Sunday, April 22, 2018

Currently Listening

1.  "Silence" by Brian Fallon (from Silence)
2.  "A Pillar Of Salt" by The Thermals (from The Body, The Blood, The Machine)
3.  "Make America Great Again" by Frank Turner (from Make America Great Again)
4.  "Noisy Heaven [Quiet Slang]" by Beach Slang (from Noisey Heaven [Quiet Slang])
5.  "Lonely Fast and Deep" by Buffalo Tom (from Quiet and Peace)
6.  "He's A Whore" by Big Black (from He's A Whore)
7.  "Lower Ground" by Harker (from No Discordance)
8.  "Bad Choices" by Superchunk (from What a Time to Be Alive)
9.  "Cut Yr Teeth" by Kississippi (from Sunset Blush)
10.  "Today" by Kate Nash (from Yesterday Was Forever)
11.  "I Hate Gooey Disk" by Hot Mulligan (from Pilot)
12.  "Something in the Water" by The Maple State (from The Things I Heard at the Party)
13.  "Pristine" by Snail Mail (from Pristine)
14.  "Next Year" by Benchmarks (from Our Undivided Attention)
15.  "Just Fade Away" by Stiff Little Fingers (from Anthology)
16.  "Annabel" by Ash (from Annabel)
17.  "Pineapple Pslooze" by Fox Wound (from Spring Demo)
18.  "White Guilt" by The Bronx (from The Bronx [III])
19.  "Brand New Love" by Sebadoh (from Smash Your Head On The Punk Rock)
20.  "The Frug" by Rilo Kiley (from rkives)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Monday, April 16, 2018

Cover Wars: "Kiss The Bottle"

Cover Wars is an idea that I came up with years ago as a segment on the radio.  A DJ would play a song and then play a cover version of the same song and ask people to call in to vote for their favorite.  Back in 2011 I did a series of Cover Wars posts and recently I decided to bring the concept back, this time as a poll on Twitter.

"Kiss The Bottle" was written and recorded by Jawbreaker in 1992 for the 17 Reasons: The Mission District compilation.  From Wikipedia:
Before Bivouac's release, Jawbreaker recorded the song "Kiss the Bottle" for a Mission District-themed compilation of vinyl singles titled 17 Reasons: The Mission District.[8] It was the last song they recorded before Schwarzenbach's throat surgery, and his vocals on the recording are mottled and choked.[12] Greenwald cites the track as "one of [Jawbreaker's] seminal and best-loved songs", calling it "sludgy and churning, a working-class anthem with a steady, proletarian heart".[48] With lyrics profiling a pair of drunks outside a Mission District liquor store, "'Kiss the Bottle,' more than any other song, captures the sensitive boy machismo that drew (and continues to draw) male listeners to the altar of Schwarzenbach. With its fictional scrim, 'Kiss the Bottle' functions like a country song: the emotional impact is heightened by the specificity, not lessened. 'Kiss the Bottle' is Kerouac; it's Bukowski. It's the allure of giving into despair, to doing the wrong thing and at least succeeding at that."[12] The song has been cited as a favorite and an influence by Jim Ward of At the Drive-In and Sparta, and by Ron Richards, editor of the successful zine Muddle.[12][49]
Jawbreaker originally formed in New York, later moving to Los Angeles before settling in San Francisco.  I first discovered Jawbreaker in the early to mid-90s sometime prior to the release of their major label debut Dear You, picking up copies of the Busy 7" and their full-length debut Unfun.  At the time the band was thought of as a pop punk band (appearing on compilations such as Lookout Records' excellent Punk USA) but went on to influence a slew of bands from various sub-genres  after their breakup in 1996.  "Kiss The Bottle" was included in the 2002 b-sides and rarities compilation Etc. 

Memphis, TN's Lucero recorded their version of "Kiss The Bottle" in 1999 as the b-side for their first single, My Best Girl / Kiss The Bottle.  Frontman Ben Nichols' pre-Lucero band Red Forty was greatly influenced by Jawbreaker (one listen to the band's only release Discography and that much is evident) and he carried that influence with him.  The song was included as part of the 2006 reissue of The Attic Tapes (the band's first album).

A number of other bands and artists have covered "Kiss The Bottle" including Foo Fighters and Rise Against but I decided to simply go with the Jawbreaker and Lucero versions for this edition of Cover Wars because I think these two are easily the best and most compelling versions of this song.  Each rendition is so distinct and heart breaking and moving but in very different and unique ways.  I actually heard the Lucero version first, probably a good six or eight years ago, and have loved this song ever since.  Lucero was a band that I first discovered around 2010-ish alongside the likes of Chuck Ragan, Drag the River, and so on.  I'd known of these artists for years but hadn't heard them until then.  I think they were also bands that I needed to hear a bit later in my life (not that one's early 30s are all that late).  Subsequently, Jawbreaker was a band that I really didn't fully appreciate until my late 30s, despite the fact that I'd know and really liked their music for nearly two decades, the light didn't turn on for me until later.

Here are this week's contenders:



Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Currently Listening

1.  "Camelot" by Skating Polly (from Camelot)
2.  "Better Than You" by Petal (from Better Than You)
3.  "On My Knees" by Middle Kids (from On My Knees)
4.  "Once Good" by Kississippi (from Sunset Blush)
5.  "Slow Down" by Buffalo Tom (from Quiet and Peace)
6.  "Dash" by No Thank You (from All It Takes To Ruin It All)
7.  "A Cry for Help in a World Gone Mad" by Agent Orange (from Living In Darkness)
8.  "Slow Fade" by Teenage Fanclub (from Man-Made)
9.  "Howl at the Summit" by The Breeders (from All Nerve)
10.  "Harnessed in Slums" by Archers Of Loaf (from Vee Vee)
11.  "One Hundred Resolutions" by Sundowner (from Four One Five Two)
12.  "Time After Time (Annelise)" by R.E.M. (from Reckoning)
13.  "Melba" by Jeff Rosenstock (from POST-)
14.  "Get Terrified" by itoldyouiwouldeatyou (from Get Terrified)
15.  "Goodbyes" by RVIVR (from Bicker and Breathe)

Friday, April 06, 2018

EP Review: 'Excommunicate Me' by Wolves & Wolves & Wolves & Wolves

Title:  Excommunicate Me (BandCamp)
Artist:  Wolves & Wolves & Wolves & Wolves (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, BandCamp, Spotify)

Wolves & Wolves & Wolves & Wolves latest EP Excommunicate Me may very well be their best work to date, and that's no easy feat.  The band's last record, 2016's brilliant The Cross and the Switchblade was one of the best records of that year and their best release to that point.  Now two years later, the Winston-Salem, NC quartet comes crashing back with a devastatingly brilliant three-song EP.

Excommunicate Me opens with the poignant "Paradise is Burning," an anthem drawn from the pain of loss and disappointment.
I just don't know
how I should say this but it's been
killing me for years
my heart is buried there
deep inside the land where I shed
blood and sweat and tears 
I still smell the air
and feel the sun
hell it's burning through my veins
I'll make it back somehow
one of these days 
I can't explain
just how it feels when you can't
can't go home again
familiar faces gone
their smiles lost no longer where
they had always been 
paradise is fucking burning
and the hands of time won't stop turning
there was nothing I could do
I tied my hands behind my back
so bid farewell to the grove
it's nothing now but ash 
I just don't know
if I should say this but you've been
killing me for years
no one should die alone
not when they've given you
their blood and sweat and tears
The stark honesty is driven home by singer/guitarist Brian Woodall's guttural and impassioned delivery and the band's thundering pulse.  The EP's title track is next, another driving anthem that deals with that feeling of defeat one gets when they realize the things they were looking to for answers were never really there.
I begged for your embrace
I wished and wanted to curse you to your face
but my patience is long gone
I've got nothing left to say
and my lungs are numb
from screaming out your name 
I will never say another prayer again 
answers never come
I'm just another one of your long forgotten sons
take away the pain
or take me as I am
but my eyes are tired
and I've wept all I can 
all I wanted was a sign of life
some proof that you might care
have all my pleas and all my desperate cries
just fallen on deaf ears or are you even there
The EP closes out with an acoustic version of the song "Black Drink Singer" which originally appeared on 2014's Subtle Serpents.  The softer take reveals a new level of vulnerability and intensity to the song and showcases how the band has grown in the last four years.

While the themes on Excommunicate Me tend to land on the dark side of things and are obviously born out of a frustration with the state of the world, the record never falls into despair.  The darkness of the words is juxtaposed by the buoyancy and exhilaration that the music evokes.  There is a balance, a yin and yang to this record that not only makes it work but makes it truly something special.

Wolves & Wolves & Wolves & Wolves live in that same space as bands like Nothington, Red City Radio, and post No Division Hot Water Music, taking gruff vocals and mixing them with delicious hooks and harmonies, big choruses, giant riffs, hardcore intensity, and pop sensibilities creating a sound that is larger than life and made to fill the largest of arenas.  This is truly great this is truly great rock 'n' roll music.  No limitations, no filters, no b.s., this is simply some of the best rock 'n' roll going today.  WOOOOO!!!

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Currently Listening

1.  "Plainsong" by The Cure (from Disintegration)
2.  "We Are One" by Floating In Space (from Dreamland)
3.  "Paying off the Happiness" by illuminati hotties (from Paying off the Happiness)
4.  "Take Away" by Kate Nash (from Yesterday Was Forever)
5.  "Mango" by Dag Nasty (from Four On The Floor)
6.  "Not Enough" by The Maple State (from The Things I Heard at the Party)
7.  "Don't Bother Me" by The Odd Numbers (from About Time)
8.  "Stronger Than You Know" by Northcote (from Hope Is Made of Steel)
9.  "Stars Align" by Belly (from Stars Align)
10.  "Intact" by Ned's Atomic Dustbin (from Are You Normal?)
11.  "Are You Drinkin' with Me Jesus?" by Jello Biafra & Mojo Nixon (from Prairie Home Invasion)
12.  "Having An Average Weekend" by Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet (from Savvy Show Stoppers)
13.  "Hey Sandy" by Polaris (from Music from The Adventures Of Pete & Pete)
14.  "Twin's Twist" by The Sidekicks (from Twin's Twist)
15.  "My Own Grave" by This Obsession (from A Confrontational Effort)

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Guest Review: Astro City: The Tarnished Angel is an adult graphic novel full of Greek pathos and grit.

Astro City comics, by Kurt Busiek, are at their best when they are telling human, not superhuman, stories.  One of the first stories to really hit home was in Volume 1, Life in the Big City.  Titled “Dreams,” it featured a character named The Samaritan most would identify as a superman archetype.  He is completely self-sacrificing and never finds a moments rest while trying to stop all the world’s calamities.  However, we are given a glimpse at just how ordinary his emotions are when we find him lamenting the opportunity to have a moments peace and just enjoy flying.

Astro City: The Tarnished Angel is an even better example of a human story.  It features an ex-con, SteelJack, with plenty of muscle and bullet-proof metal skin, who has just gotten out of prison.  He is trying to go straight; all he wants is work and a simple life.  The story opens with his release, and you immediately understand how simple is going to be difficult for him.  His physical attributes make him stand out. People immediately recognize him, know his past, and are nervous around him.  In addition, he gets a visit from The Samaritan who tells SteelJack that he will be watching him.  As The Samaritan flies off, SteelJack thinks:
“An all I can do is watch him go, soaring off all graceful an’ free like he belongs in the sky, like he’s some kinda—some kinda angel. And I wonder what it would be like. Just once, to do that. To just go, like a dream, like magic, like a miracle—instead o’ being stuck here on the ground, eight hundred pounds of ugly metal nobody wants or needs.”
On top of this, he carries the weight of a mother’s disappointment and a young man’s life on his shoulders; he once shot a kid named Jose.  Out of prison, he goes to visit both of their graves, apologizing to each of them.  He always wanted to buy an angel to put atop his mother’s gravestone, but could never afford one.  He lays on the ground awhile, atop his mother’s stone which has been knocked over, but the ground is even colder for someone with metal skin.  Finally, he gets up and attempts to fix her stone:
“I prop it up, fix it as best I can, but it still looks broken—and I look around at the busted trees, and the scarred-up ground—and I think about what’s on the plate for tomorrow—and the old feelings are still there. I just want to run far and fast, and get away—but I been runnin’ all my life now—and I’m still in the same place…”
SteelJack’s desperation, his desire to escape his life, his place, everything, and start over, is a feeling everyone has had at some point. 

Eventually, SteelJack does find a job within his old neighborhood, Kiefer Square, although it means associating with known felons (a parole violation).  He is hired by the families of other felons, villains, who are being murdered.  Law enforcement really doesn’t care to help since these are known felons, but the families care. They hire SteelJack to find out who is killing them, why, and to put a stop to it. 

However, SteelJack is no Batman detective.  He fails to stop the murders, and doubts he has what it takes to ever make a difference:
“I can’t do this. I’m just muscle and bulletproof skin—there’s nothing inside. No brains, no courage, nothing. I don’t even know what questions to ask, even if people’d listen to me. I head back to Kiefer Square, planning to tell everyone I’m quitting, that I’m not up to the job they gave me. It’s not like they don’t know it already.”
SteelJack with find himself on the wrong side of the law, battling both heroes and villians, and facing more time in prison as a result of his detective job.  He’ll ask for help from both sides of the law, even appealing to the superheroes, angels as he calls them.  Finally, SteelJack comes to understand one thing about the whole situation:
“The angels failed me. Kiefer Square’s got only one chance left. And it ain’t much of one, Lord knows. But I’m all they got. And I’m hundreds of miles away, and it’s all going down tonight. So I better get moving.”
On top of a great story, the art is very well-done in this graphic novel.  SteelJack is drawn so well; the facial expressions are outstanding and weariness around his eyes speaks volumes.  The entire art staff should be proud of this one.  Astro City: The Tarnished Angel is a great read about a former villain, an aging tough, who is trying to do one thing right in a city where all he’s ever done is wrong.

This review originally appeared on ...and he reads.

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