I feel like I want to get away from simply “reviewing music” here and think of it as more like an ongoing diary of a music fan, with reviews sort of embedded into the flow of just writing about what I’ve been doing and what I’ve been listening to and so on. But I’m sure that will come and go. There’s no real rules to the content and structure here, which is the way I like it.
We’ve had a really interesting and productive spate of Fetal Pig shows lately. Our friend(s) at Black Heart Booking had us out to Omaha and we played at this really interesting DIY space upstairs from a couple storefronts that definitely looked like it may have formerly been a bar but was all stripped to the bricks and sparsely populated with old thrift furniture, giving it a really cool squattery vibe as if the whole scene was built from things others had thrown away, which may be literally the case. I love this kind of thing. I felt really at home and the people associated with the venue were super friendly. True underground operation. The Sandbox, that’s what it was called.
The first act on at the Sandbox was The Thirteenth Year, some local kids doing a bass-less screamocore kind of thing. Didn’t super turn me on but it was worthwhile time spent. I think they’ve got a bright future.
Adam Goldman took the stage with one of those cheap skinny acoustic guitars, billed as Class M Planets, this gig being part of a short mini-tour he was doing along with Dan doing solo sets of Why Make Clocks songs. We’d also opened that tour with him and a full-band Why Make Clocks at the Mews. Adam is from Portland and he said so a lot during his set because for some reason it got funnier each time. I’ve only ever been in Portland once, for a night back in 1997, so I don’t know how accurate the Portlandia portrayal of it is, but I like the idea that “the dream of the ’90s is alive” there. I get the outsiders’ impression that if you miss the vibe of a Midwest college-town in the mid-1990s (and a big part of me does), Portland is the place to find it. I also get a lot of that vibe from Adam’s tunes. When I first checked out Class M Planets on bandcamp my initial impressions were that it was all a bit fey (side effects of prolonged exposure to sludge metal and power electronics, likely) and perhaps a bit dated. But the odd, elliptical rhythms and equally elliptical lyrics were intriguing.
They say don’t meet your musical heroes because it can fuck up your perception of the music by ruining your idea of the people making it. It’s not guaranteed to happen that way though; Leah’s brief in-person encounters with Jon Auer and Ken Stringellow haven’t messed with her love of The Posies. But what about hanging out with musicians you’re barely familiar with, versus how you’d see there music if you hadn’t met? Meeting Adam Goldman, not to mention seeing him play live, probably helped me get his music more. The sensitive-guy persona of the high, somewhat breathy vocals and pretty indie-folk sounds is the real guy, but it’s only one dimension of him. He’s also got a delightful wicked sense of humor. Once I got that, I started noticing it in the songs too. It’s below the surface. Besides, most things you have to listen to more than once before you can really judge them. So yeah, this stuff grew on me.
I ended up with a couple of his CDs, EP length mostly, all on Dandelion Wine Records which has the hilarious domain name totallypunk.com, each with a different band name and lineup but there’s a consistency between them such that they could be credibly represented as different works by the same band. Adam’s songs, usually in either a folk-pop or power-pop vein, frequently have odd rhythms to them that stick out more when there’s drums and things playing. It actually reminds me a bit of my old Cedar Falls compatriots A Is Jump, of the Chapel Hill area for some years now. The self-titled 2007 EP by his band thebrotheregg, which is evidently still active too (don’t ask me why the lack of capitals or spaces) had already been recommended to me by Dan. Its most straightforward tune, “Elevators”, is an instant pop gem. Elsewhere there are multiple interplaying vocal parts (especially on “Simple Love”) and verses wander kind of spacily, making the catchy choruses hit the more dramatically.
Class M Planets is more of a solo affair by Adam, and the 5-song self-titled EP released in 2010, with a few friends along on percussion, cello, and extra guitars, sticks to Adam’s more acoustic side. “Heart Thing” is wonderfully disorienting. Lastly “Freak of Illuminary”, though up-tempo, sticks to just the bare acoustic guitar accompaniment, but once it’s done spilling words, the disc still feels like it’s just getting started.
The likewise self-titled 8-song disc by Twinklelingus (what a name!) was allegedly started in 2004 but not completed and released until 2011, and is the most a loud rock record of the bunch. The rhythmic quirks that I’m now seeing as a trademark of Adam’s, together with the psychedelic guitar effects, jazzy chords, and busy midrangey bass, lend this affair an adventurous prog feel that is pretty cool.
On next after Adam’s acoustic set, during which he handily won over a crowd that had definitely come out to see louder things, came Omaha locals Super Invader. These guys don’t just play stoner metal, they seem to really live it, for better or worse. They come off as a genuine group of basement-dwellers. They had no bassist, but I get the feeling they used to and hadn’t managed to replace whoever it was. Low-tuned guitar was played out of two latter-day Kustom cabinets set up on opposing sides of the drum kit. The drummer had spray-painted all his hardware black and I don’t think his drums have ever been tuned. He had a loose pair of hi-hat cymbals on his right that he bashed on in lieu of a crash cymbal. There isn’t a whole lot of variation in their material but they played with the ferocity and conviction of guys who truly have nothing to lose, or to gain for that matter. The singer, a tall, long-haired fellow, roared imposingly about the stage and really belted out every line, even when he occasionally seemed to be singing in a different key than the guitar riff. They have a CD out, supposedly it came out like two years ago, but they had neglected to bring any copies with them to sell, and the singer cracked a joke about sometimes taking copies of it to CD Exchange when he’s hard up for cash. Everything about these guys was so real that I came to the realization that even if this sort of music isn’t your favorite, there’s no legitimate way to hate on it that doesn’t boil down to being a bit of an elitist prick. It’s a difficult style to fuck up, especially in the live context, and in some sense it’s the true sound of the American proletariat, a kind of flyover rebel folk art. Crack a beer, loosen the fuck up and you’ll enjoy it like I did.
After our set came the headliners, an amazing trio also local to Omaha called The Machete Archive. Shitting hell these guys are good. They play epically intricate and beautiful post-prog instrumental compositions, all of whose titles are simply Roman numerals. Their bassist plays a Danelectro longhorn strapped at chest-level and seems to constantly be using all of his fingers at once. I can’t even explain these guys to you. I wish there was something embeddable I could put here, but the first Google result for them is their MySpace page and that will have to do. No, Google it yourself, I’m not linking to MySpace.