Arcata Eye Scene

A-town art, music, theatre. Mostly music. Updated Wednesdays.

Josh Duke: Bonus Tracks – Dec. 30, 2009

Y’ou know, when we’ve hit an era of war, high gas prices, scarce commodities, and a global economic meltdown that scares the bejeezus out of over the most stalwart of the white-haired, money-grubbing elite, you would think pop music would be better by now. Until now, history has shown us such; 12 years of conservative administrations and paltry, for-nothing military exercises in a myriad of third-world nations thankfully had the added side effect of giving us a reason to like Nirvana and Sonic Youth. The converse also seemed true, as eight years of Slick Willie gave rise to a new crop of boy bands, teen pop stars and soaring subscriptions to Tiger Beat. If I thought it would have helped to avoid all that, I would have told my parents to vote for Bob Dole.

Now with the end of the Bush era being gladly tucked under our belts, we have yet to experience any sort of similar cultural phenomenon. Really, where is our Reagan Youth? Where’s our John Lennon? I want music that stirs up passion and puts me on the streets with a protest sign. I want music that will make me want to break stuff without sounding like Limp Bizkit. And now, we’ve elected “the change we can believe in.” How’re we gonna write protest songs against that kind of slogan? Well, putting my love for Mr. Obama aside, there’s only one thing I can say:

Thanks Mr. President-elect, you just killed Rock’n’Roll.

But it’s not like he didn’t have any help. We all built the coffin before Obama hit the final nail. So in the theme of such things, and as it is the end of the year, I am going to list the best and the worst of 2008. Not only those that helped dig that grave, but also those brave musical EMTs that still hope for that 11th hour resuscitation.
Please remember, even though this list is an opinion, it’s probably right.

Worst shows of 2008

5. The Zygoats, Jan. 26 at the Alibi. I feel like over the past couple of year I might have unnecessarily picked on these guys, so I think I’ll stick them at #5, making them the least bad of all the worst. When you’re playing at a bar, the safe listening distance to avoid ear damage should not be outside the bar. People can’t buy drinks that way. There’s an underlying principle in all this: LOUDER does not equal BETTER.

4. The Baby Arms/Delinquent Order, May 4 at the Alibi. Sorry guys, punk’s dead.

3. The Beat Nun, July 6 at Mosgo’s. Next time I want to hear a bunch of children’s toys rattled around as an excuse for music, I’ll go visit my 14-month nephew and watch him pull the string until “the cow goes ‘moo.’”

2. 31 Knots, June 8, Big Pete’s. This is a band Chuck Klosterman would have a field day over. Pretentious overwrought hipster trash that, like any other band of this nature (think Gang of Four, T. Rex, Pixies), will only gain any sort of stature after they break up. So if there’s any advice I can offer these guys, it’s to please, please keep playing and stay obscure.

1. Forcefed Trauma, June 29 at Hum Brews. Never before have I been able to compare a band performance to the pervasive white noise of a despondent television. Not to damn a genre entirely, but when what you say becomes an afterthought compared to how you say it, nothing significant can arise. I would say that we could use Forcefed Trauma to torture, I mean interrogate, some Gitmo detainees, but our Murderer of Rock-elect is supposed to close that place.

Best shows of 2008

5. The Absynth Quintet, Dec. 13 at Hum Brews. Not only do I appreciate a band that writes good music, but I appreciate a band that writes a good fan letter. There’s something to be said for a group of individuals that can come together, produce a tight bit of music, and still not take themselves too seriously. Here’s to Romano jazz.

4. Panther Attack, Apr. 27 at The Pearl Lounge. I usually cringe when I see bands with two drummers. Anyone from Modest Mouse to the Grateful Dead to King Crimson to Genesis; they all provided a sonic nightmare that shows that it’s never better to substitute two half-ass drummer for one that’s perfectly capable of using the whole thing. Not this time though; this powerhouse of instrumental might gave me the soundtrack to my workout/mushroom trip routine. Thank you, Panther Attack.

3. The Common Vice, May 25 at Aunty Mo’s. These are the guys I want to play at my bachelor party. Funny, musically knowledgeable and full of enough spunk to pull off an impressive cover of Pink Floyd’s “Pigs.” I have yet to see them with their newest guitarist, but I’m sure that addition can do nothing but add to their aristocratic blend of self-redemptive rock music.

2. Trigger Renegade, Jan. 26 at the Alibi. Flying V guitars and Wolfmother antics encapsulated the spirit of what these guys were about. Adrenaline combined with magnified technique makes for nothing short of pure enjoyment. I want to thank them personally for the headache I got from all that head banging.

1. Strix Vega/Or, The Whale, Feb. 14 at Jambalaya. For as awkwardly cute as Strix Vega likes to bill itself, their persistent problem has been finding a band to bill them with that fits their brand of lukewarm-soggy-toast lethargy. For Hallmark day, San Fran’s Or, The Whale provided the perfect foil for our local boys. In an evening that annoyingly cascades us all in cards and flowers and chocolates, these two bands injected a dose of reality that serves as the soundtrack of our lives. While The Common Vice would play my bachelor party, these groups could play my wedding/bar mitzvah/funeral/divorce proceedings/whatever.

Josh Duke is a music critic.

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