Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

April 22 by the Numbers

April 22, 2007

Sunday, April 22, 2007
The Appleseed Cast/The Life and Times/Skies Fallen/Chaos to Cosmos
The Conservatory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

This show by the numbers:

4 bands: Chaos to Cosmos, Skies Fallen, The Life and Times, The Appleseed Cast

1 band I came to see: The Appleseed Cast

3 bands I ended up seeing: missed Chaos to Cosmos – sorry guys.

0 bands photographed: dead batteries, marking the second time I’ve brought an unusable camera to an Appleseed Cast show

2 bands I enjoyed: Skies Fallen, The Appleseed Cast.

I wasn’t a part of the emo scene in early nineties, but if I were, I probably would have hoisted Skies Fallen on my shoulders as the next big thing. As far as I could hear, Skies Fallen had many sound characteristics of an early 90s emo band: loud, abrasive, sometimes dissonant roars of near-hardcore rock abruptly followed by beautifully melodic yet intense chorales; rhythmic and patterned guitar melodies; split-second transitions; ragged yelling in addition to sung vocals.  Towards the end of their set, I truly felt like I was witnessing a band chronologically lost from its actual scene: as if they were taking a tour and one stop was “the future.”

But don’t freak out at the word emo – even if you detest Taking Back Sunday with all the hate your soul can muster, don’t fear. This is passionate, soul-baring, meaningful art. This isn’t four-chords and a singalong melody. Skies Fallen creates pieces of rock music that caused me to stand with my jaw open at the sheer goodness of the music. Every member of the band contributes in a very important way – something that is lost on many bands. This cohesiveness coupled with their dramatic songwriting and their honest passion made for a set that I won’t forget in a long while. Their final tune “Dreamer’s Sandbox” was especially incredible – the type of song that leads to want a certain conclusion, teases you with it, delivers it, then leaves you wanting more. Perfection.

I just finished reading a collection of Lester Bangs’ works entitled Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung. For those who haven’t been properly introduced, he was probably the most interesting and definitely one of the most noticed rock critics of the 70’s and early 80’s. He filtered everything through his perceptions of what rock should be: brash, raucous, inspired, connected with the audience, simple, primal, real. He had no stomach for pretension. And if you didn’t fit into his mold, you just didn’t get a good review.

Now I don’t hold to that style all the time – when it’s clear that a band does not land anywhere near my standards of rock’n’roll, I don’t judge them on my standards. They don’t measure up because they’re not even in the same ballpark. But if you do land somewhere in the ballpark of my rock standards but go awry, woe be to you.

Or woe be to the Life and Times, that is. My standards for rock: rhythmic and complex drum work; bass melodies, not bass lines; guitar work, not power-chords; passionate vocals, if not exactly the most perfect tone; dynamics; a break from verse/chorus/verse; showmanship.

The Life and Times flirted with many of those things in their set of rock. Their dark, pulverizing, straight-ahead rock had shining moments where the bassist’s fingers moved along with the maniacal thrashing of the drummer and the guitarist strummed less than his usual breakneck pace. Unfortunately, most of the time they were content to pulverize, cranking the amps and letting loose with a thundering wall of distortion and simplistic clatter. The kids around me loved it, proving that The Life and Times put on a good set, but except for the ferocious chops of the drummer (holy goodness was he talented), I just couldn’t get into it. I was pulverized by the loudest guitar noise I’ve ever heard and disillusioned by the almost total lack of dynamics and showmanship.

I really only came to see The Appleseed Cast perform one song, because I saw them last semester and got my AC fix then. I came to see “Fishing the Sky,” a song I love so entirely that I devoted an entire column to it one month. The first time they came their new guitarist hadn’t learned “Fishing,” and thus I saw them sans my favorite song. But I talked to the guitarist after the first show about it and he said he would be learning that song next. Buoyed by this hope, during the first few songs of this set I impatiently tried to read the set list. I was thrown into a giddy frenzy upon seeing the word “fishing” near the bottom of the paper.

I’ve waited a good many years to hear this song – I told the bassist in my giddy preparedness before the song that I’d been waiting five years to hear it. I honestly don’t know how long it’s been out and I may have made a fool of myself. But I don’t care, because I got to hear that winding opening riff that I have played on so many bad days, so many good days, and so many other days.

I apologize to anyone at the concert who was privy to the weird kid at the front of the stage flailing violently, as if his life depended on it, during “Fishing the Sky.” That was me. I heard my favorite song of all time, and it was incredible. I really can’t describe to you what being there was like – hearing that song live is like nothing I’ve ever experienced.

A final by the numbers:

20: teeth showing in a huge grin, post-show

2: seriously ringing ears.

3: days of serious ringing.

1: tremendous memory.

–         Stephen Carradini

independentclauses’hotmail.com

April ’07 Singles

April 1, 2007

Tracks to check out:

(all can be sampled on Hits From Another Planet)

Late of the Pier – “Space & The Woods”

Generally, I’m not the biggest fan of this “new-rave” sound coming out of the UK right now, even though it combines a lot of elements that I like. Late of the Pier have been lumped together with this movement, but they have both a greater pop sensibility and a glammier approach than most others in the genre. This song, especially, sounds like Cars era Gary Numan. It’s a mammoth single, and one that I can’t imagine failing to be a success. It’s just so darn catchy. Also, I heard this track in demo form a few months ago, and this full single release is about a million times better.

Plemo – “Flashlight”

“Flashlight”, by German singer Plemo begins with a high pitched introduction that I have completely given up trying to decipher. Luckily, it very quickly jumps into an insanely catchy, energetic synth workout. It has the same wild, strange energy that the Scissor Sisters used to have in their demo days, but with more of a dance/club edge. I could see this track simply lighting up the dance floor. Though it sounds like very little else you’ve heard, you’ll be singing along with whatever they’re saying before the first listen is even over.

Andrew Benon – “Rock & Roll Moves”

Andrew Benon has crafted a pitch perfect recreation of great 80’s pop with this track. From the Bowie-esque vocals to the screaming saxophone to the sparkling synths, “Rock And Roll Moves” deserves to be the summer anthem of convertible drivers everywhere. It almost sounds like it was written by Prince back in his eighties hey day, especially the flawless chorus. Best of all, Andrew Benon’s debut effort is full of this kind of stuff. Many artists (especially on this blog) draw from the eighties for their sound, but few have been as believable as Benon is. Lyrically, “Moves” is very clever as well, which is always a pleasant surprise in pop music.

King Midas – “West End Boys”

Back in February, Norway’s King Midas quietly released Sorry, their latest album, and what could end up being one of the best records of the year. I’ve heard their sound on Sorry compared to such artists as Roxy Music and the Human League, but with a more contemporary edge. “West End Boys” was the album’s first single, released in late 2006. It amazes me that a band can release a pop song this perfect and go practically unnoticed outside of their homeland. Despite being lyrically quite dark (about Nazi Germany, or something like that… I haven’t quite deciphered it), the pulsing beat, background chants and chiming bells add up to pure pop perfection.

-Nick James

JamesN65’gmail.com

Vayizaku-It Begins

vayizakuVayizakuIt Begins
Self-released

An oddball in the genre of pop-punk, Vayizaku is actually just one man (Albert Kahn) who wrote, recorded and self-released It Begins. With a sound similar to blink-182 in its Take Off Your Pants And Jacket days, It Begins presents solid pop punk that suffers from musical déjà vu.
After a short vocal intro from Kahn, the album kicks into the catchy, if unoriginal, “You Know How I Roll.” In listening to the track, as well as the next three tracks, one can’t help but feel like they’ve heard all this before.
While a comparison to blink-182 isn’t a bad thing (unless the person doing the comparing hates blink, which I don’t), the fact that Kahn’s voice sounds so much like a more tenor version of Mark Hoppus doesn’t help matters. He strays a little too much into that “pop punk voice” that permeates from blink-182 and Green Day. Even on the vocal harmonies, the higher voice Kahn records sounds a little too much like Billie Joe Armstrong or Tom DeLonge.
The music, arranged as a power trio, is just a little too much like blink and Green Day to make it feel original. More instruments in the mix and some branching out from the pop-punk cookie cutter would help with this immensely. Kahn shows a lot of talent with his song writing. He obviously knows how to put a song together – he just needs to find his own style.
The similarities with blink-182 and Green Day aren’t quite prevalent through the entire album. The fourth track, a cover of the old union work song “Solidarity Forever,” is the first of a handful of tracks that helps to set It Begins slightly apart from the standard pop punk fare.
Unfortunately, this isn’t achieved again until track seven, “Ocean.” Its beautiful piano-laced instrumentations provide a sound that is hard to identify with anyone else. I can best describe it as Coldplay meets Green Day. It’s the first (and perhaps the only) song on the album that feels very original. More songs like this would cement Vayizaku as an original pop punk band.
Afterward is a selection of strong and catchy pop punk songs, but most of them still suffer from the same problems as the earlier tracks. Some stand out more from others, as “It’s Too Late” sounds more like earlier Jimmy Eat World than the standard pop punk fare and “We Won’t Forget” closes the album with a political bite. Yet still, the feeling that Kahn is simply emulating the pop punk bands that have preceded Vayizaku is just too strong.
It Begins is in no way a bad album. Still, Kahn needs to work on his song writing to find his own truly original sound, like the one he found in his song “Ocean.”

Nate Williams
nathanmw@ou.edu
VayizakuIt Begins
Self-released

An oddball in the genre of pop-punk, Vayizaku is actually just one man (Albert Kahn) who wrote, recorded and self-released It Begins. With a sound similar to blink-182 in its Take Off Your Pants And Jacket days, It Begins presents solid pop punk that suffers from musical déjà vu.
After a short vocal intro from Kahn, the album kicks into the catchy, if unoriginal, “You Know How I Roll.” In listening to the track, as well as the next three tracks, one can’t help but feel like they’ve heard all this before.
While a comparison to blink-182 isn’t a bad thing (unless the person doing the comparing hates blink, which I don’t), the fact that Kahn’s voice sounds so much like a more tenor version of Mark Hoppus doesn’t help matters. He strays a little too much into that “pop punk voice” that permeates from blink-182 and Green Day. Even on the vocal harmonies, the higher voice Kahn records sounds a little too much like Billie Joe Armstrong or Tom DeLonge.
The music, arranged as a power trio, is just a little too much like blink and Green Day to make it feel original. More instruments in the mix and some branching out from the pop-punk cookie cutter would help with this immensely. Kahn shows a lot of talent with his song writing. He obviously knows how to put a song together – he just needs to find his own style.
The similarities with blink-182 and Green Day aren’t quite prevalent through the entire album. The fourth track, a cover of the old union work song “Solidarity Forever,” is the first of a handful of tracks that helps to set It Begins slightly apart from the standard pop punk fare.
Unfortunately, this isn’t achieved again until track seven, “Ocean.” Its beautiful piano-laced instrumentations provide a sound that is hard to identify with anyone else. I can best describe it as Coldplay meets Green Day. It’s the first (and perhaps the only) song on the album that feels very original. More songs like this would cement Vayizaku as an original pop punk band.
Afterward is a selection of strong and catchy pop punk songs, but most of them still suffer from the same problems as the earlier tracks. Some stand out more from others, as “It’s Too Late” sounds more like earlier Jimmy Eat World than the standard pop punk fare and “We Won’t Forget” closes the album with a political bite. Yet still, the feeling that Kahn is simply emulating the pop punk bands that have preceded Vayizaku is just too strong.
It Begins is in no way a bad album. Still, Kahn needs to work on his song writing to find his own truly original sound, like the one he found in his song “Ocean.”

Nate Williams
nathanmw@ou.edu

Unlikely Solos

Unlikely Solos
The 80’s pretty much killed the solo. Heavy metal with all its decadence ensured that solos are tightly packaged into forseeable and boring instrumentals in the middle of the song. Jazz gave way to fusion, and Eric Clapton got that horrible red guitar. Next to that “No Stairway to Heaven” sign, guitar shops were contemplating adding a “No cheesy solos” plaque. For 90’s bands it was an unwritten law that you do not build your song around a solo. Indie music was battling the solo epidemic like there was no tomorrow.
And yet, some bands managed to give the ancient art of the solo some justice. Here at The Plugg we celebrate the solos that did make it through.
Dead Milkmen – “Punk Rock Girl”
This song is the epitome of the indie solo. Considering this was 1988, you cannot find a quirkier and more original solo if you tried.
(unlikely_radiohead.gif)
Radiohead – “Just”
Uncut magazine had a “Best Guitarists” feature about a year ago. While most guitar heroes were named in their prospective bands, the guitarist for Radiohead was just listed as…”Radiohead.” Some would say that Jonny Greenwood is the driving force behind Radiohead’s guitar mayhem, but no one is really willing to give him all the credit. The solo in “Just” is not only genius, but also manages to drive the song forward rather than just being a “Look at me mom, I can play guitar” sort of instrumental break.
Pavement – “Stop Breathing”
Not exactly a solo, this perplexing guitar work at the end of the song really shows what Stephen Malkmus and co. were capable of. It starts with 2 notes being played repeatedly and slowly builds up to, er…3 notes by the end of the song.
Smashing Pumpkins – “Starla”
Here’s another argument you can never win. Which is the best Pumpkins solo? If I had to choose one (and I do), “Starla,” taken from [u]Pisces Iscariot[/u] is the definitive Corgan drone. It is a welcome surprise at the end of a beautiful tune, and if you close your eyes and listen carefully, it can really take you places.
Queens of the Stone Age – “No One Knows”
It’s not just the acid guitar, it’s the combination of the amazing bass line and Dave Grohl’s crazy drums that really make this solo special. It’s short and sweet but really leaves you wanting more.
unlikely_sonicyouth.gif
Sonic Youth – “Washing Machine”
One can argue that Sonic Youth’s guitar work cannot be measured or compared. The sheer velocity of their work is amazing and that’s why I chose the funniest solo I could find. After Kim finishes telling her odd story, a very “straight forward” rock n’ rollish kind of solo is played. It’s strange in this context, but works very well with the story. There aren’t many so called “solos” in Sonic Youth’s body of work and it’s nice to see that they try sometimes.
Built to Spill – “Cortez the Killer”
Another one of my favorite guitarists, Doug Martsch is no stranger to the guitar. BTS’s cover of Neil Young’s classic shows exactly what these guys are capable of. Not only does it pay tribute to one of the greatest guitar heroes…(I’m kinda scared to admit), it’s almost better than the original.
Wilco – “Impossible Germany”
Wilco’s latest is packed full of tasty solos. The most impressive in my opinion is “Impossible Germany.” It’s a two-guitar kind of affair that leaves you picking your jaw off the floor.
Pearl Jam – “Alive”
Grunge bands were always, in my mind, set out to battle the indulgence of the 80’s. That’s why it’s so surprising that one of the movement’s leaders chose to keep the solos. The solo in “Alive” manages to be epic while not making a big deal of itself. A truly iconic moment in rock.
The Strokes – “Last Nite”
Along with the spirit of the 80’s, the Strokes brought back the “functional” solo. Their ability to crank out a kick ass solo in 4 bars inside a pop song is astounding. Their current album features amazing guitars, but “Last Nite” was the first I’d heard of them, and is due the full credit.
(unlikely_dinosaurjr.gif)
Dinosaur Jr. – “Thumb” (live)
If there is something to be said about J. Mascis, it is that he can play a mean guitar. Picking a best solo is like choosing the right white color to paint your apartment. I’ve chosen the live version of “Thumb” because it is a really bare solo without overdubs or studio trickery. It leaves Mascis naked to show why he’s truly the best indie guitarist out there.
Bloc Party – “The Prayer”
By 2007 the whole Radiohead/Muse pitch shifter solo is no longer as astonishing. The guys from Bloc Party still manage to make it their own and break away from the norm.
Squirrel Nut Zippers – “Hell”
D Thompson’s contribution to this piece proves that it’s not only about the guitar. It’s got a piano solo, a sax solo AND a trumpet solo PLUS they manage to work the spelling out of the word “damnation” into the lyrics.
Uncle Tupelo – “Effigy”
Another cover, and Jeff Tweedy again (I would’ve never figured he’d feature twice in this piece). This Creedence Clearwater Revival cover has the most amazing and loud solos you can imagine. You sit back and listen to the wonderful vocal harmonies and then all of a sudden the amp is turned up to 11 and sheer mayhem erupts.
Every piece has got to end. I know I’ve neglected many great bands like Yo La Tengo, Mogwai, Magnolia Electric Company and Kings of Leon but there are only a certain number of adjectives I know to describe guitar solos.
So what’s your favorite indie solo?

– Charbarred
originally posted on ThePlugg.com

Trouble Books

troublebooksTrouble Books: An Appeal

(troublebooksalbum.gif)

Dear Trouble Books,

A few days ago I stumbled upon your album [u]Distortion Pedal.[/u] As I usually do, I stuck it in my playlist along with the other bands I have to listen to and went on about my business. A few hours later I found myself skipping all the other tunes just so I could hear another one of your tracks. Eventually I just left shuffle mode and played your wonderful album in repeat.
(Troublebooks.jpg)
Standard procedure, I figured; I’ll do a quick background check and post a nice article about them. Here’s my chance to tell everyone about how unique this album is and how it sort of reminds me of a band I used to listen to called Radial Spangle.
A quick Google later and I was presented with your [url=http://www.myspace.com/troublebooks]MySpace page[/url]. There was no about section, just a bunch of weird and wacky tunes that really convinced me to do the write-up. A quick click on the band website link lead me to a [url=http://www.geocities.com/barkandhiss]Geocities website[/url] (I didn’t even know Geocities still existed). The cryptic site only presented a little info about the album being out and some contact details. I quickly sent you an email requesting details about your sweet lo-fi sounds with the nice backwards guitars and hint of a horn section which is so reminiscent of the band Hood. Biting my nails I waited impatiently but to no avail.  So I decided to post this appeal in hopes you might Google yourselves and land upon this humble blog. Maybe your fans from Akron, Ohio, will find us and tell us more about your witty lyrics. After all how many people use phrases such as “You don’t sing when you do the dishes anymore”?
So who are you? Why do you have 48 fans on Last.fm and no marketing guy is bombarding us with press kits and glossy photos?
OK, so maybe I should have waited a bit more for your reply. Maybe I should have contacted you through MySpace. Maybe I could have figured out that some of you guys are part of another great band called [url=http:// http://www.suicidesqueeze.net/6x7.html]Six Parts Seven[/url] and contacted them? But then again, I reckon this makes for a much more interesting post.

Yours,
Charbarred
www.theplugg.com

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

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