Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

I Must Have-Mediocrity

July 1, 2006

Band: I Must Have

Album Name: Mediocrity

Best Element: Energy?

Genre: Indie

Website: www.imusthave.org (inactive account) / www.myspace.com/imusthave

Label: N/A

Band E-mail: N/A

I hate to say it, but this appears as a moderate at best attempt to pass this off as a CD. The packaging is water-stained, taped up, computer paper with a CD-R written on with a blue pen. Their website is inactive with a Myspace Account that hasn’t had a comment or update since January 2006. The thing is, I know not to judge a book by its cover(s), and I would be willing to forgive all of this if the music itself was only of moderate listening quality. You see, the music itself is not that incoherent, but coupled with the weak ‘live’ recording and bad mixing it is a difficult listen with levels of the instruments and vocals varying and tempos which increase and decrease with a high inconsistency.

Tracks such as “He’s a Gentleman/Pirate Newman”, “Face to be Heard” and “An Unsuccessful Attempt to Create” have tons of potential but are completely lost in the musical haze. Every time I just start getting into a track the groove is lost by either bad static/dissonance, an unintentional shift, or loss of timing. Truthfully, if this was better recorded, the drums were set to a click track, and it was mixed evenly, I Must Have may really be sitting on some good potential indie-rock with songs that vary between subtle build-ups with humble melodies to hard-driven chaos. The worst part is that with this CD it is really hard to tell. The musicianship, from what I can gather, is competent. The rhythm section, although suffering some timing issues, is synced well and is actually heard well in the mix. The guitar work is well-executed and has bpth creative merit and some interesting guitar noodling. The vocal work shifts between an odd, yet suited, crooning and a pure angst-filled yelling.

I apologize if it seems as though I’m coming off a bit harsh, but this is a tough listen. I can tell by listening to this recording that the band has wonderful energy and would most likely put on a fantastic live performance. Sadly I can’t just sit back and enjoy the music on this CD. In the future, I’d highly recommend investing in a few song EP over a poorly made demo CD. I’ve tried 6 times to listen to the CD and hoped that the energy would override the shoddy production and I could better grasp and give broader, more detailed review… sadly my aural senses are too unforgiving.

Josh Hogan

-josh@orchidscurse.com

ICreport

Report From Abroad

As I write this I’m sitting in an apartment in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Argentina is an incredible place- especially during the World Cup. The culture is different, the language is different, even the weather is different (it’s the beginning of winter here) but the one thing that does not change is the people’s love of music. While there are many different types of music available, the youth seem to have the same love of underground music as we do. I’ve observed posters for punk shows with bands ranging from local bands to big names like H2O (they played the day before I got here or I would have gone). I’ve also seen kids walking down the street with buttons and shirts for bands like From First to Last, My Chemical Romance, and Green Day (American Idiot). While these are not the bands that I would be telling the Argentine youth to listen to, I’m happy to see lesser known bands, and rock bands in general, gaining fans outside of the U.S, Canada, Europe and Japan.

Music Trends

I’ve been interested to watch the recent surge in popularity for “ambient” rock bands. Since The Strokes’ 2003 release, many bands have moved toward more mellow sounds while moving away from their heavier beginnings. The music world has really seen this change over the past year with the release of Thrice’s Vheissu, Thursday’s A City by the Light Divided and A Fire Inside’s decemberunderground. Each of these albums represents a serious change from the author’s original sound. With these three albums coming out on major labels (Island, Island and Interscope respectively) and the signing of other “ambient rock” bands such as The Killers, The Bravery (both Island) I believe we may see the end of real ambient rock in the underground scene. Much like post-hardcore early in the decade, ambient is getting too popular too quickly. We can see the effects of hardcore’s rapid rise to fame when scanning PureVolume: there are very few straight-ahead hardcore bands. They have all melted into other less heavy bands. I believe this is the fate of ambient rock and I also believe it may also signal the end for the leader in signing ambient rock bands, Island Records.

-Scott Landis

redbassist@comcast.net

Graham Smith Interview

Graham Smith Interview

We here at Independent Clauses love pictures. Just love ‘em to death. That’s why we get excited when we find photographers that not only excel at shooting musicians, but make it their specialty. That’s why Graham Smith has us hooked- his talent for shooting musicians is only rivaled by his love for music itself. You can check out his work at www.grahamsmithphotography.com.

Independent Clauses: How long have you been shooting bands? What did you start shooting on?

Graham Smith: I have been shooting bands for around 4 years now, but only 2 years taking it very seriously. My first decent camera was a Canon D60 which served me well until countless nights being battered around finally took its toll and it “died” a few months ago.

IC: What do you use to shoot with now?

GS: Mainly with a Canon 350D. Its a very light and compact SLR which suits the way I like to work.

IC: About how many pictures do you shoot per concert to get that one fantastic image?

GS: It really depends on the gig, anywhere between 25-150.

IC: How many shows do you attend a month?

GS: It changes all the time but right now about 20 shows a month and then on the other days I may be documenting a band in a recording studio, practice room or taking portraits on location.

IC: Do you prefer shooting in color or black and white?

GS: I change my mind about this all the time. It depends on who I am shooting and the situation but I do have a fondness for black and white.

IC: Do you like shooting live shows or portrait/press photos better?

GS: I prefer to shoot portraits but in a more documentary style. I like to spend time with the musicians I work with, hang out with them, chat to them or remain in the shadows, all the time snapping pictures. When I take “posed” shots of a band I try to keep it all as relaxed as possible, hopefully this comes across in my images.

IC: Can you explain one of your favorite shots you’ve taken?

GS: Jetplane_Landing.jpg

Although it may not be the most interesting or dramatic photo I have ever taken, I have always been very fond of the above shot. I was on the road for a few days with Jetplane Landing, who I had also worked with the previous year. This was taken in the car park of a TV studio where they were due to record two songs for a music program. After a particularly energetic gig the previous night Andrew (the lead singer) was a little worried about his voice. He came out to the band van and was playing a very quiet version of one of their songs, basically just to test out his voice. Jamie (bass player) can be seen wandering around in the background. Its just one of those shots that needs the trust of the artist, to be able to sit and calmly strum a song and not be bothered by the camera. I like shots like this, something a bit different, the calm moments that people rarely see.

IC: Are there any bands on your ‘wish list’ to do a photo shoot with?

GS: I really want to shoot Smashing Pumpkins when they start touring again, ideally I would love to document a few weeks on the road with them.

IC: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to beginning photographers?

GS: I only cover music, so I can only give advice to aspiring music photographers – If you are doing this for a love of photography…then you will not get very far. In my opinion a love/obsession for music must come first, a wish to be around musicians, a wish to want to document this.Forget photography books and courses – read music books, listen to your favorite albums, go to gigs, hang out with musicians, love what you do.

IC: When can we expect your book? What info is finished about it? Tell us about that. GS: For various reasons the book has been delayed twice but it will definitely be coming out in late 2006 with a small exhibition to accompany it. I am planning to do a new book approximately every 2 years. Because of the expensive paper used these will not make any money but I really want to have something solid to document my progress. The books will simple be called “Book One”, “Book Two”, etc. I will be mixing up some of my more known shots of large bands with photos of some smaller unsigned acts.

IC: What is in the future for you and your work?

GS: To be honest I am not even certain what I am doing this week! I have learned that you have to be very flexible in this “job”. Over the next year I hope to spend a lot more time on the road with bands. I never want to be the sort of photographer who goes to the same 3 or 4 venues over and over again to just take a few live shots of whichever band is passing through.

IC: Do you have any predictions for the future (personal, musical, fashion, politics, life in general)?

GS: I try not to think about the future too much. I am more of a nostalgic and reflective person (maybe that is why I do what I do). Obviously I have my own basic plans and goals, but I try not to put too much into detail into it, I think this is dangerous. Whatever will be, will be!

IC: What are some of your favorite bands?

GS: I listen to a lot of music, but right now some of my favourite bands/artists would be: Cathy Davey, Editors, Fighting With Wire, Ben Folds, System Of A Down, The Beat Poets, Tegan and Sara, Mojo Fury, Oppenheimer, Smashing Pumpkins, Presidents Of The USA etc.

IC: What are you listening to now?

GS: Right this minute I am listening to the Best Of Matthew Sweet at a very loud volume, window wide open (beautiful sunny day here), drinking a cup of coffee and being very thankful I am not stuck in some soulless office!

-Stephen Carradini

independentclauses@Hotmail.com

From the Vinyl Stack: Can

From the Vinyl Stack: Can

There are a few bands that you’ll find it impossible to search online. There’s the Who, the Doors, the Cars, and Spoon, to name a few. However, there’s one late ‘60s-early ‘70s German rock band that tops that list.
Can, the German rockers who formed in 1968, are the definitive band of the krautrock genre. The band was composed completely of German members (Holger Czukay, Michael Karoli, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Irmin Schmidt, and Jaki Liebezeit), with the only exception being African-American vocalist Malcolm Mooney.
On top of being a huge voice in the krautrock genre, Can were also one of the definitive originators of jamming. On their 1969 debut album Monster Movie, the band released a track entitled “You Doo Right.” The song was a 20 minute excerpt of a 6 hour jam (which allegedly only stopped after the amplifiers started smoking).
Mooney left the band after the release of the 1970 album Soundtracks. After a nervous breakdown, he returned to America. Only later would he briefly reunite with the original Can line-up to record the album Rite Time. In 1998, Mooney released his first solo album, only to be followed by an album released in 2003 along with David Tyack.
The band replaced Mooney with Japanese singer Kenji “Damo” Suzuki in 1970, who actually recorded a few songs on Soundtracks alongside a soon-to-be-gone Mooney. However, after the albums Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi, and Future Days, Suzuki also left the band. His reason? To become a Jehovah’s Witness.
The later days of Can, although not very successful, saw original members Karoli and Schmidt sharing duties as lead vocalist. Also, former members of the band Traffic (another band name that is nearly impossible to Google) Anthony Reebop Kwaku Baah and Rosco Gee joined up for the 1977 album Saw Delight. However, after a couple of albums that were shunned by members of the band themselves, the band broke up in 1979.
Although all of the surviving members of Can are still working on solo projects and collaborating (Michael Karoli died in 2001 after fighting cancer), the real story is the inspiration that Can left for many bands. Can inspired such artists as the Buzzcocks, Sonic Youth, and even Brian Eno.
Although Can’s lyrics weren’t exactly the most coherent thing to listen to (as proved in the band’s “Little Star of Bethlehem”), Can is undeniably one of the greatest classic progressive indie bands of all time.

-Evan Minsker

waldofan13@aol.com

Fairmont-The Subtle Art of Making Enemies EP

Band Name: Fairmont
Album Name: The Subtle Art of Making Enemies EP
Best Element: The gorgeous flute/piano/cello finale
Genre: Indie Rock
Website: www.fairmontmusic.com
Label Name: Renfield Records, Reinforcement Records.
Band E-mail: farimontmusic@yahoo.com

It’s amazing to watch as a band rises up and creates its own persona, all the while maintaining the advancement of its musical creativity. Fairmont has, without argument, done just that. As I looked through their discography the first word that came to mind was “bitter.” With songs entitled “Wish You Were Dead”, “It’s Not Rain, God is Spitting On Us”, “How Summer Tour Made Me An Atheist”, and my personal favorite, “Sometimes I’m Bitter”, it’s hard not to think that you may just be listening to a future My Chemical Romance album. The feeling is further cemented if you read their biography and happen to notice the quote by lead singer Neil Sabatino which confidently sates that their “dream is to make record after record and if one kid out there can relate to our tales of bitterness then our job is done.” However, Fairmont’s embittered persona, though alive and well, seems to be evolving. With their fourth EP, The Subtle Art of Making Enemies, Fairmont shows that they have, for the time being at least, not resurrected the morose monster that has become such a defining part of their past releases.

Prior to listening to the EP I casually threw Fairmont into the classification with other generic indie rock acts. This was, however, a large mistake and a reaction which I now regret having. The first track on the EP, “Happiness is a Million Miles Away”, is the darkest and gives heed to that morose monster, but doesn’t release it. The darker sound is a perfect compliment to Sabatino’s slightly nasal yet gratifying voice. “Lack of Luster” is extremely catchy and fun even if “the sun don’t shine” and “nothing’s getting better”. The final track “Rebuilding Home” shows Fairmont in all the glory that they deserve. Suddenly a cello starts moving, a piano begins a beautiful accompaniment, and as the EP closes a flute chimes in with a delicate melody. “Rebuilding Home” is undoubtedly the cherry on top of the sundae.

It’s safe to say that Fairmont is ahead of the curve in the indie rock scene, which is not surprising considering that the band evolved out of Pencey Prep, who played shows with The Strokes, Nada Surf, and Thursday. If this EP is evidence of things to come, then Fairmont will be advancing the music scene for many albums to come.

-Mark Pranger

markysparky07@yahoo.com

(Compilation) Meryll, Ethan Durelle, Clairmont, Stop Thief! Quartet / Reeve Hunter-ER Promotional Sampler One

Band: (Compilation) Meryll, Ethan Durelle, Clairmont, Stop Thief! Quartet / Reeve Hunter

Album Name: ER Promotional Sampler One

Best Element: Variety

Genre: Indie and Other

Label: Esotype Records

Website: www.esotyperecords.com

Label E-mail: info@esotyperecords.com

For an 8-song sampler this is a wonderful look into Esotype Records with a total of 5 different artists… The easiest way to dissect this is on a track by track basis, so please continue and read on for a closer look into each song.

-TRACK 1: MERYLL – “Classy”

-A fantastic mellow track with passionate melodies and ambient undertones- the only downfall is the song is too short, barely breaking the 1:30 mark. Nonetheless it is a fantastic intro track that left me wanting more…

-TRACK 2: MERYLL – “Inside on a Day like Today? I’m Outraged!”

-Another well established track. This song is layered with lush and ample tones. The vocalist’s voice is equally captivating and flows with a sincerity which is difficult to fake. I would definitely be interested in hearing more from this up and coming star.

-TRACK 3: ETHAN DURELLE – “Disruption… Sharks”

-A bit more of a heavier vibe than the previous songs, yet still has nice ambience overall and even includes a powerful melodic chorus. This song is full of great musicianship with hooks and bass lines that reel you in for the ride. (All puns intended)

-TRACK 4: ETHAN DURELLE – “That Was a Lamprey”

Keeping with the aquatic theme, this track continues to explore such genres as indie, surf-rock, and controlled sonic dissonance. Overall a flavorful dose of music and another well-rounded, powerful track.

-TRACK 5: CLAIRMONT – “Seek the Lovely”

Another passionate song… a bit more traditionally structured than some of the previous tracks yet still highly artistic overall. The track contains great vocals and backing harmonies. Following the first four songs is a difficult act to follow but confidently they held their own.

-TRACK 6: CLAIRMONT – “Wish”

Fantastic intro with a beautiful post-rock guitar tone which begs your aural senses along for the ride. Somber vocal work and passionate build-ups set a wonderful tone for the entire track. A fantastic aura follows this song from start to finish.

-TRACK 7: STOP THIEF? QUARTET – “Spring or the 4th of July”

Easily some of the finest male/female vocal harmonies I’ve heard in quite some time… Fun, almost bouncy music is a great contrast to the delicate vocal stylings. Good musicianship and overall a great song.

-TRACK 8: REEVE HUNTER – “Heads”

An interesting laid back rock song with some nice guitar work and sincere instrumental and vocal work… borders both progressive rock and repetition, but flows nicely overall and closes the sampler on a good note.

Overall the Er Sampler has more than proven the legitimacy of Esotype Records. With 5 talented artists, this label is an up-and-coming, one stop shop for ambient indie rock. The ultimate goal of a good small Indie label is focus on a similar style (genre) but not to have multiple artists which sound alike. Esotype Records have truly succeeded as there is a clear distinction from one artist to the next but the album flows cohesively from beginning to end. Definitely worth checking out!

Josh Hogan

-josh@orchidscurse.com

DriveBy-I Hate Every Day Without You

drivebypicBand: DriveBy

Album: I Hate Every Day Without You

Best Element: Solid song structure

Genre: Pop-Punk

Website: www.drivebyworld.com

Band Email: band@drivebyworld.com

Label: Riot Squad Records

Drive-By is a pop-punk band in every meaning of the genre. Because of that, Drive-By will never be my favorite band. That does not mean this is a bad album- on the contrary, this album is one of the most solid pop-punk albums I’ve heard. Period. The only issues I hold with this album are production problems that cannot be attributed to band. If you go out and research other reviews of this band I am sure that you will find them listed as an emo band. Allow me to assure you, this is a pop-punk album and, you can quote me on this for I will never say it again, a good one.

Drive-By has produced the album Fall Out Boy could have produced had they cared half as much about their music as they did their hair. I Hate Every Day Without You will provide a launching pad for this band. It is really a question of whether or not the band is able to correctly use it. The album is not a history making album- it has simple guitar lines and a simple set up but it’s all so damn catchy.

One of the things I really enjoyed was the lyrics. These are some of the most intimate lyrics I have heard in a very long time. The lyrics are based around the loss of someone very close to lyricist. These lyrics provide a great topping to a good instrumental album. If you enjoy pop-punk you will love this album. Even if you don’t there is a good chance this won’t be the last time you hear of this band.

-Scott Landis

redbassist66@comcast.net

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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