Late to the table

As I may have mentioned once, twice, or a million times (If you knew me in person) I used to work in a record store. Once as a lowly employee, once as a manager slowly running the department into the ground. There is something pure and smug about working with music, whether we choose to declare that there is something smug about working with music.

You judge. You can’t help it, but you do. Sometimes it backfires, and sometimes you are proven right. I used to hate Yo La Tengo. Not for the quality of their music or whatnot, not due to their label, but for their fans. Don’t think the Onion article about YLT is not funny, it perfectly captures what I hated about their fans. And now I love, love, love YLT.


The Kinks

Dig Me out


One of those bands that I was always familiar with but never heard during my tenure, but possibly judged during that time was Sleater-Kinney. I knew about them, I knew of them, I remember that great LP cover that aped the Kinks’ Kontroversy LP. I never remember ladies buying their LPs, only dudes, dudes who looked like, well, wimps. This was coupled with the drooling blather of Greil Marcus (a critic I quite like reading, no matter how difficult it can feel). Example, from 2001: “Tucker has an almost unnaturally huge voice, but when momentum builds inside a Sleater-Kinney rhythm and then arrives like a flash flood, the sound makes Tucker’s seem the only appropriate voice to speak of what’s at stake: in ‘Youth Decay,’ love and hate, life and death.” Wow. C’mon man, cool it.

I think after judging based on appearances, that it is also easy to judge based on praise. Prior to The Strokes’ debut in 2001, the UK press, who I read religiously at the time, were raving and drooling ALL over that band. Five stars, five stars, five stars! Best debut ever! I bought into it not realizing that London will always have a boner for bands from New York. I pre-ordered the LP from the one place on THIS EARTH that released it first: Australia. I got the CD, listened to it once, twice, three times and hated it. And then I hated the press for going too ballistic. And then I hated me for buying into the hype. And you know what? Now I love that CD. It took me a bit to come down from my spite but it is a helluva disc that captures a time and a place for me and I will always dig it. Y’see, being able to reverse course and change your mind on things is what distinguishes us from the apes and red states in the world. You can feel one way about something one day and then, years later, feel totally diferently.

So here I am, all growed up, with a certain idea about this band of women from the Pacific Northwest. A couple of years ago I found something about Fred Armisen working with the guitarist from Sleater-Kinney, the one that Marcus never seemed to write about, Carrie Brownstein. Thunderant was the comedy project and I watched it on YouTube a few times, there were funny things on there but I sorta forgot about it. In December I thought about it again as I saw ads for this new series on IFC called Portlandia. “Hey its Fred Armisen and that Sleater-Kinney lady” I thunk to m’self. And I watched the show. And I thought it was funny. And then, as I tend to do, I was trying to find clips of the show online and stumbled onto a Sleater-Kinney video, then another, then another. And I liked what I heard. I don’t know if all the songs have the spirit and interplay of the first song I heard (“You’re No Rock and Roll Fun”) but I enjoyed it and the contrast between the two voices. I don’t know if I would rush out to purchase the Sleater Kinney back collection based on a few videos/songs that I like but don’t love. But I will be interested to check out the new project from Brownstein, Wild Flag.

Again while consulting YouTube I came across many different poorly filmed live tracks from the band. One in particular stuck out to me and really got me interested to hear a studio LP. The song is called “Racehorse,” at least it is now, and when I listen to the song I get really caught up in the tapestry of rock and roll. It rocks, but there is this organ line in the song that connects it to music of the past. I love it, I’m loving this version and hope to find a Torrent or something of the show so I can have the whole thing (It is about nine minutes long, depending on the video you find). When I hear the song, the organ makes me think of Jonathan Richman and when I first heard the original version of Road Runner. It has that energy. And it has the keyboard sound that makes me think of the Velvet Underground, “Sister Ray” in particular. I love it. And then I find out that one of their set closing songs is “She’s My Best Friend,” a Lou Reed song found on Coney Island Baby but dates back to the days of the Velvets.

I don’t know if I am discovering something new, or just finding something on the back of something old. I’m not sure I will dig much deeper into Sleater-Kinney as what I’m hearing from this new band sounds more interesting to me. I guess that when the time comes and their debut is released I just hope with all my heart that is sounds and feels the way it does now, as I sit in my computer room watching grainy videos shot on someone’s phone. I hope that the feeling and energy that I’m feeling and seeing comes across in the music flowing from my speakers. Hell, I’d settle for a shit hot version of “Racehorse” to run the roads to. When that day comes and the reviews flow in I think I will be better prepared to make up my own mind and if the LP is a grade-A stinker I won’t be insulted like I was on that summer day so many years ago.

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