They never really came close to usurping the trite, robotic bands that forced them into existence, but they did achieve what they needed to without ever suffering from dilution. Endowed with that rare, inimitable understanding that stagnancy is one of music’s biggest struggles, the end came once they sensed that they’d plateaued.
Andrew Farwell, of emblematic math-rock pythons Indoor Cities, gives us a charming walkthrough of the band’s modest but ambitious set-up in the first of our new Gearheads feature.
‘Please refrain from taking any photos during the performance tonight, the main act is very shy’. At the time and in retrospect, I doubt many who handed over their stubs for inspection believed that the young ticket girl had even heard of Neutral Milk Hotel, but such elitism was naturally outranked by the fizzing weight of anticipation surrounding the band’s first tour in 15 years and the fact she was right.
One second. That is exactly how long I can make it into You’re Gonna Miss It All, the newest from Maryland pop-punkers/potential pre-pubescents Modern Baseball, because that is the moment Brendan Lukens begins to sing. It is an annoying caterwaul of a whine, a deliberate attack against melody that refuses to replace it with anything else. It just doesn’t fucking work.
As the eyes of the world dart across the various nations facing turmoil, largely unnoticed lies the bubbling undercurrent of musical and creative growth, converting the tribulations of societal upheaval into blimps of expression. Leading the pack is the diesel-edged “drone ‘n’ roll” of Mechanimal, stirring the dreary-eyed of Athens from their nests and propping them up on supports made of deep electronic rumbles. We asked Giannis Papaioannou to tell us about five tracks that provide similar support for the group on their travels.
For the last 6 years, Greece is going through a rough neo-liberal model. There’s dogmatic devotion to austerity and there are always new measures that try to “reform” the state, which is actually huge salary cuts for the most insecure social groups, more taxes, privatizations of some of the biggest companies in the country, demonisation of the minorities, concentration camps for immigrants.
Wil Wagner and company are doing okay. It’s a relative term, of course; their version of equilibrium might be past the tipping point of saner men, but consider that they’ve managed to rally a troop of diligent fans, many homegrown and more from the other halves of the globe – it’s likely an over-fulfilment of any success envisioned underneath Melbourne skies.
The other weekend I found myself in a familiar trance. I was perusing the wares of HMV — the unheralded vinyl king of Nottingham — looking for bargains to pad out the slither of space left in my Ikea Kallax shelving unit. I picked up some overlooked essentials as a matter of protocol (Disintegration, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots) before plucking for a wild card that I hadn’t gotten round to listening to: You’re Dead!, the latest release from Californian hip-jazz experimentalist Flying Lotus.
With the charming, life-affirming ethos that playing music with your closest friends becomes more joyous with each passing show than going it alone does, Connecticut’s The Guru are a mysterious, technicolour relic of a time gone by, a troupe of young companions that enjoy the same simple pleasures.
Ah, the dreaded comparison. Nothing misses the point and narrows the mind more than an argument about how a band used to be better, the “yeah, but compared to..” closing statement that invariably discredits the album at hand as well as faux-validates the opinion because of its loaded proposition.