under 3 minutes of furious mayhem. “Medicine Hat” ends the disc with another slower song, but this one has a lot of interesting components, like the bass and guitar line that interweaves throughout the song.

This was Constellation Records second release (Ian, who plays guitar, co-founded Constellation).  Sofa broke up around the time of this release, which is a shame as it was a good one. I’d like to hear more from them (they have some earlier records with unknown availability).

[READ: April 5, 2014] Polina

This was a simple and enjoyable graphic novel about a young ballerina who grows up in the world of ballet.  (I admit I was attracted to the title because I thought it might be about Olympic figure skater Polina Edmunds who I remembered primarily because the name Polina which was unusual to me–it is not about her).

It is a bout a fictional ballet dancer.  When we first meet young Polina, she looks so tiny in the back seat of the car as she is driven to class.  And her teacher, Mr Bojinsky looks like such a large man next to her–with his full beard and large hands.  He is an intimidating figure and all of the girls are afraid of him.  And yet, it is an honor to be even considered by him.

So when Polina unexpectedly gets chosen for his class, she is elated and fearful at the same time.  At first Bojinsky seems really mean and the way his hand more or less covers her whole chest as he gets her into place portended all kinds of things.  But rest assured, and perhaps this is a spoiler, but if is, it is one that I would like to know–nothing bad like that happens to Polina.  Phew. She is not molested, or raped or left dying in an alley. It’s not that kind of story.  Rather, it is the story of a young girl trying to make it as a dancer. (more…)

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balfourSOUNDTRACK: SLINT-Spiderland (Remastered) (1991/2014).

slint2Slint is an overlooked band except by those who think they are really super important.  Slint played what would eventually be called post-rock before people called it that–they had spoken vocals and dark guitar, loud and quiet riffs and intense building sections (and on this album no songs under 5 minutes).  Some riffs were super catchy, indeed, many of the songs on Spiderland have super catchy sections, and yet there is something that resists you casually getting into them (probably those spoken lyrics).

I’ll even say that I tend to forget about them.  They get lumped in with other Steve Albini produced bands (Albini produced their first album, but not Spiderland, and since Albini’s band was Shellac, they are even close in the alphabet), but they don’t really sound like Albini’s output.  They’re much warmer and, dare I say ,emotional–the screamed vocals are incredibly passionate.  Plus, they only released one album before they broke up (this one was after the breakup), so their legacy is bigger than their output.

So I’m thrilled about this reissue if only so that it will give them a wider audience. And you can hear the entire two hour spectacle before it come out at NPR.

At the same time I didn’t notice a huge difference in the production.  It sounded great, but then I haven’t listened to it in a while so it’s hard to compare.  The deluxe package is a behemoth: the box comes with the album, outtakes and demos on 180 gram vinyl and on CD. It also includes a 104-page book with never-before-seen photos, lyrics, and a foreword by Will Oldham and Breadcrumb Trail, a 90-minute documentary about the making of Spiderland with interviews with the band, James Murphy, Steve Albini, David Yow, Ian MacKaye, Matt Sweeney and others.  Since it retails at about $150, I won’t be buying that.

slintI did listen to the whole thing and again was reminded of how great the album is.  The bonus material is, well, a little disappointing.  You get three more early versions of “Nosferatu Man,” one of which is an instrumental.  Two demo versions of “Washer” and “Good Morning, Captain” (one is an instrumental kind of goof).  There’s three versions of a song called “Pam” which didn’t make Spiderland, so that’s interesting.  Then there’s another outtake called “Glenn” and two post Spiderland songs called “Todd’s Song” and “Brian’s Song.”  They’re all good, but are in various stages of construction.

Perhaps the most interesting bonus track is the live (from Chicago 1989) version of Neil Young’s “Cortez The Killer.”  But I have to admit that vocally, they just can’t handle it.  The music sounds good, but the singer just never seems to be in tune, but nor is he talking it either.  It was a little disappointing (especially compared to Built to Spill’s live cover).

So if you are a die hard fan of this unheralded band, this is a worthy addition (especially for the book and movie).  Otherwise, enjoy the original, it’s a great album.

[READ: April 7, 2014] Balfour and Meriwether in The Incident of the Harrowmoor Dogs

I was immediately attracted to the cover of this novella–two men in bowler hats and button down shirts wielding weapons in front of a spooky background.  What’s not to like?  Especially when the book is tiny (80 pages).  I grabbed it and brought it home to read.

That’s when I learned that Balfour and Meriwether appear in other books and that this was “the first novella-length work” about the pair.  Did that mean that there was a lengthy series and this is the first short piece about them?  Indeed, no.  There are two other stories about them which are both shorter (these first two stories have been collected in one book).  And according to Abraham, he has no plans to write more, but that doesn’t mean he won’t.

So this is a fun and surreal adventure story set in England in the 1880s.  It is taken from Meriwether’s Diary (written in 1920).  Meriwether acknowledges that God the Creator has made many beautiful things but He has also made some abominations that walk the Earth.

And that leads us into this story of subterranean creatures and British political dealings with them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MR. DREAM-“Holy Name” (2011).

The cool site Bob Dylan Wrote Protest Songs created a Top 20 list of 2011 albums.  It was an interesting mix of stuff other people liked (PJ Harvey, St. Vincent, Bon Iver) and a whole bunch of stuff that I’d never heard of (like this band).

BDWPS explains that the two guys in Mr. Dream met in college and are music critics (with Pitchfork in common among their employers).  And we all reflexively gag at the thought of music critics making music. 

This song opens as a direct rip off of Nirvana’s “Lithium.”  I mean, it’s unavoidable–same quiet guitar playing virtually the same chords.  It infuritaed me.

But on a second listen, I heard the differences.  They are the same chords as “Lithium” except that the final chord in the sequence goes in a different direction, as does the rest of the song.  It’s rawer than Nirvana (at least than Nevermind), but it has the same feel and attitude.  Maybe with a hint of Slint thrown in. 

I was prepared to write this off as a Nirvana rip off, but of course, Nevermind is twenty years old.  I think their music is just part of punk consciousness now.  And it’s nice that Mr. Dream makes good use of it.  Raw and angry.  Very nice.  I can’t wait to hear the rest of the album.

[READ: December 30, 2011] “Max reviews the classics”

May-Kate and Ashley Olsen are a really really easy target, and I’m a little embarassed for Max that he went after them with this review, but it is still pretty funny (and it’s not like they can’t take it).  The “review” is not as fish-in-a-barrel as it might be. 

The introduction is funny: “Last night I took a break from re-reading Cryptonomicon to pick up a book roughly as long as one of its paragraphs: Sealed with a Kiss” (with links provided for each).

He is clearly setting out to mock the book, I mean how could he not.  But the things he points out are interesting not so much from a Kate and Ashley standpoint as from a book standpoint.  Indeed, he spends a lot of time on just the first sentence: “‘We’re going home to Chicago for only two weeks!’ Mary-Kate Burker told her sister Ashley.”  Max points out, “who, exactly reads the 20th book in the Mary-Kate and Ashley series without realizing they’re sisters?  …If you’re worried about readers that stupid, you probably need to point out that they’re twins too.”  That’s a little harsh to the series as, yes, it is obvious, but the series is clearly written for young kids, and frankly in terms of exposition, that’s pretty brief.

A more salient (and funnier observation): “I can’t help but wonder what percentage of Mary-Kate and Ashley books contain an excalamtion point in the first sentence.  I haven’t checked, but I get the feeling it’s a high number.”  Hilarious. (more…)

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