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Saturday, October 15, 2005

To Prove That I Can

Once upon a time not too long ago, a blogger like myself caught a local show...

I'm always telling people that they should go to at least one or two house shows at some point in their life and, of course, I follow my own advice. Sure, you'll probably have to wade through a mass of scenesters just to get into the house, but if the bands are good (and you wouldn't be there if they weren't, right?) then it's worth it. In fact, it's part of the experience, like mass before communion or something. It's as close as you're likely to ever get to the true spirit of making music, besides making music yourself. With that in mind, last night I caught a show at the "legendary" Phoenix House. Though I'd be willing to bet that it's only truly legendary to Olympians, bands like Nirvana, Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and The Gossip played the Phoenix House in their time.

Kicking off the festivities last night was the lovely and very talented Robin Cutler. Sitting behind a kick-drum, surrounded by amps, guitars and her viola, Robin delivered a dozen or so gentle, well-written folk-rock songs. With songs for everyone from her little sister to the boy next door, Robin's music was heartfelt and genuine, devoid of the need to be clever that plagues so many young songwriters. On the drive home, a friend commented that it was too much like reading someone's diary, but that's never bothered me. I left a convert.

The following two songs are from her self-titled debut, which I believe is from 2004.

Robin Cutler - "Shadow Song"

Robin Cutler - "3-2-1 'Til Contact"

Visit Robin's website for more information.

Following Robin was a band I've written about before in these hallowed halls: Palisades. Despite the fact that it was another band's record release show, Palisades get the dubious honor of being the reason I hauled myself out of the house on a rainy night. That's because their self-titled debut EP from earlier this year has thoroughly won me over, and because they're one of those bands that I want to be able to say I saw them when...

I would say I prefer them on record, but that's pretty much true of everyone. Suffice it to say, they played a charming and charmingly shambolic set, which is exactly what I expected. By this time, the Phoenix House floor was sufficiently crowded, but Palisades had no trouble getting folks to dance all the same. Judging by the comments after they finished, I'm not the only one looking forward to their next show, not to mention their next record.

These two songs are both from the aforementioned Palisades EP.

Palisades - "Consuming Fire"

Palisades - "I Can't Remember"

Stop by Masa Records for more information about Palisades.

Kickball took hold of the communal instruments next, unleashing one hell of a groove-a-thon. I felt like I was at a dance-'til-you-drop contest or something. It was obvious that many of the kids around me were die-hard fans, which was nice because I feel like such an ass when I'm up-front (right next to Adam's keyboard!) for a band I don't know all that well. Luckily, the word-mouthers and song-shouter-outers had my back, allowing me to kick back and just enjoy the show.

The energy Kickball put into their set was admirable, and went a long way towards distinguishing them from your average indie-poppers. Drummer Lisa was on fire, in a young Janet Weiss kind of way, and lead-singer Jacob had a charismatic, almost sexual way of delivering his vocals. All of which is a roundabout way of saying they were good enough to make me want to hear their records, which I scooped up two of that night.

Their grooves are a lot less pronounced on record; they're quieter, more tame, but they've still got a handful of remarkable songs. Witness:

Kickball - "Stop ∞"

Kickball - "Opposite"

Kickball - "Bird"

Kickball - "Tides Or Swells"

These four songs are all from Kickball's 2003 release, Huckleberryeater. I'm only posting so many because three of them are available online and the other one ("Stop ∞") is my favorite Kickball song. Well, that and because they're so good.

Kickball - "Party"

Kickball - "Little Thing"

These two songs are from the album whose release party this post documents, namely ABCDEFGHIJKickball.

Six songs! C'mon, there's gotta be at least one you love. Which means you should buy an album, online at Houseopolis Records.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Children Already Belong To Us

A friend of mine alerted me to the fact that Propagandhi have a new album coming out this October. It's titled Potemkin City Limits and the cover-art is by Eric Drooker. Their label, G7 Welcoming Committee, has already kindly made one song available for download:

Propagandhi - "Die Jugend Marschiert"

My first thought is that it's not as immediate or aggressive as the majority of their back catalog, but that's just a trite summary of my initial reaction. Besides, what it lacks in impact it more than makes up for in ambition. Their humor is certainly undiminished. Listen closely, the lyrics are actually (I'm guessing) a fictitious speech made by one Colonel Casey Wardynski, who has some fucked-up ideas about America. For starters, as director of U.S. Army's Office of Economic and Manpower Analyses, he personally oversaw the creation of "America's Army", the official video game of the U.S. Army. Homeboy came up with this shit to lure teenage boys into the army. You see, while your favorite band is sitting around writing ditties about their sack-of-shit lives and inability to get laid, Propagandhi are writing to expose pricks like Wardynski. I agree, it takes all kinds, but songs like this certainly put things into perspective. More power to them!

It'll be interesting to see what the rest of Potemkin City Limits is like, especially whether or not it maintains this trend of longer songs with more ambitious arrangements. It's all the more difficult to know what to expect considering that Propagandhi haven't released an album since 2000's Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes. Granted, Propagandhi usually have a longer than average gestation period, but with all that's happened in the last four years I'm sure the wait has felt longer than ever for fans. Makes me wonder what they've been sitting on.

Here are two of their older songs, for comparison's sake:

Propagandhi - "True (Concrete Blonde)"

Propagandhi - "Back To The Motor League"

The first song is from 1998's Where Quantity Is Job #1 and the second is from the aforementioned Today's Empires. See what I mean with my less immediate, less aggressive comment? Propagandhi have always been informed, but the new song sounds so measured compared with these two.

Visit Propagandhi's website for more information, or visit their G7 page for upcoming West Coast tour dates.

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