Thursday, July 18, 2013

Music Haul of the Month, July '13

at 6:02 PM
I dunno if I'm necessarily gonna make this a feature (at this point I don't know why I claim anything's going to be a feature), but it's something that happens a lot in Life and is appropriate enough to describe. Every once in a while I take a Saturday afternoon to collate a bunch of new music to put on my iPod to check out. Here I'm going to describe the results. Remember, I never claimed to be a music critic. And by "never claimed to be a music critic", I do mean that I'm publishing my critical opinions of music online for anyone to read as if I were a music critic. But I never claimed to be one. That's the difference. Proclaimed "critics" constantly proclaim that's what they are (...). I am gonna sell this article to Pitchfork though, I imagine it'll be quite to their liking.

I've been in a real punky mood, but the thing about punk is that the albums are so short that unless you want to listen to the same band (Ramones) a million times in a row, you always need more. And luckily, since I like to take my time moving on to new bands, there are plenty of classics I'm still missing.

Adolescents: like a 50/50 mix between shouty early hardcore (a la Damaged or GI) and Fugazi/Bad Religion emo. It reminds me of Fugazi because of long Mega-Man-y instrumental segments that hit the same awesome-sounding guitar chord for like a minute. Actually I guess emo mixed with hardcore is Fugazi. So this is very much along those lines, if you were to crank up the percentage of time given to hardcore. Because it was like 1980. Sadly these guys only have one real album. They then disappeared for most of the decade and returned in some highly embarrassing ways (IIRC they became a hair metal band in the late '80s).

The Damned: Call me American, but I usually steer clear of bands where the singer dresses like a comedy vampire. I don't want Danzig to come beat me up, but come on gang. What is with the goth/horror/tuffgay rock culture? I usually try to draw the line at face-painting.
In his defense, at least Damned singer Dave Vanian's Bela Lugosi look is funnier than the later hooker threads sported by every goth and hir androgynous sister-brother.
Anyway, I also usually eventually give up my prejudices and give something a try. Lord knows the seal is already broken on goth rock now that I like Bauhaus. There's no coming back from that. The Damned didn't start as a goth thing anyway - turns out they started as a scuzzy '60s garage rock thing. When I put on Damned Damned Damned, I was all, "hey - it's almost like the Stooges finally recorded a second non-sucky album!" and/or "hey - it's almost like the Animals if they had even written a good song!"

Angry Samoans: The first of the two proper Samoans albums feels realllll teenagers-in-the-garage - it's fun and has a catchy chorus here and there, but the writing is so religiously "four chords == song" and the tone so monotonous that it doesn't convey a lot of musicianship. The follow-up, Back from Samoa, carries the same attitude and approach, but shows that the band has gotten out and encountered the musical world a little bit. Maybe heard another punk bank. They play faster (hardcore at this point), vary their dynamics all the way from screaming to balladry, and have an actual identifiable sound. Their evolution is pretty obvious just by listening to the two versions of "My Old Man's a Fatso", a track from the first album re-recorded for the second. Still, I don't know if these guys are striking me as indispensable punk classics. Maybe it hurts that I heard the Dwarves first (who were of course playing an entire decade later than the Samoans).

Buzzcocks: Sporting the squealingly high-pitchedest singer this side of Bad Brains' H.R., the Buzzcocks do threaten at first to get annoying, but their raw, fast guitar-playing is actually a heck of a lot tougher than first-wave punk contemporaries like the Ramones and the Clash. They've got an almost metallic edge reminiscent of (personal favorites) D.O.A. paired with a Fall-esque bounciness that keeps the songs poppy and memorable. Honestly after just two or three listens to Another Music in a Different Kitchen, I would've sworn I'd heard "Sixteen" and "I Don't Mind" somewhere before - they're just that catchy. There's something annoyingly British about the band that I can't quite put my finger on - completely subjective, but I just get an unpleasant sensation from listening to them for too long that reminds me of Public Image Limited or Wire or something. Otherwise I'm definitely digging 'em.

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