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.
So, secretly, I've been researching Dance Gavin Dance. I've been trying to figure out, for the life of me, why they're compared to such great bands such as Fall of Troy and...well, that's all I keep hearing. I love the Fall of Troy, so why don't I like this? I've given Downtown Battle Mountain a listen. I've taken to their self-titled. I've even tried to find solace in Happiness...but alas, nothing!
In all fairness, I took a spin to Downtown Battle Mountain II - I mean, the dude only ripped off hundreds of dollars from fans, he had to produce something good, right?
Listening to Dance Gavin Dance's new album is like a regurgitated form of vomit from the bands I call home. You're not Dave Knudson. You're not close to Thomas Erak. You're not even remotely close to the skills of Scottie Henry (both Norma Jean and Spitfire attribution) in any form. Still, I'm trying to figure out how you can't get close to filling the feel of any Poison the Well album - especially the grace of Versions.
At some point, bands began to imitate too closely to the bands only months before them. Letters Organize. Blueprint Car Crash. The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower. These were all bands that swept me up into their sound, even when they were making references and allusions to the past. They still crafted their own voice.
While I can (without a doubt) say that Dance Gavin Dance is leading the pack of everything else in this guttered place you call a scene to Warped attendees, that's not saying much. That's like settling on an semi-attractive significant other that has a slight bit of personality. Even as I barely get through the falsettos and frantic schizophrenics of DBM2, I'm still left empty and unimpressed. I'm sure there are kids finding something new within this release (mostly kids who will find The Bunny The Bear revolutionary), they still are lost among what should be.
DBM2 is as flat as anything brimming the surface of what 10-17 year old kids remotely deem hardcore.
"Longtime fans of the band’s Circa Survive-meets-Dismemberment Plan sound should be well-pleased."- Metromix
^Are you fucking kidding me???? Obviously you don't listen to either...
Arab on Radar would be fucking beyond ashamed. #truth #realtalk
I've been trying to write at least one album review, a show review and scramble around more thoughts of senseless shrubbery for the past few hours and all I've accomplished are the following: my love of Celeste, a desire to keep reading Justin Pearson's fucked up book and finding a full bag of Sun Chips in the cabinet. Salsa style too baby!
I think my writer's block is stemming from my mixed emotions and lack of time. Everything I was feeling Friday night is a bit lost as that rush has lapsed for a bit. That was lost in the drive to College Station yesterday for a friend's wedding and now I find myself flipping through Some Girls, Narrows and mewithoutYou with no signs of an adrenaline overdose.
Then there's the beautiful days where the sun roof is worth pulling back and drives turn into parties by yourself as you look like a fool to the outside world. There's joy felt at the other end of the heavy spectrum of the rush. Both are inclined to let loose, while each rush lets out an energy untouched by pop's loving hand.
The mind is a beautiful thing, especially when it comes to music. The brain can slide itself back and forth between sweeps and noise and the eyes can roll into the head as a major key crescendos into a state of nirvana. It's exciting. It's a rush. It's a drug.
Then there are things like this, where you loose yourself completely in awe of craftsmanship and passion. Sound aside, that's also what I saw Friday night at Converge, just in a different light. It's funny that we all sit around and bitch about what's good and what isn't and what's better and what's worse. In the end, we're all just taking different drugs, experimenting with the ways different timbres come across in our minds. We can feel stoked on something that is loud in pop color or aggressive in impending doom.
I'm hooked. I just can't get out the right words for it today. I don't know why.
Well, I'm happy to say that the book is coming along very nicely. Since my move out to Austin, I've taken my time off to begin writing again, and by the end of next month, I'm looking to be 75% complete.
The experience of doing this has taught me a lot about myself as a writer (I write like I talk, apparently) and the joy of discovering why I fell in love with music, and continue to analyze it for a living.
I'm also thinking of ways to release it through either a record company or management group or something. I figure if the music industry is changing, then why can't I publish a new way.
Or maybe, just maybe, I'll end up doing a Reznor thing and give it away for free with option for a hard copy.
I don't know, it's too early to tell, but I can tell you that I've been writing about Glassjaw and Poison the Well for the past few days.
You can add me on Myspace if you like, and I hope to have more great news in the months to come.
Thanks for all the support, and thanks for keeping up with the blog. I sometimes wish there was more discussion going on in this thing matched to the views, but the fact that people are reading is grand enough.
So I sat down and planned out my chapters today while I had some time between class.
Here's what I'm going with so far:
-Everybody is Going to Hate What is To Come (Nation of Ulysses, Refused<---mainly them though)
-Lo-fi Beginnings, and Reconstructing the Heavy (Rites of Spring, Fugazi, Dischord Records)
-The Thinking Man's Metal or an Idiot Savant? (Botch, Coalesce, The Dillinger Escape Plan)
-Music to Burn Down a City or Two (Blood Brothers)
-Building a Noise A) Loud and Political B) With Ease (Pg. 99, City of Caterpillar)
-The Power Lines are About to Blow (Kill Sadie, These Arms Are Snakes)
-How to Dismantle an Empire and Yourself (At the Drive In)
-Vague and in Anger (Glassjaw)
-White Doves and Progressive Understanding (Thursday/Thrice composite)
-Meeting People Isn't Easy (Brand New)
-A Collection of Other Noises (a chapter of thoughts on bands like Envy, Hot Cross, Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower and a interviews with Level Plane and Equal Vision Records owners, planning on having this chapter as a composite of bands that I would find difficult to write a whole chapter on, but deserve mention)
So that's what I'm working on.
So far many of the artists and PR's that I've talked to have been more than willing to give me their time for this. I'm extremely excited about all of this, and I hope there's at least one person out there (besides my mom) whose going to purchase it. HA!
Deadline to finish and graduate: April '09
Also, I've been in connection with a ton of other writers, all writing their takes on the scene with different bands, writing approaches and ways of looking at this.
I'm not sure if you've read my weekly blog yesterday, but if you haven't, this won't make sense. So go read it! ha!
Just got off the phone with Scott Heisel over at Alternative Press, seems like someone has beat me to the punch on my idea, but luckily has only interviewed two of the bands that I'm featuring in the book. Scott told me to go with my idea anyway...he's a great guy.
I couldn't find much going on this week. I'm unsure if it's because I haven't been on my Internet toes, or if I've been frantically, well maybe not frantically, trying to get my future together.
See, my car has leprosy, no air conditioning, and (drumroll) a broken radio which means all i hear is the rattle from my engine, a death cough before its eventual croak. Sure, I wear my iPod, but it's dangerous and illegal, and makes me wonder how the deaf drive though. Needless to say, with our economic state, I'm about to finance a new used car.
On the other side of the past week's rush is my scrambling attempt to find an English teacher in the Creative Writing Department to take on my final semester's independent study-- my last class and bridge to the real world.
Four years ago, I started my own radio show at LSU's radio station, KLSU, based on my love of the post-hardcore scene featuring bands like Refused and At the Drive In as well as newer acts. Now the premise was a bit hazy though. Because what my show hath taught me is the old standard that the term genre is a pain in the ass to define within itself.
See, I would play everything from Botch to Circa Survive to Between the Buried and Me to City of Caterpillar to Majority Rule to theSnake theCross theCrown. Point is, only a few of those bands can be considered post-hardcore.
Instead of calling the show, "Adam's Post-Hardcore Extravaganza Hour," I simply titled it "the C.C.E." which stood for "creative, chaotic, energy."
See, my independent study is to finish up a book I'm writing based on the scene. Like Please Kill Me or Rip It Up and Start Again or Nothing Feels Good, I want to write something to figure out how we got from the lo-fi sounds of End on End to the crazy repercussions of We Are the Romans to the all out urgency of Full Collapse-- and I want it from the horses' mouth!
I will have 15 weeks or so to interview bands and finish this book, and it will be a hard task. I'm also starting each chapter with personal experiences of the important albums or record labels (have to study up on Dischord Records and Level Plane).
I understand I won't be able to include everyone, and will at least have points on "under the radar" artists that deserve some recognition or contribution to the scene.
No, the book won't include half the artist I played on the show, but I will do my best to hit on those albums and artist that I think made an impact.
I may not be able to give you a proper definition of "post-hardcore," but here's my explanation when people ask me: In the 80's the punk scene split into two parts, the hardcore scene and the experimental post-scene. Besides early bands like Rites of Spring and eventually Fugazi, things kicked in the late-90's when the hardcore started thinking and constructing a bit more creatively, and so The Shape of Punk to Come happens and the hardcore scene and post scene that ripped apart bred something amazing together.
I'm no Klosterman, but maybe he paid off his car title with Fargo Rock City, and I guess that's the best I can hope for at this point.
EDIT: (11 a.m. CST) I'm going to meet a professor in a few minutes, will keep posted on progress. I also have an interview with These Arms Are Snakes today! SUPEREDIT: (7 p.m. CST) I found a professor, we are a go, and had a great talk with both Steve and Ryan from TAAS!
Refused - New Noise
Botch - Transitions From Persona to Object (Live)
Blood Brothers - Ambulance Vs Ambulance
City of Caterpillar - Driving Spain Up a Wall (live)
If you haven't read it already, PitchforkMedia has done an excellent interview with Greg Gillis of Girl Talk, and the last thing he says is amazing and further proves you cannot fight technology, and change has to be evident within any business model because of it. Business is all about the consumer kids. For some reason, the customer is always right:
"Every hip-hop song that comes out, every pop song, they release the a cappellas and the instrumentals and there are a million remixes all over YouTube. People pitch up the songs, put them on YouTube as Alvin & the Chipmunks remixes. It's not hurting anyone; it's just further spreading the songs, and I think we're approaching an era where there's a consistent dialogue going on between artists and consumers. And I think that's going to be part of the solution to actually selling music. CDs are clearly dying out, and it's going to be moving to an all-digital format. Along with it, you raise this interactivity with the music. I feel that it's not stealing sales from anyone; it's turning people on to the music. So I think that's the new age, and every song that's coming out is going to have remixes, everyone's going to be interactive with the music. I think that's the new age, every song that's coming out is going to have remixes, everyone's going to be interactive with the music." - Gregg Gillis, Pitchforkmedia Interview