Placeholder: Rodan live video

Going on vacation, back to posting on 9/27. For now, enjoy this video of Rodan playing “The Everyday World of Bodies” from 1994. Glorious.

Late Greats: My Favorite Tracks from Michael Been of The Call

michael been I can’t remember the last time an artist’s death struck me as deeply as the loss of Michael Been of The Call. I guess I can attribute it to several factors: Been’s incredibly human, affecting delivery; their status as a “never-quite-was” band; the fact that they had only hit their stride with 1990’s Red Moon and then called it quits; but most of all his music. I suppose I feel that the humility and emotional depth of the band’s music serves as a sort of antidote for the trite product that we often label “music.” I don’t intend to look down on anyone, but Been was a bird of a different feather from your average pop star, both then and now. No one wrote or performed songs quite like Michael Been.

So I guess what I want to do here is run through a few of my favorite tracks, tracks that reach a little deeper into The Call’s back catalog, and give a little more exposure to this man’s beautiful music. I hope his memory lives long – I think he was a sort of under-recognized treasure to the world of music, an artist who never fit any particular mold but made great music that was completely true to his own vision. So enjoy the clips…

”Red Moon”
Although this track is certainly not typical of The Call’s sound, it’s just beautiful. Been paints a lyrical picture that seems to follow a man through the stages of his life, dressing it in a simple song that almost comes off as a lullabye. And I guess that’s what I love about this track – it’s almost as if Michael is addressing the song to a child, a subtle admonition to take nothing that comes in this life for granted.  “A warm wind and a red moon and the world goes by…”

”What’s Happened to You”
Michael takes a cue from Van Morrison on this gorgeous track, the opening cut from Red Moon. Notably, he’s joined on the chorus by Bono, who (thankfully) lets Been take the lead. The track seems addressed to someone who has emerged into joy from a deep darkness. This is the sort of track that you can’t help but sing along with, and Been masterfully plays the song leader. “Did you see some great vision/Did you finally break through/Did you shake the foundations/What’s happened to you?”

”You Run”
”…but you can’t escape the reach of love.” I wonder how autobiographical this particular track is, especially coming just on the heels of the intensely dark Into the Woods. Again, the intensity and immediacy of Been’s vocal delivery makes for sonic gold.

”A Swim in the Ocean”
The Call uncharacteristically took a shuffling blues approach on this track, employing a poor man’s music style to deliver a rebuke to the wise of the world. They prove their musical flexibility, giving me one more reason to lament the fact that they didn’t continue into their second and third decades.

”I Don’t Wanna”
This is perhaps Been’s most powerful vocal performance. There is a point in this song where he sounds like he might just come apart at the seams. I can only imagine how transcendent it would have been to see this song performed live. I get chills just thinking about it.

“Become America”
This song was actually recorded as part of the band’s attempted comeback in the mid-90’s. There is a sort of heartland quality to this track, with Been delivering a spiraling lyric that seems to lift America up to the Almighty, asking for mercy for all her sins.

”Uncovered”
I can’t think of a more fitting way to say goodbye to the man. There is something so final and vulnerable about this track. There’s really no use describing it in words – it simply must be heard. The closest touchpoint is Dire Straits’ “Brothers In Arms”, but just listen already…

There’s plenty more goodness to “uncover” with The Call. While most of their LPs are out-of-print, if you like what you hear, you can purchase mp3s through Amazon, and most of their old records and CDs can be found in hard copy via eBay.

So long Michael. Rest in peace…

5 Things: “Tinfoil” by Rainer Maria

5 Things I Love About “Tinfoil” by Rainer Maria:

1. The Dueling Vox: This is one of  the best vocal attacks in indie rock. It ranks up there with Robbins/Barbot from Jawbox’s “Dreamless.” It takes some skill to keep your words straight and play an instrument when someone else is shouting something else right next to you.
2. The Hyper-Poetic Lyrics: Do I understand what they mean by “Your chest is a cage for my letters/And your handwriting’s better than mine?” Nope. But it sort of comes off like a riddle, doesn’t it? Fun, right? And the full-throated delivery makes it clear that these kids REALLY mean it.
3. Excellent Bass Work: The tough thing about a stripped down three-piece rock band is that bass has to pick up the slack so that the music doesn’t become two-dimensional. Fortunately, Caithlin De Marrais’ low end work delivers something aggressive and melodic, adding real depth and warmth to the band’s sound. Reminds me of one of my favorite Louisville post-punk bands, Sunspring.
4. Poly-Rhythmic Madness: One minute it’s full out aggression, one minute it’s a nice sort of waltz. Whatever it is, the song always feels like it’s about to blow apart at the seams, so much so that they have to slow it down here and there to restore some semblance of balance. I’m feeling it – “drunk with rage.”
5. The “Indie” Sound – This is what indie rock sounded like before it went big-time in the 2000’s – obscurist, hyper-literate, raw, strong-willed, unbalanced and overflowing with cacophonous melody. “Tinfoil” is the kind of track I would drive around listening to with my friends in high school, out and about with no place to go.

Video Bonus Points: Gotta dig Caithlin’s twirls at the end of the song. These kids could rock!!!

What do you like about this track?

Evergreen: Wholeness of the Soul part 3

On Evergreen’s debut 7″, the band weaved DC post-punk, progressive metal, and funk into tight tracks coming in at no more than 3 minutes each. Things are off in a hurry with the hard-nosed punk of “1980”, Tim Ruth’s furious guitar playing propelling the track into the stratosphere. The fractured funk-punk frankenstein “Wholeness of the Soul” follows, this time showcasing the blended chops of Ruth and bassist Troy Cox. “Precious” ends side one of the 7″ (only track 3 on the CD), easily the poppiest thing the band ever recorded, demonstrating that Evergreen never took itself too seriously. It’s a great tune, once again featuring great instrumentation, no riff ever quite the same in Ruth’s hands. The 7″ ends with two tracks that were “epic” for Evergreen, “Fall” and “Empty Sun.” Featuring indelibly great rhythm section work from Cox and Matt Tucker, Dave Pollard’s vocal work also shines throughout. He’s the perfect voice for the band, never once hitting a note in any classical sense, but projecting a powerful, sonorous quality via a raspy, insistent delivery. A great punk voice to be sure.
Tracks 6 thru 13 comprised the GO KART RIDE cassette, released less than a year after the 5 song 7″. “Man That Crawls” launches in a surge of spastic punk, seamlessly shifting through more tempos in under two minutes than most bands will ever use in a life of making music. “Avarice” follows, probably the greatest musical statement the band made, ample demonstration that all Evergreen was missing was the right place at the right time. Featuring a powerful melody and conscientous lyrics, it gives evidence that Evergreen had more than two dimensions at play. The reggae-tinged “Blood”, featuring an unforgettably catchy bass line from Cox, stands out as another obvious highlight, while “Say You Are” is the kind of fist-in-the-air shout-along youth crew anthem that kept the kids coming back for more. The live recording “Liquid”, essentially an instrumental, delivers yet another dimension for Evergreen, but it’s the last two GO KART RIDE tracks, “Knowledge” and “Feed” that provide definitive proof that Evergreen had more to deliver than your typical garage punks. Whereas other funk/punk combos of the time put all the emphasis on devastating the listeners’ senses, these two tracks provide definitive proof that Evergreen’s sense of melody was just as strong as its instinct to bring the noise. There’s plenty of nuance here, begging repeated listens, leaving the fans craving more.
Sadly, as “Feed” rushes to a close, so does the story of Pollard/Tucker era Evergreen, leaving later enthusiasts such as myself forever wondering what might have been. That’s the story with a lot of the bands I grew up loving in Louisville, such as Rodan, Crain, and Slint among many others.  Although it’s great to see these forgotten hardcore heroes get the digital treatment, I find it bittersweet. The fun was had back in the day for sure, but will it ever be that way again?
Many props go to Noise Pollution Records for pursuing a forgotten dream on behalf of the band and a whole lot of fans.Eve

wholenessEvergreen
Wholeness of the Soul; 2009
Noise Pollution Records

continued from part two

On Evergreen’s debut 7″, the band weaved DC post-punk, progressive metal, and funk into tight tracks coming in at no more than 3 minutes each. Things are off in a hurry with the hard-nosed punk of “1980”, Tim Ruth’s furious guitar playing propelling the track into the stratosphere. The fractured funk-punk frankenstein “Wholeness of the Soul” follows, this time showcasing the blended chops of Ruth and bassist Troy Cox. “Precious” ends side one of the 7″ (only track 3 on the CD), easily the poppiest thing the band ever recorded, demonstrating that Evergreen never took itself too seriously. It’s a great tune, once again featuring great instrumentation, no riff ever quite the same in Ruth’s hands. The 7″ ends with two tracks that were “epic” for Evergreen, “Fall” and “Empty Sun.” Featuring indelibly great rhythm section work from Cox and Matt Tucker, Dave Pollard’s vocal work also shines throughout. He’s the perfect voice for the band, never once hitting a note in any classical sense, but projecting a powerful, sonorous quality via a raspy, insistent delivery. A great punk voice to be sure.

Tracks 6 thru 13 comprised the GO KART RIDE cassette, released less than a year after the 5 song 7″. “Man That Crawls” launches in a surge of spastic punk, seamlessly shifting through more tempos in under two minutes than most bands will ever use in a life of making music. “Avarice” follows, probably the greatest musical statement the band made, ample demonstration that all Evergreen was missing was the right place at the right time. Featuring a powerful melody and conscientous lyrics, it gives evidence that Evergreen had more than two dimensions at play. The reggae-tinged “Blood”, featuring an unforgettably catchy bass line from Cox, stands out as another obvious highlight, while “Say You Are” is the kind of fist-in-the-air shout-along youth crew anthem that kept the kids coming back for more. The live recording “Liquid”, essentially an instrumental, delivers yet another dimension for Evergreen, but it’s the last two GO KART RIDE tracks, “Knowledge” and “Feed” that provide definitive proof that Evergreen had more to deliver than your typical garage punks. Whereas other funk/punk combos of the time put all the emphasis on devastating the listeners’ senses, these two tracks provide definitive proof that Evergreen’s sense of melody was just as strong as its instinct to bring the noise. There’s plenty of nuance here, begging repeated listens, leaving the fans craving more.

Sadly, as “Feed” rushes to a close, so does the story of Pollard/Tucker era Evergreen, leaving later enthusiasts such as myself forever wondering what might have been. That’s the story with a lot of the bands I grew up loving in Louisville, such as Rodan, Crain, and Slint among many others.  Although it’s great to see these forgotten hardcore heroes get the digital treatment, I find it bittersweet. The fun was had back in the day for sure, but will it ever be that way again?

Many props go to Noise Pollution Records for pursuing a forgotten dream on behalf of the band and a whole lot of fans.

Evergreen: Wholeness of the Soul (part 1)

Evergreen
Wholeness of the Soul
Noise Pollution; 2009
1992: I’m a seventh grader in Louisville, Kentucky, enamoured with the “alternative” bands that have de-throned glam rock heroes like Poison and Motley Crue on MTV. Watching Pearl Jam’s videos for “Even Flow” and “Alive” introduces me to the non-stadium “show” experience. Simultaneously, the skater kids at my school begin sporting t-shirts for bands like Sunspring, Kinghorse, Crain, Sancred, and Evergreen, bands that don’t exist on MTV. I’m intrigued.
1994: I buy my first 7″ records via the Slamdek distribution catalogue. They are records released by the Self Destruct record label. One of them is Evergreen’s self-titled 5-song 7″.
1996: I finally get my hands on a dubbed copy of Evergreen’s Go Kart Ride cassette. It’s official. I love this band. Too bad that version ended three years ago.
2006: I listen to my CD-R of “old” Evergreen’s 13 tracks for somewhere around the 200th or 300th time.
2009: Noise Pollution releases the “old” Evergreen anthology Wholeness of the Soul. It’s about time.
to be continued tomorrow…

wholenessEvergreen
Wholeness of the Soul; 2009
Noise Pollution

1992: I’m a seventh grader in Louisville, Kentucky, enamoured with the “alternative” bands that have de-throned glam rock heroes like Poison and Motley Crue on MTV. Watching Pearl Jam’s videos for “Even Flow” and “Alive” introduces me to the non-stadium “show” experience. Simultaneously, the skater kids at my school begin sporting t-shirts for bands like Sunspring, Kinghorse, Crain, Sancred, and Evergreen, bands that don’t exist on MTV. I’m intrigued.

1994: I buy my first 7″ records via the Slamdek distribution catalogue. They are records released by the Self Destruct record label. One of them is Evergreen’s self-titled 5-song 7″.

1996: I finally get my hands on a dubbed copy of Evergreen’s GO CART RIDE cassette. It’s official. I love this band. Too bad that version ended three years ago.

2006: I listen to my CD-R of “old” Evergreen’s 13 tracks for somewhere around the 200th or 300th time.

2009: Noise Pollution releases the “old” Evergreen anthology WHOLENESS OF THE SOUL. It’s about time.

continued here

The Fire Theft: The Fire Theft (2003)

The Fire Theft
The Fire Theft; 2003
Rykodisc
My Rating: 83/100
You can’t really blame the Sunny Day Part Deux trio of Enigk/Hoerner/Goldsmith for splitting after THE RISING TIDE. While that album had a few brilliant moments, overall it was a mess of genre-synthesis gone bad. Kudos for trying, but the band just couldn’t find a happy medium between their emo roots and their prog leanings. The great news is that the Sunny Day Part Tre trio of Enigk/Mendel/Goldsmith (aka The Fire Theft) found an excellent way ahead on their 2003 debut, abandoning emo all together and creating a sublime piece of prog majesty. Once heard in the right context (“Chain”, “Heaven”), Enigk’s voice is a no-brainer for prog, nuzzling itself into the happy medium between Peter Gabriel and Geddy Lee. The abandonment of punk tempos hasn’t left the music boring either, as the band’s instrumental chops are still firmly intact. But it’s the songs that really stand out for The Fire Theft. From the aggressive and soaring “Chain” to the gorgeous, piano-based “Summertime,” it’s exceptionally rewarding to see a group of musicians with so much water under the bridge find so many new ways forward. Sunny Day Real Estate reunions aside, I find myself in the small camp of those thirsting for a follow-up from The Fire Theft.
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)
Tracks:
1. Uncle Mountain (3.5/5)
2. Waste Time Segue
3. Oceans Apart (4/5)
4. Chain (5/5)
5. Backward Blues
6. Summertime (5/5)
7. Houses (5/5)
8. Waste Time (5/5)
9. Heaven (5/5)
10. Rubber Bands (4/5)
11. It’s Over (5/5)
12. Carry You (5/5)
13. Sinatra (4/5)

FiretheftThe Fire Theft
The Fire Theft; 2003
Rykodisc

My Rating: 83/100

You can’t really blame the Sunny Day Part Deux trio of Enigk/Hoerner/Goldsmith for splitting after THE RISING TIDE. While that album had a few brilliant moments, overall it was a mess of genre-synthesis gone bad. Kudos for trying, but the band just couldn’t find a happy medium between their emo roots and their prog leanings. The great news is that the Sunny Day Part Tre trio of Enigk/Mendel/Goldsmith (aka The Fire Theft) found an excellent way ahead on their 2003 debut, abandoning emo all together and creating a sublime piece of prog majesty. Once heard in the right context (“Chain”, “Heaven”), Enigk’s voice is a no-brainer for prog, nuzzling itself into the happy medium between Peter Gabriel and Geddy Lee. The abandonment of punk tempos hasn’t left the music boring either, as the band’s instrumental chops are still firmly intact. But it’s the songs that really stand out for The Fire Theft. From the aggressive and soaring “Chain” to the gorgeous, piano-based “Summertime,” it’s exceptionally rewarding to see a group of musicians with so much water under the bridge find so many new ways forward. Sunny Day Real Estate reunions aside, I find myself in the small camp of those thirsting for a follow-up from The Fire Theft.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)

Tracks:

1. Uncle Mountain (3.5/5)
2. Waste Time Segue
3. Oceans Apart (4/5)
4. Chain (5/5)
5. Backward Blues
6. Summertime (5/5)
7. Houses (5/5)
8. Waste Time (5/5)
9. Heaven (5/5)
10. Rubber Bands (4/5)
11. It’s Over (5/5)
12. Carry You (5/5)
13. Sinatra (4/5)

Sunny Day Real Estate: The Rising Tide (2000)

THE RISING TIDE (2001) – 5: A classic case of a band over-delivering, THE RISING TIDE is by far the band’s most ambitious offering thematically and sonically, turning up every knob to 11 as opposed to the more subdued production of HOW IT FEELS. The problem is that the band had not yet learned how to wear the studio that well, and with their prog tendancies pouring out on all fronts, they come off sounding like a band trying to sound meaningful (“One”). There is at least one monumental disaster, the silly centerpiece “Snibe.” A few of the other tracks, like “Fool in the Photograph” and “Television” sound a little bit too much like the band is borrowing from the bands who borrowed their ideas. But their are some truly great tracks herein as well, such as the lilting “The Ocean,” as well as the beautiful “Tearing In My Heart.” Perhaps the most disappointing thing is that the band here breaks its streak of strong bookends, with two relatively mediocre songs opening and closing the record. The band called it quits after this one, but more things would come over the next decade from this group in various forms.
Tracks:
1. Killed By An Angel (3/5)
2. One (2/5)
3. Rain Song (3.5/5)
4. Disappear (2.5/5)
5. Snibe (1/5)
6. The Ocean (5/5)
7. Fool In The Photograph (2/5)
8. Tearing In My Heart (5/5)
9. Television (2/5)
10. Faces In Disguise (3/5)
11. The Rising Tide (3/5)

album-the-rising-tideSunny Day Real Estate
The Rising Tide; 2000
Time Bomb Recordings

My Rating: 5/10

A classic case of a band over-delivering, THE RISING TIDE is by far the band’s most ambitious offering thematically and sonically, turning up every knob to 11 as opposed to the more subdued production of HOW IT FEELS. The problem is that the band had not yet learned how to wear the studio that well, and with their prog tendancies pouring out on all fronts, they come off sounding like a band trying to sound meaningful (“One”). There is at least one monumental disaster, the silly centerpiece “Snibe.” A few of the other tracks, like “Fool in the Photograph” and “Television” sound a little bit too much like the band is borrowing from the bands who borrowed their ideas. But their are some truly great tracks herein as well, such as the lilting “The Ocean,” as well as the beautiful “Tearing In My Heart.” Perhaps the most disappointing thing is that the band here breaks its streak of strong bookends, with two relatively mediocre songs opening and closing the record. The band called it quits after this one, but more things would come over the next decade from this group in various forms.

Tracks:

1. Killed By An Angel (3/5)
2. One (2/5)
3. Rain Song (3.5/5)
4. Disappear (3/5)
5. Snibe (1/5)
6. The Ocean (5/5)
7. Fool In The Photograph (2/5)
8. Tearing In My Heart (5/5)
9. Television (3/5)
10. Faces In Disguise (3/5)
11. The Rising Tide (3/5)

Sunny Day Real Estate: Live (1999)

liveSunny Day Real Estate
Live; 1999
Sub Pop Records

My Rating: 4/10

This was a “contractual obligations” album I guess, released by Sub Pop after the band jumped ship post-HOW IT FEELS. The performances themselves are muscular enough I suppose, but as far as live albums go, the recording and production are pretty flat. The one highlight is the closer, “Days Were Golden,” magnificently executed live. Other than that, would it have hurt to fill all 80 minutes of the plastic disc with music? Surely SDRE was playing more than 11-song sets on their first reunion tour. For fanatics only…

Sunny Day Real Estate: How It Feels to Be Something On (1998)

When Sunny Day got back together and recorded a new record in 1998, one of the dreams of this young man was realized. How cool that it was a really great record at that. As Nate Mendel opted to continue Foo’ing around, the band is only at 75%, but they did manage to find a worthy match for Mendel’s bass chops in hired-hand Jeff Palmer. As far as bookends go, the band continues to show a mastery for beginning and ending records, with the fabulous and dark “Pillars” setting the mood for the whole record and the blue-eyed mysticism of “Days Were Golden” closing things out. Although a few of the songs seem unworthy of the initials SDRE (“Two Promises”, “The Shark’s Own Private F*ck”), the band continues to churn out emotionally-strident rock and roll with just enough experimental flourish to keep the indie set coming back. “Every Shining Time You Arrive” and “Guitar and Video Games” are particularly strong highlights, but “Roses in Water” and “The Prophet” deliver an eastern flavor that folds in well with the band’s sound.
Tracks:
1. Pillars (5/5)
2. Roses in Water (4/5)
3. Every Shining Time You Arrive (5/5)
4. Two Promises (2/5)
5. 100 Million (3/5)
6. How It Feels To Be Something On (4/5)
7. The Prophet (4/5)
8. Guitar and Video Games (5/5)
9. The Shark’s Own Private Fuck (2/5)
10. Days Were Golden (5/5)

hiftbsoSunny Day Real Estate
How It Feels to Be Something On; 1998
Sub Pop Records

My Rating: 8/10

When Sunny Day got back together and recorded a new record in 1998, one of the dreams of this young man was realized. How cool that it was a really great record at that. As Nate Mendel opted to continue Foo’ing around, the band is only at 75%, but they did manage to find a worthy match for Mendel’s bass chops in hired-hand Jeff Palmer. As far as bookends go, the band continues to show a mastery for beginning and ending records, with the fabulous and dark “Pillars” setting the mood for the whole record and the blue-eyed mysticism of “Days Were Golden” closing things out. Although a few of the songs seem unworthy of the initials SDRE (“Two Promises”, “The Shark’s Own Private F*ck”), the band continues to churn out emotionally-strident rock and roll with just enough experimental flourish to keep the indie set coming back. “Every Shining Time You Arrive” and “Guitar and Video Games” are particularly strong highlights, and “Roses in Water” and “The Prophet” deliver an eastern flavor that folds in well with the band’s sound.

Tracks:

1. Pillars (5/5)
2. Roses in Water (4/5)
3. Every Shining Time You Arrive (5/5)
4. Two Promises (2/5)
5. 100 Million (3/5)
6. How It Feels To Be Something On (4/5)
7. The Prophet (4/5)
8. Guitar and Video Games (5/5)
9. The Shark’s Own Private F*ck (2/5)
10. Days Were Golden (5/5)

Sunny Day Real Estate: LP2 (1995)

SunSuLP2 (1995) – 8: AKA The Pink Album. Very solid yet posthumous follow-up to the band’s excellent debut, for a long time this was my favorite of the band’s records, especially given the more DC-style angularity of the songs contained herein. Enigk begins developing his “voice as an instrument” on this one, with many of the lyrics being otherwise unintelligible or nonsensical but nonetheless beautiful. A strong undercurrent of Enigk’s born-again Christianity is represented on songs like “5/4,” “Waffle,” and “Theo B.” The band seems to have captured a period of complete abandon here, a freedom to explore a completely unique sound. Overall, not quite classic like “Diary,” but nonetheless a very strong if obtuse second offering.
1. Friday (4/5)
2. Theo B (4.5/5)
3. Red Elephant (4/5)
4. 5/4 (4/5)
5. Waffle (3.5/5)
6. 8 (5/5)
7. Iscarabaid (4/5)
8. J’Nuh (4.5/5)
9. Rodeo Jones (5/5)

lp2Sunny Day Real Estate
LP2; 1995
Sub Pop Records

My Rating: 8/10

AKA The Pink Album. Very solid yet posthumous follow-up to the band’s excellent debut, for a long time this was one of my favorite records, as it combined DC-style musical angularity and sublime melodies to form fascinating songs. Enigk begins developing his “voice as an instrument” approach on this one, with many of the lyrics being otherwise unintelligible or nonsensical but nonetheless beautiful. A strong undercurrent of Enigk’s born-again Christianity is represented on songs like “5/4,” “Waffle,” and “Theo B.” The band seems to have captured a period of complete abandon here, a freedom to explore a completely unique sound. Overall, not quite classic like “Diary,” but nonetheless a very strong if “Enigk-matic” (sorry for that…) second offering.

Tracks:

1. Friday (4/5)
2. Theo B (4.5/5)
3. Red Elephant (4/5)
4. 5/4 (4/5)
5. Waffle (3.5/5)
6. 8 (5/5)
7. Iscarabaid (4/5)
8. J’Nuh (4.5/5)
9. Rodeo Jones (5/5)