Blacklight Sunshine, Math and Science, “Examined by Ghana Customs”, Baltimore Orioles, Weezer (Blue Album), Weezer (Green Album), Weezer (Maladroit), North Mississippi Allstars, “(Proud to) Be A (Nebra)Ska (Democ)Rat”, votenader.org, “Amandala!” album, Blackalicious, Fiction Plane, Music For The Last Day Of Your Life, Airwalk, Doug Martsch “Now You Know”, 101.9 The Edge (defunct Lincoln alt-rock station), Sonic Youth, NERD, The Mediums, Moth, Atmosphere, Tricky “Blowback”, Jimmy Eat World “Bleed American”, Simon Says, Life In General “Flowers”, various custom-painted jet fighters, Nullset, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Reel Big Fish, Kidney Thieves, Ozomatli, Rustic Overtones, Apple, lower case i, rocker-guy with moustache & broken guitar (Zwan), Black Eyed Peas, My Hotel Year, “CH” European driving decal, “Sock It To Me!” (with a sock), Jackson Hole Wyoming (moose), Before Braille, WoVen, Life In General “lig”, 36 Crazyfists, Sugarcult, a smirking pumpkin, The Music, Ben Harper (live), Dilated Peoples, I (heart) NY, “Fragile” Ghana Airways, Starsailor, Wayne, Bryan Farrish Radio Promotion “Air-Play!”, tiger paw, Hot 96.3 FM WHHHoosier, “Music Making Means Unity, Healing, & Strength” flag, Doane College, Tiger Country 101 FM KIXC, “WOW!”, Monster Magnet, purple fight-breast-cancer ribbon, 89.7 The River, Chemical Brothers.
JT sent this message earlier this week. As I thought about a reply, I realized that I wanted to write about these things already but wasn’t sure there was any interest beyond my own self. But when a question is voiced, often other people have the same question, and haven’t vocalized it yet. So JT’s letter raises some things, and my long comment is an initial reply.
“h&s” = howie&scott
From: JT Hills
Subject: A eureka moment?
This is a multi-part message in MIME format.
I was perusing my music library a few minutes ago and stumbled up some
Dave Matthews Band. Now, I know it seems unlikely one can just forget
music one has in a music library on a computer, where iTunes has it all
nicely organized for one, but when one has nearly 4500 songs in said
music library, one can forget about certain tunes listened to less often
than other tunes.
Anyway, I discovered I had a live version of “All Along the Watchtower”
by Dave and his guys, which was an interesting coincidence because I was
just thinking earlier today about how I’d like to hear Jimi Hendrix’s
version of that song. But it also got me to thinking about some
old-school h&s days. I recall when I first met you (and thus, h&s), you
hadn’t yet embarked upon the adventure of original music, and instead
relied on a set of regular covers and then a set of Dave covers for your
shows. It was a rockin’ good time, but unable to equal the days ahead
of new songs and electric guitars. I like listening to h&s not only
because it’s good music, but also because it reminds me of those times
when the songs were live and raw.
I remember when I first heard “Mable” escape your stage, and I was
jarringly introduced to Goldfinger. I remember watching you (with Becca
and Mel along) struggle for words of the cover songs you played the
night you premiered original h&s tunes in Lincoln (nervous, perhaps?).
I remember a long drive to Omaha as the official h&s roadie of the
evening (because I couldn’t find anyone else to take me), and longer
drives to Hastings for dual shows with Rob and his cronies. I remember
seeing another night show in a Lincoln coffeehouse when, two songs
before the end of the set, multiple strings broke on your acoustic
guitar, so you brought out the electric to finish with perhaps the most
powerful h&s moment I ever saw. I remember a few CD release parties,
and I remember hearing “Blues or Astroblue?” live for the first time
with the electric and the drum kit and the looping saxophone over
looping saxophone, and I (with David Morris) couldn’t contain the pure
excitement passed down and handed out throughout the crowd, feasted upon
by those of us groovin’ in the back of the room.
Of course, there are other memories too, but they don’t stick with me as
well as those do. These were the memories that all had a common factor:
the h&s live show. Then this idea came across my eyes almost as if it
were projected from another place: what if there was h&s live tunes to
take home with us? I realize that there are already many (a la Blades
of Vengeance), but that’s not all of h&s. I know you guys first as a
cover band, where everyone gets involved, then as a folk rock band with
songs to think to, and then as a rock band to groove to. Each live
instance of h&s has its own flavor, and I think you captured the
folk-rock h&s well with Blades of Vengeance. But where is the live rock
h&s? Where is the live cover h&s?
The live h&s shows weren’t just musical performances, they were
something to experience, and I miss that experience. I long to hear
your versions of “Mable,” “All Along the Watchtower,” “Ants Marching,”
“Creep,” and the always fun “Birdhouse in Your Soul.” I yearn to lose
myself in the raw flavor of rock “Blues or Astroblue?,” “After the
Countdown,” “Houston,” “Thanks For Visiting Me on The Radio” or “Stop
Is it possible for this to happen? Is there any plausibility to it? Or
am I living in a dream world?
Just a few friendly thoughts down Colorado way…
P.S. In a somewhat related (but not really) note, what’s the deal with
the h&s web site? Re-launching?
“Title” / Artist / Album / # of hits
1. “Lunch By Yourself” / Gilby / Furious Instance / 33
2. “Was I In Bon Jovi For A Second?” / howie&scott / Furious Instance / 15
3. “Rose-Colored Glasses” / Beach-Puppy / Creepy Eepy / 11
4. “God Bless The Strokes” / echoes / nickel / 10
5. “He Came To Steal Your Children” / Bike / How Is That Possible / 8
5. “There’s Something To Be Said” / Beach-Puppy / Creepy Eepy / 8
5. “Bad Attitude” / Bike / How Is That Possible / 8
This track, one of my favorites from A Tiger Dancing, is a perfect illustration of a musical quality I’ve tried off and on to nail down and describe; the “meta-song.” First, let’s walk through some of the lyrics and I’ll make some highlights. Then I’ll explain how “It Takes” is a perfect example of a meta-song within a song.
14 creates of records with my name on ’em…
Pick one without looking at it / Put the needle down
Spin it back to the beginning / Now I’m ready
“It Takes” tells a story about Felix’s discovery of hip-hop, with a warped sense of time. His experience is the past, like a memory, but it’s also a fresh experience in itself. The introduction is a beginning to the song; it also tells the beginning of Felix’s love for music. And when he says “Spin it back to the beginning / now I’m ready”, a whole new, full sound jumps in with the “It Takes” vocal hook, a second “beginning” to the song. It’s a beginning (song), and Felix names it as such (meta-song).
As I listened the words weren’t there anymore
It was just those drums and a little keyboard
I’m staring at the needle and the record’s on the floor and
All that I could do was mouth some more / It said…
Felix’s line “…drums and a little keyboard” names the instruments playing when he drops it; another clue that he’s speaking the song into being as well as telling the story contained in the song. “It said…” leads straight into a second vocal hook, the hook becoming a quotation from Felix’s memory as well as the hook to the song the listener hears. Again, when Felix tells us that about the memory of a song that speaks to him, “It Takes” speaks to us in a parallel voice; memory and moment occuring together.
Now there was a / I don’t remember but there was a part of this song that did break down
I don’t mean the beat break / No / I mean the beat almost cried,
I thought it had died, I thought it had drowned…
These words fall over a drum breakdown. Are you seeing the pattern, the technique that Felix is using? His words ARE what happens in the song – not just occuring together (like a typical song), but related on another level as well.
–(Verse 2 cont’d)–
I look at the sleeve and the tears well up in my eyes because my name is printed right there
The record’s still spinning / The voices came back
I stare at the cover / Like a mirror / I’m staring back
I was relaxed but this is so intense so I flip over the sleeve and I read the comments
It said ‘I dedicate this record to my brother Andy with the hopes that one day you can better understand me
Til that day here is this one song / I hope you learn from it / others will take it wrong’
And the breakdown was over and I held the sleeve tight / afraid that somebody might’ve seen me cry
I never wrote this song no how’s or why’s / But I guess I can’t say that it told a single lie
And the last little lyric in the last little part was a fire in my heart / That last little part
I live life like a diesel; all pressure, no sparks / So I throw myself out there as a shot in the dark
Indeed, A Tiger Dancing lists “Andy” under Felix’s thank-yous. The last two lines above are Felix’s last lines in “It Takes,” as well as in the song he’s remembering; we might even read the phrase “A fire in my heart” as a direct quotation; the punctuation isn’t defined (on purpose? I tend to do that in lyrics…). “It Takes” is a song, and also consciously a meta-song. It is self-referential in a way that is essential to its being itself.
“It Takes” offers a clear picture of song and meta-song at work explicitly; I think it is more often done implicitly (see Radiohead from OK Computer on, Wilco from Summerteeth on, echoes’ nickel EP). Sparked by a piece in the New York Times magazine, an upcoming post will tackle the “meta-song” idea more generally and completely. It will be accessible for anyone willing to follow me down the rabbit-hole, and since this is how I hear and respond to music, it most certainly feels like a valid, if somewhat academic, expression for the [blog].
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…”
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 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.
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
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.
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…