DISTANCE

2:08 PM. Printing resumes and signing cover letters, hearing JV All*stars “True Story” from Distance.

As the waves roll in
I can’t help but think about the weekends
At the windmills
And walking down
The streets of my hometown
It doesn’t feel right
Seeing this without you
As far as I can go and back again,
To my closest friends.

Reflecting on this Minneapolis adventure, and possibilites for next year and beyond, Distance has a certain, deep resonance. However, my “back again” is always in tension; each “back” is not an end, but a beginning to another “as far as I can go…”

-h

MARK MALLMAN and MELODIOUS OWL at the TRIPLE ROCK SOCIAL CLUB, MPLS, 25 MARCH 05

I walked into the all-ages show last night to the sounds of Winter Blanket, who were moved from tepid singer-songwriter-rock territory to passable Low/mellow-Wilco/Neil Young country by a rock-solid drummer and subtle, decorative keyboardist. Another redeeming quality of this band is their dual frontpersons, one of which (the guy) is nerdy and cool in that Knate-from-Straight-Outta-Junior-High way.

Melodious Owl are 3 area high schoolers who have managed to create/accidentally stumble on local buzz-band build. Their sound loves The Faint, but only after eating a couple bags of Skittles and deciding that 12th-grade hormones are the next hot thing for the indie crowd. They sounded better live than on their Transition EP, due to the Triple Rock sound system’s ability to produce mid- and low-range tones (the homemade disc is ALL high-end). Quite the up-and-coming showmen, these fine young fellows.

Mark Mallman made two entrances; the first was pretty standard, but he then instructed his band to play his other entrance music, left, and returned in a mask he must have borrowed from an Uruk-hai. That’s pure Mallman for you, rock-posing crazy man with the best stories in Minneapolis. Mr. Serious is one of my favorite records, some days I like the rock’n’roll songs best, other days the ballads. He’s got one foot in another world, like “Big Fish” or my friend Doug – he’s huge, bigger than the Beatles in that place, and he plays like it, standing on his piano, making up lyrics, and rocking hard enough that you can glimpse it through his eyes – Mark Mallman is a walking window, his songs a bridge between the universe you and I live in and one where music is king.

BRIGHT EYES, "I'M WIDE AWAKE IT'S MORNING"

Bright Eyes is one of the few artists around that can make me uncomfortable. I encountered Conor Oberst’s music for the first time around the release of Lifted (or the Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground) through a live performance; the first show of the Lifted… tour, a warm-up gig with the full 15(?)-piece band at the Rococo Theater in Lincoln. It was a good show, Conor threw a tantrum at the end, and I ended up buying the record.

Now that I’ve written that story, I remember we saw Desaparacidos open at Cursive’s The Ugly Organ CD release show.

I’ve got something to say about I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning eventually, but these stories are important; so much of Bright Eyes’ music rests on Conor’s person(a) that one’s response to it becomes an inextricable part of one’s response to the music.

Lifted… really challenged me; what could be made of it? All the overwrought emoting; is it intentional and contrived, or spontaneous? Who is this existentially angst-y fellow, and how did he become who he is? What’s his agenda? I listened to the record maybe once in every three months; I couldn’t take any more than that. The question of Conor’s sincerity seems to be the crux of understanding Lifted…, and I don’t know how to answer for it.

Enter I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning; a much easier record on the ears, and on the heart – and ultimately, more meaningful for it. Ideology fades to the background of these songs. Much more graceful than Lifted…, the new album has the ring of observed truth seen through Conor’s eyes rather than the cacophany of cynical position statements and heartbrokenness. I listen to it often on my days off.

I particularly love the tone of “We Are Nowhere and It’s Now” which reminds me of Mike Mogis’ production on The Golden Age’s EP. On the other end of the spectrum is “Train Under Water,” which is sunk by a chord progression that GarageBand might have written and Mogis’ uninspired, pat lap steel playing. It’s a shame; the lyrics are as good as anything else on the record, which is a high compliment.

Album closer “Road to Joy” is a disaster on paper. Copping the most familiar melodic fragment of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” the song seems like the kind of grand overstatement in thought, intent, and execution, that creates Bright Eyes’ nebulous sense of insincerity. Yet, it works (somehow – sheer will, or audacity perhaps). That’s my relationship with Bright Eyes in a microcosm; suspicion and hesitance that leads, surprisingly, to meaning and fruitful insight.

Bike's "Great Distances," h&s' "Bon Jovi," and Site Design

First, the music – Today’s Mr. Furious update includes a brand-new bonus track for Bike’s How Is That Possible, “Great Distances.” Thanks Nate for a great addition to an album we love; Bike continues to be available in full for downloading, so rock that.

Furious Instance #2 is a re-mixed, re-mastered “Was I In Bon Jovi For A Second There” from howie&scott. Did you think that howie and Scott were off-beat, creative, rocking guys with a penchant for self-questioning? You were right!

In addition to the new jams, MFR has made an update to the structure of the website! mrfuriousrecords.com is more browser-friendly than ever with our new look. Not a drastic change, but a significant improvement. Check out the Furious Instance’s permanent spot on the left side of the page, new navigation on the right, and a bigger and better-exploding main frame in the center of the page. Netscape friends & other non-IE users will like the new layout we think.

Mr. Furious Records: Giving Great Music into spring, and beyond (next up: Sally Ride!). -Mr. Furious

FRENCH KICKS at the TRIPLE ROCK SOCIAL CLUB, MPLS, 12 MARCH 05

The French Kicks opened for Idlewild’s The Remote Part tour, which I collided with in Omaha, leaving with their record One Time Bells.

Last night at the Triple Rock, openers The Natural History gave a spastic opening set, like Buddy Holly might’ve given if he grew up in New York with the Walkmen. Good, solid, rockin’, original fun.

Second act Calla is a band you should avoid. If Nirvana could be wiped of their energy, destructiveness, tension, and creativity, you’d be left with Calla. I thoroughly enjoyed a big root beer during their set, and completed my French Kicks discography with a purchase of the Young Lawyer EP, the band’s original work for Star Time.

The headliners were quirky, poppy, and pleasantly dance-inducing (among a notoriously WASP Triple Rock-attending population. Minneapolis is diverse, but you wouldn’t know it by going to rock shows). Off-kilter rhythms, oddly soulful harmonies, and a minimalist instrumentation isn’t a usual palatte for pop pleasure, but the French Kicks pull it off with New York style. The Trial of the Century is one of those discs that Pitchfork missed in their review; it’s a great record (mid-7’s I’d say), and a mainstay of mine since last fall.

FURIOUS INSTANCE ( ::INSTANTS:: )

With Gilby’s “Lunch By Yourself” released last month, Mr. Furious Records launched the FURIOUS INSTANCE. This new feature on the site will bring even more killer music to your fingertips. Furious Instance is an emerging compilation; musical snapshots from all over the auditory spectrum. Artists from beyond the MFR release-roster will be contributing tracks as well as some of the usual suspects (howie&scott, echoes, Cory Alan). In the future Furious Instance will include more new musicians as we encounter them, live cuts, and any number of other gems we can dig up. The goal of Furious Instance is to be mutant mixtape, constantly evolving with interesting sounds and no limits on who can be involved or what we may sound like.

The second Furious Instance will be a re-mixed, re-mastered “Was I In Bon Jovi For A Second There?” from the back catalog of howie&scott. Beyond that… Scott’s gathering some material, Cory’s got a friend in The Return we’re talking with, and there are a couple echoes songs that sound pretty good acoustic…