The next episode of Random Old Records Podcast (#8 for those keeping track) is in production as I write this. I'm through with the '90s theme shows, as this one goes back to classic songs of heartbreak and romantic stupidity from the likes of Now Time Delegation, Holly Golightly, and Detroit Cobras, rare funk and soul from Marie Franklin, Esther Williams, and Joyce Williams (not related), and dopey bubblegum, freakbeat, and soft psych from Fish N' Chips, The Penny Peeps, and The Living Daylights. Should be out by next week at the latest.
Episode #7 is still available with an hour of '90s indie, grunge, emo, and alternative from Massive Attack, Mary Lou Lord, The Get Up Kids, Jawbreaker, and loads more. Grab it here: http://www.mediafire.com/?wt22ozmexzm
Oh, and don't forget to follow me on Twitter, http://twitter.com/rndmoldrecords for all kinds of cool stuff. I live-tweet shows, review music in 140 characters or less, and post swank links.
In other news, the upcoming first issue of Random Old Records (and Movies) is looking like more and more of a real thing as the days go by. Here's a review I wrote for it that doesn't look like it will make the cut. Check it out.
Backseat Virgins - Born Again
I've been reading Maximumrocknroll fairly often recently, for the first time in 8 years or so, and was surprised, but not shocked, to see it exactly the same as I'd left it behind. Gilman Street is alive and kicking, "Lefty" Hooligan is detailing intricate underground right-wing fascist plots that may or may not exist, Mykel Board is still a senior citizen ranting about political correctness and for pornography, while George Tabb is still pulling stories about his family and former bandmates out of a seemingly bottomless well. The hysterical anti-major label witchhunts of the late '90s, which was one of the reasons I stopped reading in the first place, have died down, and the band interviews are as dull and humorless as always. The fiery polemics of Tim Yohannan have been replaced by a steady stream of wishy-washy "coordinators," but otherwise the zine remains frozen in amber. What shocked me is how THIN it is these days. Scene reports are virtually nonexistant, zine and record reviews take up a few pages at best, and the glut of ads has diminished. Back in the day, I would troll these ads religiously and order dozens of records, now I can barely find two or three worth getting. Much like how kids are bypassing baseball to play football and basketball, young musicians would rather play hipster-bedroom-electro-laptop-psych-pop than get up on stage and bash out straight-forward, all-American three-chord jams. This Backseat Virgins disc is like a blast of rain in the desert for folks that are sick of navel-gazing one-man-bands and earth-toned seriousness. It's FUN, FUN, FUN, dumb, in your face, loud, and sloppy.
Sure, every riff has been ripped wholesale from the Ramones catalogue. The bubblefuzz stomp and amped-up surf beats are part of a template that's been opened and trod upon literally a thousand times. Even the attempts at branching out, like the carnival keyboards on "Striptease," "Time For Fun" and "All Day Long" are lifted straight from "Do You Remember Rock N' Roll Radio?" Still, the slightly off-kilter boy/girl harmonies all over the place are so super-sweet even a cynic would have a hard time writing this off as dishonest. Dig the way Rapid Randy and Neeta trade off "you're the prettiest girl/you're the cutest boy" lines on "You And Me," winking the whole time like a classic, long lost '60s duet. There's an undeniable feeling of new, young love that bursts from the whole album, full of waiting, dreaming, sighing expectation and outright joy. You can feel that shit, especially in tracks like "All Day Long," where the steady, dueling guitar strums sound like two kids slowly inching together on the couch, barely coiled and contained, until the ridiculous heartburst ending. This is a modern band, not a black and white fantasy though, and when "Haley" finishes up with an insistant "We've got nothing else to do, let's fuck the night away," it jars you away from the sun and fun beach party vibe of most of the songs. Falling in love with a stripper and chasing after a workaholic techie boyfriend would perplex the Frankie 'n' Annette scene, much like anything more complicated than a chaste glance at some white-bikini cleavage.
Now that I'm older, one thing that strikes me about this kind of trad Ramones/Mr. T Experience pop-punk is how creepy it is underneath the surface. The Gilman St. scene that defined '90s punk rock always had an uneasy balance between the kids and elders. In what is primarily a youth movement, middle-aged former hippies like Tim Yohannan and Lawrence Livermore controlled the labels and zines. Livermore in paticular seemed like a total chickenhawk, a gay man in his 40s hanging out and playing in bands with teenagers. Yohannan took his regimented anarchist/socialist radical ideas and projected it upon the whole genre, and as much as he tried to laugh it off, it was always his gavel-smack that determined what belonged in Maximumrocknroll, and by proxy, what was really "punk." Daddy always determined what was good enough, do I have to spell it out?! I mean, the Backseat Virgins are a bunch of twenty-somethings singing about hooking up at the mall, making out at the movies, going all the way in the backseat of a compact car, and partying when mom and dad aren't home well past the age where that is socially acceptable. Hell, the Ramones were in their 40s, still singing dopey teenybopper love songs like "Heidi Is A Headcase" when they finally decided to pack it in. Punk rock bands, which once held so much potential as rabble-rousing wildcards that were going to destroy everything, ended up being historically minded soldiers, pulling inspiration from well-trodden texts, stoically refusing to rock the boat, and preaching to the converted. In a way, the genre has become much like Catholicism. The rules are rules, that is, unless the head honcho decides to change them on a moment's notice! The Ramones never changed, just hardened their look and sound into a stubborn schtick, so who can blame the Backseat Virgins for sticking to the music they love? It's that love for what they're doing that makes this so darn great. Lines like "We'd make a great team like cheese and nacho chips" might cause a bit of spontaneous nausea, but I'd rather listen to stuff like this all day long, instead of painfully earnest political punk rock. OK, raise of hands if you can honestly name a band that changed the world. Nope?! Didn't think so! Rock n' roll is supposed to be fun, dammit!
Um, OK, rant over, so can I just talk about how fucking fun this album is?! "Lucille" is what an Adderall-addled blogger might spit up if they had to write about what old fanzine fucks would call a "mid-tempo burner." You could write the song in your head in an instant, knowing from the beginning from the opening chords where it's going, it sounds so familiar. In three minutes, there's frenzied one-night-stand multiplex bathroom sex, "By My Baby" thunder drums and handclaps, and heartbreak that only lasts till the end of the song. This is music that aims to make you smile, and nothing else. You'll be singing along after the first chorus, and have it memorized by the end. Forget the Ramones and knee-jerk pigeonholing, and just LISTEN! It's so full of life that you'll shed that jaded intellectual crust and plug into the undeniable teenage energy. Like any drug, a kick-ass pop song can make your life instantly better. Here's 13 hits in 30 minutes, an instant addiction that won't kill you or make you stronger- it just makes you click "repeat" and bounce off the walls, no matter how old you are.