Best Of February

It’s funny how much music you can miss if you’re not paying careful attention; which is stange to me because it’s all I pay attention to. I don’t really know what’s going on in the world, I have no interest in sports until either the NCAA Tournament begins or baseball season arrives (my 2008 World Series Champion Phillies have already dropped their first three spring training games) so if I miss something music-related; it’s kind of a big deal to me. I weep daily about that…

…but I take solace in the fact that you’re never too late to arrrive to the party, the fact is that you made it and you can regale yourself in the splendid (if not partially reflected) glory of others.

So here’s The Musicologists‘ take on “The Month In Music: February 2009 Edition”. A veritable cyber-rebound of missed bricks, using our elbows fiercely as we jockey for position under the boards; cleaning the glass and dishing you an outlet pass as you dribble to daylight into the month of March (and all its associated “madness”).

pains-of-being-pure

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart (Slumberland Records; released February 3rd, 2009)

Since it’s a self-titled album, I didn’t feel the need to write it twice, that’s a pretty long name to begin with. And it sounds like a really bad diary entry, maybe something from Angela Chase. Except this is really nice fuzzy noise pop with a heart of darkness; it’s an homage to the best stuff I grew up on in the eighties (Echo & The Bunnymen, et al.) and early nineties (Teenage Fanclub, et al.) as well as lending itself to the shoegazer textures of bands like Ride and My Bloody something. Valentine? Yeah, they like those guys too, a little bit.

Actually, their influence is heavy on these twenty-something New York scenesters- listening to songs like Come Saturday and Stay Alive, that wall of guitar sound is all over here, built up around lovely pop structures. My favorite track from the record; The Tenure Itch, sounds as if it was recorded for the Pretty In Pink Soundtrack– it just has that angst-ridden teenager feel to it; set upon a gorgeous late-80s pop sensibility. The album has that overall feel; it goes jangly guitars one song, drony and feedbacked the next; all under awkward and unsure lyrics- it is so teenager it’s not even funny.

The track Young Adult Friction is a marvelous little pun; it’s set against the backdrop of the high school library (undoubtedly in the young adult fiction section). So I’ve cut and pasted (from their website) a typically teen all-caps shouting of the lyrics: “BETWEEN THE STACKS IN THE LIBRARY / NOT LIKE ANYONE STOPPED TO SEE / WE CAME THEY WENT, OUR BODIES SPENT / AMONG THE DUST AND THE MICROFICHE”. How innocent, yet there’s a line in the same song about taking vicodins- and another shout-out to opiates later on, on the track A Teenager in Love: “AND IF YOU MADE A STAND, I’D STAND WITH YOU ‘TIL THE END / BUT YOU DON’T NEED A FRIEND WHEN YOU’RE / A TEENAGER IN LOVE WITH CHRIST AND HEROIN”.

Wow. Kids today are into some serious shit, I thought I was a bad ass when I cut school to smoke weed and go to South Street and buy records.

Tracklisting:

1. Contender
2. Come Saturday
3. Young Adult Friction
4. This Love is Fucking Right
5. The Tenure Itch
6. Stay Alive
7. Everything With You
8. A Teenager in Love
9. Hey Paul
10. Gentle Sons


The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart


death

Death – …For The Whole World To See (Drag City; released February 17th, 2009)

This record comes with the raddest story attached- written in 1974, recorded in ’75, then after a falling out with the producer over the band’s name the master tapes were somehow lost. For 34 years. Seriously.

Death started in Detroit as a funk band in 1971 by the Hackney brothers; Bobby on bass and vocals, Dannis on drums and David on guitars. They soon realized that rock music was capable of reaching a bigger audience, and they could shred the shit out of their speakers and listener’s ears with heavy, chugging power chords and bombastic drumming. Self-described as “totally rock-n-roll, totally black hippies”, the Hackney brothers modeled their sound from the likes of Sabbath, Iggy & The Stooges, MC5, Zeppelin, early Funkadelic; bands that were heavy but also could secure a groove. Which is basically what the seven songs on …For The Whole World To See are all about.

The first two tracks; Keep On Knocking and Rock-N-Roll Victim are what could be called ballsy, straight-up, aggressive rock; bordering on punk (or proto-punk, I think punk was still developing itself at the time). The next song, the six-minute long Let The World Turn has got some soul as well as some psychedelic influences, starting with a dream-like guitar and vocal section before careening into an all-out punk fest and a sick drum solo- the strength of Death is their outstanding rhythm section.

You’re A Prisoner could be a Ted Nugent song- hell, it could be a New York Dolls song or even an Aerosmith song from that era. It’s pure rock-n-roll, as perfect an example as the term would allow. Freakin Out starts with a solitary shouted word: DEATH! That’s punk as shit- it’s becoming more obvious to me that this band is deserving of its place in history with all the other proto-punk big names. Even if no one heard this record until thirty-plus years after it was made; it still needs to be championed right along with all those other bands. I’m just saying is all…

Where Do We Go From Here??? has the best bass work on the album; I’ve left out the understated bass playing until now- this song also has the nicest guitar riffage on the record, a direct descendent of Tony Iommi‘s influence. The album comes to a close with Politicians In My Eyes- striking because thirty years ago a huge part of the political climate was predicated on keeping black folks down; let’s hope those days are just a part of our nation’s sad history .

For all its raw energy and spazzy overall feel, the riffs are really tight and the drumming is amazing. It’s like waking up in a sonic wonderland- I keep thinking “where the hell have these tapes been?” How many more bands could’ve taken guidance from Death?

It’s almost like this band never existed.

Tracklisting:

1. Keep on Knocking
2. Rock-N-Roll Victim
3. Let the World Turn
4. You’re a Prisoner
5. Freakin Out
6. Where Do We Go from Here???
7. Politicians in My Eyes

DEATH

March Release Calendar:

3/3

Neko Case – Middle Cyclone

Say Hi – Oohs And Aahs

3/10

Bishop Allen – Grr…

BLK JKS – Mystery EP

Cursive – Mama, I’m Swollen

Elvis Perkins – Elvis Perkins In Dearland

Julie Doiron – I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day

Mirah – (a)spera

3/17

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Beware

MSTRKRFT – Fist Of God

Wavves – Wavvves

3/23

Lotus Plaza – The Floodlight Collective

3/24

The Decemberists – The Hazards Of Love

Swan Lake – Enemy Mine