Fortnight are probably the first band to quote the Centipede Farm in their official press bio. I know this because it was included in the package when they sent me their new CD, officially released just today.

Fortnight don’t care to be obtuse or glamorous. They don’t mean to dazzle you, and they don’t claim to be wizards or madmen. Fortnight aren’t here to sell fantasy. Fortnight are not the kind of band that transports your out of yourself; rather, they’re the kind of band that grounds you to that self, reminding you who and what you are. They’re one of those bands you relate to. They seem to operate from the school of thought that a few well-chosen open guitar chords, a simple keyboard line, and a few lyrics written from the heart can say everything that needs saying. They hail from the Music City of the Midwest, Omaha, Nebraska, and from the nearer side of the Missouri in Council Bluffs, Iowa — cities which, along with Lincoln, Nebraska, form a region that specializes in that kind of thing — the kind everyman stuff that people like about alt-country bands, but minus any shitkicker pretense. Fortnight’s music genuinely sounds like the result of a team effort; no member of the six-piece hogs the spotlight at any given moment. The songs make excellent use of the band’s dual vocalists, male and female, occasionally for harmonies but more often for change of characters to give the songs extra story line.

All this was already apparent enough from their demo and a not-recent-enough Des Moines live appearance. The promise of that demo is delivered on in their proper recorded debut, the Botany Camp EP, which presents six upbeat indie-pop songs populated with downbeat characters and situations. The CD sounds very professional from a production standpoint, even though the band did the tracking themselves in a machine shed and a spare bedroom before taking the tracks into a studio; also, a mastering job by Doug Van Sloun definitely never hurt a record. But given the fine recording and noticeably more detail in the musical arrangements, the CD yet retains a lo-fi spirit in many respects, most prominently in Jenn Bernard’s keyboards, but also in that Fortnight have built their skills while retaining the innocence around the edges that so caught my attention early on. The only song reprised from the demo is “Recycled Lions,” and while oftentimes a band’s earliest songs can lose some charm when they finally get them on a studio record, this version is every bit as winsome right down to its sing-along breakdown.

Fortnight elegantly balance on a line between youthfulness and maturity on Botany Camp. If “Making Asses Of Ourselves” was the mission-statement song of the demo, Botany Camp closes with its own, which though titled “Younger For Longer,” declares jubilantly in its chorus, “we’re all grown up.”

Botany Camp can be found on iTunes, CDBaby, bandcamp, and I didn’t manage to track down links, but Fortnight’s web site couldn’t be a bad place to start.

Compilation that came out in ’85. Controlled Bleeding, Merzbow, Jarboe, that kind of “industrial.” found at No Longer Forgotten Music. [download]

In the Centipede Farm’s newest edition of “weird shit that’s inexplicably in my music collection” (a.k.a. “The Centipede Tapes”) we have this 8″ flexi disc by somebody who called themselves Temporal Pain. I know absolutely nothing about this band or recording other than what can be gleaned from the disc itself, which would be the song listing and the fact that it came out in 1982. Frankly, I was surprised to find such a [nice]( download of it available online, having been posted back in August ’07 at some blog called Mutant Sounds, where they say of it:

if your vision of acid music is early Chrome and you can imagine taking the most alienating moments contained therein and sucking those bits through a hectic forcefield that causes the music to shimmer and melt like a heat mirage, you’re halfway there.

The 6 tracks of the EP total a bit shy of 8 minutes, and it’s 8 of the more fucked-up minutes you’ll hear anywhere. The closest thing to a coherent song is “Baptist Girls” and even that barely manages to hold together a rhythm. Download it here.

And the latest awesome DIY musician to jump on the bandcamp bandwagon? Why it’s Austin-via-Iowa-City singer-songwriter-rapper-improviser-keyboardist-presidential-candidate The BassTurd From Las Vegas, Nevada! This is awesome news. So far he has up the first 3 in his 2005-2008 series of 20 EPs, but I’m sure we can expect a lot of rare gems to surface if he manages to stick with what is surely an epic project of uploading his notoriously voluminous discography. Maybe, if we’re super lucky, he’ll digitize some of his old cassette releases, or maybe we’ll finally be able to download Live From Your Mom’s Bedroom.

In Iowa City’s news and culture monthly Little Village, quoth Kent Williams on the subject of Congratulations On Your Suicide, “The songs owe a debt to sludge-rockers like Soundgarden and The Melvins, but Hoffman is more of a surrealist.” He says a few other quite [nice]( things too.

In “Iowa musicians making classic lost DIY recordings available online” news, Cedar Valley rap/goof collective Hip-Hop Illuminati have a Facebook page now and put the 2000 split CD by Itty Bitty Titty Committee and The Joke Crackers up here on Soundcloud. Freakin’ sweet.

Lawdy, this bandcamp thing is catching on. Deservingly so. Iowa City pop-punk girl-boy group Lipstick Homicide are the latest Centipede Farm acquaintances to make their sounds available on the DIY music platform. Right here.

I knew I wouldn’t finish writing about albums from 2010 before 2010 was over. A little over a year ago as 2009 was drawing to a close Dan thought it would be a fun band project for each member of Why Make Clocks to make their top-10 albums list for the year. Will completely ignored the call, but I posted mine and Dan’s to the Why Make Clocks web site. I’m not going to bother linking to it.

Dan emailed us his top-10 for 2010 a few days ago. Here it is:

  1. Superchunk “Majesty Shredding”
  1. Dew Scented “Invocation
  1. Beach House “Teen Dream”
  1. Bettie Serveert “Pharmacy Of Love”
  1. High On Fire “Snakes For The Divine”
  1. The Budos Band “III”
  1. Giant Sand “Blurry Blue Mountain”
  1. Boston Spaceships “Our Cubehouse Still Rocks”
  1. Retribution Gospel Choir “2”
  1. Sleepy Sun “Fever”

That’s it

close calls:

Red Sparowes




Band Of Horses

Sun Kil Moon

Frightened Rabbit

As for me, I haven’t been able to keep it narrowed down to 10. It was a really intense year for music. I think there was for more and better music released in 2010 than usual. It’s as if everyone finally realized that all bets are off — nobody was going to be making big money in music anyway, so all bets were off and you might as well make the album you really want to rather than the album you think people will buy, and result, as music nerds have been saying for years, was that even as big-business/mass-media music was worse than ever this year, a ton of really amazing music also got made. But I’m just speculating.

So I’m not even going to try to limit it to a number, I’m just going to go nuts. Here’s my over-long top list, in no particular order:

  • High On Fire “Snakes For The Divine”
  • Beach House “Teen Dream”
  • Retribution Gospel Choir “2”
  • The Walkmen – “Lisbon”
  • The Black Keys – “Brothers”
  • Das Racist – “Shut Up Dude”
  • It’s True! – “It’s True!”
  • Swans – “My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky”
  • The National – “High Violet”
  • Samuel Locke-Ward – “Barely Regal Beagles”
  • Neurosis – “Live At Roadburn 2007”
  • The Posies – “Blood/Candy”
  • Killing Joke – “Absolute Dissent”
  • Zoroaster – “Matador”
  • Harvey Milk – “A Small Turn Of Human Kindness”
  • Sleepy Sun – “Fever”
  • The Poison Control Center – “Sad Sour Future”
  • Coolzey – “Coolzey And The Search For Hip Hop Hearts”
  • Darkthrone – “Circle The Wagons”
  • The Fall – “Your Future Our Clutter”
  • Pharmacy Spirits – “Teen Challenge”
  • Orthodox – “Matse Avatar” EP
  • Olde Growth s/t

(I suppose I could wait to put Olde Growth and Killing Joke on 2011’s since that will be KJ’s US release and Olde Growth’s reissue on MeteorCity…)

And here’s a second list of albums that either : (a) I liked a lot, but not quite as much as the above list, or (b) I only heard a time or two, but if I’d given them more attention, might have deserved a spot therein. It’s noticeably metal-heavy, too, but not for any particular reason:

  • Jesu – “Opiate Sun” EP
  • Triptykon – “Eparistera Daimones”
  • Tribella – “Thirteen”
  • Ufomammut – “Eve”
  • The Wounded Kings – “The Shadow Over Atlantis”
  • Hawkwind – “Blood Of The Earth”
  • Yakuza – “Of Seismic Consequence”
  • US Christmas – “Run Thick In The Night”
  • Mondo Drag – “New Rituals”
  • Ludicra – “The Tenant”
  • Cough – “Ritual Abuse”
  • Kylesa – “Spiral Shadow”
  • Agalloch – “Marrow Of The Spirit”
  • Das Racist – “Sit Down, Man”
  • Thou – “Summit”
  • Mondo Drag – “New Rituals”
  • Ramesses – “Take The Curse”
  • The Howling Wind – “Into The Cryosphere”
  • Electric Wizard – “Black Masses”
  • Enslaved – “Axioma Ethica Odini”
  • Castevet – “Mounds Of Ash”
  • Awesome Color – “Massa Hypnos”
  • Bison B.C. – “Dark Ages”
  • Black Mountain – “Wilderness Heart”
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – “Beat The Devil’s Tattoo”
  • A Forest Of Stars – “Opportunistic Thieves Of Spring”
  • Geronimo! – “Fuzzy Dreams”
  • Grave – “Burial Ground”
  • Grails – “Black Tar Prophecies Vol. IV”
  • Interpol – “Interpol”
  • Knut – “Wonder”
  • Kongh – “Shadows Of The Shapeless”
  • Lantlôs – “.neon.”
  • Maegashia – “The Stark Arctic”
  • Melvins – “The Bride Screamed Murder”
  • Mouth Of The Architect – “The Violence Beneath” EP
  • Robedoor – “Burners”
  • Spoon – “Transference”
  • Roky Erickson w/Okkervil River – “True Love Cast Out All Evil”
  • Superchunk – “Majesty Shredding”
  • Intronaut – “Valley Of Smoke”
  • Roareth – “Acts I – VI”
  • Wooden Shjips – “Vol. 2”

And finally, here’s a wild-card/[question]( list:

  • Apostle Of Solitude- “Last Sunrise”
  • Derek Lambert – “The Forest Floor”
  • Ember Schrag – “Jephthah’s Daughter”
  • Lou Barlow + The Missingmen – “= Sentridoh III”
  • The Mire – “Volume: I” EP
  • Pony Time – “Pony Time Can Drink 100 Wine Coolers”
  • Sun City Girls – “Funeral Mariachi”
  • Titan – “Sweet Dreams”
  • Rhonda Is A Dead Bitch – “Laos” EP
  • Twilight – “Monument To Time End”
  • When The Deadbolt Breaks – “Last Day Of The Sun”
  • Wovenhand – “The Threshingfloor”
  • You Are Home – “Funzzz”
  • 1349 – “Demonoir”
  • Grinderman – “II”
  • Boston Spaceships – “Our Cubehouse Still Rocks”

On a Saturday night a couple weeks ago I attended a rock gig at a venue here in Des Moines I had not been at before, a bar called Carl’s Place. The bill was local institution North Of Grand, opened-for by Going To Grandma’s. You’ve already probably heard a bit about Fetal Pig here at the Farm, we’ve been recording lately and are playing at the Mews this Saturday night. Going To Grandma’s is like Fetal Pig in that it’s another re-boot of an old band involving Dan Hutchison of Why Make Clocks on guitar and vocals, and his brother Jeff on drums; and also in that its new lineup has a member of Why Make Clocks, Will Tarbox, playing bass in lieu of its original bassist. Both bands were re-launched in what was planned as a one-off show for the birthday of, and at the request of, Dan’s wife Kim, earlier this year. The show got a really good response and it seemed evident that people would like to see these bands some more, and we kinda figured what the hell, after we went to the trouble of re-learning all these songs — or in the case of Will and I, learning them for the first time — and additionally in the case of Will, taking up a whole new instrument — may as well keep it going.

Going To Grandma’s is different from Fetal Pig and the other bands this bunch of guys are involved in, however, in its musical style, being catchy, humorous pop-punk, played with sloppy abandon. Facebook event postings self-deprecatingly boasted, “Come see a bunch of 40-year-old guys sing songs about getting grounded and going to keggers.” Other song topics include zombie movies, shoplifting, and putting the milk back in the refrigerator with the cap off. These are definitely songs they wrote many years ago, though I’m reasonably sure they could write more now, just as good, if they decided to, though there would probably be more songs about shitty jobs or driving or bars.

Why would guys involved in other, “artier,” more “serious” bands, want to resurrect a goofy pop-punk band? Well, one thing that distinguishes Going To Grandma’s musically is that the songs are packed with hooks. Bands working in this style are a dime a dozen, but very few of them write songs this good. So far after both performances I’ve seen, “Beach Nuts” is still running through my head days later.

Another reason perhaps is that audiences love this stuff. I’m not going to complain or suggest that people are unsophisticated when they don’t respond as strongly to material that’s supposedly more sophisticated, because I think it’s part of the band’s job to find their audience instead of whining that it hasn’t found them — but I will say that it’s a hell of a cool feeling as a musician when people actually cheer enthusiastically for you. Sure, such behavior probably isn’t as appropriate a response to a song like Why Make Clocks’ “Christmas Is Ruined.” Even though as an artist you feel a need to convey depth and range of emotion, sometimes it feels great to just be bringing the party.

It’s because music like this has such a broad appeal that I think a lot of musicians and music fans secretly, or perhaps not so secretly, have a special place in their hearts for fun-rock too. At least, I know Dan loves The Descendants, so that’s something. I think there’s an assumption out there that musicians engaged in straightforward pop-punk or in bar-punk (or whatever you’d call the kind of thing North Of Grand and Squidboy do) are exclusively fans of the same sort of thing. I’ve found that the best musicians are persons of wide, eclectic tastes. Sometimes this crosses over into their playing and causes them to play in multiple bands quite different from each other.

To illustrate, let’s take the members of Going To Grandma’s themselves. I’ve already mentioned Dan and Jeff and Will; that leaves Jim Duede on lead guitar and some of the lead vocals. Will, Dan, and Jim are noted metal fans, especially Jim, with various subgenres represented among their collections and regular listening. Will and Dan are of course also into various sorts of indie rock and folk as you’d expect, and I don’t know what all Jeff likes to listen to but he seems to have a sincere appreciation for what would be termed “classic rock” in addition to more “alternative” materials. If you’ve been following my accounts thus far, you know (but in case you haven’t, I’ll summarize) that Dan, Jeff, and myself currently comprise Fetal Pig, and that Fetal Pig play a sort of dissonant, paranoid prog-punk that might be described as a mix of Minutemen and Voivod; and that Dan, Will, and myself likewise comprise Why Make Clocks, who play a somewhat moody brand of indie rock with occasional country sprinkles on it, that usually draws comparisons to Wilco, Crazy Horse, and Built To Spill. What I haven’t talked about a whole lot yet is that the duo of Jeff and Jim is known as Blutiger Fluss, and they employ an assemblage of synthesizers to play ambient electronic music heavily inspired by certain early ’70s German artists. Needless to say this stuff doesn’t exactly pack the rock clubs, but it has its following. Their space-themed compositions like those on their album The Moons Of Jupiter have gotten them some interesting gigs with the Science Center Of Iowa. Even lesser known is that Blutiger Fluss have an intermittently-active alter-ego playing 1980s-styled synth-pop, called Businessmen On Bicycles. This is just the bands these guys are in now, to say nothing of their past, but regarding that I’ll just throw out some band names: Airborne Catholics, The Delirious Conniptions, Mondo Cane.

I’d be curious to hear from any active musicians reading this who are currently or have in the past been involved in a little community like this, where a small knotty collection of people in various combinations create nearly as many bands of differing musical styles among them as there are people. I’ve found myself in such a situation once before in Cedar Falls, that which I now refer to as the “Garage” or “Ragman Records” scene. Most of the people involved were high-school kids during most of that time, and I was the weird older guy hanging out and collaborating with them because I was so excited by their creative energy. Ever since they started breaking off to other cities I’ve really missed that scene, and now I think I may have wound up in another one.

Another thing about this gig that really got me thinking was the vibe of the venue and the event. For some years most of the gigs I’ve played (hometown gigs especially) have taken place at places that are considered rock clubs, that is, the music venue is the main attraction. The Reverb operated that way early on before becoming more bar-oriented on their move to Spicoli’s, which got rolling not long before I moved to Des Moines; Vaudeville Mews doesn’t even open up as a bar if there aren’t acts booked for the night. But Carl’s Place is different — a neighborhood bar that happens to host live music on occasion, especially focusing on the more popular local bands. When Why Make Clocks has played in Omaha and elsewhere out-of-town we’ve sometimes played at this type of place — the 49’r, O’Leavers. It’s not a rock club gig, it’s a bar gig, and it’s a totally different feel, and I believe in many ways more advantageous circumstances.

It still helps to have a draw in a bar gig, but it’s also a better place to build one — you don’t just only get people who are there because of the bands (which might not be many), you get people who are there to hang out and would be there even if you weren’t. Perhaps not having a cover helps. There’s a loose, fun vibe of people who are there to have a good time together. I think that’s an especially good environment for a music show. The crowd is people who are among friends and open to hearing something new.

You’re also less likely to have 4 or 5 bands crammed into a night, so you don’t always end up being limited to a 35 minute set, which I personally think is too short. I really don’t like having more than three bands in a night, and preferably two. The shorter sets don’t really present me enough to get the feel of a band whose stuff I don’t already know. A 35 or 40 minute set isn’t even as long as a whole album, man!

There are downsides, but I think they’re small ones. The PA is more likely to be vocal-only and might not be very good. I think that’s fine though, your band should just sound good anyway. If your music sounds like mush without the perfect equipment, maybe your music just sounds like mush and you should rethink some things. Also it’s not as easy to get on these gigs, these places don’t usually have a dedicated booking person or a lot of focus put into seeking out bands. You kind of have to know someone who knows someone, and they tend to focus more on local outfits than touring acts. In the case of Going To Grandma’s, it was North Of Grand who asked them to do the show.

Also, certain kinds of performances or music may not work as well in this environment. I can’t quite imagine a band like Burmese going over well in such a setting, likewise Blutiger Fluss or even Distant Trains. Stuff like Going To Grandma’s and North Of Grand works especially well, though; North Of Grand seems to be the band doing the most business in these kind of places here in Des Moines (Hull Avenue Tavern comes to mind as another place they seem to frequent) and it seems to go well for them. I conjecture that a Why Make Clocks or Fetal Pig would do well with it too. There is a certain openness to hearing something different. Let’s not forget that punk rock itself had some of its early roots in something called “pub rock.”

To sum up, I had a really good time at this show, and it got me thinking that I personally could go for playing more of these kind of gigs, as well as attending more of them in non-performing capacity.

My old No Consensus bandmate Jon Grim lives up in St. Paul and he’s a band called Ten Arms Of The Squid. He’s also quite talented with video. Here’s a Ten Arms Of The Squid music video:

For more Jon Grim awesomeness, including a classic Sno-Mans video, check out his YouTube channel.