Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

The Hague's indie-rock sound makes me pine for earlier days

September 9, 2011

Anathallo had a profound impact on my understanding of what indie rock should sound like. The early years of the band featured highly orchestrated arrangements, melodies that were catchy as much due to their complex rhythm as hummable qualities and surprising songwriting turns. Indie rock has moved away from this sound, but I have not. I’ll still up any band that gives me unexpected songwriting moves.

The Hague is on my good list in that regard. The band’s songs are nothing if not unpredictable. Whether ratcheting up to a crushing rush of guitar or dropping down to group vocals and tapped cymbal, the band plays with the ideas of how pop songs should work. To wit: those two parts I noted happen next to each other in “I’m Sorry.”

What sets The Hague apart from the pack and into Anathallo-excellent territory is patience in letting things unfold and excellent guitar work. All three tracks on the Stark House EP feature quick-paced, distinctive guitar runs that sound wonderful. They’re more prominent on “Valkyrie” and “I’m Sorry” than “California Curse,” but the goodness is present throughout. There are strings in and out of each piece. The tunes rock as well as quirk. That’s just awesome.

This type of indie-rock is embedded in my mind as Chicago-style, even if it’s not true. This is because of the way I view Chicago: less cut-throat than New York, less image-conscious than LA, less hip than Austin, less socially conscious than Portland, less jaded than Seattle. The Chicago of my mind is a place where smart guys have day jobs and also play rock shows of unusual music that they wrote in the basement with their friends. Someone played french horn/violin/other, because he had the instrument and he wanted to.

(Chicagoans are shaking their heads. Whatever. I’ve been to your city. It’s awesome. Let me compliment your hometown with half-truths if I feel like it.)

And that’s how I view The Hague (who were until recently tagged with the ironic moniker “And Then I Was Like, What?”, which only strengthens my opinion): A bunch of guys just doing their thing, even though they are in fact from Portland. And their thing (currently, the Stark House EP) is great. Check them out if you miss Anathallo or indie rock circa 2005 in general.

Bravo for Victor!

October 14, 2009

Victor Bravo upholds the myth that all you need to make rock is a couple guys, some instruments, and a garage.  Forget all of the computerized and technological enhancements of today’s commercially successful music.  With obvious influence from bands such as Nirvana and Hüsker Dü, Victor Bravo’s latest album, Hammer Meets Fire, doesn’t disappoint.

Since 2006, the Brooklyn-based band has been pleasing the ears of punk and garage rock fans alike.  The addictive, angst-filled tunes of Hammer Meets Fire fulfill everything that the New York club scene has become infamous for.  This album embodies the anthem of punk, obvious from various track title such as: “Scary Mary,” “God Bless the USA,” and “Motherfucker.”  The vintage vocals combined with quality musicianship make the band worthy of getting out of the garage and into your ears.  Favorite tunes include “Into Debt,” and the first single off the record, “Jagged Cross.”

The listener won’t be able to help but imagine a room full of sweaty bodies hurling themselves around in rhythm to the songs.  The simple yet hilariously angry lyrics will make you crack up or reversely, give you the urge to punch a hole in the wall. Either way, the record is a fun listen.

Death and Life in the DIY Showspaces of Rochester, New York:

February 1, 2008

Death and Life in the DIY Showspaces of Rochester, New York:

Part I: Afterthoughts While Clearing Out The AV Space

July hung thick in the air, so thick you could wring water from it with bare hands; that is, if the humidity had been so kind as to leave you enough energy to raise them to the hazy sky. Inside the gaping, now-empty hall that had once housed The AV Space, three tired twenty-somethings traded sweat with dust. Sweeping a heavily glossed hardwood floor that could have been a basketball court in the 1940s, a machine-shop floor in the 60s and a loft apartment in the 80s, I paused and looked up at my buddy Trav, his Buddy-Holly black-rimmed glasses dotted with perspiration.

“What are we going to do next?”

He held a broom and looked off through the bank of 12-foot windowpanes, past the rusted out water tower, over the heaped bodies of abandoned railcars, into the haze that was and wasn’t the horizon.

“Something’ll happen. I mean, AV was great and all…”

He trailed off; Bud was still at the back of the room, sifting through show fliers and unsold albums, cloth patches and a motley collection of one-inch pins: whispers of the life and lives this place had come to embody.

“Yeah. It can’t end here.” I reached down to place the too-small dustpan in front of Trav’s broom. He was still looking out over Rochester, a city whose DIY scene shivered with the reverberations of what many thought would be its death knell: the closing of The AV Space.

Every week for the two years since I’d returned to Rochester, The AV Space hosted shows: art openings, independent films, noise bands, hair bands, punk bands, crust punks you couldn’t differentiate from a landfill’s contents and pop-punks with bubble-gum smiles and shiny red American Fenders. Every week we had something new: a folk collective called Dufus that travelled with a choir of oddly-dressed nomads, Israeli band Monotonix that played (literally) with fire and a Fender Mustang that looked like it’d survived the Six-Day War, the local lo-fi indie-pop of A Wonderful and Little Yellow Bird, van-weary bands from Plan-It-X Records travelling with hair clippers—“Punk rock haircuts, one dollar!”—and their lives in tow, and the magical (if not commercially-driven) madness of Harry and The Potters. Tucked away in Rochester’s Public Market—a haven within a dangerous neighborhood—clinging to life, The AV Space created something greater than the sum of its parts: it created community.

And the fear that was more uncomfortable than the sticky July air, more oppressive than being nearly unable to breathe without sweating, the fear lodged in the throats of us three as the burnished doorknob clattered for the final time on The AV was not that there wouldn’t be music again in Rochester; it was that we had lost something beyond price, beyond value. We had lost the only place that Rochester’s underground music community collectively called home.

—Timothy C. Avery

Email: the_kitchen_sinks@yahoo.com

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

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