It's A Living… But It's Not A Life #12.4
J Church / Honey Bear Records / Whatever
Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft

 

STRIKE ANYWHERE

We're playing a show this Saturday. It's an early show (starts at 5:00 PM!) and all the bands are great. Strike Anywhere are headlining and local up and comers, Signal Lost are starting things off with their great mixture of the Lost Cherees and the Mob. Also playing are our new labelmates and neighbors from the north, Fifth Hour Hero. After that, it's a birthday party for me!

 

WEBSITE

I've done a bunch of work to update the website especially in the merch area and the links. I've also made the Cringer section a little nicer. Check it out at www.honeybearrecords.net.

 

MILESTONES

Sarah Jacobson (1971-2004)
It breaks my heart to even write this. Sarah Jacobson died a couple of days before my birthday after a long battle with cancer. Sarah was a DIY, punk rock, filmmaker mostly known for the crazy short film I Was A Teenage Serial Killer and Mary Jane's Not A Virgin Anymore. She was a good friend and a really supportive person whether it was showing me how to edit something at her house or giving me a ride home from a show when I was in no shape to sort myself out.

She was a really rambunctious renegade when she needed to be and when you're making little indie flicks for no money, that's most of the time. I remember she would drive me crazy on occasion 'cos there was always something that she was just way too excited about that she had to explain to me in full detail. Once I helped her get my roommates to let her shoot part of Mary Jane on my roof. The shoot went really late and they were making a bunch of noise in the wee hours of a work night. My roommates were pissed and never forgave her. But she was willing to take that chance for her film. She had character in abundance.

The last time I saw her, she was visiting Austin with Greta Snider and a few others for some sort of film festival. I was really busy with work and didn't have the time to hang out with her as much as I would have liked. I'm missing that now.

 

TOUR DIARY PART 3

AUGUST 11th ­ BOSTON, MA (Middle East Café)
This was the fourth or fifth time we've played the Middle East. We weren't really even on the bill, so it's no shock that the show was a dud. We had a day off and got added to this screamo show at the last minute. Buncha fashion kids playing blast beats and screaming away. It's funny, I guess. The people at the club were as nice as ever. Sensefield and Hey Mercedes were playing downstairs but they might as well have been miles away.

AUGUST 12th ­ HOBOKEN, NJ (Maxwell's)
All this time and this is our first show at Maxwell's. I don't know why we've skipped it in the past. We've always wound up playing odd little places along the way. With Pier Platters gone, I've never found much use in Hoboken lately.

Was great to finally play with the wonderful Plungers. Their Ramones-y, garage-y, punk rock was a breath of fresh air. Blasting through potential hit after potential hit, they were probably the best band we played with on the whole tour. I especially love their cover of Jackie DeShannon's Breakaway (though I mostly know it from Tracy Ullman's awesome record).

Spent the night in NYC near Tompkin's at JT's place. I don't exactly remember. But I wanna say it was on the 40th floor with no elevator or AC. Ah, New York. I love the challenge. Nowhere else do you feel like you're living and dying at the same time.

AUGUST 13th ­ NEW YORK CITY, NY (North Six)
We got pretty lost on our way to this club so we were all pretty pissed off by the time we loaded out. Still, it's a beautiful space. One thing is for sure; we played some nice looking venues on this tour. Maybe the music world is getting better in some ways… Worse in others I suppose.

Went and got a slice with Charles Maggio before the show. All I wanna eat is pizza when I'm here. I love this fucking city and if I ever move here I swear I'll put on a hundred pounds. I love the pizza. I love the Indian food. I love the eggplant parmesan. Got some cool discs off of him too. Gern Bland is a really underrated label. I mean, in the beginning he was releasing some really innovative hardcore records by Rorschach, Merel and Native Nod that were very imaginative for a generally conservative musical style. Then he put out classic records from Garden Variety, Chisel, the Van Pelt, etc. Now he's got some of the most interesting post-punk / Pigbag / Gang of Four type stuff going with Radio 4, Watchers, etc.

Second night with the Plungers and I find out that their singer / guitarist is pregnant. No point in asking them to do more dates with us later in the year. Still, it was great to even do these shows with them. It's nice when you find bands that you really relate to. Hopefully we'll be doing a split single with them this year.

After the show, Chris took off the stay with his cousin who plays in Les Savy Fav, another band I love. I went off with Liberty's soon-to-be sister-in-law Sonja to stay on the Upper West Side. Got a little bit of late night food followed by a dead sleep.

AUGUST 14th ­ WASHINGTON, DC (St. Aloysius Church)
Had a nice breakfast back near JT's at one of my favorite places to eat, Odessa. I love those potato pancakes and the fried sauerkraut and mushroom pirogies. But can someone explain to me how gravy and cheese make regular fries into "disco fries"?

We picked up former Austinite, David, now of Cause for Applause and hit the road for DC. About an hour out of town we start hearing reports of a blackout and how the whole city has shut down. Turns out, we left town minutes before everything went to hell. A little luck is better than none at all I guess.

This show was literally in a church. I mean, we've played many church basements. But this was right there in the church. This was sort of weird for me. Got to catch up with Mark Anderson which was really great. I hadn't seen him in years and years. Turns out St. Aloysius is the church he actually attends. Things sure are different in DC.

This show was a low-key DIY affair done by some AK Press type kids. I don't remember the name of the first band. All girls fighting through their set and fighting with their gear and coming up with something cool and fascinating in the process. You don't have to win the battle to win the war.

AUGUST 15th ­ BALTIMORE, MD (Talking Head Club)
Yeah, tensions starting to run a little high especially with the Storm the Tower camp. It's none of my business, so I mostly keep far away from it. This whole tour is mostly a test drive of the new J Church line-up for me, so it's all fun. No real expectations. And, hey, Reptilian is a great store. Atomic Books is pretty cool too. What have I got to complain about?

The local paper here had a great little write up of us. I wish I had a copy of it. It was really nice. Nice picture from the Arizona show. It's good to see pictures of this line-up in print.

Don't know if it was the article or the fact that we hadn't played here in forever or what, but this was easily one of the best shows of the tour. Lots of cool kids with nothing to do. Incidentally, I played some of the worst pool I've ever played in my life here.

AUGUST 16th ­ CHAPEL HILL, NC (Go Room)
Got some cheap cool records right around the corner from the club. Picked up some Mingus sides plus Hanoi Rocks and some other hardcore records. I dunno. This is the first time we've played here in almost a decade when it wasn't the Cat's Cradle. Sort of a relief. That place always seemed like a big empty cave when we played there.

God dammit! I'm such an idiot! I can't remember the name of the band we played with tonight. They were cool folx. You know, they were the band that did the bicycle tour. What the hell were they called? They were great though.

This was also the first of three shows with Dade County Resistance who are a pretty solid indie / pop punk band with one of the guys from Guyana Punch Line. I guess he's sort of the East Coast Chris Pfeffer.

Got to talk with Jon from Superchunk for a while tonight. Nice to talk to someone who I haven't been staring at in the van for the past month. Jon is one of those timeless guys who have got more energy than I can even handle. He's one of the most Muppet-like people I've ever met.

AUGUST 17th ­ ATLANTA, GA (Echo Lounge)
Fucking traffic! It was a mess getting down to Atlanta. To make matters worse, these shitbirds with "Bush for President" bumper stickers kept driving half out of their lane to prevent people from driving in the median. Chris decided to take control of the situation and drove down the middle forcing all these little fuck-faces off of the road. It was hilarious watching these uptight assholes panic and freak out. There's nothing as satisfying as getting flipped off by a pissed off Republican.

Nope, Atlanta ain't the kind of place we can pull off when school isn't in session. A big room with 50 people in it. Still, I had a good time for some reason. I just started to realize that I wasn't at home and I wasn't at work.

AUGUST 18th ­ COLUMBIA, SC (New Brookland Tavern) Last show with Dade County Resistance and it's their hometown. Have we ever really had a great show in South Carolina? I mean, there are always cool people and it's sort of fun. But we've been here, what, six or seven times now? I can't remember a great show.

A couple of kids drove for like eight hours to see us. They got wasted on vodka and Red Bull before the show even started. Last thing I remember, they were passed out drunk with one of them having puked on the other ones head. I felt bad for them. But, shit, it was funny as hell and hopefully it will be one of those stories they'll be able to tell all of their friends.

END OF PART 3

 

IN THE J CHURCH LISTENING ROOM

BOOMTOWN RATS, THE - Best Of… CD

I used to hate this band. My sister had The Fine Art Of Surfacing and I just hated it. Sounded like Bruce Springsteen who I mostly hated at the time. I think part of why I hated them was because they were talking shit on the Clash and vice versa.

Well, guess what? I'm 37. I love The River and Nebraska and I like this. Yeah, a lot of it is corny and this is the guy behind all that "Live Aid" shit. But She's So Modern is a great song. It's like Vapors good! Like second album Vapors good! Looking After No. 1 is remarkably a lot like the Buzzcocks. Of course, who doesn't like (I Never Loved) Eva Braun with it's New Rose spoof. It's great punk rock, if you can believe it. Yeah, Joey's On The Street Again is still pretty naff though it sounds more like John Otway now and a lot less like Springsteen.

Funny thing is, it's the un-punk, un-rock stuff that I really dig now. I used to think that Banana Republic was boring as shit. Now it's a great subdued almost Lodger/Bowie-like. The Elephants Graveyard is like a shitty Elvis Costello outtake from Armed Forces, and, y'know, that's still pretty fucking good.

There are 19 songs here. Cut that in half and you've still got everything you'll ever really need from the Boomtown Rats. That's enough to make this a keeper.
(Eagle Records)

CARPENTERS, THE - Yesterday Once More 2xCD

We're coming up on what would have been Karen Carpenter's 54th birthday (March 2nd) and we just passed the 21st anniversary of her death (February 4th) it seems like as good a time as any for me to declare my love for the music of the Carpenters. Who says landmarks have to come in fives and tens?

This double disc starts off with my three favorite songs by the Carpenters. I think they best sum up what I loved about the band. Yesterday Once More, Superstar and Rainy Days And Mondays are perfect songs in my mind. The songs are sad and pretty at the same time. Karen Carpenter has one of the most beautiful and inimitable voices of all time. Her deep low voice conveyed so much emotion on these songs in particular, that it wasn't too far a stretch to think her personal life was in complete disarray and the music truly was a vehicle for her to reach out.

The lyrics are near perfect. On Yesterday Once More, Karen announces her relating to the audience as she puts herself in the same position. "When they get to the part where he's breaking her heart it can really make me cry." She GETS it. On Superstar it's an even heavier tale of unrequited love from the perspective of, perhaps, a groupie. There is real love and innocence in this possibly unhealthy relationship. "Don't you remember you told me you love me baby… Loneliness is such a sad affair…" This may be one of the five greatest songs of all time. Their methodology is perfected as well as a sense of self-awareness on Rainy Days And Mondays. "What I've got they used to call the blues… Hanging around. Nothing to do but frown."

The music on these songs is perfect. They are wonderfully arranged and are almost tediously constructed to maximize the emotive strengths of both the vocal delivery and the content of the lyrics. Superstar even has a beautiful 7 bar Brian Wilson-esque middle 8 between the first chorus and the second verse. It's quite stunning and understated at the same time.

This collection has its duff moments. I'm not big on some of their corny stuff. But the good stuff is as good as any good cry you've ever had. I mark this music with the best of the `70s across the boards. I'll just end by listing the amazing songs that you should know and love Goodbye To Love, I Won't Last A Day Without You, This Masquerade, All You Get From Love Is A Love Song, We've Only Just Begun, Close To You.

"Loneliness is such a sad affair
And I can hardly wait to be with you again
What to say to make you come again
Come back to me and play your sad guitar."
(A&M Records)

MINORITY BLUES BAND - Grab The Fire Swinging In The Rain CD
MINORITY BLUES BAND - Capitalized Suffering CD

You can say this about nearly every punk rock band, but really, despite how great these two records are, there's nothing like seeing this band live. They really are incredible. I've had the pleasure of seeing them seven times in a row and each time was more remarkable than the first. Singer / guitar player Spalding is a ball of nerves; bassist George is as energetic as he is style-ish and words can't describe drummer Yumi. She's the best.

So, it's hard for me to go back and break these records down song by song. They're both great. On their first full length, Grab the Fire…, the band are barely able to contain themselves. It's like early Jawbreaker but played full throttle and high speed. The melodies and tunes are perfect and masked by the sweet distorted noise of guitars and crashes. It's a bash. It's like finding the Beatles record trapped in New Day Rising or Psycho-Candy. It's great underground pop.

On their more recent effort, they are a little more confident recording and it comes off as a more powerful record. More defined than before are songs that are clearly "hits". I mean, I'll never get tired of Speak Same Old News, Sing Same Old Songs. I can hear that song over and over. May be the best thing on any Snuffy Smile release.

Dead serious, someone should really consider doing something with this band in the states. It would be a shame if they existed strictly as Japan's best-kept secret.
(Snuffy Smile ­ 4-1-16-201 Daita, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 155-033 ­ Japan)

 

Back to Article Index