Dinosaur Jr – Farm

7 07 2009

I never really got good at skateboarding. You want to know why? It was because when I was in grade three, shortly after I got my first skateboard, some little Thrasher-reading shit I had a crush on told me that I was too ugly to skateboard. He had based his opinion on the photos he’d seen in his skate magazines, and I never touched a skateboard again.

It’s petty of me, sure, but as a result of that unfortunate nine-year-old’s experience, I’ve had a bit of a grudge against skateboarding, skateboarders, and skate “culture” generally. I’ve dated my share of skaters, but I’ve never gotten very interested in their skate music, their skate videos, or hanging out at the skate park. I don’t regret it, except that apparently, my personal vendetta caused me to completely miss the boat on a few bands I wish I’d gotten into at a younger age. I count Dinosaur Jr among them.

Apparently, Dinosaur Jr started releasing albums in 1985, when I was four years old, so I guess it’s not surprising I didn’t get in on the ground floor. They kept releasing albums fairly steadily until 1997, and then they took a ten-year break, returning in 2007 with the first Dinosaur Jr album I listened to regularly, Beyond. 2009 brings the arrival of Farm and also (at least temporarily) the demise of my music collection (RIP, friend). I will chalk the coincidence up to happy.

Like I said, I missed out on a lot of music growing up, so when it comes to albums like this, I’m not sure if I’m getting it right, but I will say that track five, Your Weather, is fucking great. It’s all echoey with pounding drums, and the guitar line doesn’t sound like a normal guitar line at all. It sounds like an awesome trombone line from Prokofiev. Actually, the whole album is pretty great. Some of the songs remind me almost uncomfortably of Pearl Jam (well, no, of Eddie Vedder – SORRY! I can’t help what triggers my traumatic memories!), but I guess it’s less that Dinosaur Jr sound like Pearl jam and more that Pearl Jam is one of the only bands who I listened to (or was forced to listen to) whose sound makes me feel nostalgic in a similar way, and I guess that’s what this album does.

Farm certainly doesn’t sound outdated, but it also certainly doesn’t sound like it’s from a band that formed in the last five years (or even ten years). Again, my frame of reference is flawed and stunted, but this album sounds like the kind of thing I wish I’d been listening to in junior high school to have supplemented my steady diet of Nirvana and Soundgarden. It’s got more maturity and more heart than either of those bands ever showed, and maybe it’s because it was written and recorded by old guys who have had the time to develop more than Kurt Cobain had in 1993; we’ll never know. The songs have the same sound that I remember hearing sometimes when I’d overhear what the older kids were listening to, but they’ve got a cadence and feel that seems more suited for where old-school Dinosaur Jr fans must be now: drinking a few too many beers and nursing their bad knees and bad backs.

Anyway, I’m rusty at this, so I’m going to quit now, but I recommend Farm if you’re in the mood for good guitar, good songwriting, and a bit of nostalgia.


These Arms Are Snakes – Tail Swallower and Dove

8 11 2008

These Arms Are SnakesTail Swallower and Dove
2008 – Suicide Squeeze

You know, I like math rock. I’ve come to terms with it. That particular taste is largely a product of my age and the kind of music that was popular when I was record shopping every weekend and buying the CDs of every single band my band ever played with or every show I saw. Though I haven’t listened to them in a while, The Owls were fairly big in my musical sights in the early 2000s, as were Cap’n Jazz, Battles, and to a lesser extent, Don Caballero. Looking back on it now, those were much more earnest musical times, or at least what I saw was, and I may have missed a lot.

Anyway, I’ve bought all of TAAS’s albums, but I haven’t liked any of them as much as I like this latest, unexpected (by me, anyway) release. Math rock (well, lots of music from the early 2000s) is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. My husband is something of a rock purist and has no patience for instrumental music or complicated mathy noisy stuff. Though I dno’t define my musical tastes based on his, I do respect his musical knowledge and opinions, so I’ve been harbouring kind of a guilty affection for math rock, which, I’m now thinking, Husband would say sounds “emo.”

Anyway, Tail Swallower and Dove brings me back to those days when I was just starting to really figure out the music scene outside of my hometown but under the radio radar. There are mathy breakdowns and strange time signatures, but they don’t sound requisite in this record; instead they sound like a fond memory, and I like ’em. TAAS use electronic noises and guitar loops to achieve some almost industrial-sounding sonic backgrounds and then throw distorted vocals and hooky, odd-signatured guitar riffs into the mix, and the whole thing just makes me incredibly nostalgic in a way I’m having a hard time really explaining in any kind of effective way. Sorry.

So, where TAAS’s firt album was a bit noisy for me, and their second was a bit industrial-sounding, this latest album hits it just right for me. Take a listen!

The 13th Floor Elevators

2 06 2008

The 13th Floor ElevatorsThe Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators
1966 – International Artists

The first track of this album made me realize something: I know nothing about music.

“You’re Gonna Miss Me” appears in the opening scene of one my favorite movies, High Fidelity. John Cusack gives a monologue about pop music and whether it’s the music that makes people miserable or simply that people predisposed to misery tend to listen to pop music. At the end, he cranks his stereo, which is playing this song, and yells out the window at his ex-girlfriend. I bought the soundtrack to the movie as soon as it came out, and for some reason, I always thought “You’re Gonna Miss Me” was a Kinks song. I know.

Now that I listen to the song again, I don’t know how I could have thought that (or at least how I could have continued to think that up until about 30 minutes ago).

The 13th Floor Elevators were around from about 1965 to 1968 and were based out of Austin, Texas. Their lead songwriter, singer, and guitar player was Roky Erikson, who, again, I knew was an important musician but had never figured out that he was in this band. According to wikipedia, the most distinctive thing about the 13FE’s sound was the sounds of the electric jug, as played by Tommy Hall. I still find this sound mystifying even after learning what it was. How is he playing it? Is he blowing it? Hitting it? What?

The album itself isn’t as “psychedelic” as I would have thought, given both the album cover and the album’s reputation as one of the great psychedelic masterpieces of all time. I guess it’s because I wasn’t around when the psychedelic scene was happening, but I tend to think of things like sitar and 18-minute songs when I think of psychedelia. It was a surprise to look at the track listing for The Psychedelic Sounds… and see 21 tracks, most around 3:00 minutes long. It was another surprise to hear how structured they were. To me, this sounded like 60s rock ‘n roll, not what I conceived of as 60s psychedelic music. All this is to say, I liked this album a lot more than I thought I was going to

Also Listened:
The Coup – Party Music
Levon Helm – Dirt Farmer
A bunch of dub on last.fm
Teenage Head and Marky Ramone – LIVE (as in, saw them live)