'Round the Dial: Little earthquakes
Wednesday 13 December @ 21:14:48
by TOM HALLETT
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "Restraint can be tough. Iíve made a point to learn how to make a slow song have as much impact as a fast song ... itís easy to just get out there and blast through a bunch of things and feel as though youíre exciting the audience." -John Doe, X
SONG OF THE WEEK: "Catastrophe" -IV Thieves
I felt the tiniest of tiny little earthquakes last week- it was in the middle of the night, no dishes fell and broke, no alarms sounded and more than likely most of the earthquake-hardened residents of the tiny hamlet of Homer, Alaska, never felt a thing. Me, I stayed wide awake for the next three hours, waiting for "The Big One" that, once again, didnít come. It did jar me out of my lethargy just enough to inspire me to throw in some discs Iíd had laying around and get some writing done, though. Thanks, Nature- I know when that "Big One" finally comes, Iíll at least have some of the wondrous soundscapes I experienced that night outta my inbox and under my belt. More reviews, then ...
Daveís Not Here
Modern Minstrel Music
At first glance, I seriously gave thought to just grinding this CD up in an industrial-sized trash compactor and pretending it had never found its way through the snow and tundra to my front door. Oh, no, I groaned- more "rock íní roll comedy!" Just what I need after a 4 a.m. earthquake and a recent run of bad luck thatís nearly as long as the list of charges the Bush administration will soon be facing.
Thankfully, Iím a reader. After checking out the accompanying PR letter, I found that some of the "Strange Friends" were, indeed, folks Iíd previously enjoyed listening to and was curious enough about to throw it in the old disc player. Names like Michael Bland (Prince, Paul Westerberg, Soul Asylum), Bill Bailey, Eric Hohn and Katy Thomasberg gave me pause, and after a much-appreciated Valium and a cup of decaf, I threw on Daveís Not Here.
Now, right away Iím wondering what kind of an outdated, dorky reference to the old Cheech & Chong skit was I going to be dealing with (the dopey duo once recorded an audio skit featuring a weed customer named Dave rapping on a dealerís door and saying, "Hey, man, itís Dave!" Heís misunderstood and receives the repeated answer, "Dave? Dave who?Ē until the end, when the listener-and the hopeful doper- hears, "DAVEíS NOT HERE!" Then, years later, local rockers Run Westy Run started a song called "Tell Everybody" on their Cockroach Park album with a sort of homage that features the door knock and one of the band members saying, "Dude. Itís dude. Is dude there?"), and WHY do some people still think I like "humorous" music?
See, funny to me and funny to some other folks are two different beasts altogether. Frank Zappaís "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?" isnít a very funny song, but the title always makes me want to giggle. That "Fishheads" song Dr. Demento played once in awhile actually hurt my brain to hear. Golden Smogís "Heís A Dick," Bob Dylanís "Whyíd You Kick My Dog?," and The Replacementsí "Tommy Got His Tonsils Out," though, all strike a weird chord of humor somewhere in my brain.
That being said, Iím glad I didnít judge this album solely on its rather silly title, band name or bizarre album cover. Right up front- this isnít a work of life-changing genius thatís going to alter the way the business works, or how kids approach instruments and songwriting, or probably even get much airplay this side of the commercial fence. On the other hand, itís a great smorgasbord of spot-on instrumental/vocal proficiency, surprisingly amusing lyrical wordplay, and a heartfelt tribute (I think) to the bandís recently departed pal, Dave Pederson. Hence the title. Which, Iím assuming, Dave would think was funny and is why it is what it is.
Song-wise, itís a wacky mish-mash of rock, blues, funk (well, some of these folks HAVE played with Prince ya know) and dance-floor fun. The other talented artists involved in this project (Peg Danaher, Pat Mavity, John Fenner, Tim Glaze and Joe Garcia- I wonít even try to categorize "Itchy Whilfarht" here) all meld their various contributions to create a batch of tunes that would certainly produce an Irish funeral-style foot-stomper of a celebration live, but I have a hard time imagining tossing many of them on mix CDs or out at my local DJ gig.
On the other hand, humor is in the gnarled, knotted brain tissue of the beholder, so who knows? My sympathies go out to Dave, though- Iím sure he wishes he couldíve been around for this grand musical celebration of his life. Bacterial meningitis- not just an entertaining Ween ditty anymore. Oh, OK, so Ween was singing about SPINAL meningitis, whatever. Me, Iím hoping thatís the last earthquake I feel in the middle of the night for awhile- Iím running low on Valium.
Scorch The Earth
Thereís probably been a kid just like the one Iím about to describe in just about every school in every modern era of American history- you know the kind. He was the first one to figure out that girls love geeks who rock íní roll, slugs would buy Pepsi out of the machine just as well as quarters would and those plastic toys in cereal boxes (my favorite was the Count Chocula / Boo-Berry / Franken-Berry pencil eraser line) were worth a lot in trade during school hours.
Of course, these guys later figured out how to play musical instruments, find places to practice and party under the radar and establish what some people now laughably call a "scene." There was once, in fact, a genuine "scene" in the Twin Cities (a few at a time, sometimes), and nobody was more responsible for (and gleefully guilty of promoting) said music/art collectives than the guy Iím talking about.
As far back as the Ď80s, local rock ní roll/punk whiz-kid Paul Dickinson (and his famed Speedboat Galleries) has been championing deserved individuals, movements and yes, even "scenes" here in the Twin Cities. You think Green Dayís "real punk?" Paul Dickinson gave a teen-aged Billy Joe Armstrong and his buddies their first live gig here in the ĎCities at one of his Speedboat gigs. THATíS punk, pal.
At the heart of Paulís massive local creative empire (from on-and-offline bookstores to art shows to rock fests to poetry readings- I once personally saw him absolutely shred Jim Carroll reading-wise at a First Ave. spoken word gig- to exhaustive support for up-and-comers) is the band Frances Gumm. Like the late Judy Garland (from whose given name his outfit draws its own), the ĎGummers have lived hard, burned brightly and inspired countless imitators.
Whether raging against injustice and political fascism (check out "I Will Not Be Destroyed," from their album My Sweet Demise), spewing forth surprisingly tender, punk-inflected ballads ("My Beautiful Friend" from the same album) or questioning the motives and tenacity of his contemporaries ("Do We Ride Tonight?" from the CD Victory Now), Dickinson has always displayed not only an amazing gift for lyrical wizardry, but absolutely leveled any and all competition musically.
Sure, you can call Ďem punk icons- but creating indie, original and refreshingly honest guitar rock is what FG does best, and their latest, Scorch The Earth, is another testament to the bandís (and its leaderís) ongoing commitment to flying the right kind of "free bird" at the right people. Kicking off with the thought-provoking, amp-frying blast of "Disaster And Enlightenment," the record immediately establishes itself as an exciting leap forward and a killer addition to the FG catalog.
"Taking Over" is a whirling, buzzing warning set to music that scruffily recalls Guided By Voices engaged in a head-spinning, heated argument with Sonic Youth, while the title track marches in still half-bombed, Dickinson snarling, "Now Iím lashing out ... Iím gonna scorch the earth!" FG stalwarts Leo Kuelbs, Jr. (drums) and bass-meister Dave Thiel are as up-front, essential, and swirled into the mix as ever- Dickinsonís no stage-hog, though he batters his axe as if every broken string will fix some fucked up part of (his/our/your) the world.
There are a few re-workings of FG faves here as well- "Stare Into The Headlights" has been floating around like an ember waiting for the right fire for a few years now, but methinks Paulís finally got the urgent, high-end guitar blast heíd always dreamed of, pushing and pulling this one along like a meth-fueled coal-feeder on an old freight train. It also shouldnít go without mentioning that all of these tracks benefit from keen production crafted by Paul himself with able assistance from olí Ben ďMagic FingersĒDurrant.
The punk anthem "1989," which has seen several incarnations over the years, is infused here with even more genuine melancholy and deep-seated regret for days gone by than any that mightíve come before- but PD still stands behind his conviction that we (as the human race, a country, a city, a rock ní roll community) had, for a brief moment, one small window to avoid the absolute diarrhea of governmental idiocy weíre now wallowing in. "Two Tickets To The Apocalypse" is a word-perfect answer to AC/DCís "Itís A Long Way To The Top," full of hilarious name-dropping, chunky hooks and the bandís tight, frantic crunch.
"Gunner" remains one of my FG faves, and is delivered here with more rampaging, speaker-blowing ferocity than ever before- "Bah bah bang-ah, Iíll shoot myself- shoot it down!" Take it for what you will, but this is the kind of shit that inspired Dee Dee Ramone to pick the bass back up a few years before he passed; balls-to-the-wall, scene-fucking outsider rock that will scare the hell out of poseur punk critics and mystify muddle-headed fans of what todayís (choke, hack) radio calls "punk."
ďWe Are Both From The City" should be hitting a jukebox in your local trendy hang-out soon- if thereís anyone with decent taste and a modicum of sense still stocking them, that is- and you should put "Drunk On Wine" on a freaky holiday mix for your mom.
The crowning achievement here, though, has to be current fan fave "I Hate Normal People." I remember Paul running his bookstore in the Midway a few years back and coming in to work excited about recently cooking up this tune- and it was definitely worth the wait to hear the finished product.
Plowing out in a bloody puddle of what-the-fuck, FG pool their combined talents and put to music Paulís (and guess what- my) personal philosophy. The cut perfectly encapsulates this outfit, what theyíve done for the local and national indie biz, and rock ní roll in general: "Itís you normal people," Paul howls, "I hate you more than anybody else ..." Well done, boys- file under Essential Local Listening, and check it out at fgrocks.com.
Thereís the rub this time out, kiddies. Check back again, same day, same page, for more, more, more. Until we meet again- make yer own damn news.
If you have local music news/gigs/events youíd like to see mentioned in this space, send replies to: Tmygunn77764@yahoo.com. ||