Tag Archives: Alternative Press

Jimmy Eat World + Mark Trombino = Harmony

…or Clarity?

JEWtrombino

Big shout out to Pierre Wentz over at Washed Up Emo for catching this one. In any case, it sounds like JEW and the former Drive Like Jehu drummer and whirlwind producer Trombino are back together. Trombino produced the band’s first three albums, and his in-studio wizardry really helped morph the sound and image of Clarity into the kind of memorable record it’s become. And hey, he didn’t do too bad with Jimmy Eat World/Bleed American either.

The “Oral History of Jimmy Eat World” from Alternative Press a couple years back put a little light on the deteriorated relationship between the band and Trombino. Sort of. Trombino seemed to be really eloquent in his anger and confusion as to why the band had suddenly stopped using him as a producer and seemed genuinely hurt and personally offended. So it’s good to hear the relationship between the band and Trombino has at least improved to a working state, if not back to the friendship they once held. Let’s hope the later is true, because the magic those two entities held in their work together really helped bring out some fantastic tunes.

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It Had To Happen…

I’m referring to a Get Up Kids interview featured on The Drowned In Sound website. Though it’s only been online for a matter of hours, it’s attracted a wave of attention for a rather misinterpreted quote that goes to the tune of GET UP KIDS APOLOGIZE FOR EMO on several other news sites reporting on the interview. It’s a rather brief moment in the conversation, but Get Up Kids guitarist Jim Suptic had this to say when pressed on the term “emo”:

Honestly, I don’t often think about the state of ’emo’. The punk scene we came out of and the punk scene now are completely different. It’s like glam rock now. We played the Bamboozle fests this year and we felt really out of place. I could name maybe three bands we played with. It was just a sea of neon shirts to us. If this is the world we helped create, then I apologise.

Valid points, sure enough. Surely, I tend to appreciate it when bands generally refuse to bash groups that they’ve influenced, instead taking the high road and not delving into that subject simply to not unnecessarily stir any bad blood. What’s funny about all this is that Suptic really is speaking the truth about not keeping up with the state of emo. After all, what he’s describing sounds like scrunk, a sound that’s definitely indebted to and a part of the geneology of emo, but a creation that exists unto itself.

How do I know it’s scrunk Suptic is referring to? Well, the neon shirts are a dead give away. But so is the part of his following answer:

We at least can play our instruments.

Same ole’, same ole’. But, to each his own. I never particularly liked much of the Get Up Kids stuff to begin with… I can understand the role they had in both accelerating emo’s ascent to the top of the charts and providing support for the Vagrant business model, but most of their tunes I just can’t dig. But, as Suptic reveals in the interview, they certainly do fit into the 2nd wave emo lineage:

Fugazi is the reason I am in a band today. When I was 14 I heard Fugazi and started a band the next day. We grew up on indie rock. Superchunk, Rocket from the Crypt, Sunny Day Real Estate, Cap’n Jazz. That’s the kind of stuff we were listening to when we started.

Sounds familiar. And though Superchunk and Rocket aren’t emo bands, Superchunk is noted to have a pretty solid influence on 90s indie music, including emo (The Promise Ring anyone? That’s all Pitchfork could do when talking about TPR was to compare the two), and Rocket are a Drive Like Jehu offshoot of post-hardcore. Basically your out-of-the-ordinary ordinary roundup of influences for a second wave emo act.

This whole thing could potentially snowball into the Tim Kinsella vs Max Bemis free-for-all, though Tim had a more malicious rant against the emo acts he inspired, and Max had just as much venom when tossing insults right back. Good for Suptic for generally foregoing all the drama of attacking every band in Alternative Press and generally letting them be, even if he can’t give them credit for their music. Oh well.

The Get Up Kids – “Action & Action” (video):

VS

The Bamboozle fare… BrokeNCYDE – “40 oz” (video):

Those Sunny Day Real Estate Reunion Rumors

Tim Karan had an interview with former Sunny Day Real Estate frontman Jeremy Enigk for Alternative Press posted the day after the release of his newest solo album, OK Bear. What’s interesting was the conversation at the very end of the interview:

Is there any truth behind the rumors that Sunny Day Real Estate are getting back together?
There’s a huge force behind Sunny Day Real Estate that none of the band members ever controlled. It took on a life of its own. It had nothing to do with us as individuals, and it created a lot of expectation from the music industry and fans. It became a gigantic beast. 

I imagine it’s like a pressure cooker right now.
A little bit. I’m already sensing this–not individually or personally within the members–but on the outside, suddenly all of these people are freaking out. And it’s like, “Woah! Pull the reins in a little bit here.” It’s a bit overwhelming.

As soon as there’s so much as a mention of the chance of a Sunny Day reunion, people go crazy. That must be a lot of weight on your shoulders.
Yes, and people want to control it, as well, which is the weirdest thing.

It should be just yours, right?
Apparently. It’s supposed to be just ours, right? But the thing is that it’s not. That’s the force that Sunny Day create: It’s everybody else’s. People love to own it for themselves and that’s very special. But as a person who’s actually doing the work, it’s like, “Okay, start swimming. Here we go!”

When you are talking about other people wanting to own it, are you talking about the music industry or the fans?
Well, especially the music industry. Our fans have a very passive ownership of it in that they own it in their CD player or their iPod and it’s very special to their hearts. But it’s the industry that is the most controlling. They see the potential explosion of it–and I’m not saying that they just want to profit off it– but they want to see it flourish. With Sunny Day there’s always been the question of why we didn’t get bigger than we were and people think, “Well, let’s do what we can to make it happen for these guys.”

So you’re saying it’s still a “never say never” situation?
What it comes down to is that I just fear getting fans’ expectations and hopes up. It would be just a major bummer to be like, “Hey, We’re doing this!” and then suddenly not do it. alt 

How oddly ambiguous… But, outside of the unknown future of SDRE, Enigk does have an excellent point to all this. Enigk deftly manages to explain the power of internet rumors and its ultimate impact on the fans. It’s something I ultimately agree with, and I too do not want to give up fans’ hopes, including myself: as much as I really want to see Sunny Day perform, I hope that my own words haven’t spurned definitive thoughts of a reunion in the minds of others.

Since I first wrote about the potential reunion/rumors back in March, my piece had been getting tons of traffic. It’s gotten picked up by Absolute Punk, Alter The Press, Alternative Press, Paste Magazine, an emo blog from Japan, and even the Sunny Day Real Estate Wikipedia page. While I was certainly honored to be written up in these fine places, I’ve been a little worried about folks reactions. Suddenly, the question mark at the end of the post’s title indicating some lack of veracity became an exclamation point, and this blog became one of a couple of “sources” claiming that the reunion was, in fact, true.

Now, as I said, I would absolutely relish the ability to attend an SDRE show, but until there is an official announcement concerning a Sunny Day show, it’s a little to early to call anything go. And yet, just the other day when Enigk released his album, there was a new wave of rumors cropping up, saying that the band might be playing this year’s Bumbershoot. However, many of these write ups were definitive.

There was Marco Collins, who’s original Twitter post for that day spurned the original Bumbershoot rumors. Marco was one of a couple of folks that the original reunion rumors were based on, and he’s known as credible considering his closeness to members of the band, or at least with Enigk, and at least for work. Collins originally had this to say:

Sunny Day Real Estate @ Bumbershoot? Fact or fiction?

He then took the post down and said this a little later that day:

Picture 17

And then there’s the Seattle Post-Intelligencer‘s Ear Candy blog, written by Travis Hay, who’s last piece on the reunion said the eventual Bumbershoot set was all but inevitable. And though Collins, who retracted his statement, was all but definitive, questioning the very idea, Hay has been recklessly positive about the group’s appearance, calling Collins a credible source because of his insider knowledge and previous positive, potentially-educated, guess about a festival headliner. Though the outline of Hay’s piece isn’t definitive, the tone of it surely is, and the constant ambiguous Twitter-postings certainly show that Hay believes the reunion will happen. But, as Collins perviously stated that the band would be performing summer festival dates and the first two albums, and most summer festival announcements are coming to a close (Bumbershoot’s schedule isn’t finalized, but that’s in the beginning of September, so technically still summer… all that’s left is the Virgin Music Festival), I’m still a little suspect.

But, what might be most troubling about all of this is Hay’s attitude about his work. Take a look at this conversation over Twitter:

Picture 19

And the response:

Picture 20

It’s a little stunning if you ask me. Sure, it’s ok if you don’t take your job seriously; no one in that working relationship hurts more than the individual who thinks of their job as nothing serious. But music journalism, true music journalism, is like all kinds of journalism: it’s meant to inform the public about their interests. Readers, music fans, and people take this stuff seriously, and take it to heart, and it’s a damn shame when someone involved in journalism just doesn’t think anything of their words or their affect. 

To end things, I’d like to take something that Ian MacKaye said in an interview with Alex Cook for The Believer:

IAN MacKAYE: How could it be that someone under the age of twenty-one is not allowed to see a band? I mean, did you like music when you were under twenty-one?

THE BELIEVER: Of course.

IM: Did it mean anything to you?

BLVR: Yes, it meant everything to me, in fact.

IM: Of course it did. It is completely absurd and insane that because of the economic dependency that musicians have been faced with which maintains this status quo, that they are forced to say, “That’s the way it is.” And I think that’s a bunch of bullshit. I know music predated the rock club. I know music predated the music industry. I know music predates the alcohol industry. I know music predates it all. Music is no joke, and the fact that it has been perverted by these various industries for their own profit is discouraging to me.

While what MacKaye was talking about was strictly focused on age restrictions at rock clubs in conjunction with alcohol sales, it’s still a particularly applicable for this piece. Hay’s job is merely another part of the music industry if you want to think of journalism (especially music journalism) in terms of consumer writing, and so his preponderance over a popular broken-up band potentially reuniting is all good business for him (and that is very much an ugly interpretation of journalism and I partially apologize for that as I tend to view journalism as something greater than simply consumerist influences). But what’s most important about that quote is how serious both these individuals look at music. Music was, and is, an important part of their lives. And music journalism is a part of the culture of music today; it allows us to discover new bands, learn more about the humanity behind bands we love, and find out about potential reunions. And Hay’s strong focus on a Sunny Day Real Estate reunion and his positivity of it is potentially dangerous. And while Hay’s words certainly aren’t responsible for the Spanish-American War or putting individuals in harms way, they certainly are putting pressure on a group of talented individuals to do something they might not want to, and feeding into the hopes of many a passionate SDRE fan who are amorous about music and nothing else. And to let those people down on a whim would be unfortunate.

I’ve still got my fingers crossed, but we’ll have to wait and see. And if any member or friend of Sunny Day comes across this and wants to voice their opinion here or anywhere else, I (and so many others) would be completely supportive.

Sunny Day Real Estate – “Seven” (Live on The Jon Stewart Show, right before their first break up… interestingly enough, they were thought to have broken up immediately at the end of this set, but that claim is untrue… you’ll have to read Norman Brannon‘s Anti-Matter Anthology for the SDRE 1997 reunion piece originally featured in Alternative Press):

Don’t Shudder

Great news today from reunion land, where Shudder To Think will join a growing list of acts banding together to make a little tour. It’s not much, but I’ll certainly take it. It also doesn’t hurt that Boston is one of the few locations in America that the band is scheduled to hit; they’ll be playing at Paradise Rock Club on October 11th.

Shudder To Think\'s Dischord Days

Shudder To Think provided one of the most interesting sounds on the Dischord roster when they joined in the late 80s. Sure, Fugazi was turning all notions of post-hardcore and emo on their heads, but Shudder To Think was an entirely different beast. They were a band that pulled more and more towards the aesthetic elements of psychedelia over time, though their ethos was still intensely grounded in the DIY punk realm. Their earliest work veered through the quick one-two punch of hardcore drumming before opening up to gaping waves of 60s-flavored guitar-work (see “Chocolate” off of Funeral At The Movies).

The band did refine their sound, as seen on 1992’s Get Your Goat. Shudder to Think did more than simply re-tread the old aesthetic waters of Revolution Summer emo acts. They took the combination of hardcore and pop on a roller coaster to the clouds; it didn’t hurt that frontman Craig Wedren’s eerie falsetto became as controlled, textured, and wholly unpredictable as the band’s sound. Their work mirrored and even impacted their future touring partners, Sunny Day Real Estate (at least according to the Alternative Press article on the 23 bands, where Shudder To Think is name-checked as being one of the DC bands perpetrating the particular style of emo). It’s hard not to see the connections between the two bands. Both made use of intelligently-crafted punk rock, both sought solace in the musical realm of the 60s and 70s, both featured vocalists with unusual singing styles in the realm of punk, and both brought a distinct change in style to the labels they became a part of (although, Sunny Day’s work at Sub Pop was more a rejection of by then typical grunge than it was an evolution of the label’s aesthetic… then again, Dischord had a fluid aesthetic that lends emo a certain sense of flexibility that exists to this day). Shudder To Think’s status as not only a creative, genre-bending band, but a cross-national influence works to establish their importance in the narrative of emo; their eventual connection with Sunny Day is one of many moves that helps to solidify a cross-substantial aesthetic idea of emo, as well as a burgeoning community surrounding emo (touring would become an important part of the Mid Western emo community as many bands that toured with one another shared ideas and friendship through their troubadour spirits).

Shudder To Think would continue to spread the idea of an evolutionary emo sound when they signed to Epic to release the Pony Express Record; they were only one of two Dischord bands to sign to a major label frenzy in the great alternative buyouts in the post-Nevermind music world. But the world wasn’t ready for the Pony Express Record (nor was it ready for most of the bands that were signed in the major label buyouts). Hell, emo wasn’t really ready either. Shudder To Think always had an odd style, but it got even weirder with their major label debut. In an aesthetic style that prided itself on lyrics that were both ambiguous but contained a sense of personal investment to the band and listener, Shudder provided a great thesis in that flexibility and a great revolution against the concept. Pony Express is lyrically obtuse, it’s music strung all over the place. And it’s still positively great, though a little rough to get into at parts. If emo means emotional music over punk rock, nothing fits that idea better than the wailing anthem that Wedren lets out against a sea of guitars on the two-plus minute long chorus closing out “X-French Tee Shirt”.

The rest of the Shudder To Think tale is all over the map. Wedren battled Hodgkin’s Disease while recording their second major label album. And a couple of projects were made under the Shudder To Think name: a soundtrack for the movies First Love, Last Rights (featuring guest vocals from folks such as Jeff Buckley), High Art, and a selection of songs for the glitter-rock inspired film Velvet Goldmine.

Shudder To Think broke up shortly thereafter in 1998. Wedren has been the most visible and successful of the band members since the breakup with a solo career. However, Wedren’s solo work is probably best recognized in the guise of three other guys: Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black, and David Wain. Wedren has been the trio’s go-to guy for movies like Wet Hot American Summer (he wrote the song “Wet Hot American Summer” and co-wrote the hilarious track “Higher and Higher”), The Baxter, and The Ten (in which he also played an extra in the chorus of nude dudes).

Craig Wedren

What will happen with the new Shudder To Think reunion? A new album? Five new albums? Or just a simple tour. Whatever happens, something good is sure to come.

Shudder To Think – X-French Tee Shirt (video)

Taboo And Alphabets Too

Last night a bunch of my friends threw a show in their house… a comedy show that is. Whereas most young towns have a thriving music scene, the comedy community in Boston is everything that most insular scenes hope they can be; diverse, thriving, widespread, intimate, creative, and a network of people who are friends first and competitors never. And funny. Man are they funny. Everything from the quick-and-fast rules of delivery to hip-hop rhymes and beats about taekwondo to odd-ball rants by folks featured on Comedy Central, it was all enhanced by the intimacy of the tiny Allston-based house.

I capped off the night with what must have been an hour dedicated to playing the wordsmith worthy game Taboo. After some quick, catch-and-release trials, a group of us decided to play “hardcore,” where you could only give one clue in order for others to get the word in question in one guess. It’s a lot more challenging than the usual method of playing the game, but it sure is fun. In retrospect, the cap-off of Taboo featuring performers from the night’s previous comedy collaboration was odder than I had imagined at the time. Well, odder in recollection than experience; as most of us were all friends, it really wasn’t all that weird. But the boundaries that individuals often place on society with labels such as “performer” would elevate members of the community above others, when really it just provided for an interesting initial introduction for everyone present in the house. The atmosphere lacked any pretension associated with elevating members of the community, the intimacy of the event, the intelligence of the performance, and the humor involved made it all seem like any other night hanging out with friends… just some of those friends had the incentive to stand up and talk to a crowd for ten minutes.

Combining a general lack of pretension with musical intelligence, creativity, communal intimacy, and a warmth of humor is Chicago’s Cap’n Jazz. Though they broke up by the mid-90s, their impact has been felt throughout the emo world, most immediately in the then-growing presence of the Mid-Western underground emo scene that was about to reach a tipping point. Their influence had immediate impact with the culmination of post-Cap’n Jazz projects, most notably with 2nd guitarist Davey Von Bohlen’s side project The Promise Ring coming to the focal point of the national emo community. However, brethren Mike and Tim Kinsella have also had their fare share of impact with acts such as Joan of Arc and Owls (as well as American Football and Owen), two highly experimental groups that aren’t as well known as The Promise Ring, but certainly have their fare share of influence. Still getting shout-outs in magazines such as Alternative Press (last month’s cover story on the 23 most influential punk bands of the last 23 years had a great spread on band), the Cap’n Jazz legacy was compacted into a singular double-album release in 1998, Analphabetapolothology (now there’s the Taboo-worthy word).

Cap\'n Jazz

Brimming from end to end with unmeasurable catharsis, Analphabetapolothology takes some getting used to before you can grab those nuggets of mid-90s emo gold. Then again, Cap’n Jazz were never shooting for pop gold, just music that challenged themselves, made the band members satisfied with their own creation, and had a particular subcultural connotation. It’s a bit of a continuation of the hardcore punk tradition (and hardcore can readily be seen as a starting point for the members of Cap’n Jazz, not to mention countless of other alternative bands that continues on to today), where the band wanted to make something profoundly different then what was being pushed out on the mainstream and have it mean something to their particular community. But, while hardcore became uniform in all senses of the word, Cap’n Jazz’s hold on emo was as angular as the guitar-work involved in it. They called in the horns, lyrics that weren’t all there (at least, upon first glance), gritty dynamic changes that recall Sunny Day Real Estate played by a garage band, pop-worthy harmonies, and song structures that subverted all forms of the norm.

The best and brightest of emo today have Cap’n Jazz to thank for the fuel of creativity that somehow manages to bubble up, as if untapped, while the rest of the world thinks of emo as simply shallow. Musically, you can hear Cap’n Jazz’s influence on a vast array of emo artists. Tim’s almost-whispered, rant-singing at the start of “Puddle Splashers” recalls a more musically ambiguous version of what Taking Back Sunday vocalist Adam Lazzara attempts to create, while “Que Suerte!” sounds like a messier, more cathartic mix of what makes Thursday’s work so captivating.

Yet beyond later influence was Cap’n Jazz’s immediate impact on the community around them. The band appeared at a time just before emo began to solidify its main aesthetic elements, and Cap’n Jazz challenged every idea of singular aesthetic until its end. The biggest acts of mid-90s, Mid-Western emo not only came from disparate places on the map, but had disparate ideas in their musical take on the sound that originally had been birthed in DC. But under the musical heretofore of bands like Cap’n Jazz, they helped open the community to anyone with any original and challenging idea of emo, not simply to those who had pretensions to how to run a scene. It was more about the people involved in the community rather than following a guidebook, and for Cap’n Jazz’s musical and personal role in the national scene, it’s much greater than the first listen of Analphabetapolothology might lead you to believe. In a world where a post-hardcore sound could share space with bands who brought hardcore, pop-punk, pop, and whatever rule-based genre to the table, it was Cap’n Jazz’s original blending of ideas that helped emo form so many different strands and creative impulses for years to come.

Cap\’n Jazz – Little League