Thursday, September 27, 2007

What I Been Listening To, Vol. 2

The Eat - It's Not the Eat, it's the Humidity

The Eat were a pop-punk band from Florida whose records, particularly the "Communist Radio"/"Catholic Love" 7", have become absurdly collectable over the years. By the time I got into the punk scene, they were already broken up (I remember my girlfriend's older sister was a big fan), and until recently the only song of theirs I'd heard was "I Led Two Lives", which appeared on a compilation album of Florida bands called The Land That Time Forgot (still have my copy!). This CD collects all their recorded work on one disc, and adds a second disc of live stuff.

The sound, especially on the early singles, is incredibly hyper and bouncy, with hooks galore sticking out. This stuff'll burrow into your ear and not get out. As great as "Communist Radio" is, the 5-song God Punishes the Eat single does a great job of following it up, especially on the second side, with bouncing-off-the-wall tunes "Silly Drug Songs", "Nut Cop" and "Kneecappin'" back-to-back, but I think the third release, the cassette-only Scattered Wahoo Action from 1983, is where they really hit their peak. There's still some great pogo punk like "She's Pissed Off" and "Holy Mary", and a harder punk song called "Subhuman", but there's a bit more variety. "I Led Two Lives" and "Nixon's Binoculars" have funky beats and saxophones (although the latter is too derivative of Talking Heads, it's still an insanely fun and catchy tune), while "Hey, Jackass" and "Living Like a Pig" have some very nice vocal harmonies and hooks. The newer stuff, recorded in the late 80's for an album called Hialeah that was eventually released in the mid-90's, is not quite as good, but at least you know you're not gonna get double-dipped on this. And the live stuff is fun, especially the set that begins with a cover of Zappa's "Flower Punk" with lyrics altered to include some local references ("I'm gonna be a punk all summer, then I'm going back to Georgia Tech") which then segues into "L.A. Woman."

One serious gripe, though, is with the booklet included. Whoever did layout on this thing fucked it up badly. There's not one, but two pages of liner notes repeated (and other pages clearly missing). Very unprofessional, and I hope they plan on cleaning up the mess.

The Dirty Projectors - Rise Above

If you haven't heard of this, here's the story. The guy from this band was visiting his mom, and found the empty case for his cassette of Black Flag's Damaged album. The cassette wasn't there, but the lyric sheet was. It was his favorite album in, like, 8th grade, but he couldn't remember how any of the songs went, so he went and recorded his own versions. Or, I should say, recorded his own songs using the lyrics, because they are completely removed from the Black Flag tunes.

Musically, it's as far from Black Flag as you can get, and there are some funny moments, like the lilting voices singing "This fucking city is run by pigs/They take the rights away from all the kids," but it's not one of those joke albums of phony lounge versions of punk songs. In fact, I don't know what to compare it to, because it doesn't sound like anything I've ever heard (Morrisey fronting a gospel choir, maybe?). Has anyone ever heard anything else by this band? Does all their stuff sound like this?

The effect of shifting the style completely away from the teen agression of Black Flag is to put the lyrics in a somewhat different context. They're saying the same things, but sometimes they mean something slightly different. Instead of rage and agression, it sounds like yearning for transcendence, yearning to "rise above". I'm 25 years older than I was when I first heard Damaged, and I'm not exactly filled with rage anymore, but I am still yearning to rise above.

The Black Lips - Good Bad Not Evil

Not sure what to say about this except that it's really good, sometimes funny garage rock with bits of VU, Stooges and Pussy Galore influence. Loaded with hits--these guys just write one great song after another. What kind of world is this where a song like "Bad Kids" can possibly avoid being a top 10 hit? Thanks to Zane for reccomending it.

Knights of the New Crusade - A Challenge to the Cowards of Christendom

A joke Christian punk band. They have the more-hardcore-than-thou attitude shared by both evangelicals and punks, in this case denouncing other Christian rock bands for not being explicitly Christian enough in their lyrics. The packaging is done up in Jack Chick fonts. I'm actually not 100% sure this is a joke. Like, you see the title "What Part of Thou Shall Not Kill Don't You Understand?" and you assume it must be an anti-abortion song, but it turns out to be anti-war. Maybe they're serious? The best songs are actually the covers of the hymn "The Son of God Goes Forth to War" and the gospel song made famous by Elvis, "The Big Man." And the final track has the singer speaking in tongues, which is pretty funny. Thanks to Bob for sending me a copy.


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