Beer and Pavement

The Matador 100 Project: Shams’ ‘Quilt’ (Olé 028)

Posted in Matador 100, Review by SM on July 21, 2020

The Shams are a group I honestly don’t really know much about. They come up twice in the Matador 100, this being the first of the two entries. Quilt (Olé 028) was released in 1992. The band’s name is a reference to The Shams, the outsider music, all-female group from the late-60’s. Them band was primarily known for their part in establishing the Americana and No Depression scenes of the 80’s and 90’s.

As an aside, the only member familiar to me is Sue Garner (although, Amy Rigby seems to be more productive over the years). Garner has been in loads of bands, but it was her stint in Matador label mates Run On where I’ve crossed her path. I saw Run On open for Yo La Tengo in 1994 or 1995 and then again for Will Oldham in 1997. I loved Run On and their first Matador LP, Start Packing (Olé 153). Listen to standout “Xmas Trip” to understand why.

The Shams ‘Quilt’ (Olé 028)

Anyway, The Shams put together a nice little record that holds a place in early alt.country as well as all that other No Depression stuff. The production is dated and limited, but the harmonies and tender songs don’t need a lot of digital embellishment. Honestly, I don’t know that I can do this record much justice. It’s a nice artifact of a subgenre of the 1990’s. In researching the band and record – and there’s not much out there, I found this Chicago Tribune write up that captures the band and the time.

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Near Pavement; A Note About Near Beer

Posted in Beer, Intersections, Pavement by SM on July 14, 2020

While it should come as no surprise that I love the band Pavement, it might surprise, dear reader, that I spend a lot of time searching for bands that just sound like Pavement. In the past, it’s paid off most times (Silver Jews, Built to Spill, Archers of Loaf) and has led me astray others (Weezer). Either way, I can’t help but to go back to the source of my love for indie rock.

What makes a band sound like Pavement? Well, that’s complicated. Not all educated white dudes with a love of the Fall can do this. Are the vocals a bit aloof? Disaffected? Are the lyrics somewhat snotty and ambivalent? Do the guitars sound oddly out of tune and perfectly in tune at the same time? Are there plenty of dynamics – starts and stops? Is the whole thing quirky and smart assed? Is there equal parts classic rock fuckery and arthouse comforts? Is there equal parts jangle and feedback? Are the songs danceable punchlines? Could the subjects of songs be sports legends, historical figures, and your pot dealer simultaneously? Would you place the band’s sound and general aesthetic in the dictionary next to “indie band”?

If the answer to any of the above questions is ‘yes’ then your band probably sounds like Pavement.

Parquet Courts is the obvious answer here, right? I mean, this is a Pavement cover band if there ever was one. Now, I have had an on-again-off-again romance with PC over the years. Their super LP’s have crossed my path time and again. The artwork for their LP’s is unmatched. I’ve certainly taken notice, we just never meshed, that is, until the last record.

Somehow, the Brooklynites by way of Austin recorded an album that sounds like Pavement wrote Clash songs in 2018’s Wide Awake! If I was keeping this blog up to date, Wide Awake! would have been at the top of the 2018 best of list for sure. It was the woke-ish, angry record Pavement never wrote. “Total Football” is “Feed em to the Lions (Linden).” Love the rapid-fire aggression of “Conduit for Sale!“? Try the punch of “Violence” in which PC takes it a bit further. “Mardi Gras Beads” is “Range Life.” Fight me. The rest of this record fits all over Wowee Zowee. Trust me.

I’m not wrong. Even Malk agrees.

Parquet Courts Live

I recently wrote about my newfound love or maybe rediscovered appreciation for Dutch bands. In terms of being Pavement-esque, look no further than Canshaker Pi. Now, this is a bit unfair as Malkmus produced their first record and has a bit of preference for the band from Holland. Still, it’s worth mentioning them again as they are clearly the Netherlands’ best shot at having their very own Pavement.

Take “Casual Chugger” for instance. It’s straight rocker at the top before it effortlessly blends into a jazzy bit lead singer Willem Smit talk-sings over. It reminds me of Weezer’s “Undone – The Sweater Song” but it ends once Smit starts talking. “2, 3, and 4 easy money/She’s into Radiohead and I think that’s funny/Why? Because I’m better than you,” but you know that’s not true. The start and stop of a rocker with lounge ambition is pure Pavement, even if it sounds like Weezer and 90’s Radiohead making fun of each other.

Now, don’t go through the trouble of shipping Canshaker Pi overseas if you’re expecting a Pavement clone. They are Pavement-esque and obviously influenced, but they rock and roll a bit more. There’s more purposeful and capable work here than a stoned Pavement sitting in a Memphis BBQ joint between recording sessions and it sounds like it. So, be prepared for a louder, more cohesive sound, but you’ll enjoy the jerky songs and tongue-in-cheekiness.

Canshaker Pi Live

Now, Kiwi Jr is the modern-day Pavement if Pavement turned into 20-somethings again in 2020. From the initial delivery of obtuse storytelling that is opener “Murder in the Cathedral,” you have to think Pavement. Jeremy Gaudet is perfect recreation of early Malkmus, and usually that’s all you need to be facsimile. Unlike the wokeness or Parquet Courts and the rock solid sound of Canshaker Pi, Kiwi Jr is the ramshackle Pavement reissue you’ve longed for.

Kiwi Jr’s Football Money is a fun LP loaded with bangers and all of ’em Pavement-esque. I discovered them via their P4k review where it was stated:

The very name Kiwi Jr. may elicit a smirk from a certain type of indie-rock fan, one who views New Zealand’s Flying Nun label as the Narnia of the underground, and who appreciates the nod to J Mascis’ tactic of adding a paternal suffix to avoid cease-and-desist lawsuits from similarly named artists. And the name fits: After all, if you could combine Antipodean indie rock with Dinosaur Jr., you’d essentially get Pavement—a band whose influence on Football Money is impossible to ignore. Not only does Gaudet’s voice drawl and crack in unmistakable Malkmusian fashion, he possesses a similar gift for piling on non-sequiturs about sports, scene politics, and the privileged class that cohere into uncannily pointed social commentary.

https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/kiwi-jr-football-money/

I’m not sure I could make a better case myself. Kiwi Jr is the next Pavement. Whether they live up to that lofty moniker doesn’t really matter. For the time being, I’ll just enjoy their quirky-jerky take.

That’s where my current hunt for near-Pavement bands has taken me. For now, all three bands have enough unexplored material for me to check out, but for very different reasons. Parquet Courts has suffered through my own neglect; Canshaker Pi is just really hard to find stateside; and Kiwi Jr is just getting started. I suspect you will continue to read me championing these three in the future, that is, if I keep posting here.

Kiwi Jr Live

A Note About Near Beer:

I’m not getting any younger. I go to shows when I can and I still enjoy a good craft beer now and again. However, the beer takes a toll on my aging body in ways the music doesn’t really affect. So, I’ve had to look for an alternative that fills the gaps when I could really do with one less beer.

Near beer was a thing my mom told me about. It seems teenagers used to be able to buy beer pretty easily in this country. The beer was really low in alcohol – something in the 2-3% range. Kids drank it like soda or something. I may be remembering this wrong, but that was my impression of near beer.

Well, as stated above, I needed a less-harsh alternative to beer. My stomach and physique will thank me. I’ve had plenty of super-low beers that were delicious, but I want to concentrate on those near beers that are barely beers at all.

The first is Lagunitas’ Hoppy Refresher. This one is technically not a beer at all. It’s fizzy water – which is all the rage – flavored with yeast and hops. And man, if it ain’t the perfect lawnmower beer that’s not really a beer! Sometimes, I drink it in leu of water. I highly recommend it!

The second is the nonalcoholic beer of Athletic Brewing. I’ve been drinking their NA IPA Run Wild as of late and I have to say it works. It’s not the juiciest, it’s more along the lines of West Coast or Midwestern IPA’s, but without the booze. I would never confuse it for a regular IPA, but when I want the flavor of the feel of beer with dinner, I’ll drink it. It’s also a good filler when I want that afternoon beer I don’t really need. Unlike Hoppy Refresher, this NA beer is 70 calories, which is still half of a typical can of soda. So, like the bands above, it’s a suitable facsimile of an old favorite, just without the same punch as that old standby.

The Building International Coalitions through Beer & Pavement 2020 Presidential Ticket

Posted in Activism, Intersections by SM on July 8, 2020

I haven’t written one of those tongue-in-cheek bits about the importance of craft beer and indie rock, or indie beer and craft rock, for a while. But no other time in our nation’s history is a better time than now to make a (not-so) serious endorsement for the 2020 presidential election. I mean, our current choices are a giant douche or a turd sandwich, so what have we got to lose?

I have opted to go with a presidential ticket that represents both craft beer and indie rock, which is loaded with faults, I realize, but will at least provide possibility in a post-Trump world. The biggest problem with this approach is likely that the demographics are a bit skewed. Both fields are largely white – though not entirely. Even harder is how male-dominated they are. So, I will likely have to contend with both downsides to my proposal.

Let’s begin with the craft beer side of the ticket…

Craft beer is loaded with oversized personalities of self-made men and women who understand leadership and organization building. They are typically well-traveled. They have some college but rarely hold advanced degrees. They can often be economically advantaged as they have sunk millions into brewing beer. So, they aren’t all that different than Trump, aside from being better read, traveled, and having better taste.

Diversity in the craft beer community isn’t a strong suit. I recently came across a list of Black craft brewers. While I’m sure they all make great beer, none of them were heading well-known or large-scale breweries. There even seem to be less women. Yes, there are many great brewers at big-time breweries, but there aren’t many headed by women. And what about women of color? Oof. Let’s just say that while craft beer is for everyone, it’s not exactly led by everyone.

Of course, I don’t know that our electorate is ready for a truly diverse ticket. The one president we’ve had who wasn’t white and male was Barak Obama. And even he had his white male running mate. So, I nearly resigned myself to giving half the ticket to yet another white male.

I came really close to nominating friend of the coalition, Stone’s Greg Koch. He is a charismatic evangelist for craft beer, particularly his own. However, he’s approachable in that he’s not snobby about his beer. His company is a shining example of the industry and has grown to incredible heights, even opening a brewery in Germany.

However, he’s a white guy and he likes Metallica. So, I decided to look elsewhere.

What this ticket needs is a respectable elder statesman. We need someone with the right pedigree and a certain level of sophistication that returns some respect and admiration to the administration. What this ticket needs is Garrett Oliver.

Garrett Oliver

Oliver is ideal as he is a Black pioneer in craft beer. He holds a degree from Boston University. He traveled Europe and returned with inspiration to build something great: the Brooklyn Brewery. Oliver is a winner of the prestigious James Beard Award as well as a successful author. He’s a New Yorker who can carry that all-important state. At 57 years old (58 by the election), he is both old enough to have accumulated essential life experience without being too old to competently lead. No one dislikes Oliver and everyone loves his beer.

Garrett Oliver is an easy choice for one half of our ticket.

Indie rock has a similar diversity issue, but it’s not nearly as bad as craft beer’s. Although very white, indie rock artists are diverse in gender, sexual orientation, and various other ways. That said, I decided to seek out the best woman for the job. Where Oliver gives the ticket a Black voice and face, a woman will inject the administration with something it’s never seen.

At first, it was hard to think of a female candidate. A lot of the women I listen to are amazing, but too young to be president/vice president. Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield seems awesome and has a nice redemption story, but she’s only 31. Angel Olsen was another musician who came to mind, but she’s only 33.

Then, I had to consider older indie rockers. This is fraught with complications. Musicians tend to have bouts with drug addiction or other less-presidential behaviors. I don’t personally think this should exclude them from consideration, but it will be a non-starter for many voters. For example, I considered Kim Deal, one of my all-time favorite people – not just artists. However, she’s had her bouts with addiction and seems to be recovering and producing some great music, but I can’t let her opponents tear her down for past transgressions.

I considered Liz Phair, but she’ll be unfairly accused of Karen-ism. I don’t think Liz Phair is a Karen, Becky, or Susan, but her social status might pigeon hole her into such a box. After reading most of Phair’s memoir, Horror Stories, I realized she has led a pretty upper-middle class life that’s fairly conventional. Is she cool? Yes. Is she one of the most gifted song writers of her generation? Oh yeah. But is she a good fit for the current political and cultural climate? I don’t know.

Let me be clear, I love Kim Deal and Liz Phair, but we need a female Bernie Sanders on this ticket. That’s why we need Kim Gordon.

Kim Gordon

At 67, Kim Gordon’s at the perfect age for the office. She is a working mother who has strong ties to the East Coast (NYC, Western Mass) and California where she grew up and currently resides. Gordon was a strong supporter of Bernie Sanders and appears to support all his positions politically. Yes, she is divorced, but who isn’t? Plus, she came out of that marriage stronger than ever. I don’t think Kim Gordon will take shit from anyone and her presence will command respect in a room of world leaders.

Since we have not had a female president and she is the senior of the two candidates, I would nominate Kim Gordon for president and Garrett Oliver as the VP. There’s no way the Queen of Indie Rock and the King of Fine Craft Beer could lose to a giant douche or a turd sandwich, No way.

Convince me otherwise.

For the Love of Live Shows, Wear a Mask

Posted in Live, Massachusetts by SM on July 6, 2020
The last live show I saw: Half of Sonic Youth and some other people.

This spring was going to be epic in terms of live shows for me and I never use the word epic. I was set to see Archers of Loaf, Waxahatchee, Liz Phair, Parquet Courts, and Big Thief in August. There were even several other shows to consider. I was really excited to get out and see some bands.

Then, well, you know.

At first, I figured everyone would just postpone their shows and I would make do with Instagram Live performances. Kevin Morby and Katie Crutchfield, the indie rock couple du jour, was ridiculously cute in their LA (or maybe KC) bungalow, performing mixes from each other’s catalogs or fan requests. Of course, all anyone wanted to hear was their cover of Jason Molina’s “Farewell Transmission.”

When it was all going down, I was debating going to see Archers of Loaf in Boston. First, I rarely go to Boston for shows. I really don’t like navigating that city and prefer seeing shows here in Western Mass. But I hadn’t seen Loaf in like 20 years. I really wanted to see this show. However, as the date approached, the number of cases in Massachusetts increased, particularly around Boston. I finally decided I couldn’t risk my family’s health and chose not to go. Of course, the show was eventually canceled anyway. So, at least I wasn’t out the money for the tickets.

A week later, everything shut down. One by one, shows were postponed or canceled. Waxahatchee moved to the fall. Parquet Courts is supposedly still happening in a few days, but I doubt it. (I’m not going anyway.) Liz Phair canceled, which means I’ve held tickets for three Liz Phair shows that were all canceled. And Big Thief canceled, unfortunately.

The coronavirus pandemic shut down the live music industry and it will likely continue into the fall, unless folks – meaning Americans – start wearing masks, washing hands, and practicing social distancing. As other parts of the world go back to normal, we all sit at home or ignore the evidence and go out to bars. In the meantime, live music ceases.

And it’s not like musicians and bands are giving up. I mentioned the Instagram shows put on by Crutchfield and Morby, but Instagram Live is busy all the time now. Some are scheduling live shows fans can purchase access, but a lot of these shows are happening at reasonable hours, meaning parents who have to get kids to bed can’t typically attend.

Of course, would I even want to?

Kevin Morby on Instagram Live

I live for live music. I don’t go to nearly as many shows as I used to, but I’ve been attending rock shows religiously since my first. I was late to rock concerts, but my first one was during my senior year of high school. On St. Patrick’s Day of 1993, I saw Vic Chestnut, Goo Goo Dolls (in their punk rock phase), and Soul Asylum, supporting their breakout album “Grave Dancers Union.” All the way up to last December’s Thurston Moore gig in Holyoke and that’s 26.5 years of concert going. I wish I knew the actual count, but it’s a bunch.

For longtime readers (Are there really that many of you/them?), you may remember that this blog’s biggest post was the one I wrote inspired by a strange night at a show. The post itself wondered if I was too old for music. That was almost ten years ago. I still wonder if maybe I’m getting too old for live shows anyway. Maybe this pandemic is the good lord’s way of saying that it’s time to cut out the rock shows.

So, here I sit on my back deck, worrying about the assholes who tore down a bunch of trees next door to build a house. I’m sitting out here because we actually have people cleaning our house. There are no shows on the horizon.

I say all this now and am resigned to shutting down that part of me that still longs for live rock music. If the pandemic has killed anything – well, aside from 130k+ in this country, Mr. President – it has somewhat injured that longing. Although it was novel to watch bands play stripped down versions of their songs in their living rooms, I’m pretty over it now. And as I eye that Parquet Courts show, I wonder whether it will just be cancelled anyway. I mean, I’ve already seen Pavement. (JK – You’re great PC.)

Sorry for the whoa-is-me post. I don’t mean to be a downer, but if people don’t start staying home and wearing masks, live music is doomed.


If you have a second and some money, please consider donating to a shining light in live music venues here in the Valley. Gateway City Arts in Holyoke has injected some energy into the scene over the past couple of years. They, like many other small businesses, are struggling. A lot of those shows I missed this spring were set to be at GCA. Help them out. Even if I’m too bummed to go out, that shouldn’t mean a great little venue has to shut down.

Going Dutch

Posted in Records by SM on June 30, 2020
My cliched pic of Amsterdam

The mid-90’s, like most of my generation, was when my obsession with indie rock started. One aspect of the scene that attracted me was how certain labels could lead you down rabbit holes to one cool band after another, sort of the way YouTube or Spotify might do for you today. Of course, in those days, information was mostly found in zines or label mailings.

Matador was an especially excellent source for weird or interesting music featuring guitars – so many guitars – and intellectually curious lyrics sung by college dropouts in thrift store t shirts. I remember working in my college’s mail room and getting extra excited when one of Matador’s newsletters would come through. I discovered some pretty memorable bands, many of which I’m still exploring to this day.

One such band was Bettie Serveert. I read that they featured some guitars(!) and a female singer, Carol van Dijk, whom I was convinced was just the Dutch version of Liz Phair. There was some backstory about a famous Dutch tennis player. The name translates to “Bettie Serves” or something. Whatever. They were Dutch and very exotic to me.

So, as I did in those days, I sought a used CD of their excellent 1992 release, Palomine. Standouts like the title track and “Kids Allright” hooked me right away. The band played micro-arena anthems akin to label mates Guided By Voices, but the guitar play stood out and challenged like a Dinosaur Jr. lite. This was soon followed by Lamprey which was full of more anthems, guitars, and van Dijk’s familiar, slacker drawl. I really loved “Totally Freaked Out” from that sophomore release.

My copy of Lamprey

The summer I graduated from college and left for the Pacific Northwest, Dust Bunnies was released. Opener “Geek” still floats around in my memory from time to time. That summer, I was able to catch them opening for Matador alum Teenage Fanclub at the Crocodile in Seattle.

But this isn’t really a post just about Bettie Serveert, forgotten indie legends that they are. I recently discovered that there are a few other bands of interest from the Netherlands, bands who have put some material out in the last few years unbeknownst to me. Where are my Matador newsletters and zines for these bands?

I should have known about Canshaker Pi. They play guitars and write smart-ass lyrics. Somehow, P4k or someone should have posted something that crossed my feed. This blog’s patron saint, Stephen Malkmus, produced their debut and had the following to say about them:

Canshaker Pi will blow the world away with their sound. They are loud, young and not too snotty. They play guitar rock. They don’t sound like anything in the Portland Oregon high school system I can tell u that — confident, frustrated tunes beyond their years. Get in the way of these lads and sparks will fly for sure.

http://www.canshakerpi.nl/

The Canshaker boys’ latest, Okay Decay, is a cool, steady punch to the face. Like Pavement and Malkmus, the lyrics and vocals are aloof and disinterested. The band is on time but acerbic guitar solos interrupt the pop sensibilities just enough to not trick you into thinking they actually like Radiohead more than Pavement. I’m still waiting for my copy of their LP on vinyl as it’s been stuck in customs for about a month.

Lucky for you, you don’t have to keep reading me try to do this band justice. Watch these three songs off Okay and tell me I’m wrong about these Amsterdammers.

Lewsberg is a different sort of band altogether. Hailing from Rotterdam, this foursome sound like the Velvet Underground. I know that’s lazy, but that’s just what they sound like. It’s not as derivative as it sounds, but they sound like the Velvets in a really, really good way. I don’t want to belabor the point, but they do sound like the Velvet Underground. And I’m not the only one to say it. But that’s half-assed to say, something I’m not entirely ashamed of, but this band probably deserves more.

I guess I should attempt to describe what I mean. At the heart of their songs is that driving rhythm, that repetitive groove that could just go and go. Then, over the top are dry, emotionless vocals with lyrics that seem just as distant. However, there’s humanity in the observations or sentiment despite the deadpan delivery. One way they resemble Canshaker Pi is through the lead guitar work that is angry, precise, but certainly won’t ever be confused for anything conventional.

If you want to hear it for yourself, the two singles from their new release, In This House, can be found at their website or the entire album is on their Bandcamp page. In the meantime, check this performance which in the same studio as the Canshaker video above. Again, it’s three perfect songs to digest. The third song is from the new LP (which is also in transit overseas). You can thank me later.

As you can see, there’s more to the Netherlands than weed and windmills. I know it’s got me looking for what I’ve missed. I’ve been to the country twice, separated by about 20 years. The first time, I saw Sleater-Kinney play. The last time, I bought a Great Plains record. So, I haven’t really given the country’s scene a chance. Maybe that has to change.

Black Lives Matter at Beer & Pavement

Posted in Activism, Intersections, Life by SM on June 29, 2020
Drawing by Ben Chlapek and I forget what the beer was. It was good. Pic is from my IG.

I couldn’t bring this blog back without at least addressing all of this [erratically motions in the general direction of everything]. Specifically, I’m talking about the current Black Lives Matter movement.

“Why would a blog about beer and indie rock write about race?” you might ask.

Let me reply.

I started blogging as a way to express myself. Now, I’ve veered here and there and back, but a constant part of that expression has been been my love and – shall I say – my need for music. It’s a somewhat niche obsession, but I love independent rock music. (I’ll address beer later.)

Any lover of rock n roll must at some point – willingly or begrudgingly – admit that rock music was appropriated by white people from Black culture. It’s fact. It can’t be denied. Some will try or simply ignore history, but most come around at some point.

I decided a long, long time ago that I was cool with this. I mean, it’s shitty that Elvis and every white dude after him have profited greatly from Black people, but isn’t that what white people do? We profit off the work of others, particularly Black people. We white people are the worst.

As I said, I was okay with rock music being Black music, not necessarily the stealing part. No one epitomized rock music for me more than Prince. For dudes 5-10 years older than I am, it’s Bowie, but for me, it’s Prince. Who could have heard “Little Red Corvette” or watched their first R-rated flick by the title Purple Rain and not want to be Prince or at the very least follow him to the ends of the earth?

In Prince, I found a performer that took on sexuality, race, the status quo… He was weird and he could play guitar like a mother fucker. I listen to primarily guitar-based music because of Prince.

I have not always been so well-versed or even comfortable with race and racism, but Prince opened me up to learn. Prince demonstrated that there was culture and perspective way beyond my nearly all-white hometown. Not only did I search out new and different kinds of music because of his influence, but I searched out film (Spike Lee) and books (Malcom X) to feed my appetite.

All this is due to Prince. Prince taught me about humanity and that included Black people.

I recently read that there’s a push to put up a statue of Prince in Minneapolis in place of Christopher Columbus. Yes, there is not already a statue of Prince in Minneapolis, his hometown and there’s one of Columbus. I was shocked to find this out as well. Hopefully, this is rectified.

On to more important things.

So, Prince was my gateway to weird guitar music, but he was also my path to being open to discussions of race and racism. Do I get it right? Usually not. But, as I explain to my children, we (white people) are all racist to some degree because we have benefitted from from racist institutions in some way or another. However, we have a choice to ignore this fact or do something to change it.

I’m trying my best to change it. I’m trying to change me and I’m trying to change the system, because it’s rigged, yo.

Now, there’s nothing all that insightful in this post. I’m just a white guy trying to do what’s right. I’m a white guy who recognizes the humanity of Black people and that they deserve all that we white people take for granted on the daily.

Now I’m just rambling.

Look, remember that if you’re reading this, you probably love rock music. Rock music is the music of Black people (along with hip-hop, jazz, etc.).

Or you’re reading this because you like beer. Apparently, having a beer with someone as you talk about important issues is a thing. Go here and buy some beer brewed by Black people. Then, donate to these organizations.

There. I covered beer and indie rock, but now I’ve got you thinking about race. Join me for a discussion in the comments.

#BlackLivesMatter

(I’m not fooling myself. 1-2 people will comment at most. This blog has been idle for two or three years.)

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Archers of Loafing, Amirite?

Posted in Records by SM on June 28, 2020

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I kid. I kid. Or as we used to say, JK.

After reuniting and then sorta not doing anything a few years ago, Archers of Loaf announced earlier this year that they had new music in the works. It seems they weren’t lying.

“Raleigh Days” is a fucking tour de force or something. It demonstrates the Loaf’s power and angular guitar play while just being a regular banger. Eric Bachman’s growl is a bit toned down, reflecting his longing to be able to sing or just speak well into the future. His performance reminds me of some of his rockier tracks in Crooked Fingers. The guitars, though, that’s pure Loaf, balls to the walls and all that. The real surprise might be the call-to-arms Rolling Stones anthem “Street Fighting Man.” Fuck. Who knew the Stones were political?

I don’t have this track on vinyl yet. It seems the pandemic has delayed Record Store Day, AKA middle-aged male xmas. Still, I’ll grab it once Record Store Day releases a vaccine. In the meantime, I preordered Loaf’s followup, “Talking Over Talk,” which might as well be about Zoom meetings.

And that’s not all Rona has delayed. I was supposed Archers of Loaf a week or two before everything shut down in Boston. However, the rising number of cases scared everyone enough to shut down every rock show though the rest of the winter and spring. I was supposed to see Loaf, Waxahatchee, Liz Phair, Parquet Courts, and Big Thief, but they’ve all been cancelled or postponed. Archers of Loaf cancelled their shows completely.

So, I sit at home, twiddling my thumbs, waiting for the Loaf to unleash something more than a few singles. I mean, the songs are good, but those of us who have been loyal Loafers (sorry) have waited a long time for this. Ever since they teased us with a sparse littering of shows a few years back, I’ve been waiting in grand anticipation of what they had in store for us.

I guess I’ll wait a bit longer. Now, put your masks back on, assholes, so I can back to live shows again.

(BTW, Archers of Loaf are not loafing nor are they loafers. I needed click bait. It’s been a minute since I’ve posted here.)

Image: It’s from my IG and it’s of a poster in my basement. The poster was given to me by Bob Hartzell at Augratin Press back in my COMO daze.

The Matador 100 Project: Unrest & Teenbeat 50 (Olé 024-025)

Posted in Challenge, Matador 100, Records, Review by SM on August 17, 2017

A whole lotta Teenbeat up in this post…

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Unrest, the legendary DC experimental act issued a compilation of material through Matador and their label Teenbeat. The early tracks intended for this release were primarily of the b-side and rarity variety, including the band’s first album. They are rough and uneven, but one can find some cool moments in many of the tracks. The title of this comp is Fuck Pussy Galore (& All Her Friends). Pussy Galore, of course, was a James Bond character Unrest seemingly didn’t care for. Anyway, the bass lines are insanely schizophrenic, setting up the band’s signature sound as carried out by Bridget Cross in later releases. The covers included also provide a little bit of nostalgia for all the fucking Boomer bullshit were force-fed in the 80’s.

The vinyl fails to list about ten tracks included in the CD and cassette versions, according to the Teenbeat site. In fact, Teenbeat states that the vinyl version included just the tracks from the first album, no extras. According to the site, there were master tapes missing, some re-mixed.

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Teenbeat 50 is a compilation of some highlights from Teenbeat’s first 50 releases. Unrest’s Mark Robinson, Phil Krauth, and Tim Moran started the label in Arlington, Virginia in 1984. Teenbeat was able to release so many recordings since they made only one copy of each early release to be loaned out to high school classmates. Much of the early material was Unrest practice session recordings. Teenbeat played an important part in the indie scene in and around DC (along with Dischord, of course). Their roster is a who’s who of the underground-turned-indie darlings.

The vinyl version of this comp included 16 tracks, two from Unrest. Highlights of the roster included Autoclave (Mary Timony!), Velocity Girl (a favorite during their Sub Pop days), and Courtney Love (the band, not the other one). It’s a much more polished collection than the record mentioned above. Some of the tracks sound downright professionally recorded (Hello, Bells Of…! Where have you been my entire life?) Plus, there are two(!) theme songs – one from 1991 and the other from 1985.

Putting out these two comps to what I can only assume was a wider distribution network for Teenbeat, Matador was able to not only promote one of the great underground labels of the era, but they were also able to place themselves among those early fledgling indies. The Unrest comp demonstrates a cacophonous creativity alive in the DC scene (and beyond). The Teenbeat 50 might still sit on a shelf, waiting for release had Matador not given it a nudge (or possibly funding/support). I don’t know this for sure, but Teenbeat’s site suggests the comp was supposed to be released the fall of 1990 and wasn’t issued until three years later. Either way, I’m glad it saw the light of day and found its way into Matador’s first 100 releases.

(Admittedly, this was not my best effort, but you were due a post. Hopefully, I can get another out much quicker.)

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The Matador 100 Project: Railroad Jerk & Teenage Fanclub (Olé 022-023)

Posted in Matador 100, Records, Review by SM on August 5, 2017

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The next two releases in the Matador 100 come from what are two of the better-known acts of the early Matador roster. Railroad Jerk released “Younger than You” in the middle of 1991, while Teenage Fanclub released “God Knows It’s True.”

“Younger than You,” Railroad Jerk’s first 7″, is a raucous romp directed at ridiculing olds attending shows or something like that. The track feels messy and warbled, but a close listen reveals something more precise and on time. Railroad Jerk yell and twist their guitars, but it somehow comes together in a great cacophony. The b-side is the equally wild “Ballad of Jim White.”

I haven’t a ton to add to Railroad Jerk. I love rediscovering their material as I missed them the first time around. There wasn’t a lot of indie rock available in West-Central Ohio (where I grew up) in the early 90’s, especially Railroad Jerk’s brand of sloppy blues punk rawk.

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Teenage Fanclub’s “God Knows It’s True” is a 1991 Matador 7″ previously released as an EP in the UK by Paperhouse in 1990. Don Fleming produced the record which is a cool bit of trivia, I suppose. The covers for the two releases differed in artwork and length. I have the US release by Matador with its illustration of swamp creatures. The UK version is created from some multi-exposure camera trickmulti-exposure camera trick. I assume it’s one of the band members.

The 7″/EP is the link between Teenage Fanclub’s Matador debut Catholic Education and their classic Bandwagonesque. The title track is one of unrequited love. “So Far Gone” continues the louder, grungier Fanclub as they began to insert the melodies they would be better known for in later releases. The EP version features two other tracks in “Weedbreak” and “Ghetto Blaster” as filler instrumentals.

A Note about the Discography:
If you’re paying attention, I’ve skipped some numbers. Matador numbered releases before they made it to market, which some did not. I’ve addressed this before, but it seems that old discography with all the non-releases has been taken down. Now worries. I’m only writing about actual Matador releases.