So it’s no secret that 99% of Times Boredom writers have been poached by Nippertown. Thanks a lot Nippertown for letting our writers know they could actually get paid to write about local music! Seriously though Nippertown.com is a great site and we do support what they do. But this place is a ghost town…
There are also rumors that the Phantom Man behind Times Boredom (Scott aka me) has fallen deathly ill and therefore will never post again. I’m posting this right now to dispel those rumors. Or am I? Ooooo — boo!
Nah that doesn’t make sense. Of course I am. Nobody else writes as incoherently as I do.
We’ve decided that, in order to revamp the Spirit of Times Boredom (also because I can’t/don’t want to do all the writing myself), we’re going to ‘pivot’ to a Times Boredom podcast! That’s right, instead of writing a bunch of wild stupid shit that makes US laugh (and sometimes you) AND recently increasingly writing a bunch of not so funny reviews of local music, we’re gonna have some fun and get weird with it.
So keep your eyes peeled for further announcements about the Times Boredom podcast, an auditory broadcast where local musicians, writers, media personalities, and scenesters get together to shoot the shit about local music and whatever else they might feel like shooting the shit about. With weekly guests!
Seriously y’all, this is gonna be fun! Stay tuned.
John: (John): Guitar, vocals, dude that reassures k. that he can do this and he’s not just a lame drooling fan (even though k. totally is) to help him make it through the interview
TB: Hello NONAGON! First things first, how many chocolate bars do you think I can eat by the time this interview is over?
Robert: I was told there wasn’t going to be any math.
Tony: I’m going to look up pics of your cheeks before I make my guess
TB: I should tell you that it’s minis…
Tony:: Oh, choco pie
TB: Ok I’ll put all your guesses in the jar. Anything below 4 is already wrong.
So in the interest of pretending to be one of those drunk morning show hosts, let me tell you about my day for no reason. I woke up this morning and really didn’t want to get out of bed, but then I remembered your new album is still fresh in my mind so I put it on, jumped right in the shower, and made it into work! How does it feel to be responsible for the continued existence of losers like myself?
John:: So, it seems to me that you’re saying that we put food on your table? I wish we could say we were doing the same for us.
Robert:: Many people want a shower after hearing our record.
Tony: Losers listening to losers. checks out.
TB: Losers making loser music to make loser music too? (Sorry I was trying to do a clever shoegaze catchphrase parody there. I’ll clean it up in post)
John: I see you’ve read my manifesto.
TB: Ah. So I understand Robert is the group artist?
Tony:: Robert is the group talent for everything
John: By far the most talented person in the band. Don’t tell him we said that.
Robert: I’m great at everything except interviews.
TB: So what’s with the flying fishes?
John: HA! Who wants to tell this dumb story?
Tony: I’m bad at telling stories
TB:Y’all seem to be saying you’re bad at a lot of things…
John: Yeah all of us except Robert
Tony: So you HAVE heard the record
Robert: The record title came before the artwork… it was from a joke Tony invented while were were driving around in the van
TB: Is it the kind of joke you have to be high to get or can you tell me it?
John: I think I was telling a long-winded story about how I used to watch bald eagles hang out near the dam in downtown lawrence when the rest of the river was frozen over… They would fill the trees along side the riverbank. Over-explaining, as usual, I said…”because, you know, they fish.” Tony said: “Nuh uh. They birds”
TB:And Robert somehow transformed that story into a menagerie of strange flying creatures that are fish and birds and reptiles with da vinci contraptions?
Robert: Pretty much. I like stuff from ye olden days.
TB:I did see a reference to Jacques Cousteau I think and in my review said something about turn of the century monographs. But honestly I had no idea what I was talking about
Tony: I asked why they fish always hang out by dams. This particular dam that brought on this conversation is right close to the thundersnow hotel
TB:Oh! I’ve been there!
(Note to our readers; k. and his band Che Guevara T-Shirt paid $300 in 2014 to be allowed to play the annual PRF ‘Thundersnow’ concert with Nonagon, Low, Megamaul, and many other fantastic other bands in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was the highlight of their career; k. got drunk and fell asleep halfway through their performance.)
John:Where we met! Maybe even the same year Tony made the joke. If you saw me break out into laughter randomly at any moment, that was why.
TB: I did wonder why you stopped singing halfway through every song and started cracking up laughing. Now i know.
So I hear y’all are famous for taking a long time to make records?
John: Heh. “Famous.” Yeah. We move at a snails pace. Our process isn’t efficient but we end up pretty happy in the end
Tony: 1 record every 14 years is our pace
TB:Well given the complexity of the parts it seems as though you go over everything with a fine tooth comb. I mean, why don’t you just take it easy and like, write a part in standard 4/4 time so I can dance to it? how does it usually work? does someone come in with a part? do you jam until something sticks?
Tony: John usually comes in with a riffy thing and we jam and judge
Robert: The parts tend to start with John coming up with a riff or two and we vamp around that for two years.
John: I don’t think we do a whole lot of building and rebuilding. We just keep playing the thing until it makes sense to us. A lot of the songs end up in a pretty different place from where we start, but its organic and slow-going.
TB: When do you decide something is ‘done’ or ‘ready for recording?
Robert: We will play a song out live a few times before it’s truly ready, and then change it up, and eventually it gets set in stone.
John: I can usually tell pretty quick if it’s not going to work. But not really set in stone until it’s recorded. I’m usually working on lyrics until the very last minute. Once it’s on tape, though, we don’t mess with it any more. There’s a very definite vibe when it clicks, and if it doesn’t click quickly we’ve learned to drop it. I have a lot of left over riffs.
TB: Can I have them?
John: HA! I’m thinking I may reintroduce them at practice and see if something happens. Don’t tell Tony or Robert.
TB: Would you say you use the audience as a sounding board at all or just see if you can play it well together live?
John: More of the latter, I think?
Robert: We don’t really get much feedback from a crowd other than, “I liked the new one.” Then at our next practice we kinda do a post-mortem.
Tony: if we don’t trainwreck it too often, then it’s a keeper. There’s an acceptable number of trainwrecks. Right guys?
Tony: I’m fired aren’t I…
TB:Speaking of the recording, you did this one at Electrical Audio but opted NOT to use the great Albini. How was it working with Jon Sao Paolo?
John:Steve is amazing, but I feel like he’s been a hero of mine for way too long.
Robert: Jon was fantastic.
John: Jon is the opposite of intimidating. Warm, funny, talented as hell.
TB:Does he use a method similar to Albini? i.e. hundreds of room mics?
Tony: Albini was suprisingly funny and warm too. but also all business
TB: I hear he’s really tall.
John: HA! Only in our heads, I think
Tony: JSP used the normal amount of drum mics : 147
TB:Is 147 that mystical number the boredoms came up with?
Tony: I believe it was the Ruins
Robert: 147 (a perfect break in snooker BTW)
TB:Did you record live? Was there any isolation or overdubbing at all?
John: ha. because it was all to tape, we only had a finite number of channels to work with, so it didn’t seem that there was ANY random room mic-ing. Everything seemed to have a specific reason. Once it was all set up, yeah… the four of us did all the tracking together at the same time — minus vocals and a few overdubs).
John: It’s pretty much what we heard in the room.
Robert: We did add a few extra noises on a track or two. So this LP was basically the Nonagon equivalent to ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ in terms of production.
TB: Sounds like a challenge. Have you recorded all your albums this way?
Tony: 2 at Electrical (audio), 2 at kerguelen in NYC John We have always done it this way. We never have a budget that allows for excess studio time, so we try to be as rehearsed AS HECK before we get there. Then rip through it.
TB: Did the legendary Mr. Weston do the mastering all after in a quiet room by himself or did you get to hang with him?
John: He mastered our very first CD, and we made the mistake of sitting in the room with him. He would ask us what we think and we would say stuff so he wouldn’t think we were dumb. We ended up stepping on our own stuff.
Robert: We put all our trust in Bob’s ears and left it to him.
TB: That does sound wise. I mean, he is Rusty.Seriously, does anyone know why the fuck he’s called Rusty?
John: Mostly gray now, but a SALACIOUS red as a younger, more vibrant man.
TB: Do you feel like you’re in a sort of chicago boys club? Electrical Audio, Bob Weston, PRF?
Tony: We’re definitely not in the “club” — we may be adjacent? We’re in the JV club– PRF!
John: HA! Exactly. JV.
TB:WTF is PRF? Do you guys know who started it? Who’s in charge? What does it have to do with Jewish space lasers?
John: Bob and Steve and Jon and the like are definitely part of the same community we inhabit, but for the most part the PRF seems to be just a wonderful bunch of scrubs (like us) who kind of don’t care if Pitchfork ever reviews us.
The board itself started as a tech thing before it became social and then “real life.” I wasn’t theree for the beginning, but I’m guessing Greg Norman (another brilliant engineer) and Faiz Razi (a hilarious polyglot) could be blamed for part of it… Those are just two names of many, though. It’s wonderfully decentralized.
TB: By board you’re referring to the Electrical Audio messaging space?
John: Correct. The whole thing started with someone asking about mic placement.
Tony: Yeah- the forum section of electrical’s website
Robert: 147 posts later and here we are.
TB: We had something similar here in Albany called the ‘Wasted Board’ at first which then became the ‘Upstate Ether’. Unfortunately instead of leading to a scene, we just made fun of each other until we all cried. I’ve been told the Chicago scene on the other hand is actually really unique in being very mutually supportive
Tony: Our scene is, for sure. But there are many, many scenes here.
John: Our part of it is. We feel very lucky.
Robert: Yes, our little corner of it seems to be
TB: I’m guessing there must be at least somebands that think they’re too cool to be hanging with you guys. Someone told me Haymarket Riot made fun of your trousers…
Robert: Early on as a band we got paired with bands that were too cool for us, but we eventually aged out of that scene.
Tony: that’s a different scene
John: We’ve played with a lot of cool bands. Haymarket Riot has played BBQs and had a blast.
Tony: side note to nonagon: Izzy just told me that a band that she knows that plays house shows would love to play with us at said house show
TB: hey knock it off! No side band chatter! This is a serious professional interview here!
Tony:back to your regular programming!
TB: Moving on… who do you think would win in a fight, Rodan or the dude from Molly Hatchet? You know the guy with the huge sideburns…
Robert: Rodan the Kaiju monster or band? Or French sculptor?
TB: Yes that one.
John: ALL of Rodan vs. the one guy? Oof. I can’t call it.
Tony:Squirrel Bait or the other guitarist from Nazareth
TB:I’m trying to get an interview with Jeff Mueller who lives closer to me now. Do you guys want me to ask him anything for you?
Tony: yeah– ask him who he is
John: Ha… He used to live very close to me. I, of course, was always too shy to say “hi”. Stuff like that is why we’ll never be in the cool club… I’m too much of a fanboy, but I think it’s super important to hang onto being a dumb fan… otherwise, what’s the point?
TB: I hear that. I didn’t say hi to whats his name when Low played Thundersnow even though we have a friend in common..
Tony: His name is Mimi!
TB: Oh shit I’d never talk to her… I am so scared of her. I requested Sunflowers while they were playing and Mimi was like ‘fuck you asshole!’
Tony: I was too scared to say anything to any of the Low folks.
TB: But you have your own fans now… what’s that like?
John: I’m not sure we have “fans” the same way. I think if someone likes us they become friends before any hierarchy takes place.
Tony: Fun sidestory- my old band played with Low at CBGB
TB: Which band? I’ve been told I’m supposed to ask about ‘Jump Knuckle’
Tony: Correct! My old band was Jump Knuckle!
John: Totally not true.
Tony:Jump Knuckle was awesome
Robert: Tony was always known as “the Cute One” in Jumpknuckle.
Tony: (i was not really in that band)
John: Jumpknuckle was my college band… we took our name from a Boredoms song (2 references!) Tony was in The Blue Meanies back then.
TB:Awesome callback to the Boredoms!
John: The Blue Meanies were a BIG band in the Midwest especially. Toured the world. The whole deal.
TB: Wait, who was in the Blue Meanies? I’m so lost…
Have you all always lived in the Chicago area or are any of you transplants?
Tony: Robert and i grew up ‘downstate’ –john grew up very close. So close he went to ALL the cool shows back in the day
John: Me = Waukegan (N. of Chicago), Chicago, Champaign, Chicago, Lawrence KS, Chicago, Michigan, Chicago
Robert: I grew up in central Illinois. Chicago was always the ‘Big City’ for us growing up. When I moved here in my 20’s I felt like I finally made it. And then reality set in.
TB:So yall are hardcore Chicago/midwest?
John:I’d call that a fair statement
TB: How does it feel to have a bunch of losers from upstate new york being big fans that want to interview you?(and if you think you’re big here now, just wait till this interview airs!)
Tony: How many is a bunch?
TB: Well there’s me, John, Matt, Phil, Michelle…
Robert: As long as you are not from Buffalo, we’re cool.
John: Y’all are TOO KIND. We’ve traveled farther to play shows to fewer!
Tony: I think we need to play albany!
TB: You really do! Have you ever heard of Superdark? They are great at setting up shows and somehow always drawing huge crowds (which was previously impossible in Albany). If you guys play here you will totally cleanup.
Tony:you mean, they will actually make us clean up
TB: Yeah, all the MONEY! Gas money and then some!
Tony: Nonagon/Hungry Man East Coast tour?
John: We would set it up in a minute, but thanks to omicron, the few shows we actually have tried to set up have been disintegrating.
TB:Yeah our first show here after the vaccinations happened spread delta to EVERYONE in the scene.
TB: If the world doesn’t end, I WILL get you to play out here!
John:Even the DRIVE sounds fun right now.
TB:We have a great new venue out here in Troy called No Fun that’s pretty much run by all the cool kids
Tony: We are in! (covid permitting)
TB: Serioulsy though, how long are you guys planning to keep killing it? Word is you guys are all eligible to retire…
John: We are super old. and my back and hands hurt. but, much to the chagrin of my bandmates, I don’t see stopping anytime soon.
TB: Yeah, what is your secret?
John: Beer and ibuprofen.
TB: That gives me IBS…
Robert: Hearing loss.
Tony:I have numb arms and hands when we play.. doesn’t seem to matter
TB: When I first saw you guys 20 years ago you were seriously hardcore… and your records still sound just as hardcore. Seriously. Did you make a pact with the devil in your 20s?
Tony:When we were a younger band, I thought it would be kinda hilarious to be playing shows when we were in our 50’s. And he we are.
Robert:We are nothing if not consistent.
Tony:Wait. you saw us 20 years ago?
John:Speaking for myself, I think I (at least sometimes) want to say that I play in one of my favorite bands. It took a while for me to get here, so I’m not in a hurry to end it. Sorry dudes.
TB:That’s what I tell my bandmates! But they aren’t willing to carry me home anymore… Honestly it’s been great talking with yall and I’d love to go all night
Tony: Still– seriously, how / when did you see us 20 years ago?
TB:I saw you guys when you were in college and I was in the Korean war. I said ‘these kids got somethin!’
Robert: We played that house party at the MAS*H unit
TB:yeah. sad, sad show.
Tony: I made out with Radar’s teddy bear
TB: so many needless deaths…
Tony: ….nonagon is painless…
John:NOTHING SAYS YOUTH MARKET LIKE MAS*H REFERENCES!
TB: Cool cool. Do you mind if I do a j? Any of you guys into Supertramp?
Tony: Well– there is that one song where they sample Mattel Electronic Football. that one’s cool. It was called, “The Mattel Electronic Football Song.”
TB:No wait I had a serious question. Seriously though, thanks a lot for doing this interview!
Tony: This was fun! I only want to do interviews like this from now on
John: Kasrael! This was a blast. And thanks again for taking our record under your wing. It means A LOT.
First off; super geek level esotericism and ages NC-17(?) and up warning. Nonagon is a band forged in the fires between post hardcore, math rock, and screamo in the fertile delta of the Chicago aughts. Since then they’ve adhered to a fiercely dedicated integrity and obsession with writing fantastic short songs with unexpected time signature changes overwrought in complexity so finely worked out they only release about an ep’s worth of these terrific songs every 4 years. As a result, every single production they’ve released since they began warms. our. bones. To hear music that sounds like the constant noise in your head is a transcendent level of empathy that lets you know, there are others just like you! Granted they may be far better at getting those sounds out of their instruments and conveying those feelings, but we’re at least cousins if not straight up siblings. We walk around with a soundtrack of thought in our heads uncannily matched by the music that comes out of specific nearly impossible to discover magical circles and wonder, how’d it get in there too?! Everytime I hear Nonagon that’s exactly what I think (and also fuck I wish I was that good at it but I know I’m not willing to give it as much time and energy as these incredibly dedicated musicians (a term I do NOT use lightly) obviously must do).
Secondly, an important note about Nonagon’s packaging of their releases over the years; stylistically brilliant in the way it… creates a mood (does that sound right to you? Fuck I’m not going to make every word of this article perfect — it’s not like I’M in nonagaon). All of the artwork is produced by bass guitarist and clearly quite accomplished visual artist Robert Gomez. All 3 ep’s and this full album include the signature highly idiosnycratic artwork of Mr. Gomez’s creations. One could write an entire review about the artful presentation of their latest record ‘They Birds’ (wow did it really take me until now to mention the actual title of the record!?) including front and back covers and what appears to be a small hymnal with notes and lyrics all artfully presented alone. All have a late 19th century explorers/biologist’s transcriber vibe that clearly encapsulates a highly abstruse inside joke that only the band themselves understand (for further info read the interview!). Various animals outfitted with rudimentary flying apparatuses (“They Birds”, or the “Magestic Creatures of the Sky”) grace the intricately busy and ingeniously clever cover of the album, aptly foreshadowing what lies on the black circle inside. Point is, if you’re gonna buy this album, definitely buy the record. You won’t be dissapointed. Much as I’d like to write an entire review of the elaborate artwork, you probably want to hear about the music…
This offering differs from Nonagon’s previous releases most markedly in being slightly less harsh and angular. Which, if you’re a fan, you know means it’s still indelibly harsh and angular at many if not most points. However, where previous releases leaned more towards post-hardcore and at times forms resembling what was once called ‘screamo’, the tracks on this album lean more towards more ‘mature’ indie/college and post-rock forms, focussing more on melody than the early ep’s. Passages are often spoken-sung and at times sung, even including parts with harmonies instead of all full volume screams. Which does nothing to dilute the intensity that is Nonagon, but rather increase its dimensions… also the majority of the lines are still shouted at the top of singer/guitarist John Hastie’s lungs.
The album begins with Tuck the long Tail Under, which would definitely be the lead single if they released one. If this were 30 years ago when really good music had an actual chance to make it to late night MTV, Tuck the Long Tail would rival Jawbox’ Savory in its immediate and unique appeal (for those of you under 50, when I and many others saw the video for Jawbox’ Savory on 120 minutes I ran out to buy the album the next day. So what I’m saying is a teenage version of me today would do the same thing in response to hearing Tuck the Long Tail Under, if there were still JUSTICE in the music industry). Similar to all of their works, it’s a beautifully complex piece that really captures opposing harsh and soft dynamics and blurs the lines between them. If you’re a long time punk rock fan this song will definitely make you nostalgic; like a cross between mide period husker du and a midwestern screamo band. Broadly speaking the lyrics describe something that’s been tried and judged wanting. Not that the judges were impartial nor the trial fair; “We misssed the mark. The perspective is slanted”, nor does it stop them in any way “We toe the line to forget what just happened, and tuck the long tail under”. Like a metaphor for Nonagon’s career, unappreciated but inimically brilliant, unceasing, and instead of giving up constantly working harder and getting better.
As much as I’d like to continue a song by song (note by note really) analysis, I’ve been told by my bosses and editors that I really need to stop doing that if I ever want anyone to actually read my reviews. So it’d be fair to summarize Slow Boil as one of their signature unrelentingly complex yet incredibly catchy pieces. I’m guessing the third track, The Family Meal, is going to be a lot of people’s favorite. As touched on previously, Nonagon traffics in a deliciously ecclectic post-hardcore that firmly reminds one of mid nineties post-hardcore DC Dischord groups like Fugazi and Jawbox with fascinating minor key adventures from their regional contemporaries like Minutes. Which sets the perfect tone for this tune about a ‘Family Meal’ at which something, if not everything, is very clearly not right to really fucking disturbingly wrong.
Hack and Salt continue the complex jarring stabbing and sliding motions of intricate guitar and drum work yet contain enough clarity (i.e. not an excess of distortion or redlining in the production) to be melodic and accessible enough to approach June of 44 style post rock (I’m trying very hard not to label them with the largely derided ‘math rock term’, but yeah, that too). Salt in particular has inimitably catchy super complex back and forth series of angular slides.
And whether I consciously or not mentioned June of 44 before getting to the track titled ‘June of ’14’ or whether Nonagon was making an offhand reference to the Chicago math rock supergroup who will ever know? The track certainly bears similairities to a June of 44 song, beginning with a fascinatingly dark and pensive riff on both guitar and bass that spreads out to Shellac/Fugazi like driving rhythms and then proceeds to move quickly and constantly back and forth between the two. It’s also a great example of the unpredictable off kilter drum beats and fills Tony Aimone’s famous for in his approach to odd time signatures and changes.
Jeff(s) is another unpredictable track that begins at a bridge then runs through its many different parts (I lost count at around 6), everyone of which has SO MUCH going on despite there being only 3 members of the band. Boxes is another track which could be a single given how relatively straightforward and catchy the riffs, melodies, and breakdowns are (I hear echoes of, believe it or not, drama club math rock band Faraquet), then ‘Swing Goat’ goes back to the unpredictable type that starts at such a strange angle then transitions seamlessly between complex math rock rhythms and dynamic shouting and slightly sung vocals.
By the Holdouts, it feels as though exhaustion is setting in at a complex beginning, but of course an energetic lift follows. The overall effect is, of course, jarring to say the least. Bells is a perfect closer, “Set aside but still alive” leaving us in a state of exhausted minor key inertia where “no lung can deny the truth in the lie, son” where we “lose on all sides”.
I can’t imagine what has and continues to sustain Nonagon through all these years without anything approaching the international renown and critical lauding they deserve. Perhaps it’s that every note they put together is an intense labor of love, a struggle with the maddeningly complex and unappreciative bitch goddess of music made with so much fervor, vitality, and sincerity it’s criminal that everyone that truly loves music doesn’t know about it. Or that they feel a responsibility to their work as scientists from an elite laboratory where a rich history of thousands of previous and contemporary midwestern rustbelt independent rockworkers ply their signature sounds in deep underground esoteric niches recognizably steeped in fellow precedents in a language known only to those of us that have intensively studied whatever small pieces of it we can get our ears on. And yet we’re a disparate bunch strewn across the western world — my greatest hope in writing this is that I’ll reach a few more of us out there to let them know that Nonagon’s ‘They Birds’ is something so great that if they didn’t know about the group before now, they’re an essential part of the diet of the kind of music that people like us can’t get enough of. Thanks Nonagon for another great record!
One of Times Boredom’s founding members and current ongoing executive producers, k. Sonin has been a huge fan of midwestern (centered in Chicago) math/post-hardcore as long as he can remember. One of his favorite groups is Chicago’s Nonagon, who released their first full length album last spring (and it’s taken him until now to finish his damned review!). Which is why per his demand (lest he pull 25% of our funding), we’ve decided to make today, Friday January 28th ‘Nonagon Day’. Similarly to other holidays of this nature like ‘Mr. Cancelled (Scott’s favorite local post-punk band) day’ which falls on the 19th of April every year, we will be celebrating Nonagon day with the publication of both a review of their phenomenal new record and a lengthy very professional/professorial interview with the group conducted by our benefactor mr. sonin. Suffice it to say, we are all big fans of Nonagon and we highly suggest you check them out if you know what’s good for you!
Old Town Crier is only one man, namely Jim Lough, but he did a good job making it sound like a collective cacophony, delicately sewn together with madness, abandon, and raw feeling. Released on March 13th of last year, I’m Longing for You in Middleboro, Mass,is a brilliant collection of heartfelt, sorrowful, searing, raunchy rock ‘n’ roll songs. Upon my first listen, I could tell that this was an opportunity of sorts for songwriter Jim Lough to do something different than he normally does.
Lough is also a member of the Mass bluegrass band, Riley Coyote, so I was correct in thinking this was a passion project of his, and I could tell because if I’m Longing for You’ is anything, it’s honest. When you have a few years of experience in a collaborative project under your belt, you learn the heavy but fruitful lessons of collaboration and compromise. The choices that are made in a collaborative group might not always be the ones you would have made along, but the upside to this is that you learn how to coexist creatively with other musicians, and most importantly, it teaches you humility and to swallow your pride.
Another beautiful reward derived from collaboration is that you get to find out what you want from music made solely through your creative instinct. Perhaps this is why I get the feeling that although I have not listened to Riley Coyote, I prefer Old Town Crier. It’s because I would choose rock ‘n’ roll over bluegrass any day of the week.
There are certainly hints of bluegrass in his newest solo album; all the songs from it originate from the genre, that much is clear; his voice bears the markings of a bluegrass-accented twang. But with songs like track three, ‘I Might Get Lost’, the drums, which kicks it off, are reminiscent of the Phil Spector school of songwriting and then subsequently detours down a short alleyway of John Mellencamp and Springsteen folkiness. The quality of the recording is Lo-fi and the tone of his distorted guitar is on the brink of ripping at the seams.
Track one, ‘Don’t Go’, reminds me of Blonde on Blonde-era Dylan in the timbre of his voice and the joviality of a carefree attitude and no holds barred in a slight decline in mental fortitude. When dealing with pure rock ‘n’ roll, you definitely want to toy with the edge of insanity a little bit.
Track 2, ‘Easy’ is a nice enough song, although it is my least favorite track on the record. While a sweet lullaby-like melody works well on a mandolin, it sounds too predictable to me and a bit of an underachievement. The song picks up a little more when we hit the bridge leading into the chorus – this part caught my ear – good hook.
‘Into the Dark’ – Now we’re into the murky waters of the twilight hours of the EP. This is usually my favorite part and it certainly is on this collection. ‘Into the Dark’ is an exceptional song. While I typically enjoy more sombre songs in general, this track has more depth and I get the sense I could keep revisiting it and keep getting a little something new from it.
The final track on the EP – ‘Moonlight Road’ – is a nice bookend and represents all the best elements of his songwriting on this album. Lough has an interesting ability to take desperation and dress it up in a nice poetic turn of phrase. The other thing I really like about the EP in general is that all the songs are relatively short.
To say the least, I would definitely keep a lookout for anything else Old Town Crier may release in the future. Good shit.
Trigger cut is a really good band that plays their professed genre of ‘noise rock’ really well. And I’m guessing they’re a lot of fun to see live. They’ve got their shit together, they know their base well, the guitar is aptly abrasive and catchy in all the right ways, and the rhythm section of Daniel W. And Matt Dumil is unstoppably professional. And god bless ’em for finding my stupid little blog in nowhere New York all the way from Stuttgart, Germany.
But they’ve got a fatal problem, which is that everything they’re doing has been done before. By many different people in many different bands for about 30 years now. Like I said they know their genre (which they proudly call ‘noise rock’ but could easily also be called post-hardcore, hard edged math, or some other variant), but they clearly know and worship it too well to put their own stamp on it.
That’s not to say they don’t have specific favorite bands they imitate. Specifically, they are undoubtedly huge Steve Albini acolytes. Vocalist and ‘treble guitarist’ ‘Ralph Ralph’ may not have a voice quite as deep and menacing as Albini, but at times it sounds as though he’s directly imitating every vocal idiosyncracy made famous by Albini (at times there’s also some David Yow). I’d say if they had more of an eclectic style that melded more noise rock groups as opposed to worshipping just a few they might stand out a little more from the pack than they do…
I couldn’t find a lyric sheet on the site, but all the words are in English (why do European bands always sing in English? Seriously?). And it certainly does sound like he’s spewing a lot of Albini-esque sarcastic criticism of everything (I think I can make out something about making fun of Munich hipsters which sounds cool). But the first song starts off with the words “you are so beautiful” and I wondered if this was gonna be a cover of Fugazi’s Margin Walker (which would be have been a really interesting take). But with titles like ‘Solid State’, ‘Transmitter’, and ‘Nutcracker’, I gotta wonder if they like Albini WAYYYYYY too much… He literally quotes lines, sometimes in the voice of the great Albini, like ‘in a minute’ in a Steve Albini voice on Oxcart, or repeating ‘Transmitter’ softly 3 times, than screaming it 3 times more. Wtf is a ‘coffin digger’ anyway? The words sound like they have a good command of English, but without actual lyrics I really can’t tell. It’s possible they cut and pasted a bunch of June of 44 and Shellac lyrics together without regard for meaning other than sounding like good typical noise rock one liners…
Don’t get me wrong, this has nothing to do with the fact that they’re from Germany imitating what I’d say is a specifically midwestern American genre and I don’t understand what they’re saying. I’ve heard a number of groups that sound like this from England, from Japan, and now I’ve heard this band from Germany that flew all the way to Chicago to be recorded… and they could be the new say, Mcluskey, STTTNNNNGGG! (or however that’s spelled I can’t even find them on Google anymore), some other British band that sounded like Mcluskey I also can’t remember the name of (but enjoyed in a day so long ago that if I ever found it itd be on a ripped cdr from stolen soulseek files), or any other band that never found their own voice that won’t be remembered unless they somehow market themselves hard enough that people that’ve never heard Shellac or the Jesus Lizard hear them and think they’re brilliant and original.
But the truth is, for now anyway, they don’t bring anything new to the table. Especially to people like myself that have been listening to noise rock genre bands for thirty years now and have heard hundreds of bands like them from everywhere. Which is not to say there isn’t plenty of room for originality within the genre or that there aren’t innovative bands around the globe; Ottawa’s Metz is relentlessly driving and at times too abrasive to listen to but similar enough in song style that you get used to the abrasiveness. Atlanta Georgia’s Whores. (combining noise rock with a rich vein of sludge) is beyond intense and has endless rage for every minute they have to be awake. London’s Hey Colossus is incredibly diverse and unpredictable. There are plenty more examples of noise rock groups that are doing innovative new things with the genre. Trigger Cut really just needs to get in touch with what they can do with the by now well trodden 30 year old genre that no one else can, or they’re doomed to remain in the pack of good, hardworking, adherents of the genre that are such huge fans that they’re practically a cover band.
Thanks for the album guys. You’re a great band and I hope you find your voice someday, but on this album it sounds like you’re using someone else’s.
So my buddy Scott called me up (no not literally, we’re both up with the latest technology of beepers and paging) and told me he’s having trouble getting any articles since his staff keeps getting poached by other local publications that pay in actual money as opposed to ‘scene cred’. I’ve written to him and other local music sites/blogs previously that I write a bunch of random, very specific ‘editorials’ (more like what I’d call ‘musings’) about subjects like indie and post-rock music and definition and all kinds of crazy stuff that I’d be happy to share with him. Now he’s finally taken me up on it. So if you like it, great! let Scott know that you want to see some more! If not, great! Tell Scott that it’s his fault for giving me a podium and he’s an asshole!
I know that most post modern musicians hate the genre labels they’re given, they’re often devised by marketers as a tool to sell records (e.g. grunge), and cool people pretty much uniformly despise them.
It’s also obvious to anyone familiar with the new media landscape that there are a whole host of new options available to us to help find new music that we like with far less research than was needed in the past. The prime example of this is the availability of streaming services. And I know artists REALLY hate these primarily as a result of the fact that they get far less compensation. However, eventually professional musicians (those unlike myself and my peers, none of whom make or expect to ever make any actual money from music) are going to have to accept that there’s just less compensation to be had. Culture is atomized, there’s a much bigger and more available pool, and so everyone kind of has to dive for what little change is now availabe. And for consumers such as myself (and probably you, even if you stand on principle against streaming services like Spotify Apple and Amazon) have to accept how much better these services are for our ability to find new music. Back in my day, you couldn’t even listen to an album OR even snippets before you bought. You just had to buy a record you’d either read something about, was by an artist you already had records you liked by, or you’d just heard of and wanted to find out about. Which meant lots of misfires and crummy records you couldn’t get rid of — check your parents record collection if they still have one. There will most likely be albums that are such duds they’ll tell you they don’t know why they didn’t throw them out!
The streaming platforms, even if you don’t pay the monthly fee, allow you to listen to any artist, any album, any song that’s on their platform. Which is increasingly becoming most albums that were on record labels and in the current era any artist that paid a few bucks to get their songs listed on streaming services. In addition to having the ability to just listen to any music from any artist of any era on a whim, right on the platform there are suggestions, the ‘Recommended If You Like’ (RIYL) apps, and plenty of other ways to find more new music you’ll like.
But in the past, musical genres were indispensable to finding stuff you wanted to listen to. Especially when the only alternative was pretty much randomly buying records that, say, had a band on the cover that didn’t have big hair, or a psychedelic sleeve design, or wasn’t in the cut-out ‘dance’ bin. And I know that a lot of that’s been changed by the new media landscape, but I’m pretty sure genres are still useful for plenty of other reasons.
When I was a kid I learned about grunge, I saw the movie ‘hype’, and I thought genres were lame. But the more I read about them, the more I used them to find new music. And the more I used them, the more I realized what a necessary evil they were. And eventually I came to realize that they weren’t all that evil, and in fact I was being introduced to great underground music I never would’ve found out about otherwise. The most obvious genre label for anyone that grew up in the 70s or 80s was ‘punk’. Back then of course it covered SO much more than it does today. In a lot of ways you could tell whether a record was going to be commercial or glossy or, in general, something you and your friends probably wouldn’t like if it wasn’t labelled ‘punk’.
So when smaller genres began to emerge, I started to pay attention and grab stuff based on genres alone. And I found out what a great tool they actually were…
When I began listening to Sebadoh and loved them, I wanted to hear everything that was even remotely doing the things they were with music. It was punk, but it was some kind of really crazy off the wall poorly produced played wrong on purpose punk. So when I looked up/read about the ‘lo-fi’ label the media had given them, I came upon other ‘lo-fi’ bands like say, Pavement early on. So I had their first 2 albums and worshipped them. If I’d heard them on the other hand by the time they got on MTV I probably would’ve bought Crooked Rain, decided there were some good songs on it but it wasn’t for me, and never have enjoyed the transcendence of Slanted and Enchanted. Another group I got into was called Truman’s water, a band I never would have heard of otherwise, not even today with all the RIYL and free streaming. Though I also should mention the negatives; I bought a Guided by Voices album that I didn’t really care for since they were considered one of the ‘big 3’ of lo-fi back then. Unfortunately, I was too young to get a job at the time, which meant the fact that I spent money on the GBV album I didn’t like meant that I wouldnt have enough for a different new album for months.
Slo-core: When I started listening to a band called Codeine I got interested in what was being called ‘slo-core’ at the time. As a result, I was introduced to the foremost ‘pioneer’ of the genre, Low, a group that I’m still a huge favorite of and own nearly a dozen albums by. I was also introduced to plenty of others, including Cat Power. I probably would’ve heard of them evnetually anyway but perhaps later when their music had gotten crummy at which point I would’ve dismissed them, never having heard the depressive beauty of Dear Sir or What Would the Community Think. I also found out about Mark Kozelek (Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon, etc.) Galaxie 500, the Microphones, Bedhead/The New Year, and Jason Molina (Songs: Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co).
Perhaps most importantly, I was introduced to a group called Idaho, a slowcore/sadcore/dream pop group. If I hadn’t done research into Slowcore (and then the confusing nearly identical ‘sadcore’, then dream pop which led to shoegaze, etc.), I most likely never would have found out about this west coast regional act. Instead, their albums like Alas (a record I have an early illegal download of and STILL to this day can’t find a legit copy of), Hearts of Palm, Three Sheets to the Wind and Levitate have enriched my musical palette, my conceptions of what’s possible, inspired me (songwriter Jeff Martin famously uses an electrical 4 string tenor guitar to get his signature ethereal sounds which inspired me to begin experimenting with baritone guitars), and in general enriched my life with a series of albums I loved then and haven’t stopped since.
Finally and most important for me both personally and professionally (if you know me you’ll laugh at that, if not just know that despite my prolific output and performances over the past 20 years I’ve never made any money whatsoever on my music) I was introduced to the genre ‘math rock’ when I was so enamored with the group Polvo that I wanted to hear everythingthat was in any way similar or that could explain how they formulated their intensely unique songs. For over a decade I followed the genre to the nth degree, from the career of Nick Sakes (the Dazzling Killmen, Colossamite, etc), to the evolving definition of the term from its beginnings as a spinoff of post-rock into a more revitalized rock subgrouping that used dissonance, angularity, jarring time changes and stop/start dynamics to reinvigorate indie rock into a more formal definition of overly stylized music with increasingly unusual time signatures and pretentiously baroque treatment of instruments in manner similar to the progressive rock of the seventies which diverged so far from rock’s roots punk music started as a protest against it…
I got so into ‘mathrock’ and studied it so deeply I could go on and on. A particularly telling example of how the invented genre itself took me in SO many directions is the fact that I eventually got into and obscure midwestern indie rock/math rock band called Bear Claw. Years, later, my band was playing a festival in the Upper Peninsula with a band called MegaMaul, who’s lead singer happened to be Scott Picco, the very same guy who played drums and was the lead singer in the band Bear Claw. When I met him and told him what a fan I was of his new band and Bear Claw, he was elated to hear a guy from Albany had heard of not only his old band but him personally and really liked them. So I made a friend, was very happy to have flattered a fellow musician who I genuinely admired, AND later on I discussed slowcore band Low (who played later in the festival) with drummer Tony Aimone from a fantastic noise rock (another genre I haven’t really gotten into here but got into and found out about the band the guy was from through looking up the genre) called Nonagon. Playing that festival was like being among friends and colleagues I really looked up to, even though I’d never met or talked to any of them personally before and hadn’t even been to the midwest or Chicago before. All because I’d looked up and become familiar with genres like ‘math rock’, ‘noise rock’, and even more specifics like ‘midwestern post/math rock’.
And someday when I meet someone like Jeff Martin (Idaho) and/or Jeff Mueller (Rodan, June of 44, Shipping News, etc.), I’ll let them know that however much they hate the name of the micro genre they were given, it gave me the ability to find and love their music which I otherwise probably never would’ve heard of.
So maybe micro genre/niche labels arent quite as useful as they once were. And yes of course they’re superficial and reductive and can be used for EVIL moneymaking purposes. But if they can help someone that might otherwise not hear you find you and your music or anyone else and any other music they love, it is completely worth all the negatives and then some. I know it certainly was and is for me.
So I know we said we’d review all submissions, and we do mean it, and we don’t mean to be mean…
But Jeff Brisbin’s Blame it on Love is decidedly NOT our cup of tea. It is well produced (in our opinion over produced), fairly well written pop music for adult contemporary listeners. And so the advertisements on Brisbin’s website say ‘corporate’, ‘private events’, ‘weddings’, etc. None of our writers are into any of those things.
While we can certainly appreciate all the time and effort that went into this record, we just can’t enjoy cliched, commercially produced pop music. While there are tracks we liked more than others, like the minor key/relatively somber New Year’s Day or ‘For a Song’ (because of the excellent slide guitar work), most of the songs are just cliched soft Boomer love songs or folksy/blues rock that honestly is just boring to our ears. We Blame it on Love. We just love different things Jeff! Different, things…
Nothing inherently wrong with any of it, it’s just… too inoffensive to entertain us. All the songwriting, themes, and notes hit remind us of 70s and 80s soft rock that bugs you in restaurants when you’re trying to eat and, like chat pleasantly with your in-laws.
Recommended for people that like James Taylor, Tracy Chapman, Bruce Hornsby. That ain’t any of us.
Always happy to hear original music from the Capital District though. Thanks for your submission Jeff Brisbin and good luck to you!
Y’all don’t know shit about shit! So before the great and wise ancient scenester MC Think Noise here tells you about the greatest bar and venue that ever was or shall be, a little history lesson for you ungrateful ahistorical pretentious hipster twerps! i was once like you… hey shutup you in the back! You think I can’t hear you?! I know what you’re saying and YOU. DON’T. KNOW. SHIT. So listen up!
Now as a hardcore lefter than left of left Marxist, anti-Capitalist, anti-advertisement and anti-Fun self loathing petty-bourgeouis schpieler, I was flat out opposed to making this announcement. However;
I was told the name of the venue was gonna be ‘No Fun’. Course I’m an Iggy acolyte from way back in the day, I myself named the ‘No New York’ no wave comp, and am immune to irony in all its forms yet can appreciate it smarter than any of any of you!
They offered me free admission to all
And the final clincher for this old dog, a free sixer of my favorite, Nine Pin Cider from my current favorite Lark Street haunt Pint Sized. A couple of cans in and I didn’t even care when I remembered all the god damned super dark shows are free! To me and everyone else!
Seriously though. This is the coolest fucking news/surprise/secret I’ve ever been savvy too before any a you pricks! Now hand me another cider, and I’ll tell you about the coming of the ultimate bar/craft beer & cider/show space/diy art venue in downtown Troy; NO FUN!!!!!
So let me start off by saying a few words about the hero of the new place, Sir August Rosa:
If he’d been the master composer and heavy shredding guitarist behind legendary Albany collective rock/emo pop punk band Aficionado, Dayenu.
If he’d opened a basement location in Albany to sell local and regional craft beers, ciders, and more, Dayenu.
If he’d taken that basement location to the heart of Center Square on Lark Street, filled it with taps and hundreds of delicious choices, made a great space to hang out AND a great venue for great shows, Dayenu.
If he’d built upon that success with a second location in Saratoga on Broadway, Dayenu.
And if you don’t fuckin know what ‘Dayenu’ means, shit son, what are they teaching you in that dumbshit school you got goin to? That’s from the Bible son! And I didn’t even go to college and highschool too! And look where it got me! Shit I lost my place. Where was I?
Oh yeah,…. And now, when you think he can give the Capital District no more cool shit, he gives us “too much too soon” and asks too little (that was a Buster Poindexter reference if you didn’t know ya little ignoranimus that dunnit know shit… who’s Buster Poindexeter? SEriously?!!! New York Dolls frontman Buster.. ah forget it) Now where was I?
A new venue for Pint Sized in downtown Troy at 277 River Street where he’ll be bringing all the great craft brews to Troy where you can drink them in the bar or just pick up a growler or a case to enjoy at home. And a brand new awesome diy/performance and art space at 275 River Street right where it’s needed most, where all of us scene geeks and freaks, hipsters and art snobs, craft beer enthusiasts, and pretentious neck beard types can call our second home, called ‘No Fun’!
Most importantly, he’s partnering up with the likes of the super dudes from the Superdark collective; Shane Sanchez for his excellence in booking and promotions, and John Olander to build the coolest fucking sound system EVER while keeping it low key with a good sized stage and weird crazy art and media to decorate the coolest fucking hangpad EVER to make what we’re all expecting to be the best fucking club in downtown Troy or ANYWHERE EVER!!!!
August, who already owns and operates 2 cool as that fucking cider I done already finished cause I’m a no-good old drunk that feels too damned much nostalgia for the old days that were so fucking great that there’s no way the future can possibly compete unless it’s in the heart of downtown Troy and run by 3 of the coolest people around… shit I forgot where I was going with this…
Anyway, August told me personally that “People have always asked why we haven’t done a project in Troy. I’ve always wanted to bring Pint Sized to downtown and have looked at spaces on and around River Street as early as 2017. There is a lot going on in Troy and I never felt that a Pint Sized on its own would be enough with so many unique and innovative offerings to do in the area. The “No Fun” event space will be what really sets this project apart. I absolutely see a need for dedicated performance space in downtown. We look forward to being a part of Troy’s downtown scene.”
And you KNOW your ole dog Think Noise couldn’t agree more. As a longtime Troy scenester, I’ve seen plenty of awesome venues come and go. My favorite by far was 51 3rd Street (a venue that most of y’all are too young to have witnessed the awesome powers and influence of), a real cool and weird square hole in the wall pad where RPI professors, students, and scenesters from around the Capital District could go to see great local shit like Denim and Diamonds, Complicated Shirt and Struction as well as national up and coming experimental performing acts like Fat Worm of Error, Dan Deacon, noise music royalty like Emil Beaulieu, and so many other great things I could list off that we’d be here all night… And then of course there was the likes of Artie’s many venues the last one that evenutally became the River Street Pub run by Vince Pellicano where the Super dark boys found their original home base in Troy. And then of course there were the legendary clubs and concert venues like the Hudson Duster, EmPAc, Revolution Hall and so many other cool and not so cool places to see shows that shut down or were the wrong place or size for the hip experimental noise and indie rock art house performances that Troy is famous for or the fantastic outdoor shows at Rare Form that for the past year have given us a way to see so many great superdark shows even in the midst of the Covid pandemic…
But all that don’t mean shit, now that the setup, location, dedication, and fuckin yeah fucker spirits of everyone that’s gonna be working on the new Pint Sized location and ‘No Fun’ diy performance and art venue promises the beginning of a whole new era, a new paradigm, are you pickin up what Think Noise is puttin down?! If only they’d hire yours truly to be the house MC, they’d have it all!
And your ole pal and drinking buddy gone dry and back again cannot fucking wait until the doors open and we rush in! To the end of quarantining and watching home performances of all my favorite local bands and performers and the beginning of a brand new era of endless craft brews, original live bands, and a public space where everyones welcome to hang out bear witness and be inspired and share in the nirvana in Troy of music, art, and every great collaborative thing in the Capital District but also those geniuses that do all that AND make it all possible like August Rosa, Shane Sanchez and John Olander.
Do you remember Valentines? Upstate Artists Guild? Miss Mary’s art space?! These is all gonna just be distant memories that will only serve as footnotes to the story of the greatest venue ever begotten, NO FUN! Theys gonna be a mass exodus from Williamsburg, Green Point, Long Island City and all those other super concentrated hipsterdoms like Cleveland before Lester Bangs ruined it straight to the River Street area in downtown Troy once the Pint Size/No fun club opens up. And we gonna live upstairs and downstairs and next door, camp out on the front porch all lit up with kerosene and molly on planet k inside the in crowd out in the cold listening to the free music blasting over the whole fucking block and blowing us over into the gutters and crawl back to our beds so we can sleep enough to come back and do it all over again…
Have you ever heard of CBGB’s? The Limelight? Lollapalooza? Woodstock?!!!! All just small steps building up to the coolest venue and greatest performances that ever were or shall be, NO FUN!!
And now that you know some shit about some shit go forth and spread the word! (and of course if you want me to explain the legend of Brevator and how they made Daughters cry b/c they’d surpassed them in every way and Daughters got back at them by sabotaging their recording so no one’d ever know how fucking great they were I’m always around… hit me up man… I’ll probably be outside No Fun soon as it opens in like November maybe or I’ll just be hanging around there anyway…