Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Hoover Mixtape




Hoover Genealogy Project

HGP001

Download


There might not be too much terribly new in this mix, but then again chances are you might not have got round to hearing one or two of the bands yet at all. (Depends on who 'you' are, I guess - an avid D.C. groover or a stumble-upon punk sympathiser?). This is obviously not the comprehensive list - it leaves out June of 44, for a start, simply because I haven't listened to them enough - and, thus, it's best to think of it an introductory selection, one which naturally follows my own understanding and growing appreciation of the genealogy.

The mixtape is partly arranged chronologically, which is why it starts with Hoover, and then The Crownhate Ruin: however, this is mostly as a base for a looser, more sonically-based arrangement. As always, more explanations with each song.



Side A:

1. Hoover - Weeds

2. The Crownhate Ruin - Pioneers

3. The Crownhate Ruin - Piss Alley

4. Radio Flyer - Swollen Buffet

5. Regulator Watts - New Low Moline

6. Abilene - Twisting the Trinity


Side B:

7. Radio Flyer - R is for Rocket

8. Regulator Watts - The Ballad of St. Tinnitus

9. Abilene - October

10. The Sorts - Bowie Knife

11. The Boom - Texas Telephone



1. Hoover - Weeds

(from the s/t EP)


To begin the mixtape I thought it better to use a song from the reunion EP rather than the album, because the genealogy is all about projecting out from the canonical Hoover, rather than sticking with the pinnacle of that single album. 'Weeds' starts off as a typical Lurid Traversal- Hoover track, but after a couple of minutes it switches to something a lot more like the later Alex Dunham bands. ('Your backyard is overgrown' repeated over slowly unfolding guitar drone/whine) A great link to the other sounds, but still definitely Hoover in that slithering, ominuous sense.


2. The Crownhate Ruin - Pioneers

(from the Elementary 7")

The Crownhate Ruin is the one post-Hoover band most people know, probably because a) they were also on Dischord Records, proper (i.e. not Slowdime) and b) they were fully half of Hoover, with guitarist Joseph McRedmond and bassist/guitarist Fred Erskine. Essentially, The Crownhate Ruin represent the other half of the Hoover sound not represented in Radio Flyer, Regulator Watts and so on.

This track, 'Pioneers, takes the heavy, rhythmic part of Lurid Traversal and stretches it out and I guess explores it even more deeply. Definitely my favourite track from Elementary because of its infectious, repetitive slow guitar riff accented by quiet, building passages. Although it's kind of a straightforward post-hardcore by numbers song, it actually reminds me of Current/Indian Summer style emo, all crashing dynamics and mad, distorted crunchiness... plus tender whispering, of course.


3. The Crownhate Ruin - Piss Alley

(from Until the Eagle Grins)

Here, on the standout track from their full-length (this song is the one used on the Twenty Years of Dischord compilation), TCR swopped overbearing crunch for lulling, beguiling melody. Another long, building song with repetitive guitar lines, although it quickly begins to chop and change (my friend, on hearing this record, said something along the lines of "the tempo changes! the tempo changes!"). Add in the chiming, metallic counterpoints and the disturbed, impassioned singing and you've got an equal to anything from the 'emo album' of Hoover.


4. Radio Flyer - Swollen Buffet

(from In Their Strange White Armour)


I chose this song as a transition back from the weighty, epic sound of The Crownhate Ruin for the misleading intro, which echoes slightly the closing rhythm of 'Piss Alley' before the expanding screeches of guitar rip it apart and it explodes into a mostly high-tempo rocker. If you've read the review of In Their Strange White Armour you'll know that Radio Flyer rides the line between raucous speed and slow tension with a peculiar agility; mostly, this song, the last on the album, is about the first. A real D.C. style song, which slips back into slow rhythm only for brief respite, spending the rest of the time rolling forward to a pummelling groove. As Yancey Strickler says, "'Swollen Buffet' exhibits the disgust its title implies with a Potomac-rippling shout-along chorus".


5. Regulator Watts - New Low Moline

(from the New Low Moline 7" single)


Continuing on from the attack of 'Swollen Buffet' is another shouter from another Alex Dunham band, Regulator Watts. This, the title track but apparently the b-side from the New Low Moline single, rips through its unbalanced post-hardcore rhythms in just over two minutes, which makes it one of the very shortest songs of the lot and, consequently, the most 'punk'. It's also a distillation of the aggression and explosiveness of the original Hoover sound, in the same way that 'Piss Alley' is an expansion and recodification of the original tension and spaciousness. But, yeah, it's mostly about the aggression, and intensity; look to Regulator Watts for the height of that part of the genealogy, and to see how this song marks the arc of that side of the post-Hoover sound.


6. Abilene - Twisting the Trinity

(from Two Guns, Twin Arrows)


'Twisting the Trinity', the opener of Abilene's second album which brought back together Fred Erskine and Alex Dunham on trumpet and guitar, repackages that sonic aggression and intensity and I think nicely rounds off the curve of this side of the mixtape. The winding, slightly exotic or Oriental melodies of Erskine's trumpet meld with the surprisingly heavy guitars to produce a viscerally powerful and energetic sound. ('Twisting the Trinity' is actually quite a head-wrecking - but wonderfully enjoyable - song, as I discovered when I put this on, ages ago, to liven me up from a head-cold. Bad idea). Abilene isn't a jazz band, as I've had it pointed out to me, but they do bring the Hoover aesthetic into interesting new territory. Likewise, Christian Scott's Anthem, which I put on my 2007 Best Of, takes bebop jazz in a new direction, and ends up seeming quite like this. Visceral, but beautiful.


7. Radio Flyer - R is for Rocket

(from In Their Strange White Armour)


Having closed the first side with the upwardly-twisting loudness of (second incarnation) Abilene, we'll start off the second with the downwardly-tuned quietness of Radio Flyer. This song builds and washes over you, suffused with melody and quiet, chiming guitars. Of course, there's the scuzzed-out distortion and the almost murmured vocals; vocals which are augmented by strangely measured, tempered and vocal pieces of feedback. You can see the difference between this and 'Swollen Buffet', but also recognize that they come from the same work. A good way to understand that the post-Hoover sound, like Hoover itself, is often about a balance between two extremes, which both combine the same intensity.


8. Regulator Watts - The Ballad of St. Tinnitus

(from The Aesthetics of No-Drag)


Regulator Watts follows the sound of Radio Flyer pretty closely, but at the same time their songs have a different air about them: harsher, more technological. 'The Ballad of St. Tinnitus' continues the arc of slow, moody songs while also riding on a massive wave of volume, an almost unceasing wall of sound. Tinnitus is, of course, the ear condition caused usually by prolonged exposure to loud noises and which manifests itself in a constant ringing sound in the ears, not too dissimilar from the high-pitched drone of this song. Another reshaping of the Hoover 'aesthetic', it eases in with a mostly calm drum beat, before unfolding into waves of noise which never move any faster than they absolutely have to. A few short bursts of speed aside, Regulator Watts here plays on the kind of sonic lethargy that lent Lurid Traversal so much of its emotive intensity; likewise, the impact of 'The Ballad of St. Tinnitus' is a slow, but heavy, one.


9. Abilene - October

(from the s/t album)


All the songs of Abilene's first album take a slow pace, and have a spookily minimalist sound to them. Compared to the sonic heights and excesses of Two Guns, Twin Arrows, this sounds infinitely more relazed yet still infused with tension. Repetitive phrases, scratchy guitar sounds and a low, humming bass combine to create a song which travels a far distance without ever seeming to pick up speed or momentum, just weight. As the first early anti-climaxes pass, the build up begins in earnest with swooping lines of distortion, almost Slinty in a 'Glenn'/'Rhoda' sense. More or less, all of the six songs on the album work like this, but 'October' does it particularly well.

'October' takes the humming guitarwork of this early Abilene sound and twists it around the same series of notes infectiously, a bit like Radio Flyer's '(312)', except here the volume gets dramatically and apocalyptically louder with every repetition. Over this in turn is the characteristic shouted vocals, not particularly distinct (sounds like he's shouting 'Semper Fi' over and over again, but I don't think that's right) but clearly impassioned.

I have an odd memory of listening to this lying on my bunk in the hostel in Snowdonia last summer; I was being antisocial but at the same time was utterly captivated by the intensity of the song. Abilene is, at first, a more delicate album to listen to and understand than Two Guns, Twin Arrows, but the reward is a majesty of power and simplicity.


10. The Sorts - Bowie Knife

(from More There)


Another slow, gentle song, but completely disposing of the heavy guitar distortion in favour of a clearer, looser 'jazz' sound. The only Hoover connection here is the drummmer, Christopher Farral, but the influence is notable. 'Bowie Knife', as with other Sorts songs, is as much about the voice and rhythm of the drums as it is about the guitar, which acts almost like an interjection into this hypnotic jazzy conversation. The quiet, slightly mournful lyrics (sung by Josh Larue) begin like this:

"I am the inventor of the Bowie knife

keep it by my side

I am the winder of the pocket watch

keep it on a chain"

I actually prefer the first Sorts album, Common Time, to More There, mostly becuase of its simplicity and lack of adornment; similar to the values of the first Abilene album. Nevertheless, The Sorts have plenty of the ability to write quiet, engaging kind-of-jazz songs, which wash over you like a soothing tonic after the intensity of the Dunham/Erskine angles of the post-Hoover sound.


11. The Boom - Texas Telephone

(from Movin' Out)


This is the second-to-last track on the Boom album (which is bookended by two incidental pieces 'Movin' In' and 'Movin Out'), and is in some ways the most Hoover-ish of them all. With Fred Erskine on vocals, guitar and, of course, trumpet, the Boom is a little bit like Two Guns, Twin Arrows Abilene but a whole lot jazzier. (It also has Josh Larue on trombone and keys, for those digging the Sorts before it). For some reason, parts of the Boom frequently remind me of The Wire theme, 'Way Down In the Hole' - originally a Tom Waits song, but performed by many different artists, including the man himself, over the four/five seasons. It's got that kind of groovy atmospherics which suit the show's message so well: likewise, Hoover's DC epic sound is "A paean to the suburban disenchantment that looms over the nation's capital like flies on shit", to use sbj's words. The Boom take that DC fury and fuse it with the expressiveness of jazz; partly in a more traditional and straightforward manner than that of Abilene, but also in a broader style, with some of the hard edges of bop and soft curves of ska.

While thanks go to proven hollow for providing the mp3s of this album a while ago, I also serendipitously found the LP second hand in my local independent record store in Dublin (more on which later). So I can give you the printed (not full) lyrics to this Southern-baked tale of woe:

"Couldn't help but hope that telephone post

was carrying lies. a sick surprise

that night.

baby blue. where you gonna go?"

15 comments:

blend77 said...

i hear ya on sleepin on things. I haven touched my blog in about a month... i really need to tend to it, ive just been distracted with other things, but it gets tough to force yourself to write when your mind is elsewhere...

gabbagabbahey said...

same here, I've been neglecting this for a while (despite being profoundly un-busy until this week). Hopefully I'll get the write-up in this post finished tomorrow (Tuesday)

Joe said...

More 'the sorts' please. josh larue, stuart fletcher, chris farrel. friggin' great! i can't believe i forgot about this. oh geneogically rain like the sound of trains and jack o' fire come to mind.

gabbagabbahey said...

definitely, I've really gotten into the sorts. Only heard the first two albums (Common Time and More There) and I actually prefer Common Time slightly. MIght do a double post of them...
yeah, Josh La Rue is in a bunch of cool stuff, not muchy that I really listen to though. RSOT, Sevens etc. is all over at Blend's site.

blend77 said...

yeah, if you like the Sorts definitely check out Sea Tiger. I think its the same line up but with an extra guy that used to play in John Henry West..

I have some other Sorts albums too. Hawaiian Bronco and Contemporary Sounds. great stuff...

Joe said...

very cool. i think common time was the brown cover,maybe? either way, i just discovered this, and Zen, so let me do a little background foraging. if i can figure out how to host my shit i might be of some help to you both. i've got lots and lots of midwest and atlantic coast stuff from the 90's.
oh, trying to find some stuff from this band - Impossible Five. dc band early millenium that went on to become Dead Meadow. impossible five sounded like NOU with brit freakbeat undertones. peers of 400 years and frodus. i think they released a full length on slowdime or gern blandsten...something along those lines anyway.
if you can help, or direct me somewhere else, i would definitely appreciate it. an old friend had a copy a long time ago. i don't know where that guy is anymore.

gabbagabbahey said...

More There has a kinda brown cover, plus a picture of a hedgehog... see the post on Zen Face (just type in 'The Sorts' and keep scrolling back)

if anyone can hook me up with Sea Tiger, that'd be cool. That and HiM, Just a Fire is most of what I've left to hear.

joe - Impossible Five have an album on Gern Blandsten, found it on this list here: http://www.gernblandsten.com/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=3&Itemid=32
listened to the mp3, they sound pretty good. Like a cross between NoU and Chisel ( I guess that's what you mean about Brit freakout).

Other than that, don't know anything about them.

Sapila said...

What about Hoonah? Pre-Hoover. They released only one song officially, and it's amazing.

gabbagabbahey said...

what about them? yeah, I listened to that one song ('Bert' : http://www.thesoundofindie.com/archive/2007/20070123/Hoonah-Bert.mp3). It's not bad, but it's actually pretty un-Hooverish in sound. Any idea which members they share?

(also, maybe you should go correct bandtoband cos they aren't listed. Then again, does one song a band make? Even Egg Hunt had, at least, two songs released)

like I explained, this mix isn't comprehensive. But in terms of pre-Hoover bands, I do intend posting some Fine Day and Admiral, maybe Winds of Change. It depends on what I have available to me.

Jared Dillon said...

i always dream of a site that is complete chronological history of the emo scene. sort of an 'American Hardcore' if you will for a similar sound.

fourfa isn't good for it because they fuck up and label things really awkwardly.

gabbagabbahey said...

I can see why fourfa isn't perfect, but it went a good deal towards getting me into this sort of stuff. Plus, I like arbitrary classifications.

There's actually a guy who's writing a book about the DC/90's hardcore scene... he has a blog too. I'll find the link for you...

blend77 said...

gabba, i'll get you more Sorts, Sea Tiger and HiM tonite when im home, and i'll photgraph that Shotmaker / Max Co record so you can see it for reference.

cheers!

gabbagabbahey said...

- jared

"POST: A Look at the Influence of Post-Hardcore 1985-2007"

http://themeparkexperience.blogspot.com

it's a start, anyway!

Zenyth said...

i love the pic of that tape, brings back some good ol' memories

Scott said...

RE: Hoonah, I know that Fred from Hoover was in this band. I was in a band while at UMCP that played a show with Hoonah and the Freak Beans and Hoonah stole the show. I seem to remember they put out a 7" but have never seen a copy.