Wednesday, November 29, 2006


So the pirated Internet connection we at Deception House have been suckling on like the financially malnourished infants we are has seemingly dried up this week, and driven me into the tastefully and carefully decored confines of a Starbucks Coffee. I've been sitting here for about an half hour or so guzzling down a $4.50 something-or-other (it has whipped cream though) and suddenly became inclined to write about some of the albums I've incessantly listened to over the last few years--this is probably due to the overwhelming lack of variety on the itunes that is pumping through my headphones at the moment. What I've decided to do is throw the itunes on the festive "party shuffle" setting and then write a brief piece about the album that each song is culled from, resulting in what I'm sure will be your immense satisfaction and entertainment.

2:09pm: Converge, "Jane Doe."

The first time I heard this album was in the blindingly white and unwindowed confines of a register count-out room in the back of Tower Records in Fairfax, Virginia. Our "hardcore" manager was pumping it out of a small boom box in corner as he recklessly and expertly blazed through a drawer of twenty-dollar bills and a smattering of ones and fives. Until this time I had only associated Converge with two things 1) Being straightedge and 2) Straightedge kids enjoying breakdowns by pummeling one another. "Jane Doe" quickly changed all that for that me. I still don't think I've heard anything quite as angry as the sound produced on this record. I remember when it came time to mix the ill-fated Quell album Sammy said he used "Jane Doe" as the gauge for the overall volume on the mix.

2:16pm: Radiohead, "OK Computer."

The summer of 1997 was an odd time for me. I was 16. I worked at Pizza Hut for $4.25 an hour. It was the summer before I was sent to military school. I played the 8-Bit Nintendo game "Dragon Warrior II" incessantly in my basement bedroom while listening to "OK Computer." Far too much has been written, spoken, speculated, assumed, and theorized about this album for me to do such here. All I will say is that this album's songs create angular images in my head and it always has--and I have no idea as to what I mean by that. "OK Computer" is arguably one of the best written, arranged, produced, and executed albums of the 90's and meant that the group of unsmiling Brits were no longer just musicians, but "artists" (whatever that's supposed to mean). It also catapulted the popularity and clout of Thom Yorke--the lazy-eyed boy hero of undergraduate drama/art majors, disaffected suburban youth, and the generally depressed--as an original voice in an oversaturated and wholly unoriginal musical landscape.

All I knew at 16 was that what I was hearing was really fucking good, and was probably trying to relate lines like "For a minute there I lost myself," or "When I am king you will be first against the wall" to my socially retarded teenage life, and that when 4:30 came around I would turn my CD player off, save my character's progress on Dragon Warrior, and press the power and reset buttons simultaneously on the NES in order to not lose my quest data, and leave to go to work.

2:27pm: Engine Down, "To Bury Within the Sound."

Roughly three months before this album came out on Lovitt Records I attended my first ever MacRock festival in Harrisonburg, Virginia. My college roommate Mike and I barreled up I-81 to this mountainously sleepy college town for a weekend of independent music. High on my list of bands to see was Engine Down. In 1999 I had my head firmly up the asses of Lovitt Records' bands, especially Engine Down. This would be the first time I saw the band play of what was at least twenty before their demise in 2005, and was ultimately the best. "To Bury Within the Sound" was Engine Down's departure from screamed vocal lines (something I was, and still am, a huge proponent of) but they made up for it with depth of musicality and one of the strongest rhythm sections I've ever heard. To me Engine Down's next two albums simply never matched the previous two, but Jason Wood's bass lines and Cornbread Compton's drumming only got better--the bass playing on Engine Down records is what I've always tried to emulate when I've played and recorded with my own bands since.

2:40pm: At The Drive-In, "Relationship of Command."

For a time in the late 90's and into roughly 2001 At The Drive-In were the band to have seen live. It seemed like every show I went to I'd overhear kids with one-strap bags, brown pants, and black glasses talking about the singer climbing around on amps, the painfully thin guitarist throwing his guitar around, and the general chaotic energy of their live set. I never got to see the band live myself, but when I bought "Relationship of Command" I got it. And I got it damn quick. I used to drive around Emory, Virginia's rural back roads in my Ford Taurus blasting this album and screaming along for hours on end when I needed to clear my head. I would come back with a soar throat, the stench of Camel Lights on my clothing, and meet up with Mike and go eat pizza in the cafeteria feeling much better about everything. Thank you At The Drive-In. Thank you.

2:53pm: Wilco, "Yankee Hotel Fox Trot."

I've loved Wilco for a long time. I distinctly remember listening to their album "Being There" in my barracks room in Echo Company in Fork Union's Memorial Hall on my first afternoon there. My platoon leader, LT Vatne, made me turn it off because I wasn't supposed to listen to music while I was learning how to wax my floor, but I listened to it really quietly anyway. Fast-forward about four years and I'm at Gate City Noise in Greensboro, North Carolina buying "Yankee Hotel Fox Trot." This album is Wilco's equivalent of "Pet Sounds." I've never liked the "you have to listen to it on headphones to appreciate it" kids, but this is one of those records. There are so many sonic layers to these songs that I'm still picking up new things when I listen to it today. I think the best statement I've heard about this album, and Wilco in general, was made by my friend Jonathan at College Hill in Greensboro as the song "Poor Places" filled the PBR soaked bar: "I don't know man. Wilco is one of those bands that write songs I only want to listen to alone. You know what I mean? I don't really want any of you all around me right now."

3:05pm: Jimmy Eat World, "Clarity."

There are so many routes I could go with this one. I could talk about how good Jimmy Eat World used to be before they turned into whatever it is they are now--which is essentially a substantially chubbier and less-interesting band than before. I could site one of the many times I listened to this album on a road trip several times in a row, and the conversations that occurred over it. Hell, I could even talk about the bonding I've done with many of my current and most important friends over a mutual admiration for "Clarity." Instead all I will say is that one time I was studying for a final exam with a girl whose name I can't remember in my bedroom at 208 Wilson Street. During a break in our furious review of mathematics this girl began coming onto me extremely hard. A bit later she was browsing my record collection and came across "Clarity" and said, "Oh, I didn't know Jimmy Eat World had more than one album--I thought "Bleed American" was it." At this point I asked her to leave my house. As I walked her to the porch and closed the front door behind her my roommates who were in the living room asked, "What was that all about?"
"She thought Jimmy Eat World had only one album," I said.
Collectively my three roommates let an extremely sincere and lazy, "Ohh."
My roommates and I were total assholes. But "Clarity" is that good.

I'm going to leave this foray at that as the tables here at Starbucks are becoming hot commodities, and customers in very nice wool coats and shoes are lurking around like people looking for parking spaces at a shopping mall during Christmas season. That and I feel like I'm a living museum exhibit in the front window here entitled "The caffeinated and technologically savvy modern man."



At 6:36 PM, Anonymous Carlos R. said...

Your experience with the OK Computer album reminds me of my own. It took until my first year of college, around Christmas, I guess for it to really soak in for me because thats when I finally owned the album after hearing it or borrowing it numerous times before that. Its funny because I really was having a pretty good time that year. I wrapped Christmas presents for my family to "No Suprises" completely unaware of the joke I was living as I was doing it. I was going home to finally get some sleep and have one or two awkwardish encounters with my British ex-girlfriend and try to figure out where to go after college showed me that I wasn't far enough outside of the box after all. My little baptism into ponderous, lonely, young maledom.


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