Posts Tagged 00s
Before I saw this band a couple weeks ago at Maxwell’s, I had only heard their one record Source Codes & Tags from 2002. After I bought the ticket online, I figured I should listen to it a little. I mean I had listened to it but not in years. Why go to that show then? Just seemed like the kind of show I would see at Maxwell’s; a semi-obscure new(ish) band I wasn’t even sure I liked. I’ve just never been into seeing the same few bands over and over, that was not really my scene. I’ll miss it the same but let’s keep moving in the direction of new bands, right. Anyway, turns out I no longer had a copy of any of their albums. I must have deleted the folder one day sorting things and I just couldn’t get over the full name of the band messing up my alphabetization. (The same fate has befallen “!!!”.) I guess I didn’t feel they were good enough to make an exception and I didn’t think of just using the shorter version. This was during my drinking period when I just made these kind of decisions easily. I got angry that they had this outlandish name and yet somehow did not really back it up on record. Wasn’t the hype with this band how crazy they were live? I made a mental note to just see them live one day because I was not getting it. The record is not crazy enough.
This record is much, much less crazy. Now that I have seen them live, I get the hype. Ten years later, they must have mellowed out a little as no one in the band went to the hospital that night, which was supposedly a regular occurrence in the past. I can only imagine what they were like then, but it was still pretty great. Super high-energy, noisy guitars, switching out of instruments, leaving the stage with extended guitar solos in the middle of the pit, it was like anything could happen. They even had multiple problems with the sound cutting out on the PA and various amps and it didn’t even slow them down. With no intention of doing so, I got really into it. More than any other Maxwell’s show I think. It was not even like going back to a typical early 00s show for me, it was like a 90s show with a full pogo-skank mosh thing going on.
A couple days later I got my paycheck so I thought of buying a Maxwell’s shirt online since I didn’t have any money at the show for one. (Didn’t even get a last meal or beer there, had barely enough to even get there. Sucks but what can you do. I was glad to go at all.) Then I thought that was dumb. I’m not carrying the torch for this place that’s voluntarily gone under, lemme actually buy this band’s records instead. That’s what I’m supporting. Stick to yr guns, man.
So…I figure I almost can’t go wrong here with albums. I pick this one because the cover is so weird it doesn’t seem to match what the band is about at all, looks like a CGI anime soundtrack. Yeah, the sound of the record doesn’t seem to match what the band is about at all either. Doesn’t quite sound literately like an anime soundtrack, but doesn’t sound like the band I just saw. This is kinda interesting actually, to me, and I don’t hate it. I just don’t get it. Like there’s so many keyboards and layered harmonies. I don’t expect a band to sound exactly like a record, like I don’t think you should hold back on a record just because you’re not going to able to replicate whatever exactly. But live they have no keys of any kind and mostly yell everything. Not terribly, but nothing remotely smooth or Beatle-esqe like on this thing. I think the title track has some representative moments that really capture the band, but no one has posted that anywhere. Here’s the single from this album:
Pretty decent to me. Not anything like them but it’s a good tune. Ends with what might be a rousing audience sing along if they ever played it live which they do not of course. Because live they do not have acoustic guitars and keyboards and six bongo players. And an accordion. One of the opening bands at that show, The Red Paintings, actually had an accordion player and a violin player. This just seemed random and weird at the time, but I would have seen it as an awful tease if I knew. (Also the band Ume played who are like noisy-period Blonde Redhead, which I like. Did I mention there were girls at this show? Much higher percentage than an average metal show. That was nice.)
Anyway, I like the album, but I think this type material should be under a different name tho, it’s more like a side project of the singer(s). And again, the name of the band is goddamn ridiculous so how could they even think of crossing over? No one is going for that.
Since Maxwell’s announced it was closing I’ve been thinking about great shows I seen there. Seems like everyone is talking about having seen R.E.M. or Nirvana playing there when they first started out even tho there can’t have been that many people there at the time. When I saw the White Stripes there, it was a packed house. Maybe that makes it not that special. It was pretty much the point when this record hit; they might even have booked this gig last-minute after selling out a bigger NYC venue, I don’t remember. Everybody knew they were going up from there, and they got pretty big for quite a while, uh, remember? But they didn’t Change Rock Forever or whatever you’re supposed to do to be remembered a couple years after your band breaks up. Maybe it’s a relatability thing. People like the music of the White Stripes, but they don’t seem like your buddies. They did not start doing this for fun one day and become successful in spite of themselves. Everything they did was calculated and intentional. Despite the simplicity of their early work, the commitment to their singular aesthetic seemed bizarre. Even the Ramones gave you the impression that they just dressed like that all the time. These two clearly did not; it was impossible. They were spotless.
I want to say that I bought this record at the show, because that justifies telling this whole story. I may have already had it. Because it was definitely in stores and I was spending a lot of time on stores then (this was like summer or fall of 2000). I remember I bought their first record at that show because it was harder to find. I also painfully remember not buying any of the 7-inches they were selling that are now worth hundreds at least. Didn’t have a record player at the time. And it wasn’t worth carrying more than a couple CDs the 12 blocks to the PATH station. (CDs fit nicely into a back pocket.) Anyway, I hardly ever listen to that first record anymore so I guess I’m not reviewing it. Good record, like all their records, but I like this one best.
When I first heard the White Stripes, it was on the radio, WFMU. I thought it was a rare Led Zep outtake:
I was dumbfounded to learn this was a new band and that no one was even making the comparison at the time. (Also, I was drunk.) Hello Operator was also in heavy rotation then. The stripped-down nature of the band is much more obvious on this track. But the band was first popular not with fans of classic rock, but with underground garage rock scene out of Detroit. All of these bands are very blues-based, but mostly filtered through the Stooges, not Zep.
But I don’t need to tell you all that, somebody else could do it better. This was just my first impression from where I was coming from at the time. This band paralleled a dovetail of several interests and ideas I was having then, as I had just left art school to play in a garage rock band which almost immediately broke up as soon as we were all fully committed to it, right before these types of bands were getting popular. I don’t need to go into that (“we were almost laughingstock also-rans!” it’s kinda funny, the turmoil in hindsight), but these ideas were all still on the surface of my brain. I was also obsessed with female drummers.
Being a drummer, I have thought a lot about what it takes to be good. Possibly more than I have practiced being good. My theory is that the female drummer is superior for a certain type of rock music because she is less concerned about showing off and more about complimenting the feel of the song. It’s a weird, sexist but positivist theory that girls can rock harder inherently because guys have confused rocking to be a macho thing, which it really isn’t. They (we) will build up these bullshit arm muscles to hit the drum harder. For a girl to play hard, she’s going to put her whole body into it, which is going to give the music a better feel. Meg White is the coincidental embodiment of this idea. Some people think she’s a shitty drummer, but put Jack in front of a human metronome and you’d have a band no one would give a shit about. He’s great as player and songwriter, but you need the feel and the push of that not-giving-a-fuck style. That was what elevated the group into something original. (Which is apparently why the group broke up, she really didn’t care, it was not a put-on. How long is rock group supposed to last, so what.)
THE REST OF THE SONGS: Besides the heavy early blues influence (up to and including straight covering early blues songs) that is simply something shared with Zeppelin (if you ignore the Robert Plant-ish delivery) that rules most of the album, you’ve got the song I’m Bound to Pack It Up which is soo Zeppelin III. I love it tho. But there’s also a few songs with piano that really stand out, if that’s a direct homage to someone else I can’t place it. I bet someone else has. How about that triple tremolo? Did he even use that? The guitar seems pretty straight up. The visuals and text of the booklet really seem designed to throw you off. It’s pretty pretentious but they didn’t have the budget yet to make it seamless and really cool. It’s exactly as silly as it should be. Maybe that’s that why I like it best. Maybe not I just need a way to wrap this thing up already.