The Bobby Lees, the upstate New York four-piece Uncut described as “an explosion of intensity of high-concept, low budget rock’n’roll” and The Chicago Reader said have “the chops and the weirdness to refresh vintage rock, punk and blues…,” have signed with Ipecac Recordings, which released the four-song Hollywood Junkyard EP on June 17 (E&D review here).
The band is currently in Europe for an extensive tour (check out the remaining dates here), so we asked the band about 3 releases that have influenced them a lot. Drummer Macky replied with these 3 brilliant choices…
DEVO – Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are DEVO!
This was the first album that I discovered and became attached to divorced from any outside influence. I found it at that special point in life when one begins to realize that they can make up their mind about things for only themself, that opinions don’t have to be, and furthermore shouldn’t be, arbitrary. Whether that grand realization can be attributed to the nascent stage in my brain’s development or the obtuse while still enthralling nature of the music is anyone’s guess. I like to think it’s a bit of both. Whatever the impetus for the shift in thinking may have been, the fallout from this record’s initial impact on my brain certainly irradiated and mutated my sensibilities in ways that only this particular band is capable of. Something to do with the marriage of faux-pseudo-science to aesthetic clarity in service of a cynical delivery of a remarkably optimistic point (for better or for worse) made me into the person I am today. Something I love about music history is seeing the birth of new genres and styles, watching the augmentations added to a single spark of creativity over years and decades until it’s a fully formed concept. This album, however, is one of those rare examples of when that initial spark is surrounded by enough passion and pre-existing technical prowess that no sooner than it’s born it already seems as if it were meant to be there all along. So natural and comforting, yet uncanny and robotic; so maximalist and densely packed, yet lacking anything that feels superfluous. An artistic standard that I’ve accepted I may never reach, though that I hope to never stop striving for.
Toots and the Maytals – Funky Kingston
Well.. I’ve gotta come clean about something… I am a big ska fan. I, like many others, was first exposed to ska through the This Are 2Tone compilation album. It was one of those CDs that I used to listen to on repeat as a wean, though thinking back it wasn’t until midway through high school that I grew a conscious appreciation for it. This new found yet somewhat amniotic love was kindled, of course, by The Specials and their seminal self-titled album. Everything about it was just so cool. There’s no other word for it. Coming out of my obligatory high school punk phase it was especially bracing. It was edgy and kind of derisive, while also feeling confident enough in itself to stray away from impotent anger that’s so often found in alternative music genres. Not only that but its sense of coordination and purpose, its willingness to care, helped bring me out of the cynical hole that I’d dug for myself up to that point. Naturally, as I started digging deeper into the genre I found heaps and gobs of music that would continue to inspire and excite me, chief of which had to be this album. A choice that any card carrying rude boy might find pedestrian in its safety as it contains well-nigh all of the group’s most well known tracks. Fair play straw-man-skankerino, fair play… but I must insist that this is a case in which the already inordinate amount of praise this album has received isn’t nearly enough to match its worth. I think that while this high flying ska is performed at a peak level for the surrounding tonal genus, with all of the sounds and natural warpings only adding to the atmosphere, the highlight of the group has to be Toots himself. There are some people, some voices, that just capture something so pure and unadulterated, who leave indelible impressions on you once you’ve heard them. It’s not quite quantifiable what makes Toots’ voice so magical, so to try and describe it would only be doing it a disservice. The best I can currently muster is that the pressure got the drop on me.
Gil Scott-Heron – Free Will
Despite being somewhat of a massive dweeb when it comes to classic epics like Dante’s Comedy and The Iliad, poetry has always been difficult for me to resonate with. It wasn’t until I listened to this record that something finally clicked. Part of it, I think, was that the first time I listened to the record I was expecting more of a cohesive followup to Pieces of a Man so it was somewhat of a shock when at the midway point it turned into a spoken word piece. Don’t get me wrong, the first half of the album is chock full of songs that I love and listen to regularly, but I’d be lying if I said it was the most impactful part. Heron’s compositions are impactful. Listening to him speak on issues of the day feels real, it feels as if it’s the voices of many converging at one point and being projected through this singular mouth. That being said there’s nothing supercilious in his tone. Even at points when he’s speaking truth to power or trying to impart some kind of knowledge that you may not be wise to, he’s speaking to the listener and not at them. At many points he comes across as downright beleaguered! Not that I’m trying to say that pain and suffering are necessary prerequisites for great art, more so that Heron strikes a genuinely striking and absorbing balance between forthright honesty and lofty circumspection. What further drives the point home is his willingness to forego the oftentimes austere rigidity of art concerning the written word and speak with the utmost passion where his technical ability as a writer only steps in so as to make every word’s meaning crystal clear. Finding art like this to me is one of the things that makes life worth living, especially considering that we live in a world where nothing exists without context. That is to say that having that be your first peek into a new genre of thing is full of excitement because it’s part of a much larger story and body of creativity. But whatever if poetry isn’t really your thing just listen to Bridges I guess.