MP3 player fully charged and reloaded; tomorrow is going to be filled with ALL THE JAMS. #andyouwillknowusbythetrailofdead #trailofdead #aywkubttod #sourcetagsandcodes #adebisishank #thirdalbum #rosetta #adeterminismofmorality #thearrivals #volatilemolotov #jams
MAXIMUM TRIUMPHANCY!!! UNPARALLELED EPICLARITY!!!
Listened to this for the first time from beginning to end. First time in a long while I’ve spent the duration of a whole record wondering what the bloody hell’s going on. In a mostly good way, mind… #talkingheads #remaininlight #eno #brianeno #davidbyrne #1980 #onceinalifetime
Angry bath-time selfie. None of this taking-photos-of-my-legs hoss shit. #bubblebeard #bathbeard #beard #bath #bubbles #angry #selfie (at The Bath)
This song sounds like the entire universe collapsing in on itself. I was driving towards the sunset while listening to it today; I wouldn’t have been entirely surprised if the sun had turned into a black hole in response. And if you think that’s some lame Soundgarden reference, you clearly haven’t been paying attention to how unfeasibly heavy this track is. God damn…
This week’s soundtrack… #deafheaven #sunbather #deathwish #talons #newtopographics #bigscarymonsters #bsm #laurastevenson #wheel #dongiovanni #mogwai #earthdivision #rockaction #postrock #blackmetal #shoegaze #folk #indierock #jams
In case you haven’t noticed: it’s 2014, and that would make it a full 20 years since punk “broke.” Every music site, blog, and print publication worth its salt has been taking the opportunity to commemorate the 20-year anniversaries of all the big releases of 1994 that came under the general banner of “alternative”: Green Day’s Dookie, The Offspring’s Smash and Weezer’s (officially self-titled) Blue Album have all regularly been getting the once over again to verify that yes, they do still stand up a whole two decades later. However, the records I find more interesting from this period are the oddities; the records which didn’t have the colossal commercial and cultural impact of the aforementioned classics; the stranger fruits that only the fertile soils of the mid-90s post-Nirvana musical climate could have produced. And to my mind, there’s no record that quite embodies that sense of brazen individuality and commitment to intensity as well as Yank Crime, the second and final full-length by San Diego’s Drive Like Jehu.
Drive Like Jehu were a band that didn’t so much play their instruments as savagely wring the noise right out of them. The vast majority of their songs harnessed that frantic runaway-train feeling where everything was always seemingly only a few seconds away from collapsing in on itself, something the band damn near perfected on their 1991 self-titled album. For its follow-up they seemed largely intent on taking every aspect that defined their sound and cranking each one up several notches. Yank Crime is a remarkable listen even today; a mind-boggling tower of noise that sees complex, mile-a-minute drum patterns stacked on top of jugular-tearing basslines, vocals that scream, yelp and drawl with little regard for melody, and fucked up walls of squalling guitar abuse. Really, it’s the latter element that defines the album; just listen to the closing third of 9+ minute album centrepiece “Luau” and try to identify anything that even remotely resembles a traditional riff. And yet there’s a distinct sense that these guys knew exactly what they were doing; every creaking blast of feedback seems somehow controlled; the intricate overlapping of Rick Froberg and John Reis’ guitars seems to tease the listener with the occasional, brief split-second of harmony before they both turn tail in opposite sonic directions and run off wild-eyed on tangents, strangling out noises you’d scarcely believe one could make with a guitar.
I realise that the last paragraph saw me trying in vain to grasp at all manner of adjectives in an effort to describe a wholly individual album (one that sounds light-years removed from even the closest kindred spirits to which one might compare it) so if you’re not familiar with Drive Like Jehu, it’s worth taking a few minutes at this point in the procedings to look up a song or two from the album on YouTube and take it all in (opener “Here Come the Rome Plows” is as good a starting point as any). Hell, even if you’re a fan, it’s worth putting the record on for a direct reminder of the sounds I’ve been struggling to describe. Whilst you’re listening, consider for a moment the most remarkable fact about Yank Crime: IT WAS RELEASED BY A MAJOR LABEL. I shit you not. Reis’ other band Rocket From the Crypt had spent several months at the centre of a major-label bidding war which was ultimately won by Interscope Records after they agreed to Reis’ laundry list of demands, including a contract clause that tied the label to releasing any albums recorded by the band members’ other musical projects. RFTC more than justified Interscope’s gamble with 1995’s smash-hit Scream, Dracula, Scream, but not before Reis had used his first handful of major label money to bankroll the recording of Yank Crime. Which helpfully allows us to arrive at an explanation for why the album sounds as earth-shatteringly huge as it does, particularly in comparison to the more basic, scrappy recording quality of its predecessor.
Drive Like Jehu quietly disbanded shortly after the album’s release, and although three of the four members continued to pursue careers in music (drummer Mark Trombino is a celebrated producer, while Froberg and Reis continued making music with multiple bands, even reconvening six years later when they formed Hot Snakes) they’ve all, perhaps wisely, never tried to emulate or outdo what they achieved with Yank Crime, and to this day it still stands as arguably the most uncommercial, caustic and yet completely engaging albums ever to be released by a major label. In the decades since, few other bands have attempted to plow quite the same unhinged furrow, and fewer still have succeeded with anything like the same results (although to my mind, Glass and Ashes came close with their 2008 self-titled effort). To top it all off, word recently got out that the band will be celebrating Yank Crime's 20th anniversary by reforming for a show in San Diego. The full extent of this reunion remains to be seen, and I'm crossing my fingers for (at the very least) some UK dates, or even (dare I say it) a long-overdue attempt to follow up the monumental flash of lightning they so deftly managed to bottle up 20 years ago.