Wednesday, May 18, 2005

June of 44

June of 44- Engine Takes To The Water

Total post-whatever supergroup that boasts an amazing pedigree: ex-Rodan, Hoover, Lungfish, Codeine. The weirdest time signatures available, with myriad references to ships, shipping, the ocean, etc. In short: boat rock. On the same page as Slint/Rodan, the torchbearers/progenitors of that whole scene. Lots of folks think this band is total bullshit, which I can completely understand- these complex, complex ‘songs’ that might or might not just be a bunch of really difficult, cerebral riffs spliced together by amazing musicians. This stuff isn’t always terribly listenable- it’s either you like it or you don’t. Helps is you play an instrument so you can fawn over the musicianship. Even though I don’t play anything, I love this shit. Port and bow! Stern and starboard! Ahoy!

June of 44- Tropics and Meridians

More boat rock (with a pretty, albeit meandering, instrumental thrown in.) The first (and, come to think of it, only) time I ever saw ‘em play was in support of this record down at the Space in Worcester, the perfect venue for the band. The city of Worcester and it’s proud ex/inhabitants are the entire reason I’m into this stuff at all- endless evenings of dissecting/reconstructing/critiquing on the back porch with a bunch of musicians honed my appreciation chops to wherever they are today. Watching June of 44 play that night was a sight to behold. Not as much of a sight, though, as standing in the back, watching a full quarter of the two hundred people in the room playing air guitar/drums along with the band. The crowd knew all the fills, all the stops in these songs that were in 15/16 or some such shit- reminded me of seeing Rush and being entertained by all the geeks playing air drums to Neal Peart. Fuck, June of 44 are the nautical indie rock Rush, aren’t they?

‘Tropics’ is a little bit easier to listen to than ‘Engine’- there’s fewer songs, less going on. I tend to think part of the reason was that the band was just a project at its inception- a bunch of dudes getting together to write and record some songs without worrying about whether they were going to be a band or not. ‘Engine’ is an amazing feat, to be sure, but after a while it’s like getting hit in the head. ‘Tropics’ strip songs away until a manageable number remain, and then they hit you, just harder, and fewer times. It all balances out.

June of 44- The Anatomy of Sharks EP

SHARKS AND SAILORS!
SHARKS AND SAILORS!
SHARKS AND SAILORS!
SHARKS AND sailors!

June of 44- Anahata

I swear that I don’t do it just to be contrary, at least not all of the time. ‘Anahata’ is pretty widely regarded as the worst of the June of 44 records. I happen to think it’s a fantastic slab. Another case of a switch of sounds jarring a fanbase.

There are some recognizable sounds to be heard, sure, but this isn’t another angular boat rock record with time signatures that look like a lesson in fractions. What the band did was loop a bunch of sounds in the studio and then play with/over ‘em- pretty blasé here in 2005; pretty ahead of their time in 1999. There are still little bits of math to be found, but for the most part, what we have on this record is a dense, layered pastiche of sounds that you don’t normally associate with the band. It’s a continuation of evolution from ‘Four Great Points,’ an album on which the band makes things a little bit warmer by introducing strings and doing away with their usual chilly production in favor of more accessible sonics. ‘Points,’ despite the production concessions, was totally boat rock. ‘Anahata’ is amazing because the songs have mutated into something unnamable. A hell of a trick, that.

‘Escape Of The Levitatonal Trapeze Artist’ and ‘Cardiac Atlas,’ drone on (in a good way, you understand) and have dirge-y, inflected vocals that remind me of John Lydon on ‘Metal Box.’ Naturally, being the record collecting goober that I am, I thought that the similarity was awesome- ‘Metal Box’ being this completely fucked-up re-invention of self, a complete 180 away from popular opinion. Not sure if it was intentional allusion on the part of the band or what, but them’s some pretty heavy signifiers, kids! Damn!

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