Monday, January 31, 2005

B, X

Boilermaker- Leucadia

I tend to think that in the mid-nineties, every town in the country had a band like Boilermaker (or Bob Tilton or Braid or Boys Life, for that matter.) Good to very good musically, dynamic, heartfelt, fond of odd time signatures and sudden shifts in momentum. If your town had even a nominal 'scene' (which it probably did) and a regular venue for shows (maybe not,) then chances are you saw bands like this a good bit.
The mid-nineties emo thing (there, I said it) feels like the end of something to me. (Keep in mind, please, that I feel about as out of touch as any time sine junior high regarding music- I don’t get out to many shows and am not buying as many records or fanzines as I used to back in the day when I followed the scene the way I now follow the box scores to chart the progress of my fantasy league team.) Back when all these bands were playing, the prospect of bands being heavily regional but not national was more possible because the internet hadn’t yet grown to the beast, for better or worse, that it now is. Hundreds of towns with bands flying their own little flags cut from the same cloth, more or less, as the others. Just a matter of where in your development you caught ‘em- whether you had heard the sounds before. The local band in your city was the one you saw the most; they were the best. Maybe you’d heard too many of the same ilk and were sick of ‘em, or thought they were just okay. A matter of sampler CD’s, tours, and fanzines.
So, Boilermaker. Musically in tune with a lot of the records that I still like very much. I can hear cross-pollination, snips of other bands every now and again (there’s some later stuff that sounds a lot like Christie Front Drive, some mid-period stuff that sounds like fellow San Diego kids No Knife, etc.) There’s slow ones, fast ones, explosive ones- exactly the kind of predictable unpredictability that was a hallmark of the genre. And it works a good bit. The thing, in this case, that keeps this band from being any more seminal to me, despite their proficiency, is the singer’s voice. It’s high and sharp. On the prettier numbers, the slower ones, his voice almost becomes another instrument and slides right into the mood. On others, though, vocal overextension renders the high voice brittle, shrill, and, quite frankly, grating.

Botch- We Are The Romans

There’s certain records in my collection that fill certain needs, genre roles. There’s not a lot of call for super technical hardcore/metal (or is it metal/hardcore?) but every now and again, there’s a need (said need, it should be mentioned, is usually accompanied by a) beer, b) air guitar, c) all of the above.) When the urge strikes me to totally rock out in weird time, waggling my tongue and impressing my friends with my intimate knowledge of all the stops and time changes, I’ll go to Converge or Cave In every time. Not to dog Botch one bit- this record is totally solid, well-played and precisely executed. It’s a matter of investment.
(Funny Botch moment: me and my friend Kim taking a train from Paris to Amsterdam on Easter Sunday a few years back. Kim, in early stages of withdrawl, asked if I had anything heavy. I produced the Botch CD, which she popped into her discman. She fell asleep smiling to that godforsaken racket as Belgium whizzed by outside.)

Boys Life- Departures and Landfalls

So how, then, did this record, totally obscure, get so high up on the list? Boys Life was from fucking Kansas City!
It was the reviews in Number Two that started it all, I think. Keith Werwa’s reviews were as much of an influence as Byron Coley’s (Werwa seems to have disappeared, which saddens me in some ways, but is perfect in others.) Read the old back issues and picked up some fantastic stuff that would have otherwise eluded me (Giants Chair and Christie Front Drive being two of the other bands in question.)
Boys Life always left an impression on me- I got a chance to see them play when they came through Boston with Kerosene 454 and greatly enjoyed their set. The thing that really did it for me, though, was bringing the record to the Midwest and listening to it there.
One such trip was right after a tornado had swept through the area- a thin, precise swath of destruction was cut across the fields. Later, I remember a storm coming across the flat, treeless plain. Imminent, looming large. Hard to triangulate its position because of the bleakness of the landscape, the vast expanses of openness with no frame of reference to use as a guide, a judge. It hit, seemingly out of nowhere, as the force of the rain turned everything around grey for much less time than I had anticipated. Then, just like that, it was gone and everything around me was soaked. After that, I got it, had it.

MIX TAPE: Twenty-Four Of Twenty-Five

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