FRIDAY 5 ACROSS THE LIPS: Five bands we wish would get back together

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1.  LCD Soundsystem

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Years active: 2001-2011
Number of albums: 9 (including three EPs)

While I try to keep an open mind to all genres, I’m not a fan of what is generally known as “dance music.”  It might be because it seems like there isn’t much of a creative process in making it.  It might be because the lyrics to most dance songs seem vapid at best.  Or it might be because I have no coordination and can’t dance my way out of an open burlap sack with all the sides removed.  Regardless, it’s just not for me…unless that dance music is coming from LCD Soundsystem.

I’ll admit that I haven’t been a long-time fan.  I can’t go into the nuances of their music or tell you the different stages of their decade-long career.  I came to the LCD Soundsystem game late, perhaps two or three years before the breakup.  I became hooked to their clever, humorous approach to dance, which made it more appealing. What’s more fun than moving your hips to “Losing My Edge” while watching frontman James Murphy getting his face slapped repeatedly to the beat for four minutes and 27 seconds?  Or the thought of “Daft Punk is Playing at My House,” where you can “Dance Yrself Clean (with Kermit and the Muppets)” with lots of “Drunk Girls“?

Yep, that was one dance party I wish never ended.

2.  The Smiths

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Years active: 1982-1987
Number of albums: 16 (including 10 compilations and one EP)

For some reason, Morrissey recently declared in a Billboard magazine interview that “I don’t know a single person who wants a Smiths reunion.”

Seriously?

I’m here to declare I’m that single person who really wants a Smiths reunion.  I’ll sit in the audience by myself if I have to.

I first heard the Smiths during my DJ days at the University of Denver’s student-run radio station, KAOS, from 1983-86.  It was a far cry from what I was used to during my high school days in central Michigan, where we were fed a regular diet of Bob Seger, Journey, and Billy Joel.  The most alternative thing we listened to at the time was maybe Cheap Trick (Patti Smith didn’t count because the only tune we heard her sing was actually a Bruce Springsteen song).

There was something off about the Smiths, but I loved it.  Morrissey’s velvety smooth voice interlaced with Johnny Marr’s dirty guitar work created an incredibly complex and gorgeous tapestry of juxtaposing sounds.  Couple that with the irony of Morrissey’s lyrics dripping with sadness, depression, and defeat against a wall of Marr’s joyously upbeat chords and you had something offbeat, fun, and as addictive as heroin-laced Dove chocolates.  I didn’t really know what to make of the Smiths at the time, but I knew I could never go home again.  And I was very good with that proposition.

3.  Das Racist

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Years active: 2008-2011
Number of albums: One studio album, two mixtapes

Remember when hip hop was clever and fun?  Yeah, I barely remember that either.  The likes of Sugar Hill Gang, Beastie Boys, and NWA are long gone and have been replaced by rappers slurring lazy rhymes with no irony, sense of humor, or any purpose.

Then along came Das Racist, three apparent slackers from Brooklyn with degrees from  Wesleyan University who employed humor, academic references, foreign allusions, and unconventional style of rap that hasn’t been heard in years.  Taking their name from the short-lived MTV show  Wonder Showzen in which a character constantly yelled “That’s Racist!” between skits, the trio intentionally or unintentionally set out to make rap fun again, which included songs about trying to find your buddy at the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, a tribunal led by Michael Jackson, and the finer points of stalking.  Some saw them as a joke, others saw them as an important milestone in modern hip hop.

Incidentally, while the name was meant to be a clever homage to Wonder Showzen and how a serious accusation had become little more than a quip, it backfired as some thought the group was comprised of white supremacists, which is not the case.  All three are men of color who are definately not racists.

4. Sonic Youth

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Years active: 1981-2011
Number of albums: 30 (including four compilations and eight EPs)

I pretty much grew up with Sonic Youth, so I took the news rather hard when I found out they disbanded following the separation and subsequent divorce of guitarist Thurston Moore and his wife/bandmate, bassist Kim Gordon.  It was like losing someone you love who was also taking all her cool stuff with her.  It was devastating.

Sonic Youth is arguably most influential band of the modern rock era.  They did things with guitars that had never been thought of before, such as alternative tuning and playing the instruments with screwdrivers and drum sticks to create vast walls of dissonant sound.  They championed other indie bands, such as Nirvana, Sleater-Kinney, and Cell, after signing with Geffen’s DCG label.  They came out with 30 great albums in 30 years (not counting singles and bootlegs), nary a clunker among them.  They are the greatest band of all time.

Their fifth album Daydream Nation was enshrined in the Library of Congress National Recording Registry in 2005 for being “…culturally, historically, or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States.”  The Registry describes the album:

“Pioneer members of New York City’s clangorous early 1980s No Wave scene, Sonic Youth are renowned for a glorious form of noise-based chaos. Guitarists Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo had previously performed with Glenn Branca’s large guitar ensembles, and their alternative guitar tunings and ringing harmonies attest to this apprenticeship. On Daydream Nation, their breakthrough album, the group’s forays into outright noise always return to melodic songs that employ hypnotic arpeggios, driving punk rock rhythmic figures and furious gales of guitar-based noise. Bassist Kim Gordon’s haunting vocals and edgy lyrics add additional depth to the numbers she sings.”

And now they’re no more.  Given three decades of unfettered brilliance, we’re fortunate to have such an in-depth collection of incredible avante-garde musical art from which to draw because they’re gone for good.  The world is worse for it.  One more show wouldn’t deaden the pain, but it might alleviate it a bit.

5.  Cell

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Years active: 1990-1995
Number of albums: 2

Cell had so much potential, but was a victim of being in the right place at the wrong time.  I first heard them when they opened up for Sonic Youth at Tuxedo Junction in Danbury, Conn., on July 2, 1992, to promote their first album, Slo-Blo.  That was about a year into the grunge era which, unfortunately, would only last a few more years as Kurt Cobain’s suicide on April 5, 1994, marked the decline of the genre.  As grunge went, so did Cell.  By 1994 they released their second and final album, Living Room, then they faded into oblivion.  During their short career, they produced some powerful guitar rock that was just as much on their albums as it was live.

FRIDAY 5 ACROSS THE LIPS: Awesome Sub-genres You Never Knew Exsisted

sanford The Friday 5 Across the Lips will showcase a different theme every week, and highlight five songs within that theme. This week: Awesome sub-genres you never knew existed…

1.  Kawaii Metal

Japan does weird much better than we do here in the United States.  For such a disciplined, repressed culture, they have an uncanny ability to take their pop culture to the outer limits.  Kawaii is an aspect of Japanese culture that celebrates the cute, cuddly, and adorable (Hello Kitty and Pikachu didn’t happen by accident).  So only in Japan does it make sense to combine cutesy and death metal.  The result is Babymetal, a band that features three teenage girls bouncing around the stage belting out pop lyrics to dark, grinding heavy metal, (such as the song above, “Gimme Chocolate,” which extols the yumminess of chocolate to pounding death metal riffs).

2.  Crazy Cat Lady Jazz

Some believe there is a place between brilliant and bonkers, and it’s apparently Karen Mantler.  Jazz musician and singer Mantler has built a whole career based on four albums completely dedicated to her cat Arnold, including 1988’s My Cat Arnold; 1990’s Karen Mantler and Her Cat Arnold Get the Flu; 1996’s Farewell (a tribute to Arnold’s death), and finally 1999’s Karen Mantler’s Pet Project. Despite the eccentricities filtered through her bizarre and pervasive sense of humor, Mantler has a keen sense of song structure, and a dark affinity for minor keys.  Regardless, Mantler single-handedly created a meaningful, deeply personal subgenre of music for a misunderstood demographic.

3.  Puppet Hip-Hop

Perhaps the most amazing of all hip hop.  Back in the ’80s, the hip-hop genre was relatively new and everyone was jumping on the bandwagon, including puppets.  Rapping is difficult enough when you have flesh and blood mouth, but puppets busting rhymes with their wooden lips are otherworldly. Biological science tells us flesh and muscles work best for rapping; however, these brilliant puppets must use soft, pliable wood such as pine or balsam.  Regardless, it’s freaking awesome. Many times I’ve tried to mimic Eminem and ended up sounding like Mushmouth from Fat Albert.  This makes Mr. Wood here from MC 900 Ft. Jesus all the more astounding.

4.  Cowpunk

Sometime in the late ’70s I heard a comedy bit about a new genre of music called Punk Country where a cheeky, twangy singer crooned “I wanna do your cow/Show me how/I wanna see her moo/So do you.”  Punk was relatively new at the time, and the prospect of angry music from the working class sections of cities making its way to the sounds of rural America seemed hilariously absurd.  Fast forward a few years when I discovered a psychobilly band calling themselves simply X who mashed up high-energy country music with deliciously ironic punk lyrics.  It wasn’t long before I found other bands blasting cowpunk/psychobilly, such as Mojo Nixon, The Beat Farmers, and The Blasters.  Punk was no longer confined to the industrial sections of major cities as angry, ironic working-class country kids now had a voice.

5.  Math Rock

Math Rock is truly a sub-genre for those who just think too damned much.  Most people believe Math Rock is something they watched on Saturday mornings back in the ’70s, but it’s actually an offshoot of progressive and hardcore music of the late ’80s.  Eschewing the traditional 4/4 meter, Math Rockers usually aim for more asymmetric time signatures such as  7/8, 11/8, or 13/8.  No, I’m not making that up.  I actually researched it and typed what I found.  Being as I’m not a musician, I have no idea what the hell any of that means, but I do know that Math Rock differs from most music in that it uses irregular rhythms, unusual guitar fragments, and exceptionally complex composition.  So nerd-up if you can handle the C8H18 + O2 —>CO2 + H2O, bro.