Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sick Of This Conversation

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Here's my pick for the best Replacements/Hüsker Dü-sounding record ever made by a band that isn't either The Replacements or Hüsker Dü: "Thwap!", from Modern Machines. This isn't an easy album to find right now, as the CD seems to be long gone and whenever copies of the vinyl repress pop up for sale through the various mail-order places they seem to go out of stock as quickly as they show up (my copy is one of the represses, by the way-- I stuck the original artwork somewhere down towards the middle of this post). Of course, vinyl isn't any good for people who don't own record players, so I'm gonna post a few tracks for those who are turntably-challenged.

Rest assured, if Modern Machines happen to sound a lot like The Replacements here, specifically "Hootennany"-era Replacements, it's not some calculated career move on their part like some other bands I could mention (I'd name names, but I've forgotten how to spell Titanic Love Affair). This just happens to be what Modern Machines sounded like at the time, Nato's voice being pretty similar to Bob Mould's notwithstanding. They even cover a song from "Hootennany" on this LP-- "Run It", the Replacements song that I named my first fanzine after-- and the album's final track, "There's a Problem With The Beer" ("There doesn't seem to be one here"), is an almost perfect combination of "Treatment Bound" with "Goddamn Job"-type lyrics. Plus, "Thwap!" was recorded at Simple Studios in Green Bay, which is where all of the great Boris The Sprinkler stuff was recorded. What could be better than that?

The LP comes with a neat little 12-page zine that has lyrics and background stories for each song, as well as pictures and tour stories and other stuff. I've scanned about half of the pages here, and you can read each page by clicking on the thumbnail sketches below. (The "old guy" on the cover of the zine and the album is William Taft, who once got stuck in the bathtub at the White House-- hence the hilarity.)


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Modern Machines -

"Look Me In The Eye"

"Sick Of This Conversation"

"Run It"

"The City That Never Wakes Up"

"Sobered Down"

"There's a Problem With The Beer"

(these files are now listen-only)


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Postscript: I got to see Modern Machines towards the tail end of their existence when they were already sporting the line-up (featuring Mikey Erg on drums) that would soon be morphing into a new band, called Used Kids. There's been a half-dozen or so shows I've been to in my life that have stood out because something great ended up happening where I wasn't expecting anything-- a band that I really liked showing up to play unannounced, or some unknown opening band blowing away every other band on the bill-- and this was one of those shows.

Modern Machines were running late coming in from upstate New York, and by the time they got to the club it was 6 hours after the doors had opened. All the other bands had already played and left, leaving just me and maybe one or two other people on hand. Modern Machines set up to play anyway, and ripped through one of the best sets I've ever seen, in front of no crowd at all. Eventually, one of the other bands that had stuck around to drink in the parking lot came inside and started passing a case of beer around, which was pretty funny (it was an all-ages club, but it was pretty much completely empty at this point). Someone else was handing out homemade burritos. For the handful of people who stuck around it was like having our own private houseparty, and as Modern Machines kept playing we were all looking at each other, like "Are these guys friggin' amazing, or what?"

One of my pictures from that show (which was actually Used Kids, we just didn't know it yet) ended up on the back of the first Used Kids 7-inch. I'm gonna post the a-side from that record here, but it's a "listen-only" track (no downloading), since it just came out less than two months ago, and I'd rather you send 5 bucks to Salinas Records and buy your own copy (plus Marco at Salinas seems like a really cool guy).




Used Kids -

"Midwest Midsummer"


Update 9/7/08: Now the Used Kids' own MySpace has the songs from their Salinas EP available for downloading (plus they've posted a great demo track, "An Honorable Man"), so I guess that means it's OK. The track I've posted here is now downloadable.

11/9/08: Back to listen-only!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I Want My Head To Burn

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The last Halo of Flies thing that I posted (the "Four From The Bottom" cassette) was fairly excellent, but this beats the crap out of anything on that. In fact, "Headburn" could be the best Halo of Flies single ever; a pretty tall order, I know, but being on a nice fat-sounding 12-inch certainly doesn't hurt. I mean, this thing will take your whole damn head off in a second if you're not careful. And am I going to go against protocol and post all three songs? FUCK YEAH!! See you in hell, bitches!! Hello, Cleveland!! Rock and roll! Rock and roll!


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Halo of Flies -

"Headburn"

"Easy or Hard"

"Father Paranoia"

(these files are now listen-only)


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Monday, May 26, 2008

Some People They Don't Like Rock n Roll

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The last time I wrote about Feedtime I wound up comparing them to a train, which is something that just about everyone else has done (or "Motörhead meets Wire" or some dumb-ass obvious shit like that). So rather than the usual writerly dancing around this time, I'll just say that this is one of the greatest records ever made, and leave it at that.

Seriously, this fucker's filthy.


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Feedtime -

"Shovel"

"Fractured"

"Nobody's Fault But Mine"

"Love Me"

"Baby Baby"

"Nice"

"Rock n Roll"

(these files are now listen-only)


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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Hand Me A Gun, It's On

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If I started describing a band to you by saying their influences are Jimmy Eat World, The Movielife, and Hot Water Music, I'm figuring that would be enough to make you never want to hear about them again (well, at least The Movielife and Jimmy Eat World parts). Make Do and Mend happen to be that band, but as it turns out they don't sound exactly like either of those three, which is nice.

Even better, their CD has some songs on it that I can easily say are really friggin' good. "Insomniac Jams" has more than a good amount of rock to it and is catchy as all hell, as are the huge power chords that kick start the beginning to "Bitter Work". No shit, but I swear I remember the first Dag Nasty record sounding something like this, though it's been a while since I've listened to any Dag Nasty records so I could be way off.

For that same reason I'm holding off declaring Make Do and Mend's matching all white t-shirts as being some kind of fashion statement; it could just mean it was laundry day.


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Make Do and Mend -

"Bitter Work"

"Insomniac Jams"

(these files are now listen-only)


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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Never Aim To Please




For someone to whom The Replacements were the primary gateway drug into the indie/punk world and whose first fanzine (Run It) was named after a Replacements song, the break up of The Replacements meant as little to me as anyone. I'd stopped paying close attention to the band years earlier; I sold my copy of "Tim" almost immediately, and only begrudgingly bought "Pleased To Meet Me" (a great fucking album, it turned out) because it was on cassette and I was looking for something to listen to on a train ride into Manhattan later that day. Other than bothering to stand in front of the TV for a few seconds whenever "I'll Be You" or "When It Began" made an infrequent appearance on MTV, I almost completely lost track of what The Replacements were up to for a couple of years.

When the post-'Mats solo albums started coming out, I didn't jump into buying mode right away-- still feeling a little burnt, I guess-- but what came out was thankfully way better than those final miserable Replacements records (though I sorta made friends with "Don't Tell A Soul" a couple of years ago, oddly enough). "14 Songs", the first two or three Chris Mars records, the two Perfect CDs and "Village Gorilla Head"-- all of them well worth owning. And then there's Tommy Stinson's Bash & Pop: one of the first, and most likely the best of any of the post-'Mats output.

Jim Dickinson said "Tommy Stinson is rock 'n roll", and "Friday Night Is Killing Me" is an awesome rock 'n roll record from start to finish. I have this thing where the songs that Keith Richards sings on the Stones records usually end up becoming my favorite ones, and there are songs on "Friday Night" that, sight unseen, you'd swear are Keith Richards playing, or Ronnie Wood; listen to "One More Time", and you'll see what I mean.

The songs on here are great hard power pop/rock, I love the way Tommy sings, the lyrics hit all the right spots, and the band sounds top notch. Why this record didn't find more success is totally beyond me, but whatever. Screw everyone else. Each of the five songs I'm posting here is a 10 out of 10, as far as I'm concerned. ("Fast & Hard" is maybe only an 8 out of 10, but the line "I played it as fast as I could/You just heard it slow" earns it the two extra points.) Years later, this is still one of those CDs that I go back and listen to every so often and it still sounds just as good as the first time I heard it.


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Bash & Pop -

"Never Aim To Please"

"Loose Ends"

"One More Time"

"Fast & Hard"

"Friday Night (Is Killing Me)"

(these files are now listen-only)

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Walk Like Dogs And Watch The Doors

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Attention all puny photocopy punk bands: go fuck yourselves. Give up. Go back to your junior high typing class. Sit in your well-appointed suburban bedrooms decorated with all those rad spikey-haired photo idols. Listen to your itsy-bitsy hardcore records. Nobody cares. I don't. Die Kreuzen don't. I'll listen to this instead. All their greatest stuff, all sledgehammer big, all original. This is so fucking great (in Tim Yohannon's words) that all that horseshit that passes for punk nowadays doesn't even upset me anymore. This exists too, and that's enough. - Steve Albini, 1984

Man, these guys really suck. Steer clear unless you're into bad 80's style arena rock. - Robert Griffin, 1991

By the time crap like Century Days rolled around, most people (including myself) who were rabid fans of Die Kreuzen's earlier stuff had pretty much given up on them. I'll admit that I dug "Gone Away" for about a week, as well as their version of Aerosmith's "Seasons of Whither" (mostly because I've heard it's a real bitch of a song to cover), but that's about it. Of course, the idiots at mainstream mags like Kerrang! and such were all over the Die Kreuzen bandwagon by then, listening to "Lean Into It" and emerging from their King Crimson flashbacks just long enough to think that they were plugging a real punk band, but they weren't even close. In the end almost every Sub Pop band and every grunge record sold in the early 90's would sound exactly like Die Kreuzen, so who was wrong: them, or us?

"Pink Flag"/"Land of Treason", released in '90, was somewhat of a last gasp-- reaching back to cover two proto-punk bands, Wire and The Germs, to which Die Kreuzen held little resemblance to anymore. I'll admit that I think the speedy, Skid Row-ish cover of "Land of Treason" is fairly decent (though I've never heard the original-- not my thing); as for "Sheer Terror" "Pink Flag", well, I'll leave that one up to you.


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Die Kreuzen -

"Pink Flag"

"Land of Treason"

(these files are now listen-only)


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

They Come In Real Low

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Recorded to glorious two-track in 1989, the Attic Tragedy 10" was released a couple of years later as part of Scat's Cleveland Archive Series, with the initial pitch from Scat being that it was "trad rock with inventive songwriting" or (alternately) what "Sticky Fingers" woulda sounded like if the Stones were the Minutemen-- though not in those words exactly. Not too far removed from some of their Scat labelmates, I'd place Attic Tragedy as being somewhere to the left of Prisonshake and Cobra Verde, while still to the right of Death of Samantha (who weren't on Scat-- I'm just throwing them in there).

I'm the kind of person who tends to like demo recordings better than finished albums, so the deep, echo-y tone of the recording on this sounds great to me. Plus there's the usually top-notch Scat packaging, including hand-silkscreened covers and a huge, mostly incomprehensible essay from Tim Tobias (read it for a good time, if you must).

Of the three tracks I'm posting here, "Mirror's Broke" and "Hole In The Sky" flash the rock the most, but the pick of the litter is "Quarter Mile Out", which is definitely one of the most "Della Street"-sounding songs that's not on "Della Street" ever, as far as songs about tornadoes or air strikes go.


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Attic Tragedy -

"Mirror's Broke"

"Hole In The Sky"

"Quarter Mile Out"

(these files are now listen-only)


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