Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Material Issue - International Pop Overthrow

Growing up my friend Nick was pretty lucky to have two older sisters into good music. One put him onto things like skateboarding, punk rock, graffiti and miscellaneous rebellion. The other was an academic, but really into 90's indie rock, shoegaze, new wave and brit-pop. There was a fair amount of musical crossover between the two so I'm not sure which one got him into Material Issue, which coincidentally got me into Material Issue. Truth be told, I could not stand them at first. Sometime in middle school Nick and I were watching a VHS tape full of music videos one of his sisters had and "Valarie Loves Me" was on it. I think I might have said "they are trying too hard to sound British" or something at the time, but either way, I wasn't having it. I was a hard sell as a kid because I remember hearing the Morrissey single "The more you ignore me the closer I get" and Blur's Modern Life is Rubbish around the time I first heard Material Issue and I was put off by all three. Morrissey being the most offensive to me at the time. It more or less boiled down to the fact that none of those bands were Nine Inch Nails and I didn't really want to hear anything that wasn't fast, heavy or both.

A few years after the original exposure, Nick was listening to International Pop Overthrow in his car and it occurred to me that I really hadn't given Material Issue a fair shake. While they aren't the most mind-blowing, innovative band ever, they still put out a record full of incredible, jangly pop songs about girls and heartbreak. An old friend of mine always said he wanted his wedding song to be "The Very First Lie." Kind of funny given the backhanded nature of the lyrics, but a great song nonetheless.

Though this record sold fairly well, they were certainly overshadowed by other, edgier bands coming up in Chicago music at the time. They released a few more records following International Pop Overthrow, but like many (I presume), I've never actually listened to them. Sadly, lead singer Jim Ellison committed suicide in 1996.

Material Issue - International Pop Overthrow

Thirty Seconds Deep - Hot Carl

My mom was the newspaper adviser at a high school for the better part of her career as an educator. The paper would often have fundraisers to make up for the money they couldn't generate through subscriptions & funding and in the mid-90's, a "Battle of the Bands" was one of them. I was in middle school at the time and right in the early stages of my musical development. Every year there would be a few bands that were legitimately good and as someone just getting into punk, I was drawn to those bands more than any other. The band that made the biggest impression on me at the time was Thirty Seconds Deep. They were still something of a ska-punk band, but they were so much tighter and cohesive than the other bands that were vying to be crowned kings of an arbitrary award.

A year or two later I saw a flier for a show they were playing at a church in downtown Naperville with The Undesirables, Three Days, The Tardies and Luke Skawalker. This was the first show I ever attended and I still remember the day vividly. We had a half day from school so my friends and I spent afternoon smoking pot and eating pizza until my parents drove us over. That part sticks out to me because it was one of the only times I smoked pot and actually enjoyed it unlike every other time where I thought I was having an anxiety attack.

The show itself was great and it opened my friends and I up to a whole world we had only read about in interviews and liner notes. It just kind of made sense. I was neither popular nor outcasted in school, but I never really felt like I fit in either. However, in the confines of this show I felt like a part of something bigger. Even if only on a surface level.

I bought the Hot Carl 7" at the show even though I didn't own anything to play it on. I had my mom borrow a portable record player from her school and I'd listen to it on repeat on the floor of my bedroom and read through issues of Maximumrocknroll in which I'd only recognize the name of one band in the entire magazine (as part of an advertisement, not because of an article or review).

On Hot Carl they had officially ditched the traces of ska that permeated their previous 7"s and took the direction of classic Chicago Punk Rock with a midwest emo bent (namely on "Gamble"). There are some moments on here that haven't aged too well in the grand scheme, but much of it just sounds like something that came out of Chicago in the mid-90's. Regardless, this record will always be important to me because of the memories associated with it.

I have also included the self-titled 7" (aka The Chiquita Banana 7") as a separate download.

Thirty Seconds Deep - Hot Carl

Thirty Seconds Deep - S/T

Friday, January 23, 2009

Like Bats - Demo

Every so often a new band will cross my path that makes remember why I got into punk/hardcore in the first place. This nervous, unpredictable energy that reminds me of the Saturday afternoons my parents would drive me to the record store so I could buy Screeching Weasel and Apocalypse Hoboken records, aimless nights spent driving around with my friends or days spent inside listening to said records and typing out ridiculous content for my high school fanzine. Sometimes the smallest things about bands trigger this and it immediately brings back intense feelings for times past. Like almost everyone growing older but still interested in punk rock, only a handful of things stick out to me in any given heap. However, when something does catch my ear, it feels like being 15 again and discovering something for the first time. One of the most interesting bands I've heard in a while is a trio from Northwest Indiana called Like Bats. They play a rough but melodic brand of pop-punk that reminds of a lot of early-mid 90's bands on the Lookout! Records roster. After years of seeing tons of bands playing melodic "punk" that have no connection, interest or roots within punk rock, it's always refreshing to hear a band that does it right.

I sent Like Bats a few questions to get an idea where they are coming from. It's pretty short, but I feel like I'll do something else on them in the future. This is a first for Harsh Distractions and something I'd like to continue. I posted their demo below. Check it out.

If you had to name one band that really got you into punk rock, who would it be? What about them made you want to dig deeper and when did you realize you could just start your own band?

Joey: Although it isn't the most 'punk rock' album, I'd go with At The Drive-In's Vaya EP.

Kyle: Green Day's Dookie. I would always go into S&J stereo in Highland and I was scared that if I never bought anything the guy would kill me because he is very intimidating. It was a good buy.

Mike: The band that got me into punk rock was Bad Religion. My dad showed me that band when I was super young, but the band that made me realize punk could be really personal and introspective was Small Brown Bike. That's when I realized I could start a band like this and write lyrics that are specific to me and kinda wimpy but still play punk.

As a relatively new band, how has the response been so far?

Kyle: It's been pretty good so far. People seemed to be into us at the out of town shows we've played and the response where we live has been really good too.

How has being from Northwest, Indiana affected the dynamic of your band? Do you see a difference in the people and attitudes from there compared to those from Chicago and the suburbs?

Mike: I think it affects the dynamic of the band and the songwriting only in the way that Northwest Indiana and the suburbs are a little more depressing. There's no bright lights or big city to look at and I think we use that to our advantage and it helps us write better songs. But other than that, Indiana's not so bad. Sometimes you just feel trapped in a cage of houses, strip malls, and Wal-Mart's, but you get used to it. A person's surroundings always helps shape the way you write songs. I have this weird sense of pride about living in Indiana, it's the underdog. Everyone looks down on it. The only difference I really see in music scenes between NWI and Chicago is that people from Indiana are more accepting and eager to go out to see Chicago bands. People from Chicago can generally give two shits about bands from Indiana, for the most part. There are definitely exceptions though. People from Chicago seem to really like Cold Shoulder.

The lyrics on the demo are pretty depressing, but incredibly self-aware and well-written. Are they primarily about the same incident? How closely do the samples from "Lonesome Jim" tie in?

Mike: I wrote all the lyrics about one specific girl. I know its kind of selfish and almost immature to write about a girl so literally, but I think anyone who has ever had their heart broken can understand and relate to the lyrics. It's one of the worst feelings in the world. And the movie Lonesome Jim is just one of those movies I watched over and over when I was most down. I relate to that movie like a good record and I just wanted to put some quotes in the demo because of its relevance to the time in my life when I wrote the lyrics.

What has been the most satisfying part of doing the band up to this point?

Joey: All the kind words our friends have said.

Kyle: Mike motivated me to start writing some lyrics. I am satisfied as fuck.

Mike: The most satisfying part is just having an outlet to vent about all my bullshit. Also, playing shows obviously. I love it.

If you could have people take away only ONE thing from listening to or seeing Like Bats, what would it be?

Mike: It would be that sense of comfort you get from sad songs when you're feeling down. You know what I'm talking about.

Kyle: That we're all single. Sup ladies?

What are your plans for the future?

Mike: We're doing a split with our friends Young Devilry and we're currently booking a ten day tour to the east coast in March, and we're also doing a 4-way split 7" with some other bands for this D.C. based label called Traffic Street Records. That's about it for now I think. Thanks for the interview and for putting our demo up!

Like Bats on Myspace

Update: The link for this was deleted when Mediafire erased my entire library. Since then Traffic Street Records has announced they will be re-releasing this demo/EP on cd with new artwork, etc. Out of respect for the label, I won't be re-upping this. Pre-Order the EP Here

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Evil Nine (Feat. EL-P) - All The Cash (Glitch Mob Remix)

I can't stop listening to this track from breakbeat duo Evil Nine. This thing is such a banger.

Evil Nine (Feat. EL-P) - All The Cash (Glitch Mob Remix)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

This is Cinema - Birth

It's always a good feeling when your friends start bands you enjoy. That way when the inevitable question of "what do you think of my band?" comes up, you can be totally honest and say, "I think it's great." In fact, when this EP came out a few years ago, I listened to it constantly. Something about them really struck me. Perhaps it's because This is Cinema sound instantly familiar while remaining very original or maybe it's Ben's deep baritone or the beautifully layered arrangements of strings. Whatever the case may be, I think it's a great EP from a band that should have done more. These six songs aren't enough to satisfy me.

This is Cinema - Birth

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Some of my favorite songs of 2008

I posted my favorite records of 2008 on my personal blog the other day. To coincide with that I made a mix of some of my favorite songs of the year. A lot of good records came out in 2008 so obviously this is only a fraction of what I listened to, but I think this is a decent representation. Happy New Year everyone!

Track Listing

01. The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound
02. Hot Chip - Ready for the Floor
03. Sleep Out - Not Even Dust
04. M83 - Kim and Jessie
05. Wavves - So Bored
06. This is Ivy League - Love is Impossible
07. Cale Parks - Every Week Ends
08. Air France - No Excuses
09. Vivian Girls - I Believe in Nothing
10. Estelle Featuring Kanye West - American Boy
11. Grouper - Heavy Water/I'd Rather be Sleeping
12. Neil Halstead - A Gentle Heart
13. Torche - Across the Shields
14. Nada Surf - Weightless
15. Cut Copy - Hearts on Fire
16. No Age - Cappo
17. The Estranged - Don't they Know
18. Crystal Stilts - Departure
19. Have a Nice Life - Hunter

Favorite Songs of 2008