by Tom Hallett
A long-forgotten “Rock N’ Roll” desk calendar.
A dusty jade Buddha with a bauble-laden charm bracelet thrown haphazardly over
his bulbous shoulders, and a plastic soda bottle lid cocked dangerously to one
side on his massive chrome dome. A tiny red toy parrot with the name “Drew”
scrawled on its side in black marker that, when pushed down, squawks once, barks
once, then squawks again. A lucky rubbing stone. One lone white pushpin. Two
remote controls, neither of which apparently control anything remotely useful.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Get a day job. Get a day job. You have to be willing to roll with the punches. If you want to love your music, and not feel that you have to sell your ass down the river to get something going, you’re probably going to want to keep your day job.”
SONG OF THE WEEK: “Dirt”
A bathroom poetry pamphlet, edited by the late, great Paul
Dilsaver, with a graphic portrait of the human colon on the cover, called “The
Toilet Papers.” One medium-sized stuffed duck which, when pressed in the
right spot, quacks out the AFLAC insurance blurb three times in a row: “AFLAC!
AFLAC! AFLA-A-A-C!” Two computer speakers, only their tip-tops in full
view. One stand-up roach clip containing a very small, measly winter roach.
A pack of Marlboros with four smokes left in it. One green Turf Club lighter.
Oh, and SEVEN POUNDS of press kits held in place only by the
sheer weight of the massive mound of unreviewed CDs that came with them in the
mail over the past few months. Yes, folks, these are the items currently on
display in front of me at my desk. My God, how have I gotten so far behind?
Granted, there are only so many days in the week on which I
can comfortably sit down and go through the scads of albums, EPs, singles, demos,
rough mixes, DVDs, and videos that pour through my door like a veritable musical
waterfall. And that’s just the stuff I get from friends and people I know.
The shit that comes in the mail every single day of the week—well, let’s
just say there are times when I’m not so sure the “indie”
revolution was all it’s cracked up to be. I mean, I love the fact that
I can get a fucked-up cassette copy of three half-brothers from Eerie, Pennsylvania,
who play broom handle guitar, washtub bass and pots and pans simply because
EVERYBODY has a computer now and can find places to review their albums. That’s
the fun part.
The sucky part is that every dumb ass kid in the world who,
before the PC became an integral feature of every “civilized” household,
would’ve simply gone through a “phase” with a crappy garage
band, can now sit down and make crappy albums—sometimes all by himself—for
years and years and years and THERE’S NOBODY TO STOP HIM!! That, and the
fact that making music has become so much of a craft, rather than an art, that
it’s becoming nigh impossible to find brand-new, stick-to-your-ribs, love-it-to-death
rock an’ roll albums you’ll have in your collections until the day
you die, you know?
I mean, I’m a supposed “insider” in this
whole muck-fest called the “music biz,” and I frankly have to wonder
who exactly is helping to propel so many lackluster, run-of-the-mill, ho-hum
artists to the top of not only the mainstream charts, but the college and indie
charts as well. Sure, there are a couple artists at any given time on said charts
that stand out above the pack, but Jesus, look at the pack. And don’t
fool yourselves—Minneapolis is fucking GOLD compared to the shit-laden
airwaves across the rest of the country. And yeah, I know, a lot of kids today
put more stock in the music they find on “the web” than what’s
on any radio anywhere, but that somehow seems like an implosion of the power
of rock n’ roll, which, it always seemed to me, was supposed to bring
people together, in person, side-by-side, not over DSL lines.
Anyway, enough bitchin’. The fact is, regardless of the
oodles of reeking poo that extrudes out of rock’s collective 21st century
consciousness, there will always be that rare gem in the pile (and I do mean
pile, but I think I’ve made that point) that makes both my job as a filter
and your self-shouldered burden as a listener worth all the ear-torture we endure.
Which is all just my long-winded way of reminding you, the readers, and YOU,
the artists (or not) and purveyors of all the bad and the good sounds that come
my way, that my normal procedure for dealing with CRAP is to simply toss it
aside and make room for stuff I dig and hope others will too. Of course it all
comes down to taste, but I try, best as I can, not to shovel any undue poo your
However, when the stack of un-reviewed albums on my desk buries
such important things as my telephone, the killer Beatles pen I got for Christmas,
and that cup of change I use to buy smokes late at night, I gotta tear into
some shit. Therefore, over the month of March, I shall endeavor to go through
all of the CDs stacked up before me and present to you both the best and the
worst. At least, the worst that I can bear. Give me (and yourselves) a break.
Some of this stuff is so bad we could only be damaging the cosmic wheel by unleashing
even one word—in praise or curse—about it upon the world. And I
mean that, man. We’ll kick the whole mess off with a good ‘un, but
watch this space for some serious DECONSTRUCTION in the coming weeks. OK, getcher
wadin’ boots on, kids, because here we go—MARCH, THE MUSICAL MUCK
This Is Exploding EP (2003)
Personnel: Joshua Testy, vocals/Nick, guitar/Brian, bass/Dan,
Track Listing: “Girl Named Hell”/“Better”/“Uneducated”/“Neither
Slightly off-kilter, grainy, urgent power/garage-pop from,
where else, Cleveland. (Like Mott said, Cleveland rocks, and I have yet to find
any evidence to the contrary.) This five-song EP is one o’ them little
nuggets I’m so fucking thrilled to find buried among the coffee-house
crooners, indie poseurs and growling metal-monkeys that I play it over and over
again until the people around me have heard it so many times that they end up
loving it more than I do. (Damn, I should do more promotions work, man.)
Lead singer Joshua Testy spits out his lines—heartbreak,
angst and wounded ego, but what else do ya expect from a kid—like he’s
been waiting all of his life for a minute at the mic, and the band’s smooth
blend of influences ranging from Fugazi, Weezer, The Pixies, Sebadoh and (definitely)
Fretblanket make for a whirling, delicate cacophony.
The five songs included in this package are a moody, crackling
batch of post-modern rockers (and one ballad) whose subject matter ranges from
the obvious anti-love ditty (“Girl Named Hell”) to a friend’s
suicide (“Better”), sex (the “I want to fuck a smart girl”
twist of “Uneducated”), and existentialism (“Neither Do I,”
“Plan.”). The band also goes the extra mile here and includes a
thought-provoking claymation video for “Better,” a freaky, cosmic,
cartoon-like visual companion for that otherwise dark number.
All in all, this is a cool little E.P., and I’d definitely
check ‘em out live. Their website (http://www.thisisexploding.com) has updates,
photos, etc., and says they’ve got a full-length in the works. Watch for
‘em, ‘cause I got a feelin’ This Is Exploding is gonna hit
ya with a big (sorry) BANG real soon, baby.
That’s all the room we got this week, ye rambunctious,
rollicking Round The Dial readers, so tune in again for more March Musical Muck
Madness. Until next time—make yer own damn news.
If you have local music news/gigs/CD reviews you’d
like to see listed in this column, or you’d just like to whine about your
lousy luck to somebody besides a bartender, send replies to: TMygunn777@aol.com.