(Editor’s note: I don’t know how to swim. I think we’ve talked about this before. I’m afraid of jellyfish, barracuda and drowning. The new band we’re throwing at you today, The Light Rays, work in a kind of sludgy surf-rock mode, hence the picture above. I just want you to know that it (the picture or the ocean or surfing; you decide) freaks me out. Also, I love how the dude in the front is cool and collected and the dude in the back looks like he’s shitting his pants. Good times!)
I like things that are true. For records, for me, this often means that I like things that are obviously records of events, things that bear an obvious human imprint. I’m not looking for perfection in music, I’m looking for humanity. You don’t stab at those things with studio wizardry, but through earnestly pushing your soul through an amplifier. Charles Mingus’ “Better Get It in Your Soul” is a good example here; it is true and real and alive. Take out the shouted exhortations and you’re left with something cold. Shit. What does “Louie, Louie” (and, by extension, everything that tries to be it) sound like if those dudes had aimed for a crisp, clean vibe? (It’s a rhetorical question, but the answer is: like shit.) The Light Rays are fuzzy and dirty and imperfect, making music that sounds alive, all of which makes them easy to love. It’s garage surf music, simply put, with the vocals way down in the mix, straight forward guitar lines and a load of personality. They’ve got a five song, ten minute cassette available here. That they proudly declare that it’s recorded in analog tells you more than a little about the band and their ethos. It’s worth the four bucks. The pure-surf riff and drum beat of “Surf Song” are augmented by some clever electronic additions. “H Town” and “Meditation on a Theme” both have an endearing mumbliness about them. The highlights though are “End of the World Love Song” with its strangely apocalyptic keyboard and “LSD Palm Tree,” which opens (unpredictably) with bird song before erupting into fuzzed-out bliss. The Light Rays make me smile, mostly because they mean it.
The Light Rays – End of the World Love Song
The best part about working with Kevin is arguing with Kevin at work. Today, we argued about New Order. (The background, which is mildly uninteresting and, thusly parenthetical, is this: Kevin loves some hot new thing band. I think the band sounds like a bland imitation of vintage New Order. Kevin stares at me blankly when I say the new band sounds like New Order but less good.) I’m going to out Kevin as a New Order neophyte here, but we’ve never claimed to listen to records that we haven’t, so I think I’m in the clear. Essentially, I said that you have to understand New Order to understand modern music. Kevin said “Blue Monday” is okay. I said referring to “Blue Monday” to typify the New Order catalog is like using “Touch Me, Babe” to typify The Doors’ catalog. Then we bickered about the relative merits of The Doors and New Order. (Neither of us had very productive lunches today, is the core message.) The upshot is this: there are maybe five bands that you have to know something about to “get” modernity. Maybe these five: The Velvet Underground, Mission of Burma, New Order, Nick Drake and Minor Threat. Maybe there’s a different five. (maybe Sonic Youth, Black Sabbath, Public Enemy, Patti Smith and The Stooges) Maybe the whole discussion is pointless. (Aren’t all discussions of a canon functionally stupid? I read Moby Dick. Am I a better person? Do I “get” American literature better? Dunno.) All that said, I’m still going to rag on Kevin for not thinking “Procession” is a gift to the universe.
I know that I posted live Akron/Family last weekend. But. I’ve listened to the show that I pulled from last Saturday non-stop all week. Driving, cleaning, writing, playing video games, walking the dog: I’ve had that show on repeat. I spiked in The Twilight Sad record a couple of times and some stuff that I got in the mail, but it’s been 85% live Akron/Family all week. I haven’t seen them in person yet (come back to Cleveland fellas), but their willingness to really stretch things out is immensely appealing to me. The track below comes from a different show than the one I’ve been hooked on, but captures this balls-out mentality perfectly. It’s thirty minutes of music without interruption, three songs melting into one another without pause. Ignoring the fact that the 1800 seconds of music are each outstanding, the sheer tenacity is impressive; I sweat just listening to this track. It makes me think of bands that reek of patchouli and seitan. (Both of these things have a positive connotation for me, by the way.) Akron/Family, in much the same way that their one-time tourmates Megafaun do, remind me of Phish and the Dead. Not necessarily for the construction of the tunes themselves (although Megafaun talked with us about reaching for YEM a bit on the amazing “Impressions of the Past), but for the willingness to sell the shit out of an idea. So, below, you get thirty minutes of Akron/Family, a top-shelf version of YEM (jump to 5:10 if you just want the rush you get from “the note”) and some Dead. (I went for “Samson & Delilah” because I swear I hear it around the nine minute mark of the Akron/Family track.) As a bonus, all this hippie shit really pisses James off. So I got that going for me. Which is nice.
Akron/Family – The Alps & Their Orange Evergreen> Lake Song> Ed is a Portal, Live 2009
Phish – You Enjoy Myself, Live 1995
Grateful Dead – Samson & Delilah, Live 1978
Lastly, come see Death with us at the Beachland on Sunday night. Rob mentioned this yesterday, but it is going to kick ass. First beer is on me.
Death – Politicians in My Eyes