Welcome to the new and improved Adios Lounge. If you were wondering why I hadn’t updated the site in a few weeks, you now have my official explanation. Well, that and laziness, but mostly this fancypants redesign from Kelley Chambers at Runs With Pixels. I love it and I hope you do, too. It’s funny, when I started The Adios Lounge 4 1/2 years ago, I never thought I’d need a redesign because I was sure this was a passing fancy. However, unlike my forays into nude beekeeping and interpretive chess, it’s clear that the Lounge is here to stay. I should also have merchandise available in the next couple months. True story.
So, while I’ve reinvented and revivified The Adios Lounge, it’s probably not a coincidence that I’ve been drawn to music of similar stock. The five bands discussed below have all released new albums this year, they range from good to great, and I pretty much have have them listed in my order of preference, 5-1. All five bands feature members, like me, largely in their 40s and (gulp!) 50s. Their age might not normally be worth mentioning, but these aren’t classical, jazz, folk, or country records we’re talking about. Rock culture is skewed horribly to the 25-35 demographic and fact is, most of our favorite rock ‘n’ roll songs were written and recorded by musicians in their 20s and 30s. That said, these records kicks that historical assumption in the ass with weathered Doc Martens.
* Please note that I’m differentiating between a middle-aged rock musician putting on a great show and that same musician writing great new rock ‘n’ roll songs. The first one requires talent, but mostly involves being a professional. The second one has proven to be exponentially more difficult for even the best songwriters.
This is the story of 2012. To use Bob Mould as an example, no one should expect Hüsker Deüx at this point in his career. But, his new album is the best damn thing he’s done since Sugar, and it may already be better. That’s why it feels like a comeback, despite the fact Mould hasn’t really gone anywhere. For him and the musicians in se other four bands, this year has indeed been a “silver age,” a period of genuine rebirth and renaissance from some unexpected names. As a 43-year-old whose salad days are so far in the rearview mirror, they may as well have been in 19th century, I for one welcome our Silver Age overlords. Now, get off my lawn, watch these videos, and learn yourself some things or I’ll come over there and DEAR LORD WHY IS IT SO COLD?!?!
Dinosaur Jr – Watch The Corners
I’m not sure Dinosaur Jr‘s new album, I Bet On Sky, will make my theoretical Top 10 for 2012. Like pretty much every Dinosaur Jr album since either Where You Been (1993) or Without A Sound (1994), there are 3 songs I love, 3 songs I don’t love, and 4 songs that are flawed, but with enough to keep me coming back, usually J Mascis‘ guitar. And I’m OK with that. Steady consistency is valuable in and of itself and those high points are fucking high.
To wit, this Funny or Die video for maybe the album’s best song. Tim Heidecker (Tim and Eric) co-stars as the protective, spastic, slightly creepy, but ultimately heroic father whose comely young daughter gets played by a supermarket Lothario. And yes, maybe I just wanted to use the phrase “supermarket Lothario.” Wanna fight about it?
Mission Of Burma – 7’s + What They Tell Me + Opener
Mission Of Burma is like Breaking Bad. If you come in thinking you’re gonna get quick resolutions, easy payoffs, and not have to put forth any effort, you’ll probably find yourself giving up. I say stick with it. MoB is a lot of angles, tangents, and murky enigma, with their periodic bursts of anthemia the most accessible elements of their face-melting genius. Burma is like an alternate universe Who, totally underground, and one whose rock opera would be entitled Claustrophenia.
The final trio of songs on Unsound are an excellent Mission Of Burma sampler, featuring one song each from bassist Clint Conley, drummer Peter Prescott, and guitarist Roger Miller. “7’s” is the latest, greatest Conley anthem, a perfect single in a perfect world. I’d love to hear it blaring loudly out of car speakers, preferably belonging to me. “What They Tell Me” is a Prescott shouter that would be a perfect B-side. A little Strummer flavor, maybe some Superchunk, and a strange, horny outro. “Opener” (which of course is the closer) is a schizo Miller song that’s part surf music and part space prog, featuring a funky Conley bassline, Miller’s Hendrixy guitar, and Prescott’s angsty, coiled brilliance on drums. All three guys are such capable musicians, but Prescott’s heavy foot and quick hands have been a Burma safety net from the beginning.
On a related note, I think embedding the album as a YouTube video makes for an excellent “listening station.” The sound is good, the album is visually represented on a timeline, which I like (and sometimes use), and I can either listen start to finish or play the songs individually. For the record, this is also what I like about Soundcloud. Well done, anonymous internet heroes!
Off! – Wiped Out
Maybe you have to be from southern California to enjoy this, but I’ll never tire of classic LA punk. If I do, you have permission to punch me in my stupid face. “Wiped Out” is “Nervous Breakdown” redux, an aggressive, curiously joyous ‘fuck you’ that changed music and changed Los Angeles. If nothing else, the song’s only 1:13. Even if you don’t like it, it doesn’t last that long. In fact, the album’s 16 songs don’t even total 16 minutes! Put that in your self-indulgent bong and smoke it, hippie.
Off! features two mainstays of old school South Bay punk: Singer Keith Morris (Black Flag, Circle Jerks), who is 50-fucking-7 years old as of last week, and bassist Steve McDonald (Redd Kross, see below) who is “only” 45, but whose career began when he was all of 11! Basically, he was Tommy Stinson before Tommy Stinson. Off! drummer Mario Rubalcaba (Rocket From The Crypt, Hot Snakes) has to be in (or nearing) his 40s and guitarist/songwriter/producer, Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides), is the youngin at, I’d guess, his mid-30s.
Consider this. Way back in the late ’70s — pre-MTV, pre-video games, pre-cable TV, pre-personal computer, and pre-Reagan (sorta) — Keith Morris and Steve McDonald used to practice with their bands (Black Flag and The Tourists/Red Cross, respectively) at the same location in Hermosa Beach, a fact referenced in “Feelings Are Meant To Be Hurt”:
“Saw you with the Red Cross (Redd Kross)
In the basement of The Church.”
At the time, The Tourists/Red Cross drummer was Ron Reyes and one of their guitarists was Greg Hetson. This factoid wouldn’t be especially noteworthy were it not for the fact that in the summer of 1979, Reyes replaced Keith Morris as the singer in Black Flag, while Morris and Hetson left to start the Circle Jerks. Amazing to think that over three decades later, them Church boys are not only still making music, but making compelling punk rock! How in the world is a 57-year-old dude like Morris attacking the mic?!?! As for McDonald, Off! isn’t the only resurrection in his bag of 2012 tricks, as our visit to the Redd Kross camp below will make clear.
Bob Mould – The Descent
“I didn’t want to play the song
That gave people so much hope
I turned my back and turned away
Here’s the rope that made me choke.”
It’s probably been 20 years since I actively followed Bob Mould. Of course I loved Hüsker Dü and I liked Sugar well enough. Then, Mould moved on to other things, including professional wrestling (?!!?), and I wasn’t sure we’d get a return to the heavy rock trio. And yet, here we are. Silver Age not only returns to the basic Copper Blue formula, it might surpass it. Obviously, time and perspective will determine that, but I had zero expectations for this record and it’s damn near blown me away.
In fine Mould tradition, I’m not crazy about the production of Silver Age. Don’t hate it, don’t love it, let’s call it a wash. But, the songs are strong enough that it doesn’t really matter. So, this ferocious Letterman performance succeeds on two levels: it takes the production out of the equation and highlights the best part of this project: the power trio. Mould’s voice is in fine snarl, as is his guitar, especially during the solo from 2:31-2:50 (though it’s buried in the mix). He also looks like he’s having fun, which would’ve been unexpected when he was 31. The fact that he’s 51 is both encouraging and blows me away.
Jason Narducy has played with Mould before, so his bass and backup vocals are locked in after a ton of shows together. Meanwhile, drummer Jon Wurster (Superchunk) lifts the arrangements with his distinctive swing, and was an inspired choice by Mould to sit behind the kit. I would say he looks like the cat that swallowed the canary, but really he looks like the canary that can’t believe he was asked to join the cat’s band. Awesome to see these guys, including Dave, look like they’re having fun.
The only problem I have with this otherwise amazing video is that the volume seems to fluctuate, especially at the beginning. Granted, there is a chance I’m having a stroke, but if you hear the same thing please let me know. I’d like to unbookmark this damn WebMD page.
Redd Kross – Stay Away From Downtown
This is my favorite song of the year and Redd Kross was also kind enough to make a video for me. Granted, they have ridiculous Kiss-inspired makeup, but on the bright side they have ridiculous Kiss-inspired makeup. If you’re gonna go, go big. That’s my policy. What I love about this song, if not the entirety of their new album, Researching The Blues, is that it reminds me of what I love about Cheap Trick and Grand Champeen. So many hooks that it feels like power-pop, but so much power that you can simply call it rock ‘n’ roll and not be wrong. Would you like some sha-la-la with those chunky riffs? Of course you would. Where Mission Of Burma is valuable because they explicitly challenge your expectations of rock music, Redd Kross has distilled those expectations into a fine, concentrated powder. Neither direction is inherently correct or better, all that matters is execution. Got it, art nerd in the homemade Fugazi T-shirt? Good.
What amazes me about Redd Kross is that this may be the best album in their 30+ year career. Has there been a single musical artist in the last 50 years you can say that about??? Phaseshifter was a very good record, Neurotica, Show World, and Born Innocent all have their moments, but Researching The Blues is an unrelenting powerhouse. It’s not particularly innovative, merely reaffirming all the things one might’ve loved about Redd Kross in the past. There’s the melodious slices of pop and Byrds-y psych with Jeff McDonald and little brother Steve — and yes, that would be the same Steve from Off! — offering their distinctive, can’t-teach-that sibling harmonies. Add in Jeff and Robert Hecker on dual lead guitars — though it’s longtime RK backup guitarist, Jason Shapiro, in the “Downtown” video — and the mostly unheralded, though solidly in the pocket rhythm section, Steve on bass and Roy McDonald (no relation, also in The Muffs) on drums. Redd Kross doesn’t have a lot of moving parts, but boy howdy, do they move in the right direction.
FYI, when I first heard the Bob Mould record, I called it the Majesty Shredding of 2012. Especially given Wurster’s involvement, Silver Age seemed like a comeback on par with Superchunk’s great album from 2010. After several more weeks of consideration, I now think Researching The Blues is the better comparison. Stylistically, Researching and Majesty are closer to each other than Silver Age, but RTB is also a bona fide comeback. This is Redd Kross’ first album in 15 years (!!!), even more impressive than Majesty being Superchunk’s first album in 9 years. While Mould may have returned to the rock trio format, it’s not like he stopped making music. So, his “comeback” is more of an abstraction. Redd Kross hasn’t just been off the radar, they may as well have been off the grid entirely. A new album from them, let alone one as good as Researching The Blues, is a like a magical bolt from the middle of nowhere. Only “nowhere” in this case is Los freaking Angeles. So it goes.
By the way, I think it’s worth mentioning that all three of these fine albums can be found on Merge Records, which means you should probably buy all of them immediately.
Redd Kross – Researching The Blues
Let me leave you with some live Redd Kross. Shot this past July in Portland, and featuring Jason Shapiro on second guitar, here’s the title track from their killer new record. Long live Redd Kross! Long live The Adios Lounge!