Friday, May 31, 2013

Get Up Kids Four Minute Mile Blue Vinyl Repress Doghouse 1997

Get Up Kids Four Minute Mile
Blue Vinyl
Doghouse America Records
CAT #DOG047 1997 Repress

The singer is from KC and the rest of the Get Up Kids are from Olathe, Kansas.  If you've been to Olathe, KS, this doesn't make any sense.  I grew up in Olathe, KS.  In junior high and high school I attended school with members of this band and despite that, this album makes no sense to me.

Olathe, KS is fucking blackhole.  People get lost in it and forget the rest of the world exists.  Sure, it's a great place raise your family and most parts of the city are safe, but why does it need so many strip malls?  Why is there nowhere cool to hang out?  Why is everyone so into Nascar?  And, why does everybody park their car on the street and not in their garage?  What are Olathians hiding thier garages?

In high school, I was in the backseat of Jimmy Suptic's VW Bug on the way to a parking lot.  (Because, that's what you did in Olathe on the weekends as a teenager, you hung out in 711 parking lots until the police moved you along to the next place you weren't allowed to hang out).  I had been feeding the drummer of this band stuff by the Dead Milkmen and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (pre- Blood Sex Sugar Magic, mind you) thinking I was hot indie rock shit.  This obviously got back to Jimmy who turned to me and asked, "Have you ever heard Fugazi?"  "Yes," I replied which was a total lie to sound cool.  He puts in the tape and on comes the song 'Repeater.'  My mind is racing, I can't keep up with the song, my mouth is wide open while the rest of the car is chanting, "1, 2, 3.  Repeater!"  The song ends and I ask Jimmy, "Where did you get that?"  "Recycled Sounds" he replies.  Recycled Sounds was a record store in downtown Kansas City.  That's how bad Olathe is.  You had to drive 45 minutes to get a fucking Fugazi tape.

Yet, Olathe, Kansas is where most of this band is from.  The album cover, that's the Olathe South track, those runners, Olathe South Grads.  And from that, comes this album.  The late 90's scene .emo darlings (along with Promise Ring) are from a boring suburb.  The band that the now Mighty Pitchfork e-zine MADE THEIR NAME TRASHING, is from Olathe, Kansas.  That's equivalent to Lester Bangs making his name bashing James Taylor and the whole California soft rock scene.  (Kicker being, no one remembers a bad review, but they'll still pay money for the albums that were scorned).

It would make sense then that this album is about girls, right?  Teenage kids from suburbia, what else do they have to write about?  Well, it's about being a teenager, but it's not all about girls.  The theme of this album is about moving on.  The Four Minute Mile is about achieving something that no one thought possible.  The Get Up Kids were literally just kids at the time, the drummer was still in high school when their first release came out.  All four members were at an age prime for parental expectations and other pressures.  They are from the suburbs, they lived in fairly affluent neighborhoods and had good parents.  Rather than continue in college, they took a chance and dropped out to be in a rock n' roll band.  Don't believe me?  Let's talk about some of these tunes.

Track 1. Coming Clean - 18 year old kids don't feel this way about girls, yet.  They do feel the disappoint though when they tell their parents, "I hope you'll forgive me but what you want from me is killing me."
Track 2. Don't Hate Me - Amy is not a girl, she's a metaphor for college, parents, religion.  Try it, it's the fear of failure, running back to Amy is giving up on a dream.
Track 3. Fall Semster - Oh fuck, this is obvious.  "If I tried, would you still call me a son?"
Track 4. Stay Gold, Ponyboy? - The Outsiders reference is priceless.  I will cut you if you disagree.  But, yeah, pretty emo.
Track 6. Washington Square Park - "Though that ring again, through that sick machine doesn't that make you any stronger than you or anything choose."  I feel this is the teenage role-reversal--this the coming of age child dismissing the life their parent's want to choose for them.  The 9-5 Monday through Friday doesn't seem all that great.
Track 7. Last Place You Look - This one is kind of heartbreaker.  I like to think it is a son hoping, despite the arguments, his parents will still support the choices he makes and trust him.  But, more likely about a girl.
Track 8. Better Half - A little of a mish-mosh, mostly about a girl.  But there is the line, "I saw my baby boy digging his own hole, keeping alive family traditions."

I've listened to this album countless times, multiple formats, over the last 15 years now, and every time it's the same: Brilliant.  It's recorded like shit, the band sounds like teenagers (they were), it's a bit pitch-y and the tempos are too fast, but it's bursting at the seams with nerves and energy.  It's exciting and loud, there are pick slides and yelps, it never tries to be "underground" and was never trying to be "emo."  The band just wanted you to hear what they created.  I put this album right next to other debuts like the Police's 'Outlandos d'Amour', the Talking Heads '77' album and R.E.M.'s 'Chronic Town' E.P., because it's that type of debut, raw and nervous, all energy.  It's a band dying to get the fuck out of Olathe and discover the rest of America.

Paw Death To Traitors Double LP A&M 1995

Paw Death To Traitors Double LP Promo Copy
A&M Records
CAT# 69712 4070 1995

Paw is destined to become a sought after grunge band.  Give it another few years, about the time when everybody starts remembering how "great" the 90's were.  When people start wearing flannels and combat boots to the 90's themed office party and talking about how much they loved JNCO jeans.  At that point, Lawrence, Kansas' Paw will garnish the type of attention they always deserved.  Collectors will focus on grunge and punch themselves in the face when they realize they could have listened to this back in the day rather than Bush.

Honestly, though, I'm not too sure Paw really wanted to be a grunge band.  You listen to Dragline and hear a song like 'Jessie' and it's clearly grunge, but I've always wondered how much of that was forced by being on a major label.  It's almost as if their hand was forced on Dragline to be Nirvana from a Cowtown.

I did enjoy Dragline, but to me, Death to Traitors feels a bit more honest.  The grunge with a "twang" isn't completely abandoned, you'll hear it on the first song.  But, this album gets a lot more melody and harmonies, less screaming and more musicianship.  Melody and musicianship have always been more a part of Kansas music than "twang", anyways.  We're much more roots rock than we are country.

And back to my original point, someday Paw is going to be highly sought after by collectors.  They'll be Grunge compilation albums and some of them will feature tunes like 'Death to Traitors' and 'Hope I Die Tonight'.  They're going to search out this album and discover it's softer side with songs like 'Texas' and 'Last One', then they will throw away their Sponge and Stone Temple Pilots CDs.  This is better.

Lawrence, KS It's not just grunge

Death to Traitors

Monday, May 27, 2013

The J.T. Cooke Band Bright Blue Eyes b/w Lasting Man 7" 45 RPM

The J.T. Cooke Band 7" 45 RPM
Bright Blue Eyes b/w Lasting Man
Dynasty Records
CAT #1111 (Unknown Year)

I found this 45 at a garage sale tucked away in a copy of Bill Wyman's Monkey Grip LP.  I was honest with the lady running the garage sale and despite that I could have just kept the 45 tucked I asked, "Hey, this was tucked away in this LP, how much you want for it?"  She looked at it and said, "I don't know."  I replied, "Kind of cool, it's local," as I showed her the address for Dynasty Records was on State Line Road in KC, MO.  "Huh" she began, "$2.00?"  I was shocked, really?  $2.00?  I said, "You only want 50 cents for the record, I'll give you a dollar for both."  She agreed and I came home with this.

Looking at the backside of the sleeve, I figured a few things out: A. There is no J.T. Cooke in this band.  The name is possibly reference to the pipe maker?  B. These 6 dudes are too well groomed to be 70s rockers so despite not having a listed year on the sleeve or 45 this has to be from the 80s.  C. This was going to sound very slick, possibly like the band Kansas with keyboards and guitar licks or it was going to be truly awful bar band stuff.

Fortunately, it's neither.  Unfortunately, it's kind of wimpy.  Very polished and watered down power pop.  Admittedly, the vocal harmonies are nice on both sides, but the songs really lack any sort of punch.  The production is dated giving more reason to believe it's from the 80s.  It's a shame there just isn't more here.  A good solid back beat and this band could have had something similar to Titan! Power Pop out of KC or power pop similar the Shoes (not local).  Just too watered down.

Minimal info on-line, some of the members perform still around KC in classic rock tributes and the like. Perhaps someone who was in the group or friends of the group can shed some light on the year this was released and more info on the band itself.

Slackjaw Uncomfortable b/w Menace 7" 45 RPM 1994

Slackjaw 7" 45 RPM (Red Vinyl)
Uncomfortable b/w Menace
Mercy Records
CAT# MRSJ-012-7

Slackjaw were a bit ahead of their time in 94.  Kind of metal, kind of post-punk, if they had a DJ they would've been geniuses, but they didn't.

What I remember of the band is that I enjoyed the song "Release" from a local CD compilation called 'Loaded in Lawrence'.  It was angry and screamed a lot.  Other than that, I remember the early days of social networking (webboards) and Bob Cutler from this band would continually argue with Scott Born of Kill Creek over who the most popular band from Lawrence, KS was on a local music website.

As for this disc.  It's angry and loud.  I hate to say it's not good because looking at the back cover, the members of Slackjaw look like they like to fight...I don't.  To it's benefit, it was recorded by Ed Rose, the go to guy in all of Kansas for recording throughout the 90s and into the present.  So it sounds good.

It's also labeled Sides 7 & 8, there must be a back story there, possibly other 7"s I'm unaware of or something about the numbers themselves.  The music is bruising and loud.   It's metal, thunderous and slow, with guttural vocals.  If I were to compare Slackjaw to someone cool; later era Black Flag for the slow metal aspect of the tunes.  If I am being honest, pretty MOR mid-90s metal with an underground flair.

BUT, here's the f'n awesome thing about Slackjaw, are you ready for this?  Kliph Scurlock was a former drummer (not featured on this release).  Scurlock's first Lawrence band was Slackjaw.  He'd later gig with Kill Creek and the Panel Donors before becoming a roadie for the Flaming Lips.  He's now the Flaming Lips touring drummer (someone once said he's full-time studio guy too, but I find that hard to believe if Stephen Drozd is in your band as well), regardless he's also a member of Drozd's Paris Gun.

Slackjaw Live

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Boys Life/Vitreous Humor Split 7" 1994

Vitreous Humor/Boy's Life Split 7"
Why Are You So Mean to Me? b/w Temporary
crank! A Record Company
CAT #CRC002 1994

This is Kansas City/Lawrence scene mid-90s on one disc.  It's fantastic and I cut my hipster teeth on this stuff sneaking into shows.  In fact, the last show I had to sneak into before turning 21 was the final Regrets/Vitreous Humor show in Lawrence, KS at the Replay.  It was awesome and I couldn't even drink (at the risk of being caught).

There's so much to say about these two bands, how important they are to Kansas, KCMO, music, the foundations of what would become "emo" a few years later.  But, I'll save it for later releases.

The Boy's Life track "Temporary" is a speed up version of the same song that would appear on their debut LP.  It's a nice side, but I prefer the album version when the band had developed it's sound completely.

The Vitreous Humor side is a f'n hit.  In fact, Nada Surf tried to do just that with it when they covered it as a single.  The song, which is about smoking pot and getting caught, is perfect.  It explodes sonically in Pixie like dynamics.  The lyrics, albeit a little juvenile, are true and from the heart, "You tell mom I'll break your neck, she's already a nervous wreck, I don't smoke it everyday, it doesn't hurt me anyway."  It's so Midwestern-teenager it makes me sick.

Vitreous Humor
Nada Surf ...Yawn...

Get Up Kids/Anniversary Split 7" 1999

The Get Up Kids/The Anniversary split 7"
Central Standard Time B/W Vasic + Bluey
Vagrant Records Heroes & Villains
CAT# VR341/HV002 1999

For a good chunk of time, the Get Up Kids and the Anniversary were freakin' besties around Lawrence. The bands did everything together, toured, put out records together, married one another.  It was kind of weird.  However, both had similar backgrounds,  both bands were primarily made up of suburban kids, ditching college for the life as a rock n' roll band (thus, they could relate to upset parent syndrome).  Difference though, Get Up Kids did things on their own, it took a lot of work to get to the point they were at at the time of this release.  To an outsider, the Anniversary's success seemed to be that of association.  Hang out with the Get Up Kids enough and they'll find you a spot on a tour and their record label.

You can listen to the Anniversary and know that they're talented and a lot of the admiration from the Get Up Kids came from the band's talent.  Their B-side to this 7" Vasic + Bluey is solid.  At this time they were still young and sounded a lot like the Rentals.  Best, they utilized their secret weapon Adrianne Verhoeven a lot.  Her voice cuts over the chorus, her synth drives the song.  She's the middle of the band and the best part of the song.

The Get Up Kids A-side seems a bit of a throw-a-way in all honesty.  A bit over the top with it's emo-ness. The band was/is at it's best when it's all angry teenager emo and not so f'n adult about stuff.  Keyboards add nice little touch, but the energy just isn't there on this track.  Seems obvious, one member wrote the song, the rest just didn't feel the same way about the song, so it ended up on this 7". No pick slides, mid-tempo, no excitement, blah.

Central Standard Time