Monday, March 24, 2008

She Said Son These are the Bad Old Days

Goodness me, have I not posted in a whole week? Well, that won't do at all. Granted, not a whole lot has happened over the past week, and a peek at the local blogrolls indicates that nobody else has really been posting very much either -- but still! Inactivity is a bad trend. I haven't been in a good mood lately, and it might cheer me up to throw some words and sounds around.

Anyway, to sum up, I'm still ill and I'm still mostly unemployed. Happy Easter! Let's do a music post.

Bob Mould - The Silence Between Us (District Line, 2008)
[buy | site | info | myspace]

Okay, I know, I can hear you from here. Bring up Bob Mould in conversation and there are usually only two responses you can expect to get; some people will hear his name and go 'ha ha ha seriously Bob Mould more like Bob old and lame now', and most other people will hear his name and go 'who in the hell is Bob Mould'.

To address the first response -- yes, he's older now and he's calmer than he used to be, but clearly he's still got plenty of songwriting niftiness left in him. And to address the second response -- Bob Mould is a dude that's done a lot in his career. He was a founding member of Husker Du; he was a founding member of Sugar; he had an extended electronica period that nobody really wants to talk about; he started a record label that released exclusively 7'' singles (it was appropriately named, wait for it, Singles Only Label); he once spent a year as a scriptwriter for World Championship Wrestling (yes, really); he wrote the original song now used as the theme music for The Daily Show. Here's a guy who gets stuff done! By comparison, my biggest accomplishments yesterday were A) going ten whole minutes without coughing painfully and B) eating a cupcake with Cadbury Mini Eggs baked inside it.

But enough about me his backstory. The important thing is that this song is marvelous and you would be a fool not to listen to it, because it is catchy and cheery and could just as easily have been a Matthew Sweet song if Matthew Sweet had thought of it first. I'll grant that this track is more adult-alternative-y than I normally find myself enjoying -- and what the hell is going on with that synth burble in the solo section, is that really necessary -- but damned if this song does not live in my head for hours at a time. I play it, and I go 'okay time to play it again', and then fifteen loops later I turn it off and the chorus guitars are still chunking away merrily in my head.

Songs do not have to be complicated! This is an important lesson to remember. Sometimes the best strategy is to pick four chords, play the crap out of them, and then sing over them as loudly and unabashedly as you possibly can. This is a quintessential highway-eight-to-the-lake song if ever I've heard one, and if I hadn't already been eagerly awaiting the summer I certainly would be now.

The weather today is not helping to alleviate my yearnings any; it is snowing like crazy outside right now.

When the blowing snow is breaking your city's posted urban speed limits, you can safely assume that Mother Nature is just screwing around with you for giggles. Dammit, Mother Nature, that ain't funny. Why you gotta play that.

Grady - Bad Old Days (A Cup of Cold Poison, 2007)
[buy | site | info | myspace]

Bob Mould is a singer-songwriter-guitarist who left his original band and mellowed out a bunch; Gordie Johnson is a singer-songwriter-guitarist who left his original band and got louder and angrier. Bless his heart.

Gordie Johnson, the Winnipeg-born guitar wizard that we as a city never lavish enough praise on, is best known for his thirteen years (!) as the frontman of Big Sugar. He's also well known for being intensely patriotic, loving Canada so dearly that he would be leading Alpha Flight by now if he could just get his hands on some superpowers. The legend has it that his last single with Big Sugar was refused radio airplay by the Canadian media bigwigs because, in referencing Alberta, it was 'too Canadian'; Johnson's response, a perfectly reasonable reaction given the circumstances, was to flip a shit and storm out of the Canadian music industry entirely before he snapped and killed them.

So what did he do? He moved to Texas, immediately developed a full beard with an accompanying everpresent cowboy hat, started hanging out with Willie Nelson, and formed a scenery-chewing monster hard-rock band loud enough to make Hotblack Desiato wince. The whole tale would make a pretty good short story, now that I think about it.

Now, I'll admit, I miss Big Sugar. I was huge into Big Sugar -- I suppose, point of order, I still am -- and they would rank very highly on my nineties-Canrock pantheon that I never get around to compiling. But Grady is such a completely different beast that I can't help but appreciate it; where Big Sugar songs tended towards a reggae-heavy good-time jam, the Grady track posted above is this sudden fearsome snarling Holy Hand Grenade of a rock song that inspires reckless behaviour just by listening to it. That guitar solo a couple of minutes in just sounds like a barfight, doesn't it? The whole song is a glorious perfect soundtrack for people having the time of their lives by making terribly poor decisions; if you're out and about and you hear this song fire up, you should either start smashing stuff or get out of the way fast. Trust me on this.

Revolte - Ironical Sexism (We Are Terrorists Remix) (web-exclusive release, 2007)
[revolte myspace | we are terrorists myspace | way to not have websites you guys]

Likewise, you should get out of the way if you hear this song start up -- not because there's violence coming, necessarily, but because a massive dance party is going to spontaneously erupt around you and you probably aren't dressed for it.

I believe very strongly that this song has already been earmarked several times for television commercials -- most likely for one of those Telus commercials, the ones with the fish or penguins or something, that you get tired of seeing within five airings -- and the only reason this song isn't already ubiquitous across North America is because nobody can track down any of the people responsible for it.

All I can tell you for certain about the artists involved is that two underground French DJs put together the original song and then two more underground French DJs remixed it to its current state. Beyond that -- mysteries! Neither duo has a website, or any albums available, or any record deals in place, or any information listed aside from their first names; apparently Revolte just recently broke out huge in the French electronic scene, and We Are Terrorists have given a couple of masterfully incoherent interviews since forming last year, but other than that it's all shadows and intrigue and RAM-devouring MySpace pages.

It's almost a shame that this masterpiece isn't a worldwide advertising phenomenon by now; I'm as resentful of single-song oversaturation as the next indignant indie kid, but in a way I think I'm actually more insulted by the idea that few people outside of select French nightspots will hear this song even once in their lives. This is gold! This is adrenaline and finesse and fury all at once; it still wouldn't convince me to sign up for some stupid cellphone package plan, but at least I would appreciate the effort.

Busdriver - The Troglodyte Wins (RoadKillOvercoat, 2007)
[buy | site |producers' interview | myspace]

Surprise! Abstract hip-hop! Didn't see that one coming, did you? Ha!

Oh, my, get a load of the production values on this puppy. Is that a vocal sample? Yes! Whose sample is it? Yes! (To crib from an old You Don't Know Jack gag, it would be funnier if the band's name was 'No'.) I can't get enough of the backing tracks on this cut; I'm always a sucker for off-beat drum loops, the vocal sample sounds like an old cartoon melting right in front of you, the mindbending pitch shifts at 2:19 and 2:42 are things of beauty (take that, complacency!) and the whole package is top-notch. Busdriver always has that Aesop Rock thing going on where you're only kind of sure that he didn't just sneak a line of gibberish past you, but his bouncy delivery is absolutely essential to this piece -- and then you realize that his flow seems disjointed here because he's incorporating the 'get up' and 'get down' samples into his lines, and the whole thing comes together again in a mental fanfare.

Even still, I can acknowledge that this one isn't for everybody; of the songs included in today's post, this Busdriver track is by far the weirdest and least accessible of the bunch. Never fear! I've got it covered:

The Shivvers - No Substitute (Lost Hits From Milwaukee's First Family of Powerpop: 1979-82, 2006)
[buy | bio | news article]

Listen to this immediately. Hell, listen to this one first if you were skipping ahead just to see how long this post is. This is important.

The Shivvers were a short-lived, mishap-plagued powerpop band from Milwaukee; they never found recognition past the Wisconsin border, their lead songstress fell ill, in six years together the sum total of their merchandise was a single self-produced 45, and they broke up in obscurity a year before I was even born. You have never heard of these people in your entire lives, and it was only by complete fluke and random chance that I ever heard of them -- but you will love this song, and I refuse to believe there could be anybody out there that has heard this tune and then straight-up hated it.

Listen to this song! Behold it! This is energetic, earnest, exceptional female-fronted powerpop at its absolute finest, and the only reason this song didn't go on to define an entire generation is because the song was written and performed exclusively in Wisconsin in the early 1980s. (Admittedly, I can see how this would be a problem.) I can't say enough good about this gem; music like this is what keeps me going, even as a disease-ridden corpse shuffling out of bed each day and shambling restlessly around the house with nothing to do but cough on everything and wait for the Ibuprofen to kick in.

Hooray for music posts!

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