The Marked Men – Ghosts

23 07 2009

The Marked MenGhosts
2009 – Dirtnap

Image Credit: 203 Publicity

Image Credit: 203 Publicity

First up, I love me some Marked Men. I was turned on to them, embarrassingly enough, by Mitch Clem’s Nothing Nice To Say, which featured their second-latest album, Fix My Brain, in the number-one slot of its Best Albums of 2007 strip. I’m not normally that big on pop-punk or powerpop or whatever it’s called these days, but I did come of age in the mid 90s, which means, I think, that it’s in my DNA. My first show was a pop-punk show (Lagwagon – yeah, yeah; it was Edmonton, Alberta in 1994), and while I was always more into the Dead Kennedys than NOFX, I have had a fondness for The Queers, Mr. T. Experience, early Green Day, The Hi Fives, and a whole bunch of local poppy punky bands. What I mean to say is I don’t consider myself “into” pop punk, but I guess I kind of am. Not that it necessarily matters, since I’m not sure that the Marked Men count as pop punk, but they made me think of that little rant, so there you go.

Anyway, the band’s latest album, Ghosts has the band sounding older than they did before and rougher than they did on Fix My Brain. There aren’t as many insanely catchy hooks, but the driving, uplifting guitar is still there, and I kind of like the move from super hooky to older, messier, (drunker?), and fuzzier. It sounds like these guys have been listening to my husband’s band, actually. They sound muscular and reckless in the best possible way. Where the band’s previous albums are great and poppy and really tuneful, with great vocals and harmonies and good, hooky, catchy song structures, Ghosts is more raw (sorry, I hate that term, but it’s true) and sounds like they worried less about making things sound nice and more about getting their balls up to the wall as much as they possibly could. The whole thing clocks in at 30 minutes for 15 songs, too, so most of the tracks are super simple, super concise, and super compact. Each song sounds like its exploding out of the gate – none of this pussy transition nonsense for these guys!

All in all, I’ve listened to it twice now, and I like it more the second than the third. I’m sure if you watch my last.fm, you’ll see it quickly overtake my current top-listened bands (which are, by the way, inaccurate, but still). I am not the dancing kind, but this album makes me want to dance around my apartment by myself. I wish that there were more bands like this around. So many of the “garage rock” and “pop punk” and “rock ‘n roll” bands out there today have so little heart and guts, it really does hit you like a tonne of bricks when you hear something like this album.

I can only hope these guys make it out to San Francisco soon and play a show or two. Go get this album.

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Parts & Labor – Mapmaker

27 07 2008

Parts & LaborMapmaker
2007 – Jagjaguwar/Brah

Okay, so, apologies to the 3 people who have found and read (or did read, until I stopped writing) this blog. I hit a writer’s block – ironic, since I’m not a writer and suck at it when I do it recreationally. Ah well; so it goes.

The album that finally inspired my ass back into writing was Parts & Labor’s Mapmaker. I worked the day shift at the record store on Friday, and my still-mostly-drunk coworker bought me this record after seeing that I’d been listening to Husker Du the night before, which was nice of him, since I’m broke until Wednesday. He told me to take it home and listen to it loud, which I didn’t do, since the only system I currently have is my laptop, which only has one working speaker. Instead, I put it on my ipod and listened to it on my long walk to work the next day.

Yow.

I kind of thought my coworker was talking shit when he said these guys took a page from Husker Du. I mean, they’re from Brooklyn. I figured they might have a good song or two, but I was in no way prepared for what this album sounds like. It does kind of sound like Husker Du, but it sounds like Husker Du and something else… it sounds like Husker Du smashed up with The Dismemberment Plan. Actually, at first, I thought the singer was Dismemberment Plan frontman, Travis Morrison, but it’s not. In fact, the four guys in Parts & Labor don’t really seem to be or have been in any other bands at all.

But what’s it like, really?

Mapmaker sounds like all the stuff that other people think is so great about Animal Collective (noisy, sort-of-long songs and lots of dynamics and soaring vocals and kind of a freewheeling, letting loose kind of feeling to the whole enterprise) but done, well, well, rather than in a profoundly irritating fake-animal way like A.C. That is to say, it’s driving Husker Du-esque drums (with lots of tight, interesting flourishes – the drumming on this album rules), soaring, distant and echo-y sounding vocals, lots of weird, electronic guitar and keyboard-ish noises that sound like drills and buzzsaws half the time, no bass on half the songs, and even the odd electronic beat or squawk thrown in. There’s lots of energy, and the songwriting is tight enough to keep all the disparate sounds from sounding like an annoying pile of trendy noise. There are even a few dance-y kind of hooky tunes, but not enough to make this a dance band in any sense of the word. What I mean to get at is that this is a band that is better than the sum of its parts and that looks worse on paper.

Finally, these guys sound like they mean it, and I suppose that’s probably what I like most about this album. Yes, there are lots of trendy, hip, elements in their songs, but that doesn’t seem to really matter in the face of the four guys in the band just, for lack of a better term, givin’er. It’s totally shitty of me to say, but Parts & Labor sound like they love music and love playing, and hearing this album made me realize how relatively rare that is in music coming out today.

Thanks for getting me out of my slump, guys.

Also Listened (some picks from the last 45 days):
Beck – Modern Guilt
Alejandro Escovedo – Real Animal
Quest For Fire – S/T
Husker Du – Flip Your Wig
Carcass – Heartwork
Lair of the Minotaur – The Ultimate Destroyer
Fugazi – The Argument
Elliott Brood – Mountain Meadows
She Wolves – S/T
Melvins – Nude With Boots
Antelope – Reflector