"tell me about God, tell me about love, tell me that it is all of the above. say you think of everything in fear. I bet you're not the only one who does..."
Today I received one of the last of my most anticipated releases this year. In fact, it's been anticipated for over a year and half now. So with the growing time frame and word I was hearing from the front-lines, things were coming together progressively, aggressively and a few who heard the finished the project - unsettling. Upon my first listen of La Dispute's Wildlife, I can say it's one of the most uncomfortable records I've heard since The Devil and God Are Raging Inside of Me. But this is a different type of unsettling. There's no vague description of dismay, instead this is an album's worth of pent up frustration that's released in such a manner that certain parts of the record make you step back.
What's interesting about the album is the way the narrator is using these "stories" to figure out similar problems he's going through. There is nothing up for interpretation from each song. Each line is laid out like a journal entry. Each reflection isn't made of metaphors, there's not a ton of tongue-in-cheek wordplay but there is ton of description as the stream-of-conscious race of thoughts steamroll, build and swell along with the instrumentals.
A lot of people complain that La Dispute isn't "screamo" and blah blah blah, but the feelings of anguish I got when I first heard City of Caterpillar or Circle Takes the Square and later on with Raein and Still Life, it is easily present on Wildlife. No matter if its the old Portrait 10" my friend found yesterday or the chaos that is Orchid's final record (which is their best), there's an outlet of pain in this genre that you either get or you don't - and it's way past what version of the vinyl you get, it's about feeling in the depths of the grooves as the needle moves in and out of the trenches. I can also see why some people find it as being a crybaby's game. (I'm looking at you Jeromes Dream.) Like rebellion in punk and experimentation in post and politics in hip-hop - the screamo/post-hardcore scene is another distorted genre borrowing ideas from the prime numbers of rock and soul that came before it.
Soul is certainly the key term worth using here. Wondering if there's an epic "The Last Lost Continent" this time around? "all our bruised bodies and the whole heart shrinks" is that track. In under half the time of the former, it equates the fact that we all go through some sort of suffering, and even at the other end, there is that simple thought of "I hope that never happens to me" or even that time when you think you're having the worst day and you hear from someone close to you that their last 30-minute experience is something you wish to forever avoid if at all possible.
For anyone who ever told me that some of the music I listen to is noise, or crying or screaming, etc. - it's albums like this I want to give them at certain moments in their life when a pop song is blank slate of calculated hooks with the void of any meaning - an empty syringe. When music makes you shiver at any sort of introspective moment - that moment will stick with you. I have a feeling with a few more listens, Wildlife's delivery - though a bit different from the band's former release - might even be more powerful once each song sinks in the senses more. This genre has become a cliched, first person nuance of lyrics we've heard over and over again to the point where it looses any sort of meaning. Matched to the band's instrumental work and tone - this isn't an album of hope - it's just about trying to make reason out of third person viewpoint. A voice and approach I haven't heard from in a while
Honestly, there are very few times that I have walked away from a show inspired. There are few times when I am completely awed by the performances of the night, where, I felt chills down the back of my spine and an overall numbing effect to what I was witnessing. Going into the night, on the expectation of seeing one of the best post-hardcore bands of the past decade (one that's been around longer than that), the bar was set high and completely met at the end of the night.
For those of you who do not know who Envy is (besides the other side of a split with Thursday), they are one of the most influential hardcore/screamo/post-hardcore bands from the East. Hailing from Japan and only matched in greatness to that of the likes of Mono, the band has constantly pushed their hardcore roots into a more post-rock vibe over the last few years. Along with La Quiete and Diatro, they're one of the bands form overseas that you should be aware of.
After four years of not releasing a full length and touring the United States, the band just went on a run with Ireland's And So I Watched You From Afar and our country's best hardcore acts: Trash Talk, La Dispute and Touche Amore.
While Trash Talk was not part of this run, the rest of the leg for the night was absolutely flawless. Ireland's And So I Watched You From Afar was heavy and powerful. A great opener to wake up anyone in the crowd. It would seem tough to tour the States for the first time and have to open the night on a bill like this every night, but the band absolutely held a solid opening slot.
Within the first song, kids were climbing the stage for Touche Amore's set. Passionate and commanding, the band's half hour was crammed with crowd chants and plenty of stage diving. The band's new songs off of their splits with Make Do and Mend and tourmates La Dispute were even more engaging live - and of course Jordan from La Dispute joined the stage and vice versa.
There isn't much more praise that I can give La Dispute that I already haven't given at this point. Along with Touche and Trash Talk and Native, they are part of the bands that were necessary to get kids excited about creative hardcore again. Besides hearing their new material off their latest split, the band has been closing their set with the thirteen minute "The Last Lost Continent" - something I'd been asking the guys to play every time they're in town - and it came off remarkably.
Every band on this tour were just as in awe to be touring with Envy on their first headlining North American tour as I was in awe of being able to see the band play an intimate sold out show. I've always said Envy is like the Thursday of Japan, but for the amount of releases and the time the band has been around, they're even more comparable to that of Converge. As far as the show goes, it's just as passionate. A completely even mix of songs from not only their new album, but also from 2001's All the Footprints You've Ever Left And Fear Expecting Ahead and my personal favorite, 2003's A Dead Sinking Story. Sure, none of us could understand the words, but it goes back to discussions of breaking past that and capturing an audience's mood and aura that is the experience of Envy. It's beautiful and crushing in every sense. Through all of it is a small lantern of hope as you walk away from the hour and a half set to close the night.
Hands down, this is one of the best tours to have come through the U.S. this year. Not only did attendees get to see the new class of hardcore and true "screamo" in the sense of Orchid or Funeral Diner or Portraits of Past, but they got to see a legend from the East absolutely blow an audience away in an intimate club setting we don't normally experience as much these days.
After the reveal today, I've never been so excited for the rebirth of something amazing. Did you guys check this out yet?
Seriously, I can't wait. The revolution is happening. There are great labels and bands out there brewing! I've been rediscovering bands like Angel Hair and Swing Kids. Revisiting albums from Converge, Some Girls and United Nations.
I have a pulse again. Weird that this all happened after the sick beats Derek Miller had me bumping to on Treats the past few weeks.
Last night I came home to ramble (see previous entry). It's something that's been dwelling on my mind for the past few months. It's something I've been thinking about even before I signed on for this job title. It's something that has been eating at my back even more in the past few months. It's something that keeps coming up in off the record conversations and on the record interviews (even last night with Trash Talk).
What is punk? What does it mean anymore? Do we not see it because we're in the now and have no time to look back in retrospect?
Before I ramble on, last night's show set my mind steamrolling, so let's get to that, and maybe we can all have more of a conversation.
La Dispute took the stage first. In every 30 minute set I've seen of these guys, it brings me back a decade to small club shows, college house parties and and lack of visual stimulus. It's five guys playing with passion and creative songwriting. It's hard to say this as a writer, because I consider these guys friends now, but as a listener, they have my full attention.
Hearing Therefore I Am cover At the Drive In's "Arcarsenal" invoked a rage and a relief within me. In distaste, hearing anyone cover At the Drive In invokes an elitist nerve in the back of my skull like no other. There are certain bands (Refused, Botch, At the Drive In, etc.) that just should not be touched. (Sorry if you're reading this Brian.) At the same time, Therefore I Am's music is worthy of their idol worship. Equalvision made a great choice with this band, and they certainly played their heart out to a point where the crowd got more into it as the set went along. Rarely do you see a band move a crowd steadily upon impact.
What about if the plane hits the ground and causes complete chaos upon said impact though. That's what a Trash Talk show is like. I just remember grinning like an idiot and and thinking, "Wow. This is what it was like to be at a punk rock or hardcore show in the mid-80's." Between the visceral short spats of the band's older material, to the longer, creeping violence of their new material, Trash Talk is exactly what everyone has been talking about. Even in a conversation about the set I had with a friend, he had commented on how Lee McFag swung his hair like a young Henry Rollins. If you've been itching for a contemporary showcasing the elders, Trash Talk are the real thing.
My thoughts on Alexisonfire have changed over their career. First off, Dallas Green has one of the best set of melodic vocals out there. I think with his solo career as City and Colour, he's only gotten better in his carry with Alexisonfire. For the rest of the band, I think they've all grown out of a generic shell they once were and are writing songs now past their own contemporaries years later. It's funny, as I see backlash from older fans about the band's new material, I see a band that has grown into their own. While I caught the beginning and ending of the band's set due to my interview with Trash Talk, the band still put their all into it. On a lighter note, somewhere in the 40 minutes I was gone, George Pettit lost his shirt.
What the show did invoke more than the performance norm was conversation brought up amongst friends and band members alike during the night. The central focus seemed to be that of what was and wasn't "punk."
I've been thinking about this site lately as well. I've enjoyed the spectrum of coverage thus far, while at the same time, a part of me has been digging to find an identity like that of Pitchfork or Rolling Stone, but in the end would hope that our identity is in our name as a site. That AP.net can be a site where users and non-users can come to discover what is different from what they are getting bored or tired of. I think that's always been the grand scheme since the beginning, but I can see it as an opportunity even more now.
I'll make it less a secret by saying that the staff have been compiling some new picks for our new class of the Absolute Classics this year. I couldn't be more proud of the picks which are so far across the board both in time and genre. It seems like sometimes we get caught up in the sound of punk as opposed to the idea of punk. It's the idea that anyone has the ability to do anything. By doing so, the environment will react either positively or negatively depending on the action. A reaction is all that is needed in the adversity of the norm.
In the best conversation I had last night, one thing that was brought up is time. I can react on Trash Talk's show as being nostalgic of the videos I've seen of an 80's hardcore show because time has passed to make that comparison. I feel like only a decade of the majority of my involvement has passed within music on an engaging level. Who's to say that one band or one moment I overlooked will have a greater butterfly effect down the line? Who's to say that the most laughable thing will be the most punk thing to a future generation of kids? How many people, at the sight of seeing the Sex Pistols or witnessed Nirvana opening a small club with out of tuned guitars, thought it was something that wouldn't "last" or "make an impact?"
I'm still unsure what this whole "punk" thing is. I'm going to continue to study it. One thing I do latch onto after last night's show is this: Punk rock is more progressive than one, even myself, wants to acknowledge. There is nothing stagnant about it in any way, shape or form that we as listeners, critics and historians can pinpoint. It's an idea that is constantly evolving into new ideas. The one thing is, if you're going to keep up the idea and/or reinvent the wheel, just make sure there is passion behind it.
I believe that this tour will go under the radar for some to attend other less-passionate showcases of what's out there, but I say go, enjoy yourself for the night. In the end, this tour is a pretty damn good time. It got me thinking about a lot. That's as punk rock as I ever want to get - Socrates style motherfuckers!
I constantly look back at the scene in Almost Famous where Lester Bangs tells the young William Miller that it's the worst time for him to be getting in the game of music journalism - that rock and roll is dead. It's something I've been pondering for a while with the way I've seen music I love turn itself into the next generation's processed repeats and Hot Topic/Kidz Bop photo shoots.
The first show I went to in Austin was for a friend's band. They were opening for Sargent House's newest roster add Native. Talk about energy and groove. I was pretty blown away. After hearing Wrestling Moves, there's enough comparison to greats like Minus the Bear and These Arms Are Snakes while realizing the band has a style and flow all their own.
Then there is La Dispute, a band I have just recently discovered. Their 2008 release Somewhere At the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair encompasses why I fell in love with that type/genre/post-hardcore/whatever to begin with. The way there's a story backed to heavy, yet flowing instruments. Vocalist Jordan Dreyer lashes out with soul instead of auto-tune, and it's beyond refreshing.
How does all of this play out live?
Well, for Native, it's certainly better to catch them at a house show/basement. The Parlour experience in August was a bit more intimate and overwhelming, but the energy level on the stage is still the same as ever. The band's light show certainly adds to the flood of songs off Wrestling Moves. As for La Dispute, the energy and fun of a show is back. The small venue shows I used to enjoy in high school and early college was incredible, and seeing La Dispute last night brought me back to that feeling. Many of you knew of the time when bigger bands now were just an arm grab and no barricade away.
After last night, I have faith in the decade to come. I think there are still gems out there driving across this country restoring a feeling of our youth and an original relationship and connection to music that doesn't seem sold to us true fans of the art.
I understand the tour is about halfway over, but if there's still a chance to catch these two acts, I would definitely do so, especially if you've lost a bit of the faith like I have over the past few years.
Well, it looks as if I pissed some of you off, caught some of you off guard and simply made you pass over my "Weekly Nostalgia" this week. Well, there's something you have to know about me. I'm a disbeliever and a cynic. Yes, sometimes I get caught up in the hype, but I don't like to take what's on the surface - especially when what I know progresses into shit over a simple decade.
A few years back, I was getting tired of the fourth wave of screamo/emocore bands, and decided to check out those names that started it all: Jawbreaker, Sunny Day Real Estate, Christie Front Drive, Boys Life, Braid, Mineral, etc. - I fell in love. There was a passion I felt with those records that I had felt around the turn of the millennium when I was discovering bands such as Thursday, Poison the Well and Glassjaw. It's a feeling I have had since felt with bands such as These Arms Are Snakes, mewithoutYou and Portugal. The Man.
It's a feeling I got upon discovering Still Life about year ago, and rediscovering the band in the past few months upon a used copy of their split with Jara on a 12" at the local record store. It's funny to think at a time when I was listening to Radiohead, Deftones, Smashing Pumpkins and Bush, such a force existed in what was once the true underground.
No, I was not the first to pick up Refused's The Shape of Punk to Come or discover the incredible crawl of Pg. 99's Document #8. I discovered these records years later in high school and through college, but they have since been records that have stuck with me, and albums that I can continue to come back to for their worth and influence.
Something that bothers me about the scene these days: the disrespect for one's elders. For every flavor of the week bullshit band, there's the influence of From Angry Heads With Skyward Eyes or Experiments in Expectation - records that did it ten times better with more creativity and further stride.
Maybe my choice for "Weekly Nostalgia" this week was a bit obscure for some of you. I hope it opened up a new band and a history lesson for a lot of you. Maybe I'm just an elitist asshole to a few, if not many of you.
This past week I landed a copy of La Dispute's Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River Between Vega And Altair and I have yet to put it down. It reminds me of the first time I heard a band like Thursday and mewithoutYou, and how enthralled I became in their music. It's smart, poetically amazing and something I have yet to see in a scene that once enthralled my tastes. I can say the same for a band like Native and their new album Wrestling Moves - which I'm saving for next year's End of the Year list under technicality of a physical release.
This all said, I don't mean to be a hipster dick. I just wanted to open a door that was once opened to me. A door I see held guard or under lack of motivational discovery by the next generation. Don't settle for your favorite bands. Find out who influenced them. Expansion is a necessity in the quest for great music. Staying stale is a fear I constantly hold over my head.