Beer and Pavement

The Matador 100 Project: Teenage Fanclub & Fire in the Kitchen (Olé 007-008)

Posted in Challenge, Matador 100, Records, Review by SM on April 4, 2016

Two seven-inch records to consider, or 45’s or singles as they used to be known. I suspect the 7″ era started with 80’s hardcore. Also, it was probably easier to get together a few hundred bucks to put out a 7″. It was maybe the most DIY thing to do outside of selling mixed tapes out of your trunk. These two releases have a particular DIY feel unlike the “polish” of the previous LP and EP releases. Matador put out some good seven-inch records over the years. These are the second and third of the format as we near the end of the first ten Matador records to hit shelves.

Teenage Fanclub – “Everybody’s Fool” (Olé 007-7)

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What I believe is Teenage Fanclub’s first release stateside (possibly second as they released a 7″ in the UK prior) is a perfect example of the TF sound: straight rock ‘n roll with touches of grunge and alt.country, off-kilter vocals. Side A features the title track that would one day close out Teenage Fanclub’s classic A Catholic Education. “Everybody’s Fool” is a beer-drinking rocker that surely closed out most of their live gigs and probably still should.

The B-side starts off with the drum machine cymbal lead-in of “Primary Education” which I’m sure was covered by someone at some point. I just can’t think of the band who did it. It’s simple and not nearly as mature a song as the first side, but it makes me think of Pavement more than Son Volt, unlike “Everybody’s Fool.”

More drum machine beats and a slide guitar are featured in “Speeder,” reminding me more of some Beck a la One Foot… or maybe even some Sebadoh/Folk Implosion instrumental. Again, the second side is sorta partially-realized – but no less enjoyable – tracks than a classic rocker.

Fire In The Kitchen – “The Fog” (Olé 008-7)

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I know virtually nothing about Fire in the Kitchen. The blog Willfully Obscure knows more than I and that’s still not a ton. I do know this is a post-punk outfit from NYC which I realize describes a lot of what has come out on Matador. They are similar to Teenage Fanclub in this sort of straightforward, early nineties’ alt/indie rock way. It’s an interesting addition to Matador’s catalog. I don’t know whether it would have been deemed interesting enough for Matador five years after this record was released, but it’s a decent document of the musical times.

“The Fog” is Fire in the Kitchen’s hit. Of course, I say this without really knowing much else about the band. As I found out with HP Zinker, these bands have small but dedicated followings and surely the minds of Lombardi and Cosloy have proven themselves knowing talent when they hear it. But I have digressed a bit. As I said before, “The Fog” is the post-punk rocker above other post-punk rockers to enjoy and play air guitar to.

B-side “Inspector Marais” is more the mid-tempo song to which your Morrissey lovers may choose to dance. To me, it sounds a bit out of place in 1992. At points it’s very 80’s Manchester while a little disco-influenced punk. Both songs, really.

The impressive thing at this point in the catalog is the variety of acts on the roster. Sure, they’re mostly guitar-based bands from in and around NYC, but they don’t all sound the same or are just some take on grunge or hardcore or whatever labels were trying to pull off in the early 90’s. There’s a sensibility even among the art noise of Dustdevils or blue-collar punk blues of Railroad Jerk to the post-punk of Teenage Fanclub and Fire in the Kitchen.

The Matador 100 Project: New York Eye & Ear Control (Olé 006)

Posted in Matador 100, Records, Review by SM on April 4, 2016

First thing’s first. I apologize for not monitoring these posts. It’s been so long since I’ve blogged or watched blog traffic that I didn’t expect the two-day stretch of ~1000 views. I feel really bad for missing a couple of comments (one possibly from a musician on one of the records discussed). Of course, I barely blog anymore and haven’t really had much traffic when I do. This is more of a fun thing to do and not really a serious blogging project. Still, I’ll try to stay tuned into your comments and such.

Now, moving on…

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According to most internet searches, New York Eye & Ear Control was an experimental, free jazz compilation of improvisations from 1965, not a collection of arty, punkrock noise. There’s not a lot of information out there on this comp. It feels like a few singles (Dustdevils, Railroad Jerk, Unsane in particular) paired with a bunch of noise…sweet, sweet, beautiful noise. Had I ever been the kind of DJ who needed to clear a dance floor while appealing to a few nerds in the audience, this record would certainly come in handy.

I’m not sure all of the material is each band’s best efforts. Most feels like throwaways meant to fill out a side of a future release or some jam session that happened to land on tape. The opening track by Dustdevils is as good a song as I’ve heard from them so far in a Sonic Youth sort of way. I like the Railroad Jerk track as well, but the rest deserves several more listens before passing judgement. However, it’s hard to do that when you live with a spouse and children who don’t share your love for experimental noise rock.

This is Matador’s first compilation, something 90’s indies were so good at. I’m not sure if it was due to economics or just a culture of collaboration, but 90’s comps were the best way to get to know a label’s roster and related acts. At this point, Matador didn’t have a huge roster and a lot of what’s on here don’t make many appearances in the rest of the catalog (Timber, Cop Shoot Cop, OWT, Borbetomagus, Royal Trux, Rudolph Grey, Fitch). Basically, it’s a few bonus tracks from the actual roster and a lot of noisy contributions from some outsiders. This may have been an easier sell than a tri-split 7″ from Dustdevils, Railroad Jerk, and Unsane.

Without trying the little exercise in record collecting, I would have never considered this record. There’s not much known on the track list and the artwork is borderline atrocious. That said, it’s a cool footnote in the Matador 100 that will get a few more listens in the coming weeks…probably through headphones in order to keep everyone else in the house happy.

The Matador 100 Project: Dustdevils, Superchunk, Railroad Jerk (Olé 003 through Olé 005)

Posted in Matador 100, Records, Review by SM on March 13, 2016

This project continues to move forward and why shouldn’t it? Two self-titled releases as well as a record of older, unreleased material round out Matador’s first five releases. Let’s get to it…

Dustdevils – Geek Drip (Olé-003)

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The first controversy happens with this Dustdevils’ release of older material (circa ’88). The catalog number on the record sleeve says “Olé-02″ not the Olé-03 noted on Matador’s official discography. To complicate matters, this record was actually released after the HP Zinker 7”. Who knows why the switch happened? I’ll go with the discography for the purposes of this little project in hopes the surviving members of HP and DD don’t get into some kind of indi rock feud over it.

Some research I did on Dustdevils (read “read it on Wikipedia) revealed that Pavement’s Mark Ibold played with the band. There is a mention of a “Mark” on the album’s sleeve (“Hello to Mark & Rick”), but a “Keith” seems to be credited with playing bass. I don’t know if this means this Keith played on these early recordings and Mark later joined or what. That said, “Keith” seems to be Keith Gregory of The Wedding Present who later covered Pavement’s “Box Elder.” But I digress.

From the opening tracks, Dustdevils are an early missing link between Matador and Sonic Youth. I remember reading there were always flirtations between the label and SY until their eventual signing and plenty of Matador bands have toured with SY, but this record could have easily been recorded by Sonic Youth. The female vocals are a little more traditional than Kim Gordon’s growl, but everything else sounds like it’s in the same ballpark. An excellent discovery. I will have to check out more polished releases from Dustdevils.

Superchunk – S/T (Olé-004)

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This is a bit of the holy grail for me in the first 5-10 releases. It’s a legendary band’s debut release and proved that they were pretty great in 1990. I somehow remember not liking early Superchunk, but that may have been No Pocky for Kitty (another album to revisit).

The band certainly sounds like everything from the 90’s from Guided By Voices to Yo La Tengo, but it’s “Slack Motherfucker” that will always stand out as their anthem. One could argue that while Pavement represented 90’s indie rock as a band, “Slack Motherfucker” was the song that set it all off or at least made the official mixed tape. Of course, it’s easy to tell this is a Superchunk record from the get-go. Driving bass lines, aggressive, feed-back-laden guitars and that familiar Mac McCaughan struggle. It’s quintessential Superchunk, a sound I’ve had to learn to love, oddly enough. I think my only aversion to their sound in the 90’s was the fact I finally listened to them after knowing a lot of bands that sounded like them. In the end, no one does Superchunk like Superchunk and Superchunk is the start.

I looked for references to Superchunk and Matador for some backstory, but there’s not much out there. In Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records, there’s a little bit of an error in describing Matador as a label mainly releasing 7″ records (30% of the first 10 releases are singles, only 1 of the first 5). Of course, the label had only released two EP’s and a 7″ by the time Superchunk came out. It seems as if the band fulfilled their contract for three LP’s before leaving the label when Matador signed a distribution deal with Columbia. So, that’s just a lot of words to tell you nothing about this record.

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Maybe the biggest development is the addition of the iconic Matador capote or cape. The logo shows up in the now-familiar red as well as the white on black for the track listings on the record label. There is no logo, however, on the sleeve. One of the things that captivated me most about Matador was the simplicity of their logo and how it stood out. It suggested a brutish sophistication and pageantry other record labels didn’t convey. While I realize releases on labels such as Sub Pop and Merge were plenty smart, they still seemed aggressive and appealing to the less subtle subset of the music community. Matador’s label always suggested something smarter and artier to me. Of course, this is just my perception of a piece of graphic design and has no basis in reality when one considers the music on Matador, but it’s part of what attracted me to the label.

In other iconic Matador packaging features… This is the first time I’ve noticed the words “All Rights Reserved All Wrongs Reversed” which seems pretty prophetic in relation to developments in music sharing in the decades to follow. At the time, the only pirating was in the form of dubbed tapes and the promo copies people bought at used record stores. (See below for one such example of a promo bought and paid for.) It makes me think of some copyleft ideal or something. Hopefully, it means Matador was encouraging of fans distributing their product via these blackmarket and pirated means. Of course, I’m sure they were not as keen on corporate entities trying the same thing. That or it’s just a funny play on words and sardonic sentiment intended to make you smirk.

Railroad Jerk – S/T (Olé-005)

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To be honest, I knew nothing about Railroad Jerk other than they seemed to turn up on every Matador compilation (or at least one, twice) and they kinda sounded like their name. Chugging along with jerky lyrics delivered by what sounds like a jerk… I don’t mean those guys are actual jerks. They just sound like jerks which works well for a rock band.

Railroad Jerk is another lost gem I was hoping to find in this journey through Matador’s early catalog. So far, I haven’t been let down and this record makes me think I should have explored Railroad Jerk much earlier. Their punk-blues aesthetic was unique among the lo-fi, college guy thing. There was an edge, aggression without being as show-boat-y as a Jon Spencer. I look forward to the next three releases from Railroad Jerk –  three more if I go on to the next 100.

The Matador 100 Project: H.P. Zinker’s The Know It All (Olé 002-7)

Posted in Matador 100, Records, Review by SM on March 4, 2016

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So, this little project where I listen to the first 100 releases (on vinyl) from Matador Records continues. It would have been cool to venture into new bands, but we’re back with H.P. Zinker’s second release, “The Know It All.” Actually, I learned via Twitter conversation that HP also released the first record for Thrill Jockey. So, they were fairly important to the ’90 indie scene. I didn’t realize as I was in high school in West-Central Ohio. The Yellow Springs NPR station didn’t reach us among the corn fields.

That said, this record is just a two-song 7″ to follow up Zinker’s EP debut. There isn’t much to say other that it’s a much more stereotypical release of the times with its sped up beat to match the crumbling end of hardcore punk and angry/agro sleaze of grunge and garage rock. I don’t particularly enjoy it like the EP, but it would fit with those songs to make a decent LP.

The Elmer Fudd affect is there, just not as pronounced. “The Know It All” is pretty fast and straightforward. It sounds as if they picked up a proper metal drummer as well as a thirst for Alice Cooper and his ilk. I also wonder if they were listening to a lot of Mudhoney at the time. The track certainly fits their MO.

“Sip of Death” is of a similar aesthetic. This record would easily fit on early Sub Pop releases. It’s not as Elmer Fudd-ish as everything else, but that doesn’t really separate the track from the rest. The band has certainly put together two more aggressive tracks with this little record.

The design of the packaging is much more stark and less dated that the EP. There’s nothing that screams “Matador” aside from the “olé” in front of the release number. I honestly never noticed that the “ole” was actually a “olé” which makes total sense since this is Matador.

Anyway, this is release number two. Sorry there’s not much to report. Number three will be out in a week. The third release is in the mail and I have to figure out how much I’m willing to spend for number 4 (Superchunk’s debut S/T LP).

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The Matador 100 Project: H.P. Zinker’s …And There Was Light (Olé 001-1)

Posted in Challenge, Matador 100, Records by SM on February 26, 2016

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This is less of a restart for my blog than it is just something I wanted to do. See, I wanted to focus my vinyl collection beyond “that sounds good” or “this one is seminal” or “I have money in my pocket that needs to be spent.” So, I poked around a bit and decided that Matador was the label that meant most to me in the 90’s alongside maybe Sub Pop. If you know anything about these two labels, despite both being really successful to survive nearly 30 years, Sub Pop became the “most indie of all the sellouts” by being associated with grunge. Old Sub Pop records are out of the reach of someone with a meager public school teacher salary. Matador, however, released a lot of material by some pretty obscure bands. Plus, their lineup and catalog is honestly more interesting to me.

Anyway, I had this idea to collect the first 100 (maybe 200) Matador releases. Vinyl-wise, I probably own 10% of those releases already (closer to 20-25% on CD, but who listens to CD’s?). What I’m really missing is the early Matador stuff, the obscurest of the obscure. There are some well-known acts like Superchunk, Unsane, Railroad Jerk, Teenage Fanclub, etc., but most of the really early releases is completely new to me. Despite the obscurity of this material, the records are priced pretty afford-ably. I mean, that Unsane record with the decapitated guy on subway tracks and maybe the first Superchunk record are twice as much as a new release, but it’s still within my grasp.

The only place to begin was at the very start of the Matador empire. 1989’s H.P. Zinker EP …And There Was Light (Olé 001-1) is everything I wanted for this little project. It’s obscure enough. Who’s ever heard of H.P. Zinker? I hadn’t. According to Wikipedia (after I translated it from German), the record was recorded as a two-piece with a drum machine. The band formed the same year they released this record in NYC. Over time, they performed with several other bands of the day, namely Sonic Youth, Lemonheads (Dando later recorded with them), Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, etc.

The record opens with a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Dancing Days” which is kinda ominous, almost sinister. It’s bass-heavy and the singer sounds like Elmer Fudd. It’s actually a pretty good cover, fairly straight-up, but it has H.P.’s unique aesthetic without completely fucking up what is a good, classic rock song. The second track is an 8-minute, meandering slow jam. Again, despite the somewhat distracting cartoon-like vocals, it’s not a bad song which builds to a grungy crescendo.

The overall sound of the record is pure-1989 indie. It’s that tinny production with the oncoming onslaught of feedback and bass which made Nirvana rich. That said, Wharton Tiers did more to bring underground rock – particularly NYC rock – into its own come the 1990’s and this record is no different. His fingerprints are all over it, giving it more girth than similar-sounding records of the day.

“Sip of the Day” picks up the pace and ends the first side. It has some aesthetics in the guitar sound that reminds me of Dinosaur Jr. and early Pavement. The vocals aren’t nearly as Elmer Fudd as the rest, but it’s there. I’ll cease to belabor this point from here on out.

Side 2 kicks off with a fun grungy dancer in “Hurdles on my Way.” This would have been the hit. The production is somewhat cleaner and less-tinny. (Maybe all that tin is actually from the drum machine…) It’s basically just a song about a girl. So, there’s that.

“Sunshine” and “Down in the Basement” close out the EP. “Sunshine” uses the drum machine with the speed way up, sounding like some EDM then transforming into a hardcore anthem/ballad. Lots of space in this one to showcase what sounds like a shitty drum machine, but it somehow works.

This is a pretty solid first release from my favorite 90’s boutique label. It certainly points to the quality Chris Lombardi cultivated for his label and later championed by partner Gerard Cosloy. The second release was also by H.P. Zinker, so you have to assume Lombardi liked the band a lot. I’ll write about that 7″ as soon as it arrives in the mail. In the meantime, enjoy this video for “Sunshine.”

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Starting Over

Posted in Beer, Massachusetts, Travelog by SM on August 4, 2015
The Dirty Truth

The Dirty Truth

Over the course of the last 10 years, I was part of a burgeoning craft beer scene in Middle Missouri. I was there before a lot of great breweries distributed and several new breweries opened there. I was at the first ever Columbia Beer Enthusiasts‘ tasting and eventually became an officer (a position I guess that I still hold despite moving 1300 miles away). At the height of the international and national craft beer boom, I was fully embedded in my own scene.

And now, I’m starting over.

I am no longer part of a scene outside of the fact I’m the “new guy” on a local Facebook group dedicated to craft beer in the region. However, I’m no longer a regular…well…anywhere. There are no local breweries following me on Instagram and Twitter. No one’s giving me the inside scoop on releases. In fact, I haven’t a clue when any beers are hitting the shelves. I’m lucky to stumble upon beers I’ve never had that are actually fresh.

It’s weird having to start from scratch. I don’t know that I have the energy to hunt down white whales or hit tap takeovers or hit the road on the weekends to travel to a nearby brewery. I received word of a beer fest in nearby Springfield and I scoffed at the $45 price tag. I don’t really want to start over.

So, my other choice is to ease into the craft community. And if it happens that I become an integral part again, so be it. However, it will most likely mean that I know a thing or two about beer. I know what I like and generally know where I can find it.

Somehow, I’m okay with this. I guess I kinda have to be. I mean, weeknight drinking (including Sundays) now becomes a lot tougher to maintain as my daily commute has tripled (10 to 30 minutes) and the demands of my new job have increased with less flexibility. Sure, I’ll get my summers off, but the coming fall will mean that I need to have a clear mind and plenty of rest to be effective. This is what I want and it’s worth adjusting my lifestyle.

Of course, there’s always the weekends…to spend with my almost-7-year-old and 17-month-old. The second kid made my participation in craft beer and homebrewing tough enough, but now I have to attend to my kids’ needs more that my time and availability is tighter during the week. Will I enjoy a good craft beer? Yes. Will I be ticking away at an impossible list of options? Probably not.

It’s similar to my place in the music scene. The scene here is so much more robust with five significant campuses and a couple of smallish urban centers loaded with creative types. So, it’s probably too big for me to put a dent in it anyway and once again, I honestly don’t have the energy anymore.

And all of this is okay.

Maybe my 30’s was my time to get involved in a scene or two. My 40’s seem to be about my family and career with a little enjoyment on the side. Through all my efforts in music and craft beer scenes, I feel I have a handle on how to enjoy them without being a part of them.

So, where do I get my craft beer fix now? I have Spirit Haus which is nearby – like 2 minutes nearby. This area is loaded with these little beer/wine/liquor stores with an assortment of odds and ends. This is good for exploring the possibilities of the region as well as scoring a gem now and again. Plus, there’s usually a guy at each of these stores who knows everything. At Spirit Haus, they have a guy (Gary, I believe) who knows wine. I haven’t been there enough to know whether or not they have a beer guy, but someone seems to know what they’re doing. The shelves are stocked with a nice spectrum of craft beer and there’s some interesting Belgians as well. The cooler is a labyrinth you enter at your own claustrophobic risk. I was in need of some unique tripels for a pesto dinner and instead of going for Belgians, I wanted some New England fare. What I got was the tripel from Allagash (maybe the best of the style I’ve had) as well as a somewhat older Fluffy White Rabbits – kept in the cooler as an older, hoppy beer should be. Spirit Haus is my neighborhood stop, something I’ve not had for a decade.

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The other stops are not so close, but they offer a fix. Most beer folk know that to fully explore the range of a state’s distribution (if not always the complete breadth), you should hit a Whole Foods. The quantity is never amazing, but they feature locals, regionals, and some rarer, more expensive choices. If I want something local or high-end, I grab it at Whole Paycheck. (However, I’m going to avoid all the West Coast IPA’s that have been sitting there since last fall!) There’s also 44 Liquors which is a regional chain that’s just plain huge. They get everything and in large quantities. For a lot of special releases, places like this get a large share and it sits there for a while. There were so many 120 Minute IPA’s and World Wide Stouts not to mention a full lineup of Lost Abbey beers, that I was nearly overwhelmed. Of course, a place like this also has year-old IPA’s. I guess it’s all part of the learning process.

While Spirit Haus is in Amherst and the other places are in Hadley, my favorite place might be in Northampton. Provisions is one of those fancy food and drink stores that have everything. However, these stores often half-ass the beer and overprice everything. That is not the case with Provisions. They had the local breweries covered, including some rarer beers. I was even able to score several affordable offerings so that I could sample some beers from several breweries. Despite most of the beers being kept on shelves (there was a fully stocked cooler as well), the ages seemed appropriate. I suspect these beers move quickly. My only disappointing discovery was that the place with the largest number of bottles from Shelton Brothers (of nearby Belchertown who carry Mikkeller, Evil Twin, Jolly Pumpkin, everybody) was limited to a shelf in the corner. I opted not to check the dates of those beers as they looked to be not a priority to the store. Something I can overlook since the rest of the store is so amazing.

With unpacking and dragging a 17-month everywhere, I haven’t had time to check out local watering holes. That said, I enjoyed two. One was High Horse Brewing and the other The Dirty Truth in Northampton. I was told by a grad student that High Horse served great food, but the beer was so-so. The food was good, but I don’t know what beer these grad students must be used to. The Anti-Imperialist Session IPA was really good. If a brewery can do a good session IPA, they can certainly do most styles.

The other watering hole was sort of a spur of the moment stop. My father-in-law treated me to a beer at The Dirty Truth. After being carded and having to produce multiple forms of ID because my ID is still out-of-state (also, I’m 40), we slipped in at the end of a long bar to peruse the ~40 taps to try. I had the incredibly bitter Boom Sauce from Lord Hobo Brewing Company and my FiL sipped on White Lion’s Insane Mane (which I sampled as well). Nice, dark joint and they didn’t mind the antsy toddler at the bar.

And that’s about the extent of my beer adventures here in Western Mass. I feel so out of it not knowing any of the beers on tap (particularly local ones) or knowing where and when special releases hit the shelves. Just today I went looking for the Victory/Dogfish Head collaborative saison and two of the above places didn’t have it.

It’s either going to be a long time until I get fully acclimated with this beer scene or I just get back to enjoying the beer again. I mean, every time I go out or pick up something to take home, I’m having a beer I’ve never had before. So, that’s something right? It will be interesting to see how long I go before I start chasing white whales again.

For those who read this blog (assuming that you know it’s producing again) for the beer stuff, hang in there. I’ll find something to say. I might even go back to reviewing records with beers again which could be fun.

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Also, I forgot to mention that it helps to have good neighbors. There will be more to say about this later, but I feel two families have been particularly welcoming and it would be wrong not to mention them in my quest for a place in the new beer scene. First, one couple has an in with Shelton Brothers. We’re hoping to set up a tasting sometime. I don’t need to tell you how excited that makes me. If/when it happens, that will be a night of epic beer drinking proportions. Probably.

The other neighbor only had two beers in his house when I was over last. It just so happens they were both two-year-old brews from Brasserie Fantôme. The first was Saison D’Erezée – Hiver which somehow tasted like a peaty scotch. How does that happen?!? Then, there was  Fantôme de Noël which was also silly good. I suspect there will be more stories involving that guy when the only two beers in his house are two white whales of the highest order.

My Non-Encounter with Kim Gordon

Posted in Book, Life, Massachusetts, Travelog by SM on August 2, 2015

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Let me begin by saying that I am not a stalker. I do have a habit of obsessing over my heroes when there’s an off-chance I could meet them at the least and become best friends in my own delusional world at the most. Then, I realize I’m about to overstep and back off, because they are just working schmucks like the rest of us. Now, by overstepping, I would never do anything weird. I might just be a hanger-on or an awkward third wheel or whatever. But I’ll explain that all below.

So, as you know, we moved to Western Massachusetts. We live in Amherst (where J Mascis lives), next to Hadley (where there are farms, big box stores, and Frank Black), and across the river from Northampton (once the home of Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore in a grand, old house on a hill). It’s liberal heaven and beautiful. There are five fairly progressive campuses on top of each other and two of them are all-women colleges (which are either cooler or lamer than your school, the former in this case) surrounded by wilderness, rolling farm land, and mountains.

As I hinted above, some of my heroes live or have lived in the area. Kim Gordon is one in particular. I’m reading her excellent memoir Girl in a Band. So, I was sure Kim and I would hit it off or she would find my daughter reminds her of her daughter or my son would charm her the way he charms everyone or my incredibly talented wife would make quick friends with her as they discuss feminism over wine or… You get the picture.

It was nothing creepy. I, like any Sonic Youth fan, went through a Kim Gordon phase (similar to phases involving Kathleen Hanna, Kim Deal, etc.), but that was a youthful crush. I have friends Kim’s age with similar sensibilities. I didn’t want to have steal a piece of her soul or spy on her or her child. I’m just a fan who wanted on the inside, but I didn’t want to harm my hero in any way.

That said, I learned Kim Gordon was having a garage sale. How could I not go to Kim Gordon’s garage sale? Would I score some cool piece of art or a X-Girl t-shirt or some piece of Sonic Youth memorabilia? Something. And I would hand my cash to Kim and we’d strike up a conversation and she would ask that I bring the kids by sometime and maybe her daughter could babysit… I have an active imagination, but it hardly resembles reality.

Using my expert Googling skills, I confirmed that the address on the flier a friend sent me a pic of was indeed Kim Gordon’s residence. Not wanting to overwhelm her street with parked cars, I parked on a main strip and walked the last couple of blocks. At the corner of her street was another sign with that distinctive flier. Running down the hill was what looked to be the type of aging hipster who would be good friends with someone like Kim Gordon. You know the type. These dudes can pull off longish gray hair, a pair of Ray-Bans, Chuck Taylor’s well into the nursing home. He was fixing the sign. So, I hurried in case he was closing up the garage sale.

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The house was old and somewhat stately. The landscaping was the typically overgrown New England jungle that somehow looked purposeful despite all the weeds. There were older foreign cars strewn along and in the driveway along the side of the house leading to the garage sale in the back.

I passed a for sale sign (same realty company we worked with) with more fliers covering one side and the other revealing an “Under Contract” add-on. This is when it struck me that this was more than an attempt at cleaning out some closets. Kim’s and Thurston Moore’s divorce had been known or in process for quite a while now. I guess I didn’t expect that she would leave Northampton. Rumor on the street is that Thurston lives in an apartment in Northampton with some rocker dude, but he’s rarely around as he’s been touring pretty steadily with his solo project. This was a divorce-caused-moving sale which is the saddest kind of garage sale. At that point, the sun felt a little more oppressive and the house began to sag a bit, but I was not to be deterred.

On my way toward the back, I could see some shelves, lamps, boxes of assorted stuff, and a couple of loaded bookshelves. A hipster couple walked in just ahead of me and an older couple was walking out with a newly purchased lamp. A few other people were perusing the piles as what sounded like a French woman oversaw the proceedings. And more aging hipster friends managed the merch.

The aforementioned hipster couple looked straight out of Singles. I guess grunge is back in style. They were raiding the racks of clothes. The woman was forcing a leather jacket around her torso, convincing her boyfriend that it fit. No doubt she was thinking it was Kim’s leather jacket, but the size made me think it was potentially Kim’s daughter’s, something she had grown out of years ago.

The lamp-carrying older couple looked a little less crazed grunge fan as they walked out with the retro metal lamp. We had a lamp like that once and I’m 99% it was also purchased in a garage sale. On their way out, the man turned to the screen door from where some loud music was coming on the side of the house and hollered “Goodbye, Kim” or some farewell message.

Kim Gordon was not actively supervising her own garage sale directly. However, I suspected that she might have been watching from her kitchen between packing boxes. Instead, a couple of dudes who were either in bands, owned record stores, or both managed some of the merchandise and took money from customers. The French woman wore a long, flowery dress and oversized sunglasses, encouraging people to look around and try things out.

This is when I started to shop. The racks were mainly filled with women’s clothing. I am terrible at shopping for women’s clothes, so I moved on. There were some nice shelves another couple was studying, but we just moved in and I didn’t know where we would put such shelves. Some card tables and boxes at typical garage sale junk. There was a box of framed art, but nothing hip of fancy. I grabbed a bicycle pump with a gauge. (However, in my haste, the pump was missing a nozzle necessary to actually pump up a bicycle tire.)

After browsing the bookshelves, I sauntered into the garage – one of those old, wooden, barn-like garages which probably got little to no use except to store some junk. The junk was there, but so were some Sonic Youth stacks or at least that’s what the masking tape labels claimed. Fifty bucks but you had to take the pair. I deliberated over this for a bit. I have a guitar with a pickup, but this seemed a silly thought as it’s an acoustic and I barely play. I then considered if the stacks would work for stereo speakers. Again, that’s ridiculous. Besides, we just moved into a smaller house and it was largely unpacked. I passed.

I clutched my bike pump and grabbed a bunch of kids books for my daughter. Kim’s daughter Coco was either an avid reader or she just had a lot of books. And they had all the right books from the last 15-20 years of children’s lit. I wanted some science books for my upcoming gig as a 4th grade math and science teacher, but it was mostly literature.

As I wrapped up my shopping, I still hadn’t found anything personal that screamed “SONIC YOUTH” or “this was Kim Gordon’s personal whatever.” Then I found a blank book or journal in the stacks. The cover was an Andy Warhol piece, one of those blank books you buy at Barnes & Nobles to use as a diary of journal. I opened it to see if it was still blank. However, inside the front cover was a collection postcards, newspaper clippings, ticket stubs, etc. On the first page it read “Remember that Katie gave this to me.” I continued to flip through the pages. There were some crude drawings and comics, but most of it was blank.

There was a rush of blood to my head at this point. I had stumbled onto a tiny piece of Coco Gordon Moore’s childhood, but even worse, it was her private journal. Sure, it was unfinished and forgotten, but this was more than I bargained for. I am not a stalker. I do not need to be inside Kim Gordon’s or her daughter’s life. Despite selling her things on her driveway, she and her family didn’t deserve my snooping even if it was accidental.

I quickly shoved the book back into the shelf and went to pay for my items.

One of the aging hipsters came up with a price and I agreed to pay. (I don’t haggle.) The stack of books were a little unwieldy, so they offered me a tote bag from a bin of assorted tote bags. The French lady (not totally sure she was French, but it makes for a better story) grabbed me this “jazz in Paris” tote and I was on my way.

As I walked back to my car, I thought about Kim Gordan’s junk. I only use the word “junk” because that’s what everyone sells in a garage sale. There was an expectation of cool items that would connect to Kim’s celebrity, but that was unrealistic. Kim Gordon has junk in her garage sale like the rest of us.

And that’s when it hit me. The thing I like about the musicians I like is that they are all working stiffs like the rest of us. Sure, there are exceptions. There indie bands who have become insanely rich or down-to-earth megastars, but most indie rockers are often only a few months separated from a 9-5.

I’ve come to this conclusion on many occasions despite my near-worship of bands on indie labels playing the same shitty clubs my friends play. I remember chatting with a friend who was talking about his chance encounter with Tori Amos and how magical that moment was. As he searched for the words to describe his experience, he finally just turned to me and said, “You know how you feel when you meet one of your people.”

I didn’t know how he felt. My “people” are like me. They have to work really hard for a living – on the road or in a steady job to make ends meet. They have families. They have student loans. They have car payments. And they sell junk in their garage sales.

Yeah, there is the celebrity and often there’s a bunch of money they have from doing some rock festivals overseas or having one hit song. I looked for some clues online as to where J Mascis lives. I assumed he lived in a neighborhood like mine or closer to downtown, but it turns out his mansion with recording studio burnt down a few years ago. He doesn’t live in my neighborhood, needless to say. Kim Gordon’s house was listed as selling for 1.5 million dollars online. I don’t know how accurate that is, but she doesn’t live in my neighborhood either.

Still, there are all these moments where one rock hero or another demonstrated some bit of humanity that’s made me check my hero worship. There was that time when the guys from Archers of Loaf reminisced a raucous show they cut short because the crowd was too rowdy, stating that “they needed to be beat down with yard sticks or something.” There was that time Bob Pollard drunkenly talked my brother’s ear off about the importance of the teaching profession. There was just the other day when I was listening to the last Walkmen record and on the back cover was a portrait of the band members and their children. There are so many other moments, but the point remains that no matter the fame (or perceived fame), they’re all a bunch of working stiffs like you and me.

Kim Gordon sold her house and a load of her junk because she’s leaving the Pioneer Valley. She has to do all of this because her husband had a midlife crisis and hooked up with a much younger woman. They divorced and suddenly look as vulnerable as the rest of us. She played her last show in town and packed her car. Most of this move is documented on Instagram, much like the way I recorded my own move.

There’s some saying about how we all eat, shit, and fuck like everyone else or something to that effect. We have to remember this about our heroes now and again. I am the worst about getting wrapped up in celebrity. Luckily, people’s humanity shines through and I’m reminded they are people who are no better than I am. Conversely, I am no better than they are and I don’t deserve a piece of them, even if I pay for their junk at a garage sale.

Additional note about the book: Kim Gordon has a straightforward writing style that shows her story to be an interesting in worthy read. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that we should have been hearing more from her over the years than her ex Thurston Moore. Gordon is sharp, politically aware, open-minded, and in-touch with reality. This memoir – although I’m not done reading it – is right up there with the Patti Smith book, Just Kids. You don’t have to be a fan of Sonic Youth to enjoy this book, but you should be a lover of the arts and a leftist.

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Early Favorites Records of 2015

Posted in Records, Review by SM on July 31, 2015

A hiatus means that one misses a lot of opportunities to write about all kinds of things. For me, beer is one and records are the other. With the epic bender to empty my cellar, I don’t know that I have the time to tell you all the beers I missed blogging about. (Really, I’m a little embarrassed how much high-ABV I’ve consumed recently.) So, I’ll stick with my favorite records of this year so far. Some may still be there when I inevitably do a year-end list, but I’m not there yet. Be sure to scroll to the bottom for the Spotify playlist.

Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love

I actually reviewed this record in this calendar year, proving that I was alive as late as late January. Additionally, we took our older kid (6.5 years at the time) to her first real concert when S-K hit middle Missouri. (I really should have returned to blogging then as there were so many Carrie sightings by my family and friends. Alas, I was not feeling it.) And nothing has changed how I feel about this band or their latest album.

While it is up to debate whether or not this is S-K’s best effort (I prefer different S-K releases for different contexts), it is hard to argue that this isn’t their most complete album. From the first fat notes (“Price Tag”) to the anthemic ending (“Fade”), this record never lets up. Riding themes of feminism and activism (“New Wave”, “Surface Envy”), the rush from performing (“Fade” again), the evils of capitalism and debt (“Price Tag” again), life on the road (“No Cities”), and being an aging rock star (“No Anthems”, “Bury Our Friends), etc., No Cities does the whole “personal as political” as well as or better than any other S-K record. And the instrumentation (guitars, drums, vocals – gawd, the vocals) are just a whole other level hinted at in The Woods but never quite realized. No Cities to Love hits all the notes…no, more like pummels all the notes only to build them back again into something new and inspiring.

Viet Cong – S/T

Viet Cong are this year’s Joy Division, but that somehow seems limiting. Nah, this band is this year’s Joy Division as blended with a bunch of other Canadian bands. Take the raw power and energy of Japandroids, the anthemic dissonance of Godspeed You Black Emperor, the acidic take on modern life a la Ought, and maybe the awareness of Broken Social Scene and then toss in some lazy Joy Division bits and you’ve got yourself a review for Spin!

Twerps – Range Anxiety

I feel like Twerps just sounds like every band I liked from the 90’s as played through a filter of The Sundays. There’s lazy afternoons and meeting strange, exotic love interests, and even a bit about getting married. This is a nice, easy record to like. It’s pleasant, has a good pace, and hits all the right spots. I want every summer drive to have this album as the background music.

Krill – A Distant Fist Unclenching

Ever had a dream that goes at a persistently fast pace and no matter how you wish to take the controls and change the direction it’s going, it continues to move in a direction you’re not completely comfortable with. Then, you realize that’s how your day is actually going and it’s no dream. To me, that’s what Krill sounds like. It’s bluntly honest and downright immature at times, but it gets at that helplessness when your life is a runaway train and somehow you just reside yourself to sit back and enjoy accept the ride.

Yowler – The Offer

This year’s quiet, earnest, female singer-songwriter seems to be Yowler. It doesn’t hurt that Maryn Jones is from my old stomping grounds in Columbus, OH of course, but this little solo record (Jones is in Saintseneca) was a pleasant surprise. Quiet and haunting, Jones knows what contemplative first-year college students want to listen to alone in their dorm rooms. Or so I’ve heard. Anyway, the production is stripped down but not exactly lo-fi. It feels less experienced than Cat Power did 17 or so years ago. It’s quieter than, well pretty much everything. The only drawback is that Yowler is not yet available on vinyl. So, it’s all Spotify for me until someone imprints this on a black circular piece of plastic with crackles in between laments.

Radical Dads – Universal Coolers

Steve Keene covers (multiple!) don’t hurt, but this band fills my need for jangly 90’s guitar rawk to a t. Like many of the bands on this list, Radical Dads would have easily fit on a bill in the mid-90’s. What can I say? I’m a one-trick pony. The band continues its egnagingly feedbacked guitar onslaught I first discovered in 2013’s Rapid Reality. Additionally, it’s yet another example of the effect women in rock bands of the 90’s have had on modern performers. There’s just a better, richer space for women to occupy and I believe (well, probably a lot of people believe) this is directly due to the bands and performers of that era. Where am I going with this? I mean, Rad Dads just happen to have a woman fronting the band, but they are a powerful, 90’s indie-esque rock band and now I’ve pigeon-holed them. Whatever, the band works and Universal Coolers is a fun romp through my college years. (I feel a little cheap for that description. Just know that if you like what I like – 90’s indie rock – you’ll appreciate Radical Dads who will surely not quote any of this on their Facebook page. Of course, they just became actual rad dads and a mom or something. So, the bump they are certainly going to get from this awful write up is for nothing.)

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Sometimes I Just Sit

It’s Courtney Barnett’s world and we just live in it. Somehow, after two impressive EP’s, Barnett has followed up with a record that should be on many, many year-end lists. She’s somehow Evan Dando, Bob Dylan (yeah, you read that right), Curt Cobain, Ben Lee, and Sheryl Crow (you also read that right) all rolled into one. Look, she’s fun and hits all the right notes while maintaining some personality. The record is solid from beginning to end. This is your album of the year. Next.

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Or this is your album of the year. It feels as if Sufjan Stevens is back to doing Sufjan Stevens type things. Don’t get me wrong. I liked Age of Adz, but it wasn’t about a state and it wasn’t all whisper-y and/or whimsical with the most gut-wrenching lyrics about Jesus. This is record is that and maybe Stevens’ most personal record. There’s some things one would only expect to hear as Sujan Stevens’ therapist, not anyone with an iTunes account. As usual, the record is immaculately arranged and recorded. There are so many stories so personal, I’m almost surprised he released this album. I get the sense SS has been sitting on this album for years, waiting for the moment he was ready to put these songs to tape. And if you don’t feel it when listening to Carrie & Lowell, you are soulless or a cynic.

Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp

Another female-fronted band that sounds like 1995, but this one is different than the others and this record is really good (as well). Katie Crutchfield nails that indie, cowpunk, alt.country thing that kept slipping into rock music and she lets on the feedback and heart-on-sleeve lyrics to boot. Crutchfield continues with that formula as perfected on the excellent Cerulean Salt with a few interesting interludes (in particular, opening track “Breathless” and “La Loose”). All that said, “Summer of Love” is the obvious choice for song of the summer.

Built to Spill – Untethered Moon

I bought Built to Spill’s latest on Record Store Day when it was released out of a sense of loyalty. When you buy a Built to Spill record, you know what you’re getting. And that’s fine. I loved early Built to Spill gems like There’s Nothing Wrong with Love and Perfect from Now On, but everything since has been hit or miss – certainly more hit, just not what those early records meant to me. That said, Untethered Moon is a look back at those years in a way in terms of both subject matter and music. This record is more than just the same old from a cherished band. It’s a reward for sticking around and buying yet another release.

Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

 

All I read about is how Alabama Shakes don’t sound as good on record as they do live. Well, if that’s truly the case, their live show must kill every single night. There’s so much range on this album yet it’s so precise in its delivery. I don’t get what people want Alabama Shakes to be. Do they want more blues, punk, jam band, throwback, southern, etc.? Well, those people are wrong. There’s nothing wrong with this record and there’s nothing wrong with Alabama Shakes.

Don’t believe me? I encourage you to buy all these records or go see these bands when they hit your locale.

I’ll write something about beer soon enough, but this needed to be posted.

Amherst, Mass

Posted in Life, Massachusetts, Meta by SM on July 25, 2015

(The Pixies are not my neighbors. Although, Frank Black does live in Hadley.)

I no longer live in Middle Missouri. After ten long years of enduring its unforgiving heat and humoring the masses needing to be shown everything, I have left the Cave State for Amherst, Massachusetts. I don’t normally write about my distaste for the state in which I lived on this blog, but it was a tough time for me.

Sure. I met some amazing people and had some amazing experiences, but it was time to go.

So, what does one do when one moves 1300 miles to a region he knows pretty much nothing about? I guess I’ll kick this blog off again for one and tell you what else I am trying to do to get acclimated.

Before that, I had to decide what could be moved and what couldn’t. Since this is a blog that has focused on beer and music, I’ll start (and probably end) there. The beer from my cellar had to be consumed. So, for the past few months, I have been drinking through all the stuff I was trying to age. This wasn’t a big deal as most of these beers were over a year old, meaning they were aged to perfection. In my opinion, 1-2 years is plenty of time to age a beer (made for aging). Additionally, the homebrewing I didn’t really have time for since my son’s birth last year came to a standstill. I did manage one batch of a blueberry lambic. Even that didn’t have the time it really required to age perfectly.

The records were a different story. After some extensive Googling, I found that the standard, small boxes from Uhaul were ideal. The trick is to pack them in tightly so that there’s no room for bending, breaking, or warping. So far, all the records have played well. So, you can release your collected breaths. FTR, the records were the first things I packed but not the first things I unpacked. Once I could get agreement for the placement of the Expedit shelving, I was able to unpack my collection. It’s not a huge record collection, but it more than makes up what it lacks in quantity with quality.

At this point, we’re pretty settled. I have done minimal exploring and have a lot to learn. There are a few good vignettes I’d like to share, but I may have to share them over the course of several posts. I’d really like to get back to longer posts that explore subjects and not just reports or updates on what I am doing.

That said, I can at least give you a preview of a few of these topics. There was the day I drove over to Northampton to buy some of Kim Gordon’s old stuff at her garage sale. It’s not an exciting story and it’s really kinda sad that she’s leaving the area, but it presents an opportunity for an interesting blog post. There are the breweries and beer retailers I’ve discovered not to mention the rich craft beer scene here. So, there will be plenty of beer-related posts. (This is important as more of you read this blog for the beer stuff than the indie rock rants.) I also have a completely new music scene to sort out. There are some interesting leads and still record stores to explore, but that will take me some time. Also, there’s a generally cool area of DIY and local craft economies to suss out. I have a lot to process.

Sorry for the hiatus I seem to go through every few months. I think I have the motivation to make this blog work again. Either way, thanks for sticking with me. If you are new, please look back through Beer and Pavement’s history. There’s some stuff in there I’m quite proud of (and some I’m not).

(Also note the change in username. I have taken on a job that I don’t want to jeopardize with a beer blog in which I curse now and again or profess controversial ideas. So, consider me somewhat anonymous.)

 

I’m Back

Posted in Meta by SM on July 23, 2015

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It looks like I couldn’t give this up. Stay tuned…

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