22 of Everett True’s favourite songs of 2012 so far
A little early, perhaps … but there’s always so much great music around the difficulty is documenting it all, giving it a fair shake.
This is a random list – influenced by the heat today, and the lecture I just gave in Creative Writing, and the fact my PhD thesis continues to loom, and a hundred thousand other factors.
I started compiling this list (and wrote the above disclaimer) over two months ago. The joke was going to be that I released it in April. Hmm. Joke’s on me, right? I’ve probably missed out some real obvious stuff.
These aren’t in any particular order.
Mix tape is now available over here. Usual editorial disclaimer at the end of the post.
I have no idea how what age Dan Sartain – that super-cool wiry cat from Birmingham, Alabama – is. I’m guessing he might’a been born some time around the year Ramones released their last brilliant album, the U.S. punk hardcore-inspired Too Tough To Die. I have no idea what folk this cat hangs with. In another age, I’d have been drinking Maker’s Mark bottles dry with him, for sure. No way this cat could have kept me from a-knockin’ on his door. His songs are too fucking sweet for me to have behaved in any other way. (He out-Lurkers the fucken’ Lurkers, you understand? Do you feel me? HE OUT-LURKERS THE FUCKEN’ LURKERS!) The way he swaggers, but don’t swagger, with an almost ineffable Jonathan Richman cool, would have made him impossible for me to resist. Not that I’d have wanted to. His new album is called Too Tough To Live and it’s fucken’ Joan Jett, J. Richman, Ramones great, the way every song is so focused, says what it wants to say and moves on but not without first lodging some fucking cheese-grater thrashing ear worm inside your brain. There’s guitar solos, shit yeah. There are melodies, fuck yeah. There’s hooks, there’s energy, there’s energy but most of all there’s LIFE.
So yeah. We were talking, right? All about how Athens GA seems to be full to bursting with crazy-great, wild, free bands – like an overripe frozen persimmon stuffed with vodka. Or something. How much of it seems to be female-infused because of its killer heritage – note to interested sorts: the 1987 documentary Inside/Outabout the mid-80s Athens music scene is one of the best of its kind. (And let’s not forget the Flat Duo Jets, huh? I hardly could, seeing as h0w I once wrote a book about The White Stripes … ) Pylon. The B-52s. All that stuff, right? (I once appeared on an R.E.M. tribute album, Surprise Your Pig. Um … not that I’d ever heard the R.E.M. song I covered, before or since.) Party music. Art rock. Full of hidden corners and curves and smart lyrics. Music to dress up to, and go wild in your neighbour’s backyard to. Someone’s gotta amuse you. Might as well be yourself.
They cover Shotwell’s ‘Wait Til Yesterday’. I have no idea what this means. It’s glorious but it’s still no ‘Little Birdy’. This is, and it feels like that every night I fall asleep and my waking dreams are more wonderful than my sleeping dreams and that, everywhere I turn, The Breeders and Lou and Jason are still all playing songs for me, every second of the day, every severed tendon. This is, and this is:
Fuck. No, wait. This is the Song of the Day today. As someone on YouTube put it, “This is a pipe-bomb split”.
The last, the only time I heard this song was in a Manhattan apartment over two decades ago: OK, the production from halfway in is semi-ruinous, but there’s no mistaking that plaintive tone, that minimal so sweet self-harmony, the loneliness at the core. Now I find myself unable to listen to the ‘new’ Joey Ramone solo album, but for entirely different reasons. I can’t get past the fourth song in.
I can only follow where others lead. Here boy. Down Rover. Here Fido.
It’s the title of my new music magazine. Where Others Lead. Every week in constipated black and white, 20 jaded douchebag Australian critics rediscover the bands that Vice was writing about six years ago, and dress them in clothes of zero visibility. Earplugs will be issued because it is A Danger To Future Life to listen to music without some form of self-inflicted impediment. Words will be paraphrased relentlessly, and whole sections of Bob Christgau’s Consumer Guide to Rocks will be quoted according to grade and condition. There will be no hypothesising or marginalising and certainly no – what are those damn things called again, he boilks, looking momentarily like Johnny Depp as a trillion-dollar Willy Wonka – hyphenating. The cover art will always be printed bigger than the review. When I say ‘cover art’, I mean the iTunes symbol for an MP3. No band will be featured unless they’ve performed a minimum of four Nirvana covers, preferably in support to Girls. GI URLs. Leashes will be mandatory. (Little-known fact, but Brighton’s own Kate Bush tribute act Bat For Lashes were originally called Back For Leashes, in anticipation of this very moment. There are photographs in existence. FACT.) If an artist is to be deemed “worryingly listenable” then they shalt be excluded, as the readers of Where Others Lead do not appreciate being worried in their pursuit of pleasure. Simon Reynolds’ Retromania will be viewed as something akin to a bible. Unless we decide to use it as a baton.
It’s soul music and it’s sorcery and it’s subtle and it’s syncretism and it’s going to annoy the fuck out of me if people focus on the technology of Willis Earl Beal rather than the songs, but why should it? It’s all about the fucking context, right?
Authenticity matters. I’m not sure how much it matters or why it matters or whether it should matter, but clearly it matters. Yes, I do buy into the myth of Sinéad O’Connor. Yes, I know she’s a performer. Yes, I know these are songs. Yes, I know all is artifice, that the most glorious moment in this most glorious revenge song comes when suddenly she turns into Amanda fucking Palmer – but Amanda fucking Palmer, as fine as she is, is a cabaret performer, whereas Sinéad O’Connor delights in confusing her life with her art (and of course no one can separate the two: the way we view the world influences the way we react to the world). This album – and the title is an immediate giveaway, How About I Be Me (And You Be You) – is about betrayal and searching for meaning and a home in middle-age when life has constantly shown itself to be indifferent to your feelings, and wanting a man, and wanting a constant, and wanting wanting wanting … and this song is … fuck man.
I wasn’t going to write this series any more, was going to give up on Collapse Board. Still might. Seems like pitifully few come here, seems like pitifully few ever have. Mostly, it’s teenage kids searching for pictures of cows and s&m and fashion accessories. I don’t blame anyone. Mostly myself. I link through as a knee-jerk three-minute reaction to whatever knee-jerk story is happening, and expect music fans – my constituency, right? the passionate and the awkward – to be happy with that. Or I review some major label album without a major label platform. Or I write about some music that’s been diverting me or leading me to question my existence again and everyone tunes out because, well fuck, it ain’t them.. and does anyone even fucking *listen* to music once they’ve got small kids to fend with?
As Kevin sings, “I can’t be a fucking stereotype/But it’s lonely being here and living this fight”.
There’s a review of the Melbourne three-piece’s self-titled debut album that’s just gone up on Mess + Noise, which boasts the line: “Often compared to Calvin Johnson’s legendary lo-fi outfit Beat Happening…”
I stopped and thought about this for a few seconds (I’ve been known to occasionally wax lyrical about my fondness for Calvin Johnson’s ‘legendary’ lo-fi outfit Beat Happening) and then I clicked on the Soundcloud. Do they have a bass-player? A female band-member?
Sure. I could hear a superficial similarity. Particularly to the third and fourth Beat Happening albums. The vocals seemed a little anonymous, not unpleasantly so, but in a late-night, lo-fi Melbourne pub kind of way. Liked the guitar sound and the Shop Assistants-style stand-up drumming. More Pounding Serfs than Beat Happening if you want the truth of it, but I’m not denying I posses way too much knowledge here. I stopped and thought about it for a few minutes more. Was I to be put off, or snared in, by the comfort of familiarity? Fuck it. Why am I even caring about such notions? If I like music I like it. If I don’t I don’t. This song has a laconic bent, a warm beating pop heart.
Mysterious, plaintive, this band has suffered one too many rain-filled Tuesdays. I don’t have the slightest clue who Coasting are, not even which continent they come from.
Matt Ward gets Buddy Holly in a way that I’ve rarely heard anyone get Buddy Holly.
Zooey Deschanel sings on this. I’m ain’t going to apologise. I have absolutely no problem with her, cos I like the openness, the on-edge quality of her singing voice. It ain’t sophisticated, that’s what I mean. It has a child-like delight. That’s really neither here nor there, though. I like this song because this song gets Buddy Holly in a way that few get Buddy Holly – maybe Dan Sartain if I’m pressed, but that’s a whole other side. And yes, it’s familiar like a friend you used to go out bowling with, and hug, and weep whiskey tears with, and you ain’t seen for 20 years or more but just know that if you do, that weeping’s going to start anew, you’re so fucking happy to be with her again.
Music such as this often seems deceptively simple to play. There isn’t that much to it: a few catchy, melancholy choruses, a certain insouciant (though not arrogant) attitude, guitars and percussion that rattles and shakes. Yet it can’t be that simple, otherwise the musical world would be filled with albums as devastatingly beautiful as Twerps.
The following is pop the same way Fun Boy Three or Sophie Ellis-Bextor is pop, and makes me think I could well enjoy the Catcall album, long as she doesn’t keep messin’ with her vocals in such a disappointingly normal way.
This is a corking great song, charged and energetic and full of mantra-like repetition and the best use of “yeah yeah yeah” since whenever they were last used so wantonly, and that it reminds me of all those other songs that it reminds me of – yes, it’s Sugar & Tiger good, it’s Royal Headache good – and I’ve already played it five times in the last 20 minutes.
Occasionally, music will intrude upon this world, but you best believe that headphones aren’t much of a way out – it’s too hot, too unpleasant – and if headphones aren’t much of a way out, about the most radical we can go before 6pm (the cut-off point) is Nancy Sinatra, or some bitchin’ shit like that. Unless I’m alone in the car of course, or doing the occasional half-hour down the gym: that’s how I slipped The Book Of Mormon through, the Song Of The Day compilations that survived Daniel’s destruction of the external HD. But I don’t write in those places. So there’s nothing abrasive. Nothing noisy. Nothing to unsettle. We have more than enough of that already, except of course we don’t. My life doesn’t change much day-to-day, you know? Tiredness is always present. I rarely leave the house, even in my mind. Sometimes think about what it’s like down Woodlands, the Valley, one of those cool semi-legal venues in Brisbane where I fool myself that like-minded souls congregate, even though I know no one has nothing in common with me. The long decline. The slow death. The petty bourgeoisie.
More than anything, the way Royal Headache’s guitars shake and buzz on ‘Surprise’ (and most of this Sydney band’s really excellent debut album, as well) reminds me of Factory Records’ Great Lost Pop Band Of The 70s, The Distractions. That was pop, out and out. Did The Distractions play house parties and semi-legal venues like Royal Headache, Kitchen’s Floor, Blank Realm, The Deadnotes and dozens of other fine Australian pop/garage/punk bands of 2011-2 do? Did Buzzcocks? I dunno. It seems that the underground is as focused as it’s ever been: one crucial difference, though. No one wants to be their generation’sNevermind. They already saw what that did to a band.
Skip Skip Benben remind me a little of Tenniscoats, they have a similar wonderful unobtrusiveness and quietened sound. Different, obv. It’s the sense of underplayed grandeur that lifts this song. The vocals keep building up and letting go. Magical.
Without a doubt, my new favourite band ever. A feminist punk rock collective inspired by Bikini Kill writing anti-Putin songs (“Putin has pissed himself”) and performing in guerrilla-style costumes in Red Square itself.
And to think, my colleagues in the music press used to scorn Riot Grrrl …
It’s a sonically rich landscape where the voices swoop and swerve like dream-pop guitars. It’s a heavily narcoticized girl group who stole the Cocteau Twins’ drum machine (it’s OK — they weren’t using it) and watched way too many episodes of Twin Peaks. I can’t decipher any of the lyrics, but then I need subtitles to make head or tails of The Mighty Boosh so that could just be because I grew up in hicksville America. Hey TTT, e-mail me your lyrics at Scott_Creney@yahoo.com so I can sing along in the car. (Scott Creney)
I dunno about you, but don’t you get shit fed up with all these noisy new femme-pop and femme-punk bands not paying proper lip-service to 50 years of cock-rock? What the fuck is all that about, I tell you. If you ain’t swaggering like Richards and Perry (Joe, not Linda) then you ain’t swaggering shit. Don’t matter how gleeful you sound, nor how squealing and full of ferocious life. Don’t matter shit if your guitars sound all febrile and sparkling and rampant. If you ain’t got a cock to wrap yr bandana around then at least you could pretend. No? Now I know the complete list of Aerosmith band-members and … fuck man, ain’t nothing compare to that? Space age is all very well, but that metallic ain’t real. Pavement were only good when Malkmus ditched his worrisome imagination and began to realise jazz skronk was never gonna please all those grown-up GbV fans. or maybe it would? I grow so confused.
Been listening to Nicki Minaj’s new album Pink Friday Roman Reloaded on the bus in this morning, all 22 illegally downloaded tracks of it. (Note to censors: this is, of course, artistic license. I’m fucken’ wi’tcha. No fucken’ way would I do shit like that. Jes’ makes it sound more real, ya feel me? Like rappers and shit bragging about bling when it’s just a song, not real life. Think about it.) Think the mock-Audrey Hepburn (My Fair Lady) vocals and sub-Crass appropriation of classical motifs on the opening track ‘Roman Holiday’ are so grating they’re borderline genius, the way shoving a foot-long Parmesan grater up my ass is fucking genius, the way it hurts but hurts so good. Think … wait, 22 fucken’ tracks? That’s way too much Nicki Minaj for my tastes. Especially when over half of it could be anyfuckingbody. I preferred it when I didn’t know how to pronounce her name. Minaj, as in minagerie, right? Exotic, yet base.
The test here is simple. Would I like this if I had no idea of who the person behind it is?
The test here is false. That’s not possible for me to imagine. It’s more Babes In Toyland – minus the guitar – than Bikini Kill, anyway. And it’s more spewing, mouthy, antagonised by unfairness, late 70s punk than either. (Yes, Honey Bane. I am looking at you.) More dislikes than likes on YouTube, huh? You just know how I feel about that. Need a copy of the lyric sheet. Written and recorded and filmed in under 24 hours, apparently. Shave 20 hours off that, and we start to approach Everett True heartland territory, not that length of spontaneity is a marker of anything beyond impatience and a possible unwillingness to see the job through. I don’t know about Kate not being herself here. I don’t think Kate is necessarily being her old self here. This is bad? People don’t like change, especially not from those they think can’t – or shouldn’t – change. This isn’t necessarily a great pop song, but it’s a provocative one, an irritant, one that makes you think: and that’s always a plus. Next time she tours, I’d like to see her put together a supporting cast of Muscles Of Joy, Tunabunny and Sky Needle. And The Thin Kids, of course. Oh… and Kate? If you haven’t listened to Patrik Fitzgerald yet, you really should.
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