Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Billy Bragg - Talking with the Taxman About Poetry (1986)

Time to take a break from the punker side of things to something that is very relevant to a current situation. Now I don't work for a union, nor have I ever for that matter, but I understand a union's importance within the work force. My girlfriends family have worked with unions for generations, along with other people that I know. I also happen to work for one of the biggest union busting corporations in the whole world, in which every year they "retrain" you in their culture, much of which consists of busting unions. I just don't get it, but I am also one of those people who gets a headache after trying to wrap my head around too much politics. I do know that our country, and many many others, were built by the working class. While those old white guys are arguing about what rights they want to take away from us, people are out there breaking their backs to provide for the country they live in, and their families.

I don't know what my political affiliations are anymore, but I do know the difference between right and wrong. And what has happened in Wisconsin, and currently happening in other states like Indiana and Ohio, is wrong. There is one good thing coming from this, though, and that is that our complacent culture is remembering how to protest for basic rights. Fight for your rights, ya know? Seriously though, I think we are living in a very unstable political climate, and people are realizing this and are standing up for what they believe is right. It's time for a change, and the change starts with us, people realizing they have rights and that they are being violated.

So I decided to dedicate a post to this situation with Billy Bragg's Talking with the Taxman About Poetry. For those who aren't already acquainted with Mr Braggs music, it's a wonderful version of contemporary folk music, maintaining the traditions of protest and romanticism within the genre. And Bragg is known for his leftist ideals, supporting worker's unions among championing many other basic human rights. His influence can be seen all over modern music, like in Ted Leo, for example. It's almost as though Bragg could have been his dad. That would be neat.

Anyway, this is my favorite of his albums and contains a many protest anthems. "There is Power in a Union" and "Help Save the Youth of America" should be playing constantly in Madison these days. But the star of this album is "Levi Stubbs' Tears", my favorite song ever penned by Bragg. A bit of a downer song that is guaranteed to tug at those heartstrings. But within the despair of the narrative, Bragg is able to find a glimmer of hope, and the song continues on with it's melancholy. A truly fantastic song, one worth the price of the album alone.

Now go out and riot in the streets, as my ole' lady says.

  1. Greetings to the New Brunette
  2. Train Train
  3. The Marriage
  4. Ideology
  5. Levi Stubbs' Tears
  6. Honey, I'm a Big Boy Now
  7. There is Power in a Union
  8. Help Save the Youth of America
  9. Wishing the Days Away
  10. The Passion
  11. The Warmest Room
  12. The Home Front
Help save the sun tanned surfer boys.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Vinyl Distraction"

And thus my blog has become something more than just a stereotypical download blog. This is the beginning of a new feature that shall be called "Vinyl Distraction". The purpose is to discuss the merits of my own vinyl records, based on aesthetic value, sentimental worth, and as musical cult iconography. Oh, also because I am just a nerd about vinyl. There is nothing better than buying a record from a reputable source, and proceeding to venture home to play said record and oggle over it's sleeve. I also have a lot of friends that feel the same way. It must be a punk thing. Therefore, I am going to welcome my friends to contribute posts for this feature. Also, this won't be a forum for bragging about only the rarest of rare records. That's not my bag. If that sort of thing is for you, I suggest you find one of those message boards in which old dudes post the same pictures of their Rev 1-22 discography. On with the show.

The Get Up Kids/Coalesce - Split 7in (1997)

This record is rather special to me, it was the first piece of vinyl that I procured, and to this day, is still one of my favorite pieces of wax. I can still remember when I bought it. Years and years and years ago at an old suburban record store some of you Chicagoans may remember before it moved, Record Breakers. As a young and impressionable teenager, this place was my mecca. I would take weekly pilgrimages to it to scour through it's seemingly endless supply of music. And I remember buying this record, thinking, "Well, Mom and Dad own one of those things that plays these, and its just collecting why not?". And the vinyl addiction started.

I won't go to describe at great lengths how vital these bands and this split were to me, but something does need to be said. The Get Up Kids were one of the first independent bands I ever got into, thanks to an older brother. The first time I heard Four Minute Mile I was hooked, it was the pinnacle of that Midwestern 90's emo/indie sound that I am still fond of. And Coalesce. While most hardcore hipsters I know don't like this band (maybe a generational gap, or, maybe they just weren't considered "in" or "cool" when they got around to them), I thought they were groundbreaking. Abrasive, dissonant, and just flat out heavy.

Now, the cool thing about this split, what makes it exceptional, is the theme. Both bands took a song of the others and covered it, and these two songs make up a side of the split each. These bands are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum, sonically. The Get Up Kids version of "Burning Bridges" is a wonderful version of the original song. Matt Pryor's voice channels wonderfully over the normally distorted, yet odd time signature guitar chords. But the real showstopper is Coalesce's song. I can't remember what I expected to hear when the guitar first started playing that familiar song. The song almost tricks you with the opening, sounding exactly the same, save for this evil atmosphere in the background, and then it explodes. Ingram's howl is the only constant over a sea of chaotic noise. They tear the song apart, only to pummel through a familiar chorus. It blew my mind. Especially when they trade the bridge of the original song in for a chugging breakdown complete with the hand claps. I still don't know how the band did it.

There are also few bands that fully utilize the 7.25 square inch sleeve of the record. While most bands of this day were dabbling in early design, with weird fonts and color schemes, or appropriating a photograph for their needs, they went a different route. We have a design/layout/sculpture piece credited by a man named Daniel Dennis Askew Jr. He must have heard and understood the record, because the music translates directly through to the cover. The music is dissonant and erie, and the same can be said for the rusty fork and teeth sculpture. It isn't something that is supposed to entice someone to buy the music, it's supposed make the viewer feel uneasy, anxiety, much like the music. Plus, that horrible yellow font color for the band's name, how 90's can it get?

Editor's note: A download link for these features will not be available. This is a pure critique of the material object and music itself. For those interested in listening, just use google, or better, find the actual record. Thanks.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Look Back and Laugh - Demo (2003)

I've got some downtime. The album for today's main post is uploading, and most likely going to take sometime, so I found this gem already uploaded in my folder. And, since I planned on posting it at some point anyway, I figured I would do it now.

One of the most revered objects in hardcore punk is the demo. A simple formula, only so many songs (some of which are more than acceptable to be rerecorded for a later release), a nice gritty production, and to be sure, a very limited number of copies. Sarcasm. Anyway, this is where you see the genius of a band for the first time, the culmination of all the influences they want to convey, but seen through a different scope. Quick lesson in history here, the demo maybe sacred for hardcore punk due to the first so many bands of the genre. Case in point, the Bad Brains ROIR Cassette or Minor Threat's First Demo Tape. Lessons in excellence.

Now, most people that know me and my taste in hardcore punk, know how much I love the band Look Back and Laugh. Remember that genius of a bands demo? Well, take those ideas, and then throw the influences of previous bands, such as Talk is Poison, or Yaphet Kotto, among others. Five songs, which all later appear on their first LP, that exemplify the perfect hardcore punk demo. The key is the production, there basically isn't any. It soudns as though it was recorded live, in which imperfections shine through, along with the beautiful feedback noises that remain a constant. Even the vocals, since done live, sound buried in a wall of noise. The shrill voice still being able to power through the music. And technical proficiency and sheer velocity at which they play, unstoppable. This version of "Truth and Error" alone is worth it. Listen and let this be the basis for whatever demo your bands ever record, the penultimate in modern punk.

  1. Smear Campaign
  2. Hooked
  3. Run Silent, Run Deep
  4. Charred Flock
  5. Truth and Error
Rewind History.

Low Red Land - Dog's Hymns (2008)

So, I think this little experiment in blog culture, a bloganeer if you will, is working out well. For one, it is getting me to write more, and while it may not be writing about something scholarly (warning:pretension), it's getting me back in the groove of things. Plus, I like to think that I am bringing some variety to the table. For one, I am not posting only the most elite of hardcore punk, there are other blogs for that and I can't deal with some snotty kid who thinks a specific age of Euro hardcore was done better by Japanese punks. Or one of the many blogs that is all about the 90's emo resurgence, which really just sounds like some Minus the Bear finger tapping with some moron shrieking into a mic. Or, last and surely not least, a Pitchfork hype blog or something of the sort. There are just too many of those regurgitating the same crap. Right? Right.

So, now that the self righteous rant is over, lets get back to business, the music. So far, I have been meeting my goal, granted somewhat easy to achieve. That is to post only hard to find/out of print/bootleg recordings of any sort. I'm a music nerd, I like hearing the hard to find stuff. This post has nothing to do with that, it is about exposing a band that simply doesn't get recognition. Low Red Land was a band from California who released only a few albums and most likely passed through your town once or twice. They have apparently gone separate ways, which is unfortunate, because they are a great band. And by the way, I need to thank whatever blog posted this years ago for exposing me to this band.

Let's get one thing straight here, this is a great record. For a band who was only releasing their second record, Dog's Hymns has an extremely mature sound. It can be loud, twangy, heavy, and quiet when it needs to be. And the album flows, especially in a day and age in which the full-length album is under fire. The title track, also the opener, is one hell of a way to catch someones attention, a song that starts quiet and explodes when the chorus hits. The song will be stuck in your head for days. The band continues to dabble with that dynamic, steamrolling through the first six songs, and then you hit "Gunfighter's Afternoon". A short, folky number that breaks up the monotony of the first half of the album, and the fact that it less than two minutes long leaves you wanting more. From this point, the album takes several turns, which not only shows a bands maturity level in the blending of sounds, but also in the subtle art of creating the order of the songs, the tracklist. "Hunt Song" couldn't be more different from the last, a post-hardcore song that barrels right into "Wovoka" which takes post-hardcore sound and meanders through a wall of noise. Once the dissonance of "Wovoka" is over, we find the true gem of the album, "Duke". An acoustic song that, once again, breaks the flow of the album. The singers vocals become less abrasive and the melody of the song takes over. The last song, "When the Tigers Broke Free", blends the sound of the record into a triumphant closer by the soaring sound of the guitars. Great way to end the record.

Yikes. That was a full on review. And long winded to boot. I apologize and for that, I offer cliff notes. Do you like Fugazi? Do you like Lucero? Do you like Unwound? Then you will thoroughly enjoy this record. In fact, even if you only somewhat enjoy some of the bands, just a song here or there, you will enjoy this record. Have I sold this to you yet? Because I am all out of ideas if you aren't convinced to get this now. Ok, Yeah.

  1. Dog's Hymns
  2. Landmark
  3. West Texas
  4. Battles
  5. Better Angels
  6. Goodnight, Moon
  7. Gunfighter's Afternoon
  8. Hunt Song
  9. Wovoka
  10. Duke
  11. When the Tiger's Broke Free
The mansions I've lived in go up like matchsticks.

Friday, March 25, 2011

William Elliott Whitmore - Latitudes (2005)

Readers beware: Things are about to get heavy.

Now lately, it seems as though life is a question of authenticity. As human beings, we want to experience something truly real, authentic. That may be why I am an artist, to ponder the authenticity of a collected life experience through my own scope of reference. I listen to a lot of music because I feel as though I want to find those people that can literally give a voice to that authenticity that I find through my own means. Now punk, or hardcore, can be closely related to this due to it's own history. People grew up through oppressive times and wanted to voice their opinions about those times in an aggressive and raw way. Hence, punk music, a truly authentic form of music. That is why I listen to punk music, the truly legitimate stuff has something to say about a topic one person thinks is important, and should be heard. And the same can be said for anything, art, music, film, etc.

Now that that existential paragraph is over with, lets talk about something real, something pure. Because, really, who wants me to ramble on about defending an abrasive genre of music through some weird legitimate means. Christ. I know I wouldn't. I really need to get back on track here...

William Elliott Whitmore. I am just going to cut right to the chase here. This guy is fucking authentic. I mean normally when you think of singer/songwriters with an acoustic guitar, your reaction should be the want of doing some selfdepricating act to yourself before listening to the garbage some old, greedy sac of skin is trying to shove down your throat. Yikes, what a visual. But this guy, he has true passion for what he is doing, and I am really fascinated by it. His personal history alone is worth looking into, because it is the basis for most of his work thus far. I won't do the google search for you, but just know that people very dear to him have passed, and this guy has suffered through more than anyone person can go through in such a short span of time. Those experiences, though tragic, were the basis of his first three records. A trilogy of loss, very autobiographical, and the hope that can be found through such tragedy. That alone is authentic. And just when you think the dude is done, he releases his first album, Animals in the Dark, that breaks free of that trilogy and becomes a beast of its own merits. An album that speaks against those who have done us wrong in this world, much like in the tradition of the folk music he plays, protest songs. Take that Jack Johnson. Life can't only be about luaus and fucking grass skirts.

Latitudes was a session he did when in London for the label that released most of his music, Southern Records. It dates before the last LP of the trilogy, Song of the Blackbird, so we get renditions of two of those songs, one older song, and three unreleased songs (some may or may not be older folk songs, I am not as well versed in traditional folk music as I would like to be). It may not be the best collection of his songs, but I would rather post something out of print, than the albums that are still around and kicking. You'll find yourself stomping your feet along with him in no time.

By the way, if you have the chance to see this guy perform, take it. I have been blessed to see him a few times, and everytime he sings with more passion than a passionfruit! And then buy everything he has for sale. And then go online and buy more to support someone who is living life truly authentically.

  1. One Man's Shame
  2. Take It On the Chin
  3. Sometimes Our Dreams Float Like Anchors
  4. Have Mercy
  5. Buildin' Me a Home
  6. The Prairie Yields to the Plow
The hammer swings high, and comes down hard.

Punch in the Face - Live at Radio K (2004)

The last of my trifecta of introductory posts about Chicago. Switching from something older to something more contemporary. I know most people that are going to check this thing out are going to know Punch In The Face, but for those not familiar, please don't let the name discourage you. Hell, if I didn't already know this band, I would probably just assume it was some small town beat down hardcore bands. You know, the ones that only play the local VFW hall, their shirts have lots of guns, and all their songs are about unity, brotherhood, and betrayal. That in itself is something worth having a discussion about, but I could care less about the hypocritical ways of those bands.

Moving on, Punch in the Face was a Chicago super group of sorts that only recently broke up. They released a couple of 7inches, an LP, and various tracks on various compilations. Their sound falls somewhere between early Boston hardcore and Poison Idea. This radio session specifically falls in between their two early 7inches, S/T and Dumb Hardcore, and the LP, At War With Everybody. Therefore, you get a mix of the early faster songs, a couple of the compilation songs, and the slower, groovier LP songs. In fact, since this was three years before the LP, some of those tracks have different names. Neat! I really don't know what else to say about how pivotal this band was for me, in the respect of getting me into some of the more obscure older USHC bands, but that they are truly missed by the Chicago hardcore punk community. My only hope is that they pull a Repos and get back together under a differentish name.

Oh, I have no album art for this. I don't know if it was actually ever released as a concrete piece of media, so that is that. To make up for it, there is a video of a couple of their songs from their Madison Fest of 08 set.

  1. Don't Hurt Yourself
  2. At War With Everybody
  3. Nothing's Changed
  4. Time's Up
  5. Cut the Shit, Start the Pit
  6. Not Here to Make Friends
  7. Y2K
  8. Who's Gonna Take the Weight?
  9. Loudmouth
  10. True to the Game
  11. Dumb Hardcore
They fuck you, they fuck me.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

John Brown Battery - Only Normal People Are The Ones You Don't Know That Well (2001)

I decided that the first three posts are going to be Chicagocentric. A trifecta of all things Chicago punk related. Here we have something somewhat removed from the classic Chicago punk sound of Articles of Faith, or their peers, with an early 2000's band called John Brown Battery. This is a band that is more Jawbreaker than Bad Brains. In fact, I would probably go as far to say that they are one of my favorite Chicago bands. A lofty statement, I know. Anyway, John Brown Battery hailed (at least I think so, one of my county friends can let me know for sure) from the DuPage area. Now, I had the unfortunate situation of hailing from the Northwest suburbs, which specialized in pop-punk, rather than Dupage county, which had an eclectic mix of bands. Therefore, I never really got to fully experience some of these great bands unless they came through my area. By the time I finally got around to giving John Brown Battery my attention, they were already long gone. Bummer, huh?

Only Normal People Are The Ones You Don't Know That Well was the bands second release, or last release, I am not sure about the release dates of their records. This 5 song little number here seems to get over shadowed by their full length, ...Is Jinxed, but these 5 songs are some of their best. They also have a 7in, as well, three releases total, all top notch material.

I digress. Who wants to hear about the logistics of the bands releases? I wouldn't, but I also know what you would be missing. Do you like Jawbreaker? Right, who doesn't. How about Hot Water Music? Small Brown Bike? Maybe even some Leatherface? Take all of those gruffy beard ridden punk sounds, put them in a blender, and then season it with some Ebullition Records sounds, and you have yourself John Brown Battery. I could go one about how great of an opener "Postcards..." is, or the mature sound of "Either Or", but I only want to really describe one song off of this record, the last one. "Drowning Deep Ends" is the best song they have ever written. Do you hear that bass line, pummelling your ears? The power of the sonic power of the instruments that kick in? And the trademark gruff of the three vocalists. The perfect closer to a wonderful little EP.

In conclusion, you need this. Do yourself a favor, download this, and then kick yourself in the ass for not knowing about it sooner. And then kick your other ass, or a friends ass, out of frustration because you know that you will never see this band. What a shame.

  1. Postcards From The Edge of Pennsylvania
  2. Stick Shift
  3. Rebound
  4. Either Or
  5. Stick Shift
Grasping at straws.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Articles of Faith - Wait (1983)

Seeing as how this blog is going to mainly serve as a critique of music, more so my own personal taste, I figured I would start things off with a bang of sorts. And what better way to start things off than with a band from my own town? You'd think that I shouldn't have to tell you how great of a band Articles of Faith were, but they still go overlooked. Though, lately, it seems their influence on modern punk and hardcore is becoming more apparent with some No Way/Grave Mistake Records bands along with the Midwest's own Dark Ages. Either way, Articles of Faith should still be sonically relevant within today's world of punk and hardcore.

What we have here is the
Wait single, pressed in 1983. That's right, 1983. Minor Threat had just released Out of Step, the Bad Brains were steamrolling along, and more locally, Negative Approach was getting started. I am making a big deal out of this because Articles of Faith seemed much more mature than their contemporaries. Sure, Black Flag had their tonal experimentation going on, but what about breaking up the monotony of the still young hardcore punk sound? "Ive Got Mine", the first track, shows how different this band was from their contemporaries. The beginning seems to meander along, a haze of echoy guitar noise and pulsing bass rhythm. This is what makes a band great, how they can go from this right into blistering fast punk on the drop of a dime. Side B contains "Wait" and "Buy This War", two more of the AoF's best songs. The production should also be of note, which elevates the bands sonic order. Oh, and Vic Bondi. Dude may seem like a dick in all those "I'm more punk than you, punk died after me" documentaries, but damn is he smart. Truly great political and socially conscious

The real question to sum up this discussion would be, how much does this record sell for, and whose got it?

  1. 1. I've Got Mine
  2. 2. Wait
  3. 3. Buy This War

Buy my life.