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by Stephen Rowland

28 Sep 2010


Oh, Clarity. Where have you gone? Why can’t you come back? Why have you left me alone?

I speak of course of Jimmy Eat World’s second full-length, the apex of its ever-lengthening career, and a paragon of emo when emo’s flame was still burning bright. Released in 1999, it put the likes of the Promise Ring, Modest Mouse, Mineral, Sunny Day Real Estate, and all those, sad, sad, pensive bands to shame while said bands were creating the best music of their careers. It was a mainstay in my Discman, filtered through a cassette adapter in my old Mazda truck that possessed only one operational speaker when I was 17 years old. Attached to, and enthralled by, its apparent simplicity yet simultaneous complexity, each song graced my ears over and over again, with lyrics confessional, thoughtful, and challenging, and music shimmering and beautiful even in its most aggressive moments. To this day, I still cherish it. Static Prevails (1996) was a strong debut, but Clarity was such a monumental leap forward that I knew, I just knew, the band would evolve into a musical force to make naysayers and hipsters eat their arrogant little words.

And then there was Bleed American (inexplicably going self-titled after the attacks of September 11th, 2001). After one listen, I was in full-on contempt mode. A pop record? A fucking POP record? Not just a pop record, but one with treacly ballads like “Hear You Me” and “My Sundown”, so ready for dishonest touching moments on WB programs and the last dance at the prom. And let’s not forget embarrassing misfires like “Get It Faster” which set eyeballs rolling with its pseudo-metal interludes; and added to that, the confusing phenomenon of “Cautioners” and “A Praise Chorus”, which are literally, chord-for-chord, the exact same song, albeit with slightly different arrangements, tempos, and instrumentation.

Yet, it all grew on me, and as Jimmy Eat World continued to decline, Bleed American became their second most adventurous album. And I do love pop. I just didn’t get what I wanted.

by Stephen Rowland

27 Sep 2010


In 1997, revered alternative country act the Scud Mountain Boys called it a day, and leader Joe Pernice (along, obviously, with his brother, Bob) quickly formed the Pernice Brothers, a group with a much less interesting name making decidedly more interesting music. Debuting on Sub Pop in 1998, Joe and Co. have been cranking out solid and often brilliant music for over a decade. This article examines and reviews all their major releases and hopefully gives insight into the songwriting evolution of the band, or more specifically, Joe Pernice. I feel it’s time we give them their due—they are by no means unknowns, but still fly a bit under the radar.

 

Pernice Brothers
Overcome By Happiness

Sub Pop (1998)
Rating: 5

Yeah, more like Overcome By NyQuil, as this record is the sonic equivalent to drool on a pillow. It’s so mellow it has fallen asleep. And it’s asleep so hard, it is almost comatose.

Now the actual Brothers Pernice’s prior group the Scud Mountain Boys had a similar sound, but there’s really nothing positive to say about them. If people were talking about them—which they weren’t—they were classifying the Scuds as an alternative-country band. I think not, unless Cat Stevens singing Burt Bacharach tunes is country. Or an alternative to that.

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

24 Sep 2010


Klinger: Hey Mendelsohn, remember the 1990s? What a crazy time! What with the Friends gang and the heroin chic and that hilarious guy Clinton makin’ mischief in the White House. Woo! Well here it is, crystallized in musical form!

Mendelsohn Ah, the 1990s. I remember that decade (vaguely). It was a simpler time, an age of innocence. You could still carry water bottles on airplanes and tell airport security screeners where they could stick that metal detector wand without fear that you might end up in Gitmo. Plus, grunge was everywhere. Depressed, apathetic kids, looking for an out from the system. They were angry and authentic. Not like today’s emo children. Deep down, all the emo children want is a hug from Mommy. Back then, all the grunge kids wanted was heroin—the only real existential escape from their existential hell. Albert Camus would have been proud. Or completely indifferent. Probably completely indifferent.

by Zachary Williams

23 Sep 2010


In the glory age of rock music (mid 1960s-early 1970s), the single was conceptualized as its own entity, separate from long-playing records. Particularly in Britain (where arguably the best music was being made), the album was a unified unit, not to be disjointed by an out-of-place single. Bands such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones crafted their most commercially-appealing work for the singles market and AM radio airplay, leaving their more “artistic” exploration to the long-playing format. Led Zeppelin honored this distinction to such an extent that the group did not officially release singles from its monolithic albums (some of the band’s songs were released as singles without its consent). American labels, constantly thinking about ensuring profits, often insisted on including singles on albums or reconfigured the albums themselves (see the American versions of the early Stones and Beatles LPs). Along with the rock titans from across the Atlantic, American artists like the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, and the Byrds crafted radio ready 7” sides between LPs as well.

This notion of between-album major works must have both excited and jaded listeners. This business model ensured constant saturation from your favorite bands. Imagine obtaining Rubber Soul in December 1965 and hearing the “Paperback Writer”/”Rain” single only six months later—which itself was merely a stopgap until Revolver’s August 1966 release. This kind of output is remarkable considering major contemporary artists routinely take a half-decade to release follow ups. The great rock bands of the ‘60s were so prolific that many of their albums stand up as the greatest of the genre while lacking their most popular concurrent works. Imagine “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” replacing “Within You, Without You” and “Good Morning, Good Morning” on the Beatles’ 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. How nicely would Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited look with “Positively 4th Street” replacing “From a Buick 6”?

by Timothy Gabriele

22 Sep 2010


Is there a more loathed creature out there than the music critic? Despite ranking somewhere between politician and lawyer in the public consciousness, the conflation of the Internet’s girth has seen the sheer volume of critics expand seismically. This, in and of itself, does not implicitly suggest a growth in demand, but the correlating rise in the layman’s musical knowledge (thanks to the bottomless resource of the Internet) suggests that music criticism is a desirable vice, like celebrity tabloids, gambling, or drugs. We dislike the idea of it, but we simply cannot tear ourselves away from the bottomless pit of consumption (in this instance, information and media consumption). 

The critics themselves share a portion of the fault in their poor public opinion, of course. The traditional music press in its heyday so seamlessly transformed itself into a placard for record labels and big box stores—churning out consumer reviews rather than focusing on relevant conversations about art in the age of access—that it hardly seems surprising that a new journal folds every couple of weeks. Nose-elevating cultural analysts have been quick to point out, with more than a hint of schadenfreude, that consumer reviews make little sense in an era when you can just stream or download the album yourself before purchasing (if the actual buying of music is even considered at all).  The conversation, they say, needs to go further than a friendly recommendation.

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