January 31, 2003

Slack Motherfucker

Earlier today I was struck by the urge to hear "Cool" (as opposed to this entry's title song, actually, which speaks more to the state of affairs w/r/t site updates, but...). It was the first Superchunk song I ever laid ears upon -- record store co-worker pulling it from the singles bin after we'd just finished listening to the first Velvet Crush single (thumbs up!), telling me he thought I'd like it, though it might be a bit loud for my tastes. Nope. Anything that can be so gleefully sung-along-to ranks as a pop song in the truest sense, at least in my book. Thumbs up again.

There's nothing new, nothing new/Everything's borrowed, everything's used, as Mac sings. This kept going 'round my head as I read Our Band Could Be Your Life, Michael Azzerad's wonderful chronicle of the American indie scene from 1981 to 1991. The one band per chapter format works surprisingly well, as he moves the reader from Black Flag and Minor Threat's hardcore music and resolutely independent business stances to pushes into the mainstream by The Replacements, Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. Even though I was still in elementary school and junior high while most of the biggest changes were happening, I got traces here and there from other (cooler kids') walkmens and references in fanzine write-ups... like layers of graffiti on a bathroom wall giving testament to someone, something that was there, even if I couldn't fully make it out.

Consequently, the two chapters which resonated most for me are the final ones focusing on bands that hit their stride near the end of the 80s, Mudhoney and Beat Happening -- and, by association, respective labels Sub Pop and K Records.

Next to that Superchunk record in the singles bin was a new one by a band called Nirvana, and the pink-and-blue sleeve caught my eye enough to hold it up for evaluation by my music advisor. ("You wouldn't like that... too noisy.") I passed on that, but fell into the other Northwest music scene, via raves in the fanzines I'd started reading about K Records and its series of releases on both cassette and vinyl. One of my biggest disappointments was having to miss the landmark International Pop Underground Convention in Olympia, summer of 1991, all because my parents wouldn't let me go!

Even so, one early gig that blew my mind was The Go Team in fall of '89. As soon as Calvin Johnson and crew stepped on stage, I was transfixed, even though I wasn't sure what was going on. Hell, I wasn't even sure if I liked it!

So here's my little contribution to the chronicle, my review of that show that I wrote for Australian zine Zeeeeen!. Unedited, warts and all. And yeah, parts of it are a bit naive (comparing Beat Happening to Sonic Youth -- ha!). But I still agree with this last line as written by my 16-year-old self:

And I'll tell you, I didn't mind missing The Cure that night at Great Woods one bit.

Fuck yeah.

Posted by nstop at January 31, 2003 06:26 AM


"Fishing"/"Cool" was the first single I heard by them too - instant fan. I can't believe you passed up that Nirvana single. Actually, I can't believe you didn't buy the earlier ones.

Posted by: potentato on January 31, 2003 03:09 PM

Ah, the Go Team. I only got to see them once (at Maxwell's). Even though I'd seen Beat Happening by that point, the Calvin/Tobi/Billy configuration totally threw me for a loop. They weren't like Beat Happening; they weren't even like the Archer Come Sparrow tape I'd bought at Pier Platters two weeks previously. It would have to rank among the three or four best shows I've ever seen. I remember going back to the bar after they played, running into Tobi, and being like "uh...you guys were great..." and having no idea what else to say.

Posted by: mike on February 5, 2003 01:13 PM

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