There's a fine line that some music journalists ride that I often wonder whether it's a lie or they really grew up in the hippest parts of America and were listening to Pavement's Slanted and Enchanted before they even entered high school. Or were they listening to Tantric and Live, went to college and acted like the first 18 years of their lives never existed. I'm not sure if it's denial, or I just wasn't that cool when I was their age.
The thing is, I know I wasn't that cool. I still am not.
I remember you telling me what you told me. The first relationship I was ever in. I felt hurt. I felt angry. I told you to get out my car. I quickly sped off. For some reason, the speakers in my car wouldn't turn up loud enough. As I parked the car and walked back to the dorm, I heard you crying in the distance, calling out my name to talk. I didn't want to talk. You said enough for the both of us.
So as much as this past weekend has meant to me seeing bands like Braid, Refused and The Promise Ring. I discovered those bands late in high school or in the case of The Promise Ring, my formidable college years. To me, it doesn't make their music mean any less or more as to when I discovered the band. Each one is just another rung in the ladder.
What really got me this week was my fellow staffer and friend Ryan Gardner's review of Taking Back Sunday's Tell All Your Friends 10th Anniversary Tour here in Austin. Ryan and I have a very significant age difference sitting between us. So when I was in high school rocking out to one of our generation's most influential records, Gardner was nine-years-old. Honestly, I can't even remember what I was listening to when I was 9. Probably the radio? It was my last year of having Leukemia, so that part of my life is a blur in itself.
As my best friend since high school - who was in town for Fun Fun Fun Fest this past weekend - and I pushed through the crowd, there were a lot of young faces mixed with ones my age. Given the fact that Taking Back Sunday's original line-up is now back together, at the age of sixteen, I didn't even get a chance to see this moment until now. (Well, it should be noted that I've seen the guys play together twice since then, but to play an album like this all the way through, is a whole other level of nostalgia.)
I don't remember much from last night. I remember going to bed early, shutting the door to my room while the party continued in my apartment. Now as I'm getting up, I can hear you laughing from the other room. The room of my best friend.
There's something special about an album like Tell All Your Friends. It's a feeling that runs through records like Say It Like You Mean It, Sticks and Stones and all those other heartbreaking records as a teenager. There's probably a Fall Out Boy record in there for some of you. At least sixty percent of the Saves the Day catalog is just an uphill fight about love, loss, rejection and awkwardness. Then there's Deja Entendu, equally rotated with Friends in my younger years.
These albums stick just as much as Usher's Confessions or Copeland's Beneath Medicine Tree. Which, between them, they're the same record really.
What makes me wonder about the longevity of an album like Tell All Your Friends is why it has stuck for so long? Is it the anger and frustration felt through out? Is it everything we want to say, but lack of words thereafter? Is it that in the struggle of relationship after relationship, both platonic and romantic, we've already attached ourselves once to such a record, that it's a comforting reminder of sorts in the years to come? The fact that it stuck through a decade, kid after young kid, the same bullshit and the same feelings. It's incredible really.
I'm pretty exhausted from the weekend so far, but I'm leaning against this empty guitar cabinet thinking of us. Yes, yes Adam, that's exactly what I want to tell her. Now I'm belting it out. I'm 26 standing to the side of this young crowd, and I'm still singing out every perfect quip that I want to text her right now. I wonder when I'll grow out of this.
What really struck me is the look on Gardner's face after the show. It was like the look on my face after seeing Refused, Braid and The Promise Ring this weekend. I saw something I missed out on. Something that meant a lot to me for so many years that I never experience at the time I discovered it. While Refused never wrote an album about heartbreak and pulling yourself out of a personal ditch, each album you hear holds a significance for one reason or another. It could be a sound, it could be the musicianship, it could be the songwriting or it could be a feeling and attachment. There are records in my library that will always be cataloged to a moment in my life for better or worse. The coolest part is how it holds meaning to generations younger than me.
I think, well, what if I was a ladies man. Would all these records mean as much? Would they just be great records laced in excellent songwriting with no personal attachment? Does that make them better or worse then? Does that make me and millions of others understand them more or less than others? In the end, that attachment in any form makes for a special keepsake. That substance in music is why I keep trudging along writing these rants. Somewhere out there, there are a few people who get it, and my story doesn't seem as lame as it does inside my head.
I can feel you getting distant. I feel myself doing the same. The only thing I'll regret is that I never let you hold me back.
Last year I watched as three of the most influential bands of my youth called it a day. At the beginning of the year, RX Bandits announced their hiatus. Since most deaths happen in 3's - back to back, Thrice and Thursday decided to take their breaks as well. What I've been thinking about leading up to seeing Thrice's farewell show tonight in Austin is what each individual band has shown me. RX Bandits showcased the fact that some of the best bands can't be pinned down to any particular genre, combining many different elements to create a distinct sound. Thursday showcased an even level of anguish and beauty - something that has carried with me throughout my favorite bands. It's a band that has maxed out at both the heaviest elements and the most melodic (perfect example: "Past and Future Ruins").
Then there's Thrice. As I've talked about the idea of bands being challenging over the years within our spectrum of tastes - Thrice has certainly taken the reigns for me in that aspect when it comes to my favorite bands. I would jam a new RX Bandits or Thursday record for months on end when they were released. Thrice was a different story. It's not that their sound shifted so drastically between records, it's that each record truly had to marinate, cook on high and then allow my palette to absorb each flavor that every album had to offer. The crazy thing is, I'm unsure why exactly that even happened. As I listen to The Artist in the Ambulance now, I can rock "Paper Tigers" heavier than I ever did the day my friend bought the record for my birthday. It's a song way heavier than anything on The Illusion of Safety or the first time I heard "Phoenix Ignition" and my jaw dropped and wanted more. For some reason it took months to sink in. It took half a year to fully grasp Beggars and hearing the Major/Minor cuts live last Fall really breathed a different light into them that I was not seeing. It's a very bizarre concept, but I know it's not a concept that only effects my tastes as a listener - a staunch one at that.
It's hard for some to write punk rock forever. Thrice has easily been that band to shed light on that very idea. Here's a bunch of guys who were too technical for the mainstream for some, and sometimes a bit too mainstream for some of the underground. As they grew, fans either loathed the direction into the more conventional (yet never lackluster in structure) or opened up to what the band were growing into. That idea of being open to one's growth is very important in punk rock. It's an idea that you either learn or forever miss - and end up forever stuck listening to a small library of what you think you know, which actually is false. You become forever jaded in the past or stubborn to new elements in music you're simply dismissing. Again, I know because I've been through those motions many a time and fully regret it. It takes a big man to admit his close-minded behavior at a young age, and another to pass that knowledge along so it saves another generation from closing their doors on new ideas and progress outside of what the media and labels want to sell their bands as or who to sell their bands to.
As I'm sitting here late writing this up, my Facebook feed loaded up again, and my buddy Daniel posted something I thought was pretty special after he saw the band in Dallas last night…
If my blog a few nights ago seemed angry, it's because of sentiments like the one above. That's coming from a friend of mine and someone who's in two bands himself. That's not a writer who has some sort of "authority," it's just a person who feels passionate about music. Daniel is not only me, he's also you. His sentiments are your comments. It's your arguments. It's your attachment to something "special." To say something is "special" though is to say it contains depth and honesty in the music that is being sold to you rather than the image you are actually being sold to from media outlets, PR and management and the lackluster thereafter. I know it's a tired argument, but it's the truth that we subconsciously forget. Thrice isn't the only band. There are thousands that share the same spirit and another thousand that don't and somehow make it further to only become a mark of forgotten history.
Thrice has a been a band that taught me the payoff of being challenged by music. They gave me a decade of thinking and rethinking the elements of rock and roll. I know I've thrown around the word "post-hardcore" a lot and tried to pick apart and restructure what that term really means, but Thrice is definitely a contender along with bands like Cave In and Poison the Well who stepped out past their hardcore roots to make careers out of challenging their fans with what they could come up with next as a band. Like the aforementioned, they didn't fail many of us when showing us a new trick as they learned a few themselves each time around.
[writer's note:The views reflected in this editorial and any other are mine and mine alone. They do not reflect the opinions of any other staff members or Jason Tate with regards to any band or label mentioned from here on out. Thank you for reading. Always form your own opinion, don't let someone do that for you.]
Poison the Well's Versions is the band's best record.
There, I said it.
After going through the catalog again upon hearing the news this week that Poison the Well has "something" coming to us soon (according to Twitter - May 3rd), it immediately sent me digging through what I deemed the prime cuts from the guys. Poison the Well, like most of my favorite bands - and those celebrated mostly through a minority or majority cult worship - have an uneven discography. Every record sounds different than the last. If you think about the bands that matter - the ones that have really made their mark, whether it be a decade or more since their beginning and end - those bands in question took a lot of chances, and in retrospect, they fucking paid off. But the key term here is "retrospect," because when you hear something unexpected from one of your favorite bands, there's always this limbo that you sit in. It could last three months or it could last three days. Maybe it'll be three years later when you pick back up the record and go, "Oh fuck! This is incredible!" The time you hangout in the limbo between not getting it and that realization of getting it is what makes your palette of musical tastes quite special in itself. It's subconscious growth, and it's a beautiful thing to look back on.
Like I've spoken about in other write-ups, there is a challenge set in getting to that understanding. That challenge has to come from simply giving new music and new ideas a chance. You won't like everything you hear, but you also may find elements that carry over into what you do like from the aforementioned music for which you at least gave a listen to. It will be subtle as well. For example, I'm not a huge Death Cab For Cutie fan like most of my fellow writers and friends, but the catalog is quite solid for the sake of argument. If you shuffle through the best of it, there are some power ballads evenly mixed with a bit of screamo-octave chords riding in the band's earlier work (as pointed out by one of my friends who is a big fan since the beginning). While it's not a catalog I celebrate per se, there are elements in the band that I see in my favorite bands. Elements that are subtle pointillism of the overall picture, but when called out by others, you realize the connection. Again, Death Cab For Cutie is a band that hasn't really written the same record twice. They attempted new things and they either gained fans, lost them or subjected some to the "challenge" that I speak about.
Like I've said numerous times before, that challenge is the best thing about punk rock. The risks that are taken and the way bands blend their favorite music into the boiling pot of influential gumbo is what keeps music exciting for most of us. While JADEDPUNKHULK may or may not agree with me, the "punkest" thing you can do is your own thing - even if it doesn't work for everyone. While I've made many a joke and scoff at a lot of the music that passes as "hardcore" or "post-hardcore" in some of your heads - there's a majority of young minds out there that truly believe that The Bunny the Bear is the most revolutionary thing to them. For some reason, for some it's their, err, At the Drive In. For some people, the expectation for Bring Me the Horizon to be influenced by post-rock will bring this new generation a hopeful Oceanic of sorts. Hell, The Illusion of Safety probably boast more of an Until Your Heart Stops for my teen years than Until Your Heart Stops does for me as an album now - in retrospect. It's hard as critics - especially as we grow older - to say, "Okay, I see what you're doing there." Because back in the day, an older generation found the likes of 3OneG to be just a garbage pail of noise and the next generation thought Thursday was ripping off the Level Plane catalog. It happens in cycles, we grow older, and new music doesn't stick as well as when the first chord struck us. About once a month I hear a new band and say to myself, "Man, if this came out in 2005, this would be my favorite new band." For whatever reason, I'm over it. For whatever other reason, subconsciously, I'm not over the music I fell in love with in 2005. The paradox will have to be solved on another day though.
So, to get at the point I came in here to make - the other day, with two of my good friends, we took a listen to the new Skip the Foreplay album, Nightlife. To put it best from one of those friends, "Man, Brokencyde opened up a door that shouldn't have been opened," or "This sounds like Crazy Town." Why not, the opening track has to introduce the band through a soundbyte. WHO DOES THAT? Nu-metal rap-rock bands between the years 1998-2000, that's who! So either we've come full circle, or this album is the biggest troll since Lil B's Everything Based or anything 3OH!3 has ever released. The titles: "Dinner With Snooki" "Hangover" and the lovely "Date Rape Predator" - a song title fitting in a scene of stories fed through the now deceased Is Anyone Up? website. (I'm not accusing anyone in Skip the Foreplay of such accusations though, that's for Tumblr and scene girl tweets to handle.) Seriously, a few minutes into "Date Rape Predator," and there's a sample of a girl acting like she's been slipped something in her drink! WHAT?! UGH! FUCK! (throws hands in air) I can ignore the breakdown after breakdown. I can ignore the sing-scream combo that has been played out for years. I can ignore the aerobic stage jumps and crouches tied into every oncoming breakdown that leaves your band with no utter sense of dynamics within the plateau of sound that is your music. I can even ignore this dubstep shit you've added to give "texture" for lack of a better word. Listening to this album was the blade that cut the umbilical chord of my youth and left me balding, yelling at kids to "Be safe!" and "Don't do anything stupid!" What bothers me is that someone, somewhere (and I'm not calling out just Epitaph on this one) said, "Yes, let's put this out," without giving the public at least a ten page dissertation on how a band like Skip the Foreplay, The Bunny the Bear or I See Stars is furthering anything in music besides a headache and a target for a candid joke when there's not a good nu-metal one at the moment.
I read a great article by Chuck Klosterman the other day. He attended both a Creed and Nickelback concert in one night. Now, I know that's making a lot of your heads spin, but it's worth a read. Klosterman not only makes some great points about the hate of some and the packed arenas for others, he also snagged some definitive quotes from attendees who willingly bought tickets of their own will. The most interesting point brought up in the whole piece is how much we as listeners live in our own reality when it comes to enjoying any band in question by the rest of the general public. We ignore the flack (haterz gonna hate, amirite?), and we only take in what a band or song or album or lyric means to us and no one else. That unwavering point when critics' and the popular media's opinions don't matter is pretty special. A lot of factors go into your tastes besides the consumption of the vast medium of music itself: your personal life, your financial demographic, your exposure to city life versus the rural bumfuck nowhere and your friends and home life. No matter how much you want to deny it, at a young age you probably listened to some god awful shit, and unbeknown to you, whether it was a negative turned into a positive, it helped shape who you are and what you listen to today.
So before Skip the Foreplay or any of the bands mentioned sends me a letterbomb (I'll just start a podcast or something, but seriously, I'd like to keep my hands) - maybe it's me not recognizing that maybe, just maaayybeee, these bands could be the next Antioch Arrow for a new generation. Then again, I seriously doubt any of you know who that band was, so enjoy the good times while they last. As soon as all these fans of the present Warped Tour and Hot Topic crowd grow-up and discover the inner-twines of some indie dream-pop band or discover some back catalog worship of some powerviolence or math-metal act - then you're just some band that they used to know and love and ended up in used CD trade-ins or deleted MP3 files. I wouldn't be writing this if I didn't already live through the motions. As prominent as the idea is now, not every band is entitled to a reunion - or deserves one for that matter. The biggest reason for that is not every band can make a mark worth lasting not only a decade long, but generations of young minds at that. When it gets to simplicity, you, as a band and an "artist," have to ask yourself this: Am I a gimmick to turn a buck or am I at least being honest with what I do and am actually contributing to the greater good of the challenge I may indirectly set for my fans? As long as there's some sort of honesty between those drops and on-stage calisthenics, I'll keep my mouth shut until the next trend.
When does one person exceed the rest of the unit that makes up a team or a band or a company? With the unfortunate loss of the genius that was Steve Jobs, will Apple just level off like a consistent plain when it comes to new technology - never overly exciting us, but always keeping us attentive? Why is there so much press about a back-up quarterback last week? Why do publications with niches outside sports care about Tim Tebow in the Big Apple? Regimes change like fantasy drafts most every year, CEOs will always step down or be forced out of companies and if you've been following Chiodos over the past few years - you're familiar with the fact that bands also rotate members here and there, it's nothing new and has been going on in the punk rock scene for years. In the hype of whether Craig Owens will or won't return to front the band with the departure of Brandon Bolmer, I begin to wonder what makes one person's abilities outweigh the rest, and on what grounds - theirs or our own?
The additions, subtractions and multiplications and plain divisions of bands past and present is nothing new to any of us. Sometimes it's as positive and understanding as family, work or school. Sometimes it's about girls and drugs and going to jail - you know, tabloid shit we seem to care about more than that of the music. But I guess that's really a fuel to the industry fire of their old "no bad publicity," right? Honestly, what doesn't kill you can sometimes make you stronger depending on how you feel about a certain band's style. Depending on what album and at what age you've discovered said band - the whole damn thing is relative anyway. I'm sure, somewhere out there, there are a collective of people who agree that Chiodos' last album, Illuminaudio, is the best. Then there's the set of fans who've been there since All's Well That Ends Well. Those fans have probably taken their convictions with them in hearing both D.R.U.G.S. and Chiodos' most recent line-up.
What truly makes a band their strongest thought? Is it one person, or the collective of individual talents, and where does the majority put their focus on? I guess that depends on what you're into. From an outside view, the majority tend to think it's the vocal and lyricist end. Kids will follow Anthony Green anywhere. Some (unfortunately) have done the same with Jonny Craig in his move to Emarosa and back with Dance Gavin Dance. Others gave Aaron Gillespie a chance with The Almost. What we tend to forget is that a different band is a DIFFERENT band. It contains different members whose summary parts are different from the whole that you're familiar with when comparing them to their other bands. It would be dumb to compare Narrows to Botch or These Arms Are Snakes. There's a significant difference between the fun of Lifetime and the force of Paint it Black or Kid Dynamite. D.R.U.G.S. won't ever be Chiodos or Matchbook Romance or From First to Last or any of its members' pasts.
I also understand the longing for the original group of artists who presented you with something you continue to deem as special among the rest. The creation of anything still follows a timeline and each move defines generations to come. What if Keith Morris stuck with Black Flag, would Henry Rollins be an icon and would Circle Jerks not be another great edition to early '80s hardcore? If it were not for Milo walking away from The Descendants for a bit, we would not have another great band like ALL. At some point people accepted the past, but there will always be those who lived those initial moments of "glory" who will never get over it. When we found out that Taking Back Sunday was getting back together with its original line-up, we began to stack all our expectations like a thick structure of fortified brick and stubbornness. It led some people to be disappointed that five guys didn't write the same album they wrote when they were teenagers, but instead wrote an album from who they had become. Where does the subjective fault lie, in the band or in our degree of never letting go of a moment that many of us have sort of grown out of, but some will never admit and others will forever deny.
The exciting thing about change-ups is the product without expectation. Expectation is something we somehow can't seem to shake as listeners and fans. Everyone from the casual listener to the most die-hard has such expectations based on the music that meant a revolution per minute to them in the past. What we have to remind ourselves is that by taking different talents and rearranging them, we are continuing to challenge ourselves and to test the waters of our own pallet of tastes. Sure, it's not going to work all the time, but there's a layer of subjectivity in even saying that as well. What doesn't work for you, may be the greatest thing to others. Maybe those people didn't like band X or Y like you did, but the collaboration of members from both into band Z is exciting to them.
I could go on a whole other tangent about the consistency of line-ups and how it's worked for some bands and how they've evolved nicely among the original line-up - but that's another 1200 words off the subject of change. We have to learn to look at each band and each collective as something new and take it with that grain of salt first, without the expectations of our past getting in the way. If the past somehow reshapes itself into a familiar form - then what? Well, we need to still take it as a clean palette. A person writing something in their bedroom with no expectation at 17-years-old is not the same one under years of personal growth, artistic growth - hopefully - or even the everyday wonders of life we all face as humans.
Hypothetically, if tomorrow, Craig Owens announces he's been writing new material for Chiodos and will rejoin the band. Record in four months. Early next year there will be a release. What if it comes out the success you so want to see? Happy, right? What if it doesn't click? What if there's a loose connection? Ask yourself why that may be - is it the music itself or the fact you'll never be able to let go of something you continue to hold onto in the past? My bet is that it's the latter. Even I've found myself guilty of that more than once.
Sorry for the late response. I've been Robo-tripping a cold for the past two days and this morning I've felt the worse, and by that, I think my body is finally purging itself of the bulk of compression that's been sitting on my lungs for the past 24 hours. That said, I'm probably going to stay in this morning (going to try and suck it up and catch Narrows before heading to the show I'm putting on tonight.) Besides feeling like complete shit yesterday, the day wasn't a total bust - for the most part.
I woke up to go pick Eda and her friends up at the airport and after dropping them off I headed to the West side of town to catch fun. play a short performance. Now, what I'm about to say is going to be cruel, but it has to be said - so please just bare with me. fun.'s set was acoustic, and absolutely incredible. As far as vocalists go - not only in pop music, but in the contemporary in general, Nate Ruess is pretty untouchable. You can bitch all you want about the slight use of computers on the new record, but he certainly proves himself live. The band is tight as ever. Jack Antonoff can even solo pretty slick on that acoustic. To see such a great performance, boy did I have to sit through some horrible stuff. The opening band, I didn't catch their name, but the one who won the opening slot was pretty good. Loved the rhythms and vocal melodies. As a band who "got a shot at the big time" they were better than what followed. Even as I was well over light-headed from the quarter of bottle of Tussin I had before heading to the showcase, the next three acts either bored me with washed out electronic antics or unmoving songwriting. I attended the whole show with Cameron (cameronisonfire) and I think he said it best, "It's like mainstream pop is trying to grasp the indie sound." It's weak, and not even an overdosge of "purp" could make it sound better.
The night was a way better story. I was helping Keith Latinen put on his Count Your Lucky Stars Showcase. Like Topshelf the night before, there was a ton of "community" (don't forget, it returns tonight) felt across the room. Whether it was the local support of bands like football, etc. or the newest signings from Texas - Innards and Two Knights - about 200 kids both inside and watching from the open window outside - you could feel the intensity that again, away from all the "official," there was something a group of people felt more special about. It doesn't just go for this show, but any show held outside the "official" perimeters of South by Southwest - from warehouses to coffee shops. South by Southwest isn't about where your badge or wristband can get you, it's simply about where you are in the moment. I know most of the bands and have seen just about everyone on last night's roster, but I do want to point out how Mountains For Clouds blew me away. First time seeing them and hearing them and it was one of the best performances of the week so far.
There's one disconnect I wanted to point out about last night that sort of irked me. I was really stoked to have Chris Simpson's new band Zookeeper play (Mineral, The Gloria Record), as well as Bob Nanna and Lauren LoPiccoo close out the night. I have respect for all these guys for what bands they were in and what bands came after. Besides us older guys and the rest of the bands, both acts had some of the smallest crowds of the night. Maybe I've reached the age where there is a disconnect now from generation to generation, but it just sort of bummed me out. So maybe this is just me being an elitist or someone stuck in the past, but don't forget where your favorite bands took their influence from and I would encourage to catch these special performances when you can.
I'm going to rest up and head out to see Narrows in a few hours. Hopefully I'll be better tomorrow. Shirts For a Cure, Sargent House and the site showcase - tomorrow is packed and I can't wait!
I often wonder what sort of mentality it takes for an artist (solo and band alike) to make it in this industry. I'm not just speaking in terms of how good your PR person is or if your manager has an "in" with the biggest festivals or if a "golden" award means anything beyond the 15 minutes it really holds weight. I'm speaking more of the thousands of bands that start out with the mentality of "Fuck yes, let's do it!" and then one day decide that what they started must be put down. There's a lot of variables in hanging up your guitar on the wall and entering the "real world" of shifting your part time job - when not on the road - into a full time job of the American dream, whatever that may be these days. That sort of mentality doesn't always have to be negative though. There are "family" elements and "career" choices well past living on the road and never becoming the larger element (or even stable one at that) you eventually want to become - that subconscious mindset since the beginning. Many have tried, but few have been able to live that dream while (a) keeping a stable and lengthy bout of integrity and (b) not becoming a shell of their former self or a nostalgic joke.
Two horses need to be beaten before I continue though. One, for each band's case, longevity doesn't have to mean that a band has to last a decade, in some cases it could be anywhere from a couple of months to a handful of years with less than three releases under their belt - which brings us to two, the subjectivity and impact of a band lies in the numbers of listeners they impact. The footprint left by any artist is decided on by a variable no one really has any control over and is constantly changing with each release as artists everywhere grit their teeth when an album leaks (because let's face it, who makes it to that big Tuesday nowadays?) I've had numerous discussions with friends about how some of our favorite bands today are only known by a small group of followers or other bands - not the mainstream or any sort of large majority. On paper, it looks as if they're failing, but in the cult minority, they could be gods among those listeners and will continue to resonate years later to future generations. Look no further than eBay auctions for a particular vinyl from a band that were mocked at the time by many a casual listener or self-absorbed critic.
In watching The Felix Culpa's documentary last night, all these thoughts just sort of overwhelmed me. While To We, The Nearly Departed is a short chronicle featuring a pacing of live footage from the band's final show at The Metro in Chicago and interludes of interviews and stock footage from the band's past, to me, it was more a quick retrospective of how a great band can come and go with a snap of a finger or changing musical landscape. I would certainly put The Felix Culpa in that category of a band people either got or didn't grasp fully. For those that didn't, maybe the songs were "too long" or there wasn't a "hook" that got stuck in your head for days. For those that did get it, there was a reason behind it: it was a band outside someone's normal taste, it had sentimental value in the lyrics, it helped someone pick up a guitar or drumstick or maybe the band made a perfect record for someone at the perfect time said listener needed it.
Maybe given the relationship I have with the band, my opinion is biased in itself. Last South by Southwest, I got to spend a couple of days with the guys - family men, newlyweds, video game nerds and we all came together to talk about our love of Engine Down while attending a festival that plays out like more of a lavish show-off of who's-who instead of a week of just hanging out with your friends while more friends play music. I constantly think that bastardization of the art form and the lifestyle is where the chord gets ripped from the amplifier one last time. Music should always be about getting in the van and playing first and foremost. It's about a person's first open mic or a big local opening for one of their favorite acts. The rest will follow. If you're honest and attempt something that you believe in, I think that's what will resonate the most over time. That's where some sort of longevity on either a minor or major level will occur eventually.
The beginning and end of The Felix Culpa isn't a new story, but it's the first one that made me think long about all the bands that meant something to me like the guys have: The Snake the Cross the Crown, Engine Down, Blueprint Car Crash and a slew of others. Each band has their own story, it goes back to the variables mentioned and those I forgot. Maybe Jack Black said it best in High Fidelity, "Is it better to burn out or to fade away?" There are arguments for both and enough bands that have experienced one or the other. The music industry is an unforgiving career for many, but with the adamant of "archiving" (whether legal or illegal as certain people see it), at least we live in an age where we have the ability to pass on the music that made an impact to us in some way, and when we pick those records up months or even years later, here's hoping it will be as gripping as the first experiences we had with them.
It saddens me to say that this will be the final Five and Alive from here on out - or at least until I'm paid a couple of thousand to write a reunion column in ten years. There's really no telling what the future holds. But for now, as the site is changing and we, as staff, are finding new ways in bringing up discussion about our favorite albums, the bullshit of this industry and all the greatness that lies within the grooves of a few million records we may never get the time or chance to hear - I will now lay this column to rest. I also, very much backed up on work I owe a ton of people in the interview department, do not have the time for such a column anymore. So to the users, the staff and friends in this industry that have shared their choices with me, an enormous thank you for being part of something I wanted to be special. At times it got cutthroat, but I would hope, for the most part, the column at least expanded many of our libraries in discovering a few much needed gems.
This is a top five that I wanted to do for some time now. I even went back to see if I had done it on a whim, and by my records (unless overlooked) I had not. Maybe it was buried in a front page discussion I forgot about, but for the moment, I'll say I never brought it up.
Call it elitist, but I can still track, in chronological order, the first five records since childhood that changed the way I looked at music. These albums made me go, "Oh fuck, what is this? Nothing else matters." Yes, even at the age of eight, I probably cursed a lot - maybe. So this is a bit of a challenge, but I love having this conversation with people and I figured this would be a hell of a way to end it. I even think Pitchfork has a column with artists based around this one at this point.
I can't wait to see your lists on this one.
- love and respect
1) The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour
My oldest memory of even paying attention to music outside of it just playing on the car stereo is many a Saturday spent after getting up early to watch as many cartoons as possible. Once they were over, my mom generally turned off the television and turned on the turntable while she cleaned the house and made lunch. I was introduced to everything from Michael Jackson to Led Zeppelin (which as a kid, I confused with Lynard Skynard) to The Beatles. I fell in love with Magical Mystery Tour. I would have my mom play it constantly. It wasn't just music to me, it was something else completely. Something new beyond any Van Halen guitar lick or George Michael pop hit. It has since resonated subconsciously in my love of well rounded pop rock in the vein of Grizzly Bear, Deerhunter, The Format and many others who don't bastardize the term, but instead make it something beautiful and savant.
2) Jimi Hendrix's The Ultimate Experience
Okay, my best friend says this one can't count, because it's a compilation - but I have yet to change it. I've loved dirty rock and roll from here on out. Hendrix's guitar work is still unmatched. It's like being in a hardcore band and saying you want to play like Kurt Ballou. Don't even fucking try. I think it was Hendrix's live rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" at Woodstock that I fell in love with the most on this one. In every good rock album, for every Jack White, for every sex filled groove from The Black Keys or Death From Above 1979 or even the dirt and grime of the contemporary Red Fang and Every Time I Die - there is a heart and a rhythm. To me, it all comes back to this man's ability to make you believe he was one with the guitar instead of having it as a separate controlled entity. There will never be another Hendrix because of it. I will never forget the impact he had on me right before my age hit the double digits.
3) Blink 182's Dude Ranch
Nirvana's Nevermind would probably wedge itself between 2 and 3 at a nice 2 1/2 position. It was an album I enjoyed, but didn't really understand the impact as a whole until years later. At the time, Dude Ranch spoke to me. There are records for many of us as an adolescent pre-teen that are like a Bible for both music and life with no separation in between. For many of us, the line "I guess this is growing up," is forever branded on the back of our skull in memory of many years behind us and useful for those still to come. More importantly, Dude Ranch's message was as simple as its music. When you're at an age when all you want is a direct answer to the first constant bouts of "Am I being bullshitted right now?" - albums like this are more than necessary to stand-up and say, "Yes, I think I am being bullshitted!" I know for some, it was Enema of the State, but Dude Ranch taught me music could be serious, but not overly dramatic - what's wrong with a having a laugh amongst our problems. I continue to find the laughter through all the anxiety because of this album. Sometimes a song or album doesn't have to be overly complicated - sometimes it just has to make a direct impact at the right time for when it is needed.
4) RX Bandits' Progress
There's a point in our teenage years as music fans when we hear a record that changes everything - every. thing. - about what we know music is supposed to be. It could have been Daydream Nation it could have been Paul's Boutique and it could have been Kid A. Progress was that album for me. Not one song was comparable to the other. I couldn't explain to someone what the band sounded like without spouting off a short thesis. I'm not saying that the above albums or any other albums that came before it weren't honest and heartfelt, but this album ripped me open. It was a record that not only opened doors to other genres and styles, it was the first time I got "punk" and started having an opinion on social issues and actions - even on the smallest scale of getting through high school to a larger scale of reading as many facts as possible before coming to any conclusion on national issues. Like Jason said in yesterday's article, "I kind of miss the times when you bought an album - and then were basically forced to spend time with it and see what shook out." I've heard plenty of albums like that since then, but this was the first, and I am forever grateful for it.
5) Thursday's Full Collapse
I'm pretty sure everything that has ever needed to be said about this album has been written ten times better than I can put it, but I'll do my best to make it as personal and moving as possible. This was the first time I heard a record where the emotion felt overwhelming with every new track and turn within the song. It made me feel uncomfortable, yet I embraced every down stroke of the guitar, clack of the snare and crack in Geoff Rickly's voice. This was one of the times when an album buried me in its anguish, yet I still came back to its nerve-wrecking abuse. I've since been buried in this scene, and still look to Full Collapse and its past influences to sift through the bullshit of the decade ahead of it. Some in my generation herald The Smiths or The Cure or Joy Division from a decade they never experienced. This band took those influences and mixed them into their love of hardcore and made a contemporary dish for which I still can't get the taste out of my mouth from. It's an album that still makes me hungry to hear bands continue in that stride of creating something as adventurous a decade later. It makes my job that much easier.
I don't know why I thought about it the other day, but I remember I started a blog back in high school to start posting about music. In fact, it was my senior year and I knew I was going to college for journalism. As I'm sifting through the entries (somehow I remembered my username and password), I realized how passionate I sounded about what I was talking about, and even more surprising, what bands still stick with me that I was passionate about then. I talked so much about nostalgia in 2011, that I really don't want to dwell on the past in 2012. In fact, I want to gain so much momentum that I gain this sort of ludicrous speed where the first three months seem like a blur up until South by Southwest. One entry had me laughing, smiling and shaking my head all the same. It was a survey I took back in the day, and some of the results still stand.
People always talk about the new year as this new start, but the fact is that every moment you are awake is a new venture, a new contribution of brain power, a new discovery and a new hour, minute or second. I'm slowly learning that. Like our trying to correct problems we still trip over years later and memories we still think about from time to time - there was always a soundtrack. The best part about a new day, week, month or year is that there are more songs to choose from, and for some of you, new ones to create and contribute to. Being a writer in this industry and having someone tell you that "music is subjective" always reminds me of my economics teacher saying all the formulas are "pretty much an estimate" when I kept throwing variables at her - it's a hard concept to grasp. When you're a critic, sometimes you try too hard to analyze why you like something, instead of just accepting its value for what it means to you - instead of what it should mean to others.
My right calf is killing me. It's a reminder that you're never too old to try something stupid. As the years stack up growing a wider ditch between your youthful innocence and your currently held older, pessimistic thought - you always have a tiny itch for "how it was" to some extent. Well, a couple of beers over a couple of hours led me to stage dive during The Chariot's insane set Friday night in Austin. Never too old to fly, but old enough to hurt the next couple of days from hitting the runway with no support. That great leap (the second actually, the first and third time worked out) only set up the nostalgic past that was my weekend seeing old friends both on and off the stage.
Fast forward to the next night. I'm standing behind Cody Bonnette's amp. I can see a sea of a couple of thousand kids. I remember this scene, yet it took place six years prior as I stood on top of a stage back home - the band performing Son, I Loved You at Your Darkest from front to back. A lot has happened in those six years. I watched as my friends' band evolved, was scoffed at in the process of progressing by fans and broke up before their last album even surfaced. I played their "pre-CD release" for Come Now Sleep, and was there the next night for the official release show. I was on stage taking pictures at their unannounced final show back in Baton Rouge. I was at one of their weddings. I've seen them start families and enter some sort of "real world" status. For the most part, As Cities Burn did what a large percentage of bands do - they came in, left a mark, broke-up and some of us still sit around and yearn for what we either witnessed at its most special of moments or missed it all together. (side note: A friend and I were talking this weekend about how we never saw The Bled live on the final tour - or ever.)
It's strange to hear bands talk about an album like Son, I Loved You At Your Darkest now. A lot of us knew it was something special then, and still I see it as one of the last greats in the post-hardcore scene before a lot of the muck we've seen boil over during the second half of the last decade. Some of that muck still thrives. Take the festival for which As Cities Burn had come to play. One stage consisted of watery pop the likes of Tiger Beat with a teen-angst while the other had me hear "Get the fuck up!" well over an unsatisfying limit throughout the day before every breakdown - if you've seen the line-up - that's a lot of breakdowns. Drinking games not worth chasing. Then there was the kid in the neon band shirt mocking As Cities Burn waiting in line to get in. At that moment, I wanted to be that guy, to walk up and go, "Hey man, my bands didn't wear make-up and choreograph their moves - they just did it. So when you grow out of your little phase and discover you've always loved Bjork, but secretly hid it because it wasn't cool enough, you'll think twice about your mockery."
Honestly, how would it fair out years later? TJ Bonnette had not screamed in five years. Cody and Aaron Lunsford were working on other projects, continuing to hone their own skills. Lunsford even commented to me about how hard it was for him to relearn some of his drum parts because his style of playing had grown over the years. Still, even as the first lines of "The Widow" rang out, the crowd embraced whatever was coming off the stage as they loudly sang back the words towards the singular vocal and guitar accompaniment. As the show went on, you could tell that sometimes a line didn't stack up, or a vocal part was missed - that's okay. It's been a while. For a couple of days of practice in a room together, I'd count it up to be quite a success when all was said and done. You could see it in the smiles of the guy's faces. After pacing all day, I could feel the anxiety, that anxious feeling of just getting through it build throughout the day in their body language. As the performance was unfolding in front of me - we (friends, family, longtime fans - some who traveled very far) all embraced it. I screamed a lot of those words - that nostalgia that was rushing back through me. It's the reason I jumped a third time during "Back to Back" Friday night. Sure, I hurt my leg and back, but why not embrace the moment? That's what As Cities Burn did, they embraced the moment they had for one album, and attempted to relive it for what we will say to be the last time in the books.
As much as I can sit here and bash the line-up, the events center filled with Hot Topic trending teens that will more than likely grow out of it once they "get it all out of their system" and especially the amount of bad music my yearly quota met on Saturday - it was all worth it to see something special to me one more time. It was something I witnessed countless times for a number of years with the very people for whom I witnessed it with originally, now standing on stage watching the crowd pump their fist in unison. Again, it goes back to a lot of what I've been talking about this year. As a kid, music is way more fun than when you grow up and become a shell of your former music discovering self. There's no bar set as to "what's good" or the innocent "I like this, will I like this?" running your thoughts and leading to open arms. Back then, you were mostly consuming without a lot of over-thinking and little to no guidance based on your past knowledge - you thrived on ignorant bliss. What's fun to do is to sit down and sift through all of that consumption years later. Like a good friend of mine wrote in his blog a couple of weeks back, "Punk isn't broken. We just get to old to recognize it." Maybe breakdowns-a-dozen are revolutionary, and I just don't see that. Maybe there's a new movement that I'm overlooking because I'm too caught up in the past and wrapped up in what I think I know instead of what I should just simply enjoy. Or maybe, just maybe, I'm right (mostly wrong) like I've always been and just delusional to the fact - that's yet to be determined.
It's not easy to make it in this business. You have two options. You can either jump into the new mix, sell a couple of thousand records and prepare to get back to the grind like the rest of us blokes a couple of years after the dream dies, or you can at least attempt to make a mark so endearing that your initial longevity as a band means less than the value that your mark left behind which holds strong generation to generation. Rites of Spring had one record. Refused had only two proper. Further Seems Forever's first record is the only one a lot of people even care about. (ed. note: I like How to Start a Fire pretty equally.) The point is that those records made an impact felt for some time now, and many didn't even get it the first time or the moment wasn't around long enough, so we all sit and whine about making it happen again. As music consumers and enthusiasts, we sometimes miss the boat and piss and moan about it later. Know why we missed the boat, because we weren't open to it to begin with. There are probably more people who want to see Jawbreaker's Dear You performed in its entirety than 24 Hour Revenge Therapy - but I could be wrong.
Not only as a friend, as a fan, I was there every moment I could to support the guys. I even sacrificed writing something for the band in the journalism department to work on their final bio for Tooth and Nail for Hell or High Water. While many of you won't be able to do that for your favorite bands on that kind of level - there's so much more you can do: buy a record, t-shirt and most importantly - go to a show and go as far as bringing a friend with you. I'm not saying your heroes will live forever though. I thought As Cities Burn would live for longer than they did, but they didn't. While reunions have been popping up all across the board these past couple of years, it doesn't mean it'll happen for every band, or in such a way that you can even make the travel to see them.
When that moment happens, and it brings together a part of your life that you'll never forget and is always tucked somewhere special - enjoy it. Don't overly think of how good a song or album may be or can be, just enjoy it. It's not going to be perfect (maybe it will for some, who knows) and it surely won't be exactly how you remember it. As long as that moment is as fun and as close to the past memory as possible, that's what counts. One day you kids will wake up like me, trying to survive this real world thing, limping around at your part-time job because you decided to relive the moment a little too long after you should have done it to begin with. Music is a universal attachment mechanism many of us use to package memories for better or for worse. Just like your favorite artists should make their mark when they can, you should also do your part in handing down its moment of ancestry. Sometimes we can relive it, but it'll never be as genuinely close to its first occurrence. The best we can hope for with reunions is that it comes close. Saturday night came pretty damn close to the mark, and I'm more than grateful I got to witness it.
I got a text message from Wes [Eisold] last week and he put it perfectly. It read, "Nice to see after eight years we still excite/infuriate people.” I think in a nutshell that's what American Nightmare always have done.
I was asked to write a little piece of my five favorite American Nightmare songs. I have been stressing myself out over it because I can't just pick five. It's hard to put down what they mean to me and to so many other people by just narrowing it down to five songs. It wouldn't be fair to what the band was and still is. I can't think of any other band that lyrics were as personal and fitting. I still feel the same connection and the same excitement about the band now in 2011 as I did when I heard them for the first time in 2000 /2001 or whenever it was (you were 10).
In thinking about this little project I decided to focus mainly on the lyrics. The lyrics are one thing that so many people held onto. More than just words recited over loud/fast music.
]I think lyrically is what puts American Nightmare head and shoulders above the rest of the bands that were out around the time. Go back and read those lyrics without music and they're pretty powerful, poetic and fitting.
The music was the perfect frame for the musical picture that the lyrics painted.
1. "Farewell" (from Background Music) - I can't even break this one down... It's real.
Whatever this becomes /Whatever words I say /We are the fortunate ones...
And when the days are done /I won't forget /All I see in you and me
Is a light in the dark of humanity/ And when the days are done
I won't forget /Timid steps - come walk with me
And with your useless words /Come talk to me
There are broken hearts / Now on your stereo
But the broken beats are just too slow /You'll cry - it doesn't change a thing
Kill the lights - and let the rain fall / Recall - the memories
Of yesterdays and better ways /And know - the innocence is gone...
Move on - from this day on /We'll never be the same...
The saddest songs / Make sense to me... /So with your sunken eyes
Come talk to me /Two hour drives /Are two hours alone
But two hour drives/ Are better than home
You'll die - it doesn't change a thing/ You will - kill the lights
And let the rain fall - recall/ The memories of yesterdays
And better ways /And know - the innocence is gone...
Move on - from this day on/ We'll never be the same...
Faster words - and faster kids
Faster songs - and faster ends
The one thing that's stayed the same...
I've lived through days/ I've lived through nights
I've had my loves/ I've had my fights
You gotta know - you have my heart
2. "Hearts" (from Background Music) - It's not fair to ready into something and think you know exactly what written was thinking the moment they wrote it. I look at the lyrics for "Hearts" and I understand...
"Oh my god - It happened again
What's wrong with me?
Screaming gets you nothing
One more night in this town
And I swear that I'm dead...
I drew a heart
Around the name of your city..."
3. "There is a Black Hole in the Shadow of the Pre" (from Year One) - The song title alone was enough to conjure up images of years gone by hanging out in Copley or Newbury. Ever time I see the glass sprawl that is the building I think of this song.
"Everyone I ever loved/ Went down in history...
The blue eyes came/ The brown eyes left...
And the rest is misery /Dreams are trash
On the side of the road / All starry eyed - tongue all tied
There's something you should know /I could have died with you
And Boston is the reason/ I'm feeling so blue - damn you"
4. "AM/PM" (from Background Music) – Beautiful words and an frantic dance part. Perfect.
“The kind of song that makes You want to hang Your headached - head
And I was hoping that I would never fall in love again 'Cause that would be the end
Of everything (you're everything)”
5. "Love American" (from We're Down Til We're Underground) – Okay this is a favorite because I sang on the record…..such a great time in our lives.
What's the key to good songwriting? What's the real key to great songwriting? Is it the intricacies of marking down a vague palette of feeling, or is it as straightforward as you can get the ideas to flow out of your head? Are the best songwriters poets or are the even better ones worth a more direct, honest connection? Listening to Saves the Day's Daybreak rest any doubt that Chris Conley may be one of the best songwriters of our generation. It's not how he went from crafting well executed punk numbers, but how his direct "heart-on-the-sleeve" approach is absolutely undeniable - and he may be the best in the game when articulating something easily relatable - no matter how hyperbolic his words may seem to be when they come across to the listener.
I finally got around to listening to the "trilogy" (2006's Sound the Alarm, 2007's Under the Boards and this year's Daybreak) at work the other night, and I think I was taken back for a minute once it was all done and the closing ballad (I use that term loosely) of "Undress Me" floats off. The anger from the start; to picking up the scattered pieces of frustration; to finding some sort of solace - but not without still questioning a few thoughts rolling inside your head and harboring still a bit of desperation in the face of despair and uncertainty - Saves the Day crafted a wonderful piece of frailty and unrest which is all led by Conley's honesty. As I thought getting through the whole thing would be a little over- or even underwhelming, it's Conley's storyline and honesty that's the best part.
I've come to the conclusion that the trilogy as a whole is really a growth in adolescence to adulthood:
- Sound the Alarm is the aggressive, teenage angst part of our lives we've all experienced. We're pissed about a lot of things, "everyone should just fuck off," and so on with scattered fits here and there. We're unhappily blaming others, blaming ourselves and "not giving a fuck" about a lot of things we generally reflect back on and laugh at how childish we truly were in those years.
- Under the Boards is when we start to figure it all out to some extent. We're picking at our faults and trying to find out where we went wrong and at some times, just want to give up and blame ours actions the most in the end. We try to be honest with ourselves and the ones around us, but sometimes we tend to get exhausted with our actions that emotionally implode inward. Those times in our lives - at our darkest moments - where we tend to just want to stay in bed and cut ourselves from the outside world for a couple of extra hours, days or weeks. We've all been through these times, and generally they're recurring more than you want to believe for some. At the very least, we're trying to find some sort of answer in all of it. We're past Sound the Alarm's spats of aggression without thinking first, but we're not past its downside just yet.
- Daybreak. It's the real growth where we finally realize our faults, but we now know that we can be an adult about it and will end up fighting for what we really want. We have a vision and everything is much clearer to an extent. We're still human and we still have trials in our life to go through: harder relationship problems, keeping close friendships, marriage, parenthood, etc. All the while, there's a moment in our lives where we try to forgive. All those false-quick emotions/reactions we left buried inside has made us slightly bitter in some way and has left us with a since of regret but wanting to reach out and rectify our earlier accounts. Daybreak still contains some bleak moments, but I think it's still the most honest of moments where there's reflection and understanding and a chance to possibly change the past for the best. We can't actually see any sort of closure without admitting our true feelings about any subject past and present.
Daybreak is a close second to my favorite Saves the Day record to date. When I heard Stay What You Are, it stuck as a quirky pop number of honest feelings with a bit of exaggeration laid throughout. I was still a teenager. I didn't know shit. As I look back at the entire catalog - the last three Saves the Day records are Chris Conley's best penmanship of being upfront about how he truly feels, and he has crafted quite a rare thing these days. Not only three individual albums that reflect a specific growth spurt or moment, but each one has its own specific feeling. More importantly, the albums tie together perfectly (listen to "Kaliedescope" through "Deranged and Desperate" - that could be one record in itself). There really doesn't feel like too much of a gap between them: Anger, self-frustration and uncertainty and then acceptance and reflection.
An old friend of mine might be one of the biggest Saves the Day fans I know. We've had kind of a falling out in the past couple of years. Listening through these three albums has given me a framework to appreciate just that one relationship in my life between her and I. (I remember her obsession with wanting to hear "Hold" on the reg.) I'm beginning to think about others too as the days have gone by. Why do I think Chris Conley is one of the best songwriters? Because the best songwriters are ones who make us think past the music - they are muses to help reflect on our lives. For some of you at an early age, that may (unfortunately) be a lot of bands that I hate. Wait about 10-15 years later though - trust me. Are they still making music? Do they still have something worthy to say? Do you connect with their entire catalog and/or newer releases some time later as you do today? Just wait...you won't even remember some of the songs on your old playlists. I promise you.
If you told 17-19 year old me what an iPod playlist was, that kid would probably look at you like you were speaking in tongue. More so than that, the idea of even downloading full albums from file-hosting sites as a means of discovery would be future news opposite searching for an album with track-by-track downloads on file swapping programs. My last few years of high school and early years of college were spent with mix CDs made up of my favorite tracks still played on a CD player (this ancient brick of a device) through a tape deck on my drives home in my '91 Buick LaSabre (probably the closest I'll ever come to owning a tank).
So these are five of the best CDs my friends found in my apartment and car and how I feel about them today. I'm including full track listings as to not hide any sort of shame. I will say this, I had to download the Shazam app for the iPhone because I didn't recognize some of these songs. (Writer's note: Shazam didn't work for a lot of the tracks.)
1) Sharpie Title: Too Brutal Even For Me Score: 15/17 Thoughts: Maybe at the time this was "too brutal for me," but I thought this was the heaviest stuff I'd ever come in contact with and like everything, I was being hyperbolic. The end of "Floater" into the back to back Poison the Well tracks transition pretty awesomely. Having DEP and CTtS right before the Collision Course tracks are pretty amazing in my eyes. Rock out with some technical heaviness and then party? Why the fuck not? All in all, I pretty sure there was a lot of air guitar going on in the years this CD existed in rotation.
2) Sharpie Title: Bad A Mix Score: 11/12 Thoughts: This is definitely one bad ass mix! 19-year-old me probably rocked this one out at least nine out of the seven days a week. "Admission:Regret" is still one of my favorite As Cities Burn songs and the AC/DC cut is because of my love of Empire Records. Hearing that opening track by Fear Before does make me wish they'd write another record already. I used to jam that one out after every awful test.
3) Sharpie Title: She said that I was the brightest little firefly in her jar… Score: 7/13 Thoughts: Okay, so this one, my buddy Drake immediately laughed at the title when he found it. Once we started spinning it, the jokes kept coming. Obviously a mix I made when I was young and heartbroken, it kind of makes me realize why certain music thrives today - and somehow always will. I still very much love about half the tracks on this (Clarity Process was one of Rise Records' finest and underrated first acts, and go download everything from Blueprint Car Crash), but I'm not buying a lot of the sentiments now. It just goes to show you though, music has a way of connecting with people - even if you might think some of it is shit years down the line. (It should be noted that some of the tracks I find awful and were earlier cuts of bands I think went on to do better.)
4) Sharpie Title: Sing me something soft sad and delicate loud and out of key sing me anything… Score: 8/10 Thoughts: This is quite an irony. I made this CD when I met the girl who broke my heart for which I made the previous CD for. So I guess this is 18-year-old me being in love for the first time. Kind of funny both albums ended on the same song. I believe I used the TBS demo just for the intro as well. Also, that ACB song is from their very first demo if you can find it. I also remember liking the demo version of that Straylight Run song a lot more than the studio version. Now I really can't tell too much of a difference. Young me used to think he knew it all.
5) Sharpie Title: Who Wants a Body Massage? Score: N/A Thoughts: Okay, so of the five CDs, and after going through as many as I could, I realized this one was one of the ones that was made my senior year of high school/summer before college. I know this for two reasons: 1) The bands that make up the release and 2) A lot of the mixes I found from my senior year of high school were tracked like this. Instead of one song from a number of bands, there were a couple songs per few bands and a usually a couple of single tracks scattered towards the end. It's an unfortunate thing really, because it shows how into specific bands I would get, and now as my inbox swells and I seek out music I know I will probably enjoy or are interested in, it goes to show how our means of discovery and how much time we spend with specific bands lasts. Back then it was downloading track by track. Now you can sit down with a full album on a stream service or illegally obtain it through a file-hosting search on Google. How the times have changed...
When Fugazi came onto the scene around the tail end of the '80's, they redefined punk rock onto a pedestal many will never be able to sit above. It turned a lot of heads for kids seeking progressive music from what they thought it was or could be. It was a band that for many, and still many of my friends years later, that defined not only how talented and forward thinking genres can be, but how reaching outside the box and being honest as a musician will make you sit atop the rest for a long time. "Legacy" is a word that over 80% of bands today will never reach. Possibly 90%.
That's a fact.
I'm not going to sit here and tell you that Fugazi had that much influence on me as a listener when I was young. It was a band I didn't discover until college and even begin to understand, analyze and realize the true worth until the last few years of my life. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that the band I'm about to look back on will ever reach that level of broad influence, because time is yet to show us that. But picking up Progress by the RX Bandits for me was like others discovering Repeater. With each release and live show, I watched the RX Bandits just stride when getting better and better and give birth to some of the best music that will forever stick with me and be passed down. It goes without saying that missing the band's Hoodwinked set of Fugazi covers at this year's Bamboozle will be regrettable for years to come. A tiny itch in the back of my mind.
A little over a year ago today, I was sitting in the back of the Rx Bandits' tour bus on the second night of their summer tour. What was about to take place was an interview between Matt Embree and I. This was not the first interview I had conducted with Embree, but it would be my last to this day. The interview was a tough one to swallow, but it was at times inspirational. But in the moment, it was downright devastating. After forty minutes of quite an interview, I was left a bit hollow. Why? I was essentially told that the future of the RX Bandits was undetermined and on shaky ground.
Earlier this year, we were told of the band's decision to go on indefinite hiatus.
After seeing the guys plow through one of the most phenomenal sets I've ever seen from them, I was told that the general expectancies of albums and tours are definitely "on hiatus," but to say there's no "future for the band" is putting an unsolicited nail in the coffin. That night, the band chronologically brought the audience and I through album by album cuts (the set of the night consisting of the first two songs and the last of each record with others thrown in here and there), and one by one I realized not only why I stuck with the band for as long as I have been a fan, but it was an audible sense of the truest form of "progress" that hasn't been cheaply bastardized by the general mainstream of shitty journalist like myself trying to define a band moving forward with their "art."
For me, seeing the RX Bandits (and anticipation in the weeks and month leading up to the show) is about my headway into what I can subjectively call amazing music. Not only that, the RX Bandits was the first show I was ever snuck into (though Joe Troy's appendix was to explode that night in Baton Rouge, so Embree played a solo set) and the first big band I interviewed for my high school newspaper. I vaguely remember the four or five shitty questions I had for them, but it still dwells on my mind to this day. Even after that, I've had my share of interviews with the band, and each time the words and views out of their mouths express how the band built art upon exploration of not only other art, but first hand experiences - and as seen in the final tour's openers - their closest friends.
Bringing on Maps and Atlases and Zechs Marquise (and opening for a few nights, and the one I caught in particular, Happy Body Slow Brain) really shows that talent will follow and feed off of talent. Zechs' upcoming record shows them harnessing their skills and getting to the point better, stronger and tighter just like each time I've see them in the last few years. What's not to love about Maps and Atlases' precise playing, and the awe of how careless, yet flawless they make it look to the naked eye. Even after the show, Embree and Dave Davison sat out front of the venue jamming soul and blues classics between each other in front of a small audience that stayed. There is the common thread of grand influence that flows both inwardly between the bands and their outside influences.
Then there's the guy who packed his car and was following the entire tour, looking for a place to crash each night among fans. There's a showmanship of community among not only the bands, but the fans who appreciate the music themselves.
Here's just what some of our users had to say about the band's impact:
I understand that some of you reading this will probably just see it as a fanboy editorial and that's completely fine, because after writing, rewriting and coming back to this for a month now, it really was meant to be an honest farewell. Maybe it's not the RX Bandits in particular for you, but imagine if that one band that you held so personal in your collection just called it a day, how would that make you feel? This was that band for me. I've been talking a lot this past year about nostalgia and looking back at personal influence, maybe you're too young to get it now or have yet to experience this feeling, that's okay. Maybe that band broke up the other day, or will be destined to break up five years from now as you reflect back on 15 to 20 years down the line. Very few artists these days will hold a candle forever, and with the saturation of the market only swelling due to the Web when faced with a parallel constant touring schedule competition as well, you can't expect your heroes to last forever. Having these guys lay down their instruments for a while (but not completely when considering their equally talented current other projects) is really my first taste of bitter acceptance of the aforementioned point.
There have been so many reunions in the past two years alone, I've lost count - and for some of them - kind of lost interest. If in five, ten, thirty years the guys decide to get back together to create music as a unit of architects working on another well structured piece, I will be waiting as anxiously as I did when I learned of their departure. If this is the end, then I'd say they left a pretty solid catalog behind. If this is just a break, then I'll be one of the first in anticipating the return of easily one of the best, sometimes underrated and all around progressive bands to have existed.
Point hammered into the ground: This has been an amazing year for music. Aside from how good music is or isn't each year, I find the more enticing venture is to follow receptive I can be to an album years later. Maybe it's an album that was capturing for a moment, and then put away for some years, or maybe it's an album scoffed due to tastes at the time, but revisited with much more acceptance and maybe even better understanding years later.
There have been a few records this past year that I've really come around to for one reason or another. I revisited the albums' beauty and importance in the general timeline of its continual personal legacy among friends and peers.
Here are five albums that really stuck the second time around.
1) The Dismemberment Plan's Emergency and I - I was given this album in high school and Change in college. For some reason the latter stuck much more the past few years. With the reissue of the former on vinyl earlier this year, I've rediscovered the disjointed rhythmic fun and dance infused pop of an absolute anti-pop classic. Travis Morrison's complete self-loathing and inner redemption against quick hits ("I Love a Magician" "Girl O Clock") and unsettling backgrounds ("The Jitters" "You Are Invited") makes for one incredible album.
2) HUM's Downward is Heavenward - If this is "space rock," then sign my ass up to sit in the cockpit. An old friend introduced me to this album some years back, and as I have come back to it for enjoyable visits of head-crushing, wide guitars fuzzed over melody, it really sits as a testament of great production and instrumental layering years before "fix it in Pro-Tools." Many consider the band's previous album, You'd Prefer an Astronaut, to be the best, but Heavenward is a push into perfection.
3) Pavement's Quarentine the Past - I've never been a Pavement fan. It's not that I don't like the band, I've just never been a huge fan like some of my friends. So I gave the "greatest hits" a spin a few months back again and I've found myself enjoying it off and on in my free time. It's crazy to hear the band's brand of alternative rock influence deep in the roots of today's contemporaries, but I can also hear clips of influence in The Replacements that came before them. I missed the reunion, but I'm glad I'm finally on board.
4) Cave In's Until Your Heart Stops - I've been doing research on Cave In's first album a few years after hearing it for my book because of the influence of brash hardcore and melodic tendencies. I'd be lying if White Silence (the band's latest release this year which is equally as amazing bringing the band full circle and captivating their entire catalog) did have a little influence on rediscovering the impact of Cave In. Listening to "The End of Our Rope Is a Noose" through the album's title track is refreshing considering the last few years' particular top drawing acts. I won't name names.
5) Built to Spill's You in Reverse - This is one I threw on at work just for the hell of it - I'm so glad I did. I've been very immersed in the Built to Spill catalog for the past few months. Out of all of them, You in Reverse is still my favorite at the moment. It reminds me why I fell in love with records like Blur's 13 or The Dismemberment Plan's Change. I love pop music that I can sink my senses into - this is one for the books.
I've been spouting off about nostalgia and such for well over a year now. In a way, it kind of makes me feel old. I finally feel "dated" for the first time in my life. Not only in a sense of "When I was your age," but also looking back on all the bands I've still missed before my time of consumption as well as a few bands I missed during that portion of my time when I was really adhering to new music. What's great about a decade passing is there's some sort of adequate timeline to judge your idols against what came after and those that influenced them before. When you're in the moment, like most of the younger users right now, you have no judgement besides "This music speaks to me. I don't care what you think!" As much as I can have my bitter opinion against yours, you should always strive to have that attitude. When ten years comes creeping up on you, and you have that moment to reflect back, I can only advise you this: take it, be judgmental and see who really stuck with you over the years. Which albums still give you chills? Which artists that changed the way you looked at music are continuing to change the way you look at music? These are the important questions to ask yourself among all the subjectivity that we continue to war over.
At the beginning of the month, I had the privilege to be a guest to go see the Taking Back Sunday/Thursday tour in Houston on the Fourth. Besides having a great night enjoying music and not pandering to every detail of "how well the band was performing," it was really about watching two bands that will always be part of my childhood, and one opener that still excels after discovering the band at their EP release show years ago. There's not enough praise I can talk up when it comes to Colour Revolt. From the first time I saw them, to how each record continues to change course yet still continues to captivate with its blend of raw emotion and executed delicacies, Colour Revolt are one of those bands that are held special to more people than you know and without ever getting some sort of larger recognition. It's a shame, because no matter when I see them, they never disappoint in their live show. No matter how big the room I've seen these guys in, their aura always has a way to fill it and turn quite a few silent until applause.
But Colour Revolt came into my life a few years later, and the two big names of the evening were engrained in my blood since I was sixteen and was at that age of simply eating up new music like it was a bottle of Flintstones vitamins and I was on a binge. Thursday was that band for me when it came to the hardcore genre. Before that I had heard and enjoyed essential albums like The Shape of Punk to Come and Relationship of Command, but Full Collapse was a whole other personal level that isn't detachable to this day. On the band's sixth album, this year's No Devolcion, they have simply reminded many of us how far not only the band have pushed themselves in the truest sense of the word "progression" over the years, but that a quieter and more aural feeling can be just as intense as any heavy guitar riff hammocking under a cathartic scream. With cuts mostly from their new album, the band are just as impacting months after doing a run that reminded us why we fell in love with the band's presence in the first place.
While Thursday has mostly kept a steady fan base throughout the years, it's also always been the same five people (sans the pre-Waiting departure of Bill Henderson and the later inclusion of Andrew Everding soon after Full Collapse) and you wonder what it would have been like if the same stayed true of Taking Back Sunday. Even through all the muck, bad relationships and reunions, the last few years that was Taking Back Sunday still has its memorable moments - you can't deny that. There's some great tunes, and there's some not so great ones - that's music! Music certainly thrives on a natural flow not only in what is processed out, it also has to be experienced among the creative outlet. Watching the "newly reformed" original line-up gave me that feeling. No matter how you feel about the band's self-titled as a product judged against your high expectations (or low ones depending), it certainly feels like the most natural sounding record since the beginning. I felt that standing on stage as well. These were men - years later - reflecting not only on their past few years (the band taking part in Straylight Run's "Existentialism on Prom Night" and Nolan of course singing parts not his own from absence), but they were happy in the present moment as well. That's what shined through the most.
What's mainly been rolling around in my head over the past month (and after seeing the current indefinite hiatus of one of my absolute favorite bands of all time that sits a few notches above the aforementioned) is how some of our most cherished bands exhibit the worst behavior in us (see also: the Glassjaw fiasco of the last few years). We're so passionate about holding onto that special something, that there's a bit of feeling in us that makes us become so judgmental. Most older people will tell you that their favorite bands never made the same record twice. For me, that's easily true. At some point when your musical tastes shift, you start to become a crank about how it used to be and how band X sounds like a refurbished version of your favorite band. What I've yet to understand though is that moment when band Z is no longer a rip off, but reminds you why you fell in love with your favorite bands.
Nostalgia will hit us when we least expect it, but it's a net we always seem to fall in that's triggered by an event most notably associated with a past experience acting as your reference of deja vu. I can hear losing my first love in Beneath Medicine Tree, my parents' divorce in Full Collapse, the best times in my senior year of high school in Through Being Cool, moving to Austin in Mean Everything to Nothing, and even further back, I remember my mother playing records while she cleaned the house on Saturday morning anytime I spin Magical Mystery Tour and Led Zeppelin's II. All those feelings have been rushing back to me in the last year, and I think its surely because enough time has passed. Standing on that stage a few weeks ago seeing two bands I not only grew up with - but grew up with - made me feel that sudden rush of nostalgia to the head.
No matter how fleeting your memories will eventually get, it should eventually lead you to finding the bands that influenced your best kept collections, or appreciating a band you once wrote off years down the line. The Taking Back Sunday/Thursday tour has a lot of different meanings to a variety of people. Some of us saw the headliners in small clubs or practice spaces on the weekend, and some of us are thankfully witnessing two bands that keep pushing themselves years later to refine their sound. 2011 has been a great year for music, but we've yet to see what the next ten years will offer us as a whole. I still think we have yet to see if the next generation has picked up on our influences yet. I think 2021 will be quite interesting to reflect back on. I'll be 35. Wow! Maybe they'll have those mini-Pizza Hut pizzas like in Back to the Future II.