Saturday, February 16, 2008

Pumping On Your Stereo

I knew this day would come. All art is circular. At any given time in history, the medium returns to a previous form that was once hailed as brilliant only to have been cast out into darkness later. We live in a constant state of irony. What was popular five years ago is now considered bloated and pathetic, only to be resurrected from the dead in another decade or so as "cool". It is the same for all art forms; painting, music, film. In music trends come and go, but good old fashioned rock and roll never dies. It simply lays dormant, waiting for the next musical eclipse to come along. Take disco for example; seemingly seconds after Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park in Chicago in 1979, it was essentially uncool to like disco. Heavy metal was creeping up on us, hairspray in hand, and all the boys were growing their hair long and swapping their cocaine for Budweiser. Now it is 2008 and disco-punk and disco-dance-rock and any other newly created forms of disco exploitation the hipster bloggers choose to coin a catchphrase to is all over the radio waves. It is now suddenly expected to replace a guitar player with an idiot holding a keytar and wearing Kanye's ridiculous sunglasses. But I digress; this is not all bad. Where alternative rock was once popular in the early 90's, it is now apparently making a comeback, even if said comeback is fronted by the guys who created it in the first place. Bands like Stone Temple Pilots (or as I prefer to call them, Grunge's Mentally Challenged Rejects), Supergrass, Seven Mary Three, Superdrag, the Smashing Pumpkins, and many other bands whose name does not start with an "S" have recently reformed with the intent of putting out new music. Now does this mean that rock is suddenly going to replace all the other shit on the airwaves? Not necessarily. People are inherently dumb and prefer to listen to music that doesn't make them think so much as it makes them think they look cool while blaring Soulja Boy out of the blown speakers of their pimped-out Dodge Neon. When Gene Simmons stated that the fans killed the music industry, he wasn't just speaking financially (or maybe he was and is just a prophet unaware of his gift, but I doubt it). However, there is some good music on the horizon from bands that have either since reformed or just flown under the radar for the last decade, so I am obligated to point you in the right direction. It is simply me doing my part to prevent the airwaves from permanently "Ridin' Dirty". Enjoy.

Seven Mary Three
You probably know this band from their 1995 hit "Cumbersome", and their lesser known but far superior single "Waters Edge". When American Standard came out that year, it was impossible to ignore due to the constant radio play these tracks got. American Standard was a good rock record from a good rock band that disappeared just as quickly as they had arrived on the scene, but they never quit making music. 7M3 have released four more records since their debut, none of which made a splash on the music scene, regardless of their quality. I particularly liked 2001's The Economy Of Sound, while Orange Ave. had a few killer tracks on it as well. 7M3 is releasing another album next week titled Day&Nightdriving, and from what I have heard so far it is pretty damn good. You can hear a few tracks off of the new album on their MySpace page, including the new single "Last Kiss".

In the past 12 years Supergrass has released 5 studio albums and one greatest hits record, and will be gracing us with the presence of a new record in a few weeks. You might remember Supergrass from the radio hit "Pumping On Your Stereo" as well as their 1995 Beatle-esque "Alright". The video for "Pumping On Your Stereo" was an MTV staple in 1999; right around the time MTV stopped playing music. While the band has had other singles released, they were not very popular (at least not here in the US), however that is more of a statement about the poor quality of music on the American airwaves than it is an insult to Supergrass. Supergrass has never made a bad album, and with every release they manage to out due the last record. 1997's In It For The Money was rated by Q magazine as the 68th greatest album of all time, is listed in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, and was bestowed by NME what can only be assumed as the greatest compliment ever given to a rock band; "more fun than watching a wombat in a washing machine". Well the boys are back with an excellent new record, Diamond Hoo Ha. Check out their MySpace page for a preview, as the record will not be released until next month.

Released in March of my senior year of high school (1998), Fastball's radio hit "The Way" was a feel good hit of the summer I graduated. I can remember hearing this song every damn day that summer, along with the other singles off of All The Pain Money Can Buy "Fire Escape" and the wonderful and overlooked track "Out Of My Head". I always liked this band, and may be one of the only people I know who actually owns their other records. They suffer from the same affliction as Supergrass; they make consistently good records while being completely avoided by the industry. Fastball's first record Make Your Mama Proud contained, among other great tracks, the single "Are You Ready For The Fallout", which is probably more known for being in the movie Varsity Blues. The Harsh Light Of Day was just as good as All The Pain Money Can Buy, with a wider sound and greater depth. The band is currently in the studio recording their fifth record, so until then I suggest you give their back catalog a try, you might find some hidden gems.

The Dandy Warhols
The Dandy Warhols are indie rock darlings dripping of The Velvet Underground, which may explain why they put out excellent records that are completely ignored by most radio stations. Despite their lack of radio support, you have probably heard a few of their songs without knowing it. They are featured in numerous commercials and soundtracks, but the real goods are the records. 2000's Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia is an excellent record with their most well known song "Bohemian Like You". Their earlier records are equally good, especially 1997's ...Dandy Warhols Come Down. A band that is more known for its live show antics than their music (Zia McCabe performing topless, for example), and their music videos can be pretty controversial, but once you look past the aesthetic value, they are an excellent band with a handful of excellent records. This year's expected release Earth To The Dandy Warhols should be no exception.

The Lemonheads
The Lemonheads are mostly known for their cover of "Mrs. Robinson", which is sad because their records are great. It's A Shame About Ray, released in 1992, was filled with tracks far better than the album closer mentioned above. "Confetti", "It's A Shame About Ray", and "Buddy" (originally titled "My Drug Buddy") are all excellent tracks. After this album came records with equally catchy tunes overshadowed by Evan Dando's persona and drug use, but the music didn't seem to suffer as much as the rest of the band did. After breaking up in 1998 Dando did some solo touring and released a live record, but nothing he did could match the Lemonheads. Part of their success could be attributed to the wonderfully sexy Juliana Hatfield, who provided bass for most of their records while never being an actual member of the band. Nine years later the band is back, this time with Karl Alvarez (Descendents, All) and Bill Stevenson (Descendents, All, Black Flag) and a new record coming out this year. Until then, check out the back catalog and try to listen to more than just "Mrs. Robinson".

Nada Surf
You probably know Nada Surf for the 1996 radio hit "Popular", a song which is one of the few by this band that I skip every time I play their album. I can understand why it was a hit; I just feel that it overshadows the good stuff. Their second record, 1998's The Proximity Effect was a great record killed by the recording industry, as is the case with a lot of bands from the 90's alternative days. The band bounced back in 2002 with Let Go, a critically acclaimed record that far surpassed everything the band had done up to this point. The Weight Is A Gift was their last record, and while it was decent, it wasn't exactly note-worthy. Which brings us to their newest record, released last week Lucky is a record worth it's weight in gold. Another band that has failed to release a bad record, Nada Surf may always be remembered as a one hit wonder for "Popular", but don't be fooled; they bring the goods.

The 90's was a time of flannel sweaters, bad haircuts, Starbucks, and bands with the word "super" in their title; Superdrag, Supergrass, & Superchunk, all good bands lacking a little creativity in the band-naming department, but thankfully they more than make up for it in their song writing. Superdrag is most known for their 1996 MTV Buzz Bin hit "Sucked Out", which is a good song, but hardly the one they want to be remembered for. It is hard to say that Superdrag was a victim of record label abandonment, especially when their second record, Head Trip In Every Key was written to go against what Elektra was demanding from them. This caused the record label to abandon Superdrag and withhold promoting the record, which is a shame because this is easily their best effort. After another record which failed to chart and a few EP's released, the band called it quits in 2003 due to John Davis' alcoholic lifestyle and his "finding God" thing that rock stars always seem to do nowadays. Thankfully, the band is back together and in the studio recording a new record that I hope will not be a gospel-inspired record with religious overtones. The world does not need another Creed. Anyway, check out their MySpace page for some new tracks and see of there is anything you like.

The bands mentioned above ruled the airwaves in the 90's, only to be replaced with Nickelback and Daughtry and God knows what else, but they are among many others like them who hold a special place in my heart. You can never relive those high school summer days at the lake, nights at the pool halls and mosh pits, girl troubles, missing class and ignoring your homework, all to the sound of some good music. The times are gone, but at least the music remains.

can you hear us pumping on your stereo?

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