Rites of Spring and the Political Without Politics

Music can be political without being expressly political.  Sometimes the sheer vitality of it can be a force for change.  It can shake you, wake you up, make you want to do something different than you were doing before you heard it.  This has definitely been true, from even the earliest moments, of rock n roll.  Once rock n roll was unleashed it couldn’t help but have an affect on race relations, sexual mores, youth culture, and so on, just because of where it came from and the sheer energy involved, even before it dealt with any of those things in an explicit way.

I’ve mentioned lately that I have been diving into the punk, post-punk, and hardcore bands of the 80’s Washington D.C. scene. Rites of Spring, which featured members that went on to join Fugazi, among other bands, were different from many of the acts of even that time period.  Their songs were more melodic and their lyrics were more personal in nature, despite channeling the energy of punk and hardcore.  Their lyrics also have a more poetic and interpretive nature than many of their peers.  Although I grew up listening to all of the Ian MacKaye bands, MacKaye is a founder of Dischord Records and also went on to be a member of Fugazi, I had never heard Rites of Spring until recently.  But listening to their music, one can’t help but feel that something is going on.  It possesses a feeling of dissatisfaction, but not of hopelessness.  It sounds like people striving to reach someplace new.  It is full of passion and self-discovery.  Singer and guitar player Guy Picciotto sounds fully committed.  Even if none of these things translate into any particular political cause, this is the sound of people becoming engaged with the world.  And engagement is the most important ingredient in any kind of social change.

John T. Floore Country Store, Dischord Records, the New Terminator

Been on the road this weekend, a short run through Port Aransas and Helotes.  We’re at Floore’s Country Store in the latter tonight.  Will be back on the grid tomorrow.  A few thoughts:

Anyone that is a fan of Dischord Records more famous bands, Fugazi, Minor Threat, Rites of Spring, should check out the sole albums by Embrace and One Last Wish.  Both albums feature a really great guitar player named Michael Hampton.   Future Fugazi singers, Ian MacKaye and Guy Picciotto,  front Embrace and One Last Wish respectively.  Brendan Canty, of Fugazi and Rites of Spring, also plays drums in One Last Wish.  Both bands seem to bridge the gap between the early D.C. scene and Fugazi’s more experimental direction.  They are more melodic than either Rites of Spring (Picciotto’s first band) or Minor Threat (MacKaye’s popular earlier band), with more twists and turns, but also are faster in tempo and more straightforward than Fugazi.  Because all of these bands were on Dischord Records and were recorded by Don Zientara, who did a lot of the Dischord stuff, the records sound like natural predecessors to Fugazi.  New ground is being broken, but the final break with the earlier sound of the early 80’s D.C hadn’t been severed in the way that Fugazi would go on to do.  And I must mention in closing that if you love guitar playing that is equal parts melodic and angular, the work here by Michael Hampton, who I have never seen anywhere else, is really worth taking in.

The new Terminator movie is not worth seeing.  The plot is horrible and the PG-13 rating ensures that the movie is not even filled with enough B-movie thrills to make it bad in a good way.  It seems like the kind of film created by a marketing company, failing to take in the fact real people would be seeing it.  As an 80’s kid, I love all of the old Schwarzenegger stuff, so I was even hoping to like the film.  However, I came in with low expectations,  and I still left feeling I could write a better script after a night of heavy drinking.

From the green room of Floore’s Country Store,  that’s all for now…

Let There Be Rock

Was listening to the album Let There Be Rock by AC/DC all day.  It is an absolutely fantastic rock n roll album.  I have no idea how the album was recorded, but it sounds like an album recorded by a band live in a room while rolling some fat tape.  It may seem simple to some, but the playing, writing, and recording are tremendous.  Every groove is deep in the pocket.  The guitars sound like snarling dogs.  The lyrics are funny and witty and delivered for maximum effect by Bon Scott.  There aren’t many overdubs that couldn’t be performed live, a guitar part here and there.  I love records like this, that sound like an actual band.  A great deal of the magic is from the way the musicians interact with each other.  This is primal physical stuff.  At the same time there is more sophistication going on in the arrangements then appears.  This can be seen in the way there are long pauses on the title track, and then all of a sudden the band explodes back into the song.  That’s not amateur hour there.  Angus Young’s lead work sounds like he is taking the paint off of an entire countryside of barns.  There is a reason that every one from metal bands to Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye love this band.  They are the very best at what they do.  The title track, which may be my favorite AC/DC song will be posted above.  It’s also one of my favorite rock videos.

Embrace and Ian MacKaye

Growing up I was influenced greatly by the east coast punk, post-punk, and hardcore movements.  One of my my heroes was Minor Threat and Fugazi singer Ian MacKaye.  Although I had heard of them before I only recently discovered MacKaye’s short lived band Embrace, which only ever put out one album.  Those of you that are fans of any of MacKaye’s work will find that Embrace is simply outstanding.  It is more melodic than most of Minor Threat and Fugazi.  However, the guitar work by Michael Hampton is completely incendiary.  Check out song two on their album, Dance of Days, up above.  Those of you that love post-punk and hardcore will find a singular sound here.