FYF Fest is this weekend — tickets are still available here — at the LA Historic State Park Saturday. The lineup features Descendents, Death From Above 1979, Explosions in the Sky, Broken Social Scene, Guided By Voices, the Dead Milkmen, Girls, No Age and more. Check back here later this weekend for my review of the event, including a preview show at Los Globos (!) tonight with Chromatics and Glass Candy. F yeah, indeed. (BT dubs, I'll always link to a record first, then a CD if I can't find it on record.)
In preparation, I made a list of 10 great records from the lineup of the show. Check it out.
Lots of people know Alien Lanes and Bee Thousand (get them now if you don't!) but Propeller is another solid-to-great GBV album with great shoutalong chorus four-track gems like “Exit Flagger.” They'd release stronger material later on, but this charmingly lo-fi album was self-released at the same time Nirvana's Nevermind and a bunch of grunge albums would change the alternative landscape forever. While out of step then, it sounds positively prescient now.
DFA 1979's lone album was released in 2004, featuring great thrashy pop songs like “Romantic Rights” that get by just fine on little more than yelling come-ons over metalic distorted basslines and bullet-train drums. Then they broke up for some reason and one of the guys started some dancey crap called MSTRKRFT — boring! Thankfully they're back and will hopefully stick around long enough to release at least one more album.
Truthfully, this is the only BSS album I really like, but it's a doozy. At a time when giant indie rock collectives were a thing, this one managed to actually sound like one, with singers and guitars and synths gloriously blaring all over simple pop-rock songs and instrumentals, proving more-is-more works sometimes. The talent they helped launch (at least into an indie-popular sense), from Feist to Stars to various solo records released under the “Broken Social Scene Presents” tag, is staggering.
If No Age are the patron saints of The Smell, Weirdo Rippers is like a collection of theme songs for the Downtown L.A. punk venue, the outside of which still bears the name of this album. It's actually a collection of EPs but flows together fine like an album, moving from static-y noise pop (“Every Artist Needs a Tragedy”) to gorgeous, pulsating instrumentals (“Sun Spots”) and back. My favorite trick: when they put both of these into one song, as they do in the great “Dead Plane,” jarringly shifting from washed out guitar noise to doo wop punk halfway through.
This one took a while to grow on me, even though I loved the summer jam “Lust for Life” immediately and its “don't you want to move to SF” video, Hunx's dick and all. Now it's two years later and I still listen to the album regularly. It's all sort of Elvis Costello lite on first listen, until the lyrics and melodies really take hold and you notice all the other little bits stuffed in there — like Hawaiian dream pop (“Headache”) and Teenage Fanclub style melodic noise pop (“Morning Light”). Now it feels to me like a best-of from some “haven't you heard of them” '80s cult band.
Chromatics – Night Drive (and also the After Dark LP)
The italo disco (even though it doesn't REALLY sound like italo disco) resurgence that brought Chromatics and Glass Candy to our attention was a cool fad, but I'm glad it hasn't erased how good the bands actually are from our memory. Chromatics' Night Drive has it all — cool drugged out vocals, icy guitar lines and a screwed up cover of “Running Up That Hill” — but it also digs a bit deeper. The sound of it has elements of Goblin, who soundtracked various Dario Argento movies, but the feel is totally David Lynch. From the opening, when its subject talks to her boyfriend on the phone after going out and decides to grab a bottle of wine and head home, to the end, where it's just a clock ticking to infinity, the whole thing can be read as the last things that go through this dying nightlife chick's brain as she veers off the road. Or at least that's how it sounds to me.
Maybe the best thing that came out of the Elephant 6 collective was this loopy psych pop classic, featuring among other songs, 10 that are called “Green Typewriters” (the fourth one is the best song on the album, yo). Check out their Presents: Singles and Beyond album too, for more pop gems like “Love Athena.”
Purveyors of epic, wordless post-rock whose music feels like it needs to be breathed in to experience. I've never seen them before and I can't wait!
The Descendents – Milo Goes to College (and also Cool to Be You)
When I think of the Descendents, I think of a lot of people's backpacks I went to high school with. Sort of makes sense — the Descendents made nerdy punk that made fun of punk before any of those things were cool.
Jokey, snotty '80s punk that's better and more influential than perhaps it gets credit for. “Bitchin' Camaro” is a fun novelty song, for sure, but the Milkmen had musicality too — songs like “Tiny Town” were funny scene-skewering songs, but they showed the band had pop chops, too.