Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Reasons to be Emo #50 / Shotmaker-Maximillian Colby Split

(This special fiftieth post was originally going to be an unfinished essay on the parallels between Jawbreaker's 'Save Your Generation' and the teachings of Zen Buddhism. So consider yourself lucky!)

What this post is really about is an excellent record in the style that this blog (I guess) centres upon - mid-90's emo/hardcore. This is one of my top three favourite split releases, along with the 1998 Leatherface/Hot Water Music split and 2006's Ampere/Sinaloa (the latter can be found on Zen and the Art of Face Punching, and the former on this blog here... although the link is now down, I'd be happy to re-up it if anyone wants). Originally posted as an aside, I've made reference to it several times since, and now reckon the time has come to give it a post of its own.

Here's what I first wrote at the end of my Slint live review way back in August:

"...this 12'' record was released one year after Glenn/Rhoda, sits 3 CDs in front of Spiderland in my own collection, is deservedly one of Andy Radin's 'top emo records', and is an excellent split, combining two major bands with differing yet complementary styles, and indeed containing some of the best songs ever released by either group: the Shotmaker-Maximillian Colby split (as if this post needed any more Slint worship!)."

I have to admit, as I did then, that I don't own the actual release and just constructed it from the respective discographies. However, it's the music that matters most... I did find this originally on eBay, but Google searches today turned up nothing. A seller's picture from back then allowed me to make my own stab at the artwork (top), but if anyone has a photo or scan of the original, it would make a lovely post-Christmas present!

Shotmaker-Maximillian Colby combines the heavy, fraught and repetitive hardcore of the Ottawa, Canada band with the equally heavy but more Slinty and mathy sound of their American counterparts from Harrisonburg, Virginia. Both groups broke up within couple of years, leaving sizable (for the genre) discographies - Shotmaker's, two discs, Maximillian Colby, one - as well as leading on into further important hardcore groups Three Penny Opera and Sleepytime Trio, respectively. It's that loud-fast mixture of variety and single-mindedness which was, paradoxically, the style of emo:

"Another perfect split record that captures everything about its time. MaxCo combined the DC beauty and fury with a Slinty sense of when to shut the hell up and listen to pins dropping. Shotmaker played rocked-out emo like they were pissed as hell and wanted desperately to play fast but somehow couldn't"


The Shotmaker side of the release begins with the pounding heaviness of 'The Game', rolling through their characteristic rumbling sound (until you get used to them, that's sometimes all you can hear in Shotmaker songs) and breakdowns into chugging, cyclical riffs that are almost metallic. Almost.

"and this ship must sink... and we must sink... this ship"

I'm assuming that's a commentary on capitalism. The style continues without much let-up for the next four songs; there's not much I can do to improve on Andy Radin's description, above. 'Blocks and Channels' starts off slow for about twenty seconds, and then launchs back into the spiralling, shouting hardcore of the preceding songs. As blend77 says:

"[Shotmaker] are also early progenitors of the current emo explosion, with their loud soft approach, complex guitar passages and screamy vocals. Though this is really just hardcore at its embroiled, impassioned best."

Shotmaker kind of follows the melody-through-chaos approach of other hardcore/emo bands- slightly like, say, the Swing Kids - and approaching at some times the full-on screamo sound. Melodies sit on top of the wall-of-sound guitars, and the rhythm is king. Listen to their final song, 'Newest Sound System'. The bass line throbs and wobbles heavily, the drums snap in and out, until the song explodes into the crushing rhythms of guitar noise:

"It's too loud, no-one listens/When we work the soundsystem"

Maximillian Colby's side is a collection of mostly instrumental, heavily Slint-influenced songs. In contrast I guess to the organic whole of the Shotmaker songs, these songs are disparate and fragmented. The opener, 'Last Name', strikes with sparse, heavy bursts of very Slinty guitar before it launches into its own explosion of Mohinder-like frantic screaming:

"What's your name?! What's your number?!"

The second song is even Slintier, recognizable not only by the very tuneful if minimal opening guitarwork but also by the eerily (or should that be spiderly?) similar guitar fuzz and disjointed chords. However, Maximillian Colby aren't solely a Slint rip-off; for a start, they aren't quite as frustratingly disjointed as the comparable Slint album, Tweez, and don't attempt to take their songs to the same rarified heights as Spiderland - with the exception perhaps of the split closer, 'Right Right Left', which is as repetititously minimalist as they come, but still suitably catharctic for a true emo album. Like the Lovitt site says:

"Maximillian Colby fashioned seminal works on their own terms. Neither purely aggressive nor depressingly somber, Maximillian Colby's music creates soundscapes that can rupture the eardrums and soon after lull the mind. As a band, they melded crisp whispers with clamor drenched in feedback to dizzying, cathartic effect...Maximillian Colby were all too happy to wring the utmost out of something as deceptively innocuous as a pair of notes, exploring their many inherently possible rhythms, dynamics, and effects."

In sum, this record won't change your life: unless you haven't happened to have heard these bands before.

Shotmaker-Maximillian Colby Split


Jared Dillon said...

just picked up this on 12" a couple months ago. fantastic release, and also a fantastic write up. although, i can't say i wouldn't enjoy the Jawbreaker one. ;]

gabbagabbahey said...

oh, it might just turn up some day...

blend77 said...

ive had this LP since the year it came out!! its was one i never could part with. it was my favorite album back then and is still one of my most favorite today.

blend77 said...

and i always like to drop this info on people"

Max Colby broke up because their bassist, Bob Baynor died. Avail, also from VA, on their first album have a song called Bob's Crew. a tribute song to Bob from Max Colby.

gabbagabbahey said...

yeah, I thought it was an appropriately awesome record for post #50 - actually one of the last major emo pieces I picked up before discovering blogs (I think I got the Shotmaker songs originally from Limewire, and the Max Colby from eMusic!)

seriously though, has anyone got the real artwork? It's making me cringe every time I see it on my blog!

blend77 said...

i have the original artwork.... yours looks fine though, only the asparagus is a real looking asparagus, as opposed to an illustrated one... it also has some cryptic liner notes that i'll upload for ya..

i dont have a scanner at home, and i dont want to bring it in to work for fear of damaging it somehow...

maybe i'll take a picture of it... i also have the other two shotmaker LPs, Crayon Club and Mouse Ear if you want the artwork for those...

in fact, i have some other artworks you might like...

400 years 7"
maximillian colby 7"
Native Nod - Bread 7"
indian summer 7"
indian summer/OoA split 7"
Guyver one 7" (awesome - but i lost some of the inserts)

i have others too... but those are some of the best... so let me know, those i can bring in and scan cuz theyre small...

gabbagabbahey said...

re: asparagus - I'm glad that's someway right. I thought I had copied it fairly accurately, but since I couldn't find the photo I found on the web originally, I was wondering. I mean, asparagus? That's what it definitely looked like (it wasn't that great a photo) but I couldn't be sure!

maybe if you could get a photo just of the centre part, that'd be cool. But it's no real bother. I'm happy with my illustration!

definitely interested in the max colby, native nod and indian summer 7"s, thanks. For some reason I've never got around to listening to 400 years... the guyver-1 cover I already have, thanks to your post I think (or maybe not).

I love making my little faux-7"s with card CD sleeves... for some releases I've made my own artwork from my own photographs - like the Regulator Watts New Low Moline - working on the general emo rule of moody, broken things. I have a couple for the Current/Indian Summer and the Max Colby/Rye Coalition splits that are pretty good, I should post them up sometime.

Also, I have a post coming up next which has one of the coolest album covers made recently... Chulahoma by the Black Keys. I should know, because I have it as the t-shirt.

blend77 said...

yeah, like i said, youre Shotmaker asparagus looked pretty good.

i'll bring those others in this week to scan for you...

definitely post up some of the covers youve made. the Regulator Watts one was cool with the leaves and the ghosted type...

400 years is incredible. suffice to say you are missing out if you dont have Suture or Transmit Failure... some of the best hardcore to ever be made, completely like Max Colby and Sleepytime and early Engine Down.

blend77 said...

i just did a quick search for you:

Four Hundred Years

Suture and Other Songs (may not be a full album)

Transmit Failure

gabbagabbahey said...

cool, thanks. I'll listen to them tomorrow.

and I'll post up some of my covers soon, too.

Anonymous said...

blend77 said Bob's Crew by Avail was a tribute song from Max Colby to Bob. I'm not sure how true that is. It may still be referring to Bob Baynor but the true tribute song is F.C.A on their 2nd album 4 AM Friday. The album is apparently named after the time and day of the week they received the call about Bob's death. I've read this in an interview with them and it coincides with his time of death where as he was still alive and well in 1992 the year of the Satiate release.