I haven't written on here in a meaningful manner in quite some time, due to factors such as work and, eh, generally laziness. With that out of the way, I'm going to try to post more regularly, since I have a lot of free time at my new job. The first thing I'm going to try out is a post on the albums that have changed the way I approached music. Not the best albums, but the ones that made me go, "hmmm." I will begin in chronological order, starting in middle school, as I do not believe I was really conscious of music in a way that I can really examine until around 6th grade. Before that, it was either oldies or country, which were listened to exclusively because they were the most un-offensive things my parents would let me listen to (Which is curious in itself, because I had a John Anderson album with the song "Straight Tequila Night" which is a song about drinking heavily, and "Steamy Windows," which was about, of course, screwing in the back of a car, and I loved those songs/album and no one made an attempt to censor it for me, probably because I was sheltered enough that I didn't really know what those things meant). Anyways, here we go:
1. Gin Blossoms - Miserable New Experience
Came after: country music, 10,000 Maniacs
I didn't realize until recently that the Gin Blossoms weren't really cool. Some thread on avclub.com was full of derison for them, chalking them up to another crappy 90's alt-rock band like the Spin Doctors or Counting Crows. But for me, the Gin Blossoms were so much more than that. I think I was a few years behind getting this album, but I was in 6th grade, so I wasn't exactly up on the newest hits, being an only child and all. But basically, the Gin Blossoms were responsible for my trying to write my own songs, specifically songs about Allison Sandoloski.
The Gin Blossoms had a song called "Allison Road," and in 6th grade, I had a huge crush on Allison Sandoloski (Allison, if you ever google yourself and find this, you should know you were pretty cute in 6th grade), this Jewish girl who had big brown eyes and hair, and I would sit in my room and listen to "Allison Road," and pretend I wrote that song about her, simply because her name was Allison. I sat alone in my room, with my little Epiphone acoustic, and I tried to write meaningful lyrics about my love for Allison Sandoloski, at least as meaningful as my 6th grade experience let me. I don't know what happend to those lyrics, but I do remember that my mom found them once and correctly surmised that I had crush on Allison. Nothing ever came of that romance, as I wore big glasses and didn't really know what to do with girls, but I do thank the Gin Blossoms for giving me the desire to create.
2. MXPX - Slowly Going the Way of the BuffaloCame after: Eve6, whatever was on 99Kiss at the time
After going to a Christian-based university, I found that my experience with MXPX is mirrored in the lives of other kids my age. Having been raised in a heavily Christian environment, I was looking for a way to rebel, yet at the same time, not entirely drawing the ire of my parents. The gateway drug for that, in the lives of many evangelical Christian youths, is MXPX. Who were MXPX? Where the punk? Were they Christian? They had tattoos and bleached hair and played in style that we thought punk should be: fast and loud. But hey, they also had lyrics vaguely about Jesus, and they were on Tooth and Nail Records, the predominant alt-Christian label at the time. I talked my parents into buying this record for me for Christmas my freshman year of HS, and I absolutely loved it. I went out and bought their back catalog. I bought stickers. I wore my bass low like Mike Herrera. In my little world, I was punk. Of course, what did my world consist of? I went to a wealthy, private school, were expressions of indivduality (however un-individual they may have been) were extremely limited, with mine being shown off through MXPX patches on my bookbag. But MXPX also validated my punkness a bit because the kids who actually listened to "punk" also listened to MXPX. Their being accepted in the secular music world was important to me, as I found something that, while not exactly popular, wasn't viewed as crap, like most Christian music is when it falls outside the ears of the converted.
MXPX also made me cool in the world of Christianity. I listened to the right music, had the t-shirts, I spiked my hair, and I was generally the most bad-ass of youth group kids. I can only imagine I looked as stupid as I thought the Christian hardcore kids looked when I got older. But no one else was going that direction in the small, insular world of Church of Christ kids. When we went summer camp that year, I was out there in my punk finest, also bringing along with me the Bad Religion records I bought without my parents permission. I even kissed a girl that summer at camp. What I'm trying to get at here, is that however un-cool MXPX might have really been in the world, they were important to me, as they gave me self-esteem. Music, before having been reserved as a way to escape in my bedroom, now became a status symbol and a way to identify myself to the world.
3. Homesick for Space - Unison
Came after: Face to Face, Rancid, Hair Gel
I've written about Homesick for Space here before, about how they were one of the life-defining bands for me. I'm probably the only person that will ever say that, but seriously, if any of the band members ever read this, thank you. I was deep into punk rock, and I had just discovered mp3s. When I found out that you could burn these to CD's and play them wherever, I became a downloading fool, searching the internet for anything punk I could find. Somehow, via some label that I forget, there was a song from Homesick for Space, who, I guess, used to be a hardcore band called I Robot, who now played more melodic fare. This was different than anything that I had been listening to, and I'm pretty sure the first time I heard it, I turned it off...it was slow and had this high pitched singing. At that point in my life, it was not what I wanted. I wanted loud and fast, profane and shambolic.
I'm not sure when I came back to it, and to be honest, I don't even remember the name of the song. When I did finally listen to it again, something clicked with me, and I became entranced with Homesick for Space. Pianos in music? Unheard of in my life. I did whatever I could to research them on the internet, to find out who these people where that made such beautiful music. From their website, I was introduced to bands such as The Doves, Mogwai, and most importantly Death Cab for Cutie and Sigur Ros. There's not a whole lot out there about Homesick for Space, except I think they just put up new demos on their myspace page (which I will check out tonight), but in terms of shaping the course of my musical maturation, they were giants.
4. Sigur Ros - ( )
Came after: Homesick For Space, Mogwai
I found out about Mogwai from a post on the Homesick for Space website, and was intrigued by the fact they were instrumental rock. Instrumental rock, to me, was the Ventures. What Mogwai was turning out, was apocolyptic in my mind. Now, you will have to excuse the hyperbole used in these posts, as I'm trying to capture how I felt when I first heard these albums, and as someone never exposed to this type of music before, it was, in a way, amazing in the purest sense of the world. I had made music my life, and to find out there was more out there than what I had limited myself to was, (cliche) freeing.
Mogwai directly led me to Sigur Ros, via a mention on the Mogwai website. As I was browsing through Borders one day after school, I saw their album "( )" for sale. The packaging was devoid of any writing, but I remembered that Mogwai seemed to love them, and therefore I should give them a chance. I came home and threw the CD on my boombox and started doing homework, which was how I always listened to music, haphazardly balancing schoolwork and listening to the sounds. After halfway through the 1st song, I quit doing my homework. I sat there and listened straight through to the entire album. I was floored at how beautiful this music was. The waves of distortion, the amazing falsetto singing, the repetition, all of it seemed new to me. Mogwai was one thing, but Sigur Ros took that idea of quiet beauty contrasted with overwhelming emotion to a higher level. I was writing for the school paper at that point, and in the next issue I published a page long review of "( )" calling it "a soundtrack for open spaces." I was obsessed with Sigur Ros. No one else, unfortunately, gave a shit. If I put it on in my car, my friends would complain until I changed it to Cake or Rancid or something like that. This signified another change in how I viewed music in relation to social settings. Before, I had used music as a way to show who I was, and it was important for me that the bands I listened to and promoted were seen by others as "cool." Now, listening to a band that no one I knew cared about didn't faze me. It marked the beginning of me loving music for its own sake, rather than a way to express who I thought I should be.
continued tomorrow, 1/15/08.