In this week's issue, we present Debate Club, in which Mark Lore and I discuss Fleetwood Mac's second best album. (The Mac plays the Rose Garden this Sunday, June 30.)
Read the whole long conversation right here, but as soon as you're done with that, scurry over to Blogtown and cast your vote for FLEETWOOD MAC'S SECOND BEST ALBUM. Is it Tusk? Is it Then Play On? Or are we both wrong?
1. Do you like music?
2. Do you like writing?
3. Do you like writing about music?
4. Do you harbor aspirations to take down the Mercury's music section from the inside?
If the answer to questions 1 through 3 is "sure," we are looking for a new music freelancer and would like to hear from you. Any and all genres are fair game, although if you have a niche that would be good to know.
• You know just about everything when it comes to local music. You know your Pinkzilla from your Pink Martini. You read the Mercury's music section and the End Hits blog once in a while.
• Previous published experience is nice, but not essential by any means. The ability to write well and meet deadlines is essential.
• We will pay you. Not much.
If you are still interested, drop us a line by submitting a short, Up and Coming-style preview (like these!) of a local act that interests you. If you have a particular genre you want to write about, please mention that along with any previous experience. Now, back to your usual Soundcloud and YouTube embeds.
[Please welcome the Mercury's new apprentice and resident English person Alex Ross, as he reflects on last Saturday's retail bonanza, Record Store Day.]
At 7 am on April 18 last year, I was standing outside the only record store in a small British city. Tired and disorientated by the mix of late night hangers-on and eager early risers, I became fearful that I was unprepared for Record Store Day. These people had lists and goals. When the doors flung open an hour later, they would charge into the tiny room. It would be each man for himself, full on warfare, bleary eyes meeting only to give death stares when elbowing someone out of the way wouldn’t do. They wanted that Sigur Ros 7-inch that played from the inside out and nothing was going to stop them.
This year as I stare at my spoils from Record Store Day 2013, a common theme seems to be developing. Being hopelessly disorganized, I’ve again ended up with a bunch of records that had nothing to do with the day itself. As always, I’ve got a load of vinyl that I could have bought at any time of the year and I’ve spent a load of money that I didn’t have.
Yet there’s one record that peers out at me, telling me that, even if I haven’t got my shit together, I’m in Portland. Portland has got my shit together for me, and everything will be okay. It’s a copy of American Gong by Quasi that Janet Weiss and Sam Coomes signed for me on Saturday and I’m trying not to drool on it as I type this.
There are a number of reasons for this over-salivation. First of all, Janet Weiss is my favorite drummer. Everything she does is perfect. Try listening to "The Fox" by Sleater-Kinney and not air-drumming. You can’t. Second, Quasi sum up everything that is great about the early '90s indie rock that we’re all so faithfully trying to rip off at the moment. Exuberant and melancholy all at once, they tread a line between sarcasm and sincerity that most people still fail to match, and American Gong, released in 2010, is one of their best. On top of this, Sam Coomes played bass for Heatmiser and toured with Elliott Smith. This is an awful lot of stuff I like.
So whilst the eager and over-caffeinated were scouring the special releases on Saturday, I was wearing my Kill Rock Stars T-shirt and sheepishly handing over my copy of American Gong to Janet Weiss, staring at my shoes and mumbling something about “favorite ever love you amazing.” I looked like a tourist and sounded like a 12-year-old and felt decidedly like I had my shit together on Record Store Day. For once.
A.L. ADAMS: How did you initially discover the Child Ballads?
ANAÏS MITCHELL: We were both familiar with the Child Ballads by way of other artists' having sung them: Martin Carthy, Nic Jones, Fairport Convention, Anne Briggs, Pentangle, Joan Baez, etc., but when we started working on the record we got hold of the books. They were in a used book store in this small town in Vermont, five volumes, paperback. It was a real different thing to work from the written text, because not only can you see 12 different versions of the same ballad back to back, you also see it as a written story, with different acts, main characters, etc.— a pretty different experience than hearing them sung. We worked a lot in the car on tour, or in houses, and we'd usually start by reading aloud all the different versions of a ballad to see what different people's approaches are. Then we'd go line by line picking and choosing the language that felt best, story-wise, poetically, and also as Americans, trying to find language that felt right coming off our tongues. Sometimes none of the lines in the text felt right so we'd make up our own, trying to stay faithful to the story. If there was a traditional melody we loved, we sang that, but in a couple of cases, we decided to forge our own. I'd say we got bolder and more "activist" with our interpretations as the project went along... The first few songs we did were pretty faithful to our favorite recorded versions, and the last few songs we did are more their own animal.
• David Bowie
• Caitlin Rose
• Unknown Mortal Orchestra
• The Knife
• The Thermals
• Frightened Rabbit
• Sun Angle
• My Bloody Valentine
• The Besnard Lakes
• Eat Skull
• Yo La Tengo
• The Woolen Men
• On an On
• Pissed Jeans
• Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside
• Tegan and Sara
• Thao and the Get Down Stay Down
• Natasha Kmeto
• The Cave Singers
• Charles Bradley
• [ADDITION] Typhoon! Of course of course of course.
• [ANOTHER ADDITION] Telekinesis
Election Day is tomorrow! You won't ordinarily find political stuff on End Hits, but I think this is important, and members of the Portland music community think so, too.
I'm hoping that you'll vote YES on Ballot Measure 26-146. That's the measure to restore vital arts funding to Portland schools. The above video includes endorsements from Alela Diane, Jose Medeles of Revival Drum Shop, Cool Nutz, John Moen of the Decemberists, Sarah Versprille and Dan Hindman of Pure Bathing Culture, Manny Reyes of Atole, Neal Morgan, and Vursatyl of Lifesavas. You've probably already voted, or at least decided what you're going to vote for, but if you want more information on Measure 26-146, School and Arts Together has plenty of information for you. In the meantime, here's a quick graphic about how Portland's arts funding stacks up:
Okay! All done politicking. Hopefully that wasn't too bad. Let's hope the next time you see any political endorsements from End Hits is a long, long four years from now.
The B-side's pretty spooky too, particularly the coda.
In which our esteemed metal expert Aris Wales addresses the kind-of-incredible new video from Seattle battle-metal band Ancient Wind.
Dearest Ancient Wind,
Just when the world was seemingly starting to take metal seriously, ding-dongs like you go and make a video that will no doubt be viral by the time this post finishes uploading. Way to go, fellas! Now millions will see what you and all your fart-joke-loving buddies no doubt consider to be a masterpiece, and consequently, they will form an opinion about all of other gauntlet-wearing-denim-vested-long-haired-bangers on the street. Great! Thanks to you and your moderate video editing skills, we’re all gonna look like a bunch of drooling Neanderthals that still get a good snicker from drawing dicks inside community college library books. Yeah, everybody! Tits, Satan, monster trucks, ass, explosions, and rocket ships; that’s what metal is all about!
When was that?
I'm assuming that wasn't the only time the Promise Ring has played in Portland.
No, no, we played there a bunch. Almost every tour, we played there.
For this upcoming tour, how many dates are you playing?
Well, we're doing 15 throughout the whole year. For this particular leg of the tour, we're flying into Portland, then flying down to LA and doing LA and Pomona, and then flying home.
Without spoiling it necessarily, what percentage of your set is songs off 30 Degrees Everywhere and Nothing Feels Good? Do you think that most people want to hear those songs?
Yeah, but we have a pretty well-rounded set. I mean, it's basically the same set we've had this whole time. We try to do enough from each of the records, to showcase all of those songs. We do about four from 30 Degrees, we do around five or six from Nothing Feels Good, and then we do four to five from Very Emergency, then four from Wood/Water. So yeah, basically four to five songs from each record. It depends if we cut any, but it's usually a 26-song set. We do a song from the Boys + Girls EP, a song from the Electric Pink EP, and a song off of the split 7-inch we did with Texas Is the Reason, which I think is also on Horse Latitudes.
This week's issue contains a story on the Skabbs, a punk band from the Lawndale/Torrance, CA, area that broke up before any of their recordings ever saw the light of day. Jackpot Records, the record label from the same folks running the fine Portland record stores, has issued the long-overdue 17-track Idle Threat, a terrific collection of Skabbs recordings from 1977-1978. It's a remarkable, sad story—lead singer and songwriter Steve Salazar died in 1979 of a lifelong heart defect—with a great denouement: The Skabbs' recordings have finally been released, and the band has reunited for a string of West Coast shows.
I interviewed Skabbs bassist Mike Enzor for the article, and his responses were thoughtful and fascinating. We could only cram so many quotes into print, but here is the complete Q&A with Enzor. It's well worth reading everything he had to say.
The Skabbs play a free, all-ages show at 6 pm today at the downtown Jackpot Records store (203 SW 9th). They also play tomorrow night at Dante's (1 SW 3rd) with Sam Coomes' new project, the Deep Fried Boogie Band.
MERCURY: How does it feel to have these recordings finally see the light of day? Was there frustration and regret over the years with people not having heard them?
MIKE ENZOR: It feels great, yeah. Just to hear a record label say they liked the stuff and wanted to release it was like vindication after all these years. I wouldn't say we were frustrated that no one had ever heard our music. Sure, we were frustrated back in the day, but we've had 30 some odd years to get over that. One of my personal great regrets though is that we didn't put out a 7-inch or something back in the day. If we had done that, either self-released or with one of the small LA punk labels of the day, like Dangerhouse or Bomp or something, it would be like we existed. The only thing we had to prove our existence were some flyers and our cassette recordings, of course.
How did the band form? Something I read said you just wanted to make music less gross than Foreigner. Were you all friends first, and then the band came after? Or did you become friends because of the band?
The four original guys (Andy Thoreson, Andy Gonzalez, Steve Evans, and myself) all knew each other since high school. We'd never been in a band all together before, but we found ourselves hanging out together a couple of years after high school, and the band just kind of grew out of that. Even then, we didn't really think we'd be a real band. We were just doing goofy stuff with saxophones, doing stripper music, just stuff to crack ourselves up. Then we "heard about" punk rock. It was really more an intellectual decision than anything else. Like, "Hey, maybe this is gonna be the next big thing, and maybe it'll kill off this corporate crap passing for rock 'n' roll these days."
The next step was asking Steve Salazar to write punk rock songs for us because we didn't think we could write songs. Our drummer, Andy Gonzalez had met Steve while playing in a touring company of Godspell, and then joined Steve's band Shorty's Portion. Steve had a degree in musical composition from USC and was writing symphonies as well as pop songs, and he had a bizarre sense of humor. He wasn't really familiar with punk, so we gave him some records to listen to (Ramones, the Jam, and the "God Save the Queen" 7-inch) and a couple days later he gave us a cassette with his demo for "Long May She Wave," which was a crass answer song to "God Save the Queen." It was perfect for us. It was like he perfectly understood the concept we already had in mind. Also, he had such a unique voice we knew he had to be our lead singer. Fortunately for us, he decided to join.
It's chickfactor's 20th anniversary, so fanzine co-founder Gail O'Hara and I sat down at the Moon & Sixpence over some beers in a sunny patio to jaw it out. She's been hosting anniversary parties across this great nation to celebrate the little fanzine that could. (Read the article here). The Portland party is going down on Wednesday, May 30, at Bunk Bar with Joe Pernice, the Softies, Lois, and Selector Dub Narcotic (Calvin Johnson on the steel wheels). Gail's also got a photo exhibit opening on Thursday, June 7, at Reading Frenzy, which will be up all month.
MERCURY: Has your taste in music changed since the chickfactor days?
GAIL O'HARA: Probably not. A lot of the same bands are still going. I don’t know. But Fleet Foxes [which we'd previously mentioned]… I might’ve told [Willamette Week’s] Robert Ham the same thing, so maybe I won’t tell you, but they’re just too uplifting for me. It’s almost too spiritually perky or something. I need something more dark and edgy. There needs to be some melancholy. It’s pretty… I should like it, it’s just something doesn’t stay with me. I haven’t seen them before, so maybe that’s what’s missing. Do you like them?
I do like ’em.
Certain bands, it’s like, “You haven’t seen ’em live, so you don’t get it.” So maybe that’s the problem.
I’m excited for the chickfactor show.
Yeah, me too. Pitchfork, when they originally mentioned it, everyone assumed all the same bands were going to come out for it. Like all the same bands I had for New York, like Black Tambourine and the Aislers Set, and all those bands. They were like, “That’s going to happen in Portland.” I wish it could, but even if Portland… it’s just so hard to have a ticket price that high in Portland that we needed to do in New York.
[Hit the jump for the rest.]
1. Madonna last night: Partly great, partly terrible, musically worthless, totally worth watching.
2. MIA's middle finger: What Sasha Frere-Jones said.
3. LMFAO: No. No. No no no. I do not accept this package. Return to sender immediately.
4. The two local release shows I caught this weekend—Laura Gibson's and Lost Lander's—were positively outstanding. The one I missed—Neal Morgan—sounds like it was just as good.
5. Lana Del Rey: Glad to see that SNL seems to be in her corner, defending a performance that was awkward and stiff, but not as bad as Brian Williams said it was.
6. Hey, Floater fans who are in the market for a single Zildjian cymbal! What a steal! He'll even sign it! (thanks RS)
7. The new King Tuff tune is a STONE COLD JAM.
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