Punk

Review: Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love

Though this is difficult to hear, every year we get more evidence that it may be a good idea to break up your band for a decade, even if they are at their creative peak.  Last year, Death From Above 1979 came back and wowed us with the stellar The Physical World; the year before that saw the surprisingly wonderful return of My Bloody Valentine; and then there is Dinosaur Jr., who have released three excellent albums after the reunion of their original lineup after nearly twenty years apart.  Sleater-Kinney has pulled off the same trick with the excellent No Cities To Love, a furious and catchy album that is both an artistic step forward as well as a classic example of the trademark S-K sound.

The frenetic “Price Tag” kicks off the album, pairing an off-kilter looping Sleater-Kinney riff typical of their early years with ferociously political lyrics; not since the heyday of Rage Against The Machine have we heard a song that targets economic inequity and middle-class complacence.  “Fangless” follows and throws a bit of a curveball with its mixture of funk rhythms and new-wave guitars, as well as featuring a prominent bass counterpart that was previously a rarity in light of S-K’s usual twin-guitar attack.  The track is indicative of the kind of musical adventurousness found throughout No Cities To Love as well as what makes the album so much fun.

No Cities To Love features some of the best hooks of Sleater-Kinney’s career, including the peppy title track and the bouncy “Hey Darling”; the descending chorus melody in the latter immediately brings to mind something Ted Leo and the Pharmacists would have concocted circa Hearts of Oak.  “A New Wave” has some fun with the bass riff from Nirvana’s “Love Buzz”  before shifting into a sing-song chorus that makes perfect use of the unique vocal harmonies of Brownstein and Tucker.

Sleater-Kinney has been a band that has long been beloved by critics and pushed by their most passionate fans as all-time greats, but rarely have I ever felt that this type of hype was fully justified.  I’ve certainly have enjoyed their albums over the years (after overcoming an initial reluctance due to their unconventional vocals) and recognize the impact that the group has had musically and culturally over the years (they have been arguably as far-reaching in their influence as Pavement in the past couple of decades), yet never had them break into my regular rotation nor would put them in that upper echelon of groups.  However, even considering Sleater-Kinney’s excellent discography as a whole, No Cities To Love is a cut above, and will certainly invite not only repeated listens but end-of-the-year list consideration.  Not bad for a January album.

Catching Up On The Week (Jan. 23 Edition)

Some #longreads as you prepare to fire off the last of your “balls” jokes this weekend…

Stereogum takes a look at the 10th anniversary of the self-titled debut from LCD Soundsystem, and I can think of no better way to kick off the weekend than to play “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” at an unreasonable volume, so here you go.

Perhaps the biggest news of this week was the surprise release of Björk’s new album, with Billboard providing the behind-the-scenes response of the leak of Vulnicura.  In order to get you into the proper mindset for the new album, it might be a good idea to read the New York Times profile on Björk as well as her already-much-discussed Pitchfork interview.

We’re not fans of Mötley Crüe by any stretch of the imagination, but when we found out that Drew Magary did a profile of the band while providing a glimpse of the life of a roadie, we were intrigued.  Magary is one of our favorite writers, so we’re glad to share his GQ article along with the extras that didn’t make it into the piece.

Many of you have been humming along to the infectious “Uptown Funk” for a few weeks now, so you might be interested in how difficult it was for Mark Ronson to put the seemingly easy song together, according to this Grantland profile.

The Guardian has a great interview with Sub Pop co-founder Bruce Pavitt about his early days working as a fanzine and newspaper columnist and seeing the best of the 80’s underground scene.  It’s a lot like revisiting Our Band Could Be Your Life from a Northwest perspective, as he reminisces about the early days of Black Flag, Dinosaur Jr., Big Black, and more.  In a related piece, The Guardian also takes a closer look at the terminally under-appreciated Portland punk legends Wipers as a part of their new celebration of cult heroes.  Hopefully more and more people go and take a look back at their classic early output.

Essential Classics: Television – Marquee Moon

It is October, so that means it is time to analyze and celebrate one of the great Halloween albums of all-time: Television’s Marquee Moon.  Many of you are probably confused by that particular claim, but don’t worry, we’ll get back to it and explain ourselves in a bit.  There is no argument however that Marquee Moon is one of the greatest guitar-rock albums of all-time, but in addition to that distinction, it can also be argued that the album is capable of bending the rules of time and space itself.  How else could a band that was on the vanguard of the Punk movement have created the seminal Post-Punk masterpiece with their debut album?  It is a conundrum that should puzzle both music historians and physicists alike.

My first experience with the band Television was back in high school, during my initial forays into exploring the origins of punk rock.  I read several articles and books that discussed Television’s history and their influence on the New York punk scene as one of the original CBGB’s bands, and I quickly set out to track down copies of their first two records.  (Let us all take some time to acknowledge the fact that I approached punk rock in the nerdiest manner possible: research.)  There was one specific aspect of Television’s music which each piece emphasized that captured my attention, and that was the band’s masterful guitar-playing.  Being a budding guitarist myself, it was clear that it was vitally important for me to listen to these albums to help develop my own skills.  As a child of the 90’s though, I was completely unprepared to process Television’s approach to the guitar: a heavy emphasis on the treble strings (and no power chords), intricate but decidedly unflashy solos, and little-to-no distortion (at least of the kind with which I was familiar).  It all seemed so alien to me, and considering the portrait of the band that made up Marquee Moon‘s cover art, this may not have been a bad guess.

Most puzzling of all to my adolescent mind was how this pleasant if slightly bizarre album could be considered “punk” (it was a hopeless endeavor at that time to begin to comprehend what the hell “post-punk” could be, beyond the most literal definition, so that was not a pressing concern at the time).  But after several repeated listens and a gradual appreciation of the context in which the band flourished, I came to understand that even if there seemed to be little connection to The Ramones on the surface, they were both made up from the same basic DNA and were a reaction to the same movements in music.  The musical parts of “Friction” may have been much more complex than “Blitzkrieg Bop”, but one could easily see that both songs were stripped down to the barest elements in contrast to the bloat of prog or disco.

Television proved that “punk” didn’t have to mean “easy,” as each member of the group was an expert on his instrument.  The twin-guitar attack of Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd has been universally lauded, and rightly so, but their other two bandmates should be given their proper due as well.  Fred Smith crafted some amazingly beautiful bass lines, shifting between providing an impeccable rhythmic foundation and creating innovative counter-melodies, and Billy Ficca was a genius behind the kit, anchoring the songs with intricate rhythms and delicate textures, effortlessly shifting between different patterns and providing the perfect accents to each musical phrase.  As for Verlaine and Lloyd, it should be apparent how they inspired generations of guitar players, from the early post-punk of bands like Wire to contemporary indie rock bands like The Strokes.  They were a perfect tandem that fed off each other beautifully, alternating between unique chord choices and lyrical solos, interspersed with bits of brilliant one-off figures and licks.

The centerpiece of the album is the title track, an epic monster clocking in at over 10 minutes (Fun Fact: on the original vinyl edition, the song faded out before it hit ten minutes, but the CD version keeps the original recording intact and includes the full version, while still listing the vinyl running time of 9:58).  Its intro of dueling guitar riffs (Lloyd providing the double-stop alarm-type bit, Verlaine the countering quick swirl) is instantly memorable, but also merely a hint of what is in store.  The verses give way to an instrumental pre-chorus that shifts the song into something much more rhapsodic and cinematic with its winding guitar lines, followed by a chorus that gradually increases the tension with its ever-escalating chord changes.  Lloyd’s guitar solo after the second chorus is a master class in terms of both beauty and efficiency, with its mirroring of the melodic structure of the chorus accompanied by some gorgeous personal flourishes.  But it is the second, much longer solo by Verlaine and its accompanying full-band instrumental section that is the real show-stopper–the solo provides a brilliant example of how an improvised, meandering take can help ratchet up the tension, and the constantly-ascending full-band breakdown pushes the song to its limits.  Lloyd eventually joins in, and the two guitars overlap into similar winding lines, until the whole band suddenly becomes a single cohesive unit as they dramatically repeat in unison a series of sixteen eighth notes.  As the band makes its way up the scale, cracks begin to form in the union, as the drums begin to approach a frenzy and the bass peels off with some additional flourishes, gliding up and down the neck.  But together the band pushes the melody to the very top, culminating in a gorgeous explosion as the summit is reached, with little guitar twinkles helping add to the effect.

Even to the untrained ear, it is clear that from the music alone “Marquee Moon” is a special song, but now consider the instrumentals in conjunction with the intriguing and mysterious lyrics.  “I remember how the darkness doubled; I recall, lightning struck itself.  I was listening to the rain; I was hearing something else.”  The imagery of those first two lines captures a wonderful sense of dread, first with the description of an ever-enveloping darkness, followed by the contrast of the light cutting across the dark.  The lines also baffle the listener as well, as he/she contemplates the physical possibilities of how lightning can strike itself.  The next two lines help set up the listener for an uneasy scene, as things may not be what they seem: amid the rainstorm lurks an unknown…something.   It’s the perfect opening for a horror story!  The other verses support this interpretation, first with the meeting with the strange man down at the tracks, whose seemingly perceptive advice of don’t succumb to either the highs or lows of life taking on a darker edge when placed in context with the rest of the song, followed by the scene in the third verse of the Cadillac pulling from out of the graveyard, grabbing the narrator, driving back in, and throwing the narrator into the graveyard.  Spooky stuff.  After this scene is the long instrumental section, which can be interpreted as the narrator’s journey through the graveyard, with the culminating unison riff being the aural equivalent of the Big Reveal in a horror movie of the Monster or the Terror.  The song ends with a repeat of the first verse, which could indicate either that time has looped back on itself (much like how a “post-punk” classic can also be created at the beginning of the punk movement), or that underneath what seems like a restoration of what’s normal lurks a dark undercurrent.

Long story short, I am ready to declare that the narrator has become a zombie.

It is clear then that “Marquee Moon” is a perfect Halloween song, but what about the rest of the album?  The song is not only the centerpiece of the album in terms of track placement, but it also serves as a showcase to a lot of the musical ideas that are the connective tissue of the record.  The double-stop guitar figure is given a slight variation in the very next song, “Elevation”, for example, and “See No Evil” is the title of the opener, which makes the horror themes even more apparent!  It is also simply difficult to disconnect the song from the rest of the album, as each song flows beautifully into the next.  Television also provides wonderful bits of dark humor throughout Marquee Moon, perhaps best exemplified by the song “Venus”.  I was hoping that because of the lines “Then Richie, Richie said: ‘Hey man, let’s dress up like cops.  Think of what we could do!” the song would find a place somewhere in a movie that came out this summer, but that didn’t turn out to be the case.  Instead we will have to strike out on our own to consider the subtle beauty of the explanation that “I fell right into the arms of Venus de Milo” (a line that took far too many listens for me to realize the irony inherent in the claim), instead of having it soundtrack a scene of crazy hijinks.

Marquee Moon is simply an exquisite and dazzling album through and through, with each of its eight songs a classic in its own right.  Perhaps the greatest example of the beauty of the record is the underrated closer, “Torn Curtain”.  The ballad is filled lyrically with melodrama and over-the-top emotion, but is balanced by a delicate and nuanced restrained musical accompaniment, before the two components become intertwined with a triumphant final guitar solo that provides the perfect conclusion to the album.

But the album is more than just brilliant guitar compositions; as I mentioned before, there are plenty of fantastic bass lines and stunning drum parts throughout the entirety of Marquee Moon.  So listen to the album a few times to get a feel for the beauty and majesty of the guitar, spin it a few more times to pick up on the intricacies of the rhythm section, and then repeat it again a few more hundred times–because even though the album is nearly forty years old, it will never get old.

Catching Up On The Week (July 11 Edition)

Hope everyone remembered to get a free Slurpee today.  Because goddammit I forgot to get one.

As a capper for their multi-part feature on punk in the 90’s (“Fear of a Punk Decade”), the AV Club engaged in a roundtable to discuss whether the music had a lasting impact.

David Greenwald has an extended look at the business of streaming and breaks down the band payments for Spotify in this article from The Oregonian.

Somebody uploaded a video from 1983 that features the first live performance of “Purple Rain”, which would then go on to be used in the film itself.  Included in the video is a “director’s commentary” a la Pop-Up Video, providing additional insight into the song.  Better watch it soon, before Prince takes it down.

(Update: And sure enough, it’s been pulled.  Hope you enjoyed it while it lasted!)

Pitchfork interviews Geoff Rickly about his new band, United Nations.   I had been a fan of Thursday (Full Collapse will always be a favorite of mine), but didn’t realize they had broken up with the release of their latest.  Rickly talks a bit about Thursday’s break up as well in the interview.   Pitchfork also catches up with Christopher Owens, formerly of the band Girls, and they discuss his upcoming album.  Father, Son, Holy Ghost was one of the best albums of 2011, but there wasn’t much on Owens’s solo debut Lysandre that seemed worthwhile, so I’ll hold off on my anticipation a little bit.

Catching Up On The Week (Mar. 28 Edition)

We have a few #longreads and some new music news for you this weekend, so if you didn’t have plans, you’re now in luck.

First, we got a bit of a surprise today when The Antlers posted a quick clip on YouTube that seems like a teaser for an announcement for an upcoming new album.  There’s not much to go on, besides a solemn instrumental, some band footage, and a final quote of “soon.”, but this is exciting nonetheless.  If you don’t feel the same way, then you need to spend your weekend finding a copy of Hospice, one of the most heart-breakingly beautiful albums of the past decade, and Burst Apart, their more-than-worthy followup so you can get into the proper mindset.

A little young for Antlers, but...

A little young for Antlers, but…

Next, we’ve got another video for you to enjoy, courtesy of The Daily Show.  Jon Stewart did an interview with Amy Yates Wuelfing and The Butthole Surfers’ Gibby Haynes to discuss an oral history of a legendary New Jersey bar and the different legendary punk shows that took place in that humble setting.  It’s bizarre to see Gibby dressed in a way that is reminiscent of a college professor, at the very least.

Last week we mourned the death of Scott Asheton, and since then more and more tributes have been published.  Iggy Pop talked with Rolling Stone about his memories of his bandmate, and Vice published an interview Legs McNeil did with Scott himself.

Beck is continuing to open up and talk in the wake of the release of Morning Phase, and FILTER did a great piece on him.  We learn for instance that unfortunately there were a couple of albums that were lost, so we were never able to hear the original followups to Odelay and Sea Change as they were intended.  We also get some insight into his creative process over the years, like how old ideas are shaped into new songs.  And we also get a bit more information about the planned new album that hopefully will be released by the end of the year.

Finally, there’s a lot for all the Cloud Nothings fans out there.  We’re eagerly anticipating the release of Here and Nowhere Else next week, but apparently that’s not the only new music we’ll be hearing from Dylan Baldi.  Cloud Nothings and Wavves decided to collaborate, and it looks like we may soon hear the fruits of their labor (with the additional help of Rostam Batmanglij from Vampire Weekend as well, it seems).  The band also gave a quick description of their early shows to Clash Magazine, who interviewed several artists including Los Campesinos! about their first gigs.  And finally, Pitchfork did an extensive profile of the band, which should have you fully prepared for their release on Tuesday.

In Remembrance of Scott Asheton

There was some sad news from this weekend, when it was announced that Scott Asheton, the drummer for the legendary punk band The Stooges, had died.   Rock critics tend to get more specific when discussing The Stooges, christening their music as “proto-punk”, since their style laid the groundwork for the full-fledged punk movement a few years later.  Today, this distinction may not hold as much weight with today’s audiences, simply because the line between proto-punk and punk has been blurred so much that it makes little sense to differentiate between them.  That in and of itself is proof of the amazing influence that the band had.

Scott Asheton’s pummeling drumwork was a fixture of those early Stooges records, and all three of them are certifiable classics.  Here’s a quick glance at those landmark records:

– From their John Cale-produced debut album, The Stooges, “I Wanna Be Your Dog”.  It’s driving and relentless, and is pretty much the sound of impending doom.  It’s the perfect soundtrack for the apocalypse.

One of the key aspects of the sound of The Stooges was their ability to maintain a groove, and that was driven by the drums.  It’s in this “groove” that you can hear the connection between the older R&B sound and the proto-punk that was the hallmark of The Stooges.  Asheton’s drumming helped prevent the band from becoming untethered and out of control (except in cases like “We Will Fall” where drifting away was completely intentional), as he alternately swung and pushed the beat.  “I Wanna Be Your Dog” is a perfect example of the mix of these two styles. The drumming pattern is predominantly a bouncy rhythm through most of each line, contrasting with the insistent piano line and sleigh bells on each eighth note beat (provided by John Cale).  Asheton switches the pattern in the last measure of each phrase, away from a shuffle to a more straight-ahead pattern where he emphasizes the last two beats with snare hits.  This gives the combination of both groove and propulsion, a push-and-pull that keeps the tension alive in the song.

– From their followup, Fun House, “T.V. Eye”.  The album may be even grittier than its predecessor, and the added psychedelic touches make it a real trip.  I have no idea what this song is about, but fuck yeah does it rock.

Asheton’s drumming in this song abandons groove and focuses solely on pushing the beat, with snare hits on every single one.  You can hear the roots of early-80’s hardcore punk with this track, as you will hear this pattern on the majority of those songs (though at a few higher beats per minute).  Also, it’s a nifty trick when the band drops out, tricking the audience into thinking the song is over, before the guitar riff kicks in again.  As you hear Asheton come back in with those double-sticked snare hits, it just begs the listener to start clapping or smacking something in line with the beat.

– From their third album, Raw Power, “Search and Destroy”.  The band shuffled the lineup a little bit (and the band is credited as “Iggy and The Stooges”), but Scott Asheton was a constant behind the kit for this one.  The band tightened up their sound a bit for this one, and I don’t know if there are many opening lines that are better than “I’m a street-walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm.”

“Search and Destroy” is a brilliant amalgamation of the two drumming styles previously highlighted.  Asheton alternates between sections of bouncy patterns and quarter-note hits, with plenty of awesome fills in between that are in the brink of going out of control, but reign the band back in with each section.

It’s always a great idea to rock out to The Stooges, even in sad circumstances such as these.  And if you’re new to the band, hopefully this is the kick you need to get down to the record store and pick up these brilliant albums.

Catching Up On The Week (Mar. 14 Edition)

Aeon has a great article exploring the psychological underpinnings of our appreciation of music, specifically discussing the key that repetition plays in our unconscious love.  The article analyzes how the mere act of repetition has a specific psychological effect on our brains, and it can essentially even create the illusion of “music”, even though if we were removed from the process we would not give that objective determination.  It then goes on to discuss the significance of “rituals” and how music mirrors this concept, and their impact on our brains.  I find these scientific explorations fascinating, and I highly recommend reading it–I’m sure I unintentionally bungled some observations and that my imprecise language may have obscured some of the true results.  That said, the article still needs to explain how it could be that Krautrock is not the dominant musical genre of our time.

Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age (and many, many other bands) recently did a video where he answered questions from fans, covering such topics as his band’s treatment at the Grammys and the recent dispute with other members of Kyuss over the use of the band’s name.  It’s always fun to hear Josh pontificate, so it’s well worth a listen.

Repetition

Repetition

If you follow our Tumblr, you know we’re at the very least intrigued by Neil Young’s new digital music service “Pono”.   We’re not entirely convinced about its necessity, and to that end we’re looking into posting a discussion with an engineer experienced in the field of acoustics to discuss the technological merits of the service.  But we’ll save the technical mumbo-jumbo for another day–here, you could read an article from The Quietus with some bullshit about the “iPod culture”.  Here’s a frightening quote:

“The spontaneous practice of iPod users then comes to very closely resemble the model developed by researchers working for the Muzak Corporation in the mid-twentieth century.”

A much more enjoyable discussion of music culture comes from the latest entry in the AV Club’s series on punk rock in the 90’s (“Fear of a Punk Decade”), which discusses the impact of different labels on the decade’s sounds.  It looks at the rise of several independent labels, including some that had the impact of major labels (Epitaph and Dischord for example), and the mutual relationship between bands and their labels.

Switching gears, The Oregonian takes a look at the significance of a good van for the touring indie act.  It’s difficult to realize the various struggles that bands have to go through especially with things we take for granted like our own vehicles.

And finally, Wye Oak has a discussion with SPIN about their new album Shriek.  In this interview, they discuss lyrical themes, the move away from guitars for this album, and their (slightly) relaxed touring schedule.  Wye Oak is a band that that is pretty powerful live, though their albums haven’t translated in the same way; we’ll see if that’s the case for Shriek.

The Thermals, Live at Level B

Living in Oregon, we get the opportunity to see a lot of great acts.  We’re just big enough to attract the biggest headliners, but we’re also just weird enough to get a lot of up-and-coming groups as well.  It’s just that usually they come through Portland (and to a much lesser extent, Eugene).  It makes sense–there are a ton of venues and young people around, so it makes booking an easier bet.  On the other hand, we in Salem have old people and…the Armory.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Salem, “The Armory” is not some cute name–that was its function.  You can imagine the kind of shows that get booked there.  I’ll just say that metal shows are the only ones are able to…take advantage of the acoustics.

So when I heard that one of the best punk bands around today (and a personal favorite) was coming down to Salem, I was more than a little excited.  Granted, The Thermals are from Portland themselves, so it’s not exactly like they’re venturing far from home, but let’s at least give Salem some credit, because it was not a one-off show but part of a tour.  And they were playing a venue that was not the Armory, but a spot that I hadn’t heard of before called “Level B”.  I’ve seen The Thermals plenty of times before (strangely enough, I saw them multiple times in New York before I got the chance to catch a hometown show), but never in my hometown.

Note: if you are unfamiliar with The Thermals or disagree with my assessment of their merits, you are free to stop reading and take a listen to their album The Body, The Blood, The Machine right now.  Then you can come back and finish this review.

Level B preparing for the show

Level B preparing for the show

As it happens, Level B is the same spot where the old independent cinema in town was located, as can clearly be seen by the seats in the picture above.  (I want to assure readers unfamiliar with Salem that Salem Cinema is alive and well with a great new location with better facilities, so I still get the chance to watch plenty of great films).  I have high hopes for this venue in the future–it should be versatile enough to host different events, which means it’s more likely to stay afloat when it can’t get regular booking from non-local musical acts.  They also had an excellent sound system, and all three bands sounded great as a result.  And even the inconvenience of having those seats in place have a certain charm, giving the place a certain DIY-vibe of “we’ll play wherever they’ll allow us to play”.  Or that could just me spouting bullshit.  Either theory is valid.

I knew I was in for a good night (beyond the fact that I was seeing a live act that is consistently great) when two things happened: 1) I got a compliment on my Japandroids shirt (though it would have been nicer if it came from a lady, I’ll take what I can get), and 2) I heard somebody talking to the band before the show about how much he loved their album Fuckin A.  That’s an album that I love as well, and by some strange coincidence the band had not performed most of those songs live at the shows I’d been to previously.  It seemed like a good signal that we would get the chance to hear more of that album that night.

Aside: I never know how to act when I recognize band members in the audience.  It’s always an awkward dance of “should I say something and say, ‘YO I LOVE YOUR STUFF,’ or do I allow them to be normal people for a few minutes?”  I think I usually go for the worst option, where I’m pretty sure I end up staring at them far more than what is comfortable. 

When I heard the opening drumbeat of “Our Trip” early in the set, my hopes for some Fuckin A songs officially materialized.  The band then blistered through a high-energy set filled with tracks from their latest Desperate GroundFuckin A, and the now-classic The Body, The Blood, The Machine, sprinkling in favorites like “I Don’t Believe You” and “Now We Can See”.  The set seemed to mirror the attitude from Desperate Ground itself, which seemed to be constructed as a reaction to the more muted reception of Personal Life.  Personally, I am a big fan of Personal Life, which in many ways was an album that the band needed to make to shake up their formula and stretch their songwriting.  It’s an album filled with a lot of mid-tempo numbers that are great to listen to on the stereo, but can sometimes kill the flow of a set, so I have no problem if some of those songs don’t get played, no matter how great they are.

The super-fast and hard-charging songs of Desperate Ground make for a great live set, though it takes a lot of listens before you can appreciate the nuance of each song (which is just a fancy way of saying “it’s hard to remember which song is which, but you KNOW it comes from that album”).  It doesn’t help that those songs are missing some of the great guitar solos from Hutch that were a hallmark of their earlier work (not showy, but very melodic and building on the melodies within the song and brilliant with their subtlety), though Kathy’s bass often takes a lead role with some of the fills.  Knowing this, it made Hutch’s remark after diving into the crowd during “The Sunset” for the last half of the song that he “nailed the solo” all the more hilarious.

When all else fails, shoot in black and white.

When all else fails, shoot in black and white.

So yeah, it was a pretty fantastic show.  Any night where you get to hear excellent songs like “St. Rosa and the Swallows”, “A Stare Like Yours”, and “A Pillar of Salt” (a fan favorite that got legitimate airplay (at least in New Hampshire/Vermont) back when I worked in radio), it’s going to be a good night.  And the fact that I could plan my evening without budgeting a two-hour round-trip car ride made it even better.

Stray Facts and Observations

1. The drumbeat to “Our Trip” and “Here’s Your Future” are the exact same, meaning that those two albums start off the same.  Is it a coincidence that these might be their best two albums?  Probably.

2. The chord progression to “A Pillar of Salt” and “Returning to the Fold” are exactly the same, just at different tempo.  Since they are back-to-back on the album, you can bet this was intentional.  And it’s brilliant.

3. The Body, The Blood, The Machine is a concept album that doesn’t suck.  Give The Thermals kudos for pulling off the nearly-impossible.

4. There’s no reason why “I Don’t Believe You” shouldn’t have been playing on rock radio.  It’s a perfect pop-rock song.

5. There’s no reason why KNRK in Portland shouldn’t be playing The Thermals in their normal rotation.  They need to substitute one of the hundreds of times that they play The Lumineers or Muse with these local heroes instead for once.

6. The last time I was at the venue it was still Salem Cinema, and I went with my family to watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  Those who know me are free to laugh now.