Oats

Oats

Aug 222012
 

My parents had a family picnic this past Saturday. Early on, my sister, my wife, and I drove to the local ACME to pick up some last-minute party things. My sister had Pet Sounds playing in her car, and she asked me if it was possible that the Beach Boys might be better than the Beatles.

I hedged my bets. I acknowledged that the Beach Boys’ rich five-part harmonies can sound richer and more dazzling than the Fabs’ mere three-vocal frontline. But, I said, no one in the Beach Boys could sing loud, nasty rock ‘n’ roll like John Lennon.

My sister is four years younger than me, in her early 30s. I pointed out that the Beach Boys have so many albums, many of them with a lot of crap, but also a lot of great songs that people of our generation didn’t always get to here at first—like “Let Him Run Wild,” “Darlin’” and “Surf’s Up.” All we knew of the Beach Boys growing up consisted of their many ’60s hits on oldies radio, and of course Mr. Mod’s beloved “Kokomo.” On the other hand, the Beatles have fewer albums and, growing up, there was always a Beatles Sunday Brunch or somesuch weekly show on oldies, classic-rock or AOR radio stations. So once you get into the Beatles—as I did in fourth grade—it’s surprisingly easy to get familiar with the entire canon. This breeds familiarity which eventually can breed you-know-what, or at least make it difficult to hear those songs with new ears after x amount of years.

Now, I can think of at least one Townsperson who definitely prefers the Beach Boys. But, just as we once contemplated the ways the Kinks might be preferable in some ways to the Beatles, can we all think of ways that the Beach Boys might be better? Are, in fact, some of the preferable ways related to the weird lurking corners of the post-“Do it Again” era?

Incidentally, it’s no contest as far as my wife is concerned. She like the Beatles better, and thinks they were much more influential and significant. For example, she points out that the Beach Boys didn’t inspire male teenagers all over the world to stop cutting their hair.

Also, isn’t it funny that the battle is always “Beatles vs Stones,” rather than “Beatles vs not-Stones”? Some media narratives die extra-hard, I guess.

I look forward to your responses.

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XTC: The Haircuts

 Posted by
Aug 202012
 

Andy Partridge himself brought this video to my attention today, via his Twitter account. (Yes, I agree; it’s a little confusing that the former frontman of XTC uses a Twitter account called “xtcfans.”) I actually remember watching this as a RealPlayer file when it came out around 1999. Anyway, it’s one of the more unique entries of the Apple Venus media blitz. See if you can detect any evidence of the looming Partridge and Moudling split. Enjoy!

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Indie-Rock Titanic

 Posted by
Jul 172012
 

I don’t mean to be tasteless, but I think this is a really bad idea and, at the risk of sounding too idealist, kind of the death-knell for indie-rock values. A Coachella cruise sounds like a bit Scharpling and Wurster would come up with to parody the increasingly moneyed alternative music scene. Said bit would definitely culminate with some hilariously gruesome denouement. Hence my headline and photo.

I mean, imagine Woodstock ’99 — but on a boat this time.

And check out some of those prices. I am no Fugazi-style punk-rock purist, to be sure. But this is definitely a step too far in the other direction.

Adding salt to my wounds, one of my favorite bands Pulp — a group that once championed the underdogs, the terminally uncool and underemployed — are headlining. Criminy!

I feel complicit in all this. I too am sometimes easily swayed by nostalgia, by the lure of this or that reunited band. I don’t spend as much time or money as I should on new music. (I’m better than some, not as good as others, in that regard.) I can’t help but wonder if I helped force the music world’s hand. Nobody buys music or goes to shows, so bands are forced to sign up for gimmicks like this.

But on the other hand, I’m really loving the new King Tuff album right now, so thankfully there’s usually someone scrappy and enthusiastic out there to talk me off the ledge and remind me of good things rock music can do.

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Jun 162012
 

It’s (almost) summer in the city; perfect weather for listening to Versus, a band I’ve been wanting to write about on RTH for a while now.

In one light, Versus were among the more prominent also-rans of ’90s indie-rock. As this article points out, they were maybe not as distinctive, unique and rock-crit-friendly as Pavement, Superchunk, Guided by Voices, and others. But they were reliable and breezy. They had a great handle on guitar parts that moved seamlessly between grinding and jangly. Their songs were often briskly rhythmic and effortlessly melodic—sometimes even heart-rending—without ever devolving into fussy, overarranged prock.

The band has always been led by its two singers, guitarist Richard Baluyut (right, above) and bassist Fontaine Toups (center). For most of the band’s existence, Richard’s brother Ed (left) has played drums. Arguably, the band’s best albums are the ones that featured another Baluyut brother, James (not pictured) on second guitar.

Maybe what I like most about Versus is the way they come across as cool and urbane and yet folks-next-door. This was the great thing about indie-rock, before it became all about beards, NPR, and acoustic guitars. Discovering and re-discovering Versus is like discovering and re-discovering the city all over again. Not a particular city, necessarily; just the idea of The City as a place where you can meet like-minded individuals, have your horizons subtly expanded and so forth. This music makes me want to go to coffeeshops and used bookstores and get a job in the doomed field of alternative-weekly journalism all over again.

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