Saturday night, local label/collective Yards and Gods threw their annual ball at a sci-fi-themed watering hole downtown known as Eastside Tavern. The musical styles represented were diverse, but all of it was original and from the region. For whatever reason, I usually miss the ball, but this year I was able to sneak out to catch some bands.
I walked in on Sea Machine mid-set. Brandon Michael plays lead guitar in this band and that’s the primary reason for me wanting to catch their act. He’s a cool guy who once played a benefit I put on for my kid’s Montessori school without knowing me at all. He typically plays a style of rock that contains loads of power-pop, post-punk, and 90’s indie influences. A friend commented that Sea Machine sounded like Dayton and I couldn’t completely disagree. Well, I thought maybe they sounded like what everyone thinks Dayton sounded like in the 90’s when everyone thought bands from the Gem City sounded like a cross between Guided by Voices and The Breeders. (However, the Dayton scene was much more diverse than this.) Sea Machine – sounding like Dayton or not – played straight power-pop with vocals provided by the drummer and some synth backing up the band’s sound. To me, the band sounded pretty young, but there was a confidence and craftsmanship that suggests they will mature and become more cohesive.
Next up was C. Vadi, a friend of the Coalition and librarian currently residing in Iowa. C. Vadi uses no instruments other than her voice and a collection of loop and feedback gizmos. Her real name is Carrie Wade and she has a sharp wit and the best glasses of anyone I know. Carrie sent me a copy of her new album, In the Realm of her Dark Guardian. Off-kilter keyboards, a slight tape hiss, layer-upon-layer of vocals… In the Realm… is a haunting opus of what I assume winters in Iowa sound like. (Hell, summer’s probably sound that way as well.) Look for it on Carrie’s Bandcamp site. It’s music to read or work by, but if you want to get immersed in it, put on some headphones. That’s the only way you’ll catch all the subtle textures she puts to tape.
That said, a live C. Vadi show is pretty intense, almost surreal. Sure, Carrie’s not doing much on stage as she sings part-after-part and loops one on top of the other, but the sound that comes out is hypnotizing. It’s not all angular and literal like Your Friend or as pop-influenced as STL’s Syna So Pro. Rather, one gets a pretty clear picture that Carrie listens to a lot of Grouper, but even then, C. Vadi isn’t nearly as obvious as that. Still, it was a cool set, leaving a lot of the crowd speechless, wanting more.
Farmington’s Mire Giants might have been the pleasant surprise of the night. Fronted by what I’d lazily call Frank Black’s bastard son in both stature and vocals, Mire Giants were a monumental blast that actually built on the intensity set by C. Vadi. This three piece was extremely tight and loaded with musicality. I’m not a stickler for musicianship always, but I can appreciate it when I hear and see it and Mire Giants was dripping with musicianship. The Frank Black offspring and bassist switched spots a couple of songs in and didn’t miss a beat. The drummer was on time throughout and tore through some skins like he hated them. They killed for 30 minutes but no more than how they finished as they tore the roof off Eastside, leaving smiles throughout the room.
Jowlz was up next. If I were a lazy hack – which I am – I would compare Jowlz to a cross between Uncle Tupelo and Songs: Ohia/Magnolia Electric Co. I would also say that for a short set, Jowlz was just as good as those bands Saturday. I have no idea if their entire catalog stands up to that high praise, but those dudes were good. That probably says enough. But your should know that they finished their set with a ridiculously rousing rendition of “Bastards of the Young.” Yeah, that song kills every time and Jowlz nailed that shit to the wall.
I was most interested in seeing friends in Enemy Airship – sort of the flagship band of Yards and Gods. Well, their set got off to a decent start. I have always appreciated EA (and their former incarnations) as they willfully attempt to ape Television, Interpol (Turn on the Bright Lights Era, of course), and Broken Social Scene. Those comparisons are not meant to cheapen what they do. That’s just what I think of when EA plays and I enjoy what they do in the same way that I enjoy those other, better-known bands. Sadly, the set could not keep up with the first song as there were mic problems – pretty severe problems. Still, I sort of wish the band would have either continued to just jam out, turning their songs into drawn-out jams or whatever until someone figured out the mic issue. I would have been cool with them screaming the lyrics. The music EA plays is so good, I can deal with imperfection. However, that’s not how it went. To jam on would have been tough to do on the spot and the vocals in an EA song don’t usually lend themselves to screaming. Add in the fact that such a packed lineup means very little time to fuck around, the band cut their losses and packed up.
I won’t bash Eastside too much as it is a place for a lot of bands to play. Plus, it is a unique spot in the middle of a shitty downtown being taken over by frat bros and corporations. Still, the mic issue was a house problem. To their credit, owner Sal Nuccio apologized and took full blame for the mishap. Of course, that doesn’t do much for Enemy Airship missing out a chance to play for their friends and fans. Maybe next time, guys.
The night ended with a local favorite, Fliight. Imagine Pavement jamz (Crooked Rain era – California vibes, yo) with a Kathlene Hanna howl. Yeah, it was that cool. Double drummers. A steady groove, Full sound. A tamborine(!) It was a perfect ending for a pretty stellar night of local talent.
It’s good to get out again and see some local bands. For as much hubbub as I make for legendary acts or bands that are all over Pitchfork, the best part of any music scene is what exists inside of said scene. There’s nothing like the energy you get from local bands either playing their hearts out or even just fucking around. It’s often a lot more fun and surprising than seeing internationally touring acts. I’m glad I made it out Saturday. I may have to do it again soon.
2014 was the year of the doughnut for me. I mean, I’ve always loved doughnuts, but this year, I really sought them out. There was Strange Doughnuts in STL (and soon here as well) on a daughter-daddy weekend a while back. There was Revolution Doughnuts (twice) in Decatur this summer while I was there for a conference. I tried to detour my entire family vacation back home to Ohio just for some craft doughnuts, but was unsuccessful. However, we did score fresh cinnamon-sugar doughnuts at the Ohio State Fair. Then Harold’s Donuts came to town. And since Harold’s magically appeared, I’ve ordered boxes of their doughnuts thrice. I would eat more, but their shop isn’t yet open.
Last weekend, Harold’s (really, it was owner Michael Urban) was divvying out maple-bacon and pumpkin doughnuts at Logboat Brewery for a sort of after-brunch event. Also on hand was Fretboard Coffee, making it a hat trick of local foodcraft providers. Of course, the doughnuts were good, only adding fuel to my doughnut fire.
At this moment, let me step back and say a few words about all this doughnut madness before telling you more about Harold’s…
As my regular readers can attest, this blog focuses a ton on artisanal and craft products and the people who make those glorious consumables we love. I’m decidedly anti-corporate, a localvore, grassroots kind of consumer. I love to use this blog and other social media to promote my favorite businesses. Doughnuts just happens to be one of those craft industries that’s really taken off in the past few years. It started with Voodoo in Portland and quickly spread. Now, every city in the Union has a bacon doughnut of some kind. (Thank you, Voodoo.)
And how are these doughnuts better than run-of-the-mill industrial doughnuts? Well, first of all, they are typically made with the best ingredients. Plus, being local, there are not a lot of preservatives. So, eat them fresh. Throw in that the people who work at these doughnut dispensaries are our neighbors. People working in the community to provide for said community trumps corporate entities every time. Yes, our neighbors also work for Dunkin and Crispy, but those dollars eventually go back to their corporate overlords. I like my doughnuts steeped in the local flavor.
In terms of the doughnuts themselves, I am an equal-opportunity consumer. I have always preferred cake varieties, but the more yeasty cousins are winning me over. The best yeast doughnuts I’ve had on the planet are in Decatur, GA at Revolution Doughnuts. Yes, they have vegan versions, but why suffer? Eat the shit out of those living, breathing doughnuts! Our local Harold’s also does a nice yeast doughnut that writing about it makes me want another…
Toppings and fillings are secondary to the doughnut itself, but they are important. The aforementioned bacon doughnut is maybe the most revelatory thing to happen to the deep-fried dough confectionary. Of course, it’s not the only way to top a doughnut. There is simple sugar in its various forms or a variety of icings. What’s going on inside the doughnut might be the most exciting option as jellies and creaming fillings shoot out the other side as one bites into their breakfasty dessert…I could go on, but you get the picture.
All that is well and good, but the single-most important doughnut issue is the spelling. Now, I am not a stickler for ancient, grammatical dogma, but I have my limits. I mean, I do give a fuck about the Oxford comma. So, it should be stated here – in case you didn’t already notice – doughnut is spelled with “dough” and not “do.” The last time I checked, it’s made form dough as well. So, shouldn’t the spelling reflect this characteristic of breakfast gold? Just my two cents.
All of this leads to what I really need to write about: Harold’s Donuts. This is our new doughnut dealer. They are all about the craft aspect. They feature local ingredients when possible. There will be locally-owned-and-roasted Fretboard Coffee at their shop. Harold’s is the doughnut of choice in Middle Missouri.
While the doughnuts are great, it’s the business model that has me really stoked. In addition to the things already mentioned above, Harold’s is making a real effort to embed themselves in the community. Despite not having a storefront yet, they have made their presence known. Whether it’s through collaborations with coffee roasters, brewers, or ice cream parlors, Harold’s is not afraid to make friends. Again, despite no actual store, they deliver all over town. And business has been so good that one often has to order doughnuts several days in advance.
I tried to order doughnuts for today (Friday), but was sad to see they were already sold out on Wednesday. I politely made my feelings known on Facebook and Harold’s took care of me. Well, Doughnut Daddy Urban took care of me. Filling an order of two dozen various doughnuts so that I could say thanks to my co-workers for completing a huge job was the thing that helped me decide that Harold’s is where I will always go for a big doughnut order.
Long story short, doughnuts are king in 2014. I realize we are behind on this development in the Midwest, but I prefer to think of it as a sign that we know what’s what. I mean, we have doughnuts today and some on either coast have already moved on. How sad for them.
I drove the long two hours to STL Friday night to see what has been the most pleasant surprise of 2014 for me: Ought. The Montreal quartet ventured to the Show-Me state to play the art space known as The Luminary. Locals Volcanoes opened on an evening when they were officially releasing their new full-length effort, Future Sorority Girls of America.
Volcanoes opened to celebrate their new opus about sorority girls or something. I’m about to get critical, but keep in-mind this is just one old guy’s opinion. A guy with probably 13 readers for what is suddenly an outdated format. So, take it with a grain of salt. That said, I’ll tell you the good parts first…
Volcanoes are, if nothing else, fantastically skilled musicians. They play a frantic style of rock music that’s a cross between Japandroids and Lightning Bolt. It’s a two piece which finds the players rotating between bass, drums, and keyboards. Nothing is lost as the two Volcanoes move from instrument to instrument. There was a moment when the bass player switched to the drums and he struggled to find the beat, but he quickly recovered and there was never another moment when the two did not click. The vocals are a powerful yelp that somehow stands out over the cacophony of drums, bass, and squealing keyboards. The music is loud, fast, and danceable.
The Future Sorority Girls of America is the album (and play script, apparently) Volcanoes were releasing and featuring in their set. They made sure to remind the crowd the album was for sale throughout the set. Telling us once would have done the trick. From what I could tell, the songs revolve around sorority sisters and their prerequisite superficiality. The songs quoted phone conversations and diary entries of the lives of vapid, bleach-blonde coeds on drunken nights out and whatever sorority girls do. The subject matter is low-hanging fruit, really. It didn’t help that the band continually promoted the album for sale and its accompanying script. It’s a sprawling effort to write a concept album, but who really gives two shits about sororities. Plus, many of the songs come off as misogynist in their critique and mockery of the culture. It’s too easy except when you try to make it seem deep, which Volcanoes are not.
So, there was a lot going on for an opener and this clouded the mood at The Luminary a bit. Since it was Volcanoes’ record release night and their home town, many of their buddies and several older friends and family members were on hand to celebrate. So, this was their show. As the crowd grew and all of them seeming to be very excited, I expected a raucous night, but that didn’t happen. Despite the energy and familiarity in the room, no one danced. I got the distinct feeling that the people were there to be seen and it was an added bonus that they all knew the band. They didn’t give a shit about sorority girls either. The gentrification going on up and down Cherokee was palpable, but nowhere more apparent than inside the Luminary as Volcanoes’ people ventured in from the suburbs to have a mild Friday night. Meh.
As Volcanoes cleared their massive collection of amps and high-end instruments from the stage, I grew worried. Would Ought be turned off by the mood or even the bro culture filling the venue? Would the lack of energy affect their set? Would the crowd even know what to do with music that was much more subtle and personal in its politics than Volcanoes obvious schtick?
Thankfully, Ought seemed unfazed as they set up their modest pile of equipment, making small talk with the people running sound and a somewhat exuberant fan. They were chill and didn’t appear to have an elaborate configuration. This is a small band in the infancy of what could potentially be an amazing run. They were confident in their place and my anticipation for their set grew exponentially.
Despite a non-egaged audience and some vocal sound issues, Ought put on an intense, urgent set. Frontman Tim Beeler made a statement about the strange feeling that they were coming to St. Louis to play a show instead of joining the fight for justice in nearby Ferguson. This seemed to fall on deaf ears which added to the tension of suburbanites hanging out in an art gallery in a gentrified neighborhood. A video projector played images from the Ferguson protests in the front window of The Luminary. The air was thick and finally Ought played.
These four Montreal transplants are as ferocious on stage as they are on record. More Than Any Other Day is a cross between Talking Heads and The Feelies but with an angry edge just under the surface. On this record, the political is personal like it was for early REM and Minor Threat/Fugazi. It captures the tension of our times like few other albums do these days. All of that comes alive on stage and despite the strange environment, Ought delivered.
In contrast to the recorded material, the keyboards are a more pronounced feature. This fills the sound out for live sets in a way that a produced and remixed album probably doesn’t need. Conversely, the vocals were not nearly as clear as on record. As proven several times throughout the set, this was mainly due to a failing of the venue’s equipment. Also, it felt as if Beeler was holding back as a way to save his voice over the course of a tour during flu and strep season. Still, he delivered his lines with the drama and urgency they dictate.
Ought is a dynamic and tight group. They commented a few times on the odd calm in the room – considering that it was a Friday and this was rock and roll. Still, that didn’t matter. Ought could have looked for the audience to supply them energy, but they sensed that these were the same capitalist suburbanites they sing about in their songs and played their hearts out to them anyway. The coldness of the art gallery setting didn’t help either, but I suspect Ought plays the same in a living room, hole in the wall, or shopping center.
The score of the night was Ought’s new EP Once More with Feeling…, sold at the merch table. One or two of the songs played in Ought’s set were off this EP. It comes in the all-too-rare 10″ format and is set to be officially released later this month.
It rough driving 4 hours roundtrip for two bands, but Ought made it worth it. They met expectations and I hope they find their way to Missouri again, only closer to the middle of the state where I dwell.
BeerNote: For $5(!), I drank Urban Chestnut’s excellent Zwickel Bavarian lager out of a red plastic cup. Although not a lager fan, I really like the Zwickel. It’s smooth without that harsh, cheap lager bite. The sweetness makes the beer particularly palpable without being cloying. Urban Chestnut does a lot of traditional European-style beers and they do them all really well. It’s hard to make it as a craft brewery these days without a lineup of IPA’s and imperial stouts, but Urban Chestnut does it. I was thankful to have a decent beer upon which to sip as I took in Volcanoes and Ought.
Something woke up inside of Mary Timony. Although she wasn’t sleeping, her name wasn’t nearly as prominent as it once was in indie rock circles when the super group Wild Flag was formed. Helium had dissolved. Autoclave was long forgotten. Her solo work – although solid – was generally ignored and mired in dragons and unicorns. While Timony may have been fine personally, she was slipping from the radar.
Then, the aforementioned collab with Carry Brownstein and Janet Weiss formerly of Sleater-Kinney and the Minders’ Rebecca Cole happened and one of the best, most rocking albums of the last decade hit the scene. Wild Flag hit the road and blew audiences away. Although lacking in quantity, these sets were fairly notorious for their energy and aggression. Oh, and they were fun.
I learned of Timony when Helium was hitting stride. I don’t remember if it was before or after the Beavis & Butthead “breakthrough”, but I saw Helium on a shared bill with Archers of Loaf. If I hadn’t been such a young, male into aggressive dude, guitar rock, I might have better appreciated what I saw from Timony that night. Helium’s output in the 90’s was legendary and as influential as anything else. Timony blended math rock, post-punk, and the electro-hybrid stuff the kids so prefer these days to make something that truly stood out among all the aggressive guitar rock of the day. Her breathy vocals hid the darkness in the lyrics, but the aesthetic was so different than anything else you might hear in 1995.
I didn’t see Timony again until she was on a solo tour and stopped in Columbus, OH a couple of years later. It was my sister’s first club show. So, that was a big deal. It was cool to take my teenage sister to see a such a strong, confident woman perform her craft. Timony’s music had really evolved during this time. She seemed to bounce from genre to genre and the subject matter changed almost as much as anyone. While her solo albums were cohesive individually, there was little overlap aesthetically from one to the next.
Another 2-3 years later, I saw Timony open for Sleater-Kinney in Amsterdam. While the show was fine, it felt as if her influence and notoriety was heading in the opposite direction as Sleater-Kinney’s. Timony more than held her own, but it wasn’t where I would have expected her career to be at that point, for whatever that’s worth. I bought her CD Mountains, but for me, I just wasn’t as interested in Mary Timony. The album was fine, but it wasn’t as impactful as those Helium records, causing me to wonder where this was all going.
She played here in Columbia several years ago and I just flat-out missed it. Of course, it was after the fact when I rediscovered Ex Hex (her album and not the new project). This was some guitar rock that felt like a harsher, more raw version of the Helium materials. Her vocals were less breathy and the lyrics had a bite. This record was on heavy rotation for me for a while. This record painted Timony in a different light – one as rocker. Of course, I might have thought of her that way had I paid more attention to Autoclave, but anything after that usually didn’t rock. There were moments in Helium, but that band was more complex than your typical rock outfit. I hoped more would come of Ex Hex, but Timony fell off my map a bit. I missed her next solo effort. Basically, I revisited Helium now and again as well as Ex Hex but that was about it.
The next thing I know is that 2/3 of Sleater-Kinney were teaming up with Timony and others to form a new band: Wild Flag. I have expressed my admiration for Wild Flag on many occasions – both live and recorded. On record and video performances leaked on the daily leading up to their s/t release, Wild Flag was meeting the expectations most had when we learned of this new collaboration. Then, they did the unthinkable and actually delivered said album that met those unrealistic expectations all super groups carry. Before seeing them live, I wasn’t really sure whose songs were whose (Brownstein/Timony), but it didn’t matter. They were all great. Finally, seeing them live reminded me of what a fantastic musician Timony is. I knew she could rawk on occasion, but this was something else entirely. She shared that stage with Brownstein, which is something especially that it took a voice like Corin Tucker to balance the Portlandia star’s pogoing antics and stellar performances.
Then, I waited for the next Wild Flag LP and tour, thinking they were an unfinished product with tons of potential. However, it never came. When I heard that Timony had started playing in other bands and even formed her own (Ex Hex), I assumed that was the end of Wild Flag which was disappointing.
Thankfully, Timony’s Ex Hex was unleashed to fill that gaping hole left by Wild Flag. Rips is Mary Timony waking up during the Wild Flag days and picking up where that group left off. This is the record a mature Runaways would make. Remember the Donnas? Had they had some complexity and maturity, this would have been their high point. However, this album belongs to none of these other bands. It’s all Timony (plus bassist Betsy Wright and drummer Laura Harris) and it’s quite revelatory. Rips is 2014’s Wild Flag, Light Up Gold, Post-Nothing, and Tramp rolled into one cacophony. (Make of those comparisons what you will.) The record is a happy substitution for Wild Flag and it may even have more staying power than Timony’s old band.
Spacey and big, “Don’t Wanna Lose” kicks in the door which is what you want from an album like this. It sets the tone for the aggression to follow.”Beast” picks up the pace, intensifying the album’s tone. If you’re not won over by this point, you don’t have a pulse.
Things shift a bit with “Waste Your Time” a 70’s rocker which again implores a lover to take a shit or get off the pot. Well, it’s not quite that vulgar, but it does rock. And the rocking continues with the moving “You Fell Part” which is the moment in an Ex Hex set where the crowd is whipped into a frenzy.
The Runaways and Joan Jett specifically would have loved to have penned “How You Got that Girl” which feels a little like a woman’s version of “Jessie’s Girl.” And again, the tempo speeds up to keep pulling you into the record, realizing at this point that it’s Mary Timony’s world and we’re just existing here. “Hot and Cold” follows nicely, giving you a groovy, head-nodding break. While much of the record screams late 70’s, early 80’s, “Radio On” reminds me of music from that era when musicians harkened back to the early days of rock and roll. It doesn’t sound like the 50’s, but it certainly wants you to think as much.
“New Kid” is so Joan Jett, it’s silly with all it’s faux 80’s greaser. I’m fairly sure it describes an episode of Freaks and Geeks. “War Paint” pushes the aesthetic ahead a few years to some Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth atmospherics and teenage attitudinal angst. “Everywhere” rolls with a big T Rex sound before “Outro” closes the LP with all kinds of foo-wop attitude and Elvis Costello jerkiness.
This record is the kind of recording that has you smiling from beginning to end. It hits all the nostalgic points of rock ‘n roll without sounding clichéd. So many records in the past couple of years have tried so hard to sound like they were recorded 30 years ago, but Rips achieves this milestone effortlessly without sounding contrived.
Mary Timony didn’t have to do anything for me to admire her legacy (she also doesn’t need me to justify it), but Rips solidifies that admiration and makes it an easier case for the nonbelievers. When I suggested that she woke up, what I meant was that she woke up something stirring inside her. Her work spans several genres and now a couple of decades, but the energy and urgency isn’t something that’s usually discovered so far into a career. Still, Timony found it in Ex Hex (or possibly Wild Flag before that) and we are all the beneficiaries of said discovering.
After a long break, Swearing at Motorists returned with a Kickstarter campaign in order to release their 8th full-length (sans a singles collection and several EP’s), While Laughing, the Joker Tells the Truth. I had assumed Dave Doughman sailed off into the sunset, landing in Berlin, never to be heard from again. Luckily, I was wrong and this record was funded. Now, what we have in front of us is this new record and an upcoming tour – which I’m hoping has time for Middle Missouri.
While Laughing… continues the S@M aesthetic of crunchy guitar licks and emotive lyrical delivery of life’s rawness. I once described the music from this twosome as lying somewhere “on the blue-collar side of lo-fi and the road-weary side of indie” and the description still fits. Although, the production feels like a clear step up from lo-fi, but the sparseness, quiet-loud-quiet dynamic still feels like those older S@M records. And this nostalgia is why I threw money at this Kickstarter – extending my long hit streak with Kickstarter projects reaching their funding goals. I guess I should tell you what I received…
Doughman liked to slip in some filler in his records now and again that were simple, stripped-down ideas of songs with layers of his own voice providing something orchestral lo-fi. “I Don’t Need Anyone” opens the album this way and it pulls you in just before the fully-developed pop groove of “Groundhog Day (Dam the Piper)” kicks in. The hard luck of a Doughman-described relationship makes sense to all of us. You bounce your head to the beat all the way through to the keyboard accompaniment that sound like Ric Ocasek-produced GBV records.
Layered Doughman vocals over simple acoustic guitar – another common feature of a S@M album – comes in as the previous track fades out. “Forever” pleads with his love to tell him anything, “just please don’t use the word ‘forever’.” The sentiment is repeated over and over, helping the listener feel the tension that must have been in the room. A rocker in “Academy Award for Best in a Supporting Role” knocks down the door. As with everything leading up to this point, it does not describe a happy talk between lovers.
“Friend of Mine” is slow and spacious. I always liked how Doughman’s voice – all deep and throaty – brings so much emotion and power to these quiet slo-core moments. The songs picks up its pace a bit as you hear a ring tone in the background. The music really kicks it up a notch and Doughman makes his grand gesture. I feel like a lot of S@M tracks are like either the beginning or end of this song, but here he’s covered a lot of familiar territory in just under 3 minutes.
Another stripped-down acoustic, emotionally-fueled, and hurt song takes over. “Famous Orange Sweathirt” is barely over a minute, but the narrative becomes clear by the end. It’s a lost-in-youth-on-the-run sort of song…until it abruptly ends. One thing that’s done masterfully on this record is the dynamic changes between tracks. This happens again at this point as the slow rocker “Time and Distance.” Narratively, it fits nicely. Whether or not this is intentional is not known, but it seems to look back those youthful days and where he and his love are today.
One thing I think Doughman does better than most songwriters is he can say all that’s needed to be said in a repeated chorus. “I was thinking about drinking, but I don’t have the energy” repeats over and over through “17th Last Cigarette (think’ bout drink in’)” and it tells you all you need to know. The layered vocals, acoustic guitar fiddling, strange keyboard atmospherics in the back… The song is as sad and depressing but somehow comforting as they come.
“Wrote You a Letter” continues with lyrics someone has actually said. “So, I wrote you a letter | A real one, on paper” is something we might say since no one does that anymore. The conversational lyrics Doughman writes have always been the most effective in my mind for both narrative and emotion. Here, he nails that aesthetic once again, much like “Flying Pizza” or “Can’t Help Ourselves.”
“The Darkest September” is a complete change of pace for S@M, at least in my experience. It’s certainly Doughman’s emotive lyrics and vocal delivery, but it’s backed by a simple piano line. The vocals are not layered, but Doughman demonstrates his incredible range – a range that I believe has improved over the years. It’s almost diva-ish how he bounces from low to high notes and back. The lilting delivery is quite striking and nails that feeling you get when you hear songs that just make you close your eyes and shake your head because you know that kind of hurt. It’s a comforting thing, really.
“Great Actress” carries a bit of a theme that’s carried on through this LP. All these songs could be about actresses or just one. I don’t know, but it is curious how actresses and acting come up a lot. This song is huge in terms of a Swearing at Motorist song. The emptiness is filled, in particular with more keyboards. The pace is picked up from the previous couple of tracks. Layered vocals are back. This song is almost hopeful as he says goodbye to his actress girlfriend, or at least that’s how it works in my mind movie.
“I Love You (liar)” features muffled, angry vocals and more aggressive instrumentation. Doughman repeats a series of lies and you’ve heard this story before. “Adjectives” opens with a sparse march and some percussive vocals before evolving into that loose, Doughman delivery, delivering more failed relationship descriptors. “Don’t Want to Dream (About You)” is the typical acoustic song you might picture Doughman putting together on the porch, but there are strings lingering behind. Some of the lyrics suggest he sees a lover (or former lover) in a son. Kids have that effect on us.
“I Likes Your Style” is a lo-fi filler with a surprisingly urgent guitar part underneath those layered, drawn-out vocals. The bluesy and loud “Wasting Your Time” is the last song of every prom where that one couple makes out like there’s no one around in the middle of the dance floor – giving zero fucks.
“It’s Love that Chooses You” is a rather sweet love song that seems somewhat out of place, except that you know that it all hurts so badly because that’s how love works. Again, not totally sure this isn’t about a kid rather than a lover. The sentiment is that we are powerless to avoid love as, well, it chooses you and not the other way around.
I go back and forth on the themes and subjects of this record. From past experiences, Doughman’s songs are about hurt and failed relationships (and the many vices that lead to such disaster), but there’s something even more heartfelt here (if that’s even possible). I wonder what the effect of his parenthood has had on his music. There are clues throughout and they add a certain complexity to some of the material. Either way, this dude feels more than most of us. It makes it okay to get a little pissed or shed a tear when someone so openly and clearly expresses his emotions.
It can be debated which Swearing at Motorist album is the best or which has the best songs, but this record gets my vote as most consistent and containing the most clarity. There’s a happy balance in the production between that lo-fi for which he and anyone from Dayton are known and something more purposeful, proficient. Either way, Doughman gave his Kickstarter investors a deal.
If you couldn’t tell, I am writing this as a fan. Of course, if it sucked ass and my Kickstarter funds felt wasted, I would either express disappointment or not write anything at all. This record is really good. Swearing at Motorists is really good and I think more people should know that so a gifted musician like Dave Doughman doesn’t disappear in Berlin again, leaving us for several years without the fruits of his gift.
If Swearing at Motorists comes to your town (I’m working on getting them here), be sure to see them. At the very least, find some live footage on YouTube. At the very, very least, listen to the catalog and find some way to score a copy of While Laughing, the Joker Tells the Truth. Feel the rock ‘n roll for once. Let them in. I have and will continue.
This past spring, the college town in which I live (Columbia, MO) welcomed it’s 4th and 5th breweries to the scene. On of those breweries is Logboat Brewing Company. Since their arrival, our town has been treated to many events (including a beer festival), food trucks, bocce ball, and, of course, some really good beer.
If there was a blueprint for how to roll out your craft brewery, Logboat would be the model. First, they built a beautiful facility with a small tasting room leaving plenty of space for a shiny, new 30-barrel system. The combination of reclaimed wood, cement, and metal gives the place a clean, industrial look without losing any midwest charm. The building is adorned with the brewery’s simple-yet-recognizable logo: a canoe (or cut-out log, AKA “logboat”) carrying a couple of whities led by their Native American guide. Of course, those logos are everywhere now, featured prominently on every other bumper in town (including my own).
The space does not allow for a kitchen or dining area, but there’s a workaround. On most evenings and a few weekend afternoons, local food trucks are parked on or around Logboat’s spacious green space. Ozark Mountain Biscuits, Playing with Fire Wood-fired Pizza, Pepe’s, and STL’s (soon to be COMO’s) Seoul Taco. There are picnic benches and lots of room for lawn games, kids running around, and a stage now and again. That stage has seen several local bands perform for various events, but the highlight of Logboat’s start has to be the SECraft Beer Festival. Breweries from all over the Southeast came to Columbia for a hot, August afternoon to share their beers with the locals. The highlight for me was getting to work my way through an impressive lineup at the Jester King tent. Overall, the fest was not too crowded, featured short lines (for beers and toilets), and provided tons of swag (t-shirt, a real glass, mixed sixer of beer, and a swag bag).
And how is the beer? Pretty great. I’ve know the brewer, Josh Rein, for a while. I’ve been sampling his home-brew forever. He once sold me a keg converted to a brew kettle. His beers have always been solid and true to style. He doesn’t do a ton of experimentation, but when he does, it’s always well done, not overdone. The regular lineup includes Lookout APA, Shiphead American Wheat Beer (with ginger!), Snapper American IPA, Mamoot English Mild, and a few one-offs with several barrel series on the way. Knowing of Josh’s travels and collabs, I fully expect coffee-infused beers as well as some barrels chockfull of Rainier cherries. The APA is ridiculously fresh and the wheat is a new favorite. The ginger comes through so clearly and it’s an easy drinker at 5.2%.
Of course the strength of the lineup may lie in the Mamoot, a true English mild sitting at only 3.6% ABV. At this past week’s GABF, Mamoot earned Josh and Logboat their first medal, placing second in the English Mild category. I’ll admit that this is not my favorite style, but the beer packs a lot of flavor for such an affable brew.
Last weekend, I headed over for Logboat’s latest release: a hoppy saison brewed with STL’s Four Hands called “Loghands.” For some, it was too hoppy for a saison. For me, I loved it. It reminded me a lot of the Mikkeller/Stillwater collab Our Side, a hoppy saison of its own. The brightness of the Belgian yeast strain really pops with fresh hops. It’s not a traditional beer and could go horribly wrong, but Loghands worked. I only hope that I’ll see more of it.
When a brewery like Logboat opens, it makes it easy to drink local like so many craft brewers and enthusiasts tell us to do. There are other breweries in town, each with their own strengths, but they all have a lot of work to do in meeting the bar set by Logboat in their short stint. In fact, anyone thinking of starting a brewery should check out what Logboat has done. It surely is a roadmap to success. That and the beer is good.
I realize that I’m probably late to this party, but I just acquired the first four installments of Kim Deal’s solo series and had to write about them. In the post below, I’ll wax poetically about Kim Deal’s importance to music, the songs in this series, and the 45.
Kim Deal is no fool. She doesn’t make (or at least release) a bad record. The Pixies, The Breeders, (Tammy and) the Amps, The Pixies again, The Breeders again, and now this solo work is all joyous noise. She crosses the basement tape his of Guided by Voices with the percussive drive of Tom Waits mixed with loopy Pavement guitar solos and that voice. Kim Deal’s voice is unmistakable. Yes, it’s a bit more raspy from years of smoking, but it’s still Kim Deal’s delivery that sets her music apart. It’s approachable without being easy. I want Kim Deal to sing at my kids’ wedding and my 40th birthday bash. She could sing Nickleback and it would sound wholesome, warm, and somehow a bit sexy at the same time.
I have always hated the idea of “women in rock” as if the music women play is somehow a subset of the real stuff spewed by men. However, that label is rarely placed on Kim Deal. She transcends the gender divide in rock music. Her songs for the Pixies are as important to their oeuvre as any Frank Black-penned anthem. The Breeders broke through this divide when everyone was listening to grunge bands hopped up on testosterone. The Amps out-GBV’d GBV (for only one album, but a fucking great record nonetheless). At every stop, Kim Deal has defied the limitations of gender in rock and she hasn’t stopped.
The eight songs in this series of 7″ records are more of what you would expect from a Kim Deal-fronted project. It’s a bit more subdued than the typical Breeders’ record, but a songwriter and vocalist like Kim Deal can pull it off. “Walking With a Killer” has a slow, deadly bass line. I don’t know if it’s a metaphor for drugs or an abusive mate, but the lyrics sting and romanticize a dance with death. The B-side is “Dirty Hessians” which picks up the pace utilizing another sick bass line but now there’s some organ action picking up the intensity. This track is surfer rock instrumental written in a garage in Dayton.
“Hot Shot” has plenty of attitude and would have fit nicely on Pacer had it been written in the mid-nineties. Deal’s vocals are upfront with the bass taking a back seat this time around. “Likkle More” is a sweet, acoustic, lament-filled goodbye. Deal’s vocals are a whisper and more intimate than I think I’ve ever heard.
“Are Mine” continues the soft, whispery vocals in the previous track. the track is a cross between the aesthetic of “Drivin’ on 9″ and the sentiment of “Do You Love Me No?” wrapped in a lullaby. Another instrumental makes an appearance with “Wish I Was.” It has a modern Amps groove as if Deal is writing soundtracks for movies now. The guitar work is pleasant and subtly complex.
“The Root” is her most Tom Waits bit to date and would have fit nicely on the last Breeders record. It’s about that moment when you see a former flame after your life has gone downhill and his/her life is just peachy. “I’m happy for you, but I feel like crying.” The eighth track is about Kim waiting for you at the “Range on Castle” which I believe is in Huber Heights. In true “Tipp City” fashion, Kim captures life growing up in SW Ohio better than anyone. It feels like home.
The best aspect of this series is the format. While we could have waited two years for a Kim Deal to fit this all on a single album, what we would have received would have been a somewhat disjointed effort. That’s not a knock on the music. I love these songs, but I don’t think they fit well on one album. However, pairing them on opposite sides of 7″ records as played at 45 rpm, they’re perfect. Format is everything. This is where the CD and now the MP3 miss out. A record (7″, 10″, or 12″) groups tracks on a side or on another disc entirely. The sequence and grouping is so important to the story or message an artist or band is trying to convey. (This, however, is a topic I should explore further in a future post.)
That said, I have never been much of a 7″ guy. I have a mild fascination with 10″ records, but 12″ is where it’s at. However, I’ve had a small change of heart this year. My wife bought me the Merge 25 subscription series where they send me two split 7″ records every other month on colored vinyl. The songs have been great and a lot of fun to get in the mail. Kim Deal’s solo series is just building on this rediscovered (or really discovered) appreciation for 45’s. It’s a fun format that usually offers a taste of your favorite music along with some extra, unreleased tracks. I will write eventually about the Merge 25 once I have them all and maybe some other prized or new 7″ records in the future.
For more information and ordering options of the Kim Deal solo series, check out her website.
This is not my first lap around the oeuvre track. I once attempted to write a post for every Pavement track on a single blog dedicated to the Pavement oeuvre. I’m considering starting this up again, but that’s another project for another day. On this blog, I once wrote three posts discussing the complete catalog of Archers of Loaf. However, today, I intend to take on the oeuvre of one Stephen Malkmus and his ever-faitful Jicks. This is part 1 of a series in which I hope to break down every SM track post-Pavement.
I have no idea what that mess in the beginning: a tribal call of a new era, perhaps. Whatever. This was a clear break from Pavement and a typically lazy stroll of a song for Malkmus to make in the first track of his first venture outside the previously mentioned indie legends. Anyway, the “black book” of which SM is referring seems to be the Bible – literally or metaphorically. By calling the black book “perminently-diversified”, he seems to be addressing the commodified nature of the Bible and possibly the Christian religion in general. Could it be considered a prediction of the hipster Christian megachurch future? Who knows. Either way, it’s a fairly serious song with that familiar, Pavement-esque, lazy hook and feedback flourishes with sloppy layering.
If you lived in Alaska, you would have fantasies about far away, tropical regions as well. Still, the protagonist stays in his winter wonderland where the temperature reaches 99 below and he spends his time fishing through a hole in the ice. Someone – I suspect someone native to the land, maybe an Eskimo – tries to talk his friend out of a move to the tropics. Still, fantasies persist. (Interesting side note is that this song was used for a Sears commercial. I tried to find video proof, but you’ll just have to trust me.)
“Jo Jo’s Jacket”
A track of Yul Brynner talking about the freedom enjoyed from shaving his head opens “Jp Jo’s Jacket” perfectly as Malk goes into a Brynner-inpired soliloquy about his role in Westworld as a robotic cowboy. From there, it gets fairly absurd, including crap house music, a Christmas-y innuendo, and a Dylan quote. It’s a fairly Crooked Rain-era track that made for a good single in true Pavement fashion. The line about being his candy cane hints at a sexual advance, a theme that pops up now and again in SM’s solo/Jicks work now and again. The Dylan quote and the following bit reminds us not to take any of this too seriously. In the end, it’s just a
Pavement Stephen Malkmus song about Yul Brynner.
“Church on White”
“Church…” is the first track that just reminds me of Terror Twilight/Brighten the Corners era Pavement. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, Pavement. Anyway, this song for me is Malk’s memoir. He was the spokesman for a generation (or at least the white, male, educated portion of said generation and not exactly by his choosing) and all we ever wanted from him was that he stayed true to form. Whether he sings “I only poured you half a line/life/lie” doesn’t really matter. He admits to only giving so much whether it was a half-finished lyric, a small piece of himself, or a partial deception. Whatever. He’s given a lot. It’s a marathon and not a spring, but I feel as though I’m digressing…
One of two narrative songs on the album – a totally welcomed aspect of Malkmus’ new direction. As it turns out, the dude can spin some yarn. This particular story is about his adventures as a pirate. No one should over think this one. It’s a pirate tale and not some allegory for his time with Pavement or some commentary on class. He’s kidnapped by some pirates and eventually becomes one of them, to the point that he is their leader. It’s just a fun, fun song.
Discretion happens after hours in an anonymous locale. You sneak around like French freedom fighters in World II, fighting for a sort of freedom not everyone needs to know about, an affair, perhaps?
We don’t find trouble; it finds us. No matter how much we try to avoid it, entropy happens and people are messy. Hell, we can’t even spell “trouble” correctly.
This one feels like another Terror Twilight leftover. Continuing Malk’s interest in history, he tells the story of Mortimer Durand and the line he drew between Pakistan and Afghanistan. I almost wish he had titled the song “The Great Game” as this was the term that described the conflict between Great Britain and Russia fighting for supremacy in central Asia. I don’t know my history well enough to tell you everything, but it’s interesting how the lasting effects of this conflict still remain. Also, the lines “Tension grows in Afghanistan / Carbine bullets could settle the score / I had a crap gin tonic it wounded me / Send my way off on one” are pretty great. It causes me to wonder about Durand’s experience and whether or not he succumbed to the pressure accumulating in the region. (Also, is it “carbine bullets” or “car-Bible-ets”? I always sing it as the latter which is way more interesting and may not be that far off.)
An expertly described scene of a locale where Trojans once prevailed… Now, it’s a hotspot for vacationing Swedes and the like. At moments I’m sure it retains the majesty it once held when Troy was on top at certain times of the day. Once again, Malkmus is able to write a fairly straightforward song that simply describes a nice moment in time and the centuries of history that can overtake you when standing on historic ground.
Ever been in a relationship where you kinda get off by calling the whole thing…er…off? Well, I haven’t. I imagine this as one of those love-hate relationships where making up after regular fights is more fulfilling than being nice to one another. Some relationships need to blow up just to find the spark. They exist in a vague space where relationships rarely flourish except when the threat of ending it is always there.
“Jenny and the Ess-Dog”
The second narrative track of the record is a classic. “Jenny and the Ess-Dog” is your basic May-December romance that fizzles once the younger member of the couple out-grows her companion. In this case, Jenny goes off to college, does well, joins a sorority, and does what we’re supposed to do. Her boyfriend the Ess-Dog is an old hippy-type. His life isn’t going anywhere and Jenny’s move to college makes the distance between them and their years too much to overcome.
Yet another post-Terror track with that same lazy easiness which has allowed the final Pavement record to fair well over time. Something about this song reminds me about “Ann Don’t Cry“- maybe the chorus? I don’t know what the song is about. It could be about a slow road trip to Vegas for an impromptu wedding that takes a week to happen. There’s only one appealing person in a room of old people, possibly at a wedding or wake. A prom scene with full-on 80’s feathered hair… It doesn’t matter. It’s a sleepy way to end Stephen Malkmus’ first post-Pavement endeavor.
“Water and a Seat”
Pig Lib is the beginning of Malkmus and his Jicks playing around with some bluesy yet edgy jamband ish. From the beginning riffs, you get the sense that Malkmus doesn’t care and has no interest in making this Pavement, Part Deux. And what better way to invite this new era than with a song inviting the madness the way “Water and a Seat” does? The listener is now prepared for what’s about to occur…
“Ramp of Death”
Jazzy slacker rock takes over with what seems to be a pleasant pop moment in the form of a chorus… Just as SM has embraced this new leap into a new chapter in his career, he’s encouraging his listeners to do the same. I was in my mid- or upper-20’s when Pig Lib came out and it was time to move forward into adulthood. I took this record with me.
“(Do Not Feed the) Oyster”
Despite Pig‘s departure from his Pavement past – now a full album removed – this song does the mellow jazz docents right, mixing this newfound infatuation with blues-inspired jammy-ness and art house aesthetic. Lyrically, it’s a mess trying to cling to a theme that only loosely holds the song together. Still, that’s how we like it. What does it mean to not feed the oysters? Fuck if I know. It’s just a nice song to jam to. Amirite? Somehow it all concludes with a mail-order bride. Why not?
“Vanessa from Queens”
Bob Packwood was a Republican Senator from Oregon who was eventually forced out thanks to some sexual harassment and assault. Bob was dirty old man which explains so much about this track. One of the best lines ever has to be “Bob Packwood wants to suck your toes.”
“Sheets” (Sorry, there’s no Youtube video for this one for some reason.)
Sexy Stephen Malkmus makes another appearance in “Sheets” and the instrumentation wreaks of two people going at it over and over again. For me, the song is about getting into a club or party, just getting through the coolness gates or whatever.
It is rumored that this song is about Steve Kannberg. I’ll go with that. Spiral Stairs – like most Pavement members – seemed to not be nearly as serious as Malkmus. SM tried to push that band as far as he could and they just dragged their feet. The band was great for so many reasons, but as I’ve written over and over, it always felt as if Malk had outgrown the band. Sure, in this context, the song comes off as cold, but that’s just how it’s played out.
And now for a complete departure in the form of some New Wave, something you won’t see coming at this point in the catalog. I feel as if this song is about Miami Vice for no other reason than that’s just what it sounds like: ocean-lined highways, neon suits, fast livin’, cocaine, etc. You know, Miami Vice things.
“Witch Mountain Bridge”
I do love the Led Zeppelin-like, medievalist narrative. I get the sense that Malkmus is playing a bit with genre and aesthetic, much like the rest of the album. What really brings the Game of Thrones storytelling together is the extended jam at the end. I catch a lot of flack for liking Malkmus’ music while simultaneously hating Phish and their ilk, but songs like this hit just the right notes – all of them.
Want to demonstrate what Stephen Malkmus can do lyrically and vocally, point your friends to this track. Not only is it another narrative – a positive development over SM’s solo career – but this track actually captures some fantastic word play. First, there’s the love triangle (or is it a square) where one unrequited love is followed by another. The gem in the first verse is “he couldn’t commit to the mental jujitsu of switchin his hitting / from ladies to men.” The next verse finds two of the left-out lovers commiserating over dinner, wrapped up nicely with another great line – full of heart and humor: “they want to stay confined within the fortress of this day / stick that in your craw…check it out…” Yeah, he snuck in “crotch.” It’s one of the sweetest song in all of Malkmus’ oeuvre from Pavement on.
“1% of One”
The blues fest continues… I read somewhere that this song is about the Dutchman Remko Schouten, the sound engineer for Pavement. Much like his debut, it’s pretty straightforward: “Blind son man from Netherlands, he knew not what bands he mixed / They sounded a bit like a Zephyr and a bit like the Jicks.”
The Grateful Dead thing that is hinted at throughout this record comes to fruition in the final song, “Us.” At moments, it reminds me a ton of Loose Fur, the side project featuring Wilco members Jeff Tweedy and Glenn Kotche, and Wilco collaborator Jim O’Rourke. It’s almost the Jicks theme song. I can’t remember how many of this incarnation stayed on, but it felt like they were writing their tour bio in the form of a jam. Lyrics are written to fit the space between extended jams that groove on and on. The song only clocks in at just over four minutes, but you kinda want them to play it out and see where it goes.
This is the poppier counter to “Dark Wave” which paints a picture of high school days in the early 80’s. This song is dedicated to 80’s jangly guitars and John Hughes movies. Also, this was cute.
“Fractions & Feelings”
This song with the previous one and maybe “Dark Wave” are a bit of an 80’s trilogy. I can only imagine SM was studying his old yearbooks and zines while writing these songs. This is the weakest of the bunch, but it’s fun. (Later, “Lariat” joins the group but with much more sophistication in its message.)
And back to the Grateful Dead. I deny the connection all the time to my wife, but it’s there – literally and between the lines. Aesthetically, I can’t think of another song like this in the catalog. There are the ever-Malkmus lyrical twists, but it has a danceable groove that’s almost conventional pop. Almost.
“The Poet and the Witch” (live)
I only know of a live recording of this track. It hints at the direction Malkmus was heading, but I’ll save that discussion for the next post. Either way, this song is closely related to “Witch Mountain Bridge” in its attempt to connect with a flower child past with Led Zeppelin theatrics, or something. It’s fun and seems like a fun song to hear live.
“Shake It Around” (live)
This is a real rocker and I’m not sure it’s about much of anything aside from rocking. Our mundane lives need shaking now and again and tracks like this do the trick.
That’s the first installment in the series. I hope to get the other albums covered in coming weeks. It’s already been tough to get blog posts out there these days. It’s way past my bedtime and I have…well, actually, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks tomorrow night (or is that now tonight?). Anyway, you can catch some of my thoughts as shared by an actual journalist here. In the meantime, stay tuned for the rest of the series.
I have never supported a Kickstarter project that didn’t achieve full funding and I’m not going to let that change. Swearing at Motorists recently announced that they would be releasing their first album in 6 or 7 years. To do this, they (read: “Dave Doughman”) opted to fund a new record on Kickstarter, which brings us to the purpose of this post: SUPPORT SWEARING AT MOTORISTS’ KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN!!!
To promote the campaign, I’m including a link to the Kickstarter, video of one of the record’s tracks, some reposted content on the band, and a Spotify playlist. Do the right thing.
And that drinking town is Dayton.
Swearing at Motorists rose from the ashes of Dayton, Ohio to produce a sound that was so Ohio, you’d instantly shit buckeyes upon hearing one of their records or seeing the two piece live. I’ve written before about the band. I once told a story about the band while getting all the details wrong. Frontman Dave Doughman set me straight. Sadly, I thought there would never be an opportunity to do so again as the band called it quits a couple of years back. That is, until they released a download-only collection this week of old singles and rarities called Postcards from a Drinking Town.
Before I get to Postcards…, let me tell you a little bit about Swearing at Motorists. The band was nicknamed “The Two Man Who” and that moniker fit, but it was only half the story. On record, the sound was particularly lo-fi, but like the other Who-like Dayton band Guided By Voices, SaM songs were bigger than bedroom recordings. Live, the band was like an uppercut to the jaw. Sparse instrumentation filled space between Doughman’s tales of breakups, boredom, and too much beer. Swearing at Motorists were so engaging that it was hard not to be drawn into Doughman’s never-ending sagas. If you missed Swearing at Motorists, you missed out on something pretty great.
That said, I was pleasantly surprised Tuesday afternoon when across my Facebook feed came the following post…
This had been on my radar, but I had forgotten all about it. I immediately followed the link and downloaded this fine collection of 7″ and compilation tracks not found on the band’s seven or so proper releases. These tracks are a fine artifact of life in western Ohio in the mid-nineties. I felt everything was lo-fi back in those days. We made what we had work. We were DIY by necessity. A band like Swearing at Motorists could capture that time. Thrift store t-shirts, souvenir ashtrays, shitty tape recordings…Those were the days.
While I recognize that my bias toward anything SaM releases, I also think there’s something here to which you could relate, dear reader. You’ve been drunk once, right? You’ve been dumped and out of work. You’ve surely seen a bar band or two. Somehow, I think you could relate to Doughman’s everyman persona. And that’s all it takes to love a Swearing at Motorist release. This one, in particular, is more raw and authentic than most. These recordings define lo-fi, but the genius behind the songs is unmistakeable.
If you haven’t done so already, head over to Secretly Canadian and download your copy of Postcards from a Drinking Town. And while you’re at it, go here and download the free two-song EP To Gem City with Love. Of course, that’s only the beginning as you’ll surely want to explore more of Swearing at Motorists’ catalog.
Update: It seems, judging by all the activity from Doughman online, that Swearing at Motorists did not call it quits after all. There are reports of new material out there as well as some hints of a tour. This is good news for sure.
1Or horse chestnuts. Whatever you want to call them. Either way, they’re a poisonous nut.
2I use this term lightly as Dave Doughman is really all of Swearing at Motorists. It’s typically him and a guy on drums. I checked the Wikipedia page just to see how many dudes have played drums for Doughman. It looks as if three different guys have played drums. While on Wikipedia, I also found this nice little tidbit…
Doughman mixes trace amounts of his own blood into the ink used in the disc printing process, pioneering the concept of the GrisD. Rumors persist that there was confusion over the term “serious chops” in his contract with Ol’ Scratch, and after some antics over semantics, can now grow sideburns to equal any cartoon samurai at will. Doughman’s documented penchant for sleeping in a topknot may be the source of such speak.
3This is why it’s so great that these tracks were reissued. That and something was said on a Facebook thread about playing in Oregon. Could there be a tour in the works?
4Seriously, our soundtrack was one shitty tape after another. Everything seemed muffled by tape hiss.
I was recently on a long drive from a workshop when I found myself with no new music in the car of which to listen. After searching through piles of CD’s, I stumbled upon a mix of songs by Swearing at Motorists. There were 35 songs on just one CD to be exact, and they filled my need for intensely exposed yet personal indie rock that invites you to sing along while traveling down long stretches of I-70. (I don’t know if this is a genre yet, but it should be.)
I began to sort out in my mind just what made SaM so important to me. Was it that they originated in Dayton before moving to Philly before moving to Berlin? Was it the great name? Was it their beautifully erratic live act? Was it the sudden impact of guitar chords followed by pain and silence only to repeat? Was it that they had opened for U2 in Europe but could barely fill a dive in their hometown? Was it the “average Joe” lyrics of hard times and even harder relationships? As I thought about the reasons why I love this band, I rocked out all the way back to COMO.
Dave Doughman is the primary player in SaM. His lyrics hit hard and mean something to anyone who has ever grown up in Ohio, has probably had too much to drink, and hasn’t always had the best of luck with life in general. His sharp-witted lyrics, deep-throated delivery, and sparse instrumentation make up the SaM sound. Like the White Stripes (whom he’s literally challenged in rocking out), SaM sound primarily involves voice, guitar, and drums. However, unlike his more successful counterparts from up north, the songs often are filled with space, and each instrument takes its turn to make a point.
I remember seeing Doughman for the first time at tOSU’s Springfest. His set was the highlight of the day. A friend-of-a-friend talked me into staying around to check their set. He had the experience of a lifetime being a roady for the band at South By Southwest and convinced me that they were worth the wait. They were. (It should be noted that the headliner of that show was the White Stripes, way before they hit big.)
Doughman came out in a blue corduroy FFA jacket, Welcome Back Kotter mustache, and a bushy ‘fro. In addition to his non-hipster appearance, he spoke so fast and incoherently that you giggled at the sights and sounds before you. His speak consisted of the type of “here-ye, here-ye’s” you’d hear at the circus or from an old-timey traveling medicine man. He was manically selling his band, and then he played. What came out was this deep, suffering wail between aggressive guitar licks and a slow drum beat. The man sold his pain, and I was buying.
My brother told me a story of a Dayton show that only confirmed my feelings of pure delight and intrigue felt that day. Many of Doughman’s songs are about his continuous relationship problems. Apparently, one of those break-ups was rather public in the Dayton scene and eventually carried out at a SaM show.
The Dayton set began as a rival for a certain love interest of Doughman’s walked through the door. Doughman suddenly stopped in mid-song yelling for the guy to turn around and leave (in so many expletive-filled phrases). He then took off his guitar and leaped through the crowd to chase the guy down. After a few punches were thrown and mamas insulted, the guy was given his money back and left, and Doughman returned to the stage to continue his show.
The impulsiveness of Doughman’s actions in the Dayton story best illustrates his general demeanor on-stage and the feel one gets while listening to his songs. You sit back to relax and enjoy some heart-on-the-sleeve poetry with the occasional humorous quip when he abruptly throws you from your chair with a cry for help and intense strike to his guitar strings.
The music is a slower, more mature version of emo. It’s on the blue-collar side of lo-fi and the road-weary side of indie. Conversely, Doughman and co. are considerably more exposed and artistic than the most working-class of the bipster set.
I love this music for its realness. Doughman knows best how to capture the pain of relationships, failure, and the resulting depression. In addition, he can contextualize his message into something that resembles growing up in western Ohio. Oh, and he puts on a great live show.
Photo of Doughman flying stolen from pandora 1251.