I just can't stop thinking about Lester Bangs' death. It's sort of toiled on my mind for the last couple of months. Bangs died at the age of 33 in New York. Unintentional or not, he died after ingesting three different types of drugs. It was reported that he was listening to The Human League's Dare. The thing that keeps scratching at the back of my cerebral when it comes to all of this is not that Bangs died of a drug overdose, or that he was listening to early post-punk pioneers who crossed over into minor mainstream success. What bothers me is whether or not Bangs got to say everything he wanted to say about music before his death. He lived through the '60s and '70s. These were the golden ages of rock and roll, a less saturated market of commodities and touring acts. He got to experience the birth and death of punk and died listening to one of its predecessors.
Still, there was no experience of where the rock that Bangs both denounced and admired turned into. There is no experience of lavish hair metal. He died before Damaged could truly make an impact. He'll never know what a man like Kurt Cobain could do to music. Bangs will never be able to rattle on about how the digital age is killing the industry and and how the resurgence of vinyl is a trendy sham that will only explode "new arrival" bins in the next ten years. In the time of his many musings and mad ramblings he cemented a lot unabashed biased and thought about both the artists who create and the industry who flips it. Beyond that, he called out his fellow writers and critics as well.
He was a mad, deranged, anxious, disturbed human being who truly loved music on a valued level many of us, myself included, will never fully understand. At a time of "hype" and social registry that moves so quickly, we forget about bands that blow us away in the span of the beginning of the year when they were two thousand-whatever's brightest new hope to save, blah blah blah…and then they may only get an "honorable mention" at best come time to write up that "best of things everyone has their own opinion on" lists we'll sit and argue and scoff over for hours flipping through.
This past weekend I decided that I'm burned out and I need to walk away. Doing this and not having a stable job to back it has been both draining on me mentally and physically, and it's time to put my mind on this industry to rest. In the last three years I've grown to understand many things and become aggravated by many others as well. For me, it's my time to move on. I've said all I feel I could have said about this industry, punk rock, our relationship with music, etc.
Doing what you want to do is not easy. I feel like I'm writing that sappy "band break-up" note we post at least once a week. When you start to gain any sort of success, there is a world around you that will latch on and never let go. You will meet people who you can trust and admire, and you will meet others with their own agendas that include you as a small piece of their bigger puzzle. The music industry is like a darker humor version of Dilbert crossed with the insanity that is the plot of Airheads. There are a lot of laughs, but most of the time you're just shaking your head going, "This makes no fucking sense."
Still, I'm in a position where people respect my opinion. So I'll leave you all with three keys to success in this life: honesty, humbleness and humor. Be honest with everyone from your friends to your business partnerships. Sure, there's a couple of white lies and stretches in there, but just be upfront about shit. Be humble and thankful for opportunity. I've watched people act like they're entitled to something, when you're downright entitled to nothing and should be thankful you're not sitting in a cubicle punching numbers or flipping patties or listening to the "checkout beep" for hours on end. Lastly, have a sense of humor. Crack a joke sometimes. Don't take life too seriously, or you'll drive yourself mad. Even if it makes you crack a smile and no one gets the joke that makes sense to you in your head - it's a natural nirvana.
As this door, chapter and metaphor comes to a close in my life, hopefully another one is about to open. It's going to be even more frustrating, but it's something I believe in and can get behind one hundred percent. It's a position I've been complaining about on the Web for years, and it's finally time I make my way into the system to cash that big fat check I wrote with my mouth. I'll be able to say more on that soon, but for now, the future looks bright and I'm ready to take all this passion and channel it into something full-time, even if it means giving up most of my free time, travel and property to do so.
From the bottom of my big fat heart that sits atop my big fat stomach, thank you.
"The biggest lie about punk rock is that anyone can do it. Sure, anyone can do crap punk rock, but there is a fine art to taking a music fueled by destructive impulses and building it to last." - Stuart Berman, "Album Review: Metz' Metz" Pitchfork. 2012
Berman makes a bold statement at the beginning of his review for Metz' self-titled which was released earlier this month to glowing praise. The album does hold water to said critical justification just as much as Berman's statement about punk rock. While listening to Metz' latest record this week alongside cloakroom's EP and revisiting New Plastic Ideas and Nevermind as fodder between them, 2012 has been the year that time remembered. We once again felt the dirt wedged between our fingers and our nails and the music which accompanies it. It's now a time of idol worship and nostalgia, and the fine line we ride between the two varies from elitist to even more elitist publications back to the even more elitist culture of listeners who have their head so far up their own ass, they've traveled back to the adolescent discovery of all things they consider to be "true."
Between seeing At the Drive-In continue to deconstruct the sound they more than disassembled a decade prior and the beauty and sprawl of Godspeed You! Black Emperor's out of body experience, one can say that most of our musical notches are still in tact. (I say that knowing that there is much dispute about the former.) Between a new Hot Water Music record and Texas is the Reason entering the studio with J. Robbins, it seems we just can't let go of the '90s-core musical landscape of pre-Internet showmanship.
But there's still one reunion, one time in my life I've yet to revisit, and this weekend I feel like the last decade of my life will come to a close and I will have more than a better understanding of what punk rock truly is and not what I was told it was in 2002. While it was four years after the release of The Shape of Punk to Come, I discovered Refused for the first time after seeing the video for "New Noise" on an MTV affiliated rock channel. Like videos for "One Armed Scissor" and "Understanding (In a Car Crash)," this was my first dive into "hardcore" music as I knew it to be at that point. Dead Kennedys and Black Flag were still just "punk bands" and Operation Ivy was "ska" when I was sixteen and didn't know any better and lacked any sort of back story to the bigger picture.
I didn't have ten years of research and discovery under me. Now all the pieces fit. Now I understand how we went from The Sex Pistols to Public Image Ltd. to Black Flag to Fugazi to Blink 182 to Fall Out Boy to metalcore numbness and now past 'GO,' collecting $200 through Web funding.
Just as I grew up in the suburban landscape of America, I'm not alone in how I wedged my way into the punk rock lifestyle. My story is no different than many others. I've always been an angst ridden child. I wasn't good at sports. I was very self conscious about myself throughout high school - and still am to an extent. Like many of you, at sixteen, music was the escape of emotions. But I'm not going to sit here and tell you I didn't own a copy of Significant Other years prior, or still listened to NOFX, Reel Big Fish and Blink 182 around the same time - bands some Refused fans would find "below them."
The Shape of Nu-Metal to Come.
That was my environment, and I can only be a product of it. I think that's the thing overlooked when discussing The Shape of Punk to Come. In 1997-98, it was reinventing and "new," but in 2012 it's idol worship. I didn't know who Nation of Ulysses were when I was sixteen, but now I do, and when I hear people denounce the record because of it, it's like they're ripping out a piece of what made me who I am today. It's taking a sledge hammer to the foundation of my grade school punk history 101.
All you uptight pricks just stomped on my diorama. Thanks.
The funny thing about our youthful "know-it-all" attitude is that some of us grow out of it and open ourselves to broader ranges of music, and some can't quite shake what we've always been attracted to audibly. The Shape of Punk to Come is an album centered around the expansion of what music, particularly the genre of "punk rock," could be. Beyond the references borrowed from the early hardcore scene, down to the cover for Rye Coalition's Teen-age Dance Session, the band turned it into their own for the next generation.
Somewhere, at some point in the first decade of the millennium, a line was drawn between holding our elders sacred and handing down old ideas to create new ones. There are more listeners and critics (including my guilty self) who would rather blame the next batch of bands for turning a trick than doing their best at reinventing the wheel over time. It really bothers me at this point that some of us are still in this mindset.
Tim McTague said something that just blew me away this past week in an interview with Alternative Press about the disbanding of UnderOath and about their legacy. He said, "It was this effort of a bunch of small things coming together, that obviously, we can’t take credit for—people we don’t even know probably played a massive part. It was just this thing that came out and I just kind of smiled for the fallen great bands, for the Froduses and the At The Drive-Ins, or Refused—who are obviously back and destroying everyone in their path. But at the time, all those bands that almost got there but didn’t. [Underoath] will never be dropped in the same conversations. No one from Refused will ever care about our band. I’m sure Justin Beck from Glassjaw hates our band—and that doesn’t matter. We know we’ll never connect with or inspire [the members of those bands]. They inspired us. Our music career is in honor of what they started."
It's sad to read that quote considering how far UnderOath pushed themselves as a band, the fact that they brought These Arms Are Snakes out on one of their first big tours and that like Poison the Well, UnderOath is that band that drew up the blueprint for the next wave, only to blow past them with their last three records. For some, even in the UnderOath's stride forward, they were just "ripping off Isis, etc."
The biggest tragedy to come out of The Shape of Punk to Come is that in the years to follow, we got so attached to the past that we forgot about what the future could hold. It's 2012 and we're finally digging ourselves out of the rubbish of 2005-2009's most popular hardcore, post-hardcore and punk acts to grace a Hot Topic display case.
You can sit here and bitch all you want about how Refused borrowed a few tricks from early hardcore's elite, but they also borrowed from European house music, jazz records (a genre based on ripping off other musicians and turning it into something all its own), classical string arrangements and even the blues. No one ever talks about those references. No one is defending the Bo Diddley or Igor Stravinsky allusions.
No matter the genre or sub-genres that make up punk rock, it's always been about dismantling the standard. With punk rock, there's no standard within the genre, if there was, and you're playing it, then you're not even really punk rock then, right? Punk rock's an excuse to be a rock star without having to know how to play an instrument, right? It's about being the toughest person in your crew, right? It's about cascading the most "fuck it" attitude in your lyrics, right? These standards sound familiar? That's because they're all made by us. In a genre without rules, there sure as hell seems to be a lot of them.
The Shape of Punk to Come is an album without rules. Worship and Tribute is an album without rules. Relationship of Command is an album without rules. You see where I'm going with this? But those records are references to the Bad Brains and Fugazis and Drive Like Jehus alike. So what separates their worth in history? Without Coltrane, there would be no Monk. Without the Kinks there would be no Spoon. Without the Talking Heads there would be no amount of great acts such as St. Vincent and Grizzly Bear. To put this all in a better perspective, I'll pull from what I know. To quote Roger Meyers Sr., "TV is built on plagiarism! If it wasn't for The Honeymooners, we would of never had The Flinstones! If someone hadn't made Sergeant Biko, there'd be no Topcat!" I'm ten years older than my first listen to The Shape of Punk to Come. News flash to younger readers out there: everything is built on everything. Some bands will disassemble an idea, and others will cook a pot of gumbo with many ingredients and influences.
You'll know when something is "crap," because when you move forward and backwards in time through its references, it all sounds the same. When you take a linear path through a timeline and similarities exist, but different landscapes are painted using different techniques and bases, you'll find yourself being able to sift through said "crap." It takes time and it takes growing up. You never have to grow out of punk rock, but you should learn how to use its insights to further progress.
If not, you're spending all your time on stage bitching about what's hardcore and what isn't and giving me something to laugh at on the Internet besides the "Darren Sharper 'Hold my dick!'" video.
Thanks Refused, for putting the team on your back.
When the pre-orders and tour for the recently released Circa Survive album were announced, I sent a text to Colin Frangicetto saying how I was excited to see him here in town again, and what a hell of a line-up the tour had backing it. In his response he told me about how he enjoyed my column on the package deals and wanted to know if he wanted to sit down and talk about art and music. Well, yeah, of course. So months later, we had a chat after the show. Since Frangicetto and I have a pretty agreeable sense of where music stands between art and our love of the physical medium, the interview came out great, but not a lot of new information and just sort of how we currently stand with a way to open even more discussion. But something happened during the interview that caught my attention more so. As we stood outside the bus discussing the absence of labels and the work put into the special packages of Violent Waves, there were two attendees who had been waiting around to get the band's autograph. He paused, talked a bit to the two and a few minutes later we finished the interview.
Now, I'm not putting Frangicetto or his band on a pedestal, because anyone in any band on that level of success ever could and have been that gracious. But there's an intimacy to the whole meeting that makes the dollars spent on music that much more special to someone. Even on Warped Tour this summer, some of our site's tabloid greats graciously welcomed photographs and autographs traveling from their equipment breakdown back to the bus and even vice versa. Now, the bigger you get, the harder that becomes. But interaction in some form is everything. In interaction lies some substance of integrity. Even if that interaction is between the conveyed message, thought, or idea executed on an album and the interpretation of the fan thereafter, we lead ourselves to believe that there's a bout of integrity within the "art," as some of us put it.
For those with dollar signs and ways to manipulate any art in a bastardized way of making lots of money and degrading the whole thing, it's entertainment. It's the Clear Channel way. Sometimes you just get bought and sold even when you're part of the elite bundle of money makers. I commend bands like Circa Survive. They went through the system, learned a few things and came out self sufficient. I say bands "like," because they're not the only ones to do it. As I commented in the aforementioned column Frangicetto and I discussed, mewithoutYou took a similar and still successful route this year as well.
As much as we try to couple the terms "art" and "integrity" together to give us a warm sense of comfort and satisfaction, any type of art, whether it be film, music or graphic, has the ability to get bought and sold for profit to eat, sleep, live and repeat. As I was working on finishing this column last night, I was sidetracked by yet another column (last article, scroll all the way down) by Kevin Dunn. For weeks, I feel like I haven't heard the end of it. Whether it's been discussion amongst close friends about how I feel about the situation or the hoards of editorials and tweets for and against both sides. Dunn's column caught me. First off, it's very well put together. He brings up some very vibrant points of punk culture and the buy and sell lifestyle of what "punk" is and what it isn't. That's just in the first two paragraphs. But if you know your history well enough, you know that the Sex Pistols were put together and managed by a boutique owner, Blondie became a hit radio band outside the dirty clubs of the Northeast and if you're around my age and reading this, you know that some of the first images of "punk" were and still are a bit unclear. Once anything has been taken notice by a larger minority, the majority will eventually gain curiosity and figure out what it is, and bam, you are now a marketable audience.
"Punk" has always been that taboo market where the elitist trust fund crust kids will argue for hours how those suburban middle class losers don't know what that "sacred" term really means. Punk was once part of the counter-culture, and now there are so many various forms of "Black Flag" satire t-shirts, it's about as counter-culture as Disney's Joy Division t-shirts. But I know the real point trying to be made in the "Buzzmedia buy-out of all things punk on the Web." There are the unpaid and the underprivileged that are deemed "staff" on these websites. Well, I'm one of those people. In fact, in two hours I have to be at my part-time job, which sucks so much that tomorrow I have an interview for another one. I should be at Austin City Limits this weekend, but financially it wasn't an option. That's okay, for the most part. I say "for the most part" because it's tough, stressful and sometimes depressing. But what I've learned in the past few years is that freelance writers and musicians are the poorest ones in this industry. If you think bands make little to nothing, then writers are making less and still hold part-time positions. They don't tell you this in college. They don't tell you this at the job fairs. You have a choice to enter the reality of signing an office card for Becky's birthday at the cubicle job because that's the American dream we can't detach ourselves from, or watch At the Drive In's first ever reunion show.
That credit card commercial was right. Some things are priceless. Not sure why now my credit card can get me closer to hooking up with Alicia Keys, but times change I guess.
At the end of the day, someone took a chance on me and continues to do so. Equal Vision and Atlantic took a chance on Circa Survive. Circa Survive used those outlets to learn and grow as artists and almost ten years later they've figured out how to make each lesson a prosperous one. Success doesn't come over night in this industry. It may take ten years for some of us to hone our craft and finally make a living off our talents. Mine is still growing. I'm still experimenting. I can sit here and be mad that after three years of service and what I think, or at least most of you have told me, has been quality work, the "internship" should be over. But who else has offered me a paying gig for my services? Has anyone who has complained about how I get used reached out to say, "Hey, here's a paying gig you may be interested in." No. We just sit and complain about how art, writing, intellectual property and all those things aren't raking in the big bucks.
I could sit around complaining (which I do enough of), or I could spend my time in sharing my wisdom - or lack of - through a vehicle of communication that has been given to me, and by some strange account, hasn't been taken away. You can buy and sell punk all you want, but you'll never truly change anything, catch people's attention or bury your roots deep until you find that vehicle in the system to use. Early in the interview, I think Frangicetto hit the nail on the head, "As an artist, you have to realize that sometimes your portals of communication are going to shift and change due to technology and lots of people wanting it a certain way." All four of those sites wanted to grow and make the thing they created become a full time thing. It's no different then when a band signs to a bigger label.
What can I get out of this deal to further this piece of property I hold dear?
I just want to write. Frangicetto wants to make music and paint. My friends are upstairs right now recording demos on a laptop. Somewhere, right now, someone is jamming out to the new Deathgrips record for free and before the label that gave them the money to record it even heard it. Too many people talk about how the system fucks people over, but this week I realized how much I selfishly use the system for my own needs. It may not be stealing credit cards to book tours like punk bands back in the '80s, but it's a start.
Print is dying, but zines are making a comeback. CDs are dying, but some people want a limited packaged vinyl. Somewhere in between lies the Internet: Digital music that both parties can agree on and up-to-date jackassery on pages of Tumblrs and music blogs alike. A couple of car ads aren't going to bastardized that. Is it free labor? Yes and no. I'm certainly to the point in my life where the benefits don't pay for my college debt, but it's the decision I have made and choose to live with. Jacob Bannon said something that really hit me in an interview with Pitchfork a week ago, "I don't regret the decisions or direction I've chosen, but I feel it's important to be self aware."
When you become self aware, you grow. You gain success. Here's to the future. Maybe it's all the post-rock, instrumental music this week, but I'm as excited as I am fearful for that future.
Now who wants to buy a EMI/Capitol subsidiary with me?
Punk rock is something to many and notably not all the hype for some. It can be dirty, violent and unforgiving. Well, It's meant to be, right? At its core, punk rock is not a sound, it's a universal language of revolution and change. It has something to say and doesn't care who or what gets in the way of it. No matter how much you want to separate specific sounds into genres and sub-genres alike, punk rock is not how you play a guitar or start up a pit. It's the energy that flows from simply striking a guitar to the tone of the amp resonating across crowds of 50 in a basement to 1,000 in a venue where you finally made it. Even that description doesn't matter. None of anyone's opinions of how something sounds or acts matters. At the end of the show, what you take away from it, the feeling of emotional release - that's what matters. Punk rock is supposed to invoke something special inside you and exorcise it for the thirty minutes to hour long sets of any band. Two very big people reminded me of that this weekend on separate occasions during this year's Chaos in Tejas festival in Austin, TX.
I met Moss Icon's Tonie Joy on Thursday night meeting up with my friend Derek who so happened to also handle the band's press for their reissue through Temporary Residence. Though our conversation was short lived before Toys That Kill hit the stage (and put on a stunning performance they did), I got to ask Joy at least one question I was curious about. I asked him what he thought his band was at their height. What genre did he think he was in versus what people thought of Moss Icon now? His answer wasn't that all surprising - he simply thought he was in a "rock band." Fast forward to after Moss Icon's incredible hour long reunited set (and only one thus far or possibly ever), and I got a chance to talk to Pygmylush's Chris Taylor. Taylor of course was one half the vocals of hardcore greats pg. 99. If you remember the band's interview with NPR, Taylor's take on where he saw his old band at the time and what people deem pg. 99's legacy now, it's certainly a matter of "he said, she said" dribble that's been passed along through media-heads and elitist alike. What has since carried through into Pygmylush is the state of simply doing without a purpose or foresight. There is no image, no gimmick and no predestined answer to what a song, record or band as a whole should sound like. The Ramones were a dirty pop band but they're herald as "punk pioneers." Led Zeppelin were taking a new spin on the blues and considered metal to others. Watching Tonie Joy's mini-solos on some of Moss Icon's songs Sunday night - he really was playing in a rock band.
The great thing about punk rock is also its bastardized downfall. It sums up the phrase "This is why we can't have anything nice!" We're all guilty of it - especially we, the media plethora of writers. I wonder why that is - is it the fear of association with one sound and not another? "Oh, well, they're not this, but they're more that. I don't listen or like that." It just seems dumb, and it's finally snapped in me how irritating it can be to breakdown what music isn't instead of what music is. Watching Nasum on Thursday night was no different than Dropdead on Friday to me. Both were brutal. Sure, one's "more metal" than the other, but they both invoked similar damages among the crowd and through my eardrums. I can also see the separation as well. To me, Thou is not only one of the heaviest bands, they also standout in how clean their execution is and how forceful they come off compared to everyone else around them doing the same thing right now. It's simply terrifying. Is it it doom? Is it hardcore? Is it metal? I'm sure if you asked different people, they'd give you a different answer depending on what they know and what they like.
Festivals like Chaos in Tejas and The Fest down in Gainesville remind us about the importance of community of punk rock, no matter what genre specific band you're going to see, what you're wearing to go see it or how old or how young you are still trying to attach yourself to the reason you never let that anarchist and revolutionary inside you ever completely die off. That feeling is global and seen across the overseas acts of Chaos in Tejas. Reality Crisis put on a raging set Thursday night, I almost forgot in all the media imagery I see that tells me what Japan is and isn't into that there is massive punk and metal scene in Japan. Then there was Ice Age from Denmark on Sunday before Moss Icon. It was raw, angry and slightly harmonic. It wasn't exactly grunge and it wasn't exactly hardcore. But their set sure was punk as fuck. Who the hell knew Denmark had a punk scene?!
Last year, between a heavy weekend of work, I was only able to attend a handful of shows and see a handful of bands. This year I tried to attend as many shows and see as many different bands as possible. On Saturday I saw the brutality that is the heralded Dropdead, immediately heading over to see the lush layering of one of my new favorite acts, Chelsea Wolfe. As the excitement began to calm inside me during Wolfe's intoxicating set of harmonies - opposite that of the heightened feeling I witnessed just minutes later - it dawned on me that revolution has always won out among the masses and lasted. I've said it before, I'm just some kid who writes behind a computer and can only offer insight, and hitting 26 in a few months, what I now know of what "punk can be" versus "what punk was" when I discovered the word a decade plus earlier, they are two complete variations. For the most part, the bands that I've seen to be "the best" lasted a good long time or are still talked about among "the know" - ahem*EngineDown*ahem. The bands that I didn't get to see and understood years after their demise, still last today with generations to come - as seen by the ramped hype of reunions as of late. This weekend I probably couldn't talk to you about half the line-up of Chaos in Tejas, but the venues were packed with kids and adults alike that could. Punk rock is not a fad, and the media and press and labels that make it out to be will fail for all the wrong reasons. Punk rock isn't a specific sound. It's always been a feeling. You'll know it when it hits you. You'll know it when the idea of punk rock expands when you grow older as well. I can promise you that. If you don't get that feeling ever, than you were just one who held punk rock in the wrong hands.
[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.
Whenever I go to a small show and see an up and coming band, a few questions always circle my head. No greater question has circled my head more lately than the authenticity of any sort of new music that I hear. For some of you, right now, you know EXACTLY what I mean, and for the others, I'm going to explain myself. Trends generally start as an authentic thing. A couple of people get together, tell society to fuck off and then do their thing. Gradually, a sea of assholes say, "Hey! I can do that!" They pat themselves on the back, steer their lifestyle in that general direction and eventually latch onto something new as time moves on. It's why "waves" of bands exist. By the fourth and fifth wave, we've heard it, seen it and are pretty sick and tired of it. Not only does the product not sound original, it's just taking direct cues from ones that came before - instead of mixing in new ideas.
This has been the up and down with music for years - and in the punk scene in particular. Thanks to the oh so wonderful Internet, it's easier than ever to grasp an idea and make it your own fruition - simply coloring between the lines. When one thing is beginning to get big, you have to wonder where that line will eventually get drawn as to who's in it to do their own thing, and who's in it to ride the wave of others' success.
Thursday night I drove down to San Antonio to see Xerxes and Code Orange Kids on their winter tour. Xerxes' upcoming album is one my most anticipated of 2012. I've yet to receive an advance (ahem) but the tracks I've heard thus far and the feedback from a few other bands which have heard it is pretty overwhelming. Then there's Code Orange Kids, a band that could be one of the biggest in the hardcore and thrash scene by the end of the year. They're young, and talking with them on Thursday night, they're also very ambitious - and ambitious to take the right steps. Their live show, like Xerxes, is no bullshit game. They're both emotional trainwrecks. Code Orange Kids blows out your eardrums in intense fury while Xerxes violently grabs at your heartstrings. It just feels real. Match that to seeing Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) and Dowsing at a club in the worst part of Austin or The Reptilian and my friends in Innards play a shed (yes, a shed) a couple of nights later - and it just feels like all these things are happening for the right reasons.
This is one of the most exciting times for punk music, but it's also the scariest. There's a lot of "worship" happening - and I'm not saying that it's bad to take an old tune and spin it into something that's your own (not everyone has to reinvent the wheel), I'm just saying that it's statistically impossible for everyone to standout. For every local band that gets moderately big, there are ten local bands that want to do that exact same thing. Not everyone can make it - and most of you will fail in the process.
The cycle is coming back around, and there are going to be a lot of cookie-cutter bands in the next few years that follow - this I promise you. It's already happening with the music just on a local level. Then someone will buy in, and it'll turn into a complete clusterfuck of no one giving a shit. Then there will be bands trying to do something that's not that, until we come full circle to a couple of years like the last two we just had. So head this warning: It is certainly an exciting time to be in a band. I feel like the rock star thing is dead (Thanks Dangerous Summer!) and kids want to be genuine about the music they make. For the most part, they want to do it right. That's a great start. There's no telling how long you will last in this business. The best thing you can do is leave even the smallest legacy on a 7" split or have your only proper full length be something that slightly changes the tide and is held as something special by people who may matter more down the line.
Someone told me something so simple, but verbally slapped some knowledge across my face leaving a mark that is a partial reason I wrote this blog. It's easy to be a follower. There's no thought, and anyone can follow anything. It's harder to be a leader. It's harder to get someone to listen to what you have to say and follow accordingly. Love'em or hate'em, those people are doing more with a week's worth of work than you may do in a year. Be a leader, have integrity and ask yourself if you're setting a precedent or notch in the bigger picture. That's what punk rock is about - the following part is why many people say it's dead. Let's fucking prove them wrong.
I've had the fine pleasure of messing around with the new site for the past week like much of the staff, and I can tell you that what Jason has put together is living up to my expectations and more. There's a few things I would personally change design-wise that I brought up, but they're so miniscule, and they don't take away from the experience, so it really doesn't matter. The way you move through the site; the clean feel of it. It's like knowing where everything in your dirty room is if you're looking for it, but one day finally just cleaning it the fuck up. That's the biggest part of AP.net 3.0 - it's the progressive version of what I think Jason wanted this site to be over time.
With progression will come minor offense by us spectators. "Oh, well I liked this minor thing here," or "I liked how raw this looked, sounded, felt, etc.," and it just continues like that from generation to generation. It's the one drawback for having a creative intellect and a judgmental one at that. If you really want to stand out, you'll move forward. Will anyone care about the third album from "insert band that gets so much shit but only has 15-year-old fans that will grow out of their music here," in five years? Ten? Seriously, Millionaires has a Kickstarter with shitty incentives. These things are called a "flash in the pan."
Good art (subjectively speaking on a larger or cult like scale) will only be herald over time. One album doesn't mean shit. Ten albums and eight really good or close to solid ones means more. Three solid ones that birthed influence but never sold means even more than the ones that garnered immediate sales and dropped off. Good art is also produced by people who won't give up on their ideas. I wonder what Loveless would have sounded like if Kevin Shields didn't bankrupt the record label. What if Black Flag never learned how to play their instruments? What if bands like Young Widows or Jesus Lizard or Jawbox never aimed for the perfect tones in their recordings?
Hearing some of O'Brother's songs last night off their upcoming record Garden Window and listening to Circle Takes the Squares nearly flawless layering of only the first third of their new album, it made me think of a new perspective of all my pissing and moaning. There wasn't a time in the late 2000s where music was awful - it just didn't have any heart anymore for some of us. It seemed like for a second that the majority (not all) bands were making music for the sake of making it. (note: the italicized statement can be taken two ways.) I think that's what I'm beginning to see when talking to some of these artists that are releasing some phenomenal music this year - there's heart and desire in it again. Bands are going out of their way for a certain showmanship of overcoming their own challenged ideas.
For a lot of you, moving onto the new site will seem strange and weird. It's not raw anymore. It's been remasterd in the best way possible. As we spend our last few weeks or months with this house, cherish the qualities it's given to us as a community. Those same values are in the next site, it's just perfecting those qualities. When you first get into punk rock, it's all about fucking the system over and creating anarchy and making it about us against them. The truth is that that sort of idealism is complete bullshit. Take it from someone who once had that ideal. The truth is that punk rock is about taking what is wrong, and making it right and building a community around positive ideals of how to do things properly. When you're young, noise is cool and new; when you grow older, learning how to control it in your favor is even better. That's the real art of punk rock - breaking the rules without anyone even knowing you're doing so.
I just spent my Saturday night in a warehouse sweating my ass off. Around me walked what is usually deemed the "crust punks" and tatted underbelly of any town's D.I.Y. hardcore scene. Just kids looking for a cheap place to hang with their friends and swig as much cheap beer as possible. It's a community that has thrived across this nation for some years now. While the sounds around these show attendees have changed and shifted from the doomiest of metal to the highest spin kicks a local hardcore band can bring to the table, it's not only about the diversity of the shows' bills, it's also about playing on the floor. It's about roots.
Roots is something I feel is lacking sometimes these days.
Convictions are a hard thing to shake sometimes. For some, we stand by our own stubborn standards and never grow, and others bloom, taking their convictions to new levels without wrapping them in any sort of anchored guilt or hypocritical run around. No one knows this better than the D.I.Y. scene of ethics. It's why Fat Wrecks tells you that you shouldn't pay more than "this" for a record or why Fugazi will only play shows under certain conditions.
None of these things are hurting the scene, it only enhances the message of doing it yourself for yourself and gaining better self values in the end. There really is a greater reward in putting 100% of your own work in and gaining 100% of the profits - and not just financially. But, it can also be a burden. If it's not done right, it can be the end of you. Unfortunately in a time where gas is high and kids only have so much of their allowance to go to so many shows, there is a tight rope called touring just about every D.I.Y. band is facing out there right now.
Don't forget, bill collectors don't defer payments because you're on the road.
An even thinner line to walk is the push over from punk rock ethics to rock star tabloid. Lately, especially with the hurt of the tragedy that is isanyoneup?, internet n00dz are the new stolen sex tapes - that artists are intentionally putting up themselves! See, when I was growing up, the top 40 radio bullshit rock stars is one of the reasons I attached myself to punk music in general. There was no wall, and there was no ego. (Egos are something I don't deal with, so if you have one, please do yourself a favor, and fuck off.) With the contemporary "scene," it sometimes feels like a bunch of bro-hemians with studio tricks and party vans.
Ask any server, they will tell you the same thing: Every server wishes that every single person, especially regular restaurant guests, should have to work one weekend at a mildly busy establishment. I feel that in the age of Internet hits and plays and critical hype addressed across any shitty tumblr or even standard given website automatically blooms these rock stars without any sort of years touring in a van until they're on the brink of quitting.
On the flipside of that, there has to be a time when a band that has busted their ass on the road should consider getting a little bit of help. Really, nobody wants to go home, and after kicking, scratching, starving and clawing your way up the mountain for so many years, there's always someone with the right intentions to push your success truthfully. I know these people exist, because I talk to these networks on a regular basis.
I think Evan Weiss saying the days of the rock star are dead is a powerful, yet weary statement. Unfortunately, there's no turning back the numbers of hit counters and play clocks that plague the web. Labels consist of people with jobs, and that means revenue and turnover. While that system will continue to exist in some form for some labels, we'll continue to have this divide between the rock star and the D.I.Y. kids who haven't showered in days.
So, last week Native rolled into town with PJ Bond and that's where the discussions started. As a) an Austin resident and b) someone who has frequented many shows and regular venues of this great city, I'm already getting the South by Southwest buzz. Sorry, I get to be the guy who gets to know, but I will keep my mouth shut to the public about the upcoming day and night showcases I've heard about so far.
Just in the last week, my excitement is beginning to swell, and possibly going to my head. So I sit hear. Just breathe. I keep calm. There has been much discussion amongst my good friends about what South by Southwest will bring to the table this year, but one thing we all agreed upon is the next wave of bands. In 2011, 2001 is on its way to happening again. It's something, if you read anything I write about (read: we get it, you hate most of Rise Records' line-up), I've been standing on a digital soapbox for some time now telling you all that it's been ten years. Like most frequent cycles, especially in that of music, we've come full circle. Hearing about the number of bands coming and not coming to this year's week long event of music, networks and free booze - where we're going, we don't need no stinkin' badges.
There are a lot of showcases I'm excited about for a reason other than the great acts. I'm excited to see how many kids will pile into some of these smaller venues as opposed to the big rooms. I'm curious to see if some of these kids are looking for more substance in the art than is piled across their faces and hair styles. There are certain bands gaining momentum out of house shows and clubs and into larger venues - headline tours are foreseen in the near future. These bands are growing alongside other bands. They're touring together. Most importantly - they're feeding off each other.
Thankfully for an enthusiast as myself, I need something to keep me guessing, to keep me excited. There are numerous times in my field where I've said, "Yeah, that was good," but really meant, "Meh, it wasn't bad, but it didn't strike a match under my senses." Maybe because it either sounded similar, or there was a lack skill or passion holding it back from inspiring a cartoon light bulb above my head. Last year, there were many light bulbs. This year looks poised to create even more. I hear these bands talk about one another. They talk about other bands' skills. They talk about their anticipation of hearing each bands' upcoming albums, and not as colleges and friends sharing a bill, but fans of their respective music. It happened with labels and rosters like Dischord and BYO and Level Plane. Sure, those labels don't have the turnaround they once did, but think about how many bands they ended up influencing. A lot of those labels are these new labels. A lot of those bands are these new bands.
Much like my banter on intellectual property, ideas need to fight and feed off each other to progress. Jazz musicians ripped each other off and made it the point. They were breeding new ideas from tired old ones. Big question: How long will this new generation boil, and how long til it settles into another round of conformity?
For now, things look promising. Today I received the new Former Thieves album, The Language That We Speak, in my inbox. I haven't put it down all day. It has sidetracked me from writing reviews I was working on earlier in the afternoon. It's made me think about the first time I heard something heavy and thought-provoking like Botch or Norma Jean or Fear Before the March of Flames. It's an album that grabs the listener, and in a way, sets a bar among many hardcore bands right now.
La Dispute, Touche Amore and Defeater are up to bat later this year. Match that to new releases from Thursday and Glassjaw, more brewing from the Midwest and Long Island scene (Tidal Arms and Lights Resolve especially), and there are pockets of musicians everywhere feeding off each other. Though there is usually much complaining of your favorite bands hitting it big, I'm so tired of the muck, that I hope Former Thieves' single, whichever they choose, is the top play on Headbanger's Ball - if MTV even still shows that...
After one month, 2011 has proven itself to be a brute force of a year. I'm 24, but I feel like I'm 16 again. I hope all those that are now 16, they finally realize what real punk music is.
We've extended the list a bit this week, well, because songwriter/composer Max Richter wrote ten. What was I going to tell the guy? No? Thanks Max for taking the time to share with us your top punk/post picks with us - with honorable mention.
Crass - Feeding Of The 5000
This, together with the much coveted 12 inch singles in the black and grey cardboard sleeves introduced me to the cult of Crass. Growing up just north of London in the belly of the Thatcherite monster it was strong medicine - exactly what we needed.
Stiff Little Fingers - Hanx
SLF were always better live than on record - some of my first gigs were seeing this lot - totally frightening experience - at 14 we were always pleased to get out of there without getting our heads kicked in...
The Clash - London Calling
It's a total classic. Recently, after playing a show in Tokyo somebody dropped this in a karaoke bar and the place went crazy.
The Stranglers - Rattus Norvetticus and No More Heroes
These are amazing records, but The Stranglers always felt dangerous politically - in a way more so than most of the other bands, because you got a sense from them that they really didn't care about anything at all. Whereas so much of this material is about sticking it to the man, The Stranglers want to stick it to YOU.
Dead Kennedys - Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables
Needs no introduction from me. They were frightening live + the original (?) drummer is called 6025! - what more do you want!?
Godspeed You Black Emperor - F Sharp A Sharp Infinity
This is a punk record as far as I'm concerned - and a wonderful one at that
Billy Bragg - Life's a Riot with Spy Vs. Spy
Social agenda AND good tunes!
Bob Dylan - Bringing It All Back Home
Can't play the guitar and shouts/sings out of tune? Anti establishment and challenging the powers that be? That's Punk, no?
The Cure - Seventeen Seconds + "Killing an Arab"
These are works of genius + were / are so influential
The Jim Jones Revue
These guys have taken an old thing and kicked it around in an excellent new way - the killer is back!
also (honorary mention)
Unsociable outcast drunk guy? Check! Smashed up instruments and was thrown out of bars? Check! Foul mouthed and aggressive to basically everyone? Check! But he also wrote stuff that will live as long as the human race lasts - not bad for a freak.
Last night I came home to ramble (see previous entry). It's something that's been dwelling on my mind for the past few months. It's something I've been thinking about even before I signed on for this job title. It's something that has been eating at my back even more in the past few months. It's something that keeps coming up in off the record conversations and on the record interviews (even last night with Trash Talk).
What is punk? What does it mean anymore? Do we not see it because we're in the now and have no time to look back in retrospect?
Before I ramble on, last night's show set my mind steamrolling, so let's get to that, and maybe we can all have more of a conversation.
La Dispute took the stage first. In every 30 minute set I've seen of these guys, it brings me back a decade to small club shows, college house parties and and lack of visual stimulus. It's five guys playing with passion and creative songwriting. It's hard to say this as a writer, because I consider these guys friends now, but as a listener, they have my full attention.
Hearing Therefore I Am cover At the Drive In's "Arcarsenal" invoked a rage and a relief within me. In distaste, hearing anyone cover At the Drive In invokes an elitist nerve in the back of my skull like no other. There are certain bands (Refused, Botch, At the Drive In, etc.) that just should not be touched. (Sorry if you're reading this Brian.) At the same time, Therefore I Am's music is worthy of their idol worship. Equalvision made a great choice with this band, and they certainly played their heart out to a point where the crowd got more into it as the set went along. Rarely do you see a band move a crowd steadily upon impact.
What about if the plane hits the ground and causes complete chaos upon said impact though. That's what a Trash Talk show is like. I just remember grinning like an idiot and and thinking, "Wow. This is what it was like to be at a punk rock or hardcore show in the mid-80's." Between the visceral short spats of the band's older material, to the longer, creeping violence of their new material, Trash Talk is exactly what everyone has been talking about. Even in a conversation about the set I had with a friend, he had commented on how Lee McFag swung his hair like a young Henry Rollins. If you've been itching for a contemporary showcasing the elders, Trash Talk are the real thing.
My thoughts on Alexisonfire have changed over their career. First off, Dallas Green has one of the best set of melodic vocals out there. I think with his solo career as City and Colour, he's only gotten better in his carry with Alexisonfire. For the rest of the band, I think they've all grown out of a generic shell they once were and are writing songs now past their own contemporaries years later. It's funny, as I see backlash from older fans about the band's new material, I see a band that has grown into their own. While I caught the beginning and ending of the band's set due to my interview with Trash Talk, the band still put their all into it. On a lighter note, somewhere in the 40 minutes I was gone, George Pettit lost his shirt.
What the show did invoke more than the performance norm was conversation brought up amongst friends and band members alike during the night. The central focus seemed to be that of what was and wasn't "punk."
I've been thinking about this site lately as well. I've enjoyed the spectrum of coverage thus far, while at the same time, a part of me has been digging to find an identity like that of Pitchfork or Rolling Stone, but in the end would hope that our identity is in our name as a site. That AP.net can be a site where users and non-users can come to discover what is different from what they are getting bored or tired of. I think that's always been the grand scheme since the beginning, but I can see it as an opportunity even more now.
I'll make it less a secret by saying that the staff have been compiling some new picks for our new class of the Absolute Classics this year. I couldn't be more proud of the picks which are so far across the board both in time and genre. It seems like sometimes we get caught up in the sound of punk as opposed to the idea of punk. It's the idea that anyone has the ability to do anything. By doing so, the environment will react either positively or negatively depending on the action. A reaction is all that is needed in the adversity of the norm.
In the best conversation I had last night, one thing that was brought up is time. I can react on Trash Talk's show as being nostalgic of the videos I've seen of an 80's hardcore show because time has passed to make that comparison. I feel like only a decade of the majority of my involvement has passed within music on an engaging level. Who's to say that one band or one moment I overlooked will have a greater butterfly effect down the line? Who's to say that the most laughable thing will be the most punk thing to a future generation of kids? How many people, at the sight of seeing the Sex Pistols or witnessed Nirvana opening a small club with out of tuned guitars, thought it was something that wouldn't "last" or "make an impact?"
I'm still unsure what this whole "punk" thing is. I'm going to continue to study it. One thing I do latch onto after last night's show is this: Punk rock is more progressive than one, even myself, wants to acknowledge. There is nothing stagnant about it in any way, shape or form that we as listeners, critics and historians can pinpoint. It's an idea that is constantly evolving into new ideas. The one thing is, if you're going to keep up the idea and/or reinvent the wheel, just make sure there is passion behind it.
I believe that this tour will go under the radar for some to attend other less-passionate showcases of what's out there, but I say go, enjoy yourself for the night. In the end, this tour is a pretty damn good time. It got me thinking about a lot. That's as punk rock as I ever want to get - Socrates style motherfuckers!
I've been tossing around in my head what is "punk" and what isn't "punk" lately. I'm not talking about a certain sound or way an instrument is played or a performance piece. I'm talking about an attitude. I'm talking about a passion. Where is the true defiance against the system anymore? Are we really searching for what is authentic in a processed world?
I saw a really great show tonight. Talk to some great musicians about what this whole "punk" thing really means. I think a lot of us are jaded on two sides of the subject. Some of us are polarized to believe in a certain set of rules, while others, not unlike myself, are searching for that authenticity amongst the congested drain of runoff. We're searching for a feeling and vibe that ran through the crowds we can only witness on shaky recordings of Black Flag and Bad Brains shows from the 80's.
There's a rebellion happening amongst the old and new aesthetic alike. It's been brewing for a few years now. I think it's starting to seep above the surface like the guck in Ghostbusters 2.
Hope it doesn't leave a sour smell like the Too Drunk to Fuck Tour.
It's a constant battle between artists and their fans. A war rages between progressive initiative and listener expectations. For some of us who've discovered albums later in a band's career, or even worse, after their demise, we can take a more complete look at a band's catalog and realize the impact an album had before its critical downfall.
Today I present five albums that are favorites to a future generation, and a few who "got it" the first time. For some of these artists, it is just a lot of praise a bit too late.
1) Refused - The Shape of Punk to Come --- Talk about an album that no one understood. Could there be violin in a punk rock song? Where are all these house beats coming from? This better not be the shape of punk to come, or I'm going to be pissed! Needless to say, the band's final album didn't catch on well at first. Some of us got it, and others shunned the album's foreshadowing message.
2) Jawbreaker - Dear You --- Geffen Records was pissed. Off the heat of 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, no one saw the slow-tempo, major label follow-up as stunning. Sales showed it. Now many see it as the band's best work, and a staple amongst albums such as How It Feels to Be Something On and the following record on the list...
3) Promise Ring - Wood/Water --- "Is This Thing On?" seems a more appropriate title to an album that had many scratching their heads, and critics calling it a bomb. For all the Dashboard Confessional and Death Cab For Cutie records, this one is definitely a audible canvas of the brightest day in Spring. Try listening to this record without a smile.
4) Weezer - Pinkerton --- For many, including myself, this stands as the best Weezer album to date. Following the adolescent flow of their (first) self-titled album, growing up is what many audiences didn't want for the band. If the "Blue Album" is one of high school fun, then this is the trip through college. For all the backlash this album received, a good friend once said, in the face of critical vice, he'd probably continue to write catchy pop songs for Pinkerton's follow-up albums.
5) Acceptance - Phantoms --- Initially, Phantoms was considered bland, generic, and has continued to spark some controversy on the site. However, having leaked 6 months before its release, and its first single being a ballad ("Different"), Acceptance have created a true phantom (pun) of a record. Still to this day, new fans are being won over with its catchy, emotionally driven and talented lyrics. To quote Scott Weber, "this truly is an outstanding album, full of accessible emotion and passion," and continues to accompany many "Best Album" lists. (Mike Kraft)
This past week I had the honor of interviewing Shawn Stern, not only a member of one of punk's influential bands (Youth Brigade), but also co-founder of BYO Records, an imprint that has been around for 25+ years, and one of the first labels to come up after the so called "death of punk."
One of his answers really stuck out:
You couldn’t “Google” your questions, as the Internet didn’t exist. [There were] no cell phones to book a tour. So we just pounded the pavement, asked questions and eventually figured it out by doing it.
I sometimes wonder if we all have it too easy. If this isn't hard work, but life led by a handicap. Then I wonder how much more adventurous and exciting this whole music thing would be without the laments of technology.
As someone who is all for hearing an album with the least amount of anticipation as possible, the "plausible" new system would be the plug in the leak.
Like print, with the advent of the Internet, buzz seems to trump contemporary print reviews. Why pick up a paper, when you can instantly get an idea in a forum or on a messageboard.
But, let's not forget how the hype machine started. It started with advances and song clips showing up weeks before releases on sites like this, and countless blogs across the Web. Some embrace it, others want to get it shut down.
Honestly, there was a time when I got excited off a single, or listened to a few free MP3's that I found until I could save up to get the CD. Now it has turned into a full blown hoard and digital impatience for many of us.
There was a time when we worked, and sat patiently for our just desserts. I think it'll come around again, because the system's starting to look like one big game of Jenga, and someone's about to pull the wrong piece.