The band was charged by twin frenetic guitars that go from here to there, with a clear relative in the works of Guy Piccioto and Eddie Janney with Rites Of Spring, the bass propelled everything from underneat, with a sense of it's own that at the same time completed what the guitars were commanding, with simple and strong drumming, supporting the three previously mentioned elements so they wouldn't shatter and end up in three different bands, and a static voice that narrated everything that was happening with the music. That how Jawbox was, finding themselves almost on the exact point in between Helmet and Fugazi, withg an added melodic sense that neither band would find until very late into their original careers. Novelty, their second album, showcased a confident band in all corners, without worries that at that time it was probable getting signed by a major label just for the fact of being a Dischord band, even though that's what happened in the end.
It's impossible to talk about the band without especially mentioning J Robbins who, by his own merit, deserves a star on the Georgetown Walk Of Fame or a picture on the walls of Yesterday & Today (if that existed, of course), before the formation of Jawbox, J had once filled the role of bass player for the incredible and incredibly important HarDCore band Government Issue; after Jawbox, J formed Burning Airlines, a less heavy yet very ultramelodic and rocking band, not to mention his work as a respected producer. Jawbox are sometimes referred to as an emo band (if your definition of emo is Fall Out Boy and Panic At The Disco then you probably won't understand the following, it has nothing to do with fashion and crap like that) and i can see why, the music has an inherited sense of nostalgia in itself and, also, the production and sounds used today sound kinda "early 90's" which, if you lived those days, invariably will bring memories back; but those are only touches, little frictions of time lost, worn laughter and misplaced cigarrette lighters, the songs are stellar, wrapping all that was doing rock outside the mainstream, unleashed and free but with a secret code book and a model to follow, and what it is to make a song that answers in an immediate way to poetic thinking, those thoughts that you often don't understand and sometimes you wished they quieted down. Jawbox is hard rock that likes to the headbang from the inside out instead of from the outside out like normal, it's atmosphere but so are rhythms, it's texture but so are riffs, it's you but also that guy over there.
Photo: Christian Lantry
After this album, Jawbox signed to Atlantic, recorded two albums, opened for Stone Temple Pilots on tour, Beavis & Butthead made fun of their video, never got to meet their target sales, got dropped, broke up, lost the rights to their major label albums and recently got them back. J Robbins now plays in a band called Channels that have an album on Dischord, an EP on DeSoto and lack arterial hypertension. For now, i enjoy the spaces between the notes which seem to be filled with thorns and ex-girlfriend's sisters you're forced to sit next to, it's all static after all.
I uploaded this one over a week ago but couldn't link it until now; anyhoo, this edition of the show marks a new phase since i've started to use Podomatic for hosting and stuff and, if you prefer listening to me ramble silly about music instead of reading me ramble silly about music, then now you can check my page (or better yet, subscribe via RSS) at the Podomatic site for the radio show.
Anyway, hopefully i'll have a new episode for this week we are entering.
1. Ani DiFranco - Superhero 2. Satyricon - The Pentagram Burns 3. Gang Wizard - KQ Means Let Me In 4. TV On The Radio - Playhouses 5. Isis - In Fiction 6. Angel'in Heavy Syrup - A Series Of Water Mind/Rubens And The Cathedral 7. The Jesus & Mary Chain - Just Like Honey 8. Elf Power - King Of Earth 9. Wolf Eyes - Human Animal 10. Eric Dolphy - Eclipse 11. Hang On The Box - Asshole, I'm Not Your Baby 12. Sunburned Hand Of The Man - Unless You Confess 13. X-Ray Specs - Oh Bondage Up Yours! 14. Smegma - Ladies Nite At The 'Ortho Lounge' 15. Fennesz - Nebenraum Radio Oscillator 7.mp3
How the hell do i become a fan of a 70's progressive rock band thru indie pop music? Even though it might sound stupid, that's what happened to me recently.
A few months ago i listened to At War With The Mystics by the Flaming Lips for the very first time and it being the first time, i pretty much hated the album on impact, but i listened to it again later on, this time my opinion had changed but at the same time something came out in my mind. On that second listen i gave to the album by Wayne Coyne and co., the only two songs i wasn't entirely convinced of were "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" and "Free Radicals" but from "Sound Of Failure..." on, the music sounded better as it went along yet strangely familiar. At first, the music seemed to me to be a little Pink Floydian , but that wasn't exactly it, what it really reminded me of was of Yes, some of those riffs where the guitar and bass interlock with each other, some keyboard moments and even Wayne's voice sometimes would have a very Jon Anderson quality, not to mention the vocal harmonies; it was such the influence from the 70's band i was hearing from my speakers that i ended up downloading Fragile on the spot just to be sure about the comparison and, of course, the elemental parts were there, with enough retention of characteristics from both bands to remain original. That and i fell in love with Fragile.
Case number two, i recently listened to the Crane Wife by the Decemberists; it's first song didn't impress me much, sounding like pirate R.E.M. or something, but the second song, which is 12 minutes long and it's the best song i ever hear this band play and would you believe it's because it sounds like a mixture of the classic Decemeberists audio mixed with, yep, Yes. The phantom returns thru this very album.
But, why the hell Yes? They are supposed rock dinosaurs that were terminated by punk in the 70's and was more than dead, weren't they? How do you go from Rick Wakeman's capes to Colin Meloy and Wayne Coyne? what does it bring to them? How the hell do i become a fan of a 70's progressive rock band thru indie pop music? To answer that, we need to understand Yes.
Yes' music has always been a collision of odd time signatures, strange and extended arrangement and complex pop melodies and harmonies, influenced by everybody from the Beatles and the Beach Boys to Simon & Garfunkel (who they covered thru a 10 minute version of their "America"). It's creativity and musical inconformity meeting the art of songwriting and pop arrangements; while their contemporaries were more concerned with improvisation (King Crimson), the art of performance (Genesis) or standing in one leg while playing 3 hour flute solos and guessing how many people are you boring and how ridiculous you look at the same time (Jethro Tull); if you fast forward 30 years on, we see that the attitude towards instruments has changed and it's commonly accepted by a lot of people the fact that it doesn't make you punker not knowing how to play instead of knowing how to play and that, if the attitude and the songs are good, technical ability can actually contribute into making good music. If you gather all these elements with the timeless appeal of a well written song then welcome to the year 2006.
Yes was formed in the 60's and went thru some lineup changes until they more or less settled for Jon Anderson (vocals), Chris Squire (bass), Steve Howe (guitar), Rick Wakeman (Keyboards) and Bill Bruford (drums); the band was just coming out of obscurity thanks to their previous album, The Yes Album, having spawned a hit single with "I've Seen All Good People", but the band hurried right back to the studio, with just a few songs, so they decided to record what they had so far and that each of the members of the band will contribute a song to fill the album up. What could have turned into a complete disaster turned into a very cohesive album, with the solo contributions working as interludes that bridged one song into another, binging on the mood swings in between them; the main songs are far from bad, "Heart Of Sunrise" it's the only song in the album you can truly call "prog rock" since it combines dextreous musical passages with an epic song mode, "South Side Of The Sky" is heavier and more focused, just as "Long Distance Runaround) as well, both of which thread the record in the middle; but what hooked me to this record is "Roundabout", a song that manages to be frenetic, multipart, without a lot of technique, well done vocal arrangements and keyboards that add, don't substract.
Maybe Yes is not for everyone and maybe you won't like it, but i wanted to talk about a band i have been listening a lot lately and that resonates on the grooves of the Crane Wife and the War With The Mystics, and they are celestial.
This week's show got delayed because of some uploading troubles but, just like Wayne's World, it comes out Friday night to "party!!!!". Tributes to Atari Teenage Riot, Khanate and Dissection in the form of songs and a varied show in general.
1. Animal Collective - Loch Raven-Haverford PA 2. Atari Teenage Riot - Sick To Death 3. Last Exit - Discharge 4. Afrirampo - ONIPIKA hearts 5. The Dirty Three - This Night 6. Sword Heaven - Cults Of New Jersey 7. Fairport Convention - Percy's Song 8. Dissection - Unhallowed 9. Khanate - Torching Koraviev 10. Bastard Noise - The Only Menace Is Man (Skin Graft) 11. Cows - Koyaanisqats 12. The Kills - At The Back Of The Shell 13. Suishou No Fune - A Rose Bloomed 14. Redd Kross - Linda Blair
Ahhh wonderful, undefied noise, all glowing in the dark but glowing in a black light so thick it's darker than darkness itself which makes it heavier than your own surroundings, which are tainted and fucked; that warmt of the tape, the hiss that indicates there's noise around the noise, around the fucked up frequencies that pummel my eardrum to submission but i'm a masochist baby, i really am. The hiss that makes it seem so oddly familiar and so nostalgic to the days when i used to tape my favorite Meat Loaf songs off the radio ("I Would Do Anything For Love", i'm not that old!!!), there's an almost snail pace and there's almost influences somewhere, i can almost hear Genesis P Orridge's tits smacking on a steel plate and something rumbling while hollering incomprehensible; it's also that sort of odd tempo that's not fast or slow enough but fucked that tapes recorded on crappy equipment have, it's not forward going, it's more like resisting the marching of time but getting dragged by it, being slowed by the weight of the world and your girlfriend's issues too, don't complain now; it's all so familiar yet unnatural. High pitched screams of a drying cock, all grinding in a slow and torturous howl of night time tapings, of refrigerator humming being amplified tenfold, is it Dylan Nyoukis fetish or poetic voice? is he decrying the beauty of a world invisible to the naked bureaucrat eye? or is he just puking over the magnetic fields just because it's kick ass to make annoying noises? If i had to answer that with the elements at my disposal, i'd say "who the hell cares?" this noise is absolutely marvelous, it's just something so cool to have up your ear, better than a pencil or Clap Your Hands Say Yeah by miles of smiles, it's almost not noise as much as they are sounds, sounds out of their natural elements and rearranged, manipulated, backwards, by the side and tucked in, it's a matter of etiquette. It's just things you hear everyday alterated and presented to you in a different and exciting way, sometimes incredibly loud, sometimes quiet and isolated, sometimes evoking something and then taking it away far until you forgot what you were remembering about, it's all about the memories and it's all about whoever else feels like it. I feel fine.
This thing is supposedly by Prick Decay from the UK (from Brigton specifically), their genius lies in their lyricism, their arrangement of sounds that, without notes even, make evocative, narrative pieces of abstract mind theater that can make a play of whatever is in your head, making it into a story of bravery and horror, of perversion and lust, of cats shitting and old men smelling, or whatever floats your boat; it's almost performance art made difficult music, without the performance or the art or the rock or the music. It's sound on sound action, the best kind.
(i downloaded this album and have no idea what the songs are called or nothing, all my research has been in vain...the things are tagged as "Prick Decay. Fuck Gong", if anyone can help me identify this stuff, i would really appreciate it)
First of all, i would like to apologize to Jamie Stewart; the problem is that Jamie sent me the answers to this interview back in December 2005 and i have finished transcribing, spell checking and writing an intro until now. So, i hope you're not too mad at me.
A ripping despaired sound from the bottom of a wounded soul, an art stundent's soul or a soul of an artist studying his enviroment or his past, of ancestral sounds from other cultures or from other generations or other genres, of pop and noise, of ambiguity or direct stuff, of simple or complicated, of acoustic guitars or computer compositions; all of these is Xiu Xiu (named after a chinese movie many people considered the most depressing film ever made) who, even though it seems they wouldn't have any structure or sense, make some of the most well thought out and memorable songs from this last couple of years while defying conventional everything all the time. Formed from the ashes of IBOPA and Ten In The Swear Jar (who inherited "I Luv The Valley Oh!" and "Helsabot" to Xiu2), Jamie remains as the only original member, but it would be completely unfair to call the band a "solo project" since every person present in any of their release contributes to the final sound of each one ; that's why their albums and EPs (Knife Play, Chapel Of Chimes EP, A Promise, Fag Patrol EP, Fabulous Muscles, La Forêt, Life And Live, Tu Mi Piaci EP and their most recent The Air Force, among others) manage to sound different from each other yet retain the same feeling the music of XX produces for the legions of ultra-passionate fans they have. Some of the characteristic elements that make their music are pop, electronica, noise, post punk (especially The Smiths, The Cure and Joy Division), folk, modern avant garde classical, gamelan (typical Indonesian music), Black Sabbath, pain, broken hearts, suicide, politics.
Xiu Xiu have played twice in Mexico (once in the City and once in Guadalajara, i've missed both times) and i hope they play here soon. Here, Stewart talked to Oscillator about their modus operandi, their influences and more.
Marcos Hassan (Oscillator): Introduce yourself
Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu): Jamie Cyrus Stewart
What are the main difference between your past work and La Forêt?
The title is the main thing, and there are different songs on this record than on the other records.
Were you surprised that Fabulous Muscles earned so much praise? Do you think people now are expecting your records to be Fabulous Muscles II?
Yes and yes, but Fabulous Muscles II would be pointless calculation and anti art. We do make records to recieve praise, we make them to try and add something to life for better or worse.
Was there a model you thought about when starting Xiu Xiu? What was the plan for the project?
Sort of, we did know that we wanted to always write about real life, ours and those around us in clear ways and we knew what genres we wanted to take from, 80's pop goth, dance, asian percussion music, modern classical and noise music.
How do you write and arrange sounds? is it more traditional like a band or is it more like studio collages?
It is a bit of both. We do alot of improvisations built around very very basic rhythms or chords and then shape the improvisations into songs on the computer. On the sparser songs, they are written in more traditional ways like sitting with a guitar and note book looking out the window feeling anxious.
Was the lo-fi movement of the early-90's and artists like Lou Barlow with his projects Sebadoh and Sentridoh big influences to you?
No, not so much. Any lo-finess we have comes from lack of money, which i think it came from for Lou as well.
What's so special to you about sharing your secrets and fears and vulnerabilities with a 4 track recorder or similar devices? Is the hiss of the tape something warm for you to open up?
We actually use a computer. i do not know why sharing these things is special to me or if it is even special, it just seems right for us, i am not sure why.
Is it easy for you to pour your emotions out thru music?
No but it is essential, does that make me sound like a dick?
Of course not, i actually agree. Do you think that by (almost) eliminating traditional notes and timbres and focusing more on textures, you are closer to deliver a more accurate representation of what you want to express in your songs?
We do without too much thinking about it, try to make sounds that reflect the subject matter of the songs, but sometimes traditional sounds are perfect too. We do put alot of time and effort into sounds for their own expressive sake for certain.
Is the acoutic guitar side of the music a way to balance things out with the more atonal expressions, or does it serve the same porpuse in a different way?
As i said above, some songs seem to need particular sounds.
How does noise fit into your whole sound? what's so appealing about it to you and your compositions?
That it is both violent and non specific but also intense and uncontrolable.
Do you think you're playing pop music?
Yes, very much so. The songs have words you usually can hear clearly and most of them have verses and choruses.
Do you think your music is filled with a sense of "death"?
At the risk of being too cheesy, what is not filled with a sense of death?
Do you think that your music is a collision of intellect and emotion?
All music is a collision of intellect and emotion, more purely than any other way of making art
How does it make you feel that you inspire such an extreme response in people?
Mostly i have to ignore responses or i get too self conscious and freaked out but it is certainly better than being considered boring.
Why is it so important to address politics in your music?
It is impossible to ignore, it is important to address politics to in everything right now
How do you do to reproduce all the experimentation you do on record live? Do you resort to improvisation in concert at all? do you pull a Queen and rearrange the songs for stage performance?
Maybe somewhere in the middle, we do play to a drum machine so we have practice somethings to a tee but other things we do differently every night or parts of songs are devoted to improvisation.
So what's the craziest or funniest thing that ever happened to you onstage? How about the best?
Craziest was AGHHHHHHH!!!!!! So dumb, not in this band but in a previous band getting the classic and retarded blow job on stage, but it was from a drag queen i had been obsessed with since i was 18. the best? i think playing to kind and supportive audiences and doing the best we can that night is the best.
What was your experience of playing Mexico like?
Insane and the most fun 24 hours i ever had in my life.
What do you think about the musical climate these days?
Don't ask, i 'll just start talking shit. Ugh.
Where and why does the fascination with Black Sabbath come from?
Have you ever heard them? If so you would not need to ask.
Ouch!! Checkmate. If someone wanted to get into gamelan, what you would say to them and what would you recommend them to listen to?
Any records by the Smithsonian Institute recorded in the 1950's but there are not bad gamelan records, it is an inherently flawless music. Just make sure it is not played by white hippie college students.
What have you been listening to lately?
Weirdly the Blue Album by Weezer, i have no good explanation for this.
What’s next for you?
More touring and we are half done with our next record that i think will be called Boy Soprano(ED: It will be called The Air Force). We have a few split 7" coming out soon as well with Paper Chase, Kill Me Tomorrow and Dead Science, as well as music for a film by Robert Reis and a play by Ken Urban.