Tuesday, 18 September 2012

15 Years of Listening to the same band.

There were about fifteen of us in a barn-converted loft in Snohomish, Wa with shag carpet, card tables and scatterings of chips and soda, passing around a portable landline. My buddy Cliff gets through.

"1077 The End."

"Hi. I'm part of the vast conspiracy trying to get you to play Local H." 

"Oh, Jesus. We've talked to a lot of you tonight."

* * * * *

In college, when people related their prom stories with equal parts instant nostalgia and maturity-based distance, this was always when I had to explain to them that I was Home-Schooled, and it worked differently for me, that instead of the go/don't go binary, I got a Third Option-- I was the DJ. And in my cool-music-kid stories, the one about playing the Pixies' "Where is My Mind" as a final slowdance got loads of "oh, man, that's awesome."
And it was, in that record-store clerk sort of way. Very few people cared; it was slow enough they could rub their thighs against one another in what was (theoretically) as close as any of us would come to sex before God came down from the Heavens with a Ring and The One and we were bathed in glorious copulative light.

The REAL cool moment, though, had come the year before, when, after a frenzy-producing "backstreet's back," I popped on "Fritz's Corner."
Rather than dividing the room into Rockers and Preppies (or whatever highschool movie thing you're into) the whole room was stomping, shouting and basically going nuts in their lipstick and prom-dresses and tuxes. It's one of the few times I've seen music work exactly like it feels it should-- grabbing people by the ears and taking them with it, no matter. Trying to convey this moment to people unfamiliar with Local H, or too cool, required too many explanations of context.
Immediately following the song, a Perpetually Concerned Mother scampered up to the DJ Booth.

"You are doing a GREAT JOB. Really wonderful job, I-- we, the other chaperones-- just have one request. Please, no more songs like that last one."

* * * *
I think I was sort of annoyed at Cliff that night, because I actually thought it would "work."
I later got into a long argument with Marco Collins, the DJ at 107.7 the end, about his refusal to play the group after listening to Hamfisted, which he threw against the wall for sounding so much like Bleach. 

Yeah, I said. But who the hell rips off "Bleach?!" You play Bush ALL THE TIME.

(aside: there's something pretty cool about a Radio Personality who will devote 15 minutes to arguing with a16 year old. everyone was sad when he left, even if we were a bit skeptical about his love of British Electronic Music.)
* * * *

It was during my scarf-phase and green fuzzy jacket phase and hair nice and fluffy phase, and arguably H's
punkest phase they stopped at Graceland, in Seattle, touring on the No Fun EP, which was great, but I was already ready for a new album, to the point where I could name songs from this theoretical record.
"Hey, play everyone alive!"

"Oh man. You're a pretty girl. Just the sort I'd take home to my mom. . . ."
 * * * * *

 (there is a VHS copy of Local H's 1998 show at RCKNDY sitting somewhere next to some Darkwing Duck cartoons I taped off TV when I was 10.)

* * * * *
Here Comes the Zoo-- arguably the band's last real stab at recapturing/continuing radio/mainstream success, came out the same week Jason and Alina died in car accident. there was nothing on Zoo that spoke to that, directly, but a new release from my favorite band, and the discussions/analyzations of it with close friends, provided something to enjoy, and be good at talking about, when there wasn't much else of either.

* * * *
arguably, I tend to rep 1998's Pack Up the Cats the hardest, though it was As Good As Dead that first introduced me to their basic thing. The basic thing being a grim underdog sensibility, blue collar angst, angst-angst, sarcasm, humor, sensitivity, and not-to-be-underestimated-- hard, catchy rock.
though I might say that 2004's Whatever Happened to PJ Soles? has the group's best 3-song run in the whole catalogue.

* * * *

you know this year was a blur; I only thought it was fun at first.

* * * *
Yes, I've hung out with Scott Lucas a few times. He's always been pretty drunk.
-- Elizabeth, from The Reputation, at the same afterparty that yielded "Mayonaise and mustard" and arguably my most performed poem.

for a while, the lyric in PUTC's song "Hit the Skids. . . or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Rock" about wanting to go to parties where you knew people, have friends who were doing things, and feeling completely fucking out of place, that was me. Then, at some point, I realized I was at afterparties with touring bands, getting free drinks at Caps (oh, man. Caps.) and free passes to shows. The relevant lyric then became . . . I'm in love with Rock and roll, but that'll change eventually.

(acoustic version for maximum lyric accessibility.)
Likewise, for someone who takes on musical taste as such a large part of their identity, as I spent less time in my room and more time in crowded clubs, or hyper-catered sorts of gatherings, I always assumed I'd get over it. That the designated "cool" bands from highschool/early college-- your Sonic Youths, Far, Radiohead, etc-- would be the ones whose banner I'd wave in the parade of evolving musical identity. Because it's really exhausting to try to explain to your friends why you like a band that they don't care about, let alone over the course of years.
Because this isn't some canonized cult-- "Wait, you like THE FALL? I also like THE FALL," "Dude, Trout Mask Replica"-- nor was it a "quirky' pop-love ("It's embarrassing but I am SO INTO Christina Aguilera!") or a nostalgia-based taste. Plenty of folks were like "oh yeah! I remember (all the kids are right)(bound for the floor) (high fiving mf)" but few wanted to hear about the NEW album. Crowded rooms where large, bearded men who listened to BOTH types of music-- Heavy AND Metal-- "playfully" shoved me in my So/So t-shirt and turned back to the bar with a "what are you, new?" Kids for whom music was invented by the Beatles in 1966, ceased to exist around 1973, then started existing again with Kid A doing that indie-rock self-hug and openjawed sneer.
Though, to be fair, 2004's Whatever happened to PJ Soles? had a more than a few plays at Lobster House parties and a few converts at that.

(interestingly enough, have the same problems with Mudhoney, a far more conventionally "credible" act. maybe it's a grunge thing.)
* * * *
Everytime I listen to Local H I marvel that Graham managed to pick a band out in 1997 that essentially nobody else cared about and that was arguably already irrelevant and somehow,15 years later they're one of the only bands that existed then who are still making good music. Either it was incredibly genius or complete luck.-- Josh Adams.

* * * *

So what brings this up?

today is the guys' 7th record release and I'm fucking stoked. I'm still into these guys; every time I think i'm done, that hey, I have McLusky now, I'll just throw on the new Queens of the Stone Age, it's really all about Future of the Left for me now, H do what they do, and do it a little bit better each time. Seeing the new single for a band I've been into since highschool and the guys looking kind of like cool uncles, with grey beards and all, that's not an "I'm getting old" moment, that's rad. Of course I'm getting older, -- linear time, hello-- but there's a comfort in seeing them own it, do their thing and, frankly, keep kicking ass. This blog was originally going to do a lot more of the music-reviewing; why Here Comes the Zoo suffered under Jack Douglas' hand, the strength of the concept behind 12 Angry Months and how it'd have been devastating to me if it'd come out when I was in Bham instead of Swansea, but that's not the point. I got out of music writing for a reason, and I'm not trying to convince anyone any more.
I don't know if Hallelujah! I'm a Bum will be their best album, or what it'll do commercially, but I'm about to hop on a bus and go pick it up.


James Rosenzweig said...

I know your creative energies are aimed at poetry and visual arts right now, Graham, but someday I hope you take up this kind of prose memoir thing as a more sustained endeavor. I would read the hell of that stuff, the parts I identified with and the parts I didn't, and I think a lot of other people would too. You are so good at understanding why people (yourself included) think and act the way they do, and you convey it in a way that is always engaging to read. Consider this my pre-order of whatever you produce, whenever you produce it. :-)

Joe Hemmerling said...

Hey, man, stumbled across this through Local H's Facebook. Great piece of writing, one that magnificently sums up my feelings on the band and that weird wall you run into trying to introduce them to people who haven't been following along.