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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