Tuesday, November 25, 2008

X - Los Angeles

The first time I heard the song "Los Angeles" by X I was surprised by their unabashed use of the words "nigger" and "jew" and almost passed them off as a racist band. After all, upon a first listen the lines "she started to hate every nigger and jew, every mexican that gave her lotta shit, every homosexual and the idle rich" look pretty questionable. That's until you dig a bit deeper and realize the story singer Exene Cervenka is telling about a destrought girl trying to get out of LA in the late 70's/early 80's and how she sees the city.

That's one of the greatest things about X. Not only do they write incredibly tuneful, varied punk rock with a range of influences, drawing equally from old blues, country and rockabilly, they have the incredible storytelling quality because of Cervenka's incredible lyrics. Though they aren't as raw and straight forward as contemporaries like The Germs, The Weirdos and others from the Dangerhouse/SST/etc roster, they fit in quite well with the LA punk scene of the early 80's where everyone was a little bit different, but it all fell under the same umbrella.

Every time I listen to this record I'm overwhelmed with high school nostalgia and unlike so many records, it actually holds up in my adult life because it's simply a classic punk record.

X - Los Angeles

Sunday, November 23, 2008

End of Fall/Beginning of Winter Mix - 11/24/08

01. Sleep Out - Not Even Dust
02. Grouper - Heavy Water/I'd Rather Be Sleeping
03. Beat Happening - Indian Summer
04. The Feelies - Moscow Nights
05. Neil Halstead - A Gentle Heart
06. No Age - Teen Creeps
07. Sun Kil Moon - Carry Me, Ohio
08. Violent Femmes - Color Me Once
09. Throwing Muses - Not Too Soon
10. The Ronettes - I Wonder
11. Vivian Girls - I Believe in Nothing
12. Moscow Olympics - Still
13. She, Sir - The Clandestine
14. Beach House - Holy Dances
15. The Radio Dept. - Closing Scene

End of Fall/Beginning of Winter Mix

Friday, November 21, 2008

Go Sailor - S/T

In high school I picked up a compilation put out by Lookout! Records entitled A Slice of Lemon. It was a double disc comprised almost entirely of bands I'd never heard of aside from the Mr. T Experience, The Bomb Bassets and Pansy Division. However, in addition to being my intro to Elliott Smith and Deerhoof it also turned me onto one of the Bay Area's finest twee-pop exports, Go Sailor. They only released 3 7"s and a track for a compilation, but they were exceptional. Fronted by Rose Melberg of The Softies and the equally great Tiger Trap, they wrote beautiful, catchy indie-pop with wonderful harmonies and just enough punkish energy for the teenage me to be completely unabashed in my love for them. In fact, I would go so far as to say "Silly," "Ray of Sunshine" and "Last Year" are nearly perfect pop songs.

Go Sailor - S/T

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Arma Angelus - The Grave End of the Shovel

Regardless of any posthumous popularity they received because of what members went on to do, Arma was definitely an underdog band in this city while they were around. They started when the heavier hardcore scene in Chicago was at an extreme lull and while my friends and I thought they were great, most people here hated them. It was either that they were too fashionable, they had members of Racetraitor (a very polarizing band), they were stuck up, they were rich kids, etc etc. There were a million superficial reasons people didn't like them, but I personally thought they were one of the more interesting bands around at the time. They took over where Damnation ad left off as far as writing really heavy, dark hardcore with depressing lyrics, but added their own unique style to it. On their first EP The Grave End of the Shovel Arma really laid the foundation for what they would achieve on their next record Where Sleeplessness is Rest from Nightmares. Wentz always wrote good lyrics and though many of the ones here are pretty melodramatic looking back on them, he definitely started coming into his own as the band progressed (and eventually ended up doing his best work in FOB).

Some of the songs here are a little longer than they probably need to be and they definitely hit their stride on the next record, but listening to this EP immediately brings me back to a certain time period where hardcore was my entire life and I was incredibly stoked to be meeting so many people and making so many new friends. The day they recorded backup vocals for this we were invited up to Rosebud Studios to be a part of them. It was Trohman's 15th or 16th birthday and like every recording session ever, it was taking a long time to get started so he and I left to get pizza. By the time we got back they were finished. It was a good day.

Arma Angelus - The Grave End of the Shovel

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Chamberlain - The Moon My Saddle

The Moon My Saddle has been a favorite of mine for many years now and it just occurred to me that I've never posted it here. For those who don't know, Chamberlain is the band that evolved from 90's hardcore turned Emo-Core pioneers, Split Lip. On Fates Got a driver their final LP as Split Lip and first as Chamberlain, the band shed much of their mid-tempo hardcore tendencies in favor of something more melodic and emotional, with vocalist David Moore stepping up his game as a singer and lyricist. If Fates Got a Driver was their first foot out the door of hardcore, The Moon My Saddle was a complete lobotomy erasing any memory of that era. Not in a derogatory way of course. Honestly, I think The Moon My Saddle is a masterpiece and it serves as my favorite record the band did under either moniker.

I've always loved Chamberlain because they were able to capture the essence of the Midwest unlike any band I've ever heard. Within the 11 tracks on The Moon My Saddle you can envision the long drives through empty fields, hear the steps cut the silence in a town where everything closes at 7pm, sleeping with freight trains running in the distance and everything else that goes along with rural life and even I can relate to growing up in the suburbs of Chicago. Moore has a great ability to tell a detailed story through his lyrics. They are personal and intense, but relatable enough to make you feel like you are right there with him. Musically, they still exude the same fire as on Fates Got a Driver but in a more classic rock and roll way. The songs are fresh but instantly familiar, like you've been hearing them all your life. And if the term "bar rock" wasn't such a four letter word, they'd be the greatest bar rock band ever. Instead, they are simply a great band that never really got their due.

Chamberlain - The Moon My Saddle

Monday, November 3, 2008

Black Star - Black Star

Earlier today my friend Joel and I were discussing our favorite hip-hop records of all time and we each came up with a list of five. Whenever I make lists like that I always have to revise because I inevitably leave something out. In this case, I left out one of the rap records that affected me the most - the self-titled debut by Black Star.

Black Star was/is a collaboration between Mos Def and Talib Kweli and marked the first proper release for both MC's. Since it's release, both parties have gone onto successful solo careers and Mos Def has been doing some acting. However, I think these dudes are at their best when working with each other. The rhymes and word play between the two is incredible and it seems as though they kept each other in check quite well. Alone, they each tend to tread into questionable territory, but Black Star is succinct at only 13 tracks in under 50 minutes with minimal skits and throwaway tracks. They also rework Slick Rick's classic "Children's Story" and give a nod to BDP on "Definition."

This album will forever remind me of being 18 and working at 6am at a fitness center. I'd leave for work in the freezing cold when it was still dark and I'd get all the way to work before my car warmed up. I listened to this record every morning and during breaks when I'd smoke cigarettes in my car. When I got fired from that job for a totally ridiculous reason, I didn't listen to it for at least a year because I'd always think of getting fired and it would enrage me. Now, I still love it just as much as the winter I bought it.

Black Star - Black Star

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Sister Cities

Some good friends of mine recently recorded for a new band they are doing called Sister Cities. Musically, it's gritty fast hardcore/punk with great personal lyrics. I'll save the band comparisons, just check it out.

Sister Cities on Myspace