“This song is about licking the blood of Christ’s cock while he’s up there dying!” Neil McAdams, bearded vocalist for Black Breath snarls, as the rest of the band launches into one of their many crusty, Entombed-derived “death ‘n’ roll” tunes. The small but exuberant crowd of people near the stage cheer in approval, heads banging, fists pumping, energy building, to the point where you know a pit will erupt sooner than later, which doesn’t always happen for an opening band.
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Some bands are the sum of their parts and nothing more: the individual musicians need to feed off each other to achieve good music. They need that chemistry of the players. Other bands are the opposite, featuring great solo musicians that don’t play well with others. Those bands don’t usually last long, as the music doesn’t gel or interpersonal conflicts cause the band to splinter.
It’s a rare band that achieves both ends of this spectrum, and Fleetwood Mac is one group who has somehow found a way to thrive artistically as a band while also spawning a plethora of creative solo works. (Granted, of course, that many of those solo works came from artists who left the band due to conflict.)
Jacob Furr has been on our radar for a couple years, due to the surprisingly small world of Texas songwriters and Country Fried Rock alumni. Larry Hooper played Couch By Couch West and mentioned Furr, and then through our recent alumni, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, we were also connected via conversations about coffee. How does all of this relate to Furr’s new album, Trails & Traces? As Jacob profoundly says in our conversation, “We don’t live in a vacuum. None of us are doing this alone.”
“When someone comes up and goes, ‘oh man, that was fucking great, you guys rocked’, you are just like, ‘oh, thanks a lot, that is really nice.’ But then this friend of mine… in San Francisco, I remember a couple years ago—this is totally one of the nicest compliments that anyone has ever said – he was like, ‘oh my god, you guys were playing and it was so confusing, I felt like I was walking around in circles smoking cigarettes the whole time.’
—Brian Girgus, Skyscraper, Summer 1999
The chances that Girgus’ friend was specifically talking about “Stairways”, the short instrumental track on Kill the Lights, are admittedly slim, but all the same, that is as apt a way as any to describe the mood of the song. It is also probably not a bad way to explain how a lot of lowercase’s music makes you feel.
Mendelsohn: This week, Klinger, we are going to listen to My Morning Jacket’s Z. Released in 2005, this album took the band from being a reverb-soaked psychedelic outfit with a strong indie following to a bonafide critical success, racking up accolades for expanding and polishing their sound. Before this record came out, I hadn’t really paid any attention to My Morning Jacket. I couldn’t get behind all the reverb and warbling falsetto from lead-singer and main songwriter Jim James. It wasn’t until both Pitchfork and Rolling Stone started tossing around platitudes like”Z is My Morning Jacket’s OK Computer”, or “America is a lot closer to getting its own Radiohead, and it isn’t Wilco”, that I decided to investigate further. I didn’t find an American Radiohead. I understand why some music critics might be wiling to make that comparison, lazy though it may be. The record was produced by John Leckie, who had helmed Radiohead’s The Bends (also the Stone Roses’ self-titled debut and worked on Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, plus a couple of Beatles solo projects to name a few). Z also finds a band shifting directions and elevating their game, much like Radiohead had done in the jump from The Bends to OK Computer. Was Z it another OK Computer? No, but My Morning Jacket seemed to find another gear, taking their music beyond the ordinary with a renewed vigor.