Friday, May 30, 2014

In Defense Of: Ska

This In Defense Of was contributed by Reid Attaway, guitarist for Murphy's Kids, occasional bassist for Eastern Standard Time, and utmost defender of the ska faith.

Disclaimer from the Author: As a native of Richmond, Virginia, I’ve spent most of my touring time in this half of the country, so my references will be largely from this side of the country, especially considering the niche nature of most third-wave ska. A handful of bands of note from west of the Mississippi that I didn’t get to in the article include MU330, Five Iron Frenzy, The Urge, I Voted For Kodos, and Mustard Plug.

Dicky Barrett is in a ska band, and he's cooler than you.
The year is 1997, and MTV is still playing music, having just delved into the juggernaut that Total Request Live would become and beginning the precipitous decline into the vast wasteland of reality TV we observe today. MTV VJs are wearing Hawaiian shirts and inviting bands like Reel Big Fish and The Stubborn All-Stars to perform live on air. No Doubt, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and Goldfinger all have hits on the radio, and — generally speaking — it’s happy music…on the radio?!?!

By this point, Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Stone Temple Pilots’ angst-ridden, myopic teenage-insecurity-affirming grunge has been dominating our radios and (fortunately or not) our hearts for almost five years. What is this new style of music?  Rock bands with horns…like that band my dad likes, Chicago?

Carson Daly cheerily informs you that this new music is called “ska,” and if you fast-forward barely two years it will be totally extinct on the airwaves. Indeed, outside the heaviest of hitters — No Doubt, Sublime, and the Bosstones — ska bands were all but shelved into basement house shows, and virtually all mainstream references to ska and its culture are relegated to butt-of-joke status. Ska music was dead in the mainstream, and ska kids everywhere were either burning their Reel Big Fish shirts in favor of Korn and Limp Bizkit schwag, or lamenting the unceremonious departure of their beloved genre mashup from the mainstream. I’ll begrudgingly admit that I was one of the select few who both retained a love of ska and acquiesced to the angsty adolescent sounds of the rap-rock juggernaut.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Square Zeros #20: Seth Applebaum and Greg Hanson (The Mad Doctors, The Fucktons, Long Kill, King Pizza, Ghostload, Coyote Gospel, Southern Fried Funk, Zitronenmelisse)

Seth and Greg killing it at Human Head Records. 
It's a balmy night in April and the power chords are blaring out the front door of Human Head Records in Bushwick. Inside, the shop is packed with people and it feels more like the dead of summer. Long strands of toilet paper are everywhere — draped over the shelves, tangled around limbs, balled up on the floor, and hanging like tentacles from the ceiling fan. There's a box of latex gloves floating around and people are blowing them up and batting them around the room like beach balls. The hardwood is slick with cheap beer. The band is a power trio playing fast, scuzzy, loud-as-hell garage punk with a voodoo tinge. The singer's howling like Gerry Roslie. The bassist keeps getting knocked out of tune by the shakers in the front row. The drummer is nearly naked.

Welcome to a Mad Doctors show.

Monday, May 19, 2014

In Defense Of: Oasis

This In Defense Of was written by Square Zeros' Jon Mann.

Liam and Noel Gallagher, immediately before and/or
after absolutely hating each other.
One of the Internet's best musical offerings of this year has been Sam Huxley's ten-minute supercut of Noel Gallagher's best comments from Time Flies, Oasis's 2010 box set, which includes a full DVD of Oasis music videos.  If you question whether Oasis needs to be "defended," you need look only as far as Noel Gallagher, because there is no single greater critic of Oasis that its own guitarist and principle songwriter. (Henceforth, Noel Gallagher will be referred to simply as "Gallagher", as he's the one that actually matters.)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Square Zeros #19: Jim Wood (Clouder, Crazy Pills, Dr. Breakfast, Deep Fiend)

When we started Square Zeros, we weren’t sure how excited accomplished musicians would be about digging up their oldest, least-accomplished tracks and offering them up to everyone on the Internet for scrutiny. We get it: it’s a sensitive subject to ask someone for the most vulnerable material in their experience. Some people we approach still take convincing.

But not Jim Wood. Jim’s a drummer whose current projects range pretty widely from psych rock (Clouder) to garage-pop (Crazy Pills) to hip-hop (Dr. Breakfast) — and he's one of the more gregarious guys in the Brooklyn music scene — so perhaps we were naive not to assume that he would be totally game for anything. And sure enough, seemingly minutes after we first unveiled this site, Jim sent us a link to his high school band Deep Fiend.

Monday, May 12, 2014

In Defense Of: "Starships" by Nicki Minaj

This In Defense Of comes from NYC-based writer and radio journalist Matt Collette.

It's the summer of 2012, and Nicki Minaj’s “Starships” is everywhere. So you can imagine my confusion when the DJ at my friends Erin and Evan’s wedding tells me he’s never heard of it.

“Yes, you have,” I fire back, probably a little drunk off the wedding’s open bar. “Everyone has heard this song. It is the song of the summer. Look on your computer. It is probably already there.”

Monday, May 5, 2014

In Defense Of: Foo Fighters

This In Defense Of was contributed by Square Zeros' Jon Mann.

Nirvana + Germs/Adolescents + Sunny Day Real Estate
= Something You Should Probably Listen To
Out of an all-abiding love for the music of Run-D.M.C., I briefly watched the MTV reality show Run’s House (2005-2009).  Perhaps the funniest single moment on the show occurred during an episode where Run was being constantly annoyed by his teenage son and daughter asking him for things. In response, Run started smiling maniacally and shouting the refrain from “Best of You” by the Foo Fighters whenever they would come around, an act that consisted of Run pounding on whatever piece of furniture was closest to him with the flat of his hand while shouting “THE BEST! THE BEST! THE BEST! THE BEST!” until his kids broke off laughing or stormed away angrily.

At first flush, the joke operated on Run’s charisma and his kids’ reactions, but it also worked because by 2005, Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl’s famous intensity had become ripe for parody. Grohl’s sense of rock urgency, from his teenage love of punk rock and cult metal in the 1980s through his tenure as the drummer for Nirvana in the 1990s, had by the mid-2000s come to be read as something practiced, mainstream, and potentially insincere among many rock listeners and critics.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m one of those listeners. Grohl’s music these days seems to suffer from a production aesthetic that compromises his often strong and dynamic songwriting. It wasn’t always that way. It occurred to me recently that, if you were born, say, in the late '80s or beyond, Foo Fighters have always been pretty tame and — at times — outright crap, and their current music hasn’t given you any reason to dig deeper. Allow me.

In Defense Of: "You Get What You Give" by The New Radicals

This In Defense Of was contributed by Square Zeros' Derek Hawkins.

Sometimes it's best to let Ice-T do the talking.

In summer 2006, the Soldier of the Highest Degree appeared on Late Night With Conan O'Brien, who asked if there was music he liked that would surprise his fans

"The most pop record I used to really like was a song by The New Radicals," Ice-T said, and proceeded to sing, "Don't give up / you got the music in you!"

"I had that CD and I bumped it all the way to Vegas," he said. "And I was just feeling it, and it was just, like, two white boys in a mall singing, or something. I just dug it. I used to rock that."

When you've got the author of "6 In The Mornin'" on your side, I don't know how much more of a defense you need.

But I'll elaborate.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Square Zeros #17: MAYOR CREEP (The Misled, Dethryderz, The Norris Address, Spratt)

How to describe Brooklyn's Mayor Creep to the uninitiated...

Mayor Creep is composed of four guys who came to it from far-flung, pop-oriented projects. Jeremy was (and is) in the beachier Air Waves; Alex Heigl made polished garage pop with Brother Reverend; Nick played with the hooky, lo-fi indie pop act Dinosaur Feathers; and Alex Gruenburg fronted the moodier power trio We Run.

Anyone who's seen them live, or picked up their dynamite split cassette Krangnitas (with heavy shred headbangers Hounds Basket), is sure to have questions. To understand how they came by their current brand of lightning-fast, super-tight, and often hilarious hardcore rants, you've got to dig deeper, which is precisely what we do here at Square Zeros. Welcome.