It’s been a pretty average year for music, not as bad as last year, but overall still pretty mediocre. What’s most notable to me is that this year lacks a real front runner, or a new band to blast out of the margins and take the punk world by storm. The list features a lot of established bands and their 3rd or 4th album. There are some new bands and first albums on the list but I would classify most of them as underdogs who I found by accident and aren’t universally known. There also seems to be no movements or emerging trends (mid 1990′s skate punk, mid 2000′s folk-punk, etc.), just echos from yesteryear. Then again, I could be just getting cynical and angry with age, time for my quarter-life crisis jazz phase I guess.
We’ve already pronounced the album to be dead, and that filler songs are pointless in this age. It should come as no surprise that we don’t plan on pursuing the album form in the foreseeable future. We feel that the best way forward will be for us to release short EPs on a regular basis. Similar to what Black Flag did in the beginning.
With the release of our 2nd EP we’ve decided to take a bit of an odd ball pricing strategy. Our last EP was available for free streaming, download, and physically (as a CD). While we were happy to share our songs without charging anyone, we noticed that:
When we were kids (we still are) we would see local and out of town bands play, meet them, get their music, and in the process meet other people with similar interests. Now, we find music online, download it, consume it, and promptly move on to some other distraction. It is as if the human element of the whole process has been stripped out and streamlined into some absurd production line process.
We don’t want capital to the final arbiter of who gets to hear us and who doesn’t, yet don’t want our art to be just another passive, uncommitted piece of analytical data.
After considerable deliberation we have decided on the following release plan:
We feel like this is the plan needed to build a music scene made out of people, rather than HTTP requests. Your move:
-The Bare Minimum
I was watching a documentary about the drummer of Hole, Patty Schemel, titled “Hit So Hard”. It featured a lot of Courtney Love screen time. Though the movie wasn’t really about her, she wasted no time inflating her significance in the context of women in rock and roll. It’s depressing to think that she is the token go-to reference for female modern rock singers. Here is a list of better role models:
Husker Du to me represents the bridge between 80s american hardcore punk and 90s alternative. The band began their life as a somewhat generic 80s hardcore band, but evolved into something unique, paving not only their own way but the way for Nirvana, the Pixies, Superchunk, and the Foo Fighters.
Both the drummer Grant Hart and the guitarist Bob Mould were the primary song writers. In the earlier albums Mould would write most of the songs, while Hart would contribute just a few. By the end of their careers the song writing was being split 50/50 leading to the band breaking up due to artistic differences.
The band logo was three separate parallel lines intersecting with one perpendicular line, representing three distinct voices coming together to create. In the end the band members couldn’t share control leading to their downfall.
To scientifically decide who was the better song writer we are going to compare their respective output album by album.
One Man Army – She’s an Alarm!
The reformation of One Man Army for me was the most exciting news of the year, everything singer/prime writer Jack Dalrymple touches turns to punk rock gold. The years he spent co-fronting Dead to Me were that band’s best, his one song contribution to the Swingin’ Utters last album was the best track on the album. His first band OMA. have dropped a few classic albums under the punk mainstream’s radar. With the success of Dead to Me a lot of people have been drawn to the OMA’s archival material, giving them a popularity surge after their death. This new EP takes off where ‘Effortless Amnesiac’ left off. Just like the Utters last album the songs sound more like the Buzzcocks or the Undertones than Cocksparrer or Sham 69. The first track starts off with just guitars and vocals alone before working into a bouncing chorus and a more abrasive verse, Plastique is a straight ahead pogo-pop-punk with well placed hand claps. ‘I Got Hung Up’ is perhaps the most epic and beautiful song on the EP, with the token hopelessly sad lyrics Jack is known for. The song is notable for it’s lack of structure, working in spanish guitar picking and slow down in the bridge. I’m hungry for more new songs, Jack’s writing is a strong as ever. Let’s hope this EP is just the beginning. Continue reading
In the world cup of rock n roll, England and America are the typical leaders. In distance second we have Australia, Sweden, Canada, and Ireland. The English speaking countries seem to have the advantage, which makes sense since rock originates from the English speaking world and culturally moves outward. I don’t know why Sweden excels so well, probably has something to do with the socialist utopia they live in.
I was cycling through my mp3 collection deleting all the metal music I was trying to “understand” a few months earlier, when I noticed quite a few continental European bands who I enjoyed. Most of these bands don’t get enough attention.
I always admired bands that end clean, bands that don’t stretch their stay in the limelight. When they run out of ideas they get out of the way for fresh minds with new sounds. F.T. Marinetti said, in his manifesto of futurism:
“The oldest of us is thirty: so we have at least a decade for finishing our work. When we are forty, other younger and stronger men will probably throw us in the wastebasket like useless manuscripts—we want it to happen!
They will come against us, our successors, will come from far away, from every quarter, dancing to the winged cadence of their first songs, flexing the hooked claws of predators, sniffing doglike at the academy doors the strong odor of our decaying minds, which will have already been promised to the literary catacombs.”
I feel the same way about modern music. How do these bands go on? Night after night rehashing the same crowd pleasing nostalgia from their first album. That would be the equivalent of me reliving my high school glory days. Currently, our culture has a whole circuit for fading fame and relevance that goes from hollywood squares, to reality tv, to reunion tours. Economically this is insanity, we give nothing to anyone who is actually doing something interesting, and pay endless royalties to people who did something cool years ago.
Here are a few bands that were once good, but are now actively destroying their legacy with shitty filler albums:
I’ve often caught myself saying that EPs are better than LPs. While probably being a bit of an exaggeration, I do often find that a quick sampling of songs serve some bands better then the long form of an album. With albums the band often runs out of A-list material and has to resort to filler and gimmicks. The EP is a nice middle ground between the album and the single; giving you more then just a brief taste, but not so much that you’re full.
There are some bands who I feel have released their best material on EPs, which unfortunately often cripples them in the public’s eye because we focus so much on the album and often pass over the EPs.
We’ve already spoken at length about the future of formats and the decline of the album, today we’d like to discuss the more recent record industry invention of the special edition or deluxe version of the album. This is when an album has two releases; one being the standard album, the other being the same album with 2 to 6 tracks added on to the end. The extra tracks are often the tracks from the album recording session that weren’t good enough or didn’t fit in with the rest of the album. Sometime the bands fills the deluxe editions with cover songs, live tracks, acoustic versions, or demo recordings. In cinema the same trend is happening with special editions and bonus features in DVDs, in literature the same thing is happening with new editions including frivolous extras, such as letters, poems by the author, essays, forwards, prefaces, etc.