For a little context, watch the following two videos. Beware, however. Both are NSFW. The first due to imagery and the second due to language. Although, they both feature nudity…
From the Flaming Lips, featuring Erykah Badu:
From Brew Dog:
First, let’s address the Flaming Lips/Erykah Badu video.
It seems that Wayne Coyne and the Lips upset Ms. Badu by releasing the the video for their collaboration on “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” before she was able to approve it. What was she so upset about? Well, the video features Badu as well as her sister in a bathtub (at different times, you perverts). In various shots, the tub is filled with water, glitter, what appears to be fake blood, and something white, milky and sticky (you can figure out what it represents). In addition, Badu and her sister’s bodies are on full display including slow-motion shots of their rear ends getting smacked.
FWIW, the video is decidedly NSFW. There’s no debating that.
What is up for contention, however, is whether it counts as art or just a bit of soft porn, intended to shock. The slow, lingering shots of the women’s bodies certainly can be titilating for someone into that kind of thing. Additionally, the various substances clinging to their bodies surely is a fetish for someone. Still, I’d argue the concept and portrayal is beautiful and adds dimensions of motherhood and birthing to the song that I never heard before. While the imagery is no doubt very graphic, it also contains a large amount of artistic merit.
The above was my take before I knew of Badu’s displeasure. Something doesn’t sit well with me when rich (yes, the Lips are moderately rich at this point), white men use sexualized images of women – particularly women of color – for their own gain. Her complaints paint head Lip Wayne Coyne as a master manipulator who exploited the images of Badu and her sister for shock value, garnering more attention for his band.
Of course, I also see the other side of it. This video is a case of Wayne being Wayne. When he’s not posting a video of a naked Badu in blood, he’s Tweeting pictures of his naked partner (NSFW), walking out of a giant vagina (you guessed, NSFW), or flashing his own twig and berries in a video (REALLY NSFW or bicyclists). The man is not afraid of using the naked form in his art. So, Badu should have had some idea that Coyne would do something like this. It doesn’t excuse Coyne for not running it by Badu first, but one has to wonder what she expected from a man who is constantly surrounding himself with imagery of naked women.
In the end, the Lips apoplogized after Badu and Coyne had some back-and-forth Tweeting. The video was pulled with an edited version due Monday. Coyne apologized. Both parties received a fair amount of attention. Life goes on.
The second video features BrewDog’s attempt at pitching a reality series. Others in craft beer have tried this, but few have produced anything as compelling or aggressive as BrewDog. That said, many simply chalk it up as the Scottish craft brewers looking to create a little publicity with yet another stunt.
For the most part, the show looks like something one would find on almost any cable network. You have engaging subjects in James Watt and Martin Dickie doing crazy things like finding multiple ways to destroy corporate beers or cooking in the nude. They have a travel feature where they visit some of the best brewers in the world. Basically, all the things they normally do have been captured and pieced together in video.
As I suggested above, some grow weary of BrewDog’s never-ending efforts to garner attention for their little brewery, even when it isn’t their fault. They brew beers both ridiculoulsy high in alcohol and low. They package beers in dead animals. And they generally do whatever they can to upset the beer traditions and corporate overlords of the United Kingdom.
Personally, I don’t care. Aside from a few early bottles I did not enjoy, BrewDog has consistently wowed me with some fantastic beers. I even find some of the stunts they put on to be entertaining as I’m sure Watt and Dickie intended. Besides, their message isn’t for the converted American craft beer nut. It’s for unitiated of their own homeland.
What these two stories have in common is that they were created by attention whores. I don’t mean this in a derogitory way. The men in question just long for loads of attention. They stir up controversy so as to enter the conversation. In the end, it garners attention for their craft as well which means income.
I’m okay with this. Corporations do silly things all the time to get your business. Why can’t indie-crafters?
The biggest difference between corporations and indie-crafters lies in the resources they have to throw at such controversies. So, corporations can blanket us with one stupid, attention-getting stunt after another without ever really committing to big-time cotnroversy. However, if you’re a craft brewer or indie rocker, you have fewer opportunities to make a splash with far-reaching marketing campaigns. So, you have to get more bang for you buck by drumming up a little controversy. I get that.
What I don’t get is the blatant disregard for their audience and/or fellow collaborators. Why did Coyne have to exploit Badu’s willingness to appease his artistic vision by posting a video she obviously would not have approved? Why does BrewDog spend so much time even addressing their corporate competitors when their beer should speak for itself? I don’t know the answer to this, but this aspect of the attention-grabbing is disappointing.
There are more positive ways to grab that attention. Sufjan Stevens has made a living off of completing just 4% of a project when he claimed to be working on a 50-state project. Sam Calagione changed liquor laws in Delaware and crossed the Potomac (or was it the Delaware?) with a keg of beer to open his brewery. These stunts hurt non one, garner attention, and generally keep the focus on the product.
Either way, it’s clear that Wayne Coyne and BrewDog need attention. I don’t mind that they need it. I just wish we could get back to the music and beer.
1Sorry. It’s been taken down. You’ll have to bear with my descriptions or use your memory if you were able to catch it.
2FWIW, this is not the first time Badu has been naked in a music video. Check it (NSFW, obviously).
3Let’s be real. I enjoyed it. The women are beautiful and I thought it was tastefully shot and edited.
4How would this debate be different if we were talking about Larry Flynt or Dov Charney or Terry Richardson? Would it be any different?
5Is anything Wayne Coyne does shocking anymore?
6I recognize the irony of using this phrase. It sounds an awful lot like “boys will be boys.” So, I’m already uneasy with this argument. However, it is a layer of the onion that must be peeled.<-I'm way better with this metaphor.
7In part of Badu’s online rant, she mentions that she loves the Lis’ show. If you’ve ever been to a Flaming Lips’ concert in the last 12 or so years, you’re pretty acutely aware of the nudity involved. Also, they’re called The Flaming Lips. What do you think that means? Wayne Coyne ate some habinero peppers one day?
8Waste of money.
10This is pretty easy to do. I enjoy it when beer bloggers from the UK visit the Coalition. They have a different perspective to provide. However, they are a protective lot when it comes to beer tradition.
11Surely, you all realize this. Everytime you bring up BrewDog, they get more attention and then more money. Ditto for Wayne Coyne.
12The message isn’t for you, Real Ale Guy. They don’t want your money. Go back to your pint.
13Stone does this as well, but their arguments are not so mean-spirited. When Greg Koch talks about “fizzy yellow beer”, I get the sense that he is promoting his beer more than shooting down the big boys. BrewDog come off less nuanced.
14However, I suspect he will put out a flurry of 5-10 more state-themed albums at some point. Oregon’s next, I predict.
15I think I have totally butchered this story. Possibly none of it is true.
Last weekend was Memorial Day weekend, the first of the three summer holidays most noted for BBQ and beer. (Well, and remembering those who died in war, our country’s “independence”, and labor’s many accomplishments.) Much of the beer I consumed came from a can; a little bit of beer nostalgia delivered the good stuff to my gullet.
In recent years, BPA-coated, aluminum cans have become the container-du jour for craft beer fans and brewers. Cans keep out more sun than bottles and arguably more oxygen. While some only see cans as a hipster novelty, most of us realize the importance of these vessels to the portability and preservation of our favorite brews.
I, like most beer geeks, prefer not to drink my beer from cans (nor bottles). I often say that one would never attempt to smell a flower through a straw. So, pour that beer into a glass, let it open up. However, for the holiday, I succumbed to drinking my beer straight from the can without shame.
There are certain contexts for which such pretensions over drinking beer not from the prescribed glass are called. Poolside, floating lazily down a river, camping, and bicycling are a few of these moments. Considering the conditions of the holiday, I enjoyed my Tallgrass beers from the cans, coozy included.
Context dictates how we should consume beer and even the kinds of beer we drink. I don’t feel guilty for drinking from the can. I was in the midst of a 60-mile bike trip with a night of camping in between. Cans were were a practical drinking option. Even bottles were unwieldy and potentially dangerous. The can is much like its close relative which is used to house such camping delicacies as beans or corned beef hash. Enjoyment of the moment was wrapped in an aluminum cylinder. I was not about to soil the moment with a glass and make the beer more important than the enjoyment of the event and those around me.
Vinyl records, like cans, have their own ideal contexts when their less-than-ideal delivery trump advancements in technology and actually add to enjoyment. The context in which a vinyl record is preferable to more digital formats are times when devouring an entire album in the confines of your home is paramount. When I am relaxing in my finished basement with a record, very purposefully spending time with the music, a record that requires me to drop the needle and flip sides now and again is better than simply pushing a button. Vinyl engages the listener physically while delivering a soft, familiar sound.
Unlike cans, vinyl is less portable and arguably auditorily inferior to its digital counterparts. It’s not easy to take a record with you. Digital music is so much more portable, like canned beer. The sound debate is a good one, but I won’t get into that here. Simply, for sharper, more precise sound, go with digital. However, vinyl feels different. It’s softer, warmer, and preferable for those of us who just prefer a more analogical existence.
Both cans and vinyl had good runs that ended too quickly. Newer and better technology arrived. These creature comforts of our fathers became obsolete. Then, retromania hit. People found ways to improve upon old technologies while recapturing lost nostalgia. The can never really left, but craft beer’s adoption has bumped its cred. New can lining technology hasn’t hurt either. Vinyl is better produced than ever and many new records come with digital downloads, giving you both the high quality sounds and artifact in one, neat package.
The comfort and sentimentality of beer cans and vinyl records just feel right in the right context. It’s hard to put a finger on it (as you can probably tell from the rambling above), but they just feel right in the right situations. I don’t always go can or vinyl. However, it’s nice to know that they’re there and are ready for the perfect situation.
Speaking of vinyl, if you’re anywhere near Middle Missouri, come out to Uprise on Monday to see/hear me play some records. The set list will be posted here, but you should come and have a beer with me while I play the “hits.” Also, both images were totally lifted from the great Tumblr better known as Dads Are The Original Hipsters. Go read it now.
After posting a bunch over the last couple of weeks, I hit a wall of busy. In the meantime, the second episode of Beer Thousand failed to get edited and uploaded. Never fear. It’s here!
Although we recorded this over two weeks ago, it’s still pretty fresh. The beer is Cigar City’s Kalevipoeg Baltic Porter, a beer they brewed to commemorate CC’s 1000th batch. Somehow, I forgot to mention this in the video. Still, you’ll find that we liked it and I wish I had another.
With this episode, I tried to do a few things differently. Instead of having the featured album playing in the background, I added a couple of tracks to the video during editing. Also, there’s no review. I’ve been listening to Sharon Van Etten’s Tramp pretty much nonstop this winter and spring. I put the first two tracks, “Warsaw” and “Give Out”, on the video to give you a taste. Go check your Spotify account for Tramp and give it a lesson while you sip on your own Baltic Porter.
Folks were worried that Goose Island was ruined forever when they sold out to AB-InBev or whatever they’re called. It seems – at the moment, at least – that those worry warts were wrong.
According to this article from the Chicagoist, GI is using the unlimited resources of its master to expand their barrel program. What does that mean? It means that there will be enough Bourbon County Stout for year-round production.
Let that sink in for a moment.
One of the world’s best, most sought-after, and rarest beers is going to be a year-round release. There will simply be more of one of our favorite beers available at any time of the year. That’s a good thing, worry warts.
This reminds me of labels like Sub Pop and Matador signing big deals with major labels. These indies, realizing the limitations of their distribution and recording resources, signed away something like 49% of their companies to corporate interests in order to get some cash flowing. They then used this influx of capital to promote previously-unknown bands and to give them a boost in touring expenses and recording studios. The result is that they extended their reach and prolonged their lives as productive labels. The bands have benefited as well.
As mentioned above, Goose Island selling out signaled the end of craft breweries for some. However, if GI plays their cards right, it could mean more growth for them and continued struggles for corporate beer makers as their own flagship brands suffer in the wake of quality, craft beer.
So, is Goose Island beer’s Sub Pop or Matador?
Still, I’d like to see the hall recognize bands that should be inducted, like Sonic Youth, Alex Chilton, Brian Eno, etc. A nice list of snubs was printed in the Village Voice just last week. So, there are plenty of bands left out to fill its own hall.
Although I hate the R&RHoF, I worry that Pavement won’t garner an induction when they’re eligible in a couple years…
Not really, but I worry that some great bands will not get their due credit, whether that means a nod from the Hall or not. So, I’d like to propose an indie hall of fame. I’d probably start with bands represented in each chapter of Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Lifeand go from there. That would mean Black Flag, Minutemen, Mission of Burma, Minor Threat, Hüsker Dü, The Replacements, (previously mentioned) Sonic Youth, Butthole Surfers, Big Black , Dinosaur Jr., Fugazi (yes, Ian MacKaye gets in twice), Mudhoney, and Beat Happening all get in for starters.
Of course, maybe craft beer should have their own hall of fame. As far as Americans go, there would be space reserved for Fritz Maytag (Anchor Steam), Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada), Jim Koch (Sam Adams), Charlie Papazian (homebrewing), and Michael Jackson (beer critic). There’s room for brewers from other countries, but I’d avoid brands of beers. Let’s stick to inventive brewers and founders of various breweries or advocates of beer in general.
Someone needs to get on these halls of fame. Why there isn’t a craft beer and indie rock hall of fame, respectively, I shall never understand. If I didn’t have other, more important tasks at hand, I’d make my life’s work the establishment of one or the other. For now, I’ll leave this debate up to you, my dear readers.
Still, what I do here in terms of looking for the crossover appeal between craft beer and indie rock deserves its own attention. I can at least give over a post or two a month declaring a certain performer or brewer as deserving of my hall of fame. So, that’s what I’ll do…
As with any hall of fame, there should be certain criteria, criteria I will list below. Members of the International Coalition of Craft Brewers and Indie Rockers will…
- …work independently from corporations for at least five years of their existance.
- …maintain a sense of independence from corporate will and focus groups.
- …stick to artisinal and/or traditional ways of practicing their craft.
- …have at least one anecdote of crossover appeal with indie rock or craft beer.
- …appeal to my readership and me.
What else? What other criteria should I consider for this hall of fame?
Also, let me know if you’d like to pick up the cause of either proposed hall. I would gladly lend a helping hand in making them happen.
1 As if I’m ever clear.
2 That said, I visited the hall at least twice during its first year in business. It would be interesting to go back 15 years later to see how it’s changed. I would probably be disappointed like I was for the Experience Music Project in Seattle.
3 If I have one essential read in this world, this is probably it. No one reads nonfiction, especially nonfiction about indie rock. To fully understand independent music, one has to read this book. It’s so complete in both its variety of subjects and its depth of coverage.
4 Actually, I’d let him in three times. Once for each of the bands mentioned as well as a third time for his work with Dischord Records.
The Black Keys have always held a special place in my heart. Although I haven’t kept up with their more recent albums, they come from Ohio and fit the definition of an indie band, no matter what label they’re on.
Last night, they drank bourbon and ate BBQ at a Kansas City institution, Woodyard, with food nerd hero Anthony Bourdain. I didn’t watch the episode last night, but I saw the clip today. And all I could think about was that Sam Caligione should have done something like this with his failed TV show, Brew Masters.
Oh, well. C’est la vie.
What do you think the Keys would drink? I suspect industrial swill, but you never know. Coming from Akron, they could easily get their hands on some Great Lakes, Hopping Frog, or Buckeye.
1 Honestly, I have no idea what label they’re on. I know they used to be on Fat Possum and possibly something before that. All I know is that they get too much press to still be on an indie not called Merge.
2 Speaking of KC institutions, why didn’t they drink some beer from Boulevard, particularly their Smokestack series?
Carrie Wade thinks she’s really funny, so funny that she posted this atrocity on my Facebook wall. Really? We’re supposed to believe that Pavement pairs well with 1 PBR? What, because they’re like hipster slackers of something? Eff that.
I’m taking it upon myself to pair some bands with beers that make sense. Comment freely or suggest your own pairings. The wrong that has been created on Drinkify must be stopped. I mean, we’re trying to build coalitions up in this joint.
Pavement – Saison
I considered choosing one beer for Pavement but settled on a style instead. With a band like Pavement, it depends on the record. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain might require the smooth quirkiness of a Boulevard Tank 7, but Wowee Zowee is a Boulevard Saison Brett all the way. The Saison is one of the more versatile styles out there. These beers can be loved or hated, depending on one’s mood, but they are generally appreciated. The range of flavors (earthy to citrusy to sour to bitter) is only equaled by the range of Pavement’s discography. Also of note is that Stephen Malkmus represents the entirety of the Stillwater lineup of artisanal Saisons.
Wilco – Schlafly American Pale Ale
What goes better with dad rock better than a slightly hoppier pale ale from the St. Louis area? Wilco, of course. This easy-drinking lesson in hoppiness is the perfect beer for the dad who wants to still show that he’s cool without drinking anything too bitter or high in alcohol. I mean, he does have to drive home. I also considered Three Floyds’ Alpha King, but figured it only paired with Wilco’s more obtuse work like A Ghost Is Born.
Fiery Furnaces – New Belgium La Folie
They’re both difficult to love sometimes, but if you put forth the effort to find what’s good, it’s totally worth it. Because of this, both have the most loyal of fans who must learn to ignore all the judgmental stares from their peers for choosing to like something so difficult. I considered several more artsy, more difficult bands (Joan of Arc, Beat Happening) along with other Flanders red ales (Duchesse De Bourgogne, New Garus Wisconsin Belgian Red). The pairing just seems right.
Guided By Voices – Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale
I realize that Bob Pollard drinks Bud, not sissy craft beers, but the classic IPA is perfect for macro-arena rock from the midwest. I was torn on several bands and IPA’s, but I settled on two classics. The best part of the IPA are all the variations it’s birthed along with other possible pairings. Dinosaur Jr ruins your eardrums like a Stone Ruination IPA (which is really an imperial IPA) ruins your tastebuds. Other Stone varieties also pair well with similar indie outfits such as Cali-Belgique (Yuck) or the 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA (Chavez). Of course, there’s always old standbys like a Modus Hoperandi (Superchunk) or Lagunitas Hop Stoopid (Archers of Loaf)…I could go on and on, but there are other beers and bands to pair.
Where was I?
Sonic Youth – Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout
There is a ton going on in a Sonic Youth record. Layers of rebuilt guitars and alternate tunings upon alternate tunings create a cacophony that’s all their own. And over the years, SY has grown into almost a completely different band. While they sound nothing like themselves 30 years ago, only they could have evolved the way they have. This is much like Canadian Breakfast Stout, the much hyped and oft-cited imperial stout of the moment. At the moment, there’s a lot of noise in that beer. The suspicion is that it will undergo a Sonic Youth-like metamorphosis while in the bottle that sits in my cellar. I’ve had a taste, but I can’t wait to have another.
Sufjan Stevens – He-Brew Genesis 15:15
Speaking of having a lot going on, this musician and beer pack a whole lota flavor in relatively small packages. Sufjan Stevens brings one layered opus after another from his home in Brookly, much like the brewers at Schmaltz/He’Brew. The religious imagery and connotations are undeniable…This is a pairing made in heaven.
Wild Flag – Avery/Russian River Collaboration not Litigation
The members of Wild Flag were never in any danger of suing one another, but they have collaborated to create one the year’s best records. The Avery/Russian River collab is nearly as caustic and full of riot grrrl power as Wild Flag is. Plus, at nearly, 9% ABV, it makes you as woozy as one might feel after a Carrie Brownstein windmill combined with a Mary Timony classic rock non-riff. Confused? You should be.
I think I have more, but it will take some time to sort them out. In the meantime, what are your favorite beer/music pairings? Do you like any of the pairings I suggested above? Do you have a better pairing for the bands and beers I listed here? As usual, leave some comments.
Sometimes it is hard to find everything in a band or beer that you want. Sometimes a little imbalance accentuates positives, but it also reveals a downfall in design. Balance is nice, but it’s even better when it features superiority in all parts. Supergroups and anniversary ales usually come through with elite components that fill our every need and want.
The supergroup is a unique collection of great musicians from other great bands. Each member of a supergroup was a key piece in other bands. The supergroup is often left to fantasy, but once in a while, they come to fruition.
Wild Flag is a super group for the grrrl set. There are two members of Sleater-Kinney (Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss) which provides the band instant credibility. There’s also Mary Timony of Helium and Rebecca Cole of the Minders. Together, these four womyn make a pretty powerful quartet. Fire and brimstone happens when the collective power of this supergroup comes down upon you. Just watch what they’re capable of and you’ll understand…
The beer equivalent of that nastiness above is Stone’s 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA. It’s dainty Sublimely Self-Righteous’ badass older sister who wears black eyeliner, a mohawk, and a “Show Me Your Riffs” t-shirt. She just kicked your ass and you liked it – not in a creepy way; you were just happy to be a pawn in her riot grrrl plan to rule the neighborhood. Anyway, the beer is loaded with all the components you want from a beer: big hop flavor and aroma, super-roasty malt character, booze, and just the right amount of sweetness not to let the rest get out of hand. It’s a near-perfect beer. And despite the high ABV, it should be consumed yesterday. I feel lucky I bought two, but the second won’t last much longer.
And there’s music…
Wild Flag is raucous from the first bombast of “Romance,” a track that makes even romance sound a bit punk. “Something Came Over Me” features the cool tones of Timony, recalling the best guitar rock-era Helium material she used to shell out circa the Beavis and Butt-head 90’s indie. Carrie returns to the mic to bring home the steady “Boom” that features some nice guitar play and the added benefit of Cole on organ.
“Glass Tambourine” again features Timony fronting the band’s version of something Weiss might have played as a Jick with its flourishes of prog rock excellence. “Endless Talk” continues the Brownstein-Timony-Brownstein pattern to the album’s vocal leaders. Brownstein’s turns are a definite nods to her and Weiss’ Sleater-Kinney days, but these songs are more new wave than punk (in a totally cool way).
“Short Version” showcases some of the band’s guitar chops. “Electric Band” is loaded with late-Helium imagery of dragons and rock bands or whatever Timony used to go on about. Still, this band’s superiority to her final Helium efforts is rather apparent on this track. “Future Crimes” drives and actually features a nice bit of urgency for a group of rockers hanging around their 40’s.
The next track, “Racehorse,” is maybe the band’s most conventional rock sound. I imagine the video for this song would feature the band playing their instruments seductively while dressed in horse costumes for a salivating Bob Nastanovich. At the song’s climax, Bob foams at the mouth and has to be carted away by paramedics. The album comes to a close with the Timony-voiced “Black Tiles” with her most mid-90’s Helium-esque delivery yet. This final track ends abruptly, but it does what the last song of an album or show should do: make you want more.
This record and beer demonstrate how overwhelming strength in all areas can make for a pretty fantastic experience when done right. The Escondidian doesn’t back down in flavor components. Each part overwhelms the senses with smile-inducing quality. Wild Flag’s debut does much the same thing with some pretty solid parts of its own. Brownstein and Timony play back and forth perfectly, much like the hops and roasted malt of the Escondidian. They are backed well by Cole on organ and backing vocals. Also bringing it on the backing vocals is maybe the best drummer alive: Janet Weiss. For me, she’s the booze that comes full-force without overtaking the delicious malt and hop characters. Or something like that.
I’m for supergroups and superbeers that bring a ton of character but still find a way to balance its best attributes. Both Stone’s 15th Anniversary brew and Wild Flag’s self-titled debut bring this concept home. Now, all I have to do is find a moment when I can sip on one and drop the needle on the other without interruption.
1The Minders are associated with the
Animal Elephant Six Collective. So, there’s that.
2How could I not buy two at just under $6 a pop? There is no better deal in craft beer.
3I really have no idea what this sentence means. Maybe I was just trying to string some words together in an incoherent rant – a feeble attempt to read like a 90’s ‘zine.
4I wonder if Timony ever had a thing with Jack Black when he was writing all that silly Tenacious D material.
5This is redundant and not because they’re ladies playing guitars. No. It’s redundant because they’re rock stars, rocking balls/ovaries to the wall and all that. That’s sexy no matter what you are. Don’t believe me? Go watch Jon Spencer or Annie Clark or Daniel Johnston…well, maybe not that last one.
6I just read for the second or third time today that one of the leading reasons for the Pavement tour last year was Bob’s horse betting debts. So, this seemed apropos.
7That was maybe stretching it too far.
I thought I was going to have many new posts for you, but time is running out and some of these topics won’t be as good if they’re not fresh. So, I’ll summarize some topics I was considering. They may turn into full-fledged posts on their own, but for now, they’re here. I guess.
I don’t really listen to much hip hop, nor do I listen to a ton of Shellac, but this story really intrigued me. Basically, Steve Albini (yes, that Steve Albini) called out underground hip hop up-and-comers Odd Future for being rude. More interesting than the simple fact that rock/rap stars were being assholes is the fact that they were in Barcelona (days before I arrived), a foreign country. I don’t know what this is getting at, but there’s something there. Maybe this should turn into a post on American exceptionalism. I mean, I do tend to gravitate toward American craft beer and American indie rock. Moving on…
Stephen Malkmus likes to hang out in record stores. I do as well. However, I live in a town without a good record store in which to hang. I’m not sure it’s a good idea to start up a record store in this economy or in such a climate that doesn’t seem to support independent music. So, I’m thinking there needs to be a beer shop that does what the record store used to do. Enter my next project: a beer store. I’m a long way from anything happening, but there are discussions. I may take some community classes this fall and start asking around. I already have some leads to distributors, an idea for a concept (Bottles and Cans), and a model based on a wine shop that also features a bar. There will be updates, assuming the beer bubble doesn’t burst.
Then, there’s this…
The whole idea of expecting so much more from our heroes has me intrigued. I’m thinking of music fans that expect bands to keep releasing records and tour their town every year, much like Jay Smooth’s point about Lauryn Hill. The beer community isn’t excluded from this phenomena. In fact, craft beer is worse. Beer nerds are incensed that we don’t get certain breweries distributed. When new releases come out, some are pissed that someone beat them to the final bottles in town or that the distributor didn’t send an extra case to their market. There’s a certain amount of entitlement we seem to have and it sort of ruins the enjoyment or takes away the potential of the hunt.
Still, there’s more worthy topics…
I’m still mulling over the beer blog vs. music blog post. There’s definitely a totally different beer blog scene than that of music blogs. In fact, I recently posted for the Sour Session and received a lot of feedback. Plus, any time I post on beer, there’s a spike in my numbers. It even lasts a day or two. This idea, like the others above, is only half-baked and will take some time to figure out…assuming something else doesn’t come up.
This article was shared with me and the ideas within basically encapsulate my entire record collection and/or aesthetic preference. Of all these, this one will deserve the closest look, but I may have to buy the book first.
And finally, I will be doing some sort of post for the 20th(!) anniversary of Nevermind. My entire worldview may have changed at that moment. Of course, I was 16 and doesn’t everyone’s worldview change somewhat at 16? Speaking of teenagers, Francis Bean Cobain is 19.
I haven’t done one of these reviews in a while. In fact, I once thought I’d do them all the time, but the timing just never worked. There have been a lot of records to review recently, but beer has been neglected. The recent arrival of Okkervil River’s new album and Schlafly’s AIPA came at the perfect time for me to throw down one of these ill-conceived reviews. I won’t bore you with the old template. Instead, I’ll bore you through my prose.
Why these two in this particular challenge? Well, aside from the timing of their releases, both record and beer share a decidedly American aesthetic. And in this time when America feels particularly good about itself, celebrating things that are very American just seems like the right thing to do. Okkervil River with its take on Americana and Schlafly’s attempt to make a big IPA like every other American craft brewer connect these two loves of mine, but which one wins out in the end?
I Am Very Far is not what we’d expect from Okkervil. It’s slick without losing heart. The emphasis is on the sound and production over the words, yet it’s impeccably written. Even the emotive qualities of a typical Okkervil record are absent without the album being dull and dry. It’s a great record without being a great Okkervil River record.
When I think of their progression, I think of a few other bands with similar trajectories. Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst is a lot like Okkervil’s Will Sheff in that they are the primary piece in bands that feature the most confessional lyrics delivered in the most recognizable of voices. However, Sheff has placed more burden on a band that has not changed as much as Bright Eyes.
My Morning Jacket also comes to mind as a similarly positioned alt.country act that tried to step out with a new sound. In my opinion, MMJ flopped with Evil Urges, an album that saw the band take a major leap in aesthetic. It may or may not have sold well and did decently with the critics, but the project seemed to dash a lot of the momentum the band was building. Conversely, Okkervil River scores a huge success that both achieves a new direction without changing who Okkervil River is.
One cannot use the phrase “wall of sound” too often when describing this album. Will Sheff put his efforts into the production end rather than weaving intricately detailed narratives throughout his songs. The lyrical content is not lacking, but it’s not the typical, literary Sheff we’re used to. Where Fleet Foxes made the leap forward by saying something pointed and specific, Okkervil River made a similar leap by withholding some information. And this slick production is surprising for a band known more for folksiness and emotion-laced tales of woe. This is not your father’s confessional emo/alt.country.
Schlafly’s American India Pale Ale takes a similar path to enjoyment. It’s not the hop bomb so many us become accustomed to when there’s a yearly release featuring a hop-forward style. The American craft brew industry prides itself on upping the IBU ante with each new release, but this beer didn’t participate in such a hoppy arms race. Nope. The ABV in this year’s batch is actually lower than last year’s and the hop bill was also altered.
The AIPA has a few peers in these parts. There’s Bell’s notorious Two Hearted Ale with it’s Centennial-induced bitterness that packs quite the wallop when fresh. There’s also cross-state rival Boulevard Single-Wide IPA and its decidedly dry finish. Although all three are in the same category, none are exactly alike. Schlafly’s AIPA is sort of sweet at first taste. There’s certainly a bitter finish, but the middle is lacking that intense strain often associated with an American IPA. As the beer warms, however, a complexity is revealed. The aroma is straight-up hop pellets (so says the homebrewer) which is always pleasing to the nose.
Schlafly’s yearly stab at an American craft beer classic may not be the most overwhelming beer out there, but it’s balance is something sorely lacking in today’s market. Although not the hop bomb I expected upon first sip, the beer expands and satisfies as it warms. It’s not your everyday American India Pale Ale, but it’s a good one nonetheless.
Both the Okkervil River album and Schlafly AIPA surprised by not meeting my American expectations, but that might have been the most American thing to do. If there’s one thing people do in this country when perfecting their craft, it is doing the unexpected with said craft, pushing expectations. Sometimes those expectations are pushed to extremes where the product no longer resembles the original. In the case of this record and this beer, the product resembles the original in ways we did not expect. Okkervil River didn’t make another emo rock opera over folksy guitars and Will Sheff whines. Schlafly didn’t overdo it with the hops. Instead, both made calculated moves in creating balanced, enjoyable final products I will continue to enjoy.
Who wins this round? I call it a draw. The lesson I learned to not expect the expected from American craft means that we all win or something equally cheesy.
*Sorry for the lack of footnotes, footnote fans. Familial duties didn’t leave time for such supplements. Maybe next time. I also had no time to read this over. Make revision/editing comments below or just tell me what you generally think.