[The Past Presents] The Modern Lovers – The Modern Lovers (1976)

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The Past Presents is typically where I take a fresh look at an older album, either because it’s regarded as a classic album and I’d like to see if it still holds up, or because it’s an album I feel is special and it never really got the love it deserves. For me, this column was always about looking at the records that many people feel are essential to every record collection. Moving forward, The Past Presents will still bring you these looks back at some great older records, but in and around those reviews, I’ll be writing about my own experiences with some records that are widely loved but I’ve just never had the time to hear. Oftentimes I’ll read about albums that have been on best-of lists for decades or my friends will tell me how great their favorite records are. Some of these I just have not had the time to hear beyond what a friend has played for me or what’s been curated by commercial radio. Sometimes I want to know if a Steely Dan album is really as bad as the singles I’ve heard. To make an effort to fill in some of these gaps for myself, I’ll be hitting record stores looking for albums I’ve heard about but have never listened to, then writing about my impressions. I’ve made a few rules for myself: I have to listen to the album start to finish three times before I write anything, I cannot research the album or the band in any way prior to listening, I can’t read re-issue liner notes, etc. This has to try and replicate a clean, unbiased first listen as much as possible.

To begin this new experiment I’ve chosen The Modern Lovers self-titled debut.

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TRAAMS

“That’s it, right there,” I said to myself, “right when the bass line hits, 40-seconds in, the sound grabs you like a hungry beast looking for satisfaction. ” The crunching guitars and driving drums on “Swimming Pool,” the opening track on the FatCat debut of West Sussex trio TRAAMS, is a bodacious opener […]

Nothing Romantic About UK’s Savages

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“The world used to be silent / Now it has too many voices.”

– Savages (Silence Yourself Manifesto)

As I prepare to see Savages at the Fonda Theatre in L.A. tonight, I look back at my first experience seeing this band earlier this year.

Jerking her head back-and-forth, with sudden and purposeful movements, Jehnny Beth’s dark, piercing black pupils slice through the crowd’s veneer of hipster-euphoria like a Katana sword through a watermelon. Her stage presence is as impressive as Ian Curtis during the genesis of Joy Division, and one day, we’ll all be talking about her ability to own a crowd. So if you weren’t already aware, Beth, the vocalist and lyricist of UK-based quartet Savages, is driven to be taken quite seriously. For her, Savages is fine art; a gallery showcase of her soul, and to be taken seriously as a proper artist is expected.

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The Hipster Gestapo at the El Rey, with their heads spinning as they text their fellow KCRW-listening groupies about the “Next Joy Division,” seem dumbfounded at the monochromatic intensity in the French-born singer’s eyes. As the white lights reveal the wrinkles in their all-black outfits; bass player Ayse Hassan quickly stands out sonically with the pummeling bass line for “City’s Full,” which has the bassist bouncing behind her pearl white P Bass like a possessed beatnik on a pogo stick. The ferocious rhythm section of Savages is the byproduct of Hassan’s experimental punk plucking; smashed together with the outright hydrogen explosion of crashing cymbals and frenetic hi-hat bravado of their drummer, Fay Milton, who is known to have an unconventional warm-up routine that requires isolation and focus. Milton’s virtuosity behind the kit is one of the pillars that will hold this band above their peers, in a different stratosphere, for as long as they wish to occupy the space.

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Palehound: “Pet Carrot”

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The ’90s were the last, and in fact, the most definitive epoch in the music discovery evolution that grew from early DJs introducing new singles on the radio, to the music streaming ‘arms race’ that has managed to reduce the experience of finding a new band to a Google search, a click of the mouse, or spending five minutes on iTunes listening to bands that have nice headshots.

Once upon a time, I would venture into a Backside Records (because that’s what you did), or aimlessly roam the aisles of a Virgin Megastore; reveling in the ‘shot in the dark’  experience (think Kurt Cobain shopping in a Salvation Army in Aberdeen), of buying a record that had twelve tracks, all of which I had never heard before the five-minutes I spent on a dirty headphone sampling booth, which required the dedication of a music fan willing to purchase new ‘merch’ at a gig, even push through a pit (risking bodily harm) to get close enough to feel the spray of sweat from the bass players fingertips. It was a time where unless you were vacuous enough to subscribe to “free” CD mailers from Columbia House, you would have to engage in a music hunting bloodsport to discover new bands that weren’t being reviewed by Rolling Stone or part of an MTV music video show hosted by Kennedy or Kurt Loder. All of which, if you’ve been living in a cave since 1998, no longer exist.

Ellen Kempner, now nineteen-years-old, was born right around the time Kurt Cobain was found dead in his Lake Washington greenhouse. She’s a product of the ’90s, and while she may not have had the opportunity to see Shannon Hoon’s acid-induced Woodstock performance, or purchase Vans and flannel-shirts without being ‘vintage,’ she somehow seems to perfectly tap into the insular, somewhat quirky, and angst-filled emotions that so many artists embodied during the ’90s — when being sarcastically unhappy was the topic of reality TV shows and song lyrics that embodied the now extinct remnants of ‘Seattle Sound.’

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I don’t have a witty pun to describe Parts & Labor, but their music is awesome

These lovely guys (and girl) go by the name Parts & Labor, and they’re from the ridiculously fertile music grounds of Brooklyn. Technically, their music is some mishmash of indie, punk and noise, but with their latest album, Receivers (released in late 2008), they’ve injected their noisy tendencies with some more poppy song […]

Panama Kings unreleased track

Panama Kings (out of Belfast) are releasing a new single on May 11th called “Golden Recruit.” After checking out the myspace of these guys, I decided that I would probably be alright to sway back and forth and bob my head in rhythmic fashion while their music is playing. That being said, it is […]

The ability to reinvent yourself.

As I was listening to “The Shape Of Punk To Come” by Swedish hardcore band Refused, I was immediately reminded of the time when I thought genres of music were defined by one or two bands. I used to think that all punk rock would sound like NOFX and every band before 1980 […]

Titus Andronicus!

First of all, read this. I would not normally go to wikipedia for my source, but this article seems to sum it up quite nicely. In order to understand the band Titus Andronicus, you must first understand what it means to be Titus Andronicus. Ok. Good.

Now that you understand what it […]

Electric Six at the Black Cat

On November 19th (Tomorrow Night), Electric Six will be playing at the Black Cat in DC. Electric Six is a six-piece disco, garage, fusion punk-rock metal orgasm from Detroit. You may know them from the single “Danger! High Voltage!” that features guest vocals by someone that sounds mysteriously like Jack White. Although they can […]