Tag Archives: J’Nuh

Video: SDRE – “10”/”New Song”

For folks who want proof that a new Sunny Day Real Estate song exists, it’s been uploaded onto YouTube. YouTube user Jnuhjnuh (a spin on LP2‘s “J’Nuh”) captured the performance of what is believed to be called “10” at the band’s Portland show. Here’s the video:

The audio quality ain’t the best, but you can at least hear their new song (not quite) clear as day. I’ve heard comments that some folks find it reminiscent of The Rising Tide-era SDRE, but a lot of what I can hear so far reminds me a bit of the driving nature of many of the LP2 tracks I find so compelling.

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The Revolution Will Be Produced

It’s always nice getting some sort of personal email, especially when it’s in the form of a musical reunion between David Byrne and Brian Eno. Well, “personal” isn’t quite the right word, but I certainly took the message as a sincere and direct one:

It’s with great pleasure we offer you a sneak peak by sharing an MP3 from the album. The song is called “Strange Overtones”.

The album in question is Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, and it’s the first collaboration from the two post-punk minds in decades. The duo last came together with the album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. However, that album was overshadowed (and probably will always be overshadowed) by Byrne’s main musical artery, Talking Heads. Yet, Eno was a central tenant to the Talking Head’s success, as his role in the producer’s seat for three of the Heads’ best albums (More Songs About Buildings and Food, Fear of Music, and Remain in Light) was as vital as any other performing member of the band. It was because of Eno’s previously-unforeseen creative control over the band – which according to the book Rip It Up And Start Again hit its tipping point when Eno and Byrne got writing credits for Remain in Light ahead of the other band members, who were simply written down under the umbrella of “Talking Heads” – that his relationship with the Talking Heads and Byrne deteriorated.

Talking Heads

Talking Heads

It took me quite a bit of time to realize what an impact certain producers have over the final musical product. I always assumed that the final version of a song and album was simply a record of what the musicians themselves had originally created. And in many cases, that is true, especially in the world of underground music (and on the flipside, with mainstream, conglomerate pop, there’s the tendency wherein the “musicians” have less control over the final sound – or even the original sound to begin with). But as I became more interested in music, its with the “behind the music” stories so to speak, that I realized what a fundamental role producers play. The most famous stories I can think of involving the influence of a producer are all about Rick Rubin, the man who transformed the Beastie Boys into a fully-fledged hip-hop act and brought guitars and turntables together with his idea to do a Run-DMC/Aerosmith collaboration.

Rick Rubin

Rick Rubin

Rick Rubin is the kind of guy who blends a musician’s sound with his own distinct style. His style is not quite overbearing, but you can hear distinct patterns and ideas in songs such as Jay-Z‘s “99 Problems”; with it’s big, chunky guitar riffs broken up by break-beats, its in the same ballpark as “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn” or “Walk This Way.” It’s something I tend to notice coming out of my favorite producer today – Danger Mouse. Despite the fact that DM works with a diverse number of genres and artists, there’s a certain reliance on futuristic-soul (a bit faster than old skool soul) with a twist that flows through most of his repertoire. Don’t believe it? Take a quick listen to the Black Keys‘ “Strange Times” and compare it to Gnarls Barkley‘s “Go-Go Gadget Gospel.” They’re both excellent songs, but they share a pop-friendly downbeat and have the same hand-clap filled start.

Strange Times:

Go-Go Gadget Gospel:

It is partially due to production that emo transformed from an obtuse and ambiguous umbrella term for DC based post-hardcore, into a tangible genre. In its infancy, many of the bands who were tagged as “emo” simply produced their own records, or had friends produce their records. Everyone from Rites of Spring to Beefeater (note – their friend “Gumbo” MacKaye is said to have produced their overture) to Fugazi to Lungfish to Jawbox had band members working on both sides of the soundtrack. Hell, Happy Go Licky, the post-Rites of Spring group in a slightly different formation, only has one album, and its a collection of live recordings. The first wave of emo’s lack of a singular mode of production allowed for each act to create their own sounds uninhibited by any outside forces.

Happy Go Lickys Will Play

Happy Go Licky's Will Play

Enter the second wave of emo and there are noticeable changes and formulations drawn out that inevitably impact the future of the genre. The 2nd wave basically has two distinct halves: the spread of the DC-inspired sound to particular parts of the country in a small number of bands (Sunny Day Real Estate, Jawbreaker, etc), and then the immediate spreading of “emo” under the influence of the previous 1st and 2nd wave bands (most notably throughout the Mid West). Of all of the groups in emo 2.1, Sunny Day Real Estate had the most influence, and yet, they themselves have two distinct parts in which their sound developed due in part to the band’s relationship to two producers: Brad Wood and Lou Giordano. Wood produced the first two Sunny Day albums (Diary and LP2), and the production value brought out a certain aural dissonance derived from the feedback of the band’s dual guitar-work. Considering the band found an instant fan base (albeit, rather small) isn’t unbelievable as their produced sound shared numerous qualities with grunge, which was still popular at the time (Wood worked his alterna-sweeping grunge sound into the work of other artists such as Red Red Meat, Hum, and Smashing Pumpkins). And yet, on LP2 you could sense that the band wanted to achieve something more powerful than the immediate gratification of sonic blasts, as songs such as “J’Nuh” delved into succinct, taught patterns. When they reformed, Sunny Day grabbed Giordano, who helped relieve the band of its excess dissonance in favor of sparse melodies, a concept which has carried on into the band members’ post-Sunny Day work (The Fire Theft, Enigk’s solo work). Sunny Day held their own individual sound throughout their career, but with the help of two different folks created two distinct portraits.

Sunny Days final form

Sunny Day's final form

As emo spread throughout the rest of America and bands began to share musical ideas, producers helped sift through the sounds to create something resembling a conglomerate creation. And the two people who had the most impact behind the bands themselves are Mark Trombino (former Drive Like Jehu drummer) and J Robbins (former Jawbox frontman). Trombino is best known for his production work with Jimmy Eat World, most notably on the album Clarity, a record which traded the band’s pop-punk leanings for ambient experimentation. Trombino’s relationship with Jimmy Eat World, Mineral, Knapsack, and Boys Life no doubt formed a core aesthetic for emo which mainly highlighted the band’s talents by simply teasing out the volume, focusing on the intertwined guitar flurries, and highlighting the singers’ vocals. It’s a style of down-tuned production that no-doubt has influenced countless pop-punk and emo bands today, many of whom Trombino has worked with.

J Robbins

J Robbins

As Trombino fiddled with certain bands’ sounds, J Robbins mostly covered the bases of bringing the bands to the studio. In the case of many J Robbins’ produced albums (most recently, his work on Ponytail’s Ice Cream Spiritual has gotten attention for bringing a notoriously hard-to-record-but-excellent-live band into the world of recorded sound), Robbins leaves much of the musicianship up to the band, but makes sure to twist the production knobs in a way that it gives each group the kind of pop-friendly gloss they were hoping to achieve. Even in the case of Texas Is The Reason (Do You Know Who You Are?), Robbins has been able to flesh out the noise-fetish in order to create approachable pop. In fact, Robbins’ work with one band in particular helped drive emo into the bubblegum chew of pop perfection: The Promise Ring. After TPR were upset with the sonic outcome of their debut, 30 Degrees Everywhere, they turned to Robbins for a little quality control. And that’s exactly what Robbins did, delivering the band’s two poppiest records; Nothing Feels Good and Very Emergency. It’s with Robbins that certain aspects of the emo “sound” manage to stand out, because he managed to make the sounds all stand out; rather than bands being lost in a caterwaul of noise, Robbins’ produced material (from the Dismemberment Plan to Jets to Brazil to Braid to mewithoutyou) sounds clear and conscience, making the band stand out. And in music production, that’s what counts.

Brian Eno and David Byrne – Strange Overtones (fan video):

Impossibly Short

Just a quick one for tonight. Caught The Impossible Shapes at the Milky Way Lounge and Lanes in Jamaica Plain this evening. First thing’s first – the Milky Way may just be the best venue in Boston, period. The Middle East is the time-olde locale for great incoming shows, as is the Paradise and a number of others. But nothing can beat the feel of the Milky Way. It’s an anomaly of a club; the place was used purely as a bowling alley until someone had the bright idea to turn it into a quasi-club. You can still go duck-pin bowling and catch a band playing on what is still the hardwood floor of a bowling lane. And they’ve got really cheap and free shows and events. If only JP weren’t so far out of the way….

Needless to say, The Impossible Shapes put on a solid set. Their music went through crazy time signature changes, hung around low-fi folk tunes before blasting them with a hit of psychedelica-cum-rawk instrumentation, and the harmonies were just great. Suffice it to say, their work reminded me of the Sunny Day Real Estate album How It Feels To Be Something On. Before all of the indie rock reunions of today, the band that brought emo to the big time with the appearance of the “Seven” video on MTV rotation in 1994, Sunny Day broke up in ’95 only to get back together a couple of years later. What came out of this reunion was a startling piece of pop music. Although I’m quite partial to Sunny Day’s second release, 1995’s LP2 (otherwise known as The Pink Album as its cover is drenched in bright pink and has no official title),
How It Feels To Be Something On is a masterpiece, a startling evolution and ideological streamline where before there was simply a caterwauling mess. Sunny Day could caterwaul with the best of them, but their first album after their reunion was startling mature, comfortably crafted, and a straight shot of pure emotion. Whereas on Sunny Day’s earlier material, frontman Jeremy Enigk fights against the drift that has swept him away, with How It Feels Enigk’s voice and lyrics are startlingly clear, straightforward, and thoughtful. Before his words were a question in search of an answer, but with How It Feels, Enigk appears to understand the question, answer, the entire picture, and the reason that’s it all there.

Sunny Day Real Estate

And the music cannot be beat. Diary and LP2, Sunny Day’s first two albums, excelled in the world of the DC, post-hardcore aesthetics of what is known as emo. The music lurched back and forth, seething with a catharsis that cannot quit, and a restrained hardcore punk fury that pushes it along. But with How It Feels, Sunny Day stretch out their musical abilities – those which were easily heard on their first two albums, but put to their experimental tests with their inevitable reunion. It may reach out into prog territory, but it works for the benefit of the album, which takes in the best of many rock-based genres for trips into tranquil waters and angelic highs. Enigk’s voice, an uncompromising falsetto, soars to unbelievable new heights, lengths that crash through the ceiling the singer had set with songs such as “J’Nuh” and “Song About An Angel” on earlier albums. For anyone who thought that emo was uniform, terrible pop, or impossible to listen to, How It Feels To Be Something On can quell the worst fears that emo went the way of the dodo after it left DC.

Also, before I sign off, check out the blog Songs Across Boston. In the coming weeks, I hope to establish a guerrilla performance schedule, a flash mob for bands, if you will. More details will be up soon on the blog, so stay tuned… it should be an interesting experiment. Anyway, here are some musics for you…

Sunny Day’s live rendition of “Guitar and Video Games” plus the “Seven” video:

The Impossible Shapes – You Are Not The Target