Albums You Don’t Need To Own – Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

zzejWelcome to the first installment of Albums You Don’t Need To Own, in which we discuss widely popular and completely overrated albums that are improperly labeled as “classics.” I’d like to kick things off in fine fashion with Sir Elton John’s landmark record from 1973, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Before we get too deep into this, I’d like to make note of the temporal factors involved in this criticism. It’s quite possible and most likely true that 40 years ago any real music fan needed to own this album. But after four decades of radio hit over-saturation, and a subsequent negligence for recognizing the rest of the record as bland filler, it is not only completely justified for a real music fan to not own this album, but also completely unnecessary for them to own it. I had personally never listened to this album in its entirety until this week, and I was immediately struck by its current irrelevance in the world of music.

Let’s look at the numbers – over 30 million copies sold, a ranking of #91 on Rolling Stones Greatest Albums of All Timeand the bold, unsupported claim from Wikipedia stating that it is “one of the most influential albums in music.” And while that last claim may be true, the music that this album influenced have become far more important and influential that the initial record itself. First, let’s look at the four hits which I would wager an average American has heard around 300 times during their lifetime…

“Candle in the Wind” – Ugh. A strong contender for sappiest song in creation, and held in high regard worldwide by the kind of folks who cry when a boy falls down a well in Calgary. Try to honestly think how many times you’ve heard it come on the radio – 100? 200? Have you ever heard it and said, “Damn I need this on my iPod.” No, you haven’t. If you have, I really wonder what circumventive path brought you to this website.

“Benny and the Jets” – It’s an ear-worm for sure, but again… who has ever made themselves a drink on a Saturday night, leaned back, and decided to take this track for a spin? It’s just unnecessary. You’ve heard it a couple hundred times on the radio, sometimes you leave it on, sometimes you don’t, but you’ve never needed to own it. Besides, I’ve never been able to hear it the same way since Biz Markie stumbled though it with The Beastie Boys

“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” – Yeah, this one’s good. Maybe his finest work. And there is this version which is really hard to fuck with.

“Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” – Another ugh in my book. I like to imagine some tough biker gang having this be their theme song, but I know that’s never happened. Classic rock radio always plays it, and I don’t think I’ve ever been in a car where it came on and the driver didn’t change the station. It may have sounded bad-ass 40 years ago, but now it sounds like a joke.

So now let me run down the songs on the album that are nothing but bland filler. I suppose if you’re looking for inconsequential background music at a family reunion, these songs might be justifiable, but after listening to this whole record through four times this week, I literally have no need to hear these tunes ever again.
“This Song Has No Title”
“Grey Seal”
“I’ve Seen That Movie Too”
“Sweet Painted Lady”
“The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909–34)”
“All the Girls Love Alice”
“Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘n Roll)”
“Roy Rogers”
“Social Disease”
“Harmony”

And that leaves us with three songs. The first is the opener, “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding.” The “Funeral” part of the song is pretty cool actually – a kind of pseudo-prog-rock instrumental thing that hints at tons of cool shit to come on the rest of the record which never do. Then there’s “Jamaica Jerk-Off” which garners points for having an amazing title, but also has a killer riff, huge gospel backing vocals, and a cool solo breakdown thing – all things which are missing on the 10 songs I listed above. And then there’s “Dirty Little Girl” which is the dopest 70′s blues-funk groove I never knew existed. It’s biggest problem is that it’s buried deep in the middle of a double-album of unmemorable songs. If you had taken just these three songs and combined them with the four hits before, you would have a seven song album that I would agree deserves to be on the Rolling Stone list. But seven good tracks to ten bad ones does not a classic make in my book. Your best bet is to take these last three, maybe throw in the title track, and leave the rest to collect dust on your vinyl collection. An even better bet is to get 1970′s Tumbleweed Connection and completely rearrange your perception of Elton John in the first place. That’s the fucking record right there, clocking in at #458 on the Rolling Stone list.

So that’s my obnoxious two cents. If you see this puppy in the used vinyl section, I suppose it’s worth a couple bucks. Anything more and you’re better off just downloading the few decent tracks. Am I wrong? Tell me why. In the meantime, here’s some kids playing my favorite new jam off my new most overrated record.

Video Premiere: Max Garcia Conover “I Won’t Mess You Up”

zzzAll of the multitudes of musical genres that exist in reality these days, there’s none that have a harder code to crack than quality folk music. Funk? Jazz? Rock? Punk? Metal? Any of these can use a solid back beat to win over a mildly inebriated crowd. But when it comes to just a guy and his guitar, there’s nothing to hide behind. Either your songs are good, or you’re relegated to playing lunch hours in dive-y coffee shops while folks on laptops give you looks like they want to smash their lattes over your head. So when Burrow by Max Garcia Conover arrived on my desk last year, I kept my expectations at their normal degree of hesitancy. In fact, it took about three months of having the album cover stare me down before I finally gave it a spin. But right off the bat, I was on board. In terms of modern touchstones, he’s got a voice that resonates in the same vein as The Tallest Man on Earthbut he’s got a finger picking style that reminds me of Brad Barr’s solo album. Chosen as Maine’s Best New Act of 2012 in the Portland Music Awards, Max’s tunes seem a lot more inspired by the cold winters on the Eastern coast then by the lofty summers, but in an optimistic ‘waiting for the snow to melt’ kind of way, not in the ‘running out of a lamp oil in a shotgun shack’ kind of way.

Conover is currently running a campaign to fund his new album and part of the process is debuting new video demos for songs every week. Basically, whichever ones garner the warmest receptions will make it onto the record. I Shit Music is proud to present the premiere of this week’s cut, “I Won’t Mess You Up.” It’s a great tune about the simple things in life, and along with the video it kind of makes me want to build a row boat out of reclaimed barn wood – you know what I mean? Check it out below, and check out the rest of the videos so far at MaxGarciaConover.com. You can donate directly to the album campaign there, and take him up on his promise of “unlimited signed copies of the new album Ellery.

Photo courtesy of Max Garcia Conover facebook.

Concert Review: John Scofield’s Uberjam – Star Theater, Portland, OR – 04.11.14

scofieldpress0021SMLIt was hard to deny a waft of nostalgia in the air on Friday night. Not only were most conversations centered upon which decade-old festival any of the crowd had last seen an Uberjam performance at, most of those in attendance had no idea that there had been a third Uber record released in 2013. But despite a collective lack of knowledge about current affairs, the electric wizard known as John Scofield made everybody feel right at home.

First off, I’m pretty sure Scofield stopped aging in the 21st century. Fortunately the Benjamin Buttoning of his twilight is not reverting his fingers back to some pre-pubescent state as well, and thus his chops are more honed than ever. Even in a crowd full of players, or more likely because of it, there were regular gasps of astonishment rising from the room. You know the sound – hundreds of cats half in the bag, all instinctually letting out a massive pfffttttt when a lick rises fully out of the realm of theoretic comprehension. Each solo was more seamless than its prior, played with such ostensible ease that any critical analysis was thrown out the window. In short, Sco was on fire. Like usual. Like always. So let’s talk about the band.

It’s hard to walk into a gig like this with no preconceptions, and the biggest detriment to this lineup was simply the hype that they had to live up to. If I had never seen an Uberjam gig prior to this one, I would have nothing but praise for the band. And while some may argue that comparative nitpickery has no place in a professional performance review, I can’t shake the lingering echoes. Avi Bortnick is the only remaining member of the original lineup, and with due reason; without the coupling of his rhythm attack and sampling majesty, this band couldn’t exist. Andy Hess, despite having played with the 2nd incarnation of Uberjam, unfortunately bares the crown of being the most adequate bass player on the live music scene. The guy is incredibly talented on the bass, but it seems like he’s always a band’s second pick. I’ve seen him play with a number of bands over the years – Gov’t Mule, The Black Crowes, Steve Kimock – and he’s always the least noticeable person on stage. He’s never one to make you say “wow the bass sounds amazing,” or “wow the bass sounds like shit,” he’s always just painfully adequate. And with that being said, there were several moments the other night where I was missing the syncopated attack that Jesse Murphy used to bring to the band. However, the most noticeable factor of this incarnation of Uberjam was the absence of Adam Deitch on drums. Now this is nothing against Tony Mason – obviously you’re not going to be asked to play with Sco if you don’t have chops – but it’s really hard to step to Deitch. I was trying to not weigh too heavy on his absence, but then they started up “Jungle Fiction,” the go-to Deitch track. The tune was originally constructed around his gritty hummingbird fills, and while Mason was able to hold the groove, he wasn’t able to inject that ballsy swagger that the song needs. It was the only low point of the night, although that low was floors above most bands’ high points.

Honestly, What if Nirvana Played a Few Gigs?

znLet me say this right off the bat – before last night’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ceremony, the notion of Nirvana playing new gigs sounded like the most idiotic, asinine idea of all time. The fellas have done an astonishingly great job of keeping their legacy untarnished, and any kind of tribute/nostalgia act would be a complete disaster. The last thing that needs to happen to this band is to be lumped into a group that contains Sublime with Rome, or Queen with Adam Lambert, or The Doors 2000. But what happened last night was so far from any of that. Not only did Nirvana honor and respect their legacy, they also managed to make a powerful statement about the essence of rock music. Here’s a quick run-down of the night, with links included of what’s out there. I highly recommend “Aneuryism,” “Lithium,” and “School”.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ceremony

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” (with Joan Jett)
“Aneurysm” (with Kim Gordon) (@6:45)
“Lithium” (with St. Vincent)
“All Apologies” (with Lorde)

Secret Show at Saint Vitus

01 “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (with Joan Jett)
02 “Breed” (with Joan Jett)
03 “In Bloom” (with Joan Jett)
04 “Territorial Pissings” (with Joan Jett)
05 “All Apologies” (with Joan Jett)
06 “Drain You” (with J Mascis)
07 “Pennyroyal Tea” (with J Mascis)
08 “School” (with J Mascis)
09 “Lithium” (with St. Vincent)
10 “About A Girl” (with St. Vincent)
11 “Heart Shaped Box” (with St. Vincent)
12 “Serve The Servants” (with John McCauley)
13 “Milk It” (with John McCauley)
14 “Very Ape (with John McCauley)
15 “Scentless Apprentice” (with John McCauley)
16 “Tourette’s” (with John McCauley)
17 “Aneurysm” (with Kim Gordon)
18 “Negative Creep” (with Kim Gordon)
19 “Moist Vagina” (with Kim Gordon)

Having all women fill in for Kurt is an amazing, magical thing. It’s not only a clear statement about how there’s not really any dude that can adequately step into those shoes, it’s a statement about the essence of punk, and rock, and the ability to harness the power of social angst. It really seems like what Cobain would have wanted. Fuck the boys club, fuck a mainstream desire for Eddie Vedder or someone else popular to wrongly step in, and fuck trying to recreate something. Oh, but then J Mascis played some songs at the secret after show and it was perfect, so… Obviously, the biggest winner of the night is Deertick’s John McCauley, who somehow managed to get up on stage with his heroes. But anyway, taking this whole historic event into account, and acknowledging the fact that the one-off nature of it makes it even more amazing, how would you feel if Nirvana announced they were going to play a few gigs? Say one at Madison Square Garden, one in Seattle, and one… somewhere else other than Los Angeles. And suppose the format for said gigs was akin to what happened last night, where you have a variety of different folks stepping up for a few songs. Could you honestly say that you wouldn’t want to go? Have Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic just completely flipped the script on how reunion gigs are supposed to go down? I for one hope that they don’t play any gigs, but at the same time I know I would do everything in my power to attend. Watch some footage and let me know your thoughts.

Antemasque Proves Flea is The Hardest Working Man in Music

zfleaThere’s a lot of uber-prolific folks in the music business – folks whose regular and diverse output makes it seem like they’re on some sort of Keanu Reeves Speed bus program where their entire being will self-destruct if they don’t make new music every two hours. In terms of “the hardest working man in music” there’s a bunch of top contenders… Danger MouseDamon Albarn, Rick Rubin, Trey Anastasio… but I don’t think any of these guys can keep up with Flea. Yesterday, the first track appeared from a new band called Antemasque, featuring Oman and Cedric from Mars Volta and featuring Flea on bass. The guys have a solid history together as Flea played on most of 2003′s Deloused in the Comatorium, but this new cut actually reminds me more of At the Drive-In then the Volta stuff. Check out “4AM” down below, but first let’s try to keep track of everything that Michael Peter Balzary (Flea) has gotten his hands on over the years.

Fear - Did you know he had a short stint playing for the legendary L.A. punk band? Unfortunately he didn’t play on the infamous SNL gig.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Well, duh.

Porno for Pyros - He was in the band briefly in 1997, and was on the track they recorded for the Howard Stern movie.

Jane’s Addiction - Stemming from the P4P gig, Flea joined the reunion tour when Eric Avery backed out.

Atoms For Peace - Thank God the universe put Flea and Thom Yorke together, I friggin’ love this band.

Rocket Juice and The Moon - I can’t believe we never got a full-on tour of this Damon Albarn afro-beat band. Shit is hot fire.

Solo - Not too many people are aware of the 2012 solo album he released, Helen Burns. It’s largely insturmental and has a soundtrack kind of vibe. It’s a beautiful half hour of music though, and features Patti Smith on a couple tracks.

And let’s not forget to mention his collaborating on tracks with Johnny Cash, Warren Zevon, Tom Waits, Patti Smith, LL Cool J, Joe Strummer, John Frusciante, Jewel, Slash, Incubus, Alanis Morrisette, and Young MC. Yep, he actually played bass on “Bust A Move.” In short, the dude is a fuckin’ beast. We’ll see what comes of Antemasque, but for now Flea seems just as surprised as anyone that he’s in the band… He tweeted yesterday, “”Woke to find out I’m in a new supergroup. Hahahaha. Played on some tracks a few weeks ago with my friends Omar and Cedric for love that all.”

Photo courtesy of Leon Wilson.

Who Will Be Kurt Cobain at The Rock Hall Of Fame Tomorrow?

nirvana-joan-jett-guitars-608x813On Thursday April 10, Nirvana will be among the acts inducted into the 2014 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Unlike Kiss, who aren’t going to perform because Gene and Paul don’t want to reunite with Peter Criss and Ace Frehley, (who the fuck knows the names of any of the other present members of Kiss anyway?), Nirvana is definitely going to be playing some songs. And as much as it sucks that there’s no way for the “real” band to play, it will be great to see Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl, and Pat Smear be on stage together. When they joined Sir Paul on stage up in Seattle last Summer, there was a palpable wave of awe and relief in the air, despite a majority of the older crowd presumably having no clue who they were. So if this is done right, with the right person, it could be a fairly epic moment in rock history. And sure, the easiest thing to do would be just to have Smear play guitar while Grohl sings lead vocals, but they need somebody up there standing front and center. Yesterday, Grohl posted a picture of Joan Jett’s guitar sitting next to the band’s gear, (pictured above)so it’s looking pretty likely that she’ll be the one. If that’s the case, I think it’s a fabulous choice. She’s an equally as rebellious artist who found her way into the mainstream, albeit a decade earlier. She still has her deep growl in check, and she carries no baggage with her that could otherwise deflate the power of the moment. If it’s not Joan though, here’s my top picks of who it should be.

1) Daniel Johnston - It’s no secret that Kurt was a huge fan of the emotionally distraught Johnston. His voice would sound like shit, like always, and his guitar playing would be even shittier. Still, it’d be an awesome spiraling moment of inspiring rock legends intertwining in a blur.

2) Kathleen Hanna - It was the Bikini Kill frontwoman’s tagging of “Kurt smells like Teen Spirit” that inspired the name of the song, and both emotionally and lyrically she’s right on par with Cobain. Quite simply, her valley girl tone would just sound dope as all fuck on some Nirvana cuts. This is my dream pick.

3) Frances Bean Cobain - Imagine Kurt’s daughter, who we really know nothing about, just appearing out of nowhere and channeling her father like it was her God-granted right. Who knows what it would sound like, but it sure looks cool as hell on paper.

4) Black Francis - As much as Frank Black has pissed me off in recent years with how he’s handled the legacy of The Pixies, there’s no denying they were one of the hugest influences on Nirvana. It would definitely be his dream moment.

Of the other rumored names circling about, here’s who I’d hate to see up there.

1. Courtney Love – Just… c’mon… no.

2. Eddie Vedder – Just because their two bands kicked off the grunge craze together doesn’t mean that those bands have anything in common. This is presumably who my Mom would think would be the best choice. “It’d be neato!”

3. Michael Stipe – Again, sure they were friends and what have you, but musically there’s nothing in common. This shit’d be a drag.

 

Album Review – Perfect Pussy – Say Yes To Love

zppPunk rock has become such a tangential moniker over the years that there’s something alarmingly fresh about a band that brings it back to its roots. And with that being said, Perfect Pussy isn’t a punk band. They’re a hardcore band that’s too sincere. Or maybe a noise-rock band that’s too melodic. An art-rock band that’s too compositional? Fuck it, let’s call it punk. Say Yes To Love’s eight songs clock in at just under 23 minutes, and that includes the three minutes of dead air at the end of “Advance Upon the Real.” But those 20 minutes are so stupefyingly intense that it takes at least half a day for your brain to retract back to any grounding state of normality. It’s kind of the same feeling as doing 20 minutes worth of dunkaroos – dip head in ice bucket, shotgun a beer, get slapped in face, repeat, repeat, repeat.

Before I turn you away by implying that this is just shock music for the sake of shock itself, let me explain what this album does to my inner core. You know that feeling when the nape of your neck and the top of your spinal cord melt into a gelatinous goo and you have trouble deciphering where the inside of your body ends and the outside of your body begins? Well take that sensation and then imagine a high frequency guitar pulse splitting your two physical forms further apart to the point of complete division except there’s an unintelligible voice of a female tenor serving as an angelic rope knotting your two halves together so now your body sways and dangles within itself. You still with me?

Meredith Graves is fucking incredible. Off stage she’s this adorably cute bob-rocking chick, and then as soon as the band kicks in she becomes a warlord empress of the mosh-pit. This dichotomous existence not only makes perfect sense, but also can be clearly recognized on tape by the warmth attack of her voice. The actual lyrics are far less recognizable, but clarity seems like it would diminish their universal power. There’s something incredibly impressive about a band where language serves as no barrier for understanding. However, the music becomes even more mythically amazing when you discover the words hidden underneath – proclamations of female empowerment reminiscent of Zack de la Rocha at a women’s rights conference. On “Driver” she shouts: “I have a history of surrender, part of a certain set of choices found among the many paths forged by lies I told myself – lies like ‘I will be protected’ – lies like ‘death might forget me’ – like ‘home is wherever I’m never invited’ – like ‘my voice provides a light’ – like ‘I can have everything I want before I die’.”

Despite the dominance and vigor of Say Yes To Love, I’m excited to see where Perfect Pussy’s next evolutionary step is. Currently they most remind me of early Dinosaur Jr. or Sonic Youth – two bands that were eventually able to incorporate new dynamics without compromising their raw power. And I’m sure when that happens, there’ll be plenty of folks who will say, “Yeah I like the new stuff, but nothing compares to that first fuckin’ album.”

Top 8 Songs About the Telephone Ringing

Weird-Science-PimpOne thing that advancements in technology do is change the stereotypical framework of traditional song-writing. And with the future just being so damn futuristic lately, it’s easy to mistake era-dependent cultural references for timeless imagery of human existence. In other words, those lyrics that you thought would be equally as understood by someone 100 years in the future as they are today actually won’t even make sense to teenagers in five years. With that being said, I offer this tribute to the ever fading chime of a telephone ring. Just to be clear, these are not the top songs that reference telephones, of which their are a plethora – “Yes, many plethoras!” This is a list of the best songs that talk about the actual bell chimes of a telephone call, before it was merely a vibration or a Lil’ Jon chorus, before you could press ‘ignore’, and when it actually served as a touchstone moment in reality when another human actually had a meaningful message they were hoping to convey from a distance.

8) Alice Cooper – “Under My Wheels”
For someone whose best known for his acts of the macabre, most of Cooper’s music is pretty straight forward blues rock like this one from 1971. “The telephone is ringing – you got me on the run.

7) The Police – “Mother”
This is the reason they didn’t let Andy Summers write more songs for the band. “The telephone is ringing – is that my Mother on the phone?” 

6) Cymarron – “Rings”
Sometimes I think there’s nothing creepier than early 70′s soft-rock – it just all sounds like what Buffalo Bill would play to drown out the screams of his victims. “We’ll make love – we’ll let the telephone ring.”

5) Deacon Blue – “When Will You (Make My Telephone Ring)”
Now shitty 80′s pop-ballads, that’s something I can roll with. You gotta love a band of Lionel Richie idolizing Scottish cats. “When will you make my phone ring and tell me I can’t give you anything”

4) Little Feat – “A Apolitical Blues”
The telephone was ringing, and they told me it was Chariman Mao.” You can’t really fuck with the Feat, and this blues ditty has been covered by everyone from Van Hagar to Phish. Speaking of which…

3) Phish – “Wolfman’s Brother” 
All the more props to Trey on this one when he pulls out that little phone ring riff after the lyric. “Well, the telephone was ringing, that’s when I handed it to Liz. She said, “This isn’t who it would be if it wasn’t who it is.””

2) Dntel – “The Dream of Evan and Chan”
The song that launched The Postal Service is a defining moment in the history of electronics in pop music. “It was perfect until the telephone started ringing, ringing, ringing, ringing, ringing off.”

1) The Jimi Hendrix Experience – “Long Hot Summer Night”
One of my top five favorite Jimi songs ever. In fact, I think it’s criminally underrated and I’m not really sure if I’ve ever heard antother song quite like it. Seriously, nobody has ever stepped to stereophonic sound in rock music like Hendrix did 40-some odd years ago. “And the telephone keeps on screaming!”

Top 6 Songs About Being an Alcoholic

zdrunkBefore you get too concerned about ISM suddenly preaching sobriety and worry that we’re taking ourselves too seriously, let me clarify this list. This is not the best songs glorifying alcoholism, nor is this a list of the best songs talking about the dangers of drinking. Rather, this is a list of songs in which the protagonist is an alcoholic, irregardless of the lesson on life that is being preached. And with that broad degree of categorization, I’ve then ordered these tunes not in quality or degree of the message, but simply by the intrinsic quality of the songs themselves. In other words, a booze addiction can serve as a fairly quality muse for a good tune. Let me know what I’ve missed in the comments section.

6) Cold War Kids – “We Used To Vacation”
This first track off their first album in 2006 is probably the best song they’ve ever written. This one’s told from the perspective of a father who falls back on drinking to forget about how much he’s fucking up his family.

5) Kris Kristofferson – “Sunday Morning Comin’ Down”
I think the majority of people are most familiar with Johnny Cash’s version, which won Country Music Song of the Year in 1970. It’s the ultimate promotion for the hair of a dog, as well as serving as a testament to the fact that nothing cures a hangover like getting stoned.

4) Tha Alkaholiks featuring Ol’ Dirty Bastard – “Hip Hop Drunkies”
This is one of my favorite ODB tracks of all time, and that intro makes me chuckle every time I hear it. The sample of the bottles clanking together is perfect.

3) Stevie Ray Vaughan – “Life By the Drop”
After Stevie went sober, he’d incorporate a lot of sobriety rants into his sets – something that in my opinion always sounded a little too preachy on the recordings. Either way, this is probably my favorite tune of his. Despite it being written by Doyle Bramhall and purportedly about the two men’d friendship, the message sounds pretty clear to me.

2) The Band – “Up On Cripple Creek”
“A drunkard’s dream if I ever did see one” – hard to top that line. Ever.

1) Lou Reed – “Underneath the Bottle”
If you’re not familiar with 1982′s The Blue Mask, then do yourself a favor and bring some incredible, oft-forgotten Lou gems into your life. Wonderfully upbeat and horridly depressing all at the same time.

Concert Review: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Some Dude’s Living Room – Portland, OR – 03/20/14

zclhI pride myself on being a seeker of experiential opportunity. I dig the shit out of music and concerts, but I fucking love experiences… events… unfamiliar circumstances with apropos soundtracks. Thus when I saw that Clap Your Hands Say Yeah were doing a tour of people’s living rooms, I jumped on it. Now to clarify, this wasn’t a full band performance. It was front-man Alec Ounsworth playing solo acoustic; but when asked about the state of the band afterwards, he basically replied “I am the band.” So whatever. Can you even name any other member of the band? Hell, I consider myself a pretty big fan and even Alec’s name doesn’t jump off my tongue in a heartbeat. Anyway, after grabbing two tickets to the show, I asked friends around town if they wanted to attend and the most common reply was “clap your what say who?” Really? Is 2005 really so long ago that the most buzzed about band of that year is nothing but a faint memory to casual music fans of today? Answer: yes. I guess a decade just ain’t what it used to be anymore. Finally I got an “oh yeah, I used to really dig that album” from somebody. Sweet. Grab some beer and meet me at this random house in the southeast.

To get a visual sense of the scene, this was far from being the hippest home and/or neighborhood in town. There was no overgrown magnolia tree out front, no Tibetan prayer flags hanging from an orange porch, no organic brewery next door – this was the Oregonian suburbs. I pulled into a formulaic housing community that is within walking distance of nothing. With six-pack in hand, I walked through the garage door and had that feeling of being 16 years old and going over to a friend of a friend’s house to take bong-hits and play Mario Kart. I was really hoping for snacks – a bowl of pretzels, maybe some hummus dip… nothing. Well all right then, let’s pop a squat, crack a brew, and hear some tunes. Alec said a word or two about how weird the whole scenario was, and that by acknowledging the weirdness upfront we could all just settle into the show. And then he started playing. And the minute he began, the whole Lynchian abnormality of the situation vanished. Suddenly the gig made perfect sense. It was 50 people sharing in the intimacy of song in a way that would have naturally felt more obscure if a stage were involved. Not only was this a great way for this music to be heard, this was the only way this music should be heard.

He would end up playing for about and hour and 45 minutes, which I’m pretty sure is a longer set than both times I’ve seen CLHSY in a full band setting. And yet, it felt like he could have played all night. There was no setlist – no pre-formulated course of action whatsoever. He played everything anybody wanted to hear: “Is This Love,” “Yellow Country Teeth,” “Same Mistake,” “Tidal Wave of Young Blood.” He answered questions. He played a couple new ones off the upcoming record. He talked about wondering whether David Bowie had only come to see his band play because they mention his name in “Over and Over Again.” I asked him his thoughts on the missing Malaysian plane. People laughed. It was so casual that it was magical. Seriously. On the drive there, I was remembering how awkward it was when Alanis Morissette played that benefit show in Larry David’s living room on Curb Your Enthusiasm. It was the only relevant comparison I could envision the gig being likened to, but this was nothing like that it all. This was just so much more… friendly. He said he took requests, but the only one people kept throwing out there was “Satan Said Dance” – a tune that has no place in a solo acoustic setting and I think was only being requested because it was the only one people could remember the name of. But then came my proudest moment as an audience member ever. In a moment of stillness as he tuned his guitar, I remembered my favorite CLHSY tune. “How about ‘Underwater You and Me’?’” I asked. To which he replied, “Wow man, you read my mind. I was just about to play that one.” A smug grin peeled across my face, and then a slower, dreamier version of the song started up – “Some songs see us sailing away…” My body instinctually took a deep breath, the words washed over me, and I had one of those grand moments of being in love with being human. To know that somebody put their heart into creating something that they obviously love, and to have that same something go into your own heart and be something you obviously love, and to be able to share that intangible thing with that person as they sit five feet away and shoot you a smirk of recognition as they see that you’re just as taken back by the moment as they are… well that’s what this shit is all about people. That’s why we’re here, and that’s why music is this brilliant, amazing thing that makes you realize humanity is worthwhile. Even on this path of communal self-destruction, there’s a reason for something. It was beautiful. I cried. It was easily one of the top ten concert experiences of my life.

Here’s footage of “Underwater You and Me” from his gig the following night in town. The exposed brick leads me to believe it was a much hipper spot, but I can’t extend enough gratitude to whomever’s home the gig I attended was at.

Photo courtesy of CLHSY’s Facebook page.