janradder: (watt)
It's a common misconception that punk rock equates with an inability to actually play your instrument. Some, in fact, play far better than any mainstream rock musician (hello Mike Watt). Not to say that all punkers are virtuosos, but many are (or, at the very least, they're damn good at what they do). That said, there's a certain attitude in punk -- the explosiveness, the volume, the energy, the fuck-you, or I-don't-give-a-shit stance -- which sometimes gives the impression of musical incompetence. To me, punk is at its best when it straddles those two lines of musicianship and ineptitude. For example, you've got a guitarist who can pretty much make his guitar do whatever he wants -- scream, sing, wail, cry, rage, howl, destroy, shred -- and you combine him with a drummer who pretty much just beats the living shit out of his drums -- sort of like, "you got your chocolate in my peanut butter." That would be No Age.

In person, said guitarist looks a little like he could be Thurston Moore's ugly little brother (plays a lot like him, too) while the drummer looks sort of like some dork who sat in the back of your school math class reading Dune under the table. Sonically, think of Dinosaur jr. and Sonic Youth mating and giving birth to a child who grew up listening to nothing but Black Flag and 80's Manchester bands. Visually, they 're a bit of a psychedelic mind screw -- not as much as the Butthole Surfers are, but then, no one is as much of a mind fuck as the Surfers, but they definitely have fun messing with your head.

So you've got loud guitars, loud drums, lots of distortion, pounding, throbbing beats, brain fever inducing visuals played out on a white backdrop behind the band, crazy synthesized effects, and intense wall-of-noise freakouts. Add to that slam dancing in the crowd, an awesome cover of Black Flag's "Six Pack" (and yes, for a moment, it felt a little like 1986 in the pit), and leaping, shaking, sweaty bodies in nearly constant motion like overheated atomic particles and you have yourself a show that put the punk back in punk rock. Which is something sadly missing in much of today's music. They certainly bring it live, whatever "it" is, and that's something not a lot of bands do now. Do yourself a favor and go see No Age. Now. Then thank me in the morning.

As an aside, local (meaning Minneapolis) punks, The Blind Shake, played one of the best sets I've seen from an opening band in a long time. Picture three bald guys playing cro-mag punk, á la Sebadoh's Eric Gaffney, with plenty of jumping, leg kicks, and knocked over mic stands. Good stuff.
janradder: (watt)
In the days before the Internet just about the only way you were ever going to hear anything other than Hall and Oates, Journey, Van Halen, or whatever other dreck the radio played was by finding a tiny independent record store and walking through its doors. There, in the usually cramped confines, you'd make your way through aisles of vinyl while the clerks blasted something by the Misfits or X or Hüsker Dü or some other band you'd probably never have heard of if you hadn't just walked into the store at that very moment. You'd find a spot in front of a bin and start flipping through LP's, listening to the sound the shrink wrap made as you looked at each album cover, reading the title, studying the band's name, and imagining what was held inside.

In front of you was an undiscovered world of music, just waiting for you to take it home. Your mind swam with the seemingly endless choices at your fingertips: Black Flag, Big Black, the Decendents, the Dead Kennedys, Dinosaur jr., the Feelies, the Gun Club, the Jam, the Minutemen, the Meat Puppets, Mission of Burma, Minor Threat, Naked Raygun, the Replacements, R.E.M., Sonic Youth, Saccharine Trust. Your head ached with the weight of the decision before you. In fact, you could almost feel the ten dollars in your pocket begging you to pick the right record -- to buy that perfect album that you knew rested somewhere in one of those bins, the one that when you brought it home and slapped it on your turntable would utterly and irreversibly change your life. You knew that once you'd heard the music it held, you could never look at the world in the same way again.

If it weren't for places like Phoenix Records in Waterbury, CT (still around, minus the Professor) or Rhyme's in New Haven (sadly, no longer with us) I wouldn't have known about even half the music I love, and my life wouldn't be anywhere near as rich as it is. So today on Record Store Day, go and show a little love to your own local independent record store and buy that CD or LP you know is waiting for you -- the one that's going to change your life -- and thank the clerks for helping to keep good music alive. Because if it wasn't for them, a lot of those bands you love might still exist, but you'd have probably never heard of them.
janradder: (Default)
It's an odd feeling to be standing in a crowd and waiting to see a band play when you realize that not only are you the oldest person there, but you're more than likely the only person there whose age is north of twenty-three. It's a little like being the dad who accompanies his son to his first concert. He stands around with kids less than half his age looking uncool and feeling out of place as he realizes that the youth of today have their own culture and behaviors completely separate from his.

That was me Monday night at the 7th Street Entry when I went to see Titus Andronicus. And that feeling only increased when the band took the stage and started playing their first song.

In case you've never heard Titus Andronicus, they sound a lot like Bruce Springsteen if he were born in 1985 and raised on a steady diet of hardcore punk and Henry Miller. They rage, they scream, they spew out sloppy chunks of melted asphalt ripped straight from the Garden State Parkway that they kick up as they barrel down the highway doing eighty and leaving long streaks of paint and metal each time they sideswipe the barriers along the median. At the Entry, the band's singer stood onstage wearing his heart not on his sleeve but on his chest in the form of a hand-made Black Flag T-shirt, and with the first chords and the first pounding drumbeats, they churned out a raging punk rock assault that stormed off the stage to shatter against the back walls of the club. Which is why as they played all I could think was who could not want to slam to this music?

Apparently, the answer was the kids around me. They stood anchored to one spot, staring at the floor and shaking their heads and like spastic rag dolls. Inexplicably, they'd stop one by one, even though the band was still playing, and stare at the musicians for a few moments before going into another seizure. Occasionally, someone would accidently knock his neighbor with a flying arm or head, and then move over a little so as not to do it again. I started to pogo and bump into the people next to me, and when I did, the kids around me gave me a look that said I'd crossed some sort of mutually agreed upon line. Apparently, accidentally nailing the guy behind you with your flailing head is okay but intentionally bumping into the people around you as you jump around is being a jackass.

So I listened to the band as I avoided the jerking limbs of the kid in front front of me, and I watched the audience around me. Each one stood apart from the rest, engulfed in his or her own personal moment, shaking and trashing to the music. It was as if every kid were wrapped in his or her own pod so that nothing else existed beyond its walls. Which, in a way I realized, is kind of how most people go through their lives nowadays.

We've got cell phones and iPods and laptops, and through them we supposedly connect into a larger world. Instead, we exist apart from one another, chatting on the phone as we ignore the cashier who rings up our purchases, listening to headphones to shut out the lives around us, reading news feeds, Facebook updates, and blogs within a virtual world while we ignore the one outside. Like the kids at the show, we dance alone in our cocoons, oblivious to the people around us unless one of them knocks into us and breaks our illusion of solitude.

It might come across as sounding like an old fart reminiscing about the old days when I say this, but so what: Shows were better when kids slam danced. And here's why -- when there was slam dancing, even if you weren't there in that pit, there was no way you could ignore the people around you. You helped pick up the kid next to you that some asshole had knocked over after you shoved the asshole back into the pit. You watched for the stage divers not only so they wouldn't accidently kick you in the head when they jumped but also so you could catch them before they hit the floor. You pogoed with the crowd, bouncing off your neighbors, feeling the sheer exhilaration and joy of being alive. Going to a show was a shared, communal experience, regardless of whether you knew a single person there, and for however long a band was on the stage, you became part of a larger world.

Maybe I'm wrong -- maybe the kids at the Titus Andronicus show did feel like they were connected to one another, and maybe just I don't get it because I'm not eighteen anymore -- but I don't think so. Then again, most generations think they had it better than the younger ones. Still, I can't help thinking our lives might be richer if there was a little more slam dancing in them, if only because it would force us look up from the floor and see the world around us for a moment. At least then we'd know for sure if we really were missing out on something or not.
janradder: (axe man)
But have fun while doing it:

janradder: (Default)
My boys are upstairs arguing about whether or not Hüsker Dü just screamed words ("Well, they screamed different words," Arie said, "not just the same word over and over." "No, but they were just screaming," insisted Éiden.). From there they went on to arguing if there was a band called Sugar and if it was Grant Hart or Bob Mould who was in that band, and whether or not either one of them just had a band without a name.

(In the end, I set the straight. And I have to say, I'm kind of happy they were so passionate about their geeky argument. Now they want to see a video of Pete Townshend smashing his guitar.)
janradder: (watt)
Imagine if R.E.M., Hüsker Dü, and Minor Threat all go together to form a band. You'd have the mid to late eighties Annapolis band, the Hated. With guitar riffs and bass lines reaching amphetamine-level speeds while a drummer pounded out a skanking hardcore beat and a pair of singers shouted, screamed, sang and harmonized as if they only had seconds left to live, this is what emo was before it was co-opted and distorted by pop-punk posers who then turned it into a dirty word (or at least a lame-ass musical genre).

If you're looking for more after hearing these small samplings, this blog post has it all.


Mar. 4th, 2010 11:09 am
janradder: (charlie brown)
You are a huge Hüsker Dü fan and you've literally been dreaming of their reunion for years. You go to see Bob Mould with your friend, a fellow Hüsker fanatic, and when Bob comes out for an encore, he steps out onto the stage with Greg Norton and Grant Hart. The three of them begin plugging in instruments and you and your friend grin at each other from ear to ear because the two of you are both there to witness this event. The Greg sits behind the drum kit, Bob and Grant both pick up microphones, and they start to sing Broadway show tunes. That was my dream last night.
janradder: (axe man)
This Devo Color Survey is all kinds of awesome. Do your duty now for the future and take it.
janradder: (watt)
The Leaving Trains

By 1987, SST Records had gone from being a tiny label that putting out a few amazing bands to one that seemed to put out a seemingly limitless supply of dreck that everyone else was wise enough to pass up on (like Zoogz Rift, Tom Troccolli's Dog, Painted Willie and a host of others equally dreadful). That's why when a band called the Leaving Trains put out an LP titled Kill Tunes on SST, I passed it by without a second thought as I flipped through the stacks, relegating it in my mind to land of records best left unheard. But when a friend gave me their second LP, Fuck, I realized how wrong I was.

With blistering guitars, pounding drums, a thumping bass and a cross-dressing singer, the Leaving Trains put out one of the best records of 1987 and barely anyone noticed (though Tom Waits did cite them in a NME interview as one of his favorite bands along with the Pogues and may or may not have referenced their frontman, Falling James, in "Gun Street Girl"). The record veers from amped up punk to softer moments that recall the Velvets on their self-titled third album, and fits in with L.A. peers like X and the Gun Club.

Unfortunately, Falling James (the band's founder) has always had a penchant for dumping band members, so it's been rare for any one lineup to have lasted for more than one album, which has led to a lot of inconsistency and may be why the band has never gotten more recognition. Their follow up to Fuck, for instance -- Transportational D. Vices, with a third configuration in jut as many LP's -- is nowhere near as good as its predecessor.

Here's the lead track from Fuck (retitled "Temporal Sludge" from "Temporal Slut" in what I assume was an effort to get more MTV air play:

janradder: (Default)
Top 5 Albums I Love But Used to Hate

There are certain records that seem almost like wine or whisky -- the first time you hear them there's something off putting about them. They grate, they annoy, they make you hate the artist who recorded them -- they can even make you hate the person who introduced you to the record in the first place, at least while the damn thing is playing. Put them away, though, and let them age, then bring them back out a few years later (hell, maybe even fifteen or twenty years later) and suddenly this album that you couldn't bear listening to is pure genius and you wonder what it was that made you hate it so all those years back. Here's my list of my favorite of those albums:

1. Public Image, Ltd. Second Edition
I wish I could say that I'd been a cool high school kid who went around listening to Second Edition while everyone else bopped their heads to Huey Lewis, but I can't. I'd listened to PiL before -- they were my favorite band, in fact. I'd even loved their supposedly unlistenable Flowers of Romance. So when I got this double LP I was nearly beside myself in anticipation with the aural delights I was about to hear. Instead, what I heard was dull, repetitive bass lines, guitar parts that seemed to veer off on tangents that shouldn't be there, and the horrible caterwauling of John Lydon. I listened to it a few times then stuck it in my record collection where it sat untouched for years. Then, a couple years back, I pulled it out again, just to see if it really was as god-awful as I'd remembered, and a funny thing happened -- the dull, plodding bass became a thundering foundation upon which the guitar was free to clash and twist or shimmer upon, while the whiny drone of John Lydon became a voice in the darkness guiding you through shadows into corners and closed doors. And when that happened, this record didn't leave my turntable for a month.

2. Hüsker Dü, Land Speed Record
Again, a band I loved. My mom gave this record to me for Christmas when I was sixteen or seventeen, and my best friend was jealous when she did because we'd both heard how fantastic is was. Then I played it. And, dear god. It was two long songs, one on each side. I couldn't understand a word anyone was saying. I couldn't hear notes. Or a rhythm. Or anything, really, except a buzzing guitar and crashing drums that seemed to have nothing to do with the music being played. I put the record on a tape with a bunch of other records and I stuck the tape in the car. Almost each time I played the tape and it got to Land Speed Record, I'd fast-forward past it (unless I was driving through my hometown of Cheshire and I'd roll down the windows of my Chevette and crank it as loud as it would go just to annoy anyone nearby). But then I started to make out the notes, and the rhythms, and the harmonies, and though I still couldn't understand much of what the band was saying it didn't matter because I was hooked. I don't know if I'd say it was Blue Öyster Cult on amphetamine like Mike Watt has described it, but it really doesn't matter because it's one of the few hardcore records I can put on today and still enjoy.

3. The Modern Lovers, The Modern Lovers
In college I had a roommate from the Boston area who was obsessed with Jonathan Richman. Lord knows why, because all I heard was a guy who couldn't sing and who could barely play guitar. My roommate would play "I'm Straight" and I'd bury my head under a pillow wondering if this was some sort of torture he'd devised to get revenge on me for asking him to wash his dishes. Several years later, I heard Jonathan on the radio. I don't know if it was because I was feeling homesick for New England, or if it was something else, but there was something in the sincerity of Jonathan's ineptness that struck a chord with me. I wanted to cruise past the Stop & Shop with my radio on and declare in a nasally voice that I'm not stoned like Hippy Johnny. I wanted to be dignified and old and walk past the Fenway wishing for a girlfren. Jonathan had finally won me over.

4. Talking Heads, More Songs About Buildings and Food
I was fifteen and working as an assistant editor on Psychos in Love when Gorman, the director of the film, played this record for me. All summer long, he and my friend Matt and I had been exchanging records. Sometimes (like us with Hüsker Dü and he with the Jam) there was success. Other times, like with this god-awful record, there was not. Why did I hate this record? Well, part of it was that it was a dance record, and being a hardcore punk rocker in 1986, for me, meant thinking that anything even remotely danceable was complete and utter crap. But there was something more that I couldn't quite put a finger on. I tried listening to this one many years later when I picked it up at a used record store, and it still did nothing for me. Then I bought a new record cleaner and started slowly but methodically going through my collection with it. When I got to MSABAF, I put it on, and was shocked when instead of a clinically cold guitars like I'd remembered, I heard a skiffling drum and riffing guitar that stuttered along beneath David Byrne's spasmodic voice. I felt something grab at my chest and pull me and implore me to jerk and gyrate and hop to this beat. And then, before I knew it, I was.

5. Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, Trout Mask Replica
Trout Mask Replica is notorious for driving it's listeners away, and I knew this going in. I'd already listened to a few other Beefheart records and I thought I knew what I was getting into, but when I put the needle to the vinyl, there was nothing that could have prepared me for what I heard. The music wasn't just oddly rhythmic, it was arrhythmic. Not one instrument or voice seemed to have any clue as to what the other instruments or voices were playing, and Captain Beefheart himself would start and stop and restart lyrics in mid-sentence and song because he hadn't gotten it quite right at first. In between songs were these weird utterances about the mascara snake. The record was as appealing as the dead carp Don Van Vliet wore on the cover. The record was wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. But I couldn't give up on it because I'd read too many praises of it, and I was sure there must be something I was missing. I pulled it out again on a bright winter afternoon and slapped it on the turntable. Then I lay on the couch and listened to it as it played, trying to let go my preconceptions of what a record or a song should be. And as I did, I realized I'd been wrong about the record's arrhythmic quality. It wasn't that there was no rhythm -- it was just that the rhythm was quite unlike anything I'd heard before or was used to. And with that the rest of the album started to fall into place, and even if it didn't make sense in a traditional sense of the word, it made sense in its own logic. If that makes any sense.
janradder: (Default)
Ok, here's the deal -- I really hate asking for money but I'm going to do it anyway because it's for a movie I'm working on. So, if you're a fan of the Replacements or if you just like the idea of supporting indie filmmaking we've got a Kickstarter page for Color Me Obsessed that has been raising money for the movie over the past month and a half or so and it's only got 5 more days to go.

For thirty bucks you can get a DVD of the film a year before anyone else and see your name in the credits. For fifty you get the same along with a poster and for a hundred you get the DVD, your name in the credits, the poster and Color Me Obsessed T-shirt. You can also give more and see your name under the title Associate or Executive Producer, depending on the the amount.

Whatever we raise will help with travel expenses for when the crew comes out to Minneapolis so we're hoping to get enough to at least cover the trip (as for salaries, we're all working for free unless the movie makes any money, in which case we all get a percentage). If you'd like more information you can check out the official website, which has links to our blog and our Facebook page (as well as a link to a video tease of one of our first interviews).

And if you'd like to help us out, here's the Kickstarter page.

janradder: (Default)
Top 5 Worst Christmas Songs Ever
They are the songs that each year make you question your belief in God and the goodwill of humankind. They are the songs that had Ebenezer Scrooge had them at his disposal, would have enabled him to turn every one of his relatives, acquaintances, and business associates against the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future -- yes, even Tiny Tim. Without further ado, cover your ears and shut your eyes -- here are the worst Christmas songs ever.

1. "Wonderful Christmas Time," Paul McCartney
One of pop music's laziest songwriters writes one of the most horrid holiday songs of all time. Despite his insistence that we're "simply having a wonderful Christmas time" (and he insists it again and again and again and again and again and again, ad infinitum), with this as your Christmas soundtrack, your Christmas time will be anything but. Listen and weep, for upon hearing it once, it shall be stuck in your head for now and evermore.

2. "Funky, Funky Xmas," New Kids on the Block
Just by the album's cover you know it's gotta be both fun and funky, right? Wrong. Very, very wrong.

3. "Happy Holidays," Andy Williams
Because the abomination that is Andy Williams is a gift that keeps on giving, it's hard to pick just one Andy Williams Christmas song for this list. This takes the title if only because of that droning, tuneless "Happy Holidays" that both starts and ends this horrible Christmas dirge.

4. "Carol of the Bells/ Jingle Bells," Barry Manilow
As with Andy Williams, there is a special place reserved in hell for Mr. Barry Manilow, and his contributions to the Catalog of Christmas Bad Cheer are bountiful. Here, Barry decides to step away from his comfort zone of all-things-bland and "jazz" up his take on this Christmas staple with something that might be either his attempt rapping or a sort of homage to Twiki from Buck Rogers and the 25th Century. Here it is, accompanied by a tap dancing mother and son.

5. "Feliz Navidad," Celine Dion
Looking for a way to suck all the joy and Christmas spirit out of room? Celine is more than happy to oblige. "Okay! Let's do it!"
janradder: (Default)
Top 5 Non-traditional Christmas Songs

1. "Just Like Christmas," Low
Between the jingling bells, the loud booming drums and chugging acoustic guitar, I can't help but feel happy each time I hear this song.

2. "Snoopy's Christmas," The Royal Guardsmen
I had this song on a Peter Pan 45 and listened to it over and over again. Even so, it was always a thrill to hear it on the radio each year.

3. "Father Christmas," The Kinks
The best rock-n-roll Christmas song ever. And socially conscious to boot.

4. "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)," The Chipmunks
According to Dr. Demento, Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. (aka Dave Seville) wrote this song when a Christmas display went up in his town a couple months early and his kids started freaking out in anticipation of December 25th. Whether that's true or not, having my own five year old who's been on the verge of exploding with excitement for Christmas since the middle of August, I can totally understand.

5. "O Holy Night," Unknown
Forgive me for this one. I know it's a traditional Christmas carol, it's just that this version is so damn beautiful it makes me cry each time.
janradder: (Default)
Top 5 Underground LP Covers from the 80's

Back in the day before before underground music was anything but, sometimes the only thing you knew about a band before you bought their record was the picture on the front. There was no internet to look bands up on and no local radio station spinning their songs (except maybe that college signal that only came in on your receiver on Tuesday afternoons at 3 PM when it was snowing and the moon was out), so unless your friend had already bought the LP, you flipped through stacks of vinyl at the record store literally judging the contents by their cover. With that in mind, here's my top five all indie record sleeves.

1. Black Flag, Damaged
They sound almost quaint now but in 1985, when I first heard them, I'd never realized that music could sound that angry, alive or frightening, nor that it could capture exactly how I felt at that moment in my life. The cover of this album, showing a pissed off Henry Rollins putting his fist through a mirror, captures that feeling perfectly.

2. Angry Samoans, Back From Samoa
A man in a rubber monster suit, a severed head, and squadron of WWII fighter planes soaring through the sunset -- what more could you ask for in the cover of a record that clocks in at a little over fifteen minutes and features songs like "My Old Man's a Fatso" and "They Saved Hitler's Cock."

3. Hüsker Dü, New Day Rising
A pair of dogs wade through the waters of Bare-Ass Beach in Minneapolis as a setting black sun shines down on them in the distance. The sonic assault of Hüsker Dü that lies therein matches that negative image of the skyline exactly -- stark, shocking, and intense, yet someone how vaguely familiar.

4. The Replacements, Let it Be
Four scruffy joes in Chucks sitting on a Minneapolis rooftop. The word iconic is used often and usually incorrectly, but if any album cover from the 80's deserves the title iconic, this is it. That the record in the sleeve is arguably the best of the band's career is not surprising in the least -- with a cover this good, it has to be.

5. The Minutemen, Double Nickels on the Dime
That the joke intended through the title and the cover is completely lost on most (it was making fun of Sammy Hagar's "I Can't Drive 55" -- full story here) really doesn't matter. Mike Watt's smiling eyes look back at you from the rearview mirror of his VW bug, inviting you to ride along with the band. And though the car's speedometer may read fifty-five leading you to think this might just be another typical drive, it's those eyes that promise to take you on a trip down side-roads and alleys you never knew existed.
janradder: (watt)
At their best Dinosaur jr. is a giant behemoth lurching across the aural landscape, pounding and surging like the ocean as they endlessly envelope you with waves of sonic sludge and propel you forward with them on their quest for ear-splitting mellifluous paradise. Last night there were times they reached that zenith, most especially on "I Don't Want to Go There," which they stretched from its LP-length eight minutes and forty-three seconds to something like fifteen or more, as well as "Kracked," which burned with an incendiary glory as J set fire to the very sound waves that plowed across the stage from his wall of Marshall stacks and Lou and Murph beat the last bit of life from their respective instruments.

It wasn't all great. At times they fell flat, such as on "The Wagon" which, especially paired so close to it, came across exactly as what it is -- a lukewarm rehash of "Freak Scene." For most of the night, though, we were there with them, strapped to the top of their lumbering beast, riding along and watching as they trampled through the underbrush, leaving behind a wake of smoldering ozone in the slipstream.
janradder: (watt)
Top 5 Shows I've Seen

Inspired by this recent entry by [livejournal.com profile] joelarnold, I thought I'd make my own list of the best shows I've seen.

1. Hüsker Dü at the Ritz, NYC (October 17, 1987)
The only reason I remember the exact date was that it was Bob Mould's birthday. They opened with "New Day Rising" and went straight into "Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill." Bob looked like he was going to fly of the stage the way he lunged and lurched, pulled along by his Flying V, as a barefoot Grant screamed and pounded his drums and Greg bounced around wearing a Twins cap (it was the first night of the World Series, and the band didn't go on until they'd watched the Twins defeat the cards in Game 1). The two highlights of the night were "Divide and Conquer," which they closed their first set with, and "Keep Hanging On," which they started their last encore with (you can hear it on the live cd, The Living End). As they started playing the latter song, Grant yelled out, "Happy Birthday, Bob!" and a shower of silver confetti sailed through the air, catching the light as it sparkled and glimmered to the floor and surrounded a beatifically smiling Bob in a sea of glittering stars. Twenty-two years later, this is still the best show I've ever seen by any band, bar none.

2. Uncle Tupelo at the CBGB's Record Store Annex, NYC (Fall, 1989)
Grant Hart was supposed to play this show but pulled out at the last minute. I didn't find that out until the day of the show, though, after my friend Matt had travelled from Connecticut to see him. With nothing else to do, we went to the show anyway. It was part of the yearly CMJ music festival and because of that, each show was filled with a ton of artists. This one happened to be kind of lame, with Roger Manning (the anti-folk singer, which meant that he played folk music with an acoustic guitar but did it loudly) and John Wesley Harding (whose stage presence made up for the mediocrity of his songs -- he really was quite funny). Now in New York, there are warm-up bands just like everywhere else, but if you stay after the headliner, you'll usually see the warm-down band. In some cases, it's a lame little known band that you'd just as soon forget. In other cases, it's a band destined for something better than a 3 am time slot in a tiny club. When Uncle Tupelo came out, we expected to see crap. After all, they had no records, were from Missouri or Illinois or some other fly-over state, and they had a really dumb name. But goddamn could they rock. I'd never heard anything quite like them, and though they only played to a handful of us, they left it all out on the stage that night. Afterward, my friend and I went to talk to them (all right -- we went to rant and rave to them about how awesome they were) and were doubly surprised by how nice they were. A year later, we saw them in Amherst, Mass. where they got my friend in for free because he'd left his ID at home and dedicated the set to him.

3. Butthole Surfers at the Lyric, NYC (Spring, 1990)
I saw them twice, and though the first show featured Gibby nearly setting fire to the ceiling of the Ritz (after the band had lit a total of nine guitars on fire and then promptly smashed each and every one), this one stands out more to me. Maybe it was the fact that they were playing in Times Square (before it had been cleaned up) or maybe it was the right combination of chemicals that night, but the show was one of the most organic, surreal experiences I've had. The highlight of the night was "Sweat Loaf" where instead of the "What does regret mean?" intro, Gibby ranted about how much he loved Pat Sajak and then a giant image of the Wheel of Fortune host flashed on the giant movie screen behind them, over and over.

4. Mission of Burma at First Avenue, Minneapolis (Fall 2002)
There are some bands who get back together after twenty years and when you go to see them, you think maybe they should have stayed broken up. This was most definitely not true of MoB. Yes, they played "That's When I Reach for My Revolver" and "Fame and Fortune." Yes, it was amazing to hear those songs and others played live. No, it was not a nostalgia trip -- they sounded as fresh and vibrant as any new band out there. For me, the highlight of the night was when they came out for an encore and started with "The Ballad of Johnny Burma." It felt like the band literally picked me up off my feet and threw me into a crowd of pogoers. It's one of the best music moments I've had this decade.

5. Delta Spirit at 7th Street Entry, Minneapolis (Winter 2009)
I almost didn't get to see this band because it was sold out five minutes after the doors opened (note to self: buy tickets in advance from now on). I walked around and rode light rail for about an hour and a half and then came back, hoping there might be some left over tickets because the woman at the door said there might. There weren't, but there was a group with an extra ticket who sold it to me, and I'm eternally grateful they did. The band was the pure essence of rock and roll is and can be -- shouting, yelling, rolling on the floor, jumping, lunging, screaming. The show ended with the singer jumping into the audience and grabbing people to get them to dance with him. As the PA came on playing someone else's song, he was still there, jumping and shouting in a throng of show-goers who'd just witnessed the promise of musical salvation.
janradder: (watt)
A few weeks ago I was asked to co-produce the first-ever documentary about the Replacements. The movie is called Color Me Obsessed and will tell the (potentially) true story of the Replacements through the eyes of their fans and fellow musicians. Like all films, we need money, which is why I'm posting about this.

The director of the film has set up a Kickstarter page to help raise that money. If you're interested in helping us out, you can do so for as little as $10 (and if you want to give more, at the $30 level, you can get yourself a nifty DVD screener of the finished film along with a "Special Thanks" in the end credits.)

Thank you for your patience. We will now return to our regular scheduled programming.
janradder: (watt)
Top 5 Favorite Replacements Songs

About a week ago a friend asked me if I would help co-produce a documentary about the Replacements and their fans called Color Me Obsessed. Because of that, I thought I'd do a list of my favorite Mats songs.

1. "Color Me Impressed"
It's not the first Replacements song I ever heard, but it's the first one that really stuck with me. It sounds like it should be an anthem, but between the sloppy guitars and drums and the sense of pathetic despair that Paul gives the lyrics, it's like an anthem to lingering despondency. Still, it never fails to quicken my heartbeat at the first sound of that fuzzy guitar intro.

2. "Unsatisfied"
I'm not sure if I've ever heard a song that better puts that feeling of indescribable restlessness and unease to music. At the same time, there's an unshakeable beauty to the song's malaise that keeps pulling me back to it, along with the sense that in spite of how bad things might get for the singer, he'll keep going on because there's nothing else he can do.

3. "Kids Don't Follow"
The song where the Mats try to out-Hüsker the Hüskers and pretty much succeed. That screaming guitar intro counterbalanced with that thumping bass line pounds away like a throng of punks swirling and slamming through a pit of humanity and sweat. The Replacements were never a hardcore band, but you wouldn't know it from this song.

4. "Go"
Another track off the Stink EP ("Kids Don't Follow being the other"). It has some of Bob Stinson's most inspired guitar work as well as one of Paul Westerberg's most anguished vocal deliveries. The bridge where Paul almost seems to plead with the woman/girl he's singing about to "stay and close your eyes" is simply beautiful, and it makes the return to the chorus that much more breathtakingly beautiful.

5. "Johnny's Gonna Die"
This song is here simply because it has my favorite Bob Stinson solo. The way Bob moves from that two note hammer that flutters through the ether into a grinding, raunchy lead never fails to hit me in the gut. And it does that because the juxtaposition of the two is so unexpected and out of the blue. It's the sort of thing that could only be done by someone who didn't give a shit or who just didn't know enough about music to know you aren't supposed to mix genres or moods like that. Some people called Stinson an idiot savant on the guitar and maybe he was, or maybe he just wanted people to think that. Either way, he was a hell of a guitar player and the Mats were never the same after he left.


janradder: (Default)

March 2012

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