Monday, March 07, 2005


Dio- Holy Diver

Irony, post-irony, post-post irony. I appreciate a good mustache as much as the next guy (‘No, dude, it’s a CHUSTACHE- Charlie Chaplin had one first!’) but sometimes the whole thing goes too far, to the point where anything can be done and then blown off/justified by an ironic stance, secreting intention behind layers of affect.

So, having said that, make no mistake when I say that I think Ronnie James Dio is pretty good. He totally cracks me up sometimes, but hey, so do Chris Walken and Nick Nolte, and I love both of those guys (just a second here to make a Nolte note- I had no idea that he was in ‘Hotel Rwanda’ until he showed up on screen. He pulled out one of his signature moves in that film, the one where he shouts an apology into the phone. Awesome). ‘Holy Diver’ is totally a metal record in the same way that Priest and Maiden are- plenty of galloping guitar and the falsetto vocal tremolo thing that has become a signifier of the era. I know a lot of it is supposed to sound all hard and sinister, but damn, does it ever sound silly. Silly but tough like Nolte and Walken.

Discount- Love, Billy

A record of Billy Bragg covers. He’s one of those guys who I always intended to get into but was intimidated by- never had any idea where to start. Neil Young and Bob Dylan are two more of the same ilk (so what do I do? I get into Jandek, and, more recently, krautrock. God, I’m such an asshole.) The songs sound good, but the connection isn’t there, and neither was the impetus to finally take the plunge into the Bragg back catalogue- part of the reason, I’d guess, that Discount did the project in the first place. Ah well.

Discount- Crash Diagnostic

A little history on me and Discount: they came by the Elvis Room in Portsmouth sometime in the summer of 1997, right before I moved to Boston. It was a stretch of a few months that found most of my friends living elsewhere- I was getting a lot of writing done, but I felt lonely a lot of the time. I took a job waiting tables to help pass the time (and look where THAT wound up) and went to a bunch of shows by myself. The first Discount record turned up in a local used bin a few weeks before they came around- I thought it was pretty good, a few steps ahead of the cookie cutter Lookout! imitators. Their follow-up, ‘Half Fiction,’ was cut from the same cloth but better recorded and more polished. I saw the band every time they played around here (three times, I think, maybe four) and then didn’t see them for a year or more.

The next time was opening for Bis downstairs at the Middle East. At the time, I was doing a lot of catering gigs at Harvard to pay the rent- I got off this one job early and dashed over to the club just in time to see them play.

I’ve been to a lot of shows, so don’t take this next sentence lightly: Their set was one of the most visceral, amazing things I have ever seen.

I’m not kidding, exaggerating: a year prior, they had been a good pop-punk band. Then, all of the sudden, Alison was up there on the stage, growling and screaming and rolling around on the floor. It was like a switch had been flipped not just in her head but in the rest of the band’s- Ryan was up there fairly attacking his guitar, while drummer Bill and the new bassist played weirder, more complex times than ever before. They transcended genre for me that day- no longer a pop-punk band, or, for that matter, a band of any genre. They just kicked ass. Taking what they needed from all the years in ‘the scene’ and making it into something completely different, their own. I stood there with my jaw hanging for the duration of the set, transfixed.

‘Crash Diagnostic’ still gets brought with me on every road trip. I’ve listened to it in London, Amsterdam, Indiana, Seattle. Still gets pulled out every month or so. Still every bit as angry and tender and passionate as the first time I heard it. Man, I’m gushing. So what.

MIX TAPE: Behind Door #


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