A Season of Songs, Day 73: Gin and Saltpeter

A Season of Songs is a type of Fun-A-Day project that I plan to do throughout this spring.  I’ll hit shuffle on the ol’ iPod and see what comes up.  I’ll then write a bit about that song, the band, the record, whatever.  Enjoy

Just 3 more weeks of spring!  It’s hard to believe it’s almost officially summertime.  Well, not that hard as the heat and the humidity have already set in.  This has been a fun project and i’m going to see it through all the way to the end of spring.  Not sure what this’ll mean come June 21st but i’m hoping to keep things going regularly here at the blog again.  Probably not daily and probably not all about music, but a mix of Q life stuff, so I hope you’ll hang around.

Today’s song is “Gin and Saltpeter” by Conelrad, taken from their CD “A Final Dissolution”.

You ruined your boyish good looks
With a .38-caliber escape route
When you could have anesthetized like we do
Sex drive slows to a plod
Now a crawl
Now a halt
I respect women too much to subject them to my company

Conelrad was a band that Adam MacGregor formed with his old buddy Jeff Gretz after a several year stint in Creation Is Crucifixion.  In a piece Adam wrote for the “Building  A Better Robot: 10 Years of the Mr. Roboto Project” book, he describes how his time playing with CIC and his discovery of Roboto really helped break him out of a period where he was experiencing a sort of wallowing in the suburbs, feeling that live music was no longer a viable option in his life.  Conelrad would become one of the “2nd wave” of Roboto bands for me (I generally define these as those bands who appeared on the “The West Coast of the East Coast” compilation CD that I put out in 2003).

Conelrad were a brutal force for a 2-piece.  They adopted a good deal of the technical/metal-y guitar work and drumming from CIC, but stripped it just down to guitar and drums.  Lyrics highlighted a certain bitterness and anger. It was clear from reading their lyrics, listening to their music and watching them perform that the two of them were using their music as a form of catharsis.  They were working through some issues – with the world, with women, with alcohol, with each other.  During their live shows they would attack their instruments and attack each other – displaying a form of playful aggression with each other that seems to frequently be a feature of 2-person bands (I remember, other local 2-piece Ice Capades often having a similar dynamic at the same time.  Like a married couple bickering in front of everyone for the crowd’s enjoyment).  Despite this, off-stage and as individuals, it would be hard to find a couple guys who were more friendly and appreciative.

Around 2003, Joey Vesely (with his Hope Records label) and myself (with my Hardtravelin’ label) were trying to plan out a series of 7″s.  We decided to ask Conelrad.  We didn’t know Adam and Jeff that well, but they were eager to work with us.  I remember meeting up with them at the Quiet Storm (RIP) to talk about the plan for their record and just really enjoying getting to talk with them at length and beginning to build a relationship with them.

I think the vinyl for the record was already in the pipeline when we got the layout for the covers and had taken our first chance to read the lyrics.  For labels that were perhaps known for a posi, semi-PC batch of bands, it was a little bit of an eye-opener to realize we were putting out a record with lyrics like “I’ve made my choice swapped the cunt for the bottle” and “Your girl’s a whore and your son’s a pussy. They’re both sucking cock now behind the bath house.”  But the reality was that we were aware of the dark side of things that Adam and Jeff dabbled in with their music and we supported their work as artists.  Still, I expected someone to give us shit for those lyrics (strangely, I don’t think it ever happened).

One of the nice things about Conelrad is that I think it did work for Adam and Jeff as a way to deal with those negative emotions.  I feel like a lot of times you see bands that deal in negativity and these darker thoughts and the band members just absorbing the negativity and becoming consumed by it.  Adam and Jeff used the music to purge themselves of those thoughts.  At this point in time, both of them seem to be living lives that I think they are both happy with, being successful with what they want to be doing, and they hopefully do not view themselves as “depraved and damaged men”.

“Gin and Saltpeter” is a good example of Conelrad’s music.  The lyrics are dark – dabbling in suicidal imagery and pity about not being able to get laid.  There’s a sort of Minutemen-esque, self-referential moment with the lyric “Me and Jeff Gretz: still the worst men available.”, which is one of the little touches that I always enjoyed about their lyrics.  They were dark, but playful.  Far from just being a thought-provoking lyrical piece, the song really rips, showing off the well-orchestrated noise that a two-piece can make – from the fast, technical guitar and drum bits that make up the first half of the song, to the slow plodding heaviness of the middle.  One of my favorite tracks off their CD, followed up by another great song “Dudes Entering Bar In Fancy Clothes Should Be Prepared to Defend Themselves”.

Conelrad.  Great band. A band that I would really love to reunite for a couple shows.  If you want a copy of the “Bezoar” 7″, let me know as I still have a short stack of them.

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A Season of Songs, day 72: I Know You Got Soul

A Season of Songs is a type of Fun-A-Day project that I plan to do throughout this spring.  I’ll hit shuffle on the ol’ iPod and see what comes up.  I’ll then write a bit about that song, the band, the record, whatever.  Enjoy

Today’s song is “I know You Got Soul” by Eric B & Rakim from their 1987 debut album “Paid in Full”.

This is how it should be done
This style is identical to none
Some try to make it sound like this but you’re getting me
So upset that I’m wet cause you’re sweating me
I drip steam like a microphone fiend
Eager to MC is my theme
I get hype when I hear a drum roll
Rakim is on the mic and you know I got soul

Eric B & Rakim are one of those hip-hop groups that I never really listened to extensively.  I had heard their songs here and there and really liked what I heard but never had bothered to get any of their albums.  Then about ten years ago Brian Coleman put out the book “Rakim Told Me”, which was a book where he wrote about the history of 21 various hip-hop albums – each section highlighting a different record and talking about the history of the group, how the particular record came about, etc.  A couple years after that he put out an updated version of the book called “Check The Technique” which expanded on the number of albums covered.  It was these books that encouraged me to check out a handful of hip-hop classics that I had not spent much time with previously.  “Paid in Full” was one of those albums.

One of the first things you notice about Eric B & Rakim’s songs is Rakin’s relaxed, laid back flow.  If you looked at the cover of the album (dollar bills and gold chains) and read the lyrics (lots of typical braggadocio), you might expect to find a hard, energetic vocal attack.  Instead Rakim eases back and provides a mellow, smooth lyrical delivery with a unique rhythmic flow.  Eric B’s DJ-ing is pretty standard – competent, providing a bit more of an aggressive sound at times to complement Rakim’s rhymes, but really nothing too outstanding.

“I Know You Got Soul” is one of the singles off the album.  Pretty typical of the album.  A nice bumpin’ track laid down by Eric B with Rakim’s smooth rhymes overtop.  The line “pump up the volume” was sampled by the groups MARRS for their song “Pump Up The Volume”, which I don’t think I ever really noticed until today when listening to this.

The version of “Paid In Full” that I downloaded is “The Platinum Version” which has all types of alternative mixes, dub mixes, etc.  Probably didn’t need that but glad to have finally given this record a proper listen.  Worth having in the collection.

A Season of Songs, Day 71: Let Me Breathe

A Season of Songs is a type of Fun-A-Day project that I plan to do throughout this spring.  I’ll hit shuffle on the ol’ iPod and see what comes up.  I’ll then write a bit about that song, the band, the record, whatever.  Enjoy!

Today’s song is “Let Me Breathe” by 1.6 Band from their 1992 “Tongue Family Style” 7″.

I think I first got the 1.6 Band LP simply because it was on Gern Blandsten records, the record label run by Charles Maggio of Rorschach.  Maybe I had read a review or something.  I don’t remember.  I’m pretty sure I got it in a group mailorder order we had down with Blacklist Mailorder.  Not sure what I was expecting but I loved what I got.  Weird obtuse lyrics laid over kinda noodle-y/technical guitar parts with driving, yet varied drumming.  The vocals had a sort of higher pitched abrasiveness to them at times but were mostly just yelled hardcore vocals.  The songs had great titles like “Cancer In My Backyard”, “Adult Hitler” and “Keeping Me From Killing You”. They were definitely of the early 90’s emo era in some ways but had enough unique elements to make them stand out among the crowd.

I later tracked down this “Tongue Family Style” 7″ which actually came out before the LP.  4 more songs of the same. “Let Me Breathe” is  my favorite track on the record.  It’s not a record that I play frequently but it is one that really helps you appreciate the unique sound they created. Lyrics once again give you enough to paint a picture but not enough detail to give them totally away.  “You are the smoke that makes me choke.  You’re keeping the air from getting in.”

I’m not sure that their final 7″ (of their original period, they reunited years later and recorded one more EP) is their best work but it is my favorite just for it’s absurdity.  It is called “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy” and does feature a rather un-PC for the time photo of a woman’s ass on the back cover.  The front cover includes a worker in a hard hat wiping his brow and a stack of money.  The first song on the record is called “Pushing Shit Back Into My Ass (Theme Song From “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy”)”  and includes the lyrics “I barely made it through the day / They want me back tomorrow / The windows fog up / I write help on the windows / But they see it backwards”.  Great song, fun record.

All of the original 1.6 Band material is collected on a CD called “Broke Up”.  In my opinion, their stuff is worth hunting down and picking up.

A Season of Songs, Day 70: Two Sides

A Season of Songs is a type of Fun-A-Day project that I plan to do throughout this spring.  I’ll hit shuffle on the ol’ iPod and see what comes up.  I’ll then write a bit about that song, the band, the record, whatever.  Enjoy!

Today’s song is “Two Sides” by Gorilla Biscuits off their 1989 album “Start Today”.

These people are so quick to judge.
Let’s get the judgement straight.
It’s not who’s wrong it’s how we get along.
And I’m not too sure that we do yet.

Despite being a lifelong non-drinker, non-smoker, etc. and using the “straight edge” label for many years, I for better or worse, never really got into the NYHC/Revelation Records scene. There are two records on Revelation that I stand beside: first is the Statue 12″ and the other is “Start  Today”.  I never got into Youth of Today, Judge, Sick of It All — most of that late 80’s/early 90’s stuff.  I can appreciate it but I’d be hard pressed to name songs by those bands or to quote lyrics.  Somehow Gorilla Biscuits made their way to my heart.  Not sure how or why, but they did.

I would have first heard Gorilla Biscuits through the self-titled 7″ (or more appropriately the CD-EP version of the first 7″).  That EP is decent with a couple standout songs on it, but if that was the only record they put out, then they probably would have been forgotten by me.  “Start Today” is a great album from start to finish.  It still has some dopey lyrics (“Cats and Dogs”), but it also has a fuckin’ harmonica solo….on a straight-edge hardcore record?  Fuck yeah.  It is one of those albums that I can put on if I need to get pumped up.  Put it up there with the Minor Threat discography.  Run around the room shouting lyrics, climbing on top of furniture…yeah, it’s that kind of album.

“Two Sides” isn’t necessarily a standout on the album but I like it.  I think primarily it is because the lyrics are similar to something I might write.  Balance.  We don’t need to agree, but we do need to get along.  Let’s listen to each other and come to some understanding.  Upbeat, like the whole album really, and really fun to sing along with.

So if you’ve avoided the Revelation catalog for whatever reason, let me recommend you give “Start Today” a chance.  I think you might like it.

A Season of Songs, Day 69: Ad Infinitum

A Season of Songs is a type of Fun-A-Day project that I plan to do throughout this spring.  I’ll hit shuffle on the ol’ iPod and see what comes up.  I’ll then write a bit about that song, the band, the record, whatever.  Enjoy!

Today’s song is “Ad Infinitum” by Pittsburgh band Harangue from their 2007 demo.

I feel like normally when you first hear or see a band for the first time, there is usually some sense of a hopping off point for where that band developed their sound. “Oh, these guys must listen to a lot of DC hardcore.”,  “These guys must listen to a lot of pop punk”, etc.  Occasionally you stumble upon a band that just leaves you a bit mystified.  What sound is this band going for?  What was their starting point for when they first began writing these songs?  Harangue was that sort of band for me.

I think at points in the past I have described Harangue as fucked-up circus music indie rock.  I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way.  Consisting of keyboards, guitar and drums, it doesn’t really seem like it would be anything out of the ordinary.  Yet somehow they managed to take this simple lineup and make some strange tunes.  At the core of their sound was the keyboard – instead of being moody or dark, the keyboard parts were very bright and with a tone which to me, as suggested, is reminiscent of circus or carousel music.  Mix that up with some noisy, hectic drumming, some piercing guitar bits and Matt’s rambling, slightly operatic/yodel-y vocal method and you’ve got something unlike you’ve likely ever heard.

When they were on, their songs were pretty golden.  Other times it was a bit much.  “Ad Infinitum” is a 6:46 minute long track.  I feel like it starts off strong and perhaps they rock out the second portion of the song a bit longer than necessary.  Still an interesting listen.  This song (though i’m not sure if it is the same version) appears on a 7″ the band put out.

I put a track of their’s, “Autumn Lull“, on the “Revolved Back to Failure” tape compilation my label Hardtravelin’ released in 2005.

Couldn’t find today’s track available online, but their 12″ they put out can be listened to here.

A Season of Songs, Day 68: 18th Nervous Breakdown

A Season of Songs is a type of Fun-A-Day project that I plan to do throughout this spring.  I’ll hit shuffle on the ol’ iPod and see what comes up.  I’ll then write a bit about that song, the band, the record, whatever.  Enjoy!

So today’s song is “18th Nervous Breakdown” by a band called Cars Get Crushed from their their 1995 album “Drag Explosive”.

I honestly don’t know when I first came across this band.  I was gonna swear that my one old college roommate Leon had a copy of this album, but I last lived with him in 1994 and this record came out in 1995 from all the information I can find online.  This band and record seemed to fly a bit below the radar.  Members of Cars Get Crushed were in other notable early 90’s emo bands Reach Out, Sixteen Bullets and John Henry West, but I didn’t realize that until I just started poking around about the band today.  I don’t recall much chatter about this band, just would see it here and there in the collections of people whose music tastes I trusted.  I think I downloaded the mp3’s off some site that had all types of 90’s emo/hc records available for download awhile back.

This record has a bit more of a straight up rock and post-hardcore sound then the aforementioned bands.  More sung vocals, less screamy hardcore.  They remind me a lot of The Crownhate Ruin on this record. It’s one of those records that is solid and enjoyable but i’m hard pressed to really name any particular favorite tracks or remember what any of the songs sound like.  “18th Nervous Breakdown” is a short 1:18 number.  Not a real standout but a decent song.

Probably one of those bands that is really held dear by a bunch of people from their hometown.  A record worth a listen but not essential.

A Season of Songs, Day 67: Son of Byford

A Season of Songs is a type of Fun-A-Day project that I plan to do throughout this spring.  I’ll hit shuffle on the ol’ iPod and see what comes up.  I’ll then write a bit about that song, the band, the record, whatever.  Enjoy!

Today’s song is “Son of Byford” by Run DMC off their 1986 album “Raising Hell”.

I was born
Son of Byford, brother of Al
Bannah’s my mamma and Run’s my pal
It’s McDaniels, not McDonald’s
These rhymes are Darryl’s, the burgers are RONALD’S
I ran down my family tree
My mother, my father, my brother and D

I first heard any Run DMC on an “Electric Breakdance” LP that we acquired when breakdancing blew up in the mid-80’s (this album is where my love of “White Lines” by Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel would originate).  The song on there is “It’s Like That”. The song is pretty slow, minimal musically and didn’t much catch my attention at the time.  I would really become aware of Run DMC in 1986 when their re-make/collaboration of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” made it’s way into the Top 5 on the charts, the first hip-hop track to do so.  The album would spawn several other hits with “You Be Illin'” and “It’s Tricky”.  I would get the album on cassette. This album would be my favorite record of 7th grade until another little album would come out later in the year called “Licensed to Ill” by the Beastie Boys.  At the time “Licensed to Ill” would eclipse “Raising Hell”, but over the long haul they’ve both developed a special spot in my heart and have remained constant musical companions over the last few decades now.

Both Chris Rock and Chuck D have referred to the album as one of the greatest hip-hop records of all time and I have to agree with them. The only song on the album I generally can’t hang with is “Dumb Girl”, which ultimately isn’t even that bad, it’s just kinda stupid and sub-par for the album.  Otherwise so many great songs on this – “Peter Piper”, “My Adidas”, “Proud to be Black”, “Raising Hell”, “Hit It Run” and more.

I remember when I was working at the Mattress Factory in the mid-2000’s, I sometimes got to work with some of the teenage interns/volunteers that were involved at the museum. There was this one young man, African-American, who was clearly into rap and seemed to be heavily into the various Cash Money Millionaires artists.  He told me that his mom got him a copy of “Raising Hell” and made him listen to it.  He called it “corny” and my jaw dropped.  I tried talking him into giving it another chance but I don’t think he was buying it.

“Son of Byford” is just a quick 28 second song.  The lyrics are just a verse stripped from the song “Hit It Run”; no modification t the lyrics, just delivered raw with only a beatbox accompaniment.  It’s a curious little track to have on the same album/same side of album as “Hit It Run” but it actually works out great.  The stripped down sound of this song provides a perfect set-up for the booming attack that is the beginning of “Proud to be Black”.  Not necessarily a song you listen to on its own but a fun track nonetheless.